Oxford School of Photography

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Category Archives: Photographic composition

How to Pause and Learn to Make Fewer and Better Photos

The question I always impress on my students that they should ask themselves is Why? Why are you taking this picture, interrogate the reasons that made you stop and look and raise your camera. If you can understand why that will help you to point the camera at the right bit of your subject but also tell you how to set the camera. I ask my students to employ a simple technique which I describe as close, closer, still closer. By looking harder, pausing and thinking about why, taking a picture, then getting closer and doing the same you learn how to understand what about the subject moves you

Launceston Gorge Tas Au © Keith Barnes

Launceston Gorge Tas Au © Keith Barnes

This article on Digital Photo School A Post By: Kim Manley Ort explains this in a different way but I totally agree with the ideas here. If you want your pictures to improve read this and learn what it is that makes a photographer.

At the end of each year do you find yourself with thousands of photos and wonder what to do with them all? Or wondering if you should even keep them? This is a lament that I often hear in my photography workshops and have experienced the same problem myself. Sometimes, this is a result of being too quick to click. You see something that excites you photographically and proceed to snap away, hoping that you’ll cover all the bases and that at least one shot will be a keeper. Sometimes this works and you do get one that you like, but often you find yourself disappointed because there isn’t even one that truly reflects your experience.

Luna Park, Sydney,Aus ©Keith Barnes

Luna Park, Sydney,Aus ©Keith Barnes

Kim Manley Ort says But what if you could take a different approach to your photography? One where you make fewer and also perhaps better photos? I’ve found that the simple practice of pausing before clicking the shutter can make a huge difference in the quantity and quality of your photographic output and enjoyment…..read more here

Peacock tail ©Keith Barnes

Peacock tail ©Keith Barnes

Pausing is the practice of checking in with oneself. When something stops you and you want to make a photograph, take a moment to notice what’s happening and ask yourself a few questions.

  • What do I see, smell, and hear?
  • What stopped me?
  • Was it a colour, shape, or texture?
  • What am I feeling? What do I like about it and why?
  • Does it mirror something going on in my life at this moment?

If this sounds like navel-gazing to you, believe me, it’s not. Many photographers over the years have said that a photograph says something about the creator. Your choice of subject matter reveals a lot about you. By becoming more aware of why you photograph what you do, you will gradually uncover your photographic vision…..read on

 

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Something useful from drone phototgraphy

As seen on the BBC website finally a use for drones

Sighisoara, Transylvania, is the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler - otherwise known as Dracula

Sighisoara, Transylvania, is the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler – otherwise known as Dracula

The low sun creates long shadows, and impressive patterns, across the ridges of the sand on this Polish beach.

The low sun creates long shadows, and impressive patterns, across the ridges of the sand on this Polish beach.

Surrounded by moving palm trees, a couple lie together in a clearing on Huahine island, French Polynesia.

Surrounded by moving palm trees, a couple lie together in a clearing on Huahine island, French Polynesia.

An idyllic view of the brightly-coloured buildings of the Italian seaside town of Vernazza.

An idyllic view of the brightly-coloured buildings of the Italian seaside town of Vernazza.

Rhythmic patterns of umbrellas and beds during summer on the Playa de Amadores in Gran Canaria.

Rhythmic patterns of umbrellas and beds during summer on the Playa de Amadores in Gran Canaria.

see more here and a very happy new year to you

10 Critical Assumptions That Can Stifle Your Artistic Goals

This is an interesting article on Lightstalking by  William Petruzzo I think many of William’s points can be applied to various areas of our lives

Every single one of us holds assumptions. They are part of being human. We assume there won’t be too much traffic on the way home from work, or that there will be way too much. We assume it will be hard to find a partner, or that it will be exceedingly easy. We assume that we’ll be able to pull the details out of the sky, or we assume that the camera doesn’t have enough dynamic range.

Assumptions are cognitive shortcuts based on patterns.

