Dear Assessor,

Below I have planned out instructions on how to access and navigate to different pages of my OCA Digital Photographic Practice Learning Log. I hope this finds you well, and you enjoy my work.

  • About

To read a little more about me and what my blog is about, simply go to the top of the page and click on the link entitled “About”.

  • Assignments

You will find links to Assignments 1-5 along the top of every page on my blog. Simply click on these links to find each assignment. At the bottom of each assignment page there is a gallery of images for easy viewing. Each assignment also contains a detailed review of the technical details, how I achieved each finished image and my personal review on my work.

  • Exercises, Inspirations, Tutor Feedback, Research and Final Thoughts

To access the categories entitled Exercises, Inspirations, Research, Tutor feedback or Final Thoughts, simply scroll to the bottom of any page on my blog and you will see a heading entitled “Categories”. Below this you will find each category (details of each category are listed below).

Assignments– Click on “Assignments” and you will find all five of my assignments are also listed here as well as on the top of each page.

Exercises- Click “Exercises” to see all of the exercises I completed for this course, along with images from each, and a detailed description of my learning process.

Inspirations- Click “Inspirations” and you will find all of the professional Photographer’s I researched in order to gain experience and further my knowledge in the theory and practice of Photography.

Research- Click “Research” to find all the research and planning I carried out in preparation for each assignment.

Tutor Feedback- Click “Tutor Feedback” to view my thoughts on my tutor’s feedback for each assignment, along with changes I made in accordance with his advice. Also you will find my tutor’s entire feedback at the bottom of each page for further reference.

Final Thoughts- Click “Final Thoughts” to view this navigation page again if you get lost! Also, it contains one other post of my thoughts on finishing this module, and how I felt it went.


Module Reflection and Evaluation

I have finally complete my second module- Digital Photographic Practice. I have learnt a huge deal from this module, and feel that it has taught me invaluable information for my potential photography career. Prior to this course, I had no idea about many of the techniques I have been taught thus far, as I am a beginner to photography and DSLR cameras. Therefore I have learnt everything from scratch since beginning my first year with the OCA. Every module is a huge learning curve and DPP was no different. However, this module I have learnt the following;

– How to structure, plan and carry out a workflow in order to successfully complete a photo shoot with minimum problems.

– How to use a camera’s histogram to determine whether a scene is under or overexposed; leaning to the right of the graph illustrates over exposure, and to the left of the graph illustrates under exposure. Also I have learnt to determine when a scene contains highlight clipping.

– How to measure a high dynamic range scene’s exposure using spot metering, by either measuring a mid tone in the scene, or measuring the darkest and lightest points in the scene and selecting an exposure in between the two. Both these methods will result in a very accurate exposure.

– The requirements a scene must have in order to successfully convert to black and white in editing; including texture, a strong shape, and a good tonal range and the importance of keeping these in mind whilst shooting  for black and white photos.

– The standard techniques of editing an image, such as; setting the black and white points, adding contrast through curves, removing colour cast, and removing flare.

– The importance of knowing my stance on photo manipulation, and deciding what I feel is an acceptable amount of editing for an image; I decided that I agreed with the process of enhancement in editing, but disagreed strongly with manipulation (unless used in clearly fictional situations i.e. book covers).

– How to plan, shoot and edit a portrait photo shoot successfully. This required bringing together all the techniques which I learnt thus far in this module.

– Lastly, I learnt a huge deal through my research into the following inspirational photographers and painters;

Elliott Erwitt

George Brassai

Annie Leibovitz

David LaChapelle

Ben Goosen

Marianne Taylor

Nick Knight

Helmut Newton

Sacha Goldberger

Paula O’Hara

Phillip-Lorca diCorcia

Max Wanger

Gustav Klimt

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Norman Rockwell

Ansel Adams

All of these amazing photographers and painters have given me vital compositional, lighting, editing, and style techniques which have been invaluable to improving my photography knowledge and skills .

Overall, this module has aided me in improving my camera and editing skills, as well as my overall theory in photography.

Final words:

I have grown to love photography so much- it is my passion! I can only hope that one day I will become half as good as the professional photographer’s I’ve been studying. This was my favourite module so far on this course- and a big shout out goes to my tutor for all his help and support. So glad to finally be finished, and moving on to my last module of first year!

