Digital Photographic Practice Conclusion

So, as my work on the Digital Photographic Practice module draws to a close, I can safely say that this has been the most enjoyable body of work I have completed so far with the OCA.  Don’t get me wrong, it has been hard going and very technical at times, and my old ‘grey-matter’ has seen its biggest learning curve since leaving school, but I do think it has been worth it – I have come a long way …

During part one we looked at histograms and after much work on my part, the penny finally dropped; I use the histogram function on my camera quiet often now, especially when it is difficult to see my image’s representation on the LCD screen.  This topic also tied in with colour management and tonal range of both our camera and of a scene.

It was part one of this module that made me scrutinise my own personal workflow, therefore leading to the biggest single change to my work ethic, as I was introduced too and started working with Photoshop.  This initial introduction only covered editing properties in the sense of deciding what should and should not stay within a batch of images, but I was converted – the post-processing cynic using and enjoying a programme created by Adobe, wonders will never cease.

In part two, we continued to look at the fundamentals of digital imagery, discussing linear capture and the differences between what our camera sees vs. what our eyes see when looking at a scene.  We also looked at digital noise, dynamic range and white balance/overall colour in our images.

My journey with both my digital workflow and Photoshop continued, as I started to play with digital manipulation more and more; it was around this point that I started to question myself and to question the ethics surrounding post-processing within digital photography.

Next we moved on to look at RAW, and it was here I began to appreciate why I use this medium when taking photos.  In the past I just used RAW because it seemed the right thing to do, but know I can see that there are endless opportunities available to me when working with this raw, unprocessed image data.

We looked in detail at optimising tone and colour during this module, which lead nicely into a comprehensive look at Monochrome.  I have always appreciated black and white photography, but never really understood the best practice in achieving good B&W images, until now, as I now know that the key lies in tones, textures and compositional representation.  As I worked through the black and white exercises, I actually came to appreciate colour even more; having spent many weeks thinking in black and white, I came to realise that it is actually colour and combinations of colour that make good mono photographs, as those colours convert into great tones, and tonal range is the fundamental base for black and white imagery.

When I initially set out with DPP, image processing was something I looked forward to with anticipation, and as each section started to teach me the workings of my chosen enhancement software, it took away some of the fears I had been feeling in using computers to make changes to my work.  I also came to realise that it is okay to manipulate images, as long as the manipulation is controlled and not taken out of context.

Part four of this module was titled Reality and Intervention, quiet fitting as here we looked at many of the digital practices available in post-processing, we also had to ask ourselves how we felt about the ethics behind image manipulation.

It was while asking myself about digital manipulation that I came to realise how selective I am about my likes and dislikes surrounding the subject.  I personally have no quarrel with changing exposure, colour balance or other small areas within my images; these changes are often necessary, due to the inaccuracies of my camera, or due to my misjudgement of settings at the time of shooting.  However, my concerns lie with those images that have been over processed and passed off as ‘original, out of camera’ photos.  Images where models have been altered or scenes processed with overly gaudy colours, these kinds of manipulation are not my cup of tea and something I hope to steer clear of in the future.

Assignment four was great fun, and really went against all of my ethical beliefs, but as it was obvious that my image had been manipulated, I actually had no major issue with the final body of work – and I think if an author is honest about his or her work, then manipulation can also be forgiven!

Finally, the last part of this module tied up our studies and covered a few incidentals that warranted a mention and thought within our work.

We started of by tying up our workflow and looking at the management of backing up and saving our work.  Back at the beginning of the module I had looked into (and documented) this and arranged my post-processing to include backing up my files.  I continue to do this today, and plan to add an additional step to this when I back-up of my work from the year onto an external hard drive that will be kept locked away safely from my computer.

One thing I found at the end of the module is something I wish I had found at the beginning and that is image sharpening, or more specifically the un-sharp mask filter.  What a difference this filter makes to ones work, to a point that I now include it at the end of my digital workflow; I can see a vast improvement in the final images I produce.  I have recently had 5 of my favourite images from 2013 printed and when looking at these prints for the first time, I was quiet speechless at the quality of the work.  The application of the un-sharp mask makes such a difference to the prints you really have to see it to believe it.

So, there you have it, an abridged version of the Digital Photographic Practice module.  When I studied The Art of Photography I really learnt and understood how to take good photos, I saw a vast improvement in both my photographic knowledge and in the images I was capturing.  During this module I have begun to understand and appreciate the digital side of photography, I have only really scratched the surface and am looking forward to learning more about digital photographic practices.  I have once again seen a vast improvement in my photography, as my images are beginning to take on more shape; perhaps I am finally finding my photographic voice, we will have to see what the next module brings …

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ASSIGNMENT 5: A Personal Project – Tutor Feedback

This morning, when opening my email, I found my tutor’s feedback from Assignment 5.  This document can be found under the Tutor Feedback tab of this site, under the heading Assignment Five: A Personal Project.

