In this blog post we will be evaluating my first assignment for the second year of my photography diploma. This was my first second year brief which has been on location and it asked us to create and present our images in a magazine/editorial design. It also required us to produce research on photographers and magazines to gain a design insight. Once I fully understood the outcome of the brief, I found this assignment interesting and very challenging.
Research was a very crucial part of this assignment, it gave us insight into what kind of pictures we wanted to take and how we would present them. I decided to start with researching the concept of Location Photography. Not that I wasn’t unfamiliar of Location Photography, but I wasn’t aware of the legal constraints when shooting on location, and where the confusion sets in with the police with shooting on location. As I discovered through my research, the police can only arrest Photographers who are trespassing when shooting on location, or when they are purposefully harassing someone with taking images when consent has been declined and have been asked to stop. As stated by the London Metropolitan Police Service, Photography Advice “Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.” Reference
In my research, I focussed on Location Photography based around Street Photography, I was captivated with the different styles that Photographers had when shooting the human condition. Whether it is right or wrong to exploit other humans to create these images is for another matter, but, something about Street Photography is unmistakably human and personal to everyone.
I also found that the equipment used within Street Photography can range from what camera you use and if you forgo the use of a tripod. Nowadays, you have to main choices for your camera on the street digital or traditional film. Some photographers still shoot street photography on film because the cameras are compact and blend into the scene, whereas digital cameras only in the recent years have been able to fit a full frame digital sensor into a relatively small-bodied camera.
Some street photographers prefer to move around the subject un-noticed, allowing them to achieve photographs that don’t look staged and purely natural. In the end, street photographers use all sorts of equipment that suits them. Choosing your equipment based on the practicalities of equipment doesn’t mean you will get a better image.
I looked at different street/documentary photographers; Tom Wood, Trent Parke, Paul Reas and Joel Meyerowitz. Each photographer has their own style of Street Photography from the blunt and natural approach of Paul Reas to the conceptual and enigma ridden photos from Trent Parke. Tom Wood’s photographs were helpful as they documented Liverpool between 1978 and 2001. Whilst Joel Meyerowitz’s photos of the transition from black and white to colour are iconic and monumental within the history of Photography.
When researching for presentation ideas, I looked at a variety of magazine front covers from Vogue, Life, Traveller and Real Travel. These are all different types of magazines, and I wanted to see what works for their front covers, and how I should design mine. Vogue and Life tended to use full bleed images for the front cover with text around it, whilst Time and the two travel magazines incorporated some type of border. I preferred Life and Times design approaches as they were much cleaner than the travel magazines. However, the Vogue front cover was well designed it just had a lot of text on the image, but it was aligned to fit onto the image’s negative space; this allows Vogue to advertise a lot of the articles within the current issue. I preferred the Time and Life’s approach which was to put the most important articles on the front and leave the rest to be discovered by the reader.
For this location assignment, we had to shoot three location shoots one in Northwich and two within Liverpool. The first shoot we did was in Northwich which enabled us to get an idea on what we would like to shoot in Liverpool. The shoot for Northwich was alright but due to the weather being overcast they sky in the images makes Northwich look dreary. It also didn’t help that Northwich was having major construction work done, thinking back it might have been interesting to have gotten some shots of the construction work up close. I should have also done some research on Northwich as I was made aware after the shoot that there would be an Artisan Market held within Northwich. This would have given me much more interesting shots of Northwich and would have helped me with shooting images of people.
Between the two shoots of Liverpool I believe I got some acceptable images, however on reflect I still having a long way to before shooting comfortably and confidently out on location. For the first shoot I used my full-frame Sony Alpha A7 with a 50mm f/1.8 that is designed for crop sensor, which meant I was actually shooting at 70mm. The shoot wasn’t a great success I felt my images from the shoot lacked a consistent vision of themes I had set out to explore. Most of the images had compositions that were too “tight”, and meant I should have been further back to get the image I wanted to capture. I also wasn’t very confident in taking the image and would shy away resulting in wasted opportunity (there were too many pictures of the backs of people rather than their faces. In hindsight I should have used a lens designed for the Alpha A7 or a wider angle lens.
The second shoot of Liverpool went a lot better than the first. I was more confident at taking pictures of people from the front rather than of their backs. For this shoot I used two cameras, alongside my full-frame Alpha A7, I used a Sony NEX 7 (APS-C crop factor). The Sony Alpha A7 had a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens that would take advantage of the full sensor, while the Sony NEX 7 had a 20mm f/2.8 prime/wide angle lens. This allowed me to capture a variety of images with different perspectives and angles. The weather for this shoot was a lot better than the first shoot, which was quite overcast while it did rain occasionally, it gave way to sunlight. I explored a larger area of Liverpool on this shoot giving me a better chance of capturing images of the Liverpool residents.
If there is anything I from these experiences while shooting in Liverpool apart from becoming more confident when shooting on location. I will need to get better at understanding focussing distance to be able to decide on the focus without having to continuously check.
While working with images in Photoshop I found that I encountered compatibility problems with the college computers and my own computer at first, while trying to work with files from either camera. I was able to rectify this on my computer to some degree, I still had some issues with Photoshop being able to open the files automatically. At college I had less success as I would have to get the technicians to manually update each computer. There is a current work around by using the Adobe DNG converter however this can create issues with the thumbnail/preview of each image. DNG files do work better with Camera RAW than the current support for the Sony RAW files which kept making editing slightly irritating.
Apart from the slight inconveniences and compatibility issues, the editing stage went very well. For this assignment I didn’t want to edit my images for the magazine too much unless I needed to correct the exposure or for the images that were being used in the second article editorial image. I found that I needed to edit the images from the Sony NEX 7 more than I did from the Alpha A7. This was the first time I had used Adobe Camera RAW for an extended period of time and got to grip with a lot of the features that it has to offer such as the lens correction tools, which can dramatically improve an image if you were to have used a poor quality lens. Rating images in Adobe Bridge is also a great way to help sort through images to use and to discard. This will become an important tool for when dealing with lots of images and trying to sift through for the right image.
Once all my images were edited and constructed, I moved over to Adobe InDesign to create the magazine spread. Since I have used InDesign for other projects this was a joy to construct within InDesign. I set up A3 pages with 4 columns to help me show the double page spread on one A3 sheet. I decided to create two articles based on the two themes I had focused on while shooting in Liverpool. So I designed my magazine to be called Cities and each issue to focus on one city.
For the final presentation of the magazine, I wanted to create editorial images for each article I made up. I wanted to use Trent Parke’s style to create these captivating images. For the first article that was based around the architecture of Liverpool and I don’t think my opening image captivates that well. However, I believe the image for the second article (the basic photo-montage) based on the people of Liverpool, is on the right lines, but does not fully execute the idea well. The concept behind some of the images with the selective colour was to introduce the idea of the changing modern culture and how much more open it is. I also wanted to show a variety of shots of different people to emphasis the variety of people that live in Liverpool.
This was my first assignment for the second year, and I believe that I have produced a satisfactory amount of work for this brief. I have learned that there is still a lot more to learn and I’m very excited for the challenges that this year will bring. But there are some important lessons to learn from this assignment. Like all shoots a photographer undertakes planning and research are a key to making a shoot a success. This allows the photographer to overcome and create contingency plans in case something goes wrong. When shooting on location, you have to be confident on what you are shooting and should know your rights, but that also means if you are shooting on private property to always ensure that you have permission to capture images on that location. When creating a digital workflow, ensure all components work to ensure that you have no trouble with editing images or importing them onto a computer.