Tagged: digital photography

11th June 2015 – Your Photo Your Way: Architecture and Artistry

Your Picture Your Way, Architecture and Artistry last meeting and thanks to all those who took part either showing pictures or from the floor. It was thought provoking and showed a refreshingly wide sensibility within the club as to who takes what and why. A couple of items came up I am going to pursue because they show the broad spectrum within the club and the ways we individually develop.

 

Firstly lets establish something that is important for all of us to recognise about our development as painters with light. Not every photograph we take is an exam to pass, even if we are doing this as a living. That way we spend more time in revision than in actually enjoying our hobby/living. The difference between the amateur and the professional are the activities that put bread on the table. Increasingly difficult to make a living purely from photography these days because someone with a camera is no longer an event. They are everywhere. It doesn’t mean one takes better photographs than the other, though we do expect the professional to be more competent – which is partly based on the assumption that price is some arbiter of quality.

 

Every photograph that a photographer takes for a client has to pass their examination if the transaction is to take place (lesson: Always get the money up front), that is to say every image made for a paying audience has to pass an exam. Every photograph we take is an opportunity to add to our development and as such there will be a lot more failures than passes. Looking at something as a straight forward pass/fail doesn’t do our own, regardless of its state or impact on our economic status, development much good. Not every photograph has to see the light of day more than once.

 

Every photograph we take is an opportunity to learn. We’ve talked about criticism and its role in development before and we will return to develop that at a future date. What we had at the last meeting was a sharing of that opportunity. All questions based in adding to what we know are a good thing. So we had discussions on the difference between JPEG and RAW (JPEG uses data compression for smaller files and white balance etc are encoded in the image at the time of pressing the shutter, the ability to lighten and darken is about a stop and half to two stops based on programming decisions made at the time the software was written, where as RAW has everything left in ); cropping and composition; long exposures and seeing photographs and were amongst the things covered. Also finding inspiration popped up at a tangent to the main conversations, at least the ones I was privy to.

 

Architecture isn’t really a topic we’ve covered in the blog and it is a subject that brings challenges of its own to the photographer. Most buildings are, well so damned big. I was at Salisbury Cathedral last week and had I not had a 10-20mm zoom on the camera I very much doubt I would have got the magnificent west frontage in (at least at an angle that obscures the tent they have erected for those who cue to see the Cathedral’s copy of Magna Carter). You are going to shoot in RAW (especially when shooting interiors where colour casts and dynamic ranges may be a problem) probably use post production of some kind and use a tripod. Ah, that tripod thing. Well I know that if you want to get the best quality then you should use a tripod. I was told this at great length by a photographer with one a couple of years ago, at Salisbury Cathedral as it happens. Didn’t have the heart to tell him my camera didn’t have a mirror to bounce around and quite how much shake he thought I was going to get hand held at 10mm at 1/640th of a second at F8 I didn’t feel the need to bore myself by asking. As a general rule I see the point, especially for interiors that have tendency to be dark. Best quality low ISO in the dark means a low shutter speed, low shutter speeds are best augmented by steady camera position. A tripods bulk, even the small ones, doesn’t add much fun to the experience, but that isn’t the primary problem I have with them, neither is it that just-another-damned-thing-to-carry.

 

The primary problem I have with tripods, from experience and observation, is the very thing that we use them for. Immobility. How many good shots are lost by having the camera on a tripod and fixing not only the view before us but the angles, frames and crops that moving the camera left or right, up or down or through an arc? How many of us actually go: This is the view; this is where I set up the tripod; then frame the picture in those up-down zoom in-out plains? The last bit two things a photographer should do is attach the camera to the tripod, not the first. The last but one is fine tune the frame, focus and exposure (I know that is three things but I am trying to avoid a Monty Python Spanish Inquisition re-run here) and the last press the shutter. It is a problem of when the kit gets in the way of the photography, what the French might call an idée fixe, that is, an obsession that dominates other considerations. Iif the building you are trying photograph allows photography and allows tripods in the first place (Do your research to avoid a long and fruitless journey).

 

Like landscape, or come to that any other form of photography, it is all about the light. Buildings being fixed will have an axis around which the sun appears to travel (it’s the other way round, I know, but , as Father Ted explained, “These are small, those are far away” and in this case far away and small are a convenient confusion) The Golden Hour works for buildings as for anything else in the landscape, even if the relative geography of the area that you are shooting in can make things difficult getting the angle you want.

