Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

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10 Best Photography Courses In Oxford

This might be a bit of shameless self promotion but I do believe we offer the very best courses in photography in the Oxford area. We go from the basics of understanding your camera, DSLR or compact/bridge camera for beginners through the vital areas of composition, Photoshop, Lightroom and more subject-based courses such as portrait and travel photography  If you are interested in photography and want to get more from your camera then our courses will help you achieve your aim.

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If someone asks you what you want as a present and you don’t know get a voucher and choose from our courses when you have worked out what you need

Here are some recent comments:

I attended Keith’s one day introduction to using an SLR. I thought the course was excellent. We went through all the basics at a good pace and had an opportunity to put some of the lessons into practice. Keith also covered some basic principles of photography that i hope to put into practice. I am confident that Keith has provided the break through that I needed. Keith also provided a very clear summary of the sessions and follow up links to relevant blogs etc. The session exceeded my expectations From Andrew

I took Keith’s basic course, Understanding Your DSLR, and was very impressed in every respect. Keith is a terrific instructor–very knowledgeable, articulate, organized, and attentive to student questions and issues.The course brought together students who were generally at a basic level, but the few who had had far more experience with the camera/photography appeared to get a lot out of the course as well. The atmosphere was relaxed, respectful, enjoyable, and amiable right at the outset, and students were comfortable asking questions at all levels. His many examples were carefully thought out and greatly helped students understand what he was describing. After each class, he emailed students many references and additional information to both underscore/reinforce what had been discussed in class and to expand on that information for future use. I know that I will greatly benefit from reviewing those references as I continue to use my camera in the future. I highly recommend Keith as an instructor, as well as the class, to anyone –novice or veteran user–who is interested in learning about the DSLR camera. I would definitely take his other courses but am now no longer living in the Oxford area. Anyone in the area interested in obtaining a solid background in the DSLR camera will be very pleased with his class. From Ann

If you want to see more reviews you can do so here

Here is a list of our courses

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The 10 best bridge cameras in 2017

A bridge camera is usually shaped a bit like a DSLR, so bigger than a compact but has a fixed lens. These are often super zooms, so from wide angle to extreme telephoto, and this is their appeal. The often suffer from the compromise of having smaller sensors to allow for the extended zoom.

Tech Radar has a review of the best bridge cameras from 2017 here

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Canon PowerShot SX60 HS

Bridge cameras are a versatile and affordable alternative to DSLRs, offering the same kind of manual controls plus a huge zoom lens that covers everything from wide-angle to super-telephoto photography.

There are two important differences to be aware of, though. The first is that bridge cameras have much smaller sensors than DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, so most can’t match those models for picture quality

The second is that the lens is non-removable, so although it can handle a wide range of subjects you can’t swap to a macro lens for close-ups, for example, or a super-wide-angle lens, or a fast prime lens for low-light photography.

If you’re not quite sure what kind of camera you need, read our essential guide: What camera should I buy?

Bridge cameras do, however, give you a lot of camera for your money, and they’re a great stepping stone for photographers who want to move on from simple point-and-shoot cameras. There are also now a few models that have larger sensors and deliver better picture quality, and which come a lot closer to the performance of a DSLR.

The 10 best compact cameras in 2017

A compact camera is by definition small, and by design has the lens built into the body. There are a number of different types of compact cameras some specialised to specific photographic tasks such as travel compact cameras. Most compact cameras offer good quality and the better ones a wide range of functions that would seem to be similar to those on DSLR or CSC type cameras but in their first instances they should work well as simple to use cameras.

I recently bought a Lumix TZ100 to take on my motorbike and I am really impressed with the quality, I still don’t like using a compact as much as I do my DSLR but when it was a choice between wet weather gear and my DSLR camera the wet weather gear won so a compromise on the camera front was needed.

Tech Radar has a review of some of the compact cameras that have excelled in 2017

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Compact cameras and the compact camera market have changed a lot over the last few years. Smartphones have decimated the entry-level range of point-and-shoot models that used to be popular and as a result manufacturers have concentrated on putting more advanced features into cameras to make them more attractive.

