Photo School Extras

Series 1
1.1    Voluntary limits

Pick any one of your cameras, and any one of your lenses, and use nothing else, preferably across several sessions, with a variety of subjects. Select 10 and upload them. If you want to submit pictures you have already shot, pick ones made with the same equipment (or at least the same format and focal length).

There are two possible strategies. Either use your 'base' camera (as defined in the module) and or deliberately choose something unusual: something you don't use much, such as a long tele, or even a camera bought specifically for the module: a Lyubitel TLR perhaps, or a disposable. Or you could submit half-and-half, though submitting more of a mixture than this would make something of a nonsense of the premise of the module.

It's very much a question of how much you want to limit yourself: a moderate focal length, for example, is normally more versatile than an extreme wide-angle or tele lens, and a camera with a fast lens and a full range of shutter speeds is more versatile than a disposable. You might even get some ideas from How Many Cameras Do You Need?

This might also be a good place to shoot black and white, especially if you've never done it before (take a look at the free Black and White module). Of course, if you only have one camera and one lens, this module is dead easy.

tree roots

1.2    Backlighting

ricksha final

Backlit (contre-jour) shots are surprisingly difficult to do well, especially in colour, and we have high hopes that we will get better pictures from our readers than we have ourselves put in the module. At the very least, though, you will see what to avoid and how to avoid it, and see some more-or-less competently executed strategies for getting out of difficulty.

If you shoot digital, avoid over-exposure at all costs: you can usually dig a great deal out of the shadows, especially if you shoot RAW or DNG, but shooting JPEG will leave you with even less latitude than colour film.

Black and white, because of its ability to represent a large tonal range convincingly, is often easier, but you may need reduced development times or softer paper grades in order to accommodate long subject brightness ranges. Take care not to overdo compressions, however, as excessively compressed brightness ranges can easily look flat, dull and unconvincing.

As well as sunny days, like the picture on the left, try night scenes and artificial lighting -- even still lifes, if you like, where you have the advantage of being able to control brightness ranges. We'd recommend shooting as wide a variety of pictures as possible, because it's all too easy to master a single technique and send pictures that use only that technique.

1.3    Travel/Holiday/Vacation

This is the first 'subject-driven' module in Extras, because it's something that all of us (or almost all of us) like to shoot. Whether they are going for a month's trekking in the Himalayas or an afternoon out at a local beauty spot, even non-photographers almost always take their cameras with them, and many dedicated photographers would agree with the late Colin Glanfield: "If I can't take my camera, I don't want to go."

Ask yourself what you want to bring back from your travels. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the standard 'Happy Snap': 'This is me in front of the Taj Mahal... This is me in front of...' but it's unlikely that such pictures would engage the interest of many except your immediate family and friends, and possibly not many of them. Likewise, although there is a certain amount to be said for the standard sights, exquisitely executed, they really do need to be fairly exquisitely executed if they are to compete with the thousand shots that people have already seen of the same place. Take a look at 'Travelogue' too.

Often, the most successful and evocative pictures are the ones that meet people's expectations, but show them something they have not seen before or (in the case of those who have visited the destination) something that they would almost certainly have noticed, but might not necessarily have seen in photographs. For the submission, we'd suggest three or four or at most five destinations, unless your ten pictures are linked by some common theme such as people or flowers or use of colour.

You may want to plan this one some months in advance, before your next trip.

red square, mist


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© 2007 Roger W. Hicks