Assignment Five- Personal Project

The final assignment asks you to apply all you’ve learned in the course to build a collection of 10-12 final images on a theme of your choice.

For this assignment I decided to do a couple’s photoshoot with a central theme of; Love. I wanted to put a little bit of quirky-ness into the shoot, so decided to use a vintage picnic as my central scene. You will find my initial planning for this assignment here;

Prior to this assignment I did a lot of research into wedding photography and couple’s photoshoots to gain experience on how to capture the relationship between a couple. My aim was to see how to relay that love into my photographs, and truly capture the essence of the individual couple I am shooting. I also wanted to research a photographer who was renowned for their vintage flare, and came across the amazing Marianne Taylor. I learnt through her work the importance of the little things in a photoshoot; such as plenty of props! This was hugely important for my vintage picnic, and definitely came in useful when planning this aspect of my assignment. You will find my research of this talented lady here.

I also did plenty of research into composition to learn the best angles to use and tips on positioning couples effectively in the frame. I used classical paintings for composition ideas, and noted some contemporary photographers who have taken influences from these paintings. I noted the importance of small embraces, the romantic effect a photo from behind the couple can bring, and how a blanket can work wrapped around the couple to provide a metaphor of union. You will find all this research here.

Lastly, here you will find my reflective account on how well my completed project matched up to my original ideas.

Below are my finished images. I set my camera to spot metering in order to gain more control over the exposure for each shot. I measured for the subject’s face, which generally worked well to provide me with an overall good exposure. I set my camera to RAW for maximum quality images, and used my 50mm prime lens with a wide open aperture throughout to create soft images focussing solely on the models.

Image 1- (ISO 100, 1/4000, f3.2). I began by capturing some images of the props in my vintage picnic. This works in ‘setting the scene’ for this photo shoot, and introducing the viewer slowly into all the different aspects of the setting bit by bit. In editing, I simply used curves to increase the contrast slightly, and added a colour fill layer of blue and pink, changing the mode to ‘soft light’ and choosing a low opacity. This worked in creating a vintage-type effect to finish of my image nicely.


Image 2- (ISO 100, 1/2000, f2.8) I captured these vintage suitcase props; purposely slightly over-exposing the image in order to create a hazy effect. In editing, I simply added a light blue fill layer, then changed the mode to ’screen’ to further create a hazy and dreamy feel.

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Image 3- (ISO 100, 1/500, f3.2) This is the central image of my photoshoot. Everything came together perfectly, and I captured my models in a vintage-style picnic scene. The sky is slightly over-exposed, as I metered primarily for the subject’s faces in order to expose them 100% correctly. In editing, I increased the contrast using curves. I also added a blue and pink fill layer, again using a low opacity and soft light mode, in order to achieve a dreamy, whimiscal and slighly unrealistic effect.

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Image 4- (ISO 100, 1/500, f3.2) This image was a direct result of my “relaxation game” which I asked the couple to do. I gave Chris three objects to tell Ruth a story about. This resulted in the couple relaxing, and produced a lot of laughs from Ruth, which I was able to capture in this lovely shot. The eye contact between Ruth and the camera strengthens this shot in creating a bond between the viewer and the subject. The two subject’s faces fall on the thirds lines of the frame which creates a strong composition in this image. In editing, I simply used curves to increase the contrast, and added a light blue fill layer once again.


Image 5- (ISO 100, f3.2, 1/1250) I brought this photo frame prop along to further my ‘vintage’ theme. I directed my couple to ‘rub noses’, and captured this shot against the sea to create a nice background. In editing, I again created a light blue colour fill layer, and changed the mode to ‘soft light’ to enhance the old-style vintage effect.

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Image 6- (ISO 100, 1/1250, f3.2) This is a close-up version of the previous shot, but I feel that it looks very different. Chris’s hand is naturally caressing Ruth’s face in a beautiful way. This is a very tender shot, and I think it appears very natural. In editing, I added a curves layer for contrast, and again added a light blue colour fill layer with a low opacity and soft light mode.

