Oxford School of Photography

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Category Archives: Portrait Photography

4 ways to get a studio look without a photo studio

On our Portrait photography course we spend a lot of time explaining about light, how to use daylight rather than needing to invest in some form of studio lighting. Remember how we all thought digital photography was going to be free once you owned a camera? This article via Digital Camera World offers another way to set up a home studio and in general everything here is valid and the advice would help you to be a better studio, portrait or still life photographer.

Few amateur photographers can afford the luxury of a dedicated studio, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take top-quality images that look like they were taken in a studio. In their latest guest post the team at Photoventure show you  how…

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Rankin: ‘I see the person, not the celebrity’

Rankin is undoubtedly one of my favourite photographers. Not just because he makes wonderful pictures but also because he is a truly right on bloke. I found this interview with him in the Telegraph By

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The moment Rankin glimpsed the Queen laughing with one of her staff, he knew that was the shot he wanted. “I watched her walk down this long corridor at Buckingham Palace with a guy who must have been at least 6ft. She’s tiny, and she was looking up at him, smiling and chatting, and I thought, ‘You’re exactly what I want you to be. You’re a real person’. ”

But the photographer, who shot Her Majesty back in 2002 as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations, had only five minutes, and was desperate to make her laugh again. “So I started saying ‘Ma’am’, like ‘jam’. ‘Ma’am, you have to smile, please’ – I was like Austin Powers. And she just laughed at me. She was really funny, making a lot of jokes – very dry. Photography is all about collaboration – and she gave it to me.”

The end result is the Queen grinning in front of the Union flag. “She wrote back to me, having seen the shot, saying, ‘I love the stitching on the flag’. That’s the Queen’s way of not having an opinion. That’s classy. It’s like saying, ‘I like the photograph, I’m just not commenting on myself’.

“David Bailey took a photograph of her last year and he made her laugh as well,” he adds. “His is better than mine. I was quite young when I took mine. He’s a bit nearer her age. His is so brilliant. But then, I made her laugh first!”

In much the same way that Bailey documented the Sixties, Rankin catalogued the Nineties, befriending the celebrities he shot – Jude Law, Kate Moss, Kylie Minogue – dating models and generally having a very good time. This was partly aided by Dazed & Confused, the style magazine he launched in 1992, which was at the forefront of popular culture.

Read the full article here

Other articles about Rankin

https://oxfordschoolofphotography.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/rankin-todays-great-photographer-and-a-thoroughly-decent-bloke/

https://oxfordschoolofphotography.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/america-in-pictures-the-story-of-life-magazine-by-rankin-on-the-bbc/

https://oxfordschoolofphotography.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/rankin-hunger-tv/

https://oxfordschoolofphotography.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/the-addiction-of-photography-rankin/

https://oxfordschoolofphotography.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/lillian-bassman-talks-to-rankin/

Jane Bown: a life in photography – in pictures

Jane Bown, the Observer photographer known for her natural light portraits of the famous has died aged 89. One of the great British photographers, sadly missed.

Jane Bown: a life in photography – in pictures From The Guardian

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Jane Bown: a self-portrait, c1986

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Samuel Beckett, 1976Having thought she’d missed her quarry, Jane snuck round the back of the Royal Court Theatre in London’s Sloane Square, where after rehearsals of Beckett’s Happy Days, part of a season celebrating his 70th birthday, she caught him exiting via the stage door

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Mick Jagger, 1977

From The Telegraph: 

Jane Bown, who has died aged 89, was an outstanding portrait photographer who confounded the experts with the simplicity of her camera technique. She spent 65 years on the Observer, for whom she took several thousand pictures of politicians, bishops, actors, pop stars and other celebrities, as well as ordinary people – miners, hop-pickers and women at a holiday camp – whose faces captured her interest.

