Tutor’s Feedback: Assignment 1

Well Assignment one was a good learning for me. I got convinced that doing at least one module from level 1 was a wise decision. This is going to prepare me for Level 2 courses.

Let me come to the point, I was not happy with the assignment 1. Not because of the image quality or the workflow. The reason was my carelessness. When I started the assignment, I had planned that I would shoot around the theme “spiral stairs” and “Singapore/ MRT system in Singapore”. However I could not take the planned MRT images. When I went to the station the guard informed me that taking pictures of the MRT stations is strictly prohibited. Being in Singapore where one must abide to the rules, I did not dare taking any pictures. This is where the confusion started. I had already started preparing my write up and I DID NOT delete the 2 sentences, mentioning MRT system. This made my images out of context and weakened my assignment.

My learning from this stupidity is to be extra careful during my next assignment. The encouraging fact was, the tutor though that the illustrated workflow description was very good and I have managed to demonstrate excellent use of Adobe Lightroom with a thoughtful and logical approach to my editing and selection process.                                

Overall Comments

Dear Madhvee it is my job is to look at your work and give positive and impartial criticism and advice. In doing so I will comment upon the images and your written work. We all benefit from criticism so I hope you do not take this personally and that it encourages and informs you, providing feedback for you to develop and grow your photography.

A detailed and informative approach to this assignment Madhvee, well done. You record some excellent detail in your written work that is demonstrating a solid understanding of the importance and logic concerning a practical and efficient digital workflow. However your self-developed project / brief loses some validity and relevance with your selection of final images, explained further below.

My Comment: Thanks for your feedback. I completely understand and appreciate the motive behind your feedback. I look forward to the constructive feedback, as it only means improvement in my work. Thanks for the positive comments and pointing out the irrelevance of the assignment.

Assessment potential

“I understand that  you wish to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module.

After assignment 2 I will be in a position to advise whether I feel you are engaging sufficiently with the course to make formal assessment a viable option, based on your work submitted for this assignment and your enthusiastic approach I would imagine that this will be the case.

We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications.  Please let me know again on submission of assignment 2 whether you want to put your work forward for assessment, I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.”

Feedback on assignment

Themed project was based on Singapore and split into two topics – Spiral stairs and the Mass Rapid Transit system (MRT). You give a detailed and effective description concerning your workflow and editing process for the spiral stairs shoot. The assignment asks for between 6 and 12 images and you have submitted 11 digital images. Two of these images relate to the spiral stairs project and you demonstrate through your illustrated workflow description an excellent use of Adobe Lightroom with a thoughtful and logical approach to your editing and selection process. The other 9 submitted images, apart from one, do not really relate specifically to the MRT system but possibly imply the use of the system to travel to the photographed destinations. The one image that shows the MRT system (I think?) unfortunately does not convey information or narrative concerning the MRT, although it is a striking image. Overall I feel this weakens your assignment slightly as it loses some context based on your own project idea. Although as already mentioned you do demonstrate a sound understanding of the principles of digital workflow.

My Comment: Mention of the MRT shoot was a complete mistake on my part, hence the confusion. Earlier I had also planned to shoot on the topic of MRT. I had started to prepare the text. It completely skipped my mind to remove the reference, during the submission. The project was about the images shot around Singapore. This was a big mistake and a very good learning for me. I will try to be more careful in the future. I will also be more precise and selective with my image selection next assignment onward, as I definitely would like to go for the formal OCA assessment.

I will surely keep in mind about modifying the clarity and other sliders, and also will try to include viewing at 100% for the future blogs and assignments.  I agree with the points you have mentioned and I am already looking forward to learning more in depth about it in.

An effective digital workflow should follow certain underlying principles based on efficiency and also the ‘correct’ order in which to apply certain processing tasks. This, to some extent, should be personal to yourself and you have successfully demonstrated that you are aware of these principles and confident with the chronology of the tasks. You provide a detailed and reflective commentary which is excellent and demonstrates a logical and thoughtful approach.

