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Lorna takes the boring stuff out of the frame

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 07, 2013

  • Above, Lorna Yabsley, front right, on the beach teaching a group of women how to use their digital SLR cameras on one of the Bangwallop photography courses at Salcombe. Right: The cover of her new book, The Busy Girl's Guide to Digital Photography. Below: A wedding shot

  • Lorna says: I am so lucky to be based in Salcombe; the location options are limitless, with the fantastic summer weather it made sense to shoot on the beach this year; I chose early morning to catch the best light. I like to use a wide aperture to give a very shallow depth of field. This technique gives this shot a very natural feel and emphasises the sparkling sea. His extended arms and upturned face give a lovely sense of childhood freedom. It's important that he is off centre and low in the frame. These considerations are all-important and can make or break an image

  • Lorna says: This image is part of a series of images of women affected by breast cancer. It was published in The Sunday Times Style Magazine. It provoked a huge response from women worldwide, who found it positive and reassuring. I am planning on continuing with some new work on this series next year

  • Lorna says: Often you must work up to a shot, but I was particularly tuned in on this day. I produced this supersize at 1.5m wide in a white float frame and it looks fantastic in the gallery. It can also be seen in the restaurant at the Salcombe Harbour Hotel

  • Above, Lorna says: This very formal portrait works; she is young, very pretty, with a beautifully proportioned head. I photographed her in my daylight studio. There is no better light than clean, north-facing daylight. Keep it simple.

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Jackie Butler talks to a photographer who puts technology in its place in her new manual.

Everyone can take a photo these days, can't they? But will it be a good one? As more and more of us turn into competent amateur photographers using our smartphones or the latest in simple digital cameras, getting reasonable results is hardly rocket science.

But while we point and shoot on automatic, there's still a clever scientific process going on during the creation of each of our images. Understanding even a little bit about it, coupled with our individual creative vision, can make our pictures so much more striking and satisfying.

One woman who is on a mission to "get us off auto" by sharing her own knowledge and experience in such matters is Laura Yabsley.

"There's no shortcut if you want to make a creative exposure. Sometimes you can get lucky, but with more knowledge you can create the image you really want," she says.

Lorna has spent the past 30 years developing and honing her skills as a professional photographer and runs practical courses from her studio on the South Devon coast at Salcombe.

Now Lorna has written a book to decipher the mysteries of her work. Its title – The Busy Girl's Guide to Digital Photography – declares it to be primarily aimed at women, but it's actually for every technophobe who wants to get their head around some basic principles, and soak up some inspiration.

"The whole way technology is set up is designed to appeal to masculine tastes, which is why I did the book," says Lorna. "I wanted the nerdy stuff that generally bores women the most to be less at the forefront.

"It's certainly not what excites me about photography, but at the same time there are important techie things that you need to get your head around.

"There's a massive misconception that all you have to do is use your index finger. People buy a camera and get to a certain point finding out how to work it and then stop.

"What I have done is develop a jargon-free, friendly way to help people get the best out of their cameras. Until you get off the auto button, the camera is in control – not you."

It's the ideal handbook for someone like me who has recently invested in a digital SLR (that's short for single-lens reflex) in a bid to take my photography to the next level by learning about the big three – ISO, shutter speed and aperture – as well as lighting, composition, processing and editing.

The book also advises on all kinds of portraiture, landscapes, capturing events or holidays, and even how to set yourself up in the professional world. And it's all done without over-egging the technical side of things, beautifully illustrated throughout and separated into chapters that you can devour whole or dip into as and when needed.

Lorna's own journey into the realms of professional photography was an accidental one.

Now 49, she was born and raised in Salcombe. It was the world of ballet, and her performances as a child actress from the age of 12 until her late teens, that introduced her to the art of taking pictures.

"I was surrounded by creatives and always had to have my photograph taken, and that brought me into professional studios," she recalls.

The concentration on posture and aesthetics in ballet gave Lorna a keen awareness of image and composition. You spent your whole time in class being told to be aware of 'how it looks from the front'; you are using your body to make a beautiful shape, so you are aware of line and framing. It has definitely been an influence."

And then she fell in love with a photographer and ended up working with him, and that's how her career began. For several years she lived in London, learning on the job by taking pictures in the studio and on assignment using a film camera.

"Photography used to be a dark art; people used to have to book a professional photographer if they wanted decent pictures," she adds.

"People had little Kodak cameras and rolls of film you took to Boots to be developed."

Lorna moved back home to Salcombe to start a family – her 19-year-old daughter is currently studying at London college of Fashion – and a business that is now thriving.

She has a particular gift for capturing children and families in natural poses, but it was her beautiful, offbeat pictures of Devon weddings that put her skills in the spotlight.

"I think everyone recognised the standard style as naff, but no-one was doing them with any style at that time," she says. "Wedding photography has changed enormously in recent years."

Lorna still loves to explore personal photography projects. One that remains close to her heart is an ongoing series of striking and tasteful nude portraits of women who have suffered breast cancer; Lorna has twice beaten the disease herself.

Earning her spurs as a respected professional opened the door for the emergence of the multi-faceted entity that is Bangwallop – a studio, gallery, cafe, shop and learning hub. As well as showcasing the work of Lorna and her team of photographers, they also host shows by internationally renowned photographers like Martin Parr and Tim Flach, and occasional workshops with landscape expert Joe Cornish.

The Busy Girl's Guide to Digital Photography is published by David and Charles (£17.99).

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