Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

From Digital Camera World This is a good tutorial and echoes some of what we teach on our Composition Course – Seeing Pictures which starts on Thursday 9th, there are still places if you are interested. What our course does which this tutorial doesn’t do, and the clue is in the title of our course, is that we relate the basics of composition to the work of the truly great photographers. We introduce you to the work of some of the most outstanding photographers of the last 100 years. Learning to see is as important as seeing through the viewfinder. If you do not live near Oxford this on line tutorial will have to do for you though

In photography, it’s not just what you shoot that counts – the way that you shoot it is crucial, too. Poor photo composition can make a fantastic subject dull, but a well-set scene can create a wonderful image from the most ordinary of situations. With that in mind, we’ve picked our top 10 photo composition ‘rules’ to show you how to transform your images, as well as offered some of our best photography tips from the experts who do it on a daily basis…….

Don’t feel that you’ve got to remember every one of these laws and apply them to each photo you take. Instead, spend a little time practising each one in turn and they’ll become second nature. You’ll soon learn to spot situations where the different rules can be applied to best effect.

Photo composition doesn’t have to be complicated. There are all sorts of theories about the ‘Rule of Thirds’ and more complex ‘Golden Mean’, for example. But if you pay too much attention to strict formulae, your photos will lose any kind of spontaneity.

In the real world, you’ll be working with a wide range of subjects and scenes, and this requires a more open-minded approach. What works for one photo won’t necessarily work for another.

The key thing is to understand how all the decisions you make about composition can affect the way a shot looks and how people perceive your photos. The way you frame a shot, choose a focal length or position a person can make all the difference (check out our Photography Cheat Sheet series for quick fixes to some of these problems).

Technical know-how is very important in photography, of course, and even in some aspects of photo composition. But to take great shots you need visual knowledge too. Here are 10 key things to look out for…

Here is a taste of the article

Photo Composition Tip 6: Use diagonals

10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

Horizontal lines lend a static, calm feel to a picture, while vertical ones often suggest permanence and stability. To introduce a feeling of drama, movement or uncertainty, look for diagonal lines instead.

You can need nothing more than a shift in position or focal length to get them – wider angles of view tend to introduce diagonal lines because of the increased perspective; with wide-angle lenses you’re more likely to tilt the camera up or down to get more of a scene in.

You can also introduce diagonal lines artificially, using the ‘Dutch Tilt’ technique. You simply tilt the camera as you take the shot. This can be very effective, though it doesn’t suit every shot and is best used sparingly (see our 44 essential digital camera tips and tricks).

Why it works…

10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

see the whole 10 tips here

Photography Oxford Festival Exhibitions Highlights Part 3

I have only managed one venue since my last review but I wanted to alert you to the the work most worth seeing. Joanna Vestey has the best gallery experience anywhere in Oxford, it is her studio at 45 Parktown, easy to find, turn into Parktown from Banbury Road and go as far as you can and it is in the bottom left hand corner. The space cries out to be a permanent gallery, it has light and space and is just gorgeous. But to the pictures, two photographers Joanna and Drew Gardner . Joanna Vestey has a series called Custodians, it shows interiors of some of the most beautiful locations in Oxford, and some which may not be beautiful but are equally intriguing. The custodians of the title only take up very little space in the images, they are located but not dominant, there can be different interpretations of this but honestly it doesn’t much matter. The images are quite beautiful and so much better for being seen as prints than on a screen. I would recommend that you get down to 45 Parktown before the show closes.

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all © Joanna Vestey

It is possible that of all the exhibitions on show during the festival Drew Gardner may have received the most press coverage. The Telegraph for one, this is the premise of the exhibition titled Descendants from his site 

Born out of his passion for history, Drew recreates portraits of some of the world’s most famous historical figures featuring their direct descendants. After in-depth research tracing the direct descendants and verifying their lineage, the famous portraits are recreated with painstaking attention to the smallest of details. From sourcing the period costumes and props to the authentic backgrounds. Drew then carefully analyses the lighting in each portrait and patiently recreates them using the latest lighting techniques. The end results often show startling resemblances to their forebears.

The pictures are things to be admired there is no doubt, the attention to detail borders on the obsessive and they are stunning images, I just have the nagging feeling of ‘so what’. I doubt there are many people who could have made such remarkable facsimiles of the originals and the descendants do look like their forebears but I just wonder why so much effort was put into the work. Anyway it lead me to his website where I found much to like. The images as prints are so much more than they are on the screen so go to see them.

