Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Monthly Archives: October 2014

Best shutter speeds for every situation

When teaching about shutter speeds on our Understanding Your DSLR Camera course I tell my students that to become a successful photographer, to have complete control over their cameras, to not have to think about what shutter speed they need to use in every situation, they need to practise and learn by their own experience. I joke that doubtless there is somewhere on the web there is a list  created by some sad individual of the shutter speeds required to photograph absolutely everything. I say they could search for it and download it and carry it with them all the time, but I also say they will never be a photographer if they do. Experience is the best thing you can have, better than any accessory. well now there is that list and here it is for you

From those usual denizens of good sense Digital Camera World

Do you struggle with finding the best shutter speeds when shooting unfamiliar subject matter? It can be difficult to know how to set up your camera to freeze movement, capture motion blur and other popular digital camera effects.

In the latest of our ongoing photography cheat sheet series, we’ve put together our list of what we believe are the best shutter speeds for every situation.

We spell out each shutter speed and what it is typically used for, and we also have provided a super-quick guide on how to adjust your shutter speed.


Best ND filter: 6 top models tested and rated

From Digital Camera World

I didn’t even realise that such filters needed to be tested and rated so this article was very interesting. I have to say I bought a variable nd filter from 7dayshop.com for less than £12 and thought it quite good but now I know better

Bright light isn’t always a good thing. Get some serious stopping power as we test six of the top options to find the best ND filter for photographers…

Fast shutter speeds are great for freezing motion, but that’s not always what you want when you’re taking a photograph.

Mount your camera on a tripod and set a long exposure, and you can add motion blur to subjects like weirs and waterfalls, for a much more dreamy look.

Tripods also make it possible to blur people and vehicles out of busy street scenes as they’re walking around, for cleaner architectural shots.

The only problem is enabling a long exposure in bright light, such as on a very sunny day, as over-exposed and even blown-out photos are likely.

SEE MORE: 9 filter mistakes every photographer makes (and how to avoid them)

One solution is to fit a high-density neutral filter to your lens, typically one with a rating of 10 stops.

These dark filters reduce the amount of light passing through the lens. If, for example, a sunny scene would require a setting of f/11 at 1/125 sec for a correct exposure, fitting a 10-stop ND filter will enable you to slow the shutter speed to eight full seconds at f/11.

Another option, which is also particularly advantageous when shooting video, is to use a variable or ‘fader’ ND filter.

Based on two polarising filters, one of which is rotated against the other, these usually give a range of between two and eight stops.

SEE MORE: How and when to use ND filters (and what the numbers mean)

Best ND filter: 01 Tiffen IR ND 3.0

Price: £65, $90 for 77mm fitting
Tiffen’s older standard ND 3.0 filter is a typical triple-density filter that gives the usual 10-stop light reduction.

However, in our tests it gave a very pronounced red colour cast when used on a Nikon D7000, and the effect was still noticeable to a lesser extent when fitted on a D610.

According to Tiffen, the new IR Cut edition is specially engineered to reduce ‘infra-red and far-red pollution’.

SEE MORE: Choosing the best ND filter -remember these 4 tips and print out this cheat sheet

In our tests, we did find that it gave a much more neutral colour balance on both cameras.

The standard of construction is very good, with a low-profile design to combat vignetting, even when used on ultra-wide lenses, and no light seepage around the edge of the filter.

The claimed 10-stop density is very accurate. If you’re on a limited budget, this filter is a very good buy.

Pros… Very good colour accuracy, low-profile design.
Cons… Metering with the filter fitted tends to give dark images.
We say… Very good performance and excellent value.

Want to see what else is tested….go here

Best monitor for photo editing: 10 top models tested and rated

Many people just buy the biggest monitor they can afford without considering it’s purpose. A screen that is good for watching movies or playing games or reading text might not be the best for graphics work, for photography and photo editing. In class we are constantly recommending calibrating monitors, we explain how a monitor which isn’t calibrated is showing you it’s version of your pictures, not how they actually are. A step beyond, One Step Beyond would be Madness of course, would be to buy a photo editing specific monitor. Digital Camera World has tested a few and here are their recommendations

What is the best monitor for photo editing? Colour-accurate monitors offer true-to-life reproduction of photographic images, but price and performance varies. We’ve tested 10 of the top models available to see which monitor is best for photography.

Choosing a monitor for photo editing can be a daunting proposition, especially if you need it to be better at one particular task than at any other.

