Category Archives: Reflection

Reflecting on Part five – Viewpoint and Assignment five…

As with my previous posts, this post summarises what I have learnt from part five of the course and Assignment five, with the aims: 1) to embed the learning for future courses and projects and 2) to act as a review and reflection tool which gives ease of reference to the learning points.

So to summarise the feedback received:

  • experiment with different approaches to see what works best for the idea/brief,
  • qualify the rationale for any decision-making so there is a clear understanding of the approach taken,
  • be consistent with the look and feel of the series so it hangs together,
  • include more critical analysis including opposing views, and
  • ensure focus is 100%.

Following tutor feedback I have included within this post a re-shoot of images 2, 7 and 10.  In addition, my tutor has suggested I provide a response to Annie Leibovitz’s ‘warts and all’ Las Vegas Showgirl and Spencer Tunick’s Capital of Culture 2017.  This will be covered under a separate blog post which you can access here.

Note: With the re-shot images I kept the ISO the same so the images would be consistent with the original series.  I did consider re-shooting the whole series again but decided against this because, a) I would have probably gone insane as it was difficult enough to do the first time round and 2) I was happy with the majority of the images so it seemed a waste of resources at this point to go back to square one. And so here are my re-shots:

Image 2 : Hands
Original Vs digital re-worked image (image re-shot) 

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-b

revised hands










I found the original image hard to re-create from a composition perspective, however, I did re-shoot this image but still felt the original image was much stronger so I decided to keep the original in the final series.  The reason I felt the original image was stronger was that; a) the lighting was more consistent with the rest of the series, b) the aesthetics of the grain was more consistent with the rest of the series, c) there was more detail apparent and I prefer that visually, and d) it has a better composition.

Image 7 : Torso Front
Original Vs digital re-worked image (image re-shot) 

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-g

revised Torso Front










It is not as obvious with the digital image but the re-shot image is much clearer and in focus compared to the original.  The lighting is consistent with the original series and so the re-shot image makes it into the revised final series (see below).  [Note to self: more exercise required as I seem to have put on some weight.]

Image 10 : Hair
Original Vs digital re-worked image (image re-shot) 

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-j











This image aptly named hair (and there is more of it this time round) was re-shot mainly due to unwanted shadows.  There were no such shadows apparent in the other shots in the series so this one stood out from that perspective.  To reduce the cast shadows I simply; a) moved further away from the background and b) introduced a bit of light in at the front to reduce the shadows on my legs cast by my hair.  As a result the shadows have been eliminated in the re-shot image and this is the image that makes it into the final series.  I also prefer the composition of form in the re-shot image.

Contact sheets for the re-shot images above:

Before I go on to the full series comparison I need to make a comment about why colour was not considered for this Assignment.  I think by looking at the two sets of contact sheets black and white provides a more consistent look to the skin.  With colour you are distracted by the nuances in skin tones and blemishes and to me this exercise was about form and black and white allow the eye to focus on this aspect more.

And now to the original versus the revised final series:

Original series:

Final revised series:

Post re-work/re-shooting I am now much happier with my final series and I feel that as a set they represent me and what I was trying to achieve with this assignment well.

A side note about key lines:  
A key line is a line which goes around the edge your image so there is a clear break between the printed area and the border (in my case, white). I have been experimenting with these both on assignment prints and on my competition entry prints with mixed results.

I have concluded to date that where the print edge is the same or similar colour to the border there is some merit in using a black or grey key line to provide a frame which keeps the eye contained within the image.

This now completes my work, re-work and reflection of part five/Assignment five.



Reflecting on Part four – The language of light and Assignment four…

As with my previous posts, this post summarises what I have learnt from part four of the course and Assignment four, with the aims: 1) to embed the learning for future courses and projects and 2) to act as a review and reflection tool which gives ease of reference to the learning points.

So to summarise the feedback received:

  • calibrate equipment wherever possible – screen and printer,
  • continue to experiment with lighting and printing,
  • get rid of unwanted and distracting elements in post as appropriate,
  • be brave and experiment with pushing creative ideas further, and
  • develop the narrative angle if this is an area of interest.

Following tutor feedback I have included within this post my re-work of image 2 and re-shoot of image 4 and 5.  My response to the work of Edward Weston, Graham Rawls, Anderson Studio M and Kafka’s The Metamorphosis will be posted under a separate blog post.