I have been feeling quiet apprehensive about this; assignment five is the biggest assignment I have completed to date, where I have conducted the most amount of research and seen the biggest change of direction within my photography.  It appears that this assignment has been well received, and the work I conducted has paid off; I am sitting here with quiet a large grin on my face.

My tutor has made two significant comments.

The first surrounds three of the images discarded from the assignment:



I called the first image shoes; I really do like this photo, in fact it was one of the first scenarios I had when deciding on what I wanted to capture for the assignment.

My reason for discarding this image, I preferred the juxtaposition of Watching You and I thought that by including both would show too many images of the same ilk.  My tutor said of this image:

Shoes – again this shows the connection between what happens at the temples and the everyday occurrence that this becomes.  I love the abundance and variety of shoes left discarded in this space.

And I must say that I agree 100% with her statement. 

The second image is titled A Walkers Rest.

A Walkers Rest

A Walkers Rest

Here my tutor mentions that the image gives the impression of a park, which may be why I discarded it, and in hindsight that probably is why this was one of the images I decided to let go from the original offering.

There really is nothing wrong with the shot, it is well composed and fits within the contemporary theme of the assignment, but when compared to the other images included in this body of work, it feels a little flat and worth too much explanation to be included as one of the final fourteen.

The final image my tutor liked from my discarded batch was this one of a simple temple alter that I stumbled upon by chance while researching this assignment.

Temple Alter

Temple Alter

Built into the side of the mountain, around a natural source of water, this temple is a pure gem and somewhere I could visit time and again.

I imagine that this place is very old and that the modern buildings sharing this Temple site have grown up and around the cave over many years.


This has a fair amount of significance, has been captured in nice detail and may be worth including.

Perhaps I should have included this image as my first image of the assignment, but as it is of a Shrine’s alter over an effigy of The Buddha I decided against its inclusion, but felt that it needed mention in my assignment due to the significance of it being a simple dwelling where one can practice ones faith over the more grandiose structures more commonly seen within Buddhism today.

As mentioned, these images were not discarded because I did not like them, but because I felt that the fourteen I chose were more significant to the assignment.  Having only a limited amount of images to be included in our work, I often struggle making a choice of what stays and what goes and this is why I include a disregarded images section at the end of my submission, so that the shots are still displayed and receive the viewing I feel they deserve.

In her summary, my tutor also mentioned that to build on the work contained within my learning log, I should include a commentary on the relevant practitioners that influenced my assignment theme.  I therefore need to go away and conduct a little more research on the likes of Day and Goldin and to understand why their work stood out for me.

So, once again I have received positive feedback against my work and I seem to understand contemporary photography far more than I realised.  Now it is time to put this hard work to practice and to continue growing within my photography.

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Favourite Photo’s of 2013

With DPP finished and time marching on towards the end of 2013, I have been tidying up and going through all of the work I have done over the past year.

Looking at my images, I can see a vast improvement in my photography; this seemed to happen around the middle of the year.  I am not exactly sure what happened, or why this change occurred, but I am much happier with the work completed in the later part of the year over the work conducted at the beginning of the year.

Perhaps this can be put down to my studying and the fact that I seem to be looking for something different in my photography now; I am not just content in taking photos anymore, but I have started looking for different angles, including mini stories in the frame, and just trying to achieve something a little different from what I have done before.

I am planning to take a little break from my studies, but will return to the books next year and look at the module called People and Place.  I have mixed feelings about this, but hope to continue seeing improvements in my work.

You can find my 30 favourite images from 2013 in the Photo’s I have taken tab above, and my top five below …

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Assignment 5 has been completed and sent to my tutor for assessment.  If you would like to see what has been taking up most of my time over the past few weeks, please go to the Assignment tab at the top of this page, my work can be found under the Assignment 5: A Personal Project page.

I would be interested to hear your views.

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Book Review

Over the past year, I have used many publications to assist with my learning during the Digital Photographic Practice module. I have outlined the most relevant of these below:

Michael Freeman – The Digital SLR Handbook

The Digital SLR Handbook

The Digital SLR Handbook

To get the best out of a digital image, and to use the full possibilities that a digital SLR offers, there is a great deal to learn – particularly if you’re new to photography, upgrading from a compact point-and-shoot camera, or even finally taking the leap from conventional film to the digital world

Freeman (2011 p.9)

This book was part of the essential reading list for DPP and I admit that it has been my bible, I often find myself dipping in and out of the contents.