 

Symmetry is also a powerful tool in shooting buildings.  Horizontal, vertical, diagonal and converging lines should be actively sought out, they lead the eye and lend proportion to your image. Shapes, patterns and shadows can give you interesting details to shoot when the whole building is too much and should not be overlooked even if it isn’t. Also the use of reflections can add depth to it and other areas of focus. When shooting at night or in poor light, commercial and shop windows often can be used as free soft box if you are utilising a model or shooting portraits as well as adding interest. In fact shooting at night, especially on buildings where the whole or significant parts are illuminated can give buildings a whole other feel than they have in day light.

I haven’t talked about TSL’s – Tilt Shift Lenses. That’s because they are screamingly expensive and for the average hobbyist a waste of time and money. You can always hire one if you really need one. As soon as the camera goes off a flat plane verticals start to converge or fall away. These can be fixed in post production , but you have to leave sufficient room around the building because you will also effectively crop your image in so doing. You can also think about your elevation – get higher up – but this is not always possible. The thing is, with a little forward planning these things can be over come.

 

So a good evening, with plenty to talk about. next time why don’t YOU bring something along?

 

 

N E X T   M E E T I N G

AGM – Annual General Meeting. Committee elections and your chance for your say on how the club is run.

Showing Off Again

Showing Off Again

Reflex Camera Club Southmead Hospital Exhibition 2014

Reflex Camera Club Exhibition at Southmead Hospital

No the title isn’t about Myk. It’s the title of our brand new exhibition at Southmead Hospital, Bristol.

On Wednesday myself and Myk drove out to Southmead to deliver the clubs framed prints. We were told to head to the delivery bay which nearly resulted in us paying an impromptu visit to the Maternity Unit but just in time we realised that Delivery Suite means a totally different thing at a Hospital! However we did manage to find the right spot and amazingly even managed to get a parking space right outside. If you’ve been to Southmead Hospital recently you’ll know exactly how difficult that is as their new car park isn’t open yet.

Up they go

Once we had the images inside we unwrapped them and the team from the Hospital laid them out and hung them up on the wall. Below you can see some images we took of them being hung and the finished look. The new location is in the main atrium and is very prominent. Anyone walking through that part of the Hospital has to go right past them. So they should be looked at by Hundreds if not Thousands of people each week.

If you want to go take a look then just head on over and walk in.  Richard Price’s Poppy Image was chosen to star on the leaflets they are printing to advertise the Exhibition and its going to run until sometime in January (we haven’t been given an exact end date yet).

So head on over and take a look at our members wonderful images!

 

 

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Purton Hulks

an image of reflex camera club members taking pictures at Purton Hulks

Reflex Camera Club at Purton Hulks by Myk Garton ©2014

Today’s post and pictures are brought to you from Purton Hulks by club member Myk Garton.

A trip to Purton Hulks on the River Severn as 12 club members braved the heavy rainstorms that were falling over Bristol and made the short journey up the M5 and A38 to the Purton Hulks boat graveyard on the bank of the River Severn. By the time we arrived, the rain had cleared and we were treated to a lovely sunset at the car park whilst waiting for others to arrive, although it didn’t last for very long.

A picture of the sunset at the sharpness & gloucester canal, purton taken by Myk garton with Reflex Camera Club

Sunset by the Sharpness Canal, Myk Garton © 2014

With the light fading rapidly we made our way along the canal tow-path to the boat graveyard. Some members had beaten us there and were already taking photographs. Most of the group walked along to the wooden hulks further along and began shooting various bits of the old wrecks. 

 

a picture of a decaying wooden ship hull at Purton Hulks, somerset by Myk garton with Reflex Camera Club

Decay at Sunset by Myk Garton © 2014

 

 

 

As darkness descended, it was time to get the lights out and practice some light painting techniques. I think everyone managed to get a few decent shots.

 

Follow this link to visit the friends of Purton Website & find out more information on the Purton Hulks

All images courtesy Myk Garton © 2014

 

 

The Summer trips are now complete and we now get to move into our new venue. It will be good to see and hear what everyone has been up to over the summer break

Talking of the new venue. If you haven’t heard we are moving to the new

St. Annes Junior School
Wick Road
BS4 4HUon the 4th of September. Read on for what Dan Ellis wants your help with at that meeting!