Nearly all her pictures were snatched on location during the 10 or 15 minutes she was allowed while a reporter was interviewing someone for the newspaper. A tiny, round-faced, unobtrusive woman, she would appear with only a shopping bag, in which her camera would often compete for space with vegetables for that night’s supper.

This unthreatening demeanour had the effect of defusing a subject’s initial hostility. Both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones took to her and allowed her to stay long after the time allocated by their minders. This resulted in famous portraits of Mick Jagger and John Lennon in particular; she found Paul McCartney “a bit pompous”.

Her much-admired picture of Samuel Beckett, showing his face as a cracked desert of lines protruding from a white polo-neck, was captured at the stage door at the Royal Court after he had declined to see her. A very determined character beneath a gentle, nervous manner, she obtained a memorable portrait of Richard Nixon by crawling through the legs of the crowd outside his hotel and shouting to him to look at her……MORE

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Queen Elizabeth II, photographed in 2006 for her 80th birthday. It was Jane’s 80th birthday that same year

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The Beatles relax backstage in East Ham, London, 1963When someone asked Jane to leave at the end of the photo shoot, Ringo Starr insisted she be allowed to stay

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Sir John Betjeman, 1972

See more of Jane Bown’s portraits in this extensive gallery

From the BBC …

Observer editor John Mulholland called her “part of the Observer’s DNA”.

Bown last appeared in the Observer offices in August, although by then she was too frail to take photographs.

‘Immense contribution’

Mr Mulholland said: “During more than 50 years working for the Observer, she produced some of the most memorable and insightful images of prominent cultural and political figures taken during the 20th Century.

“From the Queen to the Beatles, Samuel Beckett to Bjork, John Betjeman to Bob Hope, her beautifully observed pictures have become part of our cultural landscape.

“She is part of the Observer’s DNA – her contribution to the paper’s history, as well to Britain’s artistic legacy, is immense, and will long survive her.

Jane Bown spoke to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in 2006

“She was loved by her colleagues and adored by our readers. We will miss her hugely.”

 

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

 

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014

Its that time of year, all the major awards and competitions produce their winners, yesterday we reported on the Landscape Photographer of The Year and now it is The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. We did report on the alternative version of this prize, the one that represents the ones that didn’t win the  Portrait Salon 2014 – Pictures rejected by Taylor Wessing I admit I was a bit harsh on the Taylor Wessing Prize in that piece, I suggested that to win the TW you either had to have red heads holding a small furry animal. Well I was wrong, this time it is a chicken, and I also said that every subject had to look bored out of their brains, again I was wrong, it is just most of them have to be bored. The winner this time can barely be called a portrait, this is what The Telegraph said

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize tends to draw a vocal crowd. This year more than 4,000 submissions have been whittled down to 60 exhibits, plenty capable of eliciting an “awesome” or an “awful”. However, as the last prize to be hosted by the outgoing director Sandy Nairne, there is little doubt that this is a fine swansong, delivering portraits that are variously elegant, jubilant and unsettling from a consistently accomplished selection.

Tongues will still wag. Not least because many will consider that the winning image, David Titlow’s Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow, is not a portrait at all. If you photograph a bowl of fruit, you’d be hard pressed to call it a landscape. Likewise, I’m not sure you can describe as a portrait a composition in which three adults, a baby and a dog vie for prominence (if anything the dog wins) and which focuses on the moment rather than the subjects. It’s a strong image, resonant of the Golden Age of Dutch painting (more of which later). But is it a portrait?

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The 2014 winnerKonrad Lars Hastings Titlow by David Titlow. Photograph: David Titlow/National Portrait Gallery

Ah nice doggie…..

Here is the ubiquitous red heads with animal

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Shortlisted imageBraian and Ryan by Birgit Püve. Photograph: Birgit Püve/National Portrait Gallery

See what I mean about bored?

