Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Some More Comments Regarding Assignment 5 - Personal Project for Digital Photographic Practice

After receiving feedback from my tutor concerning my fifth assignment for Digital Photographic Practice, I felt it would make the project more complete if I was to address some points my tutor made.

   Firstly, I decided (after much debate) to make the pictures-within-the-pictures colour, while the 'main' photograph was in black and white for the fifth assignment. I did this for a reason that I thought made semantical sense and wasn't just an excuse to show off my post-processing skills (even though this was part of the criteria for the assignment brief). The reason was because if a person was daydreaming, the thing they were daydreaming of while at work would probably be more colourful in their mind than there immediate surroundings (represented in black and white).

   While I agree with my tutor that it wasn't a very subtle solution to drawing the viewer towards the picture-within-the-picture, I felt the picture-within-the-picture made the shots stand apart and made the viewer question why the picture-within-the-picture existed in the 'main' photograph.

   Another comment my tutor gave was asking whether 'my subjects' were personal to me. I had quite strictly adhered to calling them all 'my subjects' in each post! The only reason I hadn't called them by their real names/divulged any extra information about them was to keep them private. Also, I suppose because it was a 'personal project', me protecting their anonymity was in keeping with the project. However, I agree it would make the final photographs more comprehensive if I was to talk more about each subject.

   I would say they were indeed personal to me; all consisting of immediate family or close friends. I hadn't really thought about exploring the concept of my relationship with each 'subject' but I could see it as an interesting aspect of any portrait, which might make it more intimate.

   Lastly, I felt one idea my tutor had about how to present the work was interesting and similar to something I had actually thought of myself: namely presenting the picture-within-the-picture beside the 'main' photograph. I would have the picture-within-the-picture printed smaller but placed next to the 'main' photograph (as well as (still) being 'inside' the 'main' photograph).

   Therefore, I would say it is important to consider how I intend to present the project as a whole to back up what I would consider a strong idea and set of images.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Reflections After Assignment 5 for DPP - Personal project

My reflections after the fifth, final assignment for Digital Photographic Practice were mostly positive. I felt, valuably I came away with much technical and conceptual ideas for my photography, which I could implement in future projects.

   For me my technical skills were fine in terms of exposing correctly and my post-processing made the images I produced stronger. However, sometimes I felt images could be sharper or the depth-of-field was too shallow because I wasn't able to use a tripod in many of the situations. Visually though, I thought I exercised good compositional skills and paid attention to smaller details like facial expression, which made a big difference in my opinion.

   Overall, I felt the content of my work backed up the strength of my ideas quite well and I managed to incorporate what I'd learnt through Digital Photographic Practice nicely. Also I got across these ideas within the writing in my blog well so it was transparent to the reader what I was trying to do with each photograph/exercise.

   Creativity was a major strength in my fifth assignment in my opinion. I developed an idea and carried out the idea quite accurately to my original intentions; adapting certain parts until I was happy with the outcome. I thought from my various influences and consequential ideas I developed quite an uncommon style of photograph for the fifth assignment.

   My influences were a bit more limited than I would have liked but almost every one proved to be useful. I thought I communicated well in my blog how the influences affected my concepts. I tried to be clear about the various ideas I was juggling with for the assignment and how they developed.

My Summary of How This Fifth Assignment - Daydreaming While at Work Went

I was on the whole very pleased with the final body of work. I thought the choice of theme was good because it offered an interesting viewpoint and was quite simple to plan for since I was fairly sure each person I would photograph had something they would be daydreaming of ideally.

   One area I adapted significantly compared to with my original brief was the use of black and white. I did indeed convert most of the 'main' photographs into black and white but crucially kept the 'daydream' photographs within the photographs in colour. I realise this was quite a bold step to make, with the risk of the photographs becoming a bit 'gimmicky' but I felt it made semantic sense and fitted in well with the rhetoric I was trying to argue. I did experiment with fully black and white but decided against it after consideration.

   I was pleased with the consistent theme the photographs possessed together and, for the most part, the photographs-within-the-photographs served their purpose in my opinion; enabling the viewer to recognise the connection between the subject's work and what they'd be daydreaming about. I liked the fact the project was personal too because it allowed me to get some interesting expressions in both the initial photographs-within-photographs and the final 'main' photographs as I knew each person well.