NEXT WEEK (4th September)

Because of the late confirmation we’ve sadly had to postpone Bob Martin’s visit until the New Year. Instead we’re going to be doing a variation on the 10×10 nights the club often runs.

This week’s 2x5x10 nights will hopefully help you think about where you are now, photographically, and what you’d like to get out of the coming year. We ask members to bring in five images from both categories.

“Destination” images that you bring in could be of a subject matter that attracts you (perhaps you want to improve your portraiture or macro photography), they could be representative of a photographer you particularly admire (a club member, someone from Flickr, or a “famous” photographer) and would like to learn their style. Perhaps you’ve come across a particular technique you’d like to start using (you might really want to get to grips with depth of field, or learn how to do good HDR), or maybe you want to start selling your images or getting them published. How would you like your photography to improve in the coming year?

Images of your own that you bring in could be some of your best, ones that you think represent your “average” or typical output, or they could be ones that are your current attempts in the direction you want to go (if you want to improve your portraiture bring in a recent portrait you’ve taken).

We ask that you submit images in the usual way via Dropbox but it might be worth bringing them in on a memory stick just for this meeting as the clubs Dropbox folder on the laptop may not be able to be updated before this particular meeting.

 

 

Hi, we’ve got a guest blogger for todays post. Our new club Secretary Ruth Doyle.
——–

We are coming to the end of another amazing year in the life of Reflex Camera club. Sadly we have lost a few members but have gladly welcomed many more. I would ask you all to look back on this season and ask 2 questions

  1. What have I got out of the club ?
  2. What have I put into the club ?

 

In an ideal world the answer to 1 would be at least equal in number to the answer to 2 but who lives in an ideal world.??
Only remember that to have made the club as successful as it is SOME members answer to 2 far outweighs their answer to 1 and YOU could hold the balance.

Membership is about ‘BEING A PART OF “and I would like all members to ensure they are a part of the club next season.

How can you do this ????

ATTENDANCE – every £1.00 helps  – PARTICIPATION –  in events and competitions – SHARING – your skills and expertise

The more we all put into the club – the more we can all get out of it .

See you all in our New Venue for another fantastic season.

Ruth Doyle

Secretary

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15 May 2014 Hankin & Scantlebury Shields

The competition season reached the trophy round last meeting with the awarding of the John Hankin (print) and the Stan Scantlebury (projected image) Shields. It was an interesting evening with the chance of looking back at some of the more favoured images over the season and see them in light of a fresh competition and a fresh judge, John Bjergfelt and our thanks to him. Rules for this round are as per the open competition but with the exception that this is restricted to entries that have already been submitted for the open and no points are awarded. All images are accompanied by a short summary of the judge’s comments in the catalogue only, see the link below.

R E S U L T S

Print

1st – Skater Boyz – Eddie House –  John Hankin Shield for the Printed Image 06_Skater_Boyz[1]

 

2nd – The rat catcher – Ian Coombs

10_The_Rat_Catcher[1]

 

3rd – New dog old trick – Ian Coombs

03_New_Dog_Old_Trick[1]

Highly Commended List

Proud to be Russian – Eddie Deponeo

02_Proud_to_be_Russian[1]

and Lady of the lake – Mark O’Grady.

04_Lady_of_the_Lake[1]

 

Commended List

A road well travelled – Julie Coombs,

07_A_Road_Well_Travelled[1]

 

Unearthed beauty – Mark O’Grady

11_Unearthed_Beauty[1]

and Tintern sunrise – Eddie House.

 

13_Tintern_Sunrise[1]

Digital 1st –

Knock out punch – Eddie Deponeo  –  Stan Scantlebury Shield for the Projected Image 06_knock_out_punch[1]

 

2nd – Must get ball must get ball! – Eddie House

04_must_get_ball_must_get_ball![1]

 

3rd – Sailing – Roy Williams

08_Sailing[1]

 

 

Highly Commended List –

Plitvice Waterfall – Annamarie Miles,

02_Plitvice_Waterfall[1]

 

 

Happy Meal – Alison Davies,

11_Happy_Meal[1]

Ivy Leaf – Wendy Goodchild

17_Ivy_leaf[1]

and Against the night – Mark Stone.