Image 2 : Original Vs digital re-worked image (image lightened/label removed) 

2. IMG_9000

IMG_9000 re worked











Image 4: Original Vs re-worked image (different composition/more detail on lamp)

4, IMG_9054












contact sheet

Image 4 re-shoot


Image 5 : Original Vs re-worked image (different composition/label removed)

5. IMG_9022

IMG_9448 re-shoot












Image 5 re-shoot

Following the re-work of Images 2, 4 and 5 above, here are both series to compare:

Original series:

Revised series:

I do think the changes give a different flow to the series.  I had trouble matching the colour tones exactly, this was for a number of reasons, for example, I used a different egg which was not as white as the previous one and I shot with natural light to accompany the lamp light and the quality/colour of natural light was different from the original shoot.  This highlights for me that maybe I need to explore using a grey card for continuity purposes and be more creative and varied when shooting the first time so there are more choices for selection.

Experimentation: Re-worked images with narrative added (just for fun!)….

IMG_9000 plus words

IMG_9022 plus words










I think these images do lend themselves to having text added.  They could almost be advertising posters, they have a certain look and feel about them.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to explore this more in another course.

My tutor tasked me with researching the work of Graham Rawls, Anderson Studio M, Kafka’s Then Metamorphosis and Edward Weston which I will put a link to here once this is available.

Note: For the purposes of my Assessment submission I have provided a new set of ‘lightened’ A4 prints which include the re-shot images 4 and 5, which I have also decided to print on a lustre non glossy paper to experiment with printing papers.

This now completes my work, re-work and reflection of part four/Assignment four.

Reflecting on Part three – Traces of time and Assignment three…

As with my previous posts, this post summarises what I have learnt from part three and Assignment three of the course, with the aims: 1) to embed the learning for future courses and projects and 2) to act as a review and reflection tool which gives ease of reference to the learning points.

So to summarise the feedback received:

  • Experiment more using the exercises to inform assignments,
  • avoid repetitive subjects and compositions (as appropriate),
  • check the frame and internals for unwanted items,
  • ensure the images are on sharp where they should be,
  • give both sides of an argument before stating yours, and
  • take care with which practitioners are referenced; they should be published in either national or international magazines or who have won competition awards.

Following tutor feedback I have included within this post my re-work of image 6 – The Jump, an experimentation with overlaid images and my response to the work of Tobin Yelland and Giovanni Reda.

Image 6 – The Jump

I have adjusted this image by re-cropping to exclude the concrete ramp and to lift the shadows so there is more detail in the trousers.  I have posted below the original image together with the re-worked image to show the difference the re-work has made.

image 6 _MG_5029












By re-cropping the image it adds a sense of space below the skateboarder and gives the impression that the jump is higher than it appears in the original image.  By lifting the shadows it gives a more informed image as you can now see the detail in the black areas.

Tobin Yelland (born: 1970):

A commercial/fine arts photographer from America, whose childhood interest in skateboarding led him from his hobby in photography, capturing fellow skaters and the sub-culture surrounding the skating scene mostly for skateboard magasines, to a full time professional portrait/lifestyle/skateboarding photographer of some 20 years.

Notably he has worked with some large brands synonymous with skateboarding and others which are alternative lifestyle/culture focused.

Tobin uses a fish-eye or straight lens and his website showcases a lot of black & white images.  Most of the subjects in the online images have been photographed mid trick, which makes for a more impressive capture.

In an interview with Huck Magasine, Tobin says:

“I think finding the perfect moment to take a photograph is all about knowing that person really well,”

I can relate to this, as when I have worked with a model for the first time there is always a honeymoon period where you are both getting used to working with each other.  It takes some time to build a good rapport and on a first shoot you might get a handful of natural relaxed shots, however, come the 3rd or 4th time working with the same model it’s so much easier to get a lot of really good natural shots.

Also I think with action photography you really need to be au fait with the activity so you can anticipate the moves, tricks, positioning of the subject/s that you are photographing.

Giovanni Reda (born 1974):

A photographer and filmmaker from Brooklyn, NYC who has been photographing skateboarding and portraits and people for over 20 years.

Curiously his main website does not have any write up about the artist only photographs from his different projects but I found an interview with him on the ilovecreatives website which contained far more information on Giovanni the person rather than showcasing his work.

You can see from his colourful images online that he also sometimes uses a fish-eye lens which is quite popular in this genre of photography.  He also an external flash to either accent a particular subject, give a bit more light to enable a higher shutter speed to stop motion or to create some interesting shadows.

