Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Assignment Five: Some post-feedback reflections & the final images

This assignment has, as mentioned above, been to my tutor and I’ve had his feedback & made a few amendments as a result.  This note is to pull together my experience and record some reflections.

·         The tutor feedback is good, with positive comments on the time and care I’ve taken to plan, make images, write up etc, plus the development that this assignment demonstrates compared with where I started out on the module.

·         There were some comments and questions for consideration.

§  He suggests, rightly, that the rationale for the ‘front-facing’ pose was probably not as fully explained in my supporting notes as it might have been.  For me, in the context of this assignment, it is about presenting my subjects to the viewer in a natural and collaborative manner that acknowledges what we are doing and their involvement in it.  My subjects look the viewer in the eye; they acknowledge that they are being viewed with their childhood possession; they present themselves openly and directly to the viewers’ gaze.  The question of ‘the pose’ is a complex one, of course.  I have done some reading on it here and there, which I’m not going to attempt to analyse here; but I did not want to go down the (what I feel is) unnatural route of asking them to look at some imaginary point off-camera.  Why would they be doing that with these objects in their hands?  Creating a sort of ‘narrative’ was one option that I considered – have them pose as if preoccupied with the object in some way.  On the one hand, that would, I believe, have been harder for the subjects to achieve successfully, but more importantly, we are then, as viewers, seeming to observe them occupied in some task, absorbed in their activity, when we all know, in the context of this project, that they are posing for a photograph.  Of course, these images are, in the end, no more honest or real than any others, but they do at least, to my mind, present open collaboration and involvement, which adds a ‘layer of reality’ to the outcome that makes them more accessible to the viewer.

§  Another, related factor, again raised quite rightly by my tutor, is that some of my subjects don’t look entirely comfortable in front of the camera.  Since the brief I was working to suggested that these images were to be used in the context of a promotional campaign by a children’s charity, might that slight air of discomfiture work against the objectives of the campaign.  I think that the truth is that it might indeed have that effect.  I don’t suppose I’m the first person to have become more interested in capturing something about my subjects than in perfectly fulfilling the brief.  In a commercial context, that would have been a dangerous route to go; but hopefully, in the context of a creative arts course, the exploration of something subtle in these subjects’ character through my portraits is a little more acceptable.

§  There were some technical comments, notably that I might need to consider some slight adjustments to the skin tones in some of the images – again, valid points that I have taken on board.

§  My tutor agreed that the landscape format works better than the portrait format, with text below the image.  Consequently, I have changed them all to that arrangement.  I think it evens the balance between the image and the text.  Text placed below felt too much like a caption, a subsidiary add-on; and moving the eye up and down between image and text feels less comfortable than the natural side to side moves that we make, when reading a book, for example.  I have also looked at the font and its size.  This is an area where one might seek design input if following the project through; but I’ve chosen to keep it simple for now – though I have changed from Arial to Tahoma and reduced the font size a little.

The final versions are here.

·         One thing my tutor commented on that has also been in my mind is the size and resolution on these images in the context they would be used if this were a real advertising campaign.  The original 10 megapixel D80 images, cropped to this square format, would not be good enough, I suspect, for a large poster campaign, for example.  I have experimented with one of them at A3, which works fine, but I suspect going much beyond that would be difficult – and one of the images was quite a tight crop from the original – something I had already acknowledged in my notes.  Clearly, in a true commercial assignment, one might be using medium format or some other higher resolution equipment.
So, looking back, what have I got out of this assignment?
·         A much better understanding of, and confidence with, some basic principles in makig portrait images with photography;
·         A small set of images that demonstrate I can take a concept; research, plan, prepare, execute, and follow through to a conclusion that hangs together as apersonal expression/exploration of that concept;
·         A starting point for something that I can continue to explore;
·         Some further sound practice in processing images and photo-editing; these are nowhere near perfect but I’ve done things in the context of this assignment that I could never have done before. (Need to learn more about the use of Curves in Photoshop.)
·         Some enjoyable, productive and creative interaction with people – especially my subjects, of course, to whom I’m indebted, but it has also been interesting to pick up feedback from other people – fellow students (thanks!); tutor(s) (thanks!); and then almost everyone with whom I’ve discussed the project ... it gets very positive interest from everyone.
I have only scratched the surface of people photography, and I don’t know whether or not it is something I’ll do much more of.  Certainly the first assignment of my new module, Progressing with Digital Photography - here – has no people in it at all!  So, maybe not!  But, I would like to follow through with the concept underlying this assignment so, truth is, I’d be very disappointed if I don’t end up exploring people photography quite a bit more.
Now – there’s an outcome from this module!  I would never have said that eighteen months ago when I started out!


  1. 300 ppi at s/s is the most you'll ever need; for CMYK repro in a glossy magazine.

    Of course viewing distance is a factor so 300 ppi would easily do for a 48 sheet poster.

  2. Hi Clive - didn't see this last week for some reason - apologies. One of the images above - the one of John & his two trucks - is quite a tight crop from the original shot and the question in my mind was how well would this (or indeed any) of my images work on, say, an A1 or A0 poster used on, for example, a roadshow presentation, where the viewer might be close to it. As an experiment, I've just converted that cropped image to 80cm square & 300 ppi, which might be a size used on an A0 poster. On screen (not an ideal way to view it, I know) it didn't look too bad at print size. it wouldn't have looked right as a large print for an exhibition but it might well be acceptable as a poster. As you say, viewing distance is crucial; far enough away it would be OK at any size. A 48 sheet poster sounds big!

  3. For same size repro different print methods support different ppis. 300 ppi being the tops as I said before, with inkjet you can comfortably get away with 180 ppi, for a digital C type I've found you can go down to 120 ppi at a pinch. Decaux recommend 60 ppi for 48 sheet posters.