Assignment 1 – Tutor Feedback

I was quite surprised by the quick turnaround time for my tutor’s report, so it was with some trepidation that I opened the report and began reading. However that feeling soon dissipated when I realized that I had done better than I had expected. Phew! That initial ice has been broken now. My tutor’s feedback is below:

Overall Comments

This is a promising beginning to the course. You have searched far and wide and you’ve experimented with different genres, styles, creative strategies, techniques and subjects. I also like the way you’ve thought about the way these photos work together as pairs.

Assessment potential (after Assignment 1)

You may want 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. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.


Your ‘diagonal’ picture is also a contrast in one image, the horizontal and diagonal lines zigzagging through the frame. I like the way you’ve framed these steps to fill the frame, but also to make an urban background for the characters there sitting and walking. It’s well balanced, with the surrounding area top and left ‘framing’ the steps.

Take care not to put bright or vividly coloured details on the edge of frame – like the person top right. That pulls the eye over there.

Your low light ‘Coliseum’ makes a bold visual statement. The light is lovely, but can be difficult owing to the bright sky. A little dodging on the circular building would bring it out a bit more.

(My tutor was kind enough to provide a good explanation of dodging and burning in Photoshop, but as I use Lightroom, I’ll have to do a bit more reading up for that program.)

There are a few distractions here: the white car, the bright sign on the right, the orange streetlight. You could resolve these with burning (darkening them), but you’re always better off framing them (well the sign) out.

The building is slanted to the right, try to get your verticals and horizontals straight when you’re shooting. Otherwise, do it in Photoshop.

My Comment

Diagonal photo: Point taken about the brightly coloured details on the edge of the frame, but in my defence I really did not notice the colour of her blouse from the distance from which I was photographing.

Rounded photo: I agree about the dodging on the building and correcting the slight slant on the building. Not too much I can do about the street lights as there really was no place to set up around this building without including street lights.


This is a simpler pairing of still life subjects. It shows you’re playing around and trying things out which is great. The light and the background is good in both. Try to match their brightness levels to make them sit together better. The FEW image is darker.

My Comment

I did notice the brightness level in the Few image was darker and I tried to correct that with Auto Levels in Lightroom, but the front of the box then blew out highlights, so I decided to leave it as is.


I really like this ‘High’ shot of a man standing on a roof. This is a special portrait of someone at work or one the phone! It doesn’t look too safe does it? But he looks tied to something. I guess this is the kind of unusual image that always entertains, bringing up unresolved questions: what is he doing there?!

I like the way he stands out as a sort of tiny ‘doll’ on a large, industrial looking structure.

Straighten the lines here so that the verticals are upright.

I didn’t see the little guy here until I blew the photo up, but there he is, very low in the frame and totally overwhelmed by the scale of the ships around him. Another really strong picture. I think you could lighten him a touch.

There’s a strong series here of workers overwhelmed by the surrounding industry. It kind of makes a statement about industry getting ‘out of control’ or becoming something of a monster!

My comment

Point taken about the vertical lines. I need to pay a little more attention during post processing.


Here are two portraits, both experimenting with different uses of light – projection and window light – as well as different moods.

The fractal images on the woman’s face work really well. They combine with the forms of her face, curving in and around it. I like the way the whites of her eyes stand out here, it enhances the dream-like impression. This is another potential series you could work on.

The ‘Dark’ portrait uses strong shadow to bring a head and shoulders out of the dark. There’s strong eye contact here, just like the first image, but the eyes are darker too. The t-shirt is a bit distracting here. Did you spot that?

My Comment

Actually I didn’t use window light for the ‘dark’ portrait. It was done with a reading lamp. I agree that the t-shirt is distracting, now that I look back. I did not initially spot that. Point to take forward – check subject’s clothing.


I think both of these suspension bridges are narrow, but obviously the one for cars is less narrow.

Broadness and width is best achieved using horizontal or landscape format framing.

But they’re both good photos, well exposed, atmospheric and ambitious.

My comment

Everyone (myself included) in Vancouver would agree with my tutor about the ‘broad’ bridge being narrow. But the bridge underwent an expansion about ten years ago and was made bigger – from two lanes to three and bicycle lanes were hung on the outside of the bridge deck :-).


This is a telling pairing, the feather and the stone. You’ve photographed the white feather really well, standing out against the dark background but haven’t left it at that, but added a green streak which adds more interest to the image.

The heavy looking sculpture is a bit under-exposed in relation to the background above the head. Yes it frames the head, which is good, but you still need more light on the stone. Use the dodging and burning techniques above to resolve this image.

My comment

I’m inclined to agree that the stone is too dark, as it was in quite heavy shade.


This is a simple but communicative pairing. With landscape images light is so important and in the top image (still) I think you needed to wait a little for the light to give you more emphasis on the river. Here it’s not standing out much. The light is also a little dull. Try lifting contrast here, but avoid brightening the sky.

The moving shot has better contrast. It’s the least ambitious of your photos here but it does the job and the snaking river bends nicely through the frame.

My comment

I understand that more contrast would improve the ‘still’ image.


You’ve photographed these tools well, using shallow depth-of-field to emphasize them against the background. But notice here how even blurred lines and bright shapes in the background can interfere with your composition.

My comment

I guess some rearranging of background materials is needed even when one blurs the background.

Black & White in one image

This is a peaceful image – candles burning in water. You’ve done well with the background as well as with the reflection of a dark flat colour in the water. There is a bright spot on the back of the dish. You need to keep your eye on the histogram when you shoot to check you’re not clipping like this and move your lights around accordingly. But the image does create a strong contrast.

My comment

I sometimes forget about my histogram. Will definitely  try and get into the habit of using it more often.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays


Your writing is good and knowledgeable. You are thinking in detail about the set-ups, the composition, the lighting etc. This shows you’re bringing a lot of good foundation skills to the course. Don’t hold back now by sticking to ‘comfort zone’ type still life images unless you’re going to do something interesting with it. Get out there and make complex, wide compositions, you can certainly do it.

Your research looks very good. It’s great that you liked John Berger’s fascinating ‘Ways of Seeing’, pretty much required viewing/reading for students. And that you’re getting to grips with Charlotte Cotton’s book. Continue to visit exhibitions and look at other photographers; it will help your photography develop.

Suggested reading/viewing


Have a look at Laura Letinsky’s still life photos and check out the way she creates an uncertain sense of dimensionality with the ‘planes’ of the surfaces.

Have a look at readily available commercial advertising and news photography. Note the composition of the elements that fill the frame: primary subject, secondary subjects, foreground and background. Notice also the kind of lighting used – can you tell the direction the light is coming from and how it affects the subject? What leads your eyes to the subject and around the picture? Are there any bold colours or shapes or lines?

Pointers for the next assignment

The next assignment is about Elements of Design. It’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate your skills in organizing the subject in the frame and to use your creative imagination to find the most interesting ways to answer the brief.

Good luck with AS2