19_Against_the_Night[1]

 

Commended List –

 

Bathtime – Pauline Ewins,

01_Bathtime[1]

Desolate Industry – Mark Stone,

03_Desolate_Industry[1]

Masquerade – Ian Coombs,

16_Masquerade[1]

Summer Bloom – Pauline Ewins,

18_Summer_bloom[1]

Simple Crocus – Debbie Griffin,

25_Simple_Crocus[1]

Hidden in your shell – Mark O’Grady

26_Hidden_In_Your_Shell[1]

and Fairy wand – Alison Davies.

27_Fairy_Wand[1]

 

The Full Catalogue with summaries of the Judges remarks (at least as fast as my thumbs would type on my phone) is available here:

140515 John Hankin and Stan Scantlebury Shields

A very big thank you to everyone who made this happen, an enjoyable evening and a chance to get another judges comments on work we have already seen judged.

 

_____________________________________________

 

Other news:

Reminders:

–  that the Flickr competition this month is about Food & Drink.

–  that Rich Price is running a trip to Exmoor to photograph the Milky Way. Details re on the club Flickr site, dates are . Looking forward to that one (all weather dependent of course).

 

Southmead:

The new Brunel wing is now open and we will have a chance to exhibit. Details to follow.

 

THURSDAY 22nd May is European/Local elections: NO Meeting at the School this week due to it being used as a polling station. Instead meet at the Dovecote pub next to Ashton Court @ 19:30.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 April 2014. Dan Thomas – Wedding Photographer, Story Teller.

So second entry on our brand new website’s blog – Mark Stone a huge club thank you for all the work you have put into this – and it’s Dan Thomas (dannyt.co.uk) on the profession of wedding photographer. If I were to sum up Dan’s advice on the subject then I would use Winston Churchill’s maxim, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”. Well that and the observation that your wedding video should always be played backwards so as to guarantee a happy ending.

 

In essence Dan made the point that there are a number of moments of truth that can be prepared for in the day because they are in the programme and as a supplier to the event it is your job to find out the who, the what, the why, the where, the when and the how it feels and record those memories – and when he says day he means a 12-14 hour shift shooting, three times that in post processing plus time consulting with the bride and groom, and the venues. That doesn’t include time spent in sales and marketing in what is a very competitive market. Yell has 141 listings of wedding photographers within a ten mile radius of Bristol. Even allowing for some multiple listings that is still a lot of competition.

 

It is the Bride and Grooms day, well, culturally it is the Bride’s day and the Groom does well to turn up at the right venue and look suitably grateful a lot of the time.  Surprise weddings are not a large feature of the UK market, those that occur are usually small, attended by the father of the bride and his trusty 12 bore as best man. A lot of, sometimes a life time’s, planning goes into this event. On that basis the wedding photographer does not just turn up at the church take a few snaps and wonder off to the next event as already outlined. This planning forms the key points of the photographer’s and increasingly the videographer’s schedule. Dan stressed that these are unique moments that need careful planning and deft handling. Primarily this is about people, two in particular for sure, but also about everyone else. There will be a certain cohort of the families, possibly once close, who only get to meet at weddings and funerals. The day is important for them too for different reasons and sometimes with grandparents it might be the last time the whole family is together. It is not just a record of bits and pieces but a significant life event. For most people it involves being the centre of attention with an intensity that is not experienced elsewhere. Unless that 12 bore “accidently” discharges. Then there will be lots of photographers and lots of flash photography outside the Crown Court.

 

The basis of execution, then, is in its preparation. The wedding photographer is a supplier not an organiser, s/he does not run the day as a photo-shoot of wedding dresses might be run, s/he is not the point of the day but they are the key to unlocking the memories of it. It is a story and the photographer is the story teller. It is NOT a small job. A wedding, even a relatively simple one, has a timetable for everything. The photographer knows that timetable and those venues inside out because they dictate what s/he is going to be doing the whole day.