In this roundup we want to find the best monitors for photo editing, so we’re looking for great colour reproduction and vibrant, bright displays.

This depends on the technology used – newer ‘IPS’ LCD panels have better colour reproduction than their older ‘TN’ counterparts, so this is worth looking out for in the specifications. All the panels here are IPS LED backlit displays.

The viewing angles are also far better with IPS screens, so if you ever sit at your computer and show someone else photos they are a must.

Screen size is important too – make sure your display is physically big enough for the work you want to do (we recommend 24-inch as a minimum now and that’s the smallest here).

Also, while most of the monitors here are height-adjustable, not all displays have the same level of fine-tuning, so do watch out for that.

When buying a high-end display, it’s important to make sure your computer’s graphics hardware is up to the task of displaying the high resolutions some monitors are now capable of.

You’ll need to research the capabilities of your own machine to do that. If you’re going to be connecting up a laptop, especially, make sure it has a good level of graphics capability.

If you are thinking about buying a monitor here is a list of things to consider

10 things to look for in a monitor for photo editing

Best photo editing software? 6 top programs reviewed and rated

  1. Screen size is measured diagonally in inches, while resolution measures the number of pixels that make up the display. But a bigger monitor doesn’t necessarily mean greater resolution; the 24-inch Eizo has a higher resolution than the 27-inch NEC, for example.
  2. A more useful measure of the ‘crispness’ of a display is pixel density, measured in pixels per inch (ppi). The NEC is 82ppi, the Eizo 94ppi, while Samsung and Dell weigh in at 109ppi.
  3. Monitors increasingly offer more than just a simple display for your computer, with built-in speakers, USB hubs, card readers and multiple  inputs, such as HDMI, for use with a variety of devices.
  4. While true-to-life colour reproduction is very important in image editing, you may need to compromise to get all the features you want within budget.
  5. LED backlighting allows thinner displays, while IPS (or Samsung’s PLS) allows for greater viewing angles.
  6. We’d always recommend using a digital interface like DVI or HDMI, but it depends on what your computer has. Do you want to plug in multiple devices? Make sure your new monitor has the same input as your computer has output!
  7. Several of these displays enable you to swivel the monitor from side to side and turn the screen 90 degrees into portrait mode.
  8. Most monitors are now capable of Full HD resolution (1920×1080) but more and more can do higher resolutions – many here are capable of 2560×1440, for example.
  9. With so many devices plugged into our computers these days, a USB hub really is something you’ll wonder how you lived without.
  10. So many monitors – including several of these – are just plain ugly. Also see what people are saying about the button controls and menu system. Ensure it is usable.

Go here for the reviews and recommendations

Here are some articles we have offered previously

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

How To Choose the Best Monitor for Photography


LILLIAN BASSMAN talks to Rankin

You may remember the rather beautiful pictures by Lillian Bassman that we featured previously here well she has popped up again and this time talking to that man Rankin

Lillian Bassman entered the world of publishing at Harper’s Bazaar as a protégée of Alexey Brodovitch, the acclaimed art director of the magazine from 1938 to 1958. Initially a student on his Design Laboratory course, Bassman was given an internship at the magazine in 1941, and a permanent title four years later, when Junior Bazaar was launched. She stayed with Harper’s Bazaar until the 60s, and during this time she became a photographer. She was known to spend hours in the darkroom experimenting with unusual techniques, including using tissues to bring certain areas of a photograph into focus, applying bleach to change tone and washing prints in the bath to achieve dreamy effects. Her signature high-contrast, black-and-white, graphic-style images won her a new-found appreciation in the 90s, when a cache of discarded negatives resurfaced. Before her death in 2012, at the age of 94, Rankin had a conversation with Lillian Bassman about her career and the art of photography.

RANKIN: I’M A BIG FAN OF YOUR WORK. HOW DID IT ALL START FOR YOU?....want to know what she said? Go here

Lilian Bassman



Five Ways to Improve Your Eye for Composition

Here is another post to get you seeing and shooting better. There is no doubt the best thing you can do is to practise your photography, that doesn’t mean practising taking great pictures it means learning by repeating techniques so that when you really need them you know them by heart. Imagine you were learning the piano you wouldn’t just sit and play pieces you would practise well do the same with your photography.

