TAOP: Assignment 1 – Contrasts: Tutor Feedback, Learnings and Ideas for Improvement

This post collates the tutor feedback, things I’ve learnt or need to apply in future, and ideas to improve elements of my first assignment before assessment at the end of this course.

General Learnings

This is a summary of general learnings I need to carry forward in to future work and assignments.

  • Overall my tutor said I had submitted a ‘normal assignment for this level of the course’.  On the plus side, that means I’ve done nothing horribly wrong.  On the negative side, I’ve done nothing amazing.  Basically – I’m happy with that.
  • I need to establish  workflow for my photography and for assignments.  Think what is required and plan it out, plan the photos and do a cyclical workflow process – including this in the accompanying assignment notes to link the photos.  This is an area I’ve improved on in assignment 2, I believe, and in general I am approaching photos differently – experimenting, changing things, and reviewing what I’m doing and why.
  • I should consider using overall themes for my assignments (self-selected).  With assignment two a theme was explicitly stated.  I’m toying with the idea of a theme for assignment three on colour (and I’m off to Chinese New Year in Manchester next weekend – which will definitely be colourful).
  • Include technical details on my shots (e.g. settings, mode, techniques and why I used the options I did).  I should also include information on why I took an image the way I did – and what alternatives I considered.  I need to think about what I, or somebody else, might have done differently and whether I’d use a technique again.  Once more, I think what I’ve done with assignment two, and other pictures, show I’m developing in this area already.
  • My tutor said I should briefly mention if a picture were planned or serendipitous.  For planned shots talk about the planning.  For ‘found’ shots, talk about why I chose the image I did.
  • Where I’ve used post-processing explain what I’ve done and why.  I was given some pretty damning feedback on my poor or superfluous post-processing, as it detracted from the ideas in the photos and the assignment.  I’ve been instructed to avoid all post-procesing from now on, beyond accepted editorial standards, to allow my photos to be judged on technique.
  • I should go with my best assessment of my work.  The course is about me and my photography.  My tutor may agree or disagree with a choice of shot, but so long as its my choice it will be my work.
  • It’s important that I strike a balance between giving too much information and too little.
  • It’s a good exercise to have secondary themes and contrasts (or similarities) running through each panel.

My Learning Log

  • There is scant detail in my learning log and no external influences.  This is something I am improving on bit-by-bit.

Suggested Reading/Viewing

  • I haven’t mentioned other areas of reading or examination.  Again, through my learning log I am developing this area.
  • My tutor also suggested I look through the OCA Forums and Flickr OCA Forums – which I have been doing, which I think has contributed to improvements in my learning log overall.  It’s also helped me maintain momentum on the course.

The Photographs

This section looks at the photographs  in their contrast combination, and the specific feedback I had on each.


Link: Original post

  • It was a good idea to go beyond an obvious, literal, translation.

Transparent - Original

The feedback on this was that it basically doesn’t work.  There’s no “crowd’ for him to stand out from, so he can only be standing out from a notional crowd.  The colours on him appear elsewhere so they don’t contrast with the overall frame.   My tutor suggested this might work better if I used shallow depth-of-field on a line of people, with an individual ‘picked out’ from the crowd.  This reminded me of a shot I took using a line of Chess pawns.  I could probably do something along these lines, with a gold pawn amongst a line of silver pawns (or vice versa).  I’ll look at shooting that idea in the future.


Opaque - Original

The feedback on this was that it was a good idea, but my tutor asked why I had given it the black-and-white treatment.  My reasoning was that I was going for a sort of “film-noir” effect in this shot, so I felt that black-and-white fit that idea best.  My tutor also commented on me adding grain to the image – and that shooting above ISO 400 could achieve that.  In all honesty, I don’t recall adding grain (which is a good argument for ensuring I have a workflow that captures these decisions!).

Below is a basically-unprocessed version of this shot.

Opaque - Alternative

I do prefer the processed version – though perhaps a more subtle conversion to black-and-white would work.


Link: Original post


Broad - Original

The feedback on this one is that I should be wary of including lettering, as it is human nature to attempt to read it.


Narrow - Original

Narrow - Original

The criticism here was similar to the black-and-white conversation for ‘Opaque’.  It doesn’t tell the story as well as colour would.  Here is an un-processed version.

Narrow - Unprocessed

I agree the colour version does work – or more-to-the-point, the black-and-white doesn’t and adds nothing to what is being illustrated.


Link: Original post

My tutor commented that the overall idea was good.



My tutor said the ‘High’ image does contrast – but not in a good way.  He stated it was poor technically and shouldn’t be included.  For it to successfully show a football team celebrating there needs to be more to it – like including the bottle, having the team embracing one-another, etc.


Low - Original

Here, my tutor said the idea was really strong and can stand by itself – I shouldn’t have processed it as I have as it detracts from the photograph and idea.

If i had a panel of shots like ‘Low’ my tutor has said the feedback would have been totally different – concentrating on nuances, techniques and expanding my personal interoperation of images.  To quote my tutor directly “Keep this sort of work up and ditch the record shots.”

I’ve included the unprocessed version of this shot below.

Low - Unprocessed


Link: Original post

There were similar comments on this pair in terms of the idea being sound – however I need to take that and then “make photos rather than take photos”.


Little - Original

Once more there were criticisms on the post-processing, so I’ve included an un-processed version below.  My tutor also commented on potential legal issues of referring to him as a beggar.  In my defence, shortly before this shot he had been asking me for money.

Little - Unprocessed


Much - Original


Link: Original post

My comment on converting to black-and-white “killed the photographic aspect of these photos”.  Essentially, as I control the staging of these pictures there shouldn’t be distracting elements in the frame.  In all honesty, looking at the colour images again, I don’t really think the colours are distracting.  Below I’ve included the original assignment submission images and then the unprocessed versions.

Soft - Original

Soft - Original

Soft - Unprocessed


Hard - Original


Hard - Unprocessed


Link: Original post

I need to look beyond the literal interpretations.  I think I’ll have a think about this and revisit it and create alternative shots.


Link: Original post

My tutor appreciated the comment I made that perhaps I shouldn’t have gone for a literal interpretation for this one.  He suggested I could have photographed the reactions of people eating the sugar and sour cream.  I should take my first ideas, dump them and then see how they can be expanded or improved upon.  He said I can be sure that my first ideas will be the same as somebody else’s.


Link: Original post

Basically this was predictable.  To quote “At least the water isn’t an ice cube.”

Contrast in one – Large/Small

Link: Original post

My tutor stated he couldn’t see pat the processing in this one.  I’ve included the original below and then an unprocessed version – which does work I believe to illustrate Large/Small in one shot.

Large/Small - Original

Large/Small - Unprocessed


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