In addition to a move towards having physically larger sensors to boost image quality that can rival DSLRs in some cases, some compact cameras sport lenses long zoom ranges or wide maximum apertures. Wi-Fi connectivity is also now de rigueur on most compacts, so you can transfer shots quickly to a phone for sharing on Facebook etc

Many enthusiast photographers used to be very sniffy about compact digital cameras, but there are now many that make a great alternative to a DSLR or mirrorless system camera. And those who are new to photography and thinking about stepping up from a smartphone have some pretty sophisticated choices as well. 

There are small cameras that can slip in a pocket yet have huge zoom ranges, and large bridge cameras that look like DSLRs, but have a fixed lens and lots of automated easy-to-use options.

These cameras prove that you don’t have to buy a camera that takes interchangeable lenses to get great shots.

If you need a bit more help figuring out what kind of camera you need, then read this article: What camera should I buy?

The 10 best mirrorless cameras in 2017

For people who want the control of a DSLR but not the size or the weight there are mirrorless or compact system cameras CSC. These have interchangeable lenses and the same sorts of control that a DSLR will have but not the optical viewing system. If there is a viewfinder it will be a EVF type (electronic viewfinder) so this is like a small monitor that you look at through the viewfinder. Some don’t have this at all and you are required to use the monitor on that back to compose your images as you might on a compact camera. I would generally avoid these. This type of camera tends to be more expensive than traditional DSLR and the lenses are expensive too.

I see many of these cameras in class and find I am constantly irritated by the necessity to hide all the controls you want at your fingertips in menus that you have to access on screen. The tradeoff of in size and weight for a decent photographic experience is not one I would choose but I understand why people do

Tech Radar has a very useful review of the CSC cameras available and has ranked these as the best of 2017

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Best CSC Cameras 2017

Once upon a time, keen photographers bought a DSLR – it was the established order of things. But the mirror mechanism of a DSLR is complex and noisy and adds to the weight of the camera, and that’s where the mirrorless camera, or compact system camera comes in. They keep the big sensors and interchangeable lenses of DSLR cameras but ditch the mirror to produce a smaller, lighter and simpler camera.

In fact, there are still pros and cons to both designs. If you want to find out more, read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences.  Some mirrorless cameras have a compact, rectangular body, some are styled like DSLRs with a ‘pentaprism’ on the top – though this houses an electronic viewfinder rather than the optical viewfinder you get with a DSLR.

Be aware, too, that cheaper mirrorless cameras don’t come with viewfinders at all – instead, you compose the photo on the rear screen, just as you do with a compact camera or a smartphone. (If you’re still not sure what kind of camera you need, read our easy to follow guide: What camera should I buy?)

No two photographers are exactly the same – we’re all looking for slightly different things, so we’ve ranked the 10 best compact system cameras you can buy right now based not just on specs, handling and performance, but size, simplicity and value for money too.

The 10 best mid-range DSLRs in 2017

You have been into your photography for some time. You know the way you can control your images, you understand aperture and shutter and ISO, you you don’t save your money and go to our post on entry level cameras for 2017 and take a course. But if you are ready to take a step up then a new camera might be the lift you need away from your first entry level dslr. A mid range DSLR will be heavier, it will feel more solid and will put up with more use and punishment, It will have more sophisticated controls and offer you less help in taking pictures as the assumption is you don’t need the help as you are more advanced as a photographer.

Tech Radar is an excellent site that reviews equipment and here you will find their recommendations for 2017

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Best Mid range or enthusiasts DSLR cameras 2017

Mid-range enthusiast DSLRs offer more power, robustness and control than typical entry-level DSLR models. They’re great for shooting tricky subjects like sports or wildlife, thanks to having faster continuous shooting rates and more often than not, superior autofocus systems that features advanced tracking modes. Many also add weatherproofing for extra robustness and peace of mind.