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Image 7- (ISO 100, 1/640, f3.2) I instructed my model’s to embrace each other, having learnt the importance of the small embrace from my research into painting compositions. I then got Chris to kiss Ruth’s head, but asked Ruth to smile at the camera. This works in creating a very nice moment between the two models- showing Chris’s love for Ruth, but at the same time, keeping that connection with the camera through Ruth’s eye contact. In editing, I used a curves layer to add contrast, and again added a soft light, blue colour fill layer at low opacity. This helped to create a consistency of editing throughout my images.


Image 8- (ISO 400, 1/2000, f3.2) Prior to capturing this shot, I adjusted my ISO to 400, in order to enable me to increase my shutter speed; therefore allowing me to capture the couple moving without resulting in image blur. This is my favourite shot of the set, simply because it appears the most natural, and candidly captured shot. I love the relaxed and happy moment that is passing between the couple, giving a small insight into their relationship. In editing, I added a curves layer for contrast, and added a light blue colour fill layer at a very low opacity.

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Image 9- (ISO 400, 1/2000, f3.2) I love the natural feel of this image. As I have expressed a lot in this course, I have a great love for candid style photography, and I think this shot achieves this. I got the idea to wrap the blanket around the couple from my research into the composition used in classical paintings, and specifically Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’, where the subject is wrapped in a blanket, and the couple are kissing. This then gave me the idea to use a blanket as a metaphor for unity between the couple- and I think this works superbly. Again, I wanted to create a vintage type feel in editing, so added a little contrast through curves, and created a light blue colour fill layer.

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Image 10- (ISO 100, 1/250, f3.2) I discovered this back alley in this small seaside town in Ireland. I thought it would make a great shot of the couple having a private moment down a quiet alley. I instructed Ruth to stand against the wall, and asked Chris to ‘block her in’ in a sense- this creates quite a personal and romantic scene. I also added a cream colour fill layer to match the colours in the scene, and adjusted the opacity to low, and the mode to ‘soft light’.

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Image 11- (ISO 100, 1/250, f3.2) This is another of my favourite shots from this set. The ‘almost kiss’ creates a beautiful romantic moment between the couple which I love. The old door and pottery sign works in furthering my vintage theme, and adds interest to the shot. I also added a curves layer for contrast, and added a slight cream colour fill layer once again.

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Assignment Five: Write-up

I have finally completed my last assignment, and it was well worth the effort! I worked really hard to create a unique and exciting photoshoot for my final piece of work, and I LOVE the finished result!! During initial planning for my assignment, I had a couple of ideas for themes. However, my heart was set on doing a couple’s photoshoot, with the theme being “love”, as the wedding business is where I see my photography career going. You will find this early planning here. I feel that this planning worked well in establishing my theme from an early stage, and it was from here that I began planning where I would have my shoot, and who I would ask to be my models. I finally decided on a seaside town in Ireland, called Crawfordsburn. It had both a beautiful beach, and a charming old-style town which matched my vintage theme perfectly. I then decided to ask a young couple to be my models who I have known since I was a child, enabling them both to feel at ease around me.

Prior to the shoot I created a workflow plan in order to ensure maximum organisation, and it worked superbly. You will find this plan in detail here. This worked great, and ensured that I was completely prepared for the shoot, with all my equipment charged and checked off before leaving that morning, as well as all my props gathered and checked off. So I was able to set off that morning without a hitch! My plan also ensured that I arrived half an hour early; which gave me plenty of time to set up and get the correct exposure settings before the couple arrived.

My main concern prior to my photo shoot was to get the couple to relax in order for me to capture their true personalities and connection to each other. I had researched a little into portrait photographer Eve Arnold, and came across this great quote; “What I have tried to do is involve the people I was photographing. To have them realise without saying so, that it was up to them to give me whatever they wanted to give me…Because what you want to do, you want to go as deeply into them as people as you can, but usually what happens, they will offer you part of themselves that you can use, and that is the big secret. It has more to do with the relationship of the photographer to the subject than it has to do with anything else that might be happening.(1)” This one quote was the key to the success of this assignment. To capture the couple’s true relationship, I had to gain their trust, and help them relax around me and my camera. In order to do this, prior to the shoot I came up with the idea of playing a game with them. I decided I would give Chris three objects; (e.g., a pig, a picnic and a pineapple!), and get him to tell a story to Ruth including these objects. This worked a treat!! It encouraged them both to relax, and enabled me to get some great shots of them laughing at each other. So thank you Eve Arnold!