The interview reinforces the notion that to improve your skills you have to be persistent and practice, Giovanni says:

“I keep my camera with me and I shoot a portrait every day.  I need to keep myself busy and my creativity flowing.”

This raises an interesting point about keeping yourself creatively challenged as a photographer.  Whilst being on the course, a couple of times I have noticed online posts from other students who have sought advice because they have lost interest in taking photographs.  It’s a weird feeling not wanting to do something that you love to do but I have to say I have been there too.  This, of course, can happen with any pursuit e.g. you hear about writers block all the time.  It must be part of the human condition, however, I am in agreement with Giovanni, the key is to keep going and take a photograph everyday if you can and that will keep you continually in the creative mindset.

For the purposes of my Assessment submission I have provided an A4 print of the re-shot image 6.   This now completes my work, re-work and reflection of part three/Assignment three.

Reflecting on Part two – Imaginative Spaces and Assignment two…

As with my previous post “Reflecting on Part one…”, this post summarises what I have learnt from part two and Assignment two of the course, with the aims: 1) to embed the learning for future courses and projects and 2) to act as a review and reflection tool which gives ease of reference to the learning points.

So to summarise the feedback received:

  • check images by laying them out upside down; this will highlight any light spots,
  • focus on the eyes in a portrait and ensure the focus is pin sharp,
  • take care with the details and consider what to clone out,
  • experiment with different printing papers,
  • use the course exercises and research to inform the final work,
  • include information on key influencers: photographers, artists etc, and
  • explain the context and theoretical meaning behind the work more.

Looking back at this part of the course, I can see in particular my Assignment Two – Collecting was hampered by focusing and ‘possible’ attention to detail (depending on the intention and interpretation) issues.  With the aim of improving technique I have been carrying out studio portrait sessions and some of the images from these sessions I have entered into the 2017 LensCulture portrait competition.  I posted a blog on my entry and subsequent feedback received which can be found here.

With regards to research on “Selfies” and smiling for the camera, I attended an exhibition as part of an OCA Study Visit called Performing for the Camera which had a lot of interesting commentaries on this subject in particular about the online selfie generation (being Insta-famous i.e. famous on Instagram).  I also watched a documentary on the history of photography which covered Kodak’s advertising campaign in the early 1900s.  Kodak were trying to get their Brownie camera’s, which aimed at bringing the snapshot to the masses, in to the homes of families to record their ‘special’ moments and smiling for the camera was born.  Amazing that such a campaign still influences us today 100+ years on.

On the subject of selfies and instantly sharing yourself online with the world, I decided to open an Instagram account in October last year (2016) as this seems to be the new forum for sharing visual updates of one’s life and loves, and for a photographer the visual medium is key.  That said, I am using the site primarily to document my life as opposed to my photography.  I always worry with any online sharing platform about the rights to images once they have been posted online and whether I am inadvertently signing the rights to my work away when posting.

I had a situation a while back where one of my images was changed and re-posted online by a friend of a friend (quite innocently) without any comment on the source.  Since then I have been a bit wary about sharing my work online.  I don’t mind if my images are used and credited but most people outside of visual media do not think twice about sharing images that they find online.  It doesn’t occur to them that there may be subject to copyright or that the images are owned by someone.   This then leads you as a photographer to consider whether you watermark everything that goes on the internet to ensure the images are credited if shared, although this doesn’t stop them from being altered in Photoshop or with Instagram filters of course.

So images online are free? There are always debates on forums and in the photography community about whether photographers should provide their work for ‘free’ (or for mates rates), watermarked or not, at reduced quality to prevent the selling of prints etc.  I am in two minds about this whole subject and it probably needs another blog post to properly discuss and debate these aspects of the sharing of this creative medium I now find myself part of.

Also as part of my tutor feedback I was provided with a link to the Inside Out project set up by the photographer JR:

On March 2, 2011, JR won the TED prize at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and called for the creation of a global participatory art project with the potential to change the world. This project is called INSIDE OUT.

Put simply:

It is a global platform for people to share their untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art.

The project encourages the submission of images which reflect personal identity and/or a cause for Group Action.  These images are printed on a very large-scale and then distributed and displayed to raise awareness.

I guess my question to this is, can a large-scale global art project really result in change?

