We caught up with BIT photographer, Lee Pullen, who will be running two photography courses in November — Digital Photography 101: Protips for Beginners, and Digital Photography 102: Moving from Auto to Manual.
Tell us a bit more about yourself, and how you got into photography?
My path into photography was a little unusual. I first became interested during my undergraduate degree in astronomy. The essence of astronomy is studying light from space, and I found the science of this – and astrophotography in particular — to be fascinating. I bought a compact camera with manual settings and went about learning as much as I could, taking photos of the night sky as well as more Earth-bound subjects. Fast-forward a few years and I began paid work as a photographer, initially covering science conferences with speakers from organisations such as NASA and the European Space Agency. This taught me a reportage-style of photography that I’ve favoured ever since. This was all more than a decade ago, and I’ve gained a lot of experience in that time!
What made you want to run Digital Photography 101: Protips for Beginners?
I’ve lost track of how many times people have asked me for advice on which camera to buy so that they can take better pictures. The answer is almost always the same: don’t buy any more kit yet, invest in your own skills instead. Simple techniques in areas such as composition and lighting will have a huge impact on the quality of your pictures, whatever camera you currently use, smartphones included. So I thought: why not put on a course that distils that knowledge into a series of top tips? The content covered is the foundation of good photography regardless of equipment, meaning you don’t need to own a high-end DSLR camera to benefit – it’s very much open to smartphone photographers too.
Can you give us a sneak preview? Maybe one of your tips?
OK, here’s a tip for taking better photos of pets, children, babies – it works equally well for all. Your instinct is to stand over your subject (naturally, as you’re taller than them), point your phone / camera down, and *snap*. Instead, get down low so that you’re at their eye level, or perhaps even lower if you can. If you’re lying on your belly, you’re doing it right! Now, get close to your subject’s face so they fill the frame, focus on their eyes, and *click*. Hey presto, a photo that’s a huge improvement, and you didn’t need to spend a penny on extra equipment.
What is the advantage of going to manual, as you will be teaching in Digital Photography 102: Moving from Auto to Manual?
This second course is aimed at people with a manual settings-capable camera (pretty much all DSLRs, and a lot of camera phones these days too) who want to take their photography to the next level. They may already have some knowledge, and perhaps are graduates of Digital Photography 101. People at that level are often shooting in Auto mode, which is fine to start off with. However, you’re delegating a lot to your camera, letting it make decisions about settings such as ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Your camera will always play it safe. When you choose to go full manual you’re in the driving seat, allowing you to take full creative control of your pictures. It’s really the best way to lift your skills, take better pictures, and have more fun too. You’ll stop taking snaps and start composing shots.
Do you have any other courses planned?
I’ve got ideas for a future course about taking your first steps in image processing, using editing tools and techniques to raise the quality of your pictures. Another course I’d like to do would be on photographing live theatre. I do this for the BIT (so you may have seen my pictures!) and although it’s challenging, it really boosts your skills as a photographer. These aren’t definite yet, so I’d love to hear if people would be interested!
Where can people see examples of your work?
Digital Photography 101: Protips for Beginners will run at the BIT on Saturday 2 November 2019, 10am – 1pm. Tickets cost £30.
Digital Photography 102: Moving from Auto to Manual will run at the BIT on Saturday 16 November 2019, 10am – 1pm. Tickets cost £30.