You provide some detailed comments concerning the application of various Lightroom based processes to some images, such as Clarity +57, Vibrance +24, Saturation +7. When applying certain image changing processes (on exporting the image) such as Clarity it is important to be viewing the image at 100% as well as viewing at the approximate size of use for the image. Such changes may affect the structure of the image and make unwanted artifacts that will show up on printing an image. Some of this information will be covered in more detail as you progress with the module but it is worth me mentioning at this stage. Clarity and Sharpness amounts will also be dependent on the final use of the image and the media on which it will be displayed: Monitor/ Web, Gloss Paper, Matt Paper, Mechanical Reproduction for brochure or magazine etc. This may involve a selective approach, for example only applying sharpness to the eyes in a portrait avoiding sharpening too much skin texture. Be careful of overdoing these sliders +57 Clarity is actually quite high! It would be good to include viewing at 100% as part of your workflow.

You mention that once you are satisfied with the processed image you transfer the image to a ‘selected’ folder. What format is the image in? If it is still as a Raw file then in Lightroom you could simply add the image to a collection and leave the file where it is, saving hard disc space. If you transfer the image via export as a 16 bit or even 8 bit Tiff or 8 bit Jpeg then really this should only be done when you know the final use and size required for the image. As mentioned some of the processes such as Clarity and Sharpness require final amounts depending on image use and size. However there is some logic in transferring the Raw file to a new folder and leaving the original where it is in terms of creating a back-up file. If this is the case then the new folder should be on a different hard drive to your original file (then stored in a different physical location), obviously if using a Drobo Raid System this will do this automatically, just be aware though and as mentioned previously, any Raid System can still be subject to accidental file deletion so does not always provide a true back-up. The Drobo unit will also be storing the files in the same physical location and will not provide a back-up in terms of theft, fire or other catastrophe.

My Comment: When I transfer it is in the RAW format. I will be honest I have not used the collections till now (embarrassed). I will put in more research on this and start learning about it.

Yes the Drobo is doing the back up between the two hard disks at the moment. I also have another external hard disk (other then Drobo) where I take back up manually. In last few months I have also put some research on cloud storage, however I am still not too sure about using it, as there can be issues about the ownership of the content uploaded. What do you think about the cloud storage? Are you happy with the Dropbox?

Most high-res images supplied to Image Libraries will often only have minimal amounts of sharpness applied (often called ‘capture sharpness’) as the final amounts will only be applied when the images have been sized up for use by the user.

Your conclusion would benefit from some reflection on how your workflow perhaps differs from others, Michael Freeman asks this question in the assignment brief. This would need to be based on research into investigating other digital workflow patterns and your own personal requirements. You do this to a certain extent but you do not comment specifically on this.

My Comment: I just received the book will start going through the book. Would you like me to elaborate the explanation for this assignment? I have also noted your feedback on the other images. I will work on the processing and for others I will be more careful in the future.

Final two image choices on the Spiral Stairs project:

You demonstrate good rationale in your editing process and make some constructive comments in your conclusion concerning the lone figure. I agree that perhaps a few more figures would help the image with a dynamic quality. Although I quite like the lone figure as it does provide a focal point within the composition and helps to interrupt the rhythm in the photograph. Perhaps by using a slower shutter speed than 1/80th and having the camera on a tripod a slight blur to the figure(s) would have developed the narrative with some ambiguity. Shooting at f2.8 does mean that the image will have a restricted depth of field, which is fine as long as that fits the image usage which has not been defined in your own project brief. Perhaps the tripod waiting in the car should have been with you?, good to use 100 ISO but your camera would allow a higher setting enabling using the lens ‘sweet spot’ without much noise issue (based on your own noise tests on your blog) and then a shutter speed of say between 1/30th to 1/4th depending on speed of walking for the blur.

Good use of keywords and Meta Data – avoid using Amateur Photographer though as it does not help your profile.

I like the asymmetric composition of one image and the symmetric crop on the other image, from your assignment construct it would have been good to develop more Spiral Staircase images (not sure how many you have in Singapore?) as this would have given an interesting concept and narrative to the series.

I will comment briefly on the other images but as they do not feature in your documented workflow they are less relevant to this assignment.