JR is a fan of large-scale imagery and has had a number of projects where large scale images have been used to cover buildings and rooftops, which in some cases can only be seen by an aerial view.

I particularly like his Wrinkles of the City project which in 2011 he brought to Los Angeles.  In South Californian beauty is now part of its cultural identity and where plastic surgery is now a lifestyle, rather than a luxury, and socially accepted.  This is a juxtaposition to the older generations whose wrinkles of old age represent their life / their life story, a bit like the rings of a tree. The visible marks and wrinkles on their skin act as a record of their good times and their bad times etc., with both internal and external influences affecting their outward appearance.

There was one particular quote which resonated with me:

“We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.”

The Wrinkles of the City/Los Angeles/2011 video – time 4m:50s

As photographers we capture an image of a subject but how we portray that subject is impacted greatly by who we are inside; our influences, our experiences, our values etc.

An interesting project for me as when I take portrait photos my aim is to bring out a person’s beauty.  Sometimes that is not ‘beauty’ in the most common interpretation. It’s to capture the true essence of that person, their true nature from within, the inside projected externally.

This now completes my work, re-work and reflection of part two/Assignment two.

Reflecting on Part one – From that moment onwards and Assignment one…

On coming to the end of the course and now reaching the pre-assessment period I thought it would be a good idea to summarise what I had learnt from each part of the course Assignments, 1) to embed the learning for future courses and projects and 2) to use as a review and reflection tool which gives ease of reference to the learning points.

So to summarise the feedback received:

  • being closer to a subject is not necessarily a weaker position,
  • consider a variety of viewpoints,
  • consider what you want the viewer to focus on and depth of field,
  • take care with the placing of white objects especially near the frame,
  • textures are interesting detail so their inclusion should be considered,
  • look for strong patterns when creating images,
  • don’t be afraid to experiment with ISO,
  • take care with positioning and check for unwanted items near key subjects, and
  • use the exercises to inform assignments.

Image 6 – “Hello Tree” was recommended a re-shoot to capture the textures on the tree, this is below for your reference:

Re-shoot IMG_9427

Technical Details: ISO 100 1/125 sec. f/4.0 17mm

I decided to take a slightly different viewpoint of this tree for a number of reasons;

  • there were (and are increasing) so many cars parked down this road I didn’t want to include the number plates of the cars behind the tree, which a wider angle would have resulted in,
  • there was a huge white van directly to my right which restricted the positioning of the camera and if included would have become the main focal point and draw to the eye being white if I had included it, and
  • by being closer to the tree it meant I could get more detail out of the trunk.  I used a slightly higher f-stop than previously which meant I have included most of the tree in the depth of field used.  Previously I had focused more on the ground in front of the tree so this I feel is an improvement.

The leading lines are primarly on the path side of the tree this time, which I think works better as part of a ‘journey’ compostionally.  Also the light quality is different to the original due to the different time of day/year the images were taken.  This reinforces the fact that to try to recreate an image exactly, where the environment is not controlled, is impossible.  The re-shot image was taken on a rainy day as was the original but even the puddles were not the same….

To enable a comparison to be made of the images I have added them both below side by side for your ease of reference (both were taken at 17mm with ISO 100:

For the purposes of my Assessment submission I have provided an A4 print of the re-shot image 6.   This now completes my work, re-work and reflection of part one/Assignment one.

Photograph Like a Thief…

Today I watched a YouTube live stream by photographer Glyn Dewis, who I had seen partly present at this year’s Photography Show as the Birmingham NEC.  Primarily it was a plug for his book “Photograph Like a Thief…” but it was also a very interesting insight into how another photographer views his own work and those of other photographers whilst looking at, in particular, lighting techniques.  This was an area of interest for me in Part four, The Language of Light where I chose studio lighting for my Assignment 4 project “Languages of Light”.

There were a number of take-aways from a research perspective,  it provided:

  • an insight into lighting techniques,
  • ideas for photography projects,
  • a challenge to go out and learn a technical set-up in-side-out,
  • signposts to other photographer’s work, and
  • a discount on his book Photograph Like a Thief…

Glyn mentioned a number of photographers who influenced or provided him with inspiration (a list of some of them is below with links) and said that to start out you need to know what you like in an image.  Once you know this naturally you will want to figure out how you can replicate the ‘look’ and/or ‘feel’ of an image as part of your development as a photographer.  Copying in photography is frowned upon and granted if you plagiarise work that is not acceptable but using elements of another image and applying it your own ideas is developmental.