My next concern was if I would automatically know what compositions would work in capturing the couple together. I had never done any couple’s shoots before so this was a huge worry! However, I did a lot of research into compositions used in classical paintings, and how modern photographers used these in their work. This provided me with some great ideas, including using a blanket as a prop in the shoot to draw the couple together. This turned out to be one of my favourite shots from the shoot, so the research definitely paid off. You will find all this research here. I then printed off some examples of these to take along with me to the shoot. This enabled me to show the couple a visual example of my ideas; providing them with a strong vision of my finished product right from the beginning. This helped the couple to quickly get into my desired poses, and made the shoot stress-free.

I decided for this shoot I would use my 50mm prime lens, as this enables me to use a wide open aperture; creating soft images that focus solely on the subject. However, when the shoot began, I discovered the difficulty involved in this, as the lens doesn’t zoom in and out, but is stuck on the one focal length. This made it a little trickier to capture the shots as easily as I would have liked, however the soft bokeh backgrounds were important to my finished product, so I persevered! One day I will be able to get a prime lens with a variety of focal lengths, but until then, compromise is the key!

In conclusion, I am very pleased with my finished images, and really enjoyed this assignment. I feel that a huge part of the success was all the research I carried out, which provided me with very little room for error, and resulted in a finished product that I was delighted with. You will find my finished assignment here.

(1) BBC RADIO 3, Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with Eve Arnold, Available from:  [Accessed 02/04/13]

Assignment Five: Final Planning and Workflow

Assignment Five is really starting to come together, and I am very excited about this photo shoot!

Pre-Shoot Planning;

I have definitely decided upon a couple’s photo shoot, with the central theme being LOVE. My aim is to capture the love between the couple, and I have been researching loads of different wedding photographers to gain experience in this. I also want to get many different poses of the couple; so prior to my assignment shoot I have researched composition ideas- including classical painting compositions and how modern photographers use these in their photography today. I have also printed off some famous photographer’s images that contain beautiful and contrasting composition ideas. I intend to take these with me to my photo shoot for reference, as this will help the couple to understand the poses that I’m describing to them- creating a clear visual instruction.

My photo shoot is THIS Saturday!! From Assignment One I discovered the benefits of having a planned workflow for a photo shoot. Therefore below you will find my pre-planned workflow.

Pre-Shoot Preparation;

– I am using my Canon 650d for this assignment. I will also use primarily my kit lens (18-55mm), along with my prime les (50mm f1.8) in order to gain soft images that focus on the subjects.

– I will charge three batteries prior to the shoot (just to be SUPER careful!!), and double check that these are all in working order prior to the shoot. I will pack these securely in my camera bag and double check that they are there prior to my shoot.

– I have purchased a new 16gb memory card in order to ensure that I have enough space to hold plenty of RAW files. I will pack both of my memory cards- ensuring that I have a spare one in case of technical difficulties.

– I have gathered a great deal of props for my vintage picnic scene, which I will pack in the car and check off my list prior to leaving.

– Before leaving the house on the morning of my shoot, I plan to choose my camera settings (which I predict to be; ISO 100, WB Daylight, and Spot Metering). I will decide upon shutter speed and aperture upon arrival on the shoot site.

The Photoshoot Plan;

– I intend to arrive at the scene half an hour before my subjects in order to set up my vintage picnic and capture a few images of the props. This will also give me a strong idea of my exposure settings for the shoot, and will enable me to iron out any problems before my subject’s arrive.

– Upon my model’s arrival, I need to have a chat with them to explain my vision for the shoot. I also plan to use a quick game to relax them at the beginning of the shoot (in the form of one subject telling the other subject a funny story with three objects that I give them; ie a pineapple, a pig and a picnic…!!)

I think this covers all my planning for this shoot. I will write up how my actual shoot went in my final assignment write-up!