I suggest you go to Parktown to see Joanna’s pictures and grab a snap of her as a custodian in her own space and see the Descendants too

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all ©Drew Gardner

Extreme flower photography

From Digital Camera World comes this easy and very effective tutorial on how to magically improve your flower photography

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Water is a wonderful subject to photograph. The possibilities are endless, whether you’re using a slow shutter speed to create a zen-like stillness or a super-fast exposure to capture the action of falling drops. Here, we’ve given both water and flower photography a twist, resulting in flower photography that really makes a splash.

See the full tutorial here, it really is very easy

here is another extreme flower photography project for you

Frozen flower photography: the perfect rainy day photography project

Best monitor calibrator for photographers: 6 top models tested and rated

Your best friend as a digital photographer is a calibrated monitor. You can use the on board monitor calibration systems that come with your computer but if you want it right you need a bit of kit. This article in Digital Camera World lists a selection and evaluates them for you.

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Don’t let a deceptive display fool you. Calibrating your computer monitor lets your photos’ true colours shine through. Here we’ve rounded up six of the best monitor calibrators on the market and tested them to see which offers the best capability.

You’d have thought all monitors would come pre-set to display at their best. To be fair, an average user viewing holiday snaps will be usually be happy with default display settings.

However, imaging enthusiasts demand more – any colour casts or contrast bias just won’t do.  At the very least, you want other people to have the best chance of seeing the same colours as you see.

This is where monitor calibration comes in. By sticking an ‘electronic eye’ (a colorimeter) on your screen and firing a selection of colours at it, any colour discrepancies can be detected and your computer programmed to compensate its colour output for the traits of your monitor.

You can then edit your pictures knowing others will see what you see. What’s more, it needn’t cost big bucks to get great colour accuracy.

Read the review here

Ruckenfigur – Steve Walsh

I find often people’s response to others’ creativity is ‘it looks/sounds like…’

I am particularly interested in music, not the serious sort, no it is pop for me, I define pop as not being classical, jazz or country and western, everything else is included. I revel in finding new bands or artists, of course what music they make always sounds like something else, something from the past, I don’t care that it might refer to, or echo a band or artist from the past, in fact I expect it. I so abhor the way new pop is dismissed because it reminds someone of …..everything does. The same so often happens with photography, if you look on the web you will see that everything has been done before but I think being inspired by another creative person is thrilling, realising that maybe you can make something as good, that stands up to the original. Well perhaps they aren’t always as good but what they are is unique, unique to you. You have taken the idea and worked it for yourself.

Steve Walsh is a writer and artist and a very funny man, he works in different creative areas and has an informed interest in photography. He knows all the greats, and understands that there is nothing new and all he can do is make things that are new to him. He recognises that in this series he is referencing Martin Parr, but as he says he is not trying to join Magnum he just enjoys making pictures. Here are some recent pictures in a short series.

Digital infrared photography: how to capture the world you’re eye can’t se

Looking for something different to spark your enthusiasm and photography. Infra Red might be the answer. We used to run a film based version of an Infra Red course back in the days of wet process, now it is possible to achieve similar results with a digital camera but without the mess. This article from Digital Camera World will get you started

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Bright overhead sunlight isn’t usually very flattering for shooting landscapes but its actually ideal for infrared photography.

Now this may not be something you have considered before but shooting infrared images is hugely rewarding and gives outdoor scenes an otherworldly haunting appearance.

The effect works especially well on green foliage and blue skies, which makes summer the perfect time to try shooting some ghostly infrared images in the midday sun!

SEE MORE: Why rich colour is the secret to making bold black and white!

Infrared light is outside the visible spectrum of the human eye but digital cameras can capture it either after a modification or by using an infrared filter.

The first option involves having the camera’s internal infrared blocker removed and replaced with an infrared filter so that the camera will only record infrared light.

This conversion costs from around £250 and is irreversible but you may want to consider having an older model or a compact converted.

The alternative approach is to fit an infrared filter to your lens which blocks out all the visible light and only allows infrared light through. Specialist filters such as Hoya’s screw on R72 cost between £30 and £70 depending on the filter size.

These filters produce great results but they are very dark (like a strong neutral density filter) so you need to adapt the way you shoot, as you can’t see through the viewfinder once the filter is attached.