This article on Digital Photography School By: Andrew S. Gibson should help you by giving you some specifics to concentrate on

An eye for composition is one of the things that elevates the work of the best photographers above the rest. One of the best ways to learn about composition is focus on applying one idea at a time. You can treat it as an exercise that will help you improve your composition skills, the same way that piano players practice scales. Here are five ideas to get you started.

#1 Use a single lens

Lenses have an enormous influence on the look of a photo, and the best way to learn exactly what effect they have is to spend some time using just one lens. Ideally it would be a prime lens, but if you have a zoom you can use a piece of tape to fix the lens to one focal length (some lenses have a locking switch you can use instead).

If you use a single focal length you will become intimately acquainted with its characteristics.

While it is useful to own multiple lenses, the ability to switch from one to another may mean that you don’t get to know any of them very well. This exercise helps overcome that tendency.

Improving Composition

Improving Composition

 #2 Work in black and white

Improving Composition

My favourite recommendation for learning more about composition is to work in black and white.

Colour is such a powerful element that it dominates most photos. It becomes more difficult to see and appreciate the underlying building blocks of composition liketexture, line, pattern and tonal contrast. Take colour away and all these things become easier to see; once you are aware of them, you can start using them to improve the composition of your photos.

For example, in the black and white photo above, did you notice the shapes in the photo? I’m referring to the white rectangle of the cinema screen (yes, that’s what it is), the shapes of the Chinese letters and the diamond pattern in the stones on the ground. All these things are easier to see in black and white.

Do you want to see the next three ideas…..go here

Fine art photography: what you need to shoot amazing photo projects at home

From the vaults of Digital Camera World

I am not sure fine art photography can be shoehorned into such a simplistic idea as shown here but I do think these are examples of what you can do, and how to do it when the opportunity to explore the world with your camera is limited

Why shoot fine art photography? Easy. It’s the sheer pleasure you get from creating, shooting and post-producing fine art photos at home, especially as the weather gets colder and the nights draw in.

In this fine art photography tutorial we’ll show you how to find, set up and shoot amazing still life photography subjects at home at no cost.


Images by Ben Birchall

A loose definition of fine art photography is any image that’s taken for the pure purpose of viewing pleasure. Not for commercial or editorial use and not for illustration.

Fine art is total voyeuristic photography and the end product, whether you use it on your website or get it printed and hung in your living room, will be a powerful statement of your own original interpretation of photographic art.

The best way to approach fine art photography and the main difference from most other disciplines is that there’s no brief to fulfil. You’re in control of the shooting environment and it really does inspire completely original creativity.

The easiest place to start looking for ideas is the garden shed or kitchen. There you’ll find unusual objects and props that will inspire creative thought.

Why not spend a morning at a charity shops or garage/car-boot sale, looking for inspiration? Even rusty nails can become fine art using the camera tips and photo composition techniques you’ll see here. Try basing your composition, lighting and even your post production around your props – and you’ll find the process is really much more fun!

What makes a great fine art image

Interesting subject matter is vital, along with careful attention to clean and balanced composition. Visual puns can raise the fine art bar, such as the ‘nutcracker’ shot at the top of this page, along with artistic, textured layers and mono work in the digital darkroom.


Want more, then go here….

6 classic composition techniques every photographer should know

From Digital Camera World six of the best. We teach these and more in our Composition course

01. Rule of thirds

Yes, it’s an old chestnut, and yes, all rules are there to be broken, but just as Eric Clapton had to learn his chords and scales before he could improvise, you have to have a sense of compositional conventions before you can start to creatively break them. The idea behind the rule of thirds is simple.

Mentally divide the scene in front of you into thirds, or activate a handy grid on your viewfinder. Then place your subject near the intersecting lines of one of these thirds, and you should get a nicer composition than if the subject was placed dead centre.

If all this sounds too mathematical, just keep your subject more towards the edge of the frame rather than plonked in the middle. Used well, the rule of thirds can really enhance an image, but try not to make it a religion, or all your shots will look the same.


02. Leading lines

Leading lines is another classic composition technique, particularly in landscape photography. Basically, you make use of lines or other shapes to lead in the eye. You could use a road or path, or even shadows on a landscape.

A classic example of leading lines would be allowing a desert highway to create a sense of depth and distance, rather than just taking a flat shot of the desert and the sky.

