- Student Turnout (well, sort of students) - 8/10. Despite chipping in cash there was still half a dozen or so people who didn't show up, but the others made up for it.
- Number of questions asked - 8/10. Better than most colleges, and very technical free questions too, mainly focused on business, copyright, making money and so on. All good to hear.
- Amount of Nudity - 0/10. Thank god for that frankly. After what happened last weekend I got slightly apprehensive about what Paulo would hand in for the assignment.
- Quality of Tea and Cakes - 2/10 and 10/10 respectively. The Tea and Coffee is free at Calumet, so no complaints there, it's just a bit rank, unfortunately. More than made up for by Paulo (Teacher's pet) bringing Indian and Turkish sweets with him. Blimey they were sweet. My teeth still ache slightly now, and I can feel diabetes developing.
- Ability to handle the assignment - 7/10. Pretty good overall, though some work needed on clarification on the invoice - leaving bits blank won't get you much money! On the technical side though, you lot would put many colleges to shame.
- Amount of shoe shopping done by the group on the day - 8/10. The West End must have thought the Sex and the City Girls were in town, although I don't think you could mistake Rams for Sarah Jessica Parker.
Sunday, February 07, 2010 | 8 Comments
Happy New Year, and so on and so forth. Hope everyone had a pleasant christmas, new year and all that. Mine was tops thanks for asking.
Despite only winding up the tour proper at the end of November, I've been asked to add another (sort of) date already. So, on Saturday the 6th of February, at Calumet's Drummond St Branch, I'll be giving a talk and setting assignments to the London Strobist Group.
It'll be similar to other roadshow dates in format, although I'm mixing the talk up at their request, to include stuff from 2008 as well as 2009. I'll be joined by Emma Taylor from Vue again, to help with critiquing both the assignment and anyone who wants their portfolio looking at. Nikon will be along as well, in their usual "quietly standing at the back and offering advice where needed" role. I'm expecting great things on a technical level from the group, as I know their standard of work is pretty high, but I'm very interested to see how they'll respond to a brief, as I suspect many of them will think technical first, and commercial application second. Plus, of course, as hundreds of students across the country now know, there's the invoice to deal with too......
If you want to get involved, I'm pretty sure you'll have to join the London Strobist Group, and you'll also have to donate £10 to the Street Football league to secure your place. I'm loving this bit, by the way - I've donated via just giving before, but never raised money myself, and it's curiously addictive watching the total creep up.
Looking forward to it already, and I suppose I'd better get working on putting the talk together!
Read more on "The Roadshow Rumbles on...."!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | 0 Comments
- Technically very impressive. Something that stunned us when we visited Plymouth was the incredibly high percentage of students who knew how to wield a light or two, even outdoors!
- Good range and depth of shots and locations - enough to build a feature out of.
- Strong DPS opener (3), everything all named properly and handed in just right.
- A couple of very strong portraits (1,5). I'll admit I have a particular fondness for location portraits, and the one taken in the underpass (5), with the flash/ambient mix, is probably in the top 5 shots we saw throughout the whole brief. Technically spot on, lovely frame with a good balance between environment and subject, and just the right amount of ambient burning out to give it some mood.
- Biggest problem of all, is that the work doesn't answer the brief very clearly, in fact on first glance we thought this was a submission for the Sunday Supplement brief, as it seems to be mostly portraits of someone who could potentially be a Hollywood actor. We understand (and know it's our fault!) that the business brief was a touch open ended, but fundamentally we were looking for illustrations for the article, which was about business and ethics. Not very much of this comes across in these shots, without a bit of mental agility on the part of the viewer. I know Rob was actually setting out to make portraits of "Will Hutton", but we did point out in the brief that he wasn't available, therefore if you used portraits to illustrate this brief we'd like them to be creative illustrations of the business/ethics debate.
- The environment shot (4) doesn't fit in with the set at all - whichever way you interpret the brief it feels like an afterthought.