The main thing is that you practice, practice, practice and try to create the kind of images that inspire you to experiment further.  He talked about how to reverse engineer the lighting and to take a guess from the clues in the image how the lighting might have been set up to achieve the look you are after and to just give it a go.

The images that Glyn produces do have a style now but he said when he started out people would ask him what was his ‘style’.  He said he looked at his portfolio back then and there were all sorts of images where he had experimented in lots of different ways with different lighting and techniques so clearly there wasn’t a style but people expected him as a photographer to have one immediately.  Style comes with finding what works for you and what interests you as a person, it is derived from your experiences and opportunities and cannot be replicated as everyone is different.  As a result even if you did try to copy someone else’s lighting to create an identical work you actually couldn’t because you are not that person.

The other thing Glyn does is use Pinterest for inspiration and suggested this was one way, and a good one, of gathering together inspiration to refer to.  It might be for a current project or a future one but anything that inspires you should be kept.  It can also give clients an idea of what you are trying to aim for in an image visually rather than trying to verbalise the idea.

I thought all the points he raised were interesting and relevant, especially as I come to the end of Expressing Your vision and thinking about where I thought I would be at the end of the course at the start of the course.  I thought by the end I would have a ‘style’ when in fact this is not the case.  I am still unsure where my photography will personally take me, the main thing is that I’m still really enjoying the journey, learning a massive amount about photography, myself and the world around me, so the search (if you can call it that) is still on.

As promised here is a list of some of the photographers Glyn referred to in his live stream:

Glenn Meling
Joe McNally
Mark Seliger
Annie Leibovitz

LensCulture 2017 Portrait Awards

I have been taking a greater interest personally in portrait photography more than any other genre of photography since I have started the course, in particular A2 ‘Collecting‘ of Expressing Your Vision, so I have pursued this aspect further in my own time and dedicated a fair bit of resource to it and am posting this as a partial ‘reworking’ opportunity for A2.

The main ways I believe you can improve yourself is to try new things, open yourself up to critique and to challenge yourself to perfection.  As a result I decided to enter a portrait competition with LensCulture

There are so many competitions out there for photographers, I now realise, so you need to be selective with which you enter otherwise you could be throwing money down the drain.  A lot of the competitions you have to pay for entry so you need to be sure that what you are entering is worth your time.  I specifically chose the student 5+ single image package so I could get critique on my images.  I was using the submission more as a learning opportunity than a chance to win a competition.  I paid $35 USD (£29.67 GBP) to enter.

I had been receiving emails from LensCulture which were very informative and seemed to cover a wide range of photography related issues, so I decided I would enter my images to this global competition.

The images I entered are below:

LensCulture Feedback

Needless to say I didn’t win (the winners can be found here) but all the communications I received from LensCulture have been professional, encouraging and supportive.  I didn’t feel I had ‘lost’ more that there were just better entries on the day.  I was surprised as I thought it would be more dog-eat-dog.  For this approach to their communications I give total respect to Lens Culture.

And it didn’t stop there the critique I received yesterday was in the same vein and is pasted verbatim below.  I am really pleased with the encouragement given to me to improve, which will drive me on, together with links to further reading and other photographers to research.  If you are thinking of entering a competition then I would highly recommend Lens Culture for sure.

Additional Recommendations

Recommended Books & Photographers

Photo Competitions

Portfolio Reviews & Festivals

Recommendations for Gaining Exposure

Other Resources

Relevant Quotes from Past Jurors

  • “Editing is essential and good sequencing certainly helps with my selection. My mantra is less is more. Include only your best pictures — anything else will weaken the submission.” — Elisabeth Biondi, Visuals Editor, Indepedent Curator, New York City, USA
  • “All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.” – Marcel Duchamp
  • “When I judge a contest I look for photographs that make me feel something. Anything. I also look for stories that are original. I see thousands of stories a year and most are sadly quite similar. So a story that I haven’t seen before, or a unique approach to a story that I have seen before goes very, very far. Take chances!” — James Estrin, Co-Editor, New York Times Lens Blog, New York City, USA


(2017) LensCulture, Available at: (Accessed: 01/05/2017).

(2017) LensCulture 2017 Portrait Awards Winners and Finalists, Available at: (Accessed: 01/05/2017).

(2017) A2 Collecting, Expressing Your Vision, Available at: (Accessed: 01/05/2017).