about photo school

We have already set out our stall for the Photo School in the Photo School page; this is merely a bit more about it, so you don't have to read through it each time you click on to look at the modules.

There are four main reasons for its existence. The first, again as mentioned in the Photo School page, is that there is never time or space to put everything into our books and articles.

The second is that book publishing is becoming increasingly formulaic, with the Hollywood syndrome. The publishers' reasoning is "This book did OK, so let's do another as close to it as we can" -- the same syndrome that gave us Rocky IV and Star Wars VI. We believe that our readers want more variety -- and so do the editors of todays' most successful magazines.

Third, and flowing directly from the second, we can write best about what we love best, and take the best pictures of what we find most interesting. Yes, we hape to do some equipment reviews on this site, but we don't find them as interesting as the main object of photography, which is taking pictures. Nor do we find digital as interesting as silver halide, and we certainly don't want to reduce black and white to an irrelevant backwater.

Fourth, we do actually hope to make some money out of it...


Or if you insist, Istanbul. We travel (usually on a shoestring) as much as we can afford (which is why it's a shoestring...) Roger shot this from the bridge one night, almost certainly using a Leica M-series and 90/2 Summicron, probably shooting on Kodak Elite Chrome EBX ISO 100. It was scanned with a Nikon Coolscan and heavily cropped to 'letterbox' format. The exposure was quite heavily bracketed: often, at night, a long range of exposures is more or less successful and it is merely a question of choosing the one that looks best. There is a free module on bracketing.

vulgar profit

Yes, we hope to earn money with this site. We couldn't afford to do it otherwise. But there is quite a difference between trying to get fair payment for an honest product, and trying to rip people off. There is an enormous amount of work in this site -- its is more like an encyclopaedia than a book, even at the very launch -- and it's all speculative: we just have to hope you are going to like it enough to pay.

As for the truth that there are plenty of free sites, we'd say that all too often you get what you pay for on a free site. Our information is logically arranged; grammatically presented; and pretty accurate. Also, it's not funded by irritating pop-up advertising. As described in the page about payment you can buy the paid modules one by one, or subscribe for a year.

Sarre Mill, Kent

This is actually a composite of two negatives, both shot with a 'baby' Linhof Super Technika IV and 100/3.5 Schneider Xenar. Frances shot the windmill and tree, then combined it with a sky negative that Roger had shot as 'stock' for precisely this sort of use. There is more about how it was made, plus prints from the two separate negatives, in the paid module on dodging and burning. It's such an easy technique that it didn't warrant a module to itself. Or of course you could look at our book Darkroom Basics for step-by-step detail on dodging and burning and combination printing.

errors and corrections

An old Arab proverb says, 'To Allah alone belongs perfection'. Reputedly, the finest carpet weavers of old Persia would deliberately introduce the occasional flaw into their weaving so as not to usurp Allah's prerogative.

We regret to say that any errors you find here are unlikely to be deliberate. On the other hand, we also believe that there are rather fewer of them than in many books on photography (including some of the earlier ones of our own). One reason for this is that we have been doing this for a very long time: Roger took up photography in 1966, first worked professionally in the mid-1970s and has been writing about it since 1980. Another reason is that everything you read here has been scrutinized by at least two experienced and knowledgeable photographers (us) before it was even posted: sometimes it has been read by others too. And thirdly, we are more than willing to change any errors that are pointed out to us by you, our readers.

If you spot a significant error and think it's worth correcting, please contact us. We won't make a refund -- it's not worth piddling about with such tiny sums of money -- but we will credit you with an article or two at no expense so you can read them for free, either on this site or our site about motorcycle touring.

That's assuming, of course, that we agree with your correction. If we check it against other information and reckon we were right to begin with, obviously we won't make any correction. The same goes for typos and the like; while we will be more than happy to correct these, all you are likely to get in return is our gratitude.