Human beings are pattern-matchers. We find patterns everywhere we can, and then use them to take cognitive shortcuts. Broken windows don’t mean the neighborhood is rough. But see enough broken windows in rough neighborhoods and soon when you see one, your brain will be taking the cognitive shortcut and concluding that the neighborhood must be rough.

Assumptions aren’t necessarily a negative thing, however. For example, my dog, Mikey, always greets people who come to the door. If I am working, and Mikey eagerly jumps up and runs to the door, I’m not going to spend energy considering the many things his haste could mean. Instead, I’m going to follow the pattern and take the cognitive shortcut to conclude that someone must be at the door and I may need to go welcome them.

A critical assumption is different in that the shortcut it provides might sidestep a potentially important, or perhaps the only, path to some desired outcome.

For example, let’s say I’m loading all my camera gear in the car and I’m going out to photograph the local squirrel infestation. I’ve seen them running around for weeks, and I know all their favourite spots. When I get there, however, I find that the local pest control has ‘relocated’ the problem. Now I have all my gear in the car and nothing I have intended to photograph. The outcome I desired was artsy images of adorable squirrels. The critical assumption was that I have all the time in the world to create those squirly images, and that the infestation wasn’t a problem someone else was attempting to solve.

If I had identified that critical assumption, I would have taken different actions and I would have quite the conversation starter hanging, perfectly arranged, on the wall of my office.

Want to observe the critical assumptions in your own life? Wait for the next time you get caught in the bathroom with an empty roll of toilet paper. If you never assumed there’d be toilet paper available, you’d probably never be caught without it.

That example starts to go to an extreme though. Critical assumptions lend a hand to the everyday uncertainties of life. They’re not altogether avoidable. But, if you can identify them and dispel them, or at least prevent them from being equated to “Truth”, you’ll be opening up a lot of pathways to whatever it is you’re aiming for.

So although critical assumptions come in every size and just about every degree of consequence, and are usually invisible until it’s too late, I’d like to talk about some of the high-level critical assumptions that a lot of us might relate to. Not the ones being formed in your day to day, but the ones forming your day to day. The larger ones that take hold almost like they are personal values. Not the ones that keep you from getting to work on time, the ones that keep you from quitting your job.

Critical Assumption #1: I’ll be ready when I get there.

Critical Assumption#2: I’m not the kind of person who…

Critical Assumption #3: I can’t do anything until I get organized.

Critical Assumption #4: I’m not good enough.

Want to see more and read the commentary on the above go here

I am teaching a class on Composition tonight, starting with Henri Cartier-Bresson as a guide, here are some of his pictures

HenriCartierBresson-boat

henri_cartier_bresson_india

henri_cartier-bresson-sunday

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henri-cartier-bresson-near-strasbourg-1945

 

Photography Courses For 2015

well we have done it again, created a new course to get you making better pictures. It has the most unwieldy title because we couldn’t think of anything better, sorry.

Basics of Landscape, Travel, Flower and Black and White Digital Photography

The course is based on our observations that these are the main subject areas along with portraiture, (which is covered in our separate Portrait Photography course), that interest our students. Each session we look at one of the four subject areas.

This course is aimed at students who already have a good understanding of how to use their cameras. There will be no instruction on camera use therefore it might be worthwhile taking our Understanding Your DSLR course first if you tend to use the fully auto mode when photographing. All areas of photography rely on technical and visual skills and although there will be references to camera use and composition there will be no in depth discussion of these areas and if you do not understand basic compositional methods our Composition In Photography course would be a great asset to you. Get full details here

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We now have our course schedule sorted out for the next term, here are the dates

Understanding Your DSLR Camera Evening Class £85 Start Dates: 26.01.2015;  11.03.2015

Understanding Your DSLR Camera Saturday Morning Class £85 Start Date: 07.03.2015

1 Day Understanding Your DSLR Camera £95 Dates:  01.02.2015; 01.03.2015; 29.03.2015

Intermediate Photography £97 Start Date 26.02.2015

Flash Photography £85 Start date 05.02.2015

Understanding Lightroom £85 Start Date 03.02.2015

Introduction to Photoshop and PS Elements £97 Start Date 25.02.2015

Composition In Photography – Seeing Pictures £85 Start Date 03.02.2015

Portrait Photography £85 Start Date 10.03.2015

Basics of Landscape, Travel, Flower and B&W Photography Start Date 09.03.2015  £85

 

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

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.