- It's not really a criticism, more a pointer for future reference, but be careful of what is called "incidental inclusion". In the opening DPS shot (3) a Marks and Spencer sign is fairly clear on the right hand side. If this work were to be illustrating a feature on "business and ethics" and the M+S logo was so prominent, the management at M+S might be a little perturbed, and complain to the magazine! As I say, it's not a criticism of these shots, just something to be aware of in future.
Right briefing checklist at the ready!
Well the subject is too young for The Music Mag brief, so that’s out. But he does have a lovely pair of sunglasses and shot 4 seems to be telling us something over and above the man himself so perhaps we are looking at the Sunday Supplement brief?
We could be looking at the Business brief but there seems to be too much focus on the one model here and, as we know ‘Will Hutton’ isn’t available.
And with not an apple in sight this can’t be our Education brief nor is it the Drapers brief despite the rather nice jacket the model is wearing. So I’d put my money on this being a response to Brief 2 and this being our film star Sam Delaney.
Reader I was wrong, and thus my main problem with these shots emerged.
Where I do appreciate the timeframe on this exercise is a smidge tighter than most students will be used to, it is a very realistic reflection of what you can find yourself up against in the ‘real world’. And subsequently it’s a great way to find out what you’re made of.
Not everyone thrives under this kind of pressure but that’s not necessarily a reason to shy away from it. Be aware of your weaknesses; train yourself out of your bad habits and never forget you’ve been commissioned to communicate a message. Whether it’s illustrating an editorial piece or selling tins of beans your shots have to stay on point.
Where Rob’s shots are almost technically faultless, the lighting well considered and the variety available for the Editor to fill their pages, I just don’t know what they are trying to tell me about Business and Ethics.I’m left with too many questions and not enough answers.
The brief says our ‘eminent economist’ is unavailable so who is this chap we seem to spending some much time shooting? Why are we trying to anger Fraser Hart, Hennes & M&S by questioning their business ethics? The passers by don’t seem to be generic shoppers nor do they appear to be businessmen, so who are they?
And why does our model have a jacket over his shoulder and a pair of sunglasses in his hand? I’m not saying economists aren’t a cool bunch (I’m not crazy) but this guy is certainly giving out more of a celeb vibe.
This work is a good case in point that you should consider the information stored in the frame and how it might be translating to the audience.
We are a culture ruled by stereotypes and if you put a pair of sunglasses in a shot there are assumptions we will make.
Rob you’ve certainly got talent and you really have lit your subject with great skill and where these will get your folio admired and eventually gain you commissioned work don’t forget to give the purse holders what they ask you for.
I thought this was one of the trickier briefs to handle and if I’m honest I’m not sure you pulled it off. You can obviously handle a camera, the compositions were good and the detail in your shots was very sharp. However I had no idea what the shots were telling me – Mobile phone advert, fashion shoot???
Using a model / friend could have worked well if you had concentrated on emotions but I felt that there was little point to the person in the shots except to show off his duffle coat. I think the portrait angle was probably a bad way to go with this and if I had this disk delivered I don’t think I could use it
Nice photos but essentially pointless, sorry
I’m guessing brief 3. Rob has clearly got a good grasp on the technical side of things and an ability to control balanced light. The location is good and the styling works. Very polished set at first glance, but… on closer inspection it doesn’t work so well editorially speaking. Though Rob has clearly thought of the space and proportions the busy background on the pds makes it very hard to get a headline to work and impossible for any bodycopy. Also, the lack of eye contact (except for shot 1 which is my favourite anyway) makes the shots feel more like a stock image set and less like an editorial story/portrait set. Oh, and there is no point to shot 4. If I was handed this set I would use 1 and 2 and possibly 5 but I would wish I’d had some landscape variations I could run a headline out of - particularly on shot 1 which really is very good.
Back to me now. That's it for this lot. My profound apologies for the very odd layout of some of these crits - I copied and pasted all the text from the original documents, and it appears the only way to fix the font problems is to go through each line of HTML by hand. It's 5.15 on a Friday evening, and that just ain't gonna happen....
