Colour- Progress towards Assessment Criteria
On successful completion of this course you’ll be able to:
Demonstrate an awareness of the principles of composition when planning and taking photographs using a suitable camera, lenses and other equipment
When composing photographs I now routinely experiment with viewpoint, focal length and framing in order to improve the shot. For Assignment three I planned and set-up several still-life arrangements. I took my time positioning the objects for these shots, considering the learning I had gained from Elements of Design, while exploring framing and camera viewpoint. Examples of this can be seen in ‘Calla lilies’ where I aimed the camera down onto the flowers, in ‘Red parasol’ where I shot from underneath, looking up and in ‘Red currant cup’ where I arranged red currants into triangles to bring order to the composition.
Visual balance is also something that I consider when working on composition, however it is not something that I seek in every image.
Bryan Peterson’s, ‘Understanding Composition Field Guide’ (2012) has helped reiterate some of the compositional advice discussed by Freeman (2007) and also in the course notes. Peterson (2012, p4%) believes that not getting close enough is perhaps the largest compositional hurdle but easily remedied by moving, on average, two feet closer to the subject. Peterson also advocates ‘mining the mundane’, arranging everyday, mundane items into appealing compositions. These pieces of advice encouraged me to consider items as subject matter that I hadn’t previously (Coffee diagonals, from Assignment three) and also to get closer to the subject matter in order to fill the frame and provide interesting viewpoints.
I have recently purchased a 55-300mm telephoto lens with an autofocus option and have found this lens easier to work with that the 70-300mm, which only had a manual focus setting. I used the 55-300mm lens for several shots for Assignment three, alongside a tripod, shutter release cable and, newly acquired, close-up filters. This allowed me experiment with much closer viewpoints than I have previously.
Demonstrate a knowledge of the different qualities of light, both natural and artificial, and the properties of colour, using methods of control to pictorial advantage.
The exercises on controlling the strength of a colour in Chapter three required that I use my camera’s meter or an external meter to find the average exposure settings. As my camera’s (Nikon D5100) light meter is only available in manual mode I took the plunge and began to experiment with this setting. Having only shot in Aperture or Shutter priority mode I was pleasantly surprised at the relative simplicity of this setting, and the usefulness that the camera’s exposure indicator provides. I have noticed however that the exposure indicator does not always get it ‘right’ each time and I still refer to the histogram and image after shooting where possible. I found it interesting to note how different colours responded to being over or under exposed by very small amounts and now I have mastered the Manual setting on my camera this is something I will experiment with more in future.
I don’t have photo filters for my camera, and instead experimented with the photo filters in PSE 11. Filters were a new concept for me but it was easy to see how some filters warmed an image, others cooled and the colour filters added an overall hue adjustment. The art, it seemed, was deciding if an image may benefit from a filter and why, and then choosing an appropriate filter. For Assignment three, I used filters to eliminate a colour cast (Tulips in vase), to adjust colour (Coffee diagonals), adjust WB (Warm spices) and also to give an overall cooling effect (‘Dubai marina, am). I also experimented with adjusting the hue and saturation levels of colours in several photographs.
I’m continuing to experiment with metering, particularly with using the spot metering setting. Again, the results have varying degrees of success. I can see the difference in exposure in the image and on the histogram, if I meter off different points in a scene, however I don’t fully understand why this occurs, in order to do this consistently. I look forward to researching this further in the next chapter, Light.
Several of my photographs for Assignment three were not shot in natural light. This led me to experiment with my camera’s White Balance (WB) settings. I found it interesting to note the marked difference that the various White Balance settings create. This was very noticeable in the ‘Warm spices’ and ‘Model engine’ shots where the scenes where both lit solely by artificial light. Again, I look forward to experimenting with WB further in the next chapter of this course.
I appreciate that my lighting set up at home of a desk lamp, baking parchment and tin foil are extremely basic but have delayed any lighting purchases until I reach Chapter 4 which will hopefully give me more insight into what I need.
On beginning Chapter 3, Colour, it took me quite some time to fully understand the differences between reflected light and transmitted light. Transmitted light seemed to contradict everything that I had previously learned and thought I knew about colour. The course textbook (Freeman, 2007) does not go into the subject it depth so I undertook some further research in order to understand it better.
Freeman, (2005) ‘Digital Photography Expert, Colour’ was a very useful acquisition as it explains reflected and transmitted light in more detail, while also covering colour harmony, colour contrast and the physical and emotional power of colours. This text was also useful in helping me to discern the subtle differences between hues and shades. On beginning this chapter, I carried out the x-rite online colour challenge that I read about on a fellow students blog. While a perfect score is deemed to be zero, my initial score was 16. This improved to a score of 8 when I redid the test a few days ago. While the score is relatively healthy I did find it interesting to note that my errors were in the blue/green modulations. I also found several websites to be of use as they listed the RGB colour codes and a RGB colour mixer tool, which I experimented with.
Robert’s (2007) text, The Genius of Colour Photography was also helpful in explain the history and evolution of colour photography while highlighting how colour has been used by photographers to great success. It also inspired me to experiment with subject matter and photographs in the style of photographers such as Haas, Meyerowitz and Bathos.
The chapter on colour has introduced me to colour relationships in terms of complementary colours, colour contrast and similar colours. Previously, I would have selected colours based purely on personal preference, whereas I am now aware of the colour combinations and proportions that are deemed to be acceptable by many. However, I am also aware that sticking rigidly to these accepted colour combinations and ratios is a safe option and doesn’t necessarily foster creativity.
I have also learned about the perceived qualities of colours in terms of temperature, power and character (Freeman, 2005, Freeman 2007, Präkel, 2006). These associations can vary by culture, personal experience and emotion. Being aware of this has helped me to consider the possibilities in combining colour and imagery to convey a whole message. It also enabled me to read photographs on a more connotative level.
Show a basic knowledge of the principles of graphic design in photography, conveying information by means of a photograph or a series of photographs
The graphic elements discussed and explained in Chapter Two, Elements of Design, provided an effective set of tools that I can apply to graphic design. I now appreciate that colour is also an element of design and how it is used can determine the way a viewer looks at a picture. Freeman (2005) was especially helpful in helping me to understand that effective use of colour can be used to draw the eye, make subjects appear to advance or retreat, spark cultural and psychological associations and convey sensations of temperature.
This information was extremely beneficial when I began to plan and compose the photographs for Assignment three, using colour as an element of design alongside points, lines and shapes. Examples include ‘Flower in fountain’ and ‘Buoy rope’.
Awareness of the principles of graphic design in photography has also helped me to reflect on the work of other photographers as I can better recognise their compositional choices and experiment with these myself, such as with Meyerowitz and Bathos.
Reflect perceptively on your own learning experience.
I write in my learning log about my practical experiences with, and my thoughts on, each of the exercises and projects in the course material. I also write reflectively on the photographs I view, the exhibitions I attend and the reading and research I undertake. On occasions I have found my writing to be ‘long’ and feel more like an essay than notes on immediate thoughts and ideas. I feel there is a place for both in my learning log so I aim to enter shorter notes and reflections too.
While the core texts are influencing my thinking, I am also finding that questions and ideas arise from magazines, websites and Photography groups I follow on Twitter. With this in mind I plan to set up an electronic collection of photographs and articles that are of interest, alongside the physical scrapbook I have.
Freeman, M. (2005) Digital Photography Expert-Colour. Lewes: ILEX
Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX
Peterson, B. (2012) Understanding Composition Field Guide. (Kindle Edition) New York: Amphoto Books
Präkel, D. (2006) Composition. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA
Roberts, P. (2007) The Genius of Colour Photography. London: Goodman