Although enthusiast DSLRs don’t tend to offer more megapixels than their entry-level siblings, you’ll often get an increased ISO sensitivity range to help with low light shooting. While most enthusiast DSLRs are based around APS-C sized sensors, some models sport larger full-frame chips that are normally the preserve of pro-spec models. If you’re not quite sure what advantages shooting with a full-frame sensor brings, you can check out our guide to sensor sizes

But just because these DSLRs are intended for enthusiast photographers, that doesn’t make them intimidating to shoot with. The additional controls positioned on the camera body can actually improve their ease of use, allowing you to access key settings quickly, without the need to dive into a menu regularly. Don’t worry though, most still include an automatic mode that’ll take care of everything for you if you want to learn as you shoot.

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Canon 7D

Best Entry Level DSLR Camera 2017

If you don’t know what sort of camera you should buy this post will help you 

An entry-level camera is one that is surprisingly good and better than most of it’s owners at making great pictures. I often say to people that if they don’t like their pictures it is unlikely to be the cameras fault. I sometimes have people say they have bought a better camera than they need so that it will last. A DSLR is digital so it will not last, it will be superseded every year, just like your phone or your laptop so buying something better now and hoping it will still please you in 10 years is a mistake. If you are looking for a decent camera to get started with one of these would be more than suitable.

Spend less money on your camera and buy a course from us and you will be set up as a photographer

Tech Radar is always a good place to start your investigations into what camera you need to buy

Entry Level DSLR Cameras

If you’ve outgrown your point-and-shoot camera or are no longer satisfied with the snaps you get from your smartphone, and feel like you’re ready to take your photography to the next level, then an entry-level DSLR is the most obvious choice. 

Entry-level DSLRs deliver a big step up in image quality from a compact camera or smartphone, offering far more manual control and the ability to change lenses to tackle a huge variety of projects. Don’t worry though – there are also a host of auto modes to help you out until you’re comfortable with the more creative controls.

Obviously, the more features you want, the more you’ll pay, but do you actually need them? Our top camera is one of the cheapest on the market, but still offers impressive performance and image quality, plus enough features to handle most assignments, especially if you’re still learning.

Photography Awards and Competitions

It is said this is the season to be merry, I know, whoever said that was mistaken, but it seems to me this is the season to be inundated with the outcome of photography competitions and awards. In the past I have produced separate posts on each but I have decided to roll them into one this time as it does all get a bit boring otherwise.

Landscape photographer of the Year

Travel Photographer of the Year

Sony World Photography Awards

Nature Photographer of the Year National Geographic

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Magnum Photography Awards

International Garden Photographer of the Year

Photographer of The Year Panoawards

Taylor Wessing Portrait Photography Award

Urban Photography Awards

This one is always a winner

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Henri Cartier Bresson – Sunday on the banks of the River Marne 1938

 

 

 

Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize

It is that time of year again when the various organisations hand out prizes for ‘best ofs’. I am rather conflicted by the whole process of photographic, or in fact any creative activity, held up to competition. I am never sure what wins is worthy nor that the winners are understood as the photographer intended. Many of these photography competitions stretch the idea of photography such that images grabbed from Google Streetview have been awarded prizes in the past. However, I can also accept that competition can push some photographers to achieve much better and that is to be lauded

The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize is one that always provides much room for debate about the value of the winning entries. Once all you needed was a redheaded subject holding an animal, this year the portrait that one third prize is of an android.

This is the overall winner and many would argue that it is deserved.

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Amadou Sumaila photographed by César Dezfuli, 20 nautical miles off the Libyan coast – this year’s winning portrait. Photograph: César Dezfuli/NPG

Sean O’Hagan in The Guardian, always a reliable critic says:

handful of politicians, several refugees, various awkward adolescents, two skinheads, the inevitable young girl holding a furry animal and, breaking with tradition, an android – it’s the Taylor Wessing time of year again

This year’s photographic portrait prize, the first to allow digital submissions as well as prints, draws 59 images from 5,717 entries. As a show, it hangs together pretty well, not always the case in the past. The overall standard seems higher, there are fewer celebrities – always a good thing – and most of the portraits of refugees and asylum-seekers tend towards the intimate rather than the concerned.

The exhibition he mentions is at the NPG

16 November 2017 to 8 February 2018

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is the leading international photographic portrait competition, celebrating and promoting the very best in contemporary portrait photography. 