- Very good use of an already pretty cool location. There are some extremely interesting angles and crops here. I know from speaking to Jonathan, that all these shots were taken within a 50 yard radius, and yet there's a great depth to the shots. The location is obviously playing a central role in these shots, but it never completely takes over, and it also gives the subject something to do, as well as a series of situations for Jonathan to exploit.
- Somebody actually handed in a black and white shot with the colour shot as a backup. I'm impressed!
- Not 1, not 2, but 3 DPS opener options (5,8,9). Top bananas!
- Besides the range displayed in the location, there's a great variety of poses and positions from the model - not just 8 shots of "stand against the wall and look moody". I particularly like the "sprawled across logs" (9) shot.
- Technically they're a bit lacking in polish. I'd like to see something used to balance out the harsh sunlight - either some fill-light or just a reflector. It would help to lift them even further from snapshots and into the realm of Sunday Supplement work.
- Attention to detail. I appreciate it was a bit of a crowded location, and as always with this assignment, time is not on your side, but there are a couple of shots where a bit more attention to detail would work wonders. There's a hand in the background on the shot with the hollow wood (8), and the shot of Sam reading her script (1) has all sorts of stuff in the background that only draws the eye away from the main subject. The best solution to this sort of thing is to get into the habit of running your eye round the frame before you've finished composing the shot and get rid of anything that doesn't need to be there. You can do this either by selectively cropping the shot.
I liked this shoot, it’s very bright and colorful. There was at least two I could use as an opening DPS and a good choice of other images for building a story. Good range of portrait and landscape too.
I felt sometimes the shots focussed too much on the background and the subject got a bit lost. Also I didn’t much see the point in some of the post production as I felt it rendered these shots useless.
I don’t think this shoot would win any awards but I could work with it
I’ve always thought myself a fairly observant sort. Hawk-eyed almost, but with more mascara and fewer feathers. So when I clicked on Pic1 and spied the paper in the models hand I figured she was reading her script, all be it a rather thin one!
So of course when I clicked on Pic8 I didn’t fail to notice the disembodied hand in the middle of the image either. Now unless this Sam Delaney is being photographed on the set of the latest Addams Family movie, I think Jonathan may have dropped the ball here.
Of course I could be wrong and this may be an intentional nod to the craftsman whose yard we’re in, but it does feel a little too incidental to have been shot on purpose. Was there not a frame a sec after sans hand?
Jonathan, I do appreciate you’re not paying a location fee and therefore not getting the privilege of an empty set but perhaps there were ways you could have used this to your advantage?
Too many photographers fall into the trap of answering a portrait brief only ever placing the one model in front of their lens. With a story like this, a well-lit, perhaps front facing portrait of Sam with a hive of whirling activity behind her could have made for a more dynamic shot. You’ve got a busy set, work with it; just don’t forget where you want your viewer to be focussing!
You’ve chosen a fantastic location and explored a good variety of angles, really making the most of it and getting your model to interact with the props around her. I just think you can afford to be a bit bolder on future shoots.From Marco:
Hmm, brief 1, or is it 2 again? Could be either as this set could work for either a folk singer or a celeb. (well, apart from the 25 years thing Marco, but we'll forgive you for not spotting that - or did you think the lady in the pictures was older than she looks?)
I have mixed feelings about this set – some of it is fab, some of it doesn’t work for me at all so I’ll have to divide this crit into 2.
Lets start with what I don’t like: In gallery order shots 1,2,3,5and 6 look to me a lot like bog standard ‘this what I did on my day out with my girlfriend’. Just all very obvious and compositionally weak.
On the other hand this is what I REALLY like: shots 4,7,8,9,10. As an AD these are the shots I would use for my feature – particularly 7,8,9. I would also ask Jonathan to supply me with a desaturated version of 8 and 9 to match 7 and if I got this I would be delighted. It’s worth noting also that desaturating 8 and 9 would overcome the slightly harsh sunlight on the model’s face in shot 8. All of these shots I like are compositionally strong and interesting.