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Shortlisted imageSkate Girl by Jessica Fulford-Dobson. Photograph: Jessica Fulford-Dobson/National Portrait Gallery

The Guardian has an easy to access gallery here

I am not sure I can go on, the mirth is overwhelming, anyway here are some more images to tempt you along to the exhibition at the NPG

THE EXHIBITION

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014is a unique opportunity to see sixty new portraits by some of the most exciting contemporary photographers from around the world.

The selected images, many of which will be on display for the first time, explore both traditional and original approaches to the photographic portrait through intimate images of friends and family alongside revealing portraits of famous faces.

This year the competition attracted over 4,000 submissions in the form of editorial, advertising and fine art prints and the selected works in the exhibition include the four prize winners as well as the winner of the John Kobal New Work Award.

Please note this exhibition contains nudity.

Also on display, in Room 39 is Hana Knizova′s portrait of Olivia Colman which was commissioned as part of the John Kobal New Work Award 2013. 13th November – 22nd February 2015

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Longlisted imageArvi, by Sami Parkkinen. Photograph: Sami Parkkinen/National Portrait Gallery

and just to prove how wrong I can be here is one that incorporates a smile, still a bit doubtful as a portrait though, more street scene

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Longlisted imageVijay Rudanlalji Banspal, by Karan Kumar Sachdev. Photograph: Karan Kumar Sachdev/National Portrait Gallery

Here are the links you will need

The Telegraph for an appraisal

The Guardian for a selection of images in a nice gallery format

A review and explanation in The Guardian

More of the same from the BBC

Good luck

7 Tips for Photographing Groups

I found this Post By: Karen Quist on Digital Photo School and thought it might be helpful to you if you plan to photograph your family or friends in the lead up to Christmas

Whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer, whether you usually photograph people, products, landscapes or insects, the time will come when you will be asked to photograph a large group of people.

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Of course large is a relative term. If you are used to photographing couples or taking individual portraits, large could mean a group of five people. In general, I consider large to be a group of seven or more.

The festive season is fast approaching, and this is the time of year when you are most likely to be asked to photograph large groups. During this season, families tend to congregate in one place, some travelling far and wide for the privilege of togetherness. Sports teams, dance clubs and social groups start winding down for the holiday season, and love to have an annual or seasonal record of their group.

Wedding and school photographers are the true experts in group photography. I am neither of those; I’m a family and children’s photographer, and I don’t mind admitting that I’m a one-trick pony.

However, over the past few months and for one reason or another, I have been asked to photograph an increasing number of large groups. Sometimes the lessons we need to learn find us, and it has been said that we best teach what we most need to learn. With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way, both through my own trial and error, and through tips for photographing large groups, passed on to me from other photographers.

 

Portrait Salon 2014 – Pictures rejected by Taylor Wessing National Portrait Gallery Photographic Portrait Prize

It is almost a standing joke amongst many photographers, the Taylor Wessing Prize. Of course it is taken seriously by the photographic elite, academic, arts council, grant funded world but by practising photographers, no it is generally not. For a couple of years the joke was any portrait to be considered had to have a red head holding a small furry animal, previously it needed a fried egg but the overwhelming requirement was bored, the subject had to look so bored. No personality, not engagement, blank, tired, uninterested faces.

Now there is an alternative, the Portrait Salon, and looking at the images on the BBC site in the piece written by Phil Coomes I am not sure they have done much more than sweep up the not so bored, those portraits that express the smallest suggestion of subject involvement with the process that TW have rejected.

I am being reactionary but in all hyperbole there is some truth, just listen to Russell Brand rant.

This is what Phil Coomes says on the BBC website

Portrait Salon is perhaps unique in the world of photographic exhibitions as it comprises material rejected from another show. This is the fourth year that material submitted to, and rejected by, the Taylor Wessing National Portrait Gallery Photographic Portrait Prize has been brought together.

This year Christiane Monarchi (editor of Photomonitor), Emma Taylor (Creative Advice Network) and photographer Martin Usbourne (Hoxton Mini Press) selected 70 portraits from 1,184 submissions.

