Oxford School of Photography

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Daily Archives: April 11, 2012

How Self Portraiture Can Make You A Better Photographer

On our Portrait course one of the assignments I set is that students in the class pair up and take pictures of each other in a formal portrait way. The idea is that until you have experienced being photographed by another photographer you might not know what the experience feels like. In gaining that experience you are much more likely to have empathy with your future subjects. I really believe this is an important lesson. This article on the Fuel Your Photography blog by Brooke Snow hints at the same, this is what she says:

“It was frustration that eventually led me to self portraiture.  Frustration and jealousy!  I was excited about the images that I was creating both professionally, and personally, and kept telling my family “Do you know how lucky you are?! You can get fabulous images of you and your family compliments of me!”

But who was there to photograph me and my own family? The challenge wasn’t so much about not being willing to pay someone (I totally believe in hiring a pro for yearly portraits), it was more the frustration of the everyday things that happen. My heart is drawn to lifestyle photography and the storytelling power of photographing everyday life.  I’m not going to have access to another professional every time we have a family gathering, go on a family adventure, or I just plain took the the time to get ready and put on a new dress for no special reason! As I’ve come closer and closer to knowing who I am as a photographer and how I uniquely see the world, this longing has only increased. The longing to not just document how I see other people and their life and relationships, but how I personally see my own life. My view of my family, my relationships, and even myself, will not be the same view as someone else.  This isn’t to say another person’s perspective doesn’t have as much value, it’s just going to be different. And there is  something deeply rewarding and enlightening behind uncovering your own vision of yourself and your family.  Afterall, you know these relationships better than anyone.”

Self portraiture for me, is loosely defined as any image that:

1.  I create a vision for

2.  That I’m in.

I don’t care if someone else pushes the shutter button, or if other people are present in the photograph.  Those two things alone should be considered an achievement!....MORE  In the rest of the article she explains her process and gives tips on how you can do it better

Has Instagram made everyone’s photos look the same?

From the BBC

“Instagram, the photo app, has been sold to Facebook for $1bn. But has it sparked a wave of generic retro-looking snaps, asks photographer Stephen Dowling. Instagram – and its bedfellows such as Hipstamatic, Camerabag and Picplz – have brought to digital photography a fever for a certain style of imagery. Smartphone photos are given saturated colours and Polaroid-style borders, dark vignettes, light leaks and lens flare like those that plagued the Kodak moments of previous generations. It may be 2012, but popular photography hasn’t looked like this since the early 1970s.

The trend began a few years ago with Hipstamatic, an app which apes the look of lo-fi toy cameras. Now Instagram allows a pic to be taken on your smartphone, a digital “filter” to be applied, and the resulting pic made viewable to the site’s ever-increasing community. Chances are that that artfully retro pic of a display of cupcakes your friend showed you at the weekend was an Instagram pic.”

Continue reading the main story

Before and after…

Before and after shots of a Church dome using Instagram

Applying Instagram’s X-Pro II filter to the image for a more “vintage” feel

“Launched in March 2010, Instagram took until the end of that year to notch up its millionth user but from there its ascent was dizzying. Just 15 months later there are more than 30 million account holders and a billion pictures on the site’s servers. That’s a lot of cupcakes.

Instagram’s use of filters mimics some of the processes photographers used to push photographic boundaries – such as the super-saturated colours created cross-processing slides in negative chemicals, or using expired film’s palette of soft, muted colours, or playing around with camera settings or darkroom equipment to boost contrast.”.…..MORE…….

I think this conclusion is where my thoughts lie..

“The ability to turn an everyday pic into something “artistic” at the click of a button is the very embodiment of digital photography’s curse of convenience – no long learning curves, or trial and error with expensive rolls of film. But is it creative?

Writer and photographer Kate Bevan doesn’t think so.

“Do I think it’s artistically valid? No. I think it kills the creative instinct. However, I do love sharing and I understand the mindset that wants to make his or her pics stand out, even though Instagram does the opposite of that.” The first time one sees a picture with an Instagram-type filter applied, it might be impressive. But the thousandth time? “I’m all in favour of people experimenting with pictures, and I’d never be elitist about photography,” suggests Bevan. “But I don’t think it encourages experimentation – it encourages the use of lazy one-click processing.”..…..MORE

What do you think?