Basically, Jonathan has done a very nice job but hasn’t been self-critical enough in his shot selection to drop the images that don’t work opting instead to hand everything over but that should come with experience. I would give him more work in a real world scenario.Read more on "2008 Assignment Critiques - Jonathan Macguire"!
Technically perfect, very good use of lighting, atmospheric. Good to see ambient/flash mix used well and not overcooked.
They found a great subject - old enough to have been in the music business for 25 years, and very stylish too. No false beards here!
They used a good range of shots/locations. There are 4 distinct settings for the shots, enough to give the feature some depth.
There's really great use of contrasting colour in the cover portrait (2). You can't beat a bit of red/green contrast!
They followed the DPS advice well (1), lots of space on half the frame for dropping copy and headers onto.
Not So Good:
A little too dark on the sky/fill portrait shot (3), needs a dab more light, also watch for reflections in glasses - am being very picky indeed here!
Would possibly crop in a bit on the garage shot (2)- just to lose the wall on the left.
Purely a point of procedure, but as I've mentioned in some of the general brief advice, if you're going to hand in work that's been grayscaled/desaturated etc, it's good practice to hand in "plain" ones as well, just in case the art director doesn't like what you've done. On a similar petty note, the file naming was a bit confusing and inconsistent - not something we really penalise people for, but as with other issues of procedure, our guidelines were there for a reason.
On the whole, one of the strongest entries we saw, and probably the best attempt at the Music brief.
This is a really strong set of portraits that fit the brief spot on. If I received these for a feature I was laying out I would be chuffed. I think you were either very fortunate to know someone who fitted the bill or did your research very well. Great colours and emotion and lovely compositions
On a professional criticism I would have liked to see more landscape options for an opening DPS and I would have liked to see colour versions of your black and white shots but otherwise I think I could have made a great feature from this. Well done
Well no problems working out which brief this team are answering. Congratulations Meghan & Chris, great choice of model and brilliant propping here. It all feels right.
The variety of shots used help illustrate a larger story. We have the man at home and on location, in B&W and in colour, engaging with the camera and caught in the moment of playing. The model is of the right age and with the choice of clothes here you’ve really given him a sense of character.
I’m a sucker for the details and with the cigar, whisky and Jazzy instruments these feel like very considered shots. If you dropped them on my desk I’d be happy with a job well done.
Perhaps something you’ve missed a trick on though is showing us some incidentals. It would have been good to have a shot of just his instrument (so to speak) or perhaps cropping in on his hands as he plays the piano? Also would a man 25yrs into his career still need to read from his score? But these are fairly minor points, more things to expand on than criticisms.
I don’t generally like to play favourites but Meghan & Chris get yourselves to the top of the class!
Hurrah! Not brief 2.
Nice job overall. The feel is absolutely spot on and by far the best choice of model to fulfill the brief (though to be fair this wouldn’t be an issue on the real job so is neither here nor there in pure terms of images). Also very good styling.
Shot 4 is my favourite shot but the complete set is very moody and nice with the pleasant contrast of the garage door shot to jazz up (see what I did there?) the overall feel. On the downside I would suggest that there is room for improvement on the technical side – more work on getting the balanced light on the sky shot would have lifted it a notch higher. I would also have liked to see some harsher and more selective contrast work on the b+w images. Even my favourite shot (4) could do with just a tiny touch of post-production in photoshop to get a little more detail back into the model’s face. But I’m being picky. Very nice job.Read more on "2008 Assignment Critiques - Meghan Giboin and Chris Black"!
A good strong consistent visual style across all the shots, yet there's also a fair range too, almost certainly enough to fill a whole feature.
Good use of location lighting, adds drama to the shots, and helps to lift them well above the snapshot category.
An absolutely cracking portrait shot - probably one of my favourites - against the grille and the wood (4).
Not So Good:
The usual criticism about handing in work that's just in Black and White - tempered by the fact that we didn't make much mention of this in the preliminary briefing.