It appears that Photography 1: Digital Photographic Practice was written from this manuscript, as it flows in the same way as our coursework and covers everything we have looked at during the module, plus a little bit more.

Including this title, I have four books by Freeman. I like the way he writes, it is basic, logical and easy to understand; this particular book deals with everything outside of taking photos; explaining how our cameras sensor works, discussing file format and how best to profile our equipment. There is an interesting section on workflow that ties in nicely with the writings of Steinmueller and Gulbins, and also a comprehensive section surrounding image editing, which I admit to not reading in as much detail as the digital capture section at the beginning of the book. I still have much to learn from this book and hope to look at the section on delivery in the near future.

Charlotte Cotton – The Photograph as contemporary art

The Photograph as Contemporary Art

The Photograph as Contemporary Art

From conceptual art’s use of the banal and ‘artless’ snapshot to the carefully constructed tableaux of Jeff Wall, this book considers the full range of ways that today’s artists engage with photography to make art.

Cotton (2012 p.250)

As per the recommended reading list for this course, as well as on the recommendation of my tutor, I finally picked up my copy of Charlotte Cotton’s “The Photograph as Contemporary Art” before embarking on Assignment 5. I had struggled to read this book in the past, but I am finding it a little easier to digest now, perhaps that is because I have a better understanding for photography?

I actually find this a strange book, and difficult to get to grips with, it comes across as very old fashioned and in relative terms it is; with original publication back in 2004, it has been on the market for almost 10-years. My edition was published in 2009 (reprinted in 2012) and boasts a new chapter ‘emphasising the physical and material properties of photography’, but in photography terms this title is still old, five years can be a lifetime for some photographers.

Most of the images contained within its pages are as the quote above states ‘banal and artless snapshots’, and in my mind harper back to the age of the Olympus Trip or Cannon Snappy camera; when film photography was king and most images taken by the untrained and often uninterested masses.

Having now read most of this book, I have come to realise that I have very little interest in contemporary photography, especially as illustrated in the 250 pages of this book. During my research for Assignment 5, I came to understand the meaning of contemporary art and in turn contemporary photography; this kind of art is socially conscious, with its roots firmly grounded in the depiction of issues otherwise shunned by the world. Personally, images of drug addiction, lurid sexual activity and people sitting on the loo do not appeal to me, perhaps I like looking at the nicer side of life?

Yes, I understand that my own photography is contemporary (Art that has been and continues to be created during our lifetime), but personally, I do not feel the need or desire to photograph such dire situations. Yes, there is a place for this kind or imagery in the world, but please let someone else be responsible, this is just not the kind of work I am looking to achieve. However, that said, I see why this publication was included in our essential reading list for DPP; I appreciate the groundwork and thought processes taken by the authors to produce these bodies of work and the obvious conviction or ‘voice’ of each photographer. Perhaps there was a better example that could have made the list?

I am glad that I picked up this book and I am sure that this publication will continue to play a big role in my learning. If nothing else, it has taught me about the kind of photography I like, and what imagery dose not appeal to my taste, but I really should not write these artists off completely, as these photographers really are artists and have a conviction, voice and imagination for creativity, something I currently struggle with in my work.

Michael Freeman – Mastering Digital Photography

Mastering Digital Photography

Mastering Digital Photography

Digital cameras have taken photography in new directions, many of them exciting, some of them less certain. One of the most obvious is the instant feedback and near-immediate availability of the images, which in theory allows you to chart and improve your creative and technical progress.

Freeman (2008 p.7)

The Digital SLR Handbook (as covered above) looks behind the scenes of photo taking, while this book, Mastering Digital Photography concentrates on the actual image detail.

Again, by Michael Freeman, and included as part of our essential reading for DPP, although personally, I could have put this book to better use during my study for The Art of Photography module last year. Even though this is a stand-alone title, this book is a great companion to the Digital SLR Handbook, with easy transition between the two.

This book covers pretty much all photographic scenarios; Colour and Black & White, Natural and Electrical Lighting, People, Still Life and Landscapes including Habitats, this book has it all – in fact, it may have too much? A colossal 640-pages, and not easily moved around as it feel like a house-brick and the soft cover makes it floppy and uncontrollable at times. Although, pretty much everything has been covered, it has not been covered in great detail; each subject has been afforded two facing pages (with the odd exception), which has left some sections. In order to add more detail, perhaps the technical chapter could have been forfeit.

That said, I love this book and enjoy flicking through the pages just to look at the images. Freeman photographs regularly in Asia, so I find inspiration from his work.