A winding path going up a hill or cliff is another classic application. The idea is that you are drawing the viewer into the scene. Be careful, though, that the leading line doesn’t act as a distraction – it’s all very well using a road but watch out for vans parked on it, or litter bins!


do you know the other 4? go here to see

5 Fundamental Elements of Great Photographs

Yes I agree with all of these points made by

I’m a freelance travel, culture and documentary photographer based in the Philippines. My passion lies in creating images that communicate a strong sense of place and cultural awareness in unique, challenging situations. You can see my work at www.jacobimages.com

There are five common elements that great images typically have; Good use of light, color, a captivating moment, correct composition for the given situation, and the photographers choice of distance to their subject. Many times good images will use one or two of these elements, but lack strength in the others.

I will be the first to admit that it is difficult to have all of these elements come together in one frame. Rarely do I take what would be considered a great photograph, but by aiming to capture all of these elements makes me strive to be better. Essentially, these are five tools we have as photographers to work with allowing us to create higher quality photographs. If we start to recognize and become more aware of how to best use these elements we will start to make more great images rather than good images. Bring them all together correctly under one frame and you will have something really special.

1. Light – Light is the fundamental element all photographs need because it illuminates the scene or subject. Whether it be natural or artificial light the quality and direction of light is what’s important. Light helps to create a particular mood within the photograph and can bring emphasis to key elements within a frame. Likewise, light can help create depth and textures in an image by creating a mix of highlights and shadows.

Everyone knows there have been countless books and tutorials on this subject and this article isn’t the place to go into depth with this. However, we should recognize that light is probably the most important tool we have to use as photographers to create better quality and beautiful images.


2. Color – Like light, color helps to set the mood of an image and can play a significant role in touching the viewer on an emotional level. Color is one of the main factors responsible for making a photo feel mysterious, exciting, sad, or gloomy. Evoking emotions is important in creating strong images and color is one of our primary tools to do this. Again, this is an in-depth topic which this article will not go into, but be thoughtful that by using appropriate colors in our images we can better convey different emotions and make a stronger impact on the viewer.



want to see what the other 3 essentials are….go here 

Brighton Biennial Photography Festival

There are only 3 days to go, here is the website

I went down to Brighton last weekend to see family and have a look around the festival of photography taking place there. Brighton is a very cool, cultural , funky place and the photography festival reflects that. There was a much wider range of photography on show than there was at our own festival of photography here in Oxford last month. That is not a criticism of Photography Oxford but it was a marked difference. In Oxford the exhibitions were all that, solid and somewhat a little boring exhibitions with a capital E whereas in Brighton there was much more fluidity to what was on show and how it was shown. I didn’t see anything there that rivalled the excellent Pentti Sammallahti but I did see much more that was challenging and inspiring.

One gallery I didn’t get in to because it was closed was One Eyed Jacks, I mention this because they have an open submission for entry in an exhibition in January


Brighton-based gallery One Eyed Jacks is offering photographers the chance to compete to have their work shown in a month-long group show in January 2015.

The Open Call, with a top prize of £500, is open to both professional and amateur photographers working across all genres of photography. There is no theme, and all portfolios will be considered.

“Discovering new work and reaching out to new talent is the greatest buzz for a gallerist,” says gallery director Matt Henry. “We’ve decided to launch our first Open Call to unearth new gems and to create a fantastic and eclectic group show.”

Instead of inviting a jury to oversee the submission process, Henry has decided upon a single individual to curate the exhibition. “This Open Call will mark the first of many submission-based shows that allow one person to execute his or her unique vision,” says Henry. “British Journal of Photography’s Gemma Padley will curate our first show.”

The deadline for entries is 01 November 2014. For more information, and to enter, click here.

If you get the chance to visit Brighton over the next three days and have restricted time I would head to the Circus Street Market for Return To Elsewhere,Nigel-Green-DSC_7771


and The Fourth Floor Collective and in the same building  BPF14 VANTAGE POINT: COLLECTIVES’ HUB






On Hunger Tv 

On Friday the 23rd of July, 1993, Kurt Cobain is at the height of his fame. A phalanx of journalists and photographers is in New York for the launch of In Utero, Nirvana’s first album of new material since the global success of Nevermind. The group is scheduled to play a showcase New Music Seminar concert that night at Roseland, the famed swing-era ballroom in Midtown Manhattan. Nirvana is the biggest group in the country and expectation is at fever pitch. The glare is intense, but Cobain is hiding from the light.

Taken that day, Jesse Frohman’s portrait “Kurt Cobain: Standing with Evian Bottle” captures a young man of twenty-six with the sagging posture of middle age……MORE




Hunger Tv