Image 3. Striking use of colour and line, the curved lines provide a strong dynamic quality. Viewed at 100% the image looks over processed with some odd artifacts occurring around lamps and highlights and people’s faces. The 30 second exposure has created some ghosting from people, with such a long exposure this can sometimes be controlled by making several images and then combing them using layers and layer masks in Photoshop. In film days this would have been achieved by making several short exposures on I piece of film over a period of say 15 minutes, so the people were in different parts of the image and they would not record due to a short exposure. Photoshop CS5 can do this automatically by combing the average elements from several images as a stack using Edit / Auto Align Layers and then converting to a Smart Object and using Stack Mode. Let me know if you are interested and I will point you to some web based tutorials.

Image 4. Well seen image with some interesting reflective comments concerning the three people and the three towers. This type of ‘Deadpan’ graphic approach benefits from precision with the camera, so to have got the foreground metal railings exactly parallel with the image would create a simpler viewpoint allowing less distracting elements – I am being ‘picky’ here Madhvee as it is a good shot!

Image 5. Striking and unusual viewpoint and creative use of your wide angle lens. Slight distraction with railings bottom left, could be cropped out or removed in Post production. Random people distract with similar comments I made in 3. Perhaps using your ND filter with much longer time exposure would help here. Also the CS5 technique would work but you would need a series of around 10 images shot over say 15 mins to make it work.

Image 6. Creative image, not sure about making the face sharper as you want people to look at the glasses not the face! I guess the actual glasses let the image down slightly as they would benefit from being more of a mirror type. Tight crop on the left makes the glasses fight the frame edge. Some careful post production on this would help, more contrast in the glasses and take the skin tones slightly richer and darker. Distracting shape top right.

Image 7. Very good and relevant reflective commentary with this image Madhvee, slight tilting of the skyline is distracting – either keep level or tilt more. Kite would have been better if higher into the sky area. This would have been good to illustrate in your editing workflow from other similar images if there was a sequence?

Image 8. Good reflection concerning ISO but this building with its classic symmetry would benefit from you choosing to get the symmetry exact, possibly a slower shutter speed to get some blur on the people. Using a tripod getting the shot exactly lined up and then waiting for the ‘decisive moment’ when people are just right in the frame and then using 1/15th / 1/8th second or so to get some blur.

Image 9. This does not need blur on the person as the contemplation is good. Slightly awkward camera position which causes complex shapes between the object and the hands of the lady. Perhaps a much closer in shot with shallow depth of field on the hands and or face etc.? this would simplify the busy and distracting background, do we need to see the rubbish bin in the background?

Image 10. Interesting and dramatic use of wide angle, not sure about block of flats framed through the end railings?

Image 11. Well seen ‘decisive moment’ and I agree about the feet! It’s a busy image with lots happening would benefit from some dodging and burning to isolate the subject more. Again this would have been a good image to illustrate in your editing selection workflow.


Consider creating a scrapbook / sketchbook to collate images torn from magazines, flyers and brochures of exhibitions and gallery visits and other photographic ephemera. Combine this with some brief annotation and reflective thought and this will build into a valuable tool of reference and help to illustrate your learning journey. You should develop the habit of correctly referencing research material, provide details of the author, the source you obtained the information or image and include the date you accessed it. Ideally this should follow the Harvard Referencing method, details for this can be found on the OCA student website as a PDF. I attach a brief outline which also includes some information on using copyrighted material in blogs for education purposes.

My Comment: Point noted, I will work on it.

Learning Logs/Critical essays

Your reflective writing is excellent and you comment on both the technical and aesthetic elements of your photography. Great and relevant use of illustrations and screen grabs within your log / blog.

Start to include references to other photographers work, at degree level it is vital to immerse yourself in acclaimed photographic imagery. This should be images that inspire you and will help to inform your own work and direction.

Suggested reading/viewing

I attach a comprehensive list of suggested starting points for image based research. We do recommend studying critically acclaimed photographers and or acknowledged emerging talent. The websites listed here will generally reference a high standard and appropriate quality of work. Although Facebook etc. will have some fantastic imagery on show it is often not underpinned with a construct or rationale as to why it is there! This can make it a poor choice for research from an academic point of view as it will have little validity.

A great source of free reference material for all things relating to digital work flow is the excellent website setup by the American Society of Media Photographers:  http://www.dpbestflow.org/

Tutor name: John Todd
Date 30th October 2011
Next assignment due Early January 2012

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