Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

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


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.


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


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.


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


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

2400 (1)

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


The Arts Desk





I like DIY Photography as a site, it covers a range of topic areas, some techniques, some equipment some more esoteric, it is a place I regularly return to.

This article reminded me of one of the photographers on my Intermediate Photography Course a year or so ago. Darren Bickell, if you are still out there I hope you are photographing and making great images still.

©Darren Bickell 3

©Darren Bickell

If you want to learn how to make images like Darren go here

Darren Bickell 10

©Darren Bickell

Darren Bickell 9

©Darren Bickell

Darren Bickell 4

©Darren Bickell

Darren Bickell 2

©Darren Bickell

from DIY Photography:

There’s something special about photos of water droplets. I personally like the element of surprise, because you can’t predict the exact shape you’re going to get. You can create fantastic photos using only water and some color, and photographer Adam Karnacz shares an in-depth tutorial for making them. He’ll guide you through all the steps, from setup to printing your final work. So, watch his video to learn what you’ll need and how to approach this interesting area of photography



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.


The Why and How of Gregory Crewdson

When I went to see the Gregory Crewdson exhibition in London earlier in the summer, it was the opening day and I had a strange experience. I went with my friend David and we were looking at these fantastic images and I was trying to explain to David how I understood Gregory worked and the use of symbolism and atmosphere in the pictures. I was eulogising the work and the man, I think he is a genius. Then as I was explaining a man started to invade our space, he was in a suit but creatively scruffy, long hair and with a friend following. You know how it is at exhibitions, you sort of want the space to yourself and as I was in full flow was a touch put out by the intrusion.


Gregory Crewdson The Haircut, 2014 © Gregory Crewdson

We moved on the next picture and in a short while here was the man again, more lacking in exhibition etiquette I thought in my very British way. The man and his companion had moved to the 3rd picture on the wall so David and I hopped to the 4th. I was leaning in close to admire the exquisite detail in one of the images when they appeared again, the companion leaned in and pointed to exactly where I was looking and turned to the man and said, “That is so beautiful, you are so clever”

I had been irritated by the presence of a master, how stupid of me. I didn’t say hello, a bit embarrassed but I wish I had now.

Yesterday I found this film on YouTube where Gregory talks about his process and motivations and intentions, I so wish I had head it from him in person. The 30 minute film shows him orchestrating the actors, environment and atmosphere to capture the remarkable images he makes.

This is such a brilliant 30 minutes I would really recommend you watch

If I had seen this first I would have recognised him and maybe not have made a fool of myself by explaining to the master his works!

The great man at work

Sadly the exhibition of his recent work Cathedral of the Pines has now ended at the Photographers Gallery

Wim Wenders on his Polaroids – and why photography is now over

Wenders, too, now regards photography as a thing of the past. “It’s not just the meaning of the image that has changed – the act of looking does not have the same meaning. Now, it’s about showing, sending and maybe remembering. It is no longer essentially about the image. The image for me was always linked to the idea of uniqueness, to a frame and to composition. You produced something that was, in itself, a singular moment. As such, it had a certain sacredness. That whole notion is gone.”

The article in The Guardian is not one that will explain to you in detail why photography is now over, it is more the sense that for Wenders it left him behind when he gave his Polaroid camera to Patti Smith. The article is littered with the sounds of names crashing to the floor when dropped.

Why the Photographers Gallery would be bothered with showing pictures by someone who never thought of themselves as a photographer is beyond me. However, what do I know, I am sure all those names littering the floor and on the wall in the 3″ x 3″ white iconic frames will be enough to have hordes of people wanting to visit and buy a book or a postcard

If you want to read the article it is here


Heinz, 1973, by Wim Wenders Photograph: © Wim Wenders


Ephemera … Campbell Soups, New York, 1972. Photograph: © Wim Wenders


‘They were made from the gut’ … Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977, by Wim Wenders. Photograph: © Wim Wenders/Courtesy Deutsches Filminstitut Frankfurt


Swapper – David Hurn Magnum Photographer

I chanced upon this on the BBC website. It is one of the most interesting articles I have ever read about the method and process of being a photographer. Hurn, one of the masters of documentary photography (although that sells him short as his work covered a far greater range) tells the story of how and why he became a photographer, his influences, mentors, and methods. I loved that he would find out when famous photographers were coming to the UK and then offer himself as a driver, guide and assistant. Or that he would find out where photographers he admired lived and would knock on their door and just introduce himself. This is an article you MUST read. It is long and full of images so give yourself time, you will be rewarded.

The Swapper is a story about the internationally-acclaimed British documentary photographer David Hurn; it is a story of a dyslexic, Welsh schoolboy written off as being “a bit thick” and an extraordinary “succession of bizarre coincidences” which would propel him into the ranks of photography’s elite.

A fixture of Sixties London and the Hollywood inner sanctum, his images of Jane Fonda as Barbarella, Sean Connery as James Bond, and the Beatles on the set of A Hard Day’s Night, became icons of the 20th Century.

But they are mere window dressing on a body of work so influential that recognition by him is now regarded as something of an anointing of careers.



David Hurn, the iconic Bond Imagehim is now regarded as something of an anointing of careers.


David Hurn is a luminary of Magnum Photos.

Magnum is the stuff of legends. Being invited to join its hallowed ranks – there are only 62 working members in the world – is notoriously difficult; think of it as a kind of SAS, Harvard, an Olympics gold medal of photography.

“I saw a pattern in how all the most respected photographers approached their work,” Hurn said, “and I believed that these basic principles could be passed onto aspiring youngsters.”

Hurn’s interest was encouraged and he set up the School of Documentary Photography at the Newport College of Art. It would become one of the most sought after courses in the UK and beyond.

The course was run with Hurn’s characteristic pragmatic approach.

There was to be no philosophical navel-gazing about ‘truth’ or the ‘theory of light’, it was about being on time, wearing good shoes – “If you’re walking around for hours taking pictures, you need them” – analysing the contact sheets of successful photographers – “It’s the best way to see how they think” – and, most importantly of all, getting a job.

“It was unbelievable,” Hurn says. “We used to have about 700 applicants for 15 to 20 places.


Jnr Wales ballroom dance championships, Bargoed 1973, Hurn


Pit pony handlers’ rest room, Neath Valley, 1993, Hurn

Book mark this link and go and read this wonderful story