Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

A Cautionary Tale

So this story is true, it was told to me today by a good friend and if you are lax should send shivers down you spine.

My friend was working on images on her laptop, it was a very important project, hundreds of images shot all over the country and almost unrepeatable as most of the subjects were in their 90’s. My friend, she shall remain anonymous, was feeling unwell and so took her laptop to the sofa and in a short time felt unwell enough to lie down to have a little snooze. She has two cats, one came and settled and my friend fell deeper into sleep. Vaguely aware of the other cat trying to get comfortable but too far in the land of nod to do anything about it my friend continued to sleep.


spoiler alert – this is not the cat in question

When she awoke and settled back into her work she couldn’t find the folder with all her images. She searched her laptop but no they were not there. Panic rising she worked out they must somehow have got into the trash or waste bin so opened that folder and no they were not there……I think by this time panic was no longer rising but had reached it’s zenith of terror. It was clear her images, all of them, the year’s work, were no longer in existence on her computer. I believe we can all imagine how this felt. She worked out that the other cat in trying to get comfortable had hit the delete key and then either out of stupidity or malice when asked “there are too many files to trash these to the bin would you like to delete them permanently” had said yes, or at least pawed yes.

My friend went to a computer store to see if they could help but no they couldn’t, maybe a data recovery company could extract them from the hard drive but it was unlikely and the cost would be hundreds of pounds even if they couldn’t.

Well the story has a happy ending, my friend had backed up her files and so had only lost the processing work she had done since her last back up. All the RAW files still existed.

So have you got your files backed up. I back mine up when I load them into Lightroom, I use the back up to second drive function and later I back them up to a third external drive that I locate somewhere else. I could use the ‘cloud’ but the number of images I have would take a pretty large cloud. If you haven’t backed up recently, or god forbid ever, do so this weekend.

Here are some links that might help you

Your Photo Backup Needs a Backup

Best backup software 2015/2016 UK: 13 best file- and system backup utilities

The 5 Best Ways to Backup Digital Photos

The best way to back up a photo library, back up photos online, back up photos to iCloud


I know the title bar is a bit shouty, sorry for that! This article on Featureshoot is a insight into what photographers think when starting out, it is strange that many of them seem to find the brickbats and rejections were not to be expected. These photographers do seem to be mainly aiming at the art rather than the commercial arena and that might be why they assumed their work might be accepted without question. Anyway it is a very interesting article and worth 5 minutes of your time, I should do the same but ask my commercial photographer friends

Here are a selection


Image © Richard Tuschman

Richard Tuschman: I can think of two. First, you cannot please everyone, and your audience is not going to include everyone. Find your voice, make the work you need to make, and let the work find your audience. Second, you never “arrive;” you are always on the journey. You have to keep constantly searching, learning, and reinventing yourself. There is no auto-pilot.


Self-portrait © Leon Borensztein

Leon Borensztein: That as a portrait photographer I cannot seem to please my subjects. The unsightly ones think I make them look unattractive and the gorgeous ones think I make them look unsightly. It seems that most people believe that what they see in the mirror is much better rendition of themselves than my portraits. Why did I choose this profession? I could be a prima-ballerina.


Image © Sophie Gamand, from the book Wet Dog

Sophie Gamand: Things don’t happen to you if you don’t put yourself out there and you just can’t control everything, which is a great thing! I used to overthink a lot and stop myself from doing the things I wanted to be doing. I would find excuses; I would scare myself out of them. The day I stopped fearing or anticipating, and started actually doing, I shot Wet Dog, the series that would change my life forever. You just never know where a project will take you, so when the desire is there, just act on it: make that trip, take that photo, organize that shoot. When I shot Wet Dog I was planning on a different project, but I was at the groomer and the dogs looked cute wet, so I snapped away. That series went viral, won me awards, including a Sony World Photography Award, got me a book deal, and kickstarted my career. I could have never planned that. So stop over-planning and start doing!

Read the rest of these insights here

Saul Leiter – Photographers Gallery Exhibition

If you have been on one of our courses we would have probably introduced you to Saul Leiter because we love his photographs. The Photographers Gallery in London has an exhibition of his work from 22 Jan – 3 Apr 2016. Now you can see his work as it should be seen, on the wall.

Saul Leiter


Saul Leiter: Red Umbrella, ca. 1958 © Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. Aus der Ausstellung "Saul Leiter-Retrospektive", Deichtorhallen Hamburg 3.2.-15.4.2012.





It’s only recently that Saul Leiter (1923-2013) has received due recognition for his pioneering role in the emergence of colour photography. He moved to New York intent on becoming a painter, yet ended up working for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Elle andBritish Vogue and became known for his impressionistic colour street scenes.

As early as 1946, and thus well before representatives of the 1970s new colour photography school (such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore), Leiter was using Kodachrome colour slide film for his free artistic shots, despite it being despised by artists of the day.

“When we do not know why the photographer has taken a picture and when we do not know why we are looking at it, all of a sudden we discover something that we start seeing. I like this confusion.” Saul Leiter

Photographers Gallery 

16–18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW

Mon – Fri: 10.00 – 18.00
Thu: 10.00 – 20.00 during exhibitions
Sat: 10.00 – 18.00
Sun: 11.00 – 18.00

Six Photographers Each Have A Photo Session With The Same Man

This is an interesting exercise in understanding how photographers approach a shoot based on the information given. The preconceptions we all have about people based on what little we know, and how that effects the way we respond to that person both personally and photographically is the basis of this project. I have to say I am glad I wasn’t one of the photographers, I would have felt cheated and manipulated, but then again maybe that is what we as photographers do to our subjects, manipulate them to fit our idea of who they should be.

When six photographers are tasked with taking portraits of the same man, the results are astonishing. Here’s the twist: each photographer is told a different (fake) personal history of the man. As portrait photographers, it’s their goal to portray this man, as they see him, in a single photograph. Though he comes to each photo session dressed exactly the same, carries himself the same way, and speaks with each photographer in the same manner, the photographers treat him differently and photograph him completely differently depending on the background story.
Read more here

Sticking with a traditional dslr or going for a mirrorless camers

You know this is a question that keeps cropping up because we hate the weight and bulkiness of our gear. I am currently in Thailand soon moving on to Myanmar and then Vietnam and the weight of my gear has already put me in pain. So I understand, I really do, the gear is a pain. But then when I look at a csc or mirrorless camera I am so underwhelmed. I do get to see them, people bring them to class so this is not an ill informed view but they just don’t do what a REAL camera does. Maybe if you have never owned a dslr you would not be disappointed but if you have you should seriously spend some time with one of these Johnny Come Lateleys to the game before deciding to ditch your old system. Find a camera shop, if you can, T4 Cameras in Witney are the last in Oxfordshire and really do more than just hold it, put it to you eye, see how it feels.

Anyway enough of my bias, here is a very good article on Digital Camera World that puts two of the heavy-weights against each other


There are highly attractive ‘all-rounders’ in both camps: cameras that don’t go overboard on megapixel count, yet aim to take everything from portraiture to landscape photography in their stride.

Two of our current favourites are the Canon 5D Mk III SLR, and the mirrorless Sony A7 II from Sony’s ‘ILC’ (interchangeable-lens camera) stable.

A major factor in choosing any ‘system’ camera is the depth and breadth of the system itself. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to lenses and other accessories for the long-established line of Canon SLRs.

Sony’s mirrorless cameras are a much newer proposition, especially when it comes to full-frame models, but the range of compatible E-mount lenses has grown over the last couple of years, and an adaptor is also available for fitting A-mount lenses.


2015 DSLR and Mirrorless cameras

From the excellent DP Review

In late 2015, many (if not most) consumers are likely to shop based on price and capability, rather than according to whether a certain model contains a mirror, or not. We think this is a good thing; with all the increased competition, cameras are improving more and at a faster rate than ever before. From the gear perspective, it’s certainly an exciting time to be a photographer.

In this category, you’ll find both mirrorless and DSLR cameras that are highly capable under a variety of shooting situations, offer built-in high-spec viewfinders – either optical and electronic – and an extensive array of external controls. The biggest differences in performance tend to come down to autofocus sophistication and video capability, but neither of those is dictated by the presence or lack of mirror.

The contenders are:

Most of the camera in this roundup are built around either Four Thirds or APS-C sensors. Sensor size plays a large part in determining the image quality a camera is ultimately capable of and, in general, the larger a camera’s sensor, the better the image quality and the more control you have over depth-of-field. APS-C sensors are larger than Four Thirds chips, but the differences are rarely huge. The outlier here is a single camera with a 1″-type sensor, a format that is significantly smaller than the other two.


Of course the sensor sizes and image quality of these cameras are not the only thing that varies; the feature sets and performance of each camera are also quite different across the board. Within this category you’ll find weather-sealed cameras, cameras that can capture 4K video, cameras that can shoot bursts at incredibly high speeds with autofocus, and cameras that are simply well-balanced all-rounders. Which one should you buy? Read on to find out…

Sony Alpha 7R II Review

Like me you may be a bit confused by the very many Sony A 7 cameras, there seems to be many versions and understanding why and which you might want is a bit of a struggle. This review on the ever helpful DP Review might help you with the Sony Alpha 7R II


The Sony a7R II is a 42MP full frame mirrorless camera with 5-axis image stabilization, featuring the world’s first (and currently only) 35mm BSI CMOS sensor, and including a hybrid autofocus system and 4K video capabilities. It’s the fifth in the company’s a7 range of full frame cameras and the second high-resolution ‘R’ model. However, although its name and appearance are very similar to the first round of a7s, the R II arguably represents just as significant a step forwards as those first full frame mirrorless models did.