SEE MORE: Black and white landscape photography – how to make moody, minimalist effects

When to shoot infrared photography

Best conditions for infrared photography
Infrared photography is best suited to bright overhead sunshine. In this light, blue skies are rendered as rich dark tones and leaves and grass appear ghostly white after processing, giving images an eerie appearance.

For this reason landscapes are a popular choice but infrared can also be very effective for other subjects including people.

Bright sun isn’t essential though so don’t worry if the clouds roll in as you can still capture great images in overcast light.

SEE MORE: 10 common landscape photography mistakes every photographer makes

If you go down the route of having your camera converted for infrared photography then you can pretty much shoot as normal although be aware that some lenses give better results than others, even expensive professional lenses.

Check online to see how your lens performs and also try using different lenses to see which gives the best results.

If you’re using an IR filter then things like exposure, focusing and composition are more difficult but it’s nothing that can’t be overcome with a bit of practice.

Because the IR filter is so dense exposure times will become much longer so a stable tripod is essential.

It’s also not possible to take a meter reading with the filter fitted, so you’ll need to adopt a trial and error approach initially.

But once you’ve worked out how much the exposure is affected by the filter you can take a meter reading as you would normally and then re-calculate the exposure time to account for the filter.

You’ll also need to compose and focus on the scene before the filter is fitted. Infrared light is focused differently to visible light so what may be sharp when viewed in visible light may be slightly out of focus when captured in infrared.

To compensate for this it’s best to set a small aperture to bring all parts of the scene into sharp focus. If your lens has infrared markers then you can also use this to adjust the focus.

Straight out of the camera your images will have a strong red colour cast so you’ll need to process the RAW image in Photoshop or other software.

Start by converting to monochrome and then make adjustments to the contrast and colour sliders to produce really striking black and white images.

Successful infrared photography takes a bit of practice but persevere and you’ll be rewarded with some astonishing results.

 

 

If you are interested there is more to this tutorial here

Photography Oxford Festival Exhibitions Highlights Part 2

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The pick of the festival  part 2 Mark Laita

This week I decided to take my time looking around the exhibitions in the centre of Oxford. The venues were not as varied as the first week as they didn’t include any of the colleges and so the work was displayed as you might expect exhibitions to be and this definitely changes the response to images. We started off at The Jam Factory. The Selektif Competition based on entries on the subject of Glass were displayed in the cafe there. This meant that it was necessary to lean over people eating their lunches, talking intently, having meetings and so was not ideal. I understand why cafes offer their walls as exhibition spaces, it gets punters in, it decorates the space but I am not sure why artists chose them as venues. Anyway I was suitably surprised at the quality of some of the images, truly there were some interesting and worthwhile photographs. There were also some dreary, obvious and uninspiring images too but that is to be expected. I liked Martin Lau’s second placed image, it’s simplicity and obscurity worked together

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I also liked this by James Sutton

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and this by Fred Corcoran

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On another note I had been recommended the Mimi Mollica, to be found in the Boiler Room at the Jam Factory. What a disappointment, grabbed pictures, looking like from cctv of people on buses, really, seen it before, adds nothing and in my view don’t waste your eyes. It goes to show that awards, grants, exhibitions means little.

The Maths Institute has a selection of very ordinary portraits of mathematicians and lawyers, it is worth a visit however because the image quality is exceptional and there are one or two surprising and enlightening images, I particularly liked the picture of Kwame Anthony Appiah, the best in the show and the one used to promote this exhibition by the festival, here it is

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Mariana Cook

Ovada has images that I suppose we would call out-takes from a cruise ship photographer. I quite enjoyed these simply because what would normally be discarded have been given exhibition status by being printed large and presented as in a gallery and so forces the viewer to look again and reconsider what makes a picture worth keeping. Frippery but fun. There is also a slightly bizarre opportunity to be photographed standing by a poster of a famous landmark with a description of what to do, here is a friend doing the Pisa

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The O3 Gallery has work by two German photographers, Matthias Heiderich & Dietmar Eckell. One has buildings in bright colours and intense composition and the other crashed aeroplanes. I know it doesn’t sound inviting and there are not many pictures to look at but both are worth the effort, what effort? it is a short hop from the Ovada exhibition, if you are doing the rounds make a brief stop here

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Matthias Heiderich

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1000-500_b9a96e16ba1efbe04863a89265bf3f831364036459Dietmar Eckell

 

The snakes, beautiful, colourful, surprising, The Old Fire Station has far too few pictures by Mark Laita, in fact why did they bother with the colourful but by comparison, (it was cruel), butterfly wings, they could have doubled the numbers of snakes.