The Prize has established a reputation for creativity and excellence, with works submitted by a range of photographers, from leading professionals to talented amateurs and the most exciting emerging artists.

The selected images, many of which will be on display for the first time, explore both traditional and contemporary approaches to the photographic portrait whilst capturing a range of characters, moods and locations. The exhibition of fifty-nine works features all of the prestigious prize winners including the winner of the £15,000 first prize.

Second Prize Winner

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Intimately powerful … Fleeing Mosul from the series Women in War: Life After Isis by Abbie Trayler-Smith. Photograph: Abbie Trayler-Smith/NPG

Third Prize Winner

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Maija Tammi’s portrait of the android Erica. Photograph: Maija Tammi/NPG

All the major papers and photographic sources have reviews on this, take your pick

The Telegraph

The Guardian

Metro

The Arts Desk

BBC

Independent

 

Communication Through Photography

There is a subject area I have been talking about, well moaning about for a number of years. It has mostly become an itch to me since the digital revolution and the omnipresence of photography and images in general. My concerns lie in the area that we are all constantly being asked to understand a situation or event through images.www.photographersworkshop.co.uk

This is a picture I took in Damascus in 2009 just before the wars started. Is it a political rally, some sort of militia? Go to the end of this article to find out

How often do we see at the end of an article on a news site “Are you There? send us your pictures” I see two problems with this, the first that most people have never been schooled in understanding images, how to read them and, secondly,  more importantly how they may be presented to us from a biased point of view. When we read an article in a newspaper we understand that the newspaper has it’s own bias, political, social or environmental, we understand through the language used that we are being led in a certain direction. Read the same story in The Guardian and The Mail and you instantly recognise what I am saying. See this advert from The Guardian from 2007 and understand what I mean. But with images it is a different matter. Most people do not have the skills to dissect the image and so take what is shown at face value, but that is not always the correct interpretation. I think we should be taught how to read images as much as we are taught how to read words if we are going to be expected to navigate our worlds only by images.

This article by Federico Alegria  is very interesting and covers this and much more, it looks at this understanding of images from the perspective of a photographer who wants to do more than merely record. It is, of course, the basis of my Composition In Photography Course and the more advanced Intermediate Photography Course

Federico Alegria  writes: Jim Casper said, “The language of photography continues to get more interesting and more complex as it becomes the most universal medium of communication worldwide.” This may be the most compelling statement about photography I’ve read this year.

Etymologically, photography means not so much “drawing with light”, but “writing with light”. Casper’s insight then shouldn’t surprise you. We are constantly writing, every day, from emails, SMS and messages through social media, to papers and other documents that might be more complex in terms of their language, style, and audience.

So ask yourself, when you are presented with an image and expected to understand what it is trying to say are you sufficiently skilled to do so, and if not are you being led by a biased presenter?

The parade was an Easter parade in Damascus, in a city where different religions co-existed before 2010. Here are some more images from the same joyful event

 

 

 

How do photographers earn a living.

I found this is my draft posts, so although it was from a while ago I am sure you will enjoy it.

I received this email over the weekend and have forwarded it to a number of photographers, their responses are unprintable. This is for real, it is not a joke

To Whom It May Concern, 

I am contacting you, on behalf of a wonderful friend, regarding an unusual and exciting opportunity. 

Janet and her partner John are getting married in mid July, and have, very unfortunately, been hugely let down by their photographer at the very last minute. 

Janet and John are making their commitment at the Registry Office, at 11am, and then celebrating with friends and family at The pub, in Witney afterwards.

Therefore, a photographer would be required to attend and photograph the happy couple, preferably, from 11am until approximately 2pm

In exchange, the photographer would be welcome to use the photographs as they wish, for experience, a personal project or to extend their portfolio. 

As you can imagine, this is not something that this couple expected to be hoping for at this point, but they are such wonderful people, if there is anything one of your members would be in a position to offer, we would hugely appreciate it. 

Thank you so much.

Names have been changed to protect the anything but innocent

Have a look at this video, it will explain how photographers are often treated by prospective clients.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY