Category Archives: 05. Progress towards assessment criteria

Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative- Progress towards Assessment Criteria

On successful completion of this course you’ll be able to:

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

This section of the course has been quite varied in content, which has resulted in considerable learning. The exercise on illustration showed that, with careful planning, I could tell a simple story in a single photograph by showing evidence of action and that by juxtaposing one or more elements in the frame we create connection which provides the foundation for illustration. When planning both these images I called upon the knowledge I have gained in the previous section, Light. In evidence of action 2, I positioned a continuous photographic light to the side to emphasise texture while in juxtaposition, I used a speed light, diffuser and reflector to create dramatic shadows.

In Rain, I experimented with a speed light and adjusting shutter speed to reduce ambient light, creating a darker, dreary atmosphere and reducing shine on the boots.

For the actual assignment, however, I worked entirely with available light. This was because the light from 4pm to sunset was gold and attractive and also to minimize the attention that I received. I was trying to be a blend into the environment and be an ‘invisible’ photographer. This would have been made more difficult with a Speed light flashing.

When looking at narrative I was aware of the need for visual and emotional variety in the selection of photographs. Therefore I planned to include shots of various distance scales such as the first image in Assignment 5 that was taken from a far distance and image 8, which shows a close-up, detail shot of spices that overfill the frame. Image 1 also makes use of strong diagonal line to inject some dynamism into the establishing shot. I also experimented with aperture, adjusting it to give shallow depth-of-field and emphasis the focal point in image 9, while shutter speed helped to freeze motion in photograph 5 and create motion blur in images 7 and 12.

I have also become aware of the importance of timing a shot, particularly with moving subjects, to ensure they are positioned in the frame where I want them to be.

I believed that the photographs for Assignment 5 should be in colour to help convey the character of the Creek area I was photographing. I did experiment with a few black and white conversions but felt as though these were not as strong as the colour shots.

Quality of Outcome

I feel as though my work in this section has benefitted from the research and planning that I undertook on the subjects. I read in Short (2011, p42) that to be a photographer, you need to be passionate about communicating ‘something’, as this will inform every choice you make in relation to your work. This led to me giving focused thought to the idea of intention, “what did I need, or want to share with the audience?” I used a Picture Script as suggested by Freeman (2012, loc 1335) to develop the idea of a ‘Dubai’ type location story. This script helped me formulate a plan of what I wanted to achieve and came with me in my backpack on shoots.

The presentation and layout of the narrative was an important element of this section of the course. It became clear to me that there is no one definitive ‘correct’ narrative layout. There seemed to be many variations, sequential layout, deliberate variety or visual continuity. In the end I began by using the basic, Opener, Body, Climax and Closer layout as suggested by Freeman (2012 ,loc 190) and tried to plan for visual variety in the rhythm and pace of the layout.

When I am working I often make quick notes and sketches in notebooks and post-its. This can somehow feel quite disjointed therefore I find that writing in my learning log on the exercise and work I undertake, helps me to organise my thoughts, think in a more coherent manner and consolidate my learning.

Demonstration of Creativity

Narrative and illustration needs to be visually interesting or it will lose the viewer. I knew that, photographically speaking, the Creek would be an interesting place to many viewers, however it was important that the photographs worked together to tell the whole story and keep the viewer engaged throughout

While I stated above that I had formulated a clear intention for the assignment in the Picture Essay I still took over 300 images over a period of 3-4 weeks in order to get the images that I needed.

During this time I experimented with creative use of shutter speed, aperture, vantage position, framing, composition and light. I also spent time waiting for elements to align in the frame the way I wanted them to.

Initially, I found the ‘open’ nature of Assignment 5’s brief difficult for me to refine into a subject idea. However, having now gone through the process it had helped me to see that by connecting with a subject is important as this then helps inform the choices you make about how to approach it with your camera.


On beginning TAoP course I spent a lot of time getting to know my camera as opposed to learning about or reflecting upon photography. As my practical skills improved I began to focus more time on reflection and began to use my learning log as a place to write about my thoughts and ideas on the assignments, exercise and reading I undertake.

In addition to this I now, routinely, take time to inform myself of the work of other photographers and consider my thoughts on it.

Recently, at my tutor’s recommendation, I sought out the work of Julian Germain, For Every Second You Are Angry, You Loose Sixty Seconds of Happiness (2005) and Wolfgang Müller, Karat, Sky over St. Petersburg (2003) and made entries in my learning log on this. Both series of work are very different in the narrative they want to convey but I also found them to both to evoke a strong emotional response. I found it useful to consider Karat in term of stadium and punctum as introduced by Barthes in Camera Lucinda (Wells ed. 2003, Ch 1).

In the last few months I have also attended exhibitions showing the work of Roland & Sabrina Michaud and Bruno Barbey, again writing my thoughts on the photographs and the photographer’s approach in my learning log.

In March, I attended a few events at Gulf Photo Plus, a photography festival in Dubai. I was lucky enough to attend a seminar on small lights with Joe McNally, which I found to be very informative. I found it extremely useful to see the practical side of a photography shoot and interesting to note that attractive results could be achieved with a single light as well as a multiple light set up.

During this week I also attended a seminar with David Allan Harvey, where he talked about his approach to work and discussed a slide show of his photographs. I found this seminar very inspiring and felt as this, to a certain degree, inspired my approach to Assignment 5, particularly his advice ‘don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like’.


Freeman. M. (2012) The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual

Narrative. Lewes: ILEX (Kindle edition)

Short. M. (2011) Context and Narrative. Lausanne: AVA

Wells, L. (2003) The Photography Reader. Oxon: Routledge