Dancers, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, Dharamsala

We have done quite a lot of work with and for the Tibetan Government in Exile, and this shot dates back to one of our first trips to Dharamsala in the early to mid 1980s. We had dropped in to see the Director of TIPA, Jamyang Norbu, without realizing there was a performance that night. The only camera Roger had with him was a Linhof Technika 70 with 6x7cm roll-film back and 100/2.8 Zeiss Planar; the only film, Kodak Ektachrome 64. Fortunately he had a monopod; this is 1 second wide open. A basic message of the Photo School is 'When in doubt, try it.'

if you don't like the site

Most people like the way we explain things. We have often been praised for our clarity, common sense and down-to-earth approach, to say nothing of the fact that many people like our pictures. There are however at least two reasons why you may not like the site.

One is that you don't agree with us. This occurs most often with diehard adherents of the Zone System, who take our antipathy to it as a personal insult. Others want to 'correct' statements which are already perfectly accurate to begin with, but are the subject of widespread misconceptions: take a look at our Grey Cards entry to see examples of this. All we can say to all these people is, if you don't like it, go elsewhere. You should be able to tell if you like us or not without buying any of the paid modules, so what have you lost?

The other reason is that you may look at our pictures and say, "I could do better than that." Well, quite possibly. But bear in mind that we can't always use the very best pictures to illustrate a point. It would, for example, be a bit of a surprise if we could provide as examples of bracketing (free module) pictures which were aesthetically stunning as well as showing the effects of different exposures. Bear in mind too that pictures on the web do not look the same as original prints or transparencies, so you may not be seeing them at their best -- though in all fairness, some pictures look better on the web than they do in real life.

If you read our text; learn something; say "I could do better than that"; and then go out and do so, we shall account it a success on our part. It is a poor teacher who does not want his pupils to excel their mentor.


National Library, Valletta, Malta


Malta is the most fascinating place on earth to shoot: the history is as many-layered as an onion. If we ever do workshops, we shall do the first ones in Malta. Roger used a Toho FC45X with a modest wide-angle lens -- the 110 Super-Symmar XL, roughly equivalent to a 32mm lens on 35mm -- to shoot this on Kodak Ektachrome 100 SW in the late 1990s. Careful use of camera movements allowed surprisingly natural-looking perspective. Today we would most likely shoot it on 6x9cm using the 35/5.6 Rodenstock Apo-Grandagon on Frances's Alpa 12 S/WA mounted upside down for fall instead of rise: this was shot from the balcony.



There is inevitably a certain amount of overlap between some of the articles: there are at least two expositions, for example, of lens flare.

This is simply because a web site is different from a book. In effect, we are providing a book with numerous chapters that can be read in any order, and a subject needs to be covered as it comes up.

On occasion, there is overlap between free and paid-for modules: between, for example, Our Materials (free) and Choosing Film (chargeable), or between the two modules on exposure determination (Negative and Slide/Digital, both chargeable) and bracketing, subject brightness range, and ISO speeds (all free). If this really doesn't work and we get enough complaints, we'll consider changing it. But for now it's a conscious choice.

re-used pictures

Sometimes the same picture may appear in two or three or (rarely) more modules. This is because the same picture may well illustrate two different points equally well: better, in fact, than two different pictures. We thought long and hard about this but eventually decided it was better to use the best available illustration of a particular point, even if it meant using the same picture twice, rather than using another picture that didn't make the same point quite as well, purely in the name of variety.

Misty morning

This is one of the first pictures Frances took with the revised Tri-X when it was introduced in 2002-2003. Many manufacturers send us materials and equipment for testing, sometimes before the official introduction. She used her Voigtlander Bessa-T with either a 35/2.5 or 50/2.5 lens (we can't remember) and a weak yellow filter. The print is on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone.

caption information

The information about the cameras, lenses and film we used for a particular shot is always from memory: we don't write this sort of thing down. At the very least, the equipment and materials described could have been the ones we used; in the vast majority of cases, they almost certainly were the ones we actually used.

A disadvantage of having been in this game for so long, however, is that we can forget not only what we used, but what we said we used. In other words, we may say in one place that something was shot with a 35/1.4 Summilux, and in another that it was shot with a 35/2.5 Color-Skopar. Quite honestly we can't get excited about this: the free modules on Our Equipment and Our Materials say most of what needs to be said, and the caption information is merely for interest. If a picture was shot on or with something unusual we are much more likely to remember accurately than if it was shot with our usual cameras, lenses and materials.

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© 2005 Roger W. Hicks