Category Archives: Research and Reflection

Research and Preparation

I’ve been throwing several ideas back and forth for the upcoming final assignment of this module. It’s a personal project so I’m in full control of the theme and subjects. At first I thought this was going to be very easy, but after weeks of deliberating what to do do my final piece on, I was still unsure of a concept. With previous assignments we’ve been pointed in a certain direction, or given a theme.

This isn’t a bad thing, however. It just means i’m not rushing into getting the job done as quickly as possible, as I really want to challenge myself with this one.

In previous exercises and assignments i’ve roamed London for my inspiration, capturing it’s many hidden gems. I’ve been somewhat restricted with positioning, weather conditions, lighting etc.

For this assignment I want to create my final pictures from scratch. I want to pick the subject, the lighting, the positioning, my positioning, the colours, the backdrops…Everything. I want to create my most creative project yet.

Having landed on a rough idea of where I want my assignment to end up, I’m going to start researching several idea that I have, and start sketching how I can achieve this.

I want a final series of photographs that share a theme, are shot in a similar style aiding continuity, and that represent a series of shots that do not replicate someone else work, but are a product of my creativity.


Double Exposures

After submitting my latest assignment my tutor pointed me in the direction of other people producing interesting double exposure effects. In particular the work of Francesco Paleari –

My tutor wanted me to recreate Paleari’s technique, which is in the visual style of Kyle Grantham’s double exposure series:

This was a fairly lengthy and somewhat difficult task to produce, but I think I accomplished it well. I used a side portrait of Audrey Hepburn (stock shot) and a misty black and white Yosemite image (again, stock shot.)

Here’s both images in their original state:

ah-side yosemite_ghost_clouds-1_0

Here’s how I did it: (All processed in Photoshop)

Firstly I upped the brightness and contrast of the image. Then I wanted to get rid of the background. This is a fairly simple task, as i’m using a photo with a clean background. Using the Magic Wand Tool I clicked anywhere on the background to select it. Then I selected ‘inverse’ to select Audrey.

Then, using the Refine Edge button I slightly increased the Radius value in the Edge Detection, setting it to 2.0, making the edges less rigid revealing, in this case, the separate hairs. I then set the ‘Output To’  to New Layer with Layer Mask. This creates a copy of the original image with the background hidden.

I then created a new layer, and placed it below the cut out portrait, and filled it with white.

Next step was to add the Yosemite shot. I pasted it as a new layer on top of the Audrey Image. I then held the command button and clicked on the portrait cut out – which reveals her outline on top of the woodland image.

I then added a vector mask to this layer which hides all the background, only making Audrey’s outline and the woods visible.

I then changed the blending mode of this layer to ‘screen’ This basically blends both images, the first stage of our final effect being apparent.

Using the Brush Tool I selected the airbrush soft round 50% and decreased it’s flow and opacity. 25% and 30% retrospectively.

I then selected the Layer Mask of the forest layer, set the fill color to white and painted softly over the areas where the tree tops ended. This makes the image look as if the trees are growing out from Audrey’s hair. The white background helped enormously as the fade technique was very easy to create.

For the final step I did the same as above, only I used black instead of white, and played around with the opacity and flow. This then makes anything dark become clearer – so her facial features. I didn’t want her face to have any secondary exposure. I wanted her features to be flawless, and the effect begin by her hairline.

The layering process is shown below on the right hand side:


Here’s the final image:


I’m super happy with the outcome. It was well worth the time spent on researching what different layers do, and when to use them.

I’m happy I used 2 older looking photos as it enhances the vintage feel of the Audrey Hepburn era. I cannot wait to experiment more with this technique, especially on self portraits and with colour.


Research: HDR to B&W…

I previously voiced my opinion on HDR (high dynamic range) photography on here, stating that done subtly I like it, but done too much and it can start to look too contrasty and cartoon-like. (Click here for the post)

I wondered, however, how HDR shots would look when converted into black-and-white. I was especially intrigued to see the effects of the sky and clouds. The expansive range must add a significant amount of depth and tone.