   I was very pleased with the amount of creativity I was able to incorporate, both in terms of the main concept and how a lot of the photographs within photographs didn't look too out of place because they were placed imaginatively over flat surfaces in the 'main' scene or at least placed strategically well.

   I didn't have any qualms ethically about making most of each final image black and white and then painting colour back into the picture within the picture as it made a clear theme evident, was creative without being too 'gimmicky' in my opinion and was obvious to the viewer that it was intentional.

   There were however, some areas I wasn't wholly satisfied with. I was not so satisfied with the quality of some of the final images technically. This was because while using a tripod would have been ideal, it wasn't possible in a lot of the work scenes. Instead I used a high ISO value to compensate for most camera shake. This reduced the quality in some photographs. However, I felt the composition was strong in the photographs, if a little similar in some cases.

   Finally I was happy with my workflow, especially seeing as I could use the same repeating process for the whole set of photographs (apart form Photograph 10).

Workflow for Assignment 5 - Daydreaming While at Work

My workflow for the fifth assignment: Daydreaming While at Work, consisted of the following steps:

  • Once the subjects had agreed to participating in the project, to arrange and take a shot of the person doing something they'd ideally be doing.
  • Print this shot (which would serve as the photograph within the final photograph) at a fairly large size - A3.
  • Place the photograph within the photograph in the work-environment scene - over another flat surface if possible.
  • Arrange the composition and any additional lighting or tripod placement and ask the subject to think of what they would be daydreaming of.
  • Take the final photograph amidst quite a few shots (which I could choose from later) and check them on the camera LCD screen for focus/exposure.
  • Open the RAW files on the computer and evaluate which photograph worked 'best' in representing 'daydreaming while at work'.
  • Open the picked RAW file as a 'Smart Object' in Adobe Photoshop.
  • Carry out basic adjustments like enabling profile corrections and any necessary cropping/sharpening/noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw.
  • Make a new 'smart object via copy' under the 'Layer' menu. This would enable me to mask out the black and white for the picture within the picture and then adjust the colour/contrast for the picture within the picture layer independently later.
  • Convert the top of the two 'Smart Object' layers into black and white and carefully adjust the colour channels until I achieve a balanced image with regards to the person and the rest of the scene. This was mainly raising the orange levels (skin colour) and sometimes lowering the blue/green levels.
  • Create a layer mask on the top (black and white) layer.
  • Paint in black on the layer mask over the desired area (the picture in picture), until only that part of the whole image was in colour.
  • Repeat this process for all other photographs apart from Photograph 10.
  • The workflow for the final photograph (Photograph 10) is present here.

Assignment 5: Daydreaming While at Work - Photograph 10

For my final photograph I decided to photograph myself in a similar manner to the people I had photographed for the assignment so far. However, rather than there being one photograph-within-a-photograph present, I included all of the previous photographs-within-photographs in this one scene. The scene also included my computer - signifying my work and a quite large desk to put everything on.

   I thought it made sense to show what I would be daydreaming of while at work in this manner. As well as rounding off the assignment theme quite conveniently, it was also very creative in my opinion. With the photographs-within-photographs being displayed together like this it showed an insight into my life because the people in each photograph were all personally important.

   Initially, I pictured an over the shoulder perspective from high above, with the photographs-within-photographs displayed on the desk around me and the computer. However, I soon realised this didn't make practical sense to me because firstly the desk simply wasn't large enough to accommodate all the photographs and secondly I felt the over the shoulder viewpoint was weak in this case as my back would have been facing the camera and any insight into myself through facial expression would have obviously been lost.

   Instead I tried a viewpoint where I was in profile to the camera, with the computer in front of me but also profile to the camera and this worked much better for my intentions.

   Another feature of the photograph aesthetically was my vision that the rest of the scene should be in deep shadow - appearing black to the camera. My reasoning for this was to make the photograph convey how I quite often worked when editing photographs or writing content about my photographs. Also, I felt the extra 'drama' induced by this feature of the photograph captured the viewer's attention; especially the way the photographs-within-photographs appeared to be hovering in mid-air. Perhaps this showed off the daydreaming aspect of the photograph. I accomplished this 'deep shadow' mostly by using black-coloured material over the desk and lighter parts of the backdrop.