The reasons for suggesting this are two-fold. Although the a7R II’s body is essentially the same as that of the 24MP a7 II (albeit with more substantial magnesium alloy construction), the camera includes two significant changes:

The first is that this is the first full frame camera to feature a sensor based on BSI CMOS technology. Although Sony always stressed that the benefits of BSI designs are most valuable in small sensors, its application on larger scales should reduce the pixel-level disadvantages of moving to higher pixel counts (which means an improvement in quality when viewed at a standard output size).

Secondly, and perhaps, most unexpectedly: the camera’s phase-detection autofocus capabilities have been increased to the point that it not only focuses quickly and effectively with its own lenses but can also do so with lenses designed for other systems. This may not sound like a big deal until you think about what Sony needs to do to make the camera a success: win-over dedicated photographers, many of whom are already committed to other systems.

Sony a7R II Highlight specifications

  • 42MP Full Frame BSI CMOS sensor
  • 399 on-sensor Phase Detection points
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • Internal 4K recording from full sensor width or ‘Super’ 35 crop
  • Picture Profile system including ITU-709 and S-Log2 gamma
  • Full magnesium alloy construction
  • 2.36m dot OLED viewfinder with 0.7x magnification
  • High speed AF with non-native lenses
Sony a7R II Sony a7R Sony a7 II Sony a7S II
Sensor 42MP full-frame 36MP full-frame 24MP full-frame 12MP full-frame
Image Stabilization In-body In-lens only In-body In-body
Electronic First Curtain Shutter Yes No Yes Yes
Silent (full electronic) Shutter Yes No No Yes
ISO Range (Stills)
Standard / Expanded
100 – 25,600
50 – 102,400
100 – 25,600
50 – 25,600
100 – 25,600
50 – 25,600
Continuous Shooting (with AF) 5 fps 1.5 fps 5 fps 2.5 fps
AF system Hybrid (399 phase detect and 25 contrast detect points) Contrast AF with 25 points Hybrid with 117 phase detect and 25 contrast detect points Contrast AF with 169 points
4K from Super 35 crop? Yes No No No
4K Movie specs UHD 30/24p
XAVC S (100/60Mbps)
N/A N/A UHD 30/24p
XAVC S (100/60Mbps)
HD Movie specs 1080 60/30/24p
1080 60p
60i/24p (24/17Mbps)
1080 60/30/24p
1080 120p (100/60Mbps) 60/30/24p
Picture Profile
(inc S-Log2)
Yes No Yes Yes
+ S-Log3
Front panel construction Magnesium alloy Magnesium alloy Composite Magnesium alloy
Optical low pass filter No No Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA)
340/290 shots per charge 340/270 shots per charge 350/270 shots per charge 370/310 shots per charge
Weight w/ battery 625 g 465 g 599 g 627 g
MSRP $3,199 body only $2,299 body only $1,699 body only $2,999 body only


51 Things Photography Has Taught Me

On Lightstalking  Jason D. Little has a list of 51 (I know why 51) things he has learned about photography, here are the first 10

  1. Don’t think about taking the photo, just take it.
  2. Learn the rules. Understand the rules. Break the rules.
  3. Spend more time taking photos than money acquiring new gear with which to take those photos.
  4. You will never know it all; be open to the wisdom and experiences of others.
  5. Print your photos — your favorites, at least. And print them big.
  6. Get it right in camera rather than trying to compensate for poor technique in post. But…
  7. Don’t be ashamed to use post-processing. All photos are “processed” in one way or another.
  8. Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone.
  9. Be your own worst critic.
  10. Technical perfection is often overrated.
  11. see the other 41 here

On another note here are some pictures by Jay Maisel



Man Painting Ship

rather good don’t you think

Graca Machal at St Anne’s College

one of the benefits of being a photographer is the opportunity to meet remarkable people

Keith Barnes Photography

You wait all year and then just as it is coming to a close the best event of the year happens. The inaugural Devaki Jain lecture took place today, the guest speaker was Graca Machal and I was fortunate to be the photographer for this event. I go to many lectures where I am photographing but also listening, you learn so much. This was a magnificent lecture by the most articulate, intelligent and charming speaker I have had the good fortune to photograph and hear in 2015. Dealing with women’s rights in Africa, making the case for education and empowerment. Asking that we consider men and women as humans rather than as sub sets and recognising the value of each. Making the case that in education those who can pay should, those who can contribute should do that and those who can’t get it for free, because the world cannot make…

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Amazing portrait photography by young David Uzochukwu

I would like you to read the next few lines and then look at the pictures and ask yourself why you aren’t creating such interesting images if someone so young is

“My name is David, I’m fourteen years old and living in Luxembourg. I started taking photos a bit more than a year ago, and I know that this is what I want to keep doing for the rest of my life- telling stories through pictures, and using photography to put my thoughts to rest.” ~ David Uzochukwu






I know amazing for someone who is only 14 and has been photographing for a year, he has aged two years since this original article but hey what were you doing when you were 16? see the rest from this article here and go to David’s Flickr page here and here is a link to David’s website


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