The Fiat Punto (1,2,5). I'm sure it's a lovely car, although not if the one I hired a few years ago is anything to go by! However, I'm not sure it gives quite the right impression in these shots. Since we're showing off a Hollywood superstar I'd expect them to be driving something a bit interesting - not necessarily expensive, just not mass-produced, mass-market. Bear in mind I drive a Ford Focus, so I've nothing against such cars, but they don't have the same connotations as, say, Ferrari, or a Jaguar, or even a 2CV, though obviously for different reasons. The key here is to have a vehicle that "says" something, whether it be "flashy git" in the case of a Maserati, or "quirky" in the case of, let's say, a Fiat 500. None of this would matter, except that Andrew's made the keys such a prominent feature in one of the shots (1), and the car is fairly visible in the colour DPS as well (5).
I liked Andrew's set a lot - it was another gloomy day in Glasgow when we visited Reid Kerr, I do remember being in Glasgow in blazing sunshine, but I always seem to be in a traffic jam on the M8 at the time! These shots have a very strong and consistent feel to them, but are let down mostly by attention to detail, or lack thereof. I should point out that I find Andrew's work stunning, generally speaking, particularly his landscape stuff which makes me go a bit wobbly. Practice working under pressure, and pay attention to little details, and it'll be even more stunning.
Some good shots here but for me it doesn’t entirely fit the brief. Using an urban setting gives the character a background story which fits well with the model used (not sure it’s very Sunday Supplement though). There’s some nice bits of lighting bringing out subtle details and the shots are well composed.
However I have two words, ‘Black & white’! I would much prefer to receive colour images that I could turn to black and white, this really limits the amount of usable shots as I would probably end up using these as insets. Therefore you’ve essentially taken a decision out of an Art Editor’s hands. Also I felt your detail shots were a bit off, I would much rather see details of the subject’s (actor’s) face, though if these objects were mentioned in the story they may have some use? Finally your model was a bit static, I didn’t really get any of his personality and his hands are in his pockets in almost every shot. I would much prefer to see a bit more movement.
I would get by with these shots but it would be hard work making a great looking feature and I may think twice about calling you back
Had it not been for the fact that I read on Mr Miles’s critique that this was shot for the Film star brief I really would have thought it was the Business and Ethics task.
There seems to be a lot of focus on status symbols (the watch, the keys to the car) but none of them are premium enough to point us towards Sam Delaney. And for our location we have the slightly sinister alley, it all spoke of dodgy dealings to me.
In short these images didn’t really ring my bells. You’ve got some strong portraits and have had a good play with how to light your subject but the elements here weren’t adding up for me and I really struggled to get over that. Also the balance seemed odd to have just one shot amongst six in colour.
Andrew the work on your blog is so much better and you don’t seem to have done yourself justice here. The thing is if I was commissioning you off the back of your portfolio imagery, and you handed these in, I’d be a tad confused. They don’t seem to relate at all.
You have a strong sense of style and a real feel to your other imagery; if you’d brought the same approach to this brief I think you would have totally blown the others out of the water.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a photographer needs to find their voice. You want people to look at your portfolio and see your style throughout it. Commissioners want to know who they are buying into after all. There’s the old adage that a photographer is only as good as their last commission, consistency helps with this no end.
Nice job overall in terms of showcasing Andrew’s ability to shoot at late notice on location with a coherent visual style across all images. Also well done for remembering it’s an editorial brief and therefore leave space for head/copy on dps shots. I particularly like the courage to shoot detail shots as well as the portraits. On the downside I find the lighting on a couple of the portraits too harsh and would have preferred a touch more subtlety. I also think it’s a bad choice of model but in the real world this wouldn’t be a problem as he’d be working with the real subject so I’m just being a bit of an arse over nothing.
Read more on "2008 Assignment Critiques - Andrew Black"!
- Laura handed in a good range of shots - different locations, approaches, crops, and styling. This helps to give the feature lost of depth.
- Very strong DPS opener, that's also very usable with lots of space for headlines/copy (shot 6).
- Variety of styling - simple little details like bare feet in some of the shots manage to add quite a lot to the feel of things.