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all by Mark Laita

Final stop was the Story Museum on Pembroke Street, here in a small room were about 5 or maybe 6 large prints by SUSANNA MAJURI I am not sure what to make of these, these are in part intriguing and visually confusing but at the same time beautiful and with enough going on to keep you looking. As a last stop before ice creams at G & D’s this is definitely worth the little time it takes to look at them all, unless like me you become more absorbed and stay a little longer

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What is ISO: camera sensitivity settings (and the best ways to use them)

This might seem basic stuff from Digital Camera World but as we are just starting our new term of courses and I kicked off with our Understanding Your Digital Camera on Tuesday I am thinking about ways to best explain things like ISO. One of the great things about teaching photography is that it constantly forces me to reconsider my approach to the technical and visual and how best to convey that to my students.

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What is ISO?

The camera’s ISO setting is its sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive it is. This is measured according to international standards, so ISO100 on one camera will be exactly the same as ISO100 on another.

Each ISO setting is double the one before: if you increase the ISO from 100 to 200, you double the camera’s sensitivity; and if you increase it from 200 to 400, you double it again. This carries on through the ISO scale.

This is deliberate. The ISO settings are designed to double (or halve) the exposure in the same way that the lens aperture settings and shutter speed settings are, and this is why the lens aperture, shutter speed and ISO are often described as the ‘exposure triangle’.

For example, if you want to use a faster shutter speed without changing the aperture, you could increase the ISO instead.

This relationship between lens aperture, shutter speed and ISO could quickly get complicated, but there are drawbacks to changing the ISO which mean that in practice you tend to change the ISO only when you have to.

There is more to read if you need

20 Creative Visionary Photographs By Young People

Just to prove it is not age but ideas that make great photographs, from The Huffington Post

Whether you’re posting the occasional selfie to Instagram or mastering the art of dog portraits, it’s a good time to be a young photographer. And now, Flickr’s spotlighting the power of young peoples’ photography with its first annual 20 Under 20 celebration.

The 20 nominees, hailing everywhere from Australia to Germany, will have their work displayed during a gala event at NYC’s Milk Studios on Oct. 1. You can vote for the three Audience Choice Awards by tweeting “#Flickr20u20″ along with the name of the photographers you think should win #mostcreative, #besttechnique and #strongestportfolio.

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Alex Benetel Alex’s photographs are filled with beautiful oddities, like the one above, which she called, “Once and for all, they abandoned what they knew.”

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Chrissie White Chrisse loves taking magical shots of the natural world.

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Laurence Philomene Laurence has already won the Curator’s Choice Award for her ethereal pictures.

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Olivia Bee This photo, titled “Sunrise Dream” shows Olivia’s ability to transform everyday settings into mystical dreamlands.

See the rest of the series here

Iconic Portrait Photos Throughout History Recreated with John Malkovich as the Subject

My friend Jill sent me this link to work by a former student of heres, at first I just scanned the pictures and assumed it was a photoshop job, then more intrigued I read the text, (note to self, reading still helps) and found out they are all new re-creations.

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Upon first glance, the photo above looks like Dorothea Lange’s iconic Migrant Motherphoto captured in 1936. Then you realize that the woman in the frame is definitely notFlorence Owens Thompson, the woman in the original image. Looking a more closely, you start to notice an uncanny resemblance to actor John Malkovich.

Turns out that is John Malkovich you see. American photographer Sandro Millercollaborated with the actor to recreate some of the most famous portraits captured throughout history. The project is titled, “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to photographic masters.”……

Miller first began his photographer career at the age of 16. Over the next three decades, he rose to become one of the world’s leading advertising photographers.

Aside from his work in the industry, Miller continues to create personal projects, including lengthy collaborations with Malkovich. Miller first met his long time friend back in the late 1990s while shooting photographs for Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago (Malkovich became a charter member there in 1976).

Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich was started in 2013 after Sandro wanted to pay tribute to the photographers who have inspired him and shaped his photographic career. He selected 35 iconic photos, and then enlisted the eager help of Malkovich.

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all images Sandro Miller

See the rest of the images and read the article here

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