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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!

HCB-2

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.

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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.

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

Intermediate Photography Course starts 21st October

We call it intermediate but it is the most advanced course we currently run but we always want to leave room for more….as they say. The next course starts 21st October

This course is designed for people who are interested in photography as a hobby or maybe a profession, it assumes that photography for you is not just a by product of an interest in say birds or flowers or walking in the countryside. We suggest that this course is for someone who is actually interested in photography, in other photographers and their pictures as well as making better pictures themselves.

“Intermediate Photography “The practical tasks you set us during the lesson and for homework greatly improved the way I took photos and the extended the range of subjects that I would normally take the photos of. Being able to see other people’s work and getting feedback from you and fellow photographers was a constructive way of developing my eye as a photographer. And finally, the course provided me with a reason and most importantly the confidence to approach an organisation and offer them my services as a photographer. Without that I don’t think I would’ve ever considered showing a total stranger some of my work and expect them to give me a job just based on that. So thank you Keith for a most inspirational course and my only complaint is that it was too short.”

We teach you how to become a better photographer by applying yourself to the process, by improving your sense of vision, by understanding how to see and evaluate so you pictures have more meaning, beauty and intent. We set assignments that will get you where you want to be and get you thinking about how and why you want to make pictures using a camera. We get students to work to themes or projects so that their assignment time is not aimless, this creates some wonderful images because they start concentrating on pictures they have thought about. Here is a short video of images from the last course

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 11.55.33

 

picture by Gunilla Treen                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7LWNyg5Pww

Intermediate Photography “Firstly, just wanted to say I thoroughly enjoyed the class. It was just what I needed, in terms of being able to interact with other like-minded people and being shown different approaches to photography. It was a really worthwhile experience and I think I my abilities have definitely improved. At the very least I’ve seen alot of work by some amazing photographers which I may not have otherwise have known about!” Jess

If you want to improve your photography, want to make pictures beyond just records, want your pictures to say more than “I was here and this is what I saw, perhaps, I was here here and this is what I felt” then come and join us, the next start is the 21st October, full details here

 

 

20 Expressive Negative Space Photography – Negative is Positive

This article from a graphic design website explains how the use of negative space within an image can make a positive expression. We cover these subject areas in our Composition Course – Seeing Pictures

“There are several things that graphic designers can learn from other professions. Photography is one such field that shares similar techniques with graphic design. Minimalism and clarity of work are both common traits of graphic designing and photography. Likewise, one of the best tricks of incorporating minimalism in an artwork is using negative space.

Negative space is the space around an object of attention. Although some might argue that negative space is wasted space, the absence of content does not mean the absence of interest. On the contrary, negative space generates attention as it puts a stronger emphasis on the subject. It also helps in arousing the emotions of the object in focus.”  See more pictures and read more here

 

 

The Terry O’Neill Photography Award 2013

The Terry O’Neill Photography Award is in its 8th year and recognised as one of the world’s leading photographic awards attracting thousands of entries each year. This year we are taking the Award to the next level to make it the most innovative, accessible and valuable photography prize, providing the winners and runner-ups with unparalleled levels of publicity that set a new benchmark for other photography awards.

The Award launches with a fresh website and a mobile device category sponsored by The Royal Photographic Society. A new distinguished panel of judges from the arts and media are backed by an international publicity campaign to attract entries from Berlin to Beijing.

Deadline for entries is 31st November 2013: images must have been shot between 01 January and 31st November.

First Prize – Alessandro Penso last competition

pngAlessandro Penso studied clinical psychology at Rome’s La Sapienza University. In 2007, he received a scholarship to study photojournalism at the “Scuola Romana di Fotografia”.