   I chose a high viewpoint to make the photograph formal, in that all was there to be seen, where it was a summation of the initial photographs I had been taking in one shot.

Photograph 10
   The workflow for this final photograph was quite complicated in that I had to make multiple exposures for various parts of it, in order to light parts of the scene appropriately. One essential practical aspect was the use of a tripod - to make the multiple exposures overlay accurately and to make the self-portrait.

   Firstly, I imported the different Raw exposures into Adobe Lightroom and enabled profile corrections for the five exposures I would use. Then I opened each as a 'Smart Object' in Adobe Photoshop and duplicate these layers into one file. After that I opened each exposure into Adobe Camera Raw and adjusted exposure for the part of the scene, which that layer would account for. Then I created a black layer mask for all the layers apart from the base layer - for which I had created a 'Smart Object via Copy'. The reason I had duplicated that layer like that was so I could darken that new Smart Object independently making it much darker, in order to introduce the dark shadow areas around the peripheries I was after. I did this by opening the Smart Object in Adobe Camera Raw and simply darkened the exposure and created a black layer mask for this layer as well. Then I started the painting-in of white on the black layer masks so that only the areas I wanted apparent were visible. This included an exposure for the computer screen, one for the foreground photographs-within-photographs, one for those further away, one for my body and lastly, one for the dark shadow areas.

   To keep the theme of daydreaming while at work going, where the only part of the photograph in colour were the photographs-within-the-photograph I painted over myself with a completely desaturated adjustment brush in Adobe Lightroom afterwards.

   Overall, I felt this photograph worked well, in drawing the viewer's eye to the connection between my face and expression, the computer screen and the photographs-within-the-photograph.

Assignment 5: Daydreaming While at Work - Photograph 9

Photograph 9a - the photograph within Photograph 9b
My subject for photographs 9a and 9b was quite an adventurous character so I agreed with her to visit a park. It was to our surprise (and my quiet delight) that a tree which had fallen down had been creatively used to make some objects out of the remaining wood. These included a wigwam (in the immediate background of Photograph 9a) and also some cut parts of the trunk to stand on. I asked my subject to stand on one of these. I felt it was possible to see by the expression on her face that she was enjoying herself, which was ideal for the pre-shot (9a). This was because it was a good representation in my opinion of how she would typically spend her free time.

   With regards to the final Photograph 9b, as she was studying - similar to my subject in Photograph 8, I chose a library setting to reflect this. This time, in comparison to Photograph 8b, I asked my subject to hold a separate book to show she was studying. Then I asked her to look 'past' the photograph-within-the-photograph (9a), which was placed against one of the book shelves. This was so a connection could be made between Photograph 9a, her wistful, slightly sombre facial expression and the book she was holding. This last feature's connection was made more obvious by the pose I had asked her to stand in: with an elbow leaning on one of the book shelves. I thought this made Photograph 9b as a whole work well and be more 'together' compositionally.

Photograph 9b

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Assignment 5: Daydreaming While at Work - Photograph 8

I arranged to meet with my subject at a race track, where he trained a lot in his spare time. I envisaged a flood-lit track in the blue hour just before full-night, with my subject training. I was very pleased with the resultant initial photograph (8a). I thought the orange of the track complemented the blue of the sky nicely and I managed to capture my subject training in full flow. I would have liked to have had him fill a bit more of the frame but he was still crucially recognisable as the person in the eventual final Photograph 8b.

Photograph 8a - the photograph within Photograph 8b
   I then arranged again to this time meet at the place where he studied. It was in stark contrast to the outdoor, massive training track in Photograph 8a: the library corner I chose to photograph him in was very confined. Everything in that part of the library (the books and their shelves) converged into the centre, where the photograph-within-the-photograph (8a), caught the eye immediately because of this.

Photograph 8b
   I asked him to hold Photograph 8a so it appeared he was pulling it out of one of the book shelves, almost like he was about to pull out a study book but instead was pulling out what he was daydreaming of.

   Lastly, the expression invited the viewer to look towards the book shelves to his right and more specifically to his hands and ultimately: Photograph 8a. Therefore, I felt Photograph 8b was successful compositionally and the expression on his face caught (at least my) attention.