As i’m not a huge fan of HDR I don’t have many images in my archive (this is something I will experiment with though) so here’s several examples that popped up on Google search.





I think black and white HDR, even when done to a moderately high extent, is actually a great creative tool in adding layers and tones to black-and-white photography. There were a few examples that appeared a little ‘over done’ and had that unrealistic feel to it, but on the whole I quite like it.

An HDR black-and-white image that really caught my eye while researching comes from photographer John Hobson: (


I love the dramatic, ominous mood he’s created using HDR, especially how it’s effected the sky. This is definitely a tool I’ll be keeping in mind for black-and-white photography, and I may even attempt to include a bracketed shot in my upcoming assignment.


Assignment 3: Preparation Part 2

Almost immediately into this assignment i’ve hit a hurdle… After researching long exposure shots i’ve realised that to get the desired shot i’ve imagined I am unfortunately missing a vital part of equipment. A neutral density filter.

While long exposure shots can be relatively easy to accomplish at night time (you can use most lenses, but a tripod is vital), it’s a very different story when it comes to daytime. This is perhaps a rookie error on my behalf, as we have learnt that a slower shutter speed results in a longer time period for the light to hit the sensor, often resulting in over exposed shots.

Shooting the scene I want to shoot in bright daylight without a neutral density filter is going to produce severely over exposed images.

It’s not a huge problem however, it just means that for this assignment I will not be including the long exposure shot I’d hoped for. I could shoot at night, but for this assignment I don’t feel I’d get the right kind of image that represents  ‘monochrome’ as night shoots would not include so many shades of grey, but mainly strong blacks and street lighting.

What I especially like about a long exposure shot is that in some cases you can eliminate people/traffic from the photo (if the exposure is long enough) resulting in eerie deserted scenes.

So, first on my list for new equipment will be a variable neutral density filter, so I can experiment with daytime long exposures.

Noise Levels – Vogue China Shoot Victoria Beckham

One of the previous exercises for this module was looking at noise levels. As a general rule, noise is considered to be distracting and unattractive in photography. It is strongly associated with film photography.  I’ve been aware of this recently and have been trying to reduce noise levels in my photography.

I saw this article printed with The Daily Mail Online of Victoria Beckham being photographed for Vogue China:

While the main focus of the article is her badly photoshopped thigh, what struck me was the intentional noise/grain levels. The images are dark and grainy, and I really like it. It adds a grungy, vintage feel. I think this is enhanced as the images are black and white and perhaps this technique may not work so well with colour, but it throws out the idea that noise in photography should be avoided. Intentionally using noise or adding grain can work to the photographers advantage.

This article raised two questions for me:

  • was the photographer shooting digitally, and film grain was purposely added later on in post production?
  • Were the photographs actually shot on black and white film?

Digital noise and film grain are not the same.

Noise is defined as: (courtesy of wikipedia)

Image noise is random (not present in the object imaged) variation of brightness or color information in images, and is usually an aspect of electronic noise. It can be produced by the sensor and circuitry of a scanner or digital camera. Image noise can also originate in film grain and in the unavoidable shot noise of an ideal photon detector. Image noise is an undesirable by-product of image capture that adds spurious and extraneous information.

Film grain is defined as: (courtesy of wikipedia)

Film grain or granularity is the random optical texture of processed photographic film due to the presence of small particles of a metallic silver, or dye clouds, developed from silver halide that have received enough photons. While film grain is a function of such particles (or dye clouds) it is not the same thing as such. It is an optical effect, the magnitude of which (amount of grain) depends on both the film stock and the definition at which it is observed. It can be objectionably noticeable in an over-enlarged photographic film photograph.

My photographers eye is not trained enough to distinguish matter-of-factly how it was shot, but if I had to take a guess, i’d say film grain was added in production to give this effect.

It’s definitely something worth experimenting with…..