Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

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Assignment 3: Colour – reworked images

Part of the feedback I got from my tutor on the Colour assignment was that two images in particular had an unnatural look to the colours, either because of not setting the white balance correctly to begin with, or because I’d gone a little too far in my post-processing.

Based on his advice, I have reworked these two images.

2. Harmony through similar colours

2. Harmony through similar colours

2. Rubik’s cube – Harmony through similar colours – ORIGINAL

The original image posted was, in the words of my tutor, “a little too red in the shadows which is giving the whole photo a more orange than yellow feeling, that appears unnatural because the blacks are no longer black, but a dark orange brown hue”. This wasn’t due to excessive post-processing but rather due to not setting the white balance properly on taking the photo.

In the reworked version below, I have gone back to the original RAW image and worked on increasing the black levels, whilst also reducing the levels of red and orange. The reworked version is a little more subtle and natural-looking. The blacks are now much closer to true black. I tweaked the shadows up slightly to maintain the slight gaps between the rows. The background yellow now looks truer to the actual yellow of the card I used as backdrop.

2. Harmony through similar colours

2. Rubik’s cube – Harmony through similar colours – REWORKED

16. Colour accent