 

The question of gear was addressed. Dan expressed the reasons behind his kit list: D800; back up body; 24-70 f2.8; 70-210 f2.8; 85mm f1.8; 2 x SB 900 TTL flashguns; Coolpix compact; USB lead; Lap Top; external drive; i-Pad;  batteries; battery charger; light meter; flash filters; lots and lots of 16gb flash drives; all kept in a photo-rucksack and shoots in RAW. That is RAW, not JPEG. RAW. The camera backs up to JPEG simultaneously on a separate card but Dan shoots in RAW. This gives the maximum image rescue capacity in case of the unexpected. For one offs such as these where there is not time to go back and shoot again getting the maximum amount of information recorded by the sensor onto the card makes sense. That is shoot in RAW, in case you missed the point. The rest of the kit list is optional and set by individual preferences and experience. The kit is not cheap because it has to work and still carry a back up where ever opportune. Dan shoots all his wedding events in RAW. Dan doesn’t feel the need for anything below a 24mm (16mm equivalent on a 1.5x crop), it is superfluous to the way he shoots and details are only really isolated at wider angles by getting really close – too close for the comfort of the subjects which is the point and beyond that is really very specialist and quite divides opinion. You want results you have to engage with your clients and right in their faces is not going to be very productive.

 

Details, details, details. Everything is in the detail. It is the small things that matter, because everything is designed around the small details and when the couple view these pictures over time those details enrich the memory and value of the day. Details can be where the cost of a wedding really begins to ramp up. Pay them the respect of an individual frame or two each because they all add up to something much bigger. As Napoleon Bonaparte, who built and lost and Empire on details and detailed planning, said, “Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted” (only he said it in French).  Reconnoitre the venues, get to know the key people, find out what is and what is not permissible BEFORE it gets to be a problem.  Dan pointed out that trading and collaborating with the other suppliers can lead to other business. You really want to avoid extreme angles where you can unless a particular shot calls for it, but that needs to be a pre-planned event.  Context is the key to all these details. The context will tell their part in the story so keep the context in mind.

 

The day usually starts with the bride getting ready. This is going to take some time and she is going to look the best she ever will hereafter. As Dan pointed out, if a male you are likely the only male in the room and have been privileged specifically for the end of making everything exciting and memorable.  Take some time and make time to take the moment seriously – gravitas! The people around and her own reactions are the key things to capture, the context of the details you are framing and shooting. It is important to be relaxed, to interact and not to overshoot. Get the angles and vary your lenses and do not be afraid to wait for the moment – it will take longer to arrive than you think! And of course do not forget the dress. This should be done as an item by itself in as sympathetic a background as you can make and make sure you do not clutter your background with irrelevant detail. You may be fond of the colour yellow but a finely and painstakingly wrought garment like a wedding dress is not enhanced against the background of a skip. Pay great attention to the background and de-clutter! Dan’s pithy advice is to treat the details as exercises in real life. These can be and should be practiced because when you are being paid for it you are being paid to have it sorted before you turn up. The same logic applies to us amateurs. Why waste time missing shots when you can practise using your equipment to get it right when you want it?

 

On the grooms side the grooms men and the best man in particular – DO get the picture of the ring before it is on the brides finger – generally have a lot less pressure and detail to attend to. I am told, with authority, that this is because they are male and the day itself does not need to be complicated by such things for us as thinking. That is why there is so much planning to do to minimise the amount of thinking the groom has to do and the reason there is a best man is that between them they are likely to turn up at the right place at the more or less appointed time (which is way before the bride appears – a wide safety margin is the norm). Make sure you are there to be able to document that side too. The path of two committed individuals coming together to make one path ahead. In order for that story to be told the story lines have to converge at the ceremony, the place where two paths become one.

 

At the ceremony itself, which of course holds no surprises because you have seen the schedule, visited the venues and interviewed the participants like the person conducting the service, you should arrive at least 30 minutes before its commencement. Flash photography is likely banned, you are not going to be given access to places where you are going to get in the way – determine, and if necessary negotiate these in advance – and that can be as much a perception as anything else. This is the point where you are likely to get the closest friends and relatives and a good time for group shots. These are the people that are going to be obvious by their absence from the album so take some extra effort.  Groups should be ranked from shortest to the tallest and everyone should be visible (as per the group shot at the end of the session!).