Emma Taylor notes that the judges had to follow their “gut instincts” when selecting images, due to limited time to assess each entry, though she feels that “there’s something rather liberating about this, something pure”.

She adds the chosen pictures are “images that made us smile, images that made us question, images so beautiful we unanimously cheered their submission”.

As you would expect, the work is engaging and diverse. It carries on the tradition of past shows and feels like one put together by photographers for photographers. The pictures are what is important, and the viewer will find much to delight.

Portrait Salon was founded by Carole Evans and James O Jenkins in 2011, and this year the show opens at Four Corners, London on 6 November. It will then tour to Fuse Art Space in Bradford, Oriel Colwyn Gallery in Clwyd, Napier University in Edinburgh as well as Birmingham, and Bristol.

Further details can be found on the Portrait Salon website.

Here is a selection of the pictures in the exhibition.

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There are more to see here

Sisters Forty Portraits in Forty Years

I first wrote about this as 25 years, but I haven’t been blogging for 15 years, and somehow now the story is 40 years, confused. However this is a fabulous longterm project that we could all undertake with our own families. In fact I don’t understand why more people don’t it is a wonderful record and fascinating in the changes the pictures show from faces with ageing,  posing and attitude, hairstyles, and clothes. It is a family record and a measure of our times. I found this most recent article in The New York Times I have just chosen the 10 year anniversaries, go and look at the intervening years here

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1975, New Canaan, Conn.

The Brown sisters have been photographed every year since 1975. The latest image in the series is published here for the first time….

Nicholas Nixon was visiting his wife’s family when, “on a whim,” he said, he asked her and her three sisters if he could take their picture. It was summer 1975, and a black-and-white photograph of four young women — elbows casually attenuated, in summer shorts and pants, standing pale and luminous against a velvety background of trees and lawn — was the result. A year later, at the graduation of one of the sisters, while readying a shot of them, he suggested they line up in the same order. After he saw the image, he asked them if they might do it every year. “They seemed O.K. with it,” he said; thus began a project that has spanned almost his whole career. The series, which has been shown around the world over the past four decades, will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art, coinciding with the museum’s publication of the book “The Brown Sisters: Forty Years” in November.

Who are these sisters? We’re never told (though we know their names: from left, Heather, Mimi, Bebe and Laurie; Bebe, of the penetrating gaze, is Nixon’s wife). The human impulse is to look for clues, but soon we dispense with our anthropological scrutiny — Irish? Yankee, quite likely, with their decidedly glamour-neutral attitudes — and our curiosity becomes piqued instead by their undaunted stares. All four sisters almost always look directly at the camera, as if to make contact, even if their gazes are guarded or restrained. Text by SUSAN MINOT

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1985, Allston, Mass.

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1995, Marblehead, Mass.

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2005, Cataumet, Mass.

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this is the latest in the series 2014, Wellfleet, Mass.

Read the rest of the article and see all the pictures here

All photographs by Nicholas Nixon/Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

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

Posing, lighting & editing tricks for flattering portraits of mature subjects

Actually everyone needs a bit of help so don’t just use these for the more ‘mature’ subjects, don’t you just love that use of the word, I’m ancient but rarely mature!

From Digital Camera World

In this tutorial we’ll show you some clever portrait photography ideas you can try – from simple lighting tricks to clever Photoshop edits – to make a subject look their very best, whatever their age….Portrait photographers are repeatedly asked the same three questions: “Can you make me look younger?”, “Can you get rid of my wrinkles?” and “Can you shave off a few pounds?”.

The answer to all three is – within reason – “Yes!” There are several simple things we can do as photographers to make someone look their best, whatever their age and size. And it’s not magic, it’s just a combination of flattering light, good posing, and a few subtle digital trick

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you might also like to take our Portrait Course starting 3rd November if you live near Oxford, we have lots more tips and tricks to help you get a great portrait