- Superb locations - the civic hall shot (6) is fantastic, and shows what can be done with a limited time, just by quickly asking permission. Also love the glass brick shot (3) - the passing bus gives it real punch, and we don't need to see the actress's face in every shot.
- Range of crops, full length; half length, close-in head shots.
- Adapting to conditions, improvising well. The weather was foul in Glasgow that day. Rather than be put off, Laura incorporated it in to the shots - the umbrella one's great.
- Listening to what I'd said in the talk about maximising what you've got. Look closely and you'll see that 4 of the shots were taken in the same spot (1,2,4 and 5). Yet there's 3 distinct different shots in there, the only similar ones are the 2 in the green jacket. By adding a jacket, and umbrella, cropping in and moving round, lots can be milked from one spot.
- Technically some of the shots are a bit sloppy. The lovely DPS opener (6) has a slightly wonky horizon, and would perhaps benefit from a dash of light on the subject to lift her from the environment a little (although I realise that may have been impossible under the circumstances). The landscape crop in the green jacket (5) is too "flashy" and harsh for my liking. The black and white umbrella shot (1) is perhaps a little too dark as well.
- As with other submissions, be wary of handing in black and white images without a colour backup. This is a very nitpicky criticism, as we didn't make any particular point about this in the briefing.
I felt this shoot wavered from the excellent to the pointless. Your straight portraits were very dynamic and could even make it to a cover. There were two very strong options for an opening DPS. However I thought there were only really four shots that were usable here. I would have liked to have a colour option of the black and white image you sent. The shot taken through the glass blocks is far too abstract to use as this is about the person.
The cropped portrait shot is very strong with lovely detail, I think - stick to your strong points and leave the abstract for your personal photography.
Looks to me like Laura has decided to shoot for the Sunday Supplement brief, a brave choice in my opinion as in the ‘real world’ you’ve really got to bring it with this kind of assignment. The tricky thing with shooting celebrities, asides from their egos and their agents, is that you’re battling with countless other photographers who’ve already shot them or are about to tomorrow. Capturing that definitive image for your client, for your folio and for potential syndication is a tough task indeed.
But Laura seems to be a girl up for a challenge and certainly hasn’t shied away from the job. Laura I love the variety of shots on hand here. You’ve given your client a great selection to fill their pages with and it really feels like you’ve taken their needs into account.
With the thought you’ve put into having a variety outfits and locations, having a B&W shot in the mix and playing with your crops and framing, for me, you’ve given the piece more substance.
The only variety I’m having problems with is the range of styles that seem to be at play here. There’s no cohesive treatment or lighting style to pull all the images together as the work of one photographer. You go from a bright flash blast, to softly and warmly lit interior portraits and then to a very dark umbrella shot.
Now across a whole 30+ page portfolio, with some good pieces to blend these approaches, you may well be able to make it work, but for a 7 shot story it feels confused.
Look over your archive, identify the images that you feel most proud of, the ones you get the best responses to and see if a feel starts to come through.
For me a successful photographer is as much about their technical ability as their brand. You want people to look at an image and know it’s yours on sight alone. Now I’m not saying you ringflash all your models to death like Mr Rankin but have a play and start to find your visual voice. After all that’s the fun bit!
Laura has been very ambitious here trying to get several types of shot at once and squeezing them into one brief. I admire her for her ability to get this many different images together in such a short amount of time but the downside is that I would have a problem making my pages look consistent. We have a black and white shot with the rest in colour, also an ID – type of set, a creative arty shot, and a museum curator portrait. Too much.
For my money the best shot is easily the cropped portrait against the brick wall with the nice contrast between human skin, rough brick and violently green fabric. This is a great close-up portrait. Sadly the matching landscape image is overlit (overexposed?). I think Laura should have thrown all her energy into getting variants of this shot to work using a selection of images from the tight crop she has supplied then ranging out to full figure using the grey brick background to provide some dead image for copy space.Read more on "2008 Assignment Critiques - Laura Liebnitz"!