Courses sharpen photography skills

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 April, 2010, 12:00am

Head to any scenic spot in town and it seems that almost everyone there is taking pictures using a professional camera kitted out with a selection of lenses, tripods and filters.

These digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras come with a host of functions that would have been the envy of every professional photographer back in the 1980s. With some great models costing only a few thousand dollars, they are now easily within the reach of avid enthusiasts and professionals. However, getting to grips with these multifunction cameras is not always easy.

'Many people buy DSLRs but don't really understand how they work or how to use many of the functions,' explains Richard Wong, a professional film director and director of photography. 'They may just keep the camera on its automatic setting and use it really just as a regular point-and-shoot digital camera. To get the most out of their cameras they do need to learn more.'

Wong is an instructor at the Hong Kong International Film Academy (, and teaches photography to beginners and more experienced DSLR users. A typical weekend programme he teaches starts off with the basics. 'The first day we begin by looking at the basic components of a camera, aperture control and how to position and frame a shot, as well as other basics.'

On the evening of the first day students are taken out to practise what they have learned at spots around the city. The second day takes place in the studio, where students are taught about lighting, texture and form, followed by an afternoon of applying their knowledge in the studio.

All classes are conducted in English and cost from HK$1,800 for two days. Wong explains that in addition to short weekend classes, longer courses of about 10 weeks part-time are also taught. Ideally, students should own at least an entry level DSLR camera.

The University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education ( offers a basic photography course taking place over 12 weekday evenings. At a cost of HK$1,680, the course covers basic camera skills and techniques for taking both colour and black and white photographs.

For a more in-depth look, the Open University's Li Ka Shing Institute of Professional and Continuing Education ( offers a professional diploma in commercial photography, in Cantonese only. A total of 240 hours are required to complete the course, and students should graduate with the ability to take professional-quality images and with the critical skills needed to succeed in commercial photography.