 

After the ceremony, the traditional confetti shots, get guests to throw the confetti upwards so that it falls from the top of the frame. Dan also mentioned that this is a good time to use manual focus as autofocus can get confused by the paper in the air. The reception can be some distance from the ceremony and this is where timings are important. It is a good time to get the couple on their own for intimate shots whilst the guests make their way to the reception, so a small detour, to a local landmark for instance, might be in order. At the reception Dan follows the bride as a back up to any other plans having been made. It is always prudent, he reckons, to make sure that the elder generation are well represented as there is a chance that this might be their last big family occasion and of course do not forget the cake.

 

Private moments are important, there will be intimate moments of connection and they will yield excellent photo opportunities. If there is a receiving line then allow 30 seconds per guest – make time!  It is also prudent to have wet and dry weather scenarios.   The wedding breakfast is the ideal time to get your shots backed up.  A laptop/external drive or other device should always be on hand.  Dan also uses an i-Pad to upload several of the best shots of the ceremony as a taster and places it where it will be seen by circulating guests – the bar is a good place!

 

The practical thing about the first dance is that it is going to be darker than a lot of the other parts of the ceremony. Push the ISO (noise reduction is available through Photoshop or programmes like Neat Image which has a very effective demo version), use flash as necessary – reflected not direct. Direct flash is harsh and unflattering.  Think wide medium and close shots.  The devil, as they say, is in the detail. The details let you control as much as you can without getting in the way by using your knowledge to anticipate and prepare. If you fail to prepare then you are preparing to fail and that has large implications and not just for the photographer. The other key is to be able to relate to your subjects, to engage with them in such a way that they respond to what needs to be done to get the shot. In return you should make it a chore for them, but, either way, every wedding is a one off event – there are no second chances!

 

Our thanks to Dan for a very interesting and informative evening and to Mark O’Grady for the video which Dan will make available to club members through his website.

WCPF Travelling Print Critique

This week I am going to stick my neck out a long way. It is always interesting to see what other photographers have put their effort into if only to sort what you like and dislike. The trick is to sort out what exactly you see in the image that you like or dislike and then to decide how you would use it. This last bit is the most important for us as developing photographers. The WCPF Travelling Critique is an excellent resource and it was good to get fellow members views on some of those prints. These are the ones that were accepted but didn’t make it into the top 100, so why do you think? I am going to use the blog this week to try and build something you might want to consider when looking critically at a photograph (or a number of other things). There is more than one way, and  this is not (emphasis on not) about how to become a judge, see the WCPF for those details. Feel free to disagree and use the discussion options on the blog to tell me how wrong I am and where and why.

Susan Sontag (1933-2004), critic and one of the foremost on photography wrote: “Mallarme said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph” and there were a wide variety of topics covered by the photographers who entered the WCPF Open, but to take the book metaphor a little further, not all of them told a story.  Story is an important part of photography, it is rarely, if ever, just about the content of the photograph as you could write in a shopping list. It is the interconnectedness of the whole thing, its construction. So 100 photographs, 100 stories?  Well I have already stated that to be not quite the effect, but  there are two sides to each story/image, the teller and the viewer.  “To photograph is to confer importance” – Sontag again, but that importance isn’t always shared by the viewer.

To illustrate from my own and some shared observations from other members as we went around. There was one print that I just failed to get the point of – as did several other members from the discussion around me. There were a couple of other prints that close up didn’t have the impact they promised at a distance. One I glanced at on a side table when the main lights were out and it was being lit from an acute angle by the light on the picture stand several feet away and it worked really well, as if there were multiple faces staring out. In an even light it was flat.  One of a black and white subject would have been better (if a little ironically) rendered in colour because it’s focal point was an eye which would be big and brown and contrast to the monochrome represented in the rest of the frame. The blacks weren’t black enough and the whites a shade of grey to my eyes.  The eye, the focal point from the title of the work, instead of being deep and vibrant, was soulless.

On the other hand: John Long ARPS DPAGB image “Dennis And His Bowl” had more depth to its tones the more you looked; Gill Cardy ARPS DPAGB AFIAP “Japanese Crane Dance” was the best of the wild life photography for me and Hanneke at least agreed with me on that one;   Sheila Haycox ARPS DPAGB AFIAP ” Despair”  I thought very atmospheric and I was struck by the shapes mirrored in window and figure;  the composition, strong and simple and colour contrast shown by Martin Horton in “Passing The Pieta”  I thought arresting and Mike Martin’s “Stair Light” I would happily hang on my wall. If you are now convinced that I shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard unless heavily medicated, great! What is it about those images that makes you disagree?

