A technophobe is a person with an irrational fear of technology.

That just about sums me up. Anything with a hefty manual that needs plugging in or switching on brings me out in a cold sweat. As technologies become increasingly complex and difficult to understand, my anxiety relating to their use increases. When I was researching technophobia on Wikipedia it mentioned that technophobic ideas can often be found in different forms of art, citing both Frankenstein and Metropolis as examples portraying a darker side of technology perceived by the technophobe. Since Frankenstein is one of my all-time favourite books and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis film forming the basis of my final year dissertation, I rest my case.

My husband bought me a fairly decent Canon Digital SLR one Christmas a few years back. I’ve taken some pretty good photos since, but not once has the setting moved from the automatic mode. The instruction manual is still in the box. If I hadn’t started on my path of food and travel writing last year, this would probably have continued for the rest of my days, but increasingly I found the automatic mode, especially the flash, was restricting my shots, particularly when there was reduced natural light.

I tried a two-day group course for beginners, but there were so many of us that I spent two days wandering aimlessly round the Northern Quarter taking pictures of drain pipes and such, and still having no idea what I was doing. I promptly switched back to automatic mode and continued this way for a further few months, until one day when writing a food review I came away with no usable photographs at all. I decided it was time, once and for all, to address my irrational fear.

I booked a one-to-one session with Manchester Academy of Photography as it meant we could gear the training to my needs. All the attention and training would be focused on me. Course director Richard Gaskill knew of my technophobia and arrived at our day with some very simple notes, diagrams and failsafe instructions. We spent a few hours in the morning going through the manual mode and by lunch I had some basic knowledge of shutter speed, aperture and ISO. I didn’t feel out of my depth and it actually seemed, dare I say it, quite simple. We also went out and bought me a small Gorilla tripod to help capture shots when natural light is at a minimum and I didn’t want to use a flash.

I had booked us into the newly opened Hawksmoor restaurant for the afternoon and it was time to put all the training into practise. The thing with this type of food review photography is that we aren’t in a studio where we can set the lighting levels. We also need to capture the essence of the dish quickly before it gets cold, because we need to taste it too. Richard showed me how to set up all my exposure levels before the food arrived, which saved so much time. He also showed me how to consider different viewpoints to create more interest in my compositions. The one thing that did feel very restricting was the tripod. Luckily, we were sat near a good source of natural light, so we didn’t use it for the whole afternoon. I would say I can see its benefits at night and when there is no natural light, but I don’t think I would use it otherwise. As for all the manual settings, they have seen plenty of use since.

In all honesty, I haven’t looked back. I don’t even think the camera has left the manual mode since our training day. Having grasped the three main settings of my exposure triangle along with the absolute bible that is the light meter guide, I now always find the right exposure no matter where I am. No more dark, blurred, or flash flat photos. It’s a revelation. I can’t thank Richard and the Academy enough. You only have to look at the feedback from all their customers’ testimonials to see I’m not the only one. I think what they get so right is making the ‘teaching’ fun and accessible to anyone. Even me, the former technophobe.

I may never read a manual, but I will always now remain devoted to the mode that is manual.

Hawksmoor Manchester

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All training photographs taken in Hawksmoor and Iberica Manchester by YGR Erskine.
See their reviews at mymanchesterdiary.com/journal/
manchesteracademyofphotography.co.uk
richardgaskill.com

YGR Erskine