Anna Fox & Natasha Caruana – Behind the Image: Research in Photography

Behind the Image

Behind the Image

Research and exploration are vital elements of the photographer’s practice; together they form part of the process of making photographic projects. Photographers can carry out their research in many different ways, but essentially, a body of photographic work is developed through knowledge gained in exploring the medium; investigating histories and theories of photography, observing the world, reading and listening, taking part in debate, critical reflection and numerous other activities.

Fox (2012 p.6)

I first picked this book up during the second module of DPP (Digital Image Qualities), my tutor, whilst discussing my learning log, had mentioned that I needed to start conducting more research and as I was a little unsure of how to go about this, decided to purchase this book (it is also part of the essential reading list for this course). Admittedly, I have not got much further than the first chapter, but I have flicked through the book on occasion and picked up some useful tips.

What I did read, Chapter 1 Planning, helped me visualise my current workflow and gave me ideas on how to move this forward; something I continue to do with almost every photography outing I undertake. This chapter helped me gain a fundamental understanding of research, and what it very useful about this book, it is photography specific.

As with all of the books in this review, I need to revisit this title for further consultation and I will probably find use for it in the future to further aid my studies. I am not sure if I will ever conduct any of the case studies, but they are certainly an interesting read.

Liz Wells – Photography, A Critical Introduction

Photography - A Critical Introduction

Photography – A Critical Introduction

This book introduces and offers an overview of conceptual issues relating to photography and to ways of thinking about photographs. It considers the photograph as an artefact used in a range of different ways and circumstances, and photography as a set of practices, which take place in particular contexts. Thus, it is essentially about reading photographic images rather than about their making.

Liz Wells (2009 p.3)

As with Cotton’s book, I really struggled with this at first, I knew that I needed to read it from a critically reflective point of view, but from the onset, I really could not see its relevance to Digital Photographic Practices. Then I realised that the best thing for me to do was read only those chapters relevant to my current work schedule, and this is when everything clicked and I turned to the chapter discussing Photography in the age of electronic imaging.

I found this chapter interesting, especially when I wrote my post from September 6th, which discusses Digital Photography and ‘truth’, you can imagine my surprise when I found that I had lots of the same thoughts and concerns as some of the academics of the time.

Another good book, once you get into it and understanding its language. It is very academic and a bit long winded in its explanations, however, not only can you follow the subject in the main body of text, but there are also footnotes in the margins, listing further reading options and additional snippets of information. This is one of those books I would recommend your sticking with, even if initially you find it hard going, it is relevant to the objective of the OCA coursework and really makes you think things through more critically.

Peter Bauer – Photoshop CS5 for Dummies

Photoshop CS5 for Dummies

Photoshop CS5 for Dummies

Adobe Photoshop is one of the most important computer programs of our age. It’s made photo editing a commonplace thing, something for the every person. Still, Photoshop can be a scary thing (especially that first purchase price!), comprising a jungle of menus and panels and tools and options and shortcuts as well as a bewildering array of add-ons and plug-ins

Bauer (2010 p.1)

I had great expectations for this book, probably as the title indicated its apparent easy of use; I really was looking for a comprehensive but simple guide to help me master this new and daunting programme. Unfortunately, it turned out that this was not the book to help me learn Photoshop, as it is not quiet as easy to follow as the title suggests.

The books flow is not logical, in my mind anyway, and it seems to jump around all over the place. The first part covers the basics, giving little snippets of what the book will cover over the coming pages (logical), but then things seem to jumble, as discussion surrounding shadows, highlights and colour come before any discussion about Adobe Camera RAW! Then it covers fine tuning selections before layers, image combining or masks; surly you would use the selection tool once you have at least a minimum understanding for layers?

Thankfully, I have been able to bumble through Photoshop during DPP with the help of the Internet and some podcasts I found, but I am now on the look out for a better companion to this programme. As recommended by the OCA, I have purchased a copy of Martin Evening’s Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers as well as his collaboration with Jeff Schewe Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop, and although better late than never, I hope that this will make up for the downfall of the Dummies book.



Bauer, P. (2010) Photoshop® CS5 for Dummies®. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Inc.

Cotton, C. (2009) The Photograph as Contemporary Art. Revised 2nd edition. High Holborn; Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Evening, M. (2010) Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers. Oxon: Focal Press

Evening, M., Schewe, J. (2011) Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop. Oxon: Focal Press

Fox, A., Caruana, N. (2012) Basic Creative Photography; Behind the Image. Switzerland: AVA Publishing SA.

Freeman, M. (2008) Mastering Digital Photography. East Sussex: The Ilex Press Limited

Freeman, M. (2011) The Digital SLR Handbook. Revised 3rd Edition. East Sussex: The Ilex Press Limited

Wells, L, (ed.). (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction. 4th Edition. Oxon: Routledge

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