Saturday in Santiago: Casa K photography workshop

I realize it’s not Saturday. Or even Sunday. But thanks to some hosting changes, my blog did not want to let me in over the weekend, and I cannot wait any longer to talk about this workshop. So let’s pretend that it’s a three-day weekend, at least on the internet.

I’ve mentioned that a few months ago, I got a DSLR camera. Some of you have been so kind as to say that my photos have gotten better since then, and I not so humbly agree. I took the time to learn some of the basics and play around with some settings to avoid the shame of using the big fancy camera on automatic.

Santiago completos

I managed to go from knowing nothing to knowing that I knew only the teensiest tinsiest bit about how to take a good photo. I’d gotten as far as thinking that maybe I should do something about this when Eileen, who is herself a pretty great photographer, posted about a weekend photography course with an instructor of hers, Ricardo of Casa K (the website isn’t great, but he is). Sold.

Despite my snap decision, I was terrified. What if I was the worst of the group? What if no one liked me? And the big one: what if I learned all the tech stuff and then only had my complete lack of artistic vision to blame for boring photographs? I am comfortable with a lot of things – you get used to making a fool of yourself when you live in a foreign country and have to learn a foreign language – but I have never felt particularly at home with more creative pursuits.

Ice cream cones

Of course, reality is rarely as bad as what we imagine. The class ended up being four of us, and the more advanced students were happy to share their knowledge with the other beginner and me. And while I took plenty of awful photos, I’m also really happy with some shots, especially the ones I’ve included here.

The workshop started with an introduction to the technical side of things. This for me has been incredibly helpful in understanding my beast of a camera and is, with practice, allowing me to focus more on the substance of my photos and less on stressing about why they’re not turning out right. “With practice” being the key phrase. I have not turned into Garance Doré in the space of a weekend, which is mostly sad because it means I don’t have her closet.

Dog portrait

Once we had a vague idea of how to use our machines, we were set loose on two separate field trips to prime Santiago photography locations: Parque Forestal and Plaza de Armas. Enter the challenging part of the class. I am, despite appearances, somewhat shy. So being told to walk up to people and ask to take portraits of them sounded painful, and I managed to avoid it during Day 1 by practicing other types of shots. I just hoped that aiming my lens toward the playground didn’t make me look like a pedophile.

Parque Forestal

Ricardo wasn’t letting me off that easy, however. Somehow he tricked me into thinking that I could actually speak to strangers. He claims that most people like the attention and are happy to have their picture taken. Of course, I managed to choose the only two women in the whole damn plaza who didn’t want their picture taken for my first attempt. The ground, despite my prayers, refused to swallow me up, and I tried again with more willing subjects. I’m always jealous of the portraits I see others share after trips, and maybe now I’ll have the guts to ask to take some of my own.

Street portrait

The weekend was a success. I feel like I learned as much as my mind could process in two days and like I have plenty to work on by myself. So if you’ve been thinking about improving your photos, take a class! I don’t see myself going pro any time soon, but I’m enjoying making pretty pictures and having more control over the final result. I promise even if it’s scary – because let’s face it, doing things you’re not (yet) good at usually is – getting just one photo that you shamelessly adore makes it all worth it.

Police horse

More in this series:
Saturday in Santiago

PS. This class wasn’t comped, I just liked it and wanted to encourage others. Also, I wanted to show off my pictures.

21 Responses to “Saturday in Santiago: Casa K photography workshop”

  1. Cata says:

    I took a class too. I’m glad we didn’t have to talk to strangers haha… Although with so many dogs in Santiago, I don’t think you will run out of models. You will get better with practice. I’m creative and I used to paint so i knew the basic rule of 3rds…but I didn’t know how to take pictures. Sometimes I use it in auto. After a couple of shots if it doesn’t work, I’ll switch to auto.

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Dogs are so much less scary than people! We were joking during the class that my specialty will just be street dogs.

  2. Rogel de Oliveira says:

    I took some photography classes on Foothill College in California, and one of the assignments was take pictures of ppl on the street using the 3rd rule, and managing the lights. Take picture of ppl here in U.S. is not easy at all you need to be careful, because someone can call the police. is that a contrast?

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I don’t know that anyone in that area would call the police if you politely explained you were doing a photo class and asked to take pictures, but they might say no just like those two ladies here did :) And if some creeper was taking pictures of me without having said anything to me, I might be worried too!

      • Rogel de Oliveira says:

        Sometimes you have to take pictures of the subject without asking permission to get the most natural expressions, in that way your picture will create a story. Some assignments required natural pic’s. Here in the Bay Area, CA. ppl do call the police, off course not all the time, but it happens or they said “You are harrasing me”. Photography can indeed constitute harrasment, but to be a legal harrasment require deliberates acts on at least two separate occasions. I like the Swat guy picture, he looks so friendly, and the guy in the background is like saying “What he’s doing?”

        I have some pic’s on my twitter if you guys wants to take a look.

        • Emily in Chile says:

          I’m from that area, and since it’s quiet and private, I would be weirded out if you were taking pictures of me. In a bigger city, I just figure you’re a tourist and ignore you.

          The SWAT hat guy was yelling to us to take pictures of him, so clearly he didn’t mind!

  3. Love these shots Em! Practice totally makes perfect!!!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Thank you! You have such a great eye for detail, I need to just follow you around and absorb some of your ideas.

  4. Carine says:

    Great shots Emily. You need to keep at it and you will see an improvement everytime you go out and come back with some great shots.

    What camera and lense(s) are you using? Are you taking only manual photos? That is a great way to learn about your camera.

    For my part, I love taking pictures of people who do expect it – it makes for more candid pictures. One trick I learned in my class is to ask people if you can take a picture of their child and ask their email address to send it to them. Most parents are happy to get a free picture of their kid and perhaps one of the whole family too. :)

    • Emily in Chile says:

      It’s a Canon 40D with Canon’s 28-135mm lens. And yes, only manual photos for these and for probably 90% of what I’ve taken since having the camera (I will admit there is a lazy 10% on auto in there sometimes when I just want more of a snapshot and can’t be bothered with the technical side of things).

      I had good luck with a mom and her baby doing just what you’ve suggested!

  5. Andrea says:

    I would love to do a workshop like this. There are some specific techniques and topics I want to learn more about, though and I think it would be helpful if workshops got into more detail. I always see just general ones.

    • Emily in Chile says:

      It sounds like a more personalized class might be what you need. For me as more of a beginner, something general was perfect, but I can see how at your level you’d have more specific questions that the other students might not share.

  6. GringaDchicureo says:

    i appreciate your move beyond the automatic button. To think one pays for all of the fancy options and yet uses it as though there were only one. Does yours have a timer so you can model for your own shots?

    • Emily in Chile says:

      My camera has a timer, but there’s no way I would ever put it down in a place with other people around. I’d rather not be in my photos than have my camera taken while I was posing!

  7. Photography workshops like this are so great.

  8. alex says:

    great shots! I’ve never considered taking a photography class while traveling but I think I will now :-)

  9. Alexandra says:

    I too hate asking people for their photos! That is why I am in love with the zoom on my new camera. I’m turning into a little paparazzi. I would love to take a photo class on the road but wouldn’t even know where to look for one.

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I think sometimes you get a great photo that way too. Obviously you have to find the line between treating people like props and being a creeper with a zoom lens vs. being appropriate, but there can be some nice results!

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