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Life on the land: Emily’s photography course

by Gabi Byrnes

Even living on a farm a decent drive away from the nearest supermarket in remote Kojonup, WA, Emily Stretch has still found a way to pursue her passion for photography by embarking on a Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging at Open Colleges.

While access to some modern conveniences may be limited, living in a rural community has afforded Emily no shortage of inspiration when it comes to her craft. “I have been playing with cameras for as long as I can remember. I’ve never formally studied photography before, but it is a true love for me, especially out here on the farm. There are so many amazing photographic opportunities!”

Now, with the help of Open Colleges’ Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging, Emily is finally able to take her hobby to the next level and seriously hone her photography skills. “As far as the work and the course content goes, I’m learning so much and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. It’s inspiring watching the way my photos are transforming from mediocre to something better through the shoot and the editing process.”

In addition to fostering creativity and teaching design and visual skills, the course assists students to achieve a variety of practical outcomes to aid them in their future photographic careers, such as an industry-standard folio of their work.


It also provides a solid grounding in the industry tools of the trade. “I had absolutely no experience with any of the Adobe programs. The first study period is all about bringing you up to speed with the programs we use most. It was a little daunting to begin with, but there are copious video tutorials and people happy to walk you through your problems.”

So what kind of commitment does it take to study photography online? Emily lends us her insight into the course structure. “There are six study periods (school terms, if you like), and in each study period you download a PDF of the course content, known as your study guide. From there, you work through the content at your own pace, asking questions along the way.”

The self-paced nature of the course, which leaves students free of deadlines and due dates, makes it very achievable – so long as you can maintain your focus. “There are no rules. You just have to be disciplined with what you want to achieve and stick to that.”


According to Emily, one of the key resources promoting successful online study at Open Colleges is “a great website forum, with trainers that are happy to help any time, with peers that provide constructive feedback.” Open Colleges’ online learning portal, OpenSpace, enables course participants to view all learning materials and interact with other students at any time of the day or night. “It’s where I can collaborate with my peers, ask questions of my trainer and get feedback on my work.”

The course has even provided a means for Emily and her classmates to socialise in other ways. “John Hollingshead, our tutor, planned a photowalk through Kings Park in Perth for us. This was an invaluable tool for myself, as the WA students who came now have a Facebook group for keeping in touch, sharing photos and generally providing support for each other.”


Emily credits her course trainer John Hollingshead, a classically trained photographer renowned for his commercial successes in Australia and overseas, for proving that distance is no barrier to education through his unwavering availability. “I don’t know how John keeps in contact as much as he does! If I have a question, I submit it to the pertinent forum, and generally within a short time frame, there is feedback. If I’m really stuck, I message my trainer personally and we sort through the mind block until the creativity is flowing again. Having access to picking my trainer’s brain is brilliant.”

Six months into her course, it’s clear that Emily’s ultimate aim – “to market myself as a photographer willing to come out to your rural area and capture the special places you love” – is within reach. Yet her goals and aspirations continue to be shaped by the experience she’s gaining at Open Colleges.

“I plan to expand my skills to portraiture and family shoots on farms. No doubt my photographic range will grow as I study and the services I offer will grow as this happens.”


For Emily, being able to undertake study while remaining close to the beautiful surrounds that inspire her work has made all the difference. “This is my passion, and Open Colleges lets me pursue it in the way that works for me. I can be on the farm, working with the sheep, the dogs and the crops and taking photos of the life I live, love, breathe and work. Studying this way has enhanced my passion for what I do every day.”

Ready to start your photography?

Open Colleges’ photography courses could give you the skills to turn your passion into a career. Find out more now.

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