I am not going to look at the technical aspects, that can be done better by others and is covered by the events we do over the year, thanks to the committee. The rules are not hard and fast but they should be mastered before we start to break them. So I am going to take for granted that the image: Is in focus and on the most appropriate part of the picture; that dust and marks have been cloned out (clean the lens and sensor regularly, even better!) and exposure is appropriate.

So, as someone who likes photography and who wants to understand more of it by making my own, it’s necessary that I don’t just suspend my judgement at the point of my initial reaction (though usually the strongest).  The most powerful word in the whole of education is because (I don’t do humble opinions in case you hadn’t guessed). That is how we make the links between things, by applying our inner critic, by stating because …. There is a Japanese proverb that goes something along the lines of “If you want to know the answer ask, five times, why?” which is a very good place to start – five is an approximate number but in practise never less than three. That is the route to take after you have your initial reaction.

If you are in want of a metaphor for this whole process, think of a funnel.  A funnel restricts the path of whatever passes through it to a defined point. Criticism of a piece of work should do the same. If it doesn’t it’s not the work but the criticism that is incomplete. Sort out what it is you like and what it is you dislike about the image. Make notes, mental or otherwise. These are great places to make the next steps on the journey and they can be used to improve your own images too. What we are sorting out is what we feel about an image and why. Yes it is subjective and certain (breakable) technical rules about framing, exposure and focussing aside, this is a subjective exercise. Very small things can take an OK photograph to a good one when executed well. This photograph makes me feel ….. because …..

Then is the time to look at how you react to those technical subjects, the ones I have listed above plus things like the use of colour (or not) and the thing that is so important to photography that it is named after it, the light (strength, direction, balance, colour). Ask yourself, “So what”?

There has been a lot of hot air generated over whether photography is an art or a craft, I would argue both.  For me there is an art in all crafts and all art is manufactured.  There is a connection between the nine linen panels of the Bayeux Tapestry (actually it’s an embroidery) and Robert Capa’s eleven surviving images from Omaha Beach (10 were published) but it isn’t in materials, scale, production time or production values and the big story, Norman Conquest, D-Day Landings respectively,  wasn’t the artists to own but was there’s to tell. The way they tell it (please, no Frank Carson jokes at the back) is the art. Its balancing of the elements the craft. How does this photographer choose to represent this subject? Does it come across as a considered, thoughtful treatment or is it casually selected? That matters because …?   It focuses the attention on ….? which is important because …? Would this image work better in black and white/colour? Why …? because …?  Why do you think the photographer made the choice to use/not use colour/black and white? What do you feel about that?  How is it cropped? Is the composition classical? Does it follow the rule of thirds? or the rule of fifths? (basically for landscapes, but works on the face too, I am told) or did they/you go to art school/ good at maths/have watched every episode of QI and cunningly employ the Golden Ratio? What effect does it have …? Because…? How does the arrangement of objects in the frame give energy to the story? Because…?

Now you have enough material to make your decision about the photograph and importantly, you can say with some confidence why it works or doesn’t work for you. This is important for us as developing photographers. Other people’s work is as important as our own at the very least (no, make that more important if we want to develop our own) if we want to get past the click-go-happy accident form of photography we probably joined a photographic club to get away from.  The next step is to take all this and decide what you would do to improve it by way of everything else you have looked at. This would work because …?

Now in a more formal setting, one where you report back to an audience either directly or in writing (this goes for any topic, not just photography)  you would need to feed all this information back. If you find yourself in this situation don’t just repeat what you have already said, summarise it and use the things you have discovered because you have asked yourself because (or so what) as the conclusive points. Take it from someone who has sat through thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of presentations, it makes a big difference.

A really big thanks to Julie and Ian for their efforts last night, much appreciated.

Here endeth the lesson. Over to you ….

Next week … Wedding photography … you only get one chance to get it right!

This Blog was written by Ian G.

We’ve just posted it a little differently due to some upcoming changes to our website (more details on that soon!)