How To Take Great Photos And Help Change Children’s Lives

A digital photography course with a difference is launching in Shaftesbury.

Over ten consecutive Wednesday evenings, Chris Stanbury will share tips and tricks for taking better portraits or landscape shots. And while locals learn new skills, every penny from the course fees will help improve the life chances of children in orphanages.

ThisIsAlfred’s Keri Jones found out more.

Chris Stanbury was busy handing out leaflets for his photography course when I met him on Gold Hill. If you stand next to the fibreglass Hovis loaf for a few minutes, you’re guaranteed to see someone snapping away. If you’ve been unhappy with how you’ve captured the iconic cobbles, you need Chris’ course.

Chris Stanbury

Chris says the sessions assume that attendees have no previous photographic knowledge. “We start with the basics so that even people who have not had any experience can begin. And for people who’ve got lots of experience, we have professionals who will come in to help and offer one-to-one guidance for them as well,” he said.

Each of the Wednesday sessions will focus on a different aspect of photography – from the use of software and printers, to holidays and weddings. “We do pets, people, landscapes, all those sorts of things,” said Chris.

As we chatted, a ginger cat started running between our legs, trying to gain our attention. I asked Chris how he would photograph the cat. “He’s now standing on the Hovis loaf of bread,” said Chris, who had to move fast to frame the shot. “The first lesson of photography is to take the lens cap off,” he laughed, realising his mistake.

The body of Chris’ camera was over six inches long. It looked expensive and the pussy may have felt it was being pursued by paparazzi. But Chris assured me that you don’t need fancy kit to join his course. “We have a number of people who don’t have a camera at all and they are going to be taking photographs on their phones. And that’s fine, because the basics of photography will apply to a phone or a camera.”

Chris says he can make a decent photographer out of anybody. “You can teach people some of the basics, the do’s and don’ts, and some of the simple rules to follow like the rule of thirds.”

He explained what that meant. “Often a person will be in either the first third of the picture or the last third. Their face, and typically their eyes, would be in the upper third. So if you imagine a grid of three boxes each way, then you’d put them in one of the top corner boxes.”

Chris says that makes for a better photograph. “It does generally. All these rules are there to be broken, but a simple rule that will often improve photographs is the rule of thirds, and there are lots of others like that as well,” he said.

If you can’t attend each week – perhaps you have a summer holiday booked – it’s not a problem. “Most people would come to every single session, but if people can’t make them all we do notes for each one. And we always do a catch-up at the beginning of the next session. So ideally they’ll come to all of them, but if not, we can manage with that,” said Chris.

In addition to Chris’ tuition, guest speakers will share their own experiences. “We have professional photographers who come along at the end. They all give their time for free,” he said. “They are talking about whatever is passionate to them. Occasionally they will be following the theme of the session. During the wedding photography session, it’s likely that the guest photographer will be a wedding photographer on that occasion.”

Every penny from the course fees will go towards the charity. “One hundred percent of the money that people donate is going straight to Hope and Homes For Children. They are based just outside Salisbury and they work in Eastern and Central Europe and Africa. Their mission is to take children out of orphanages and to put them into proper, loving families,” said Chris.

The charity has been running for 25 years and Chris has worked with them for the last 15 years. “They do just such a fantastic job,” he said. “They transform children’s lives. Think about some of the horrible institutions we see on TV, like orphanages in Romania. When they started work in Romania, there were 110,000 children in these horrible institutions. That figure is now 8,000 and within a couple of years there will be none.”

The Mitre Inn has kindly waived room hire charges. Chris is giving up ten of his evenings for this fundraising and he’s hoping that his commitment will pay off. It has before, when he hosted a course in Salisbury. “One year we raised £7,500 for the charity. We’re hoping to get a lot of people along in Shaftesbury, but I think everybody’s leaving it until the last minute. So please book up,” he said.

Chris can accommodate up to thirty people on the course A typical lesson will be 45 to 60 minutes of instruction with examples. Then there will be around half an hour of practical work and a ten-minute talk from the guest photographer.

The cost for the course of ten lessons is £150. To find out more, call Chris on 01747 858016.