Back to school: A weekend photography workshop in Toronto to brush up on my skills

it was back to school for me this weekend. That is – photography school. While I’ve been shooting professionally for a few years now I decided in 2013 to take some formal photography classes. My education to date has really been self-taught and shooting a shit load of photos. But I knew there were still plenty of areas I could still technically improve on (the use of flash being a big one.)

So I settled on this course offered in downtown Toronto – Photo 201. Overall, I was happy to take it. I’m pretty comfortable with my knowledge of camera basics – shutter to aperture relationship, the rule of thirds etc. But it was nice to review the rules of photo creativity – then as our instructor implored – start breaking them.

“There are multiple good exposures in a frame.”


I liked learning this technique – using flash to freeze action. In many cases it’s a far better way to just using shutter alone. Of course, it is dependent on how close you can get to your subject (these images were shot a maximum shutter of 1/200.)


Sometimes you have to throw out the rule of thirds and just naturally conclude the subject does actually belong in the centre of the frame.

richard budman panning photograph toronto instruction
A great exercise for me was learning the best way to take a good panning shot. I shoot a lot of race cars and the pan shot is an important one. But before the workshop I realized I hadn’t been doing it right. For one thing, you need to dial that shutter speed down to less than 1/60. As well, like a great golf swing you have to remember to follow through the pan right out of the frame.

richard budman panning photography instruction
I liked our photography teacher. Dude knew his shit. Another area I wanted to improve in through the workshop was how to shoot better with flash in the dark. You know those photos where subjects are lit by flash but the rest of the background turns almost black? Our teacher made me understand I simply wasn’t allowing the shutter to stay open long enough to capture ambient light on the background. I shouldn’t be scared at shooting at a slower shutter speed because I won’t blur the subject – the flash will freeze it.

“Flash is unaffected by shutter speed. The key is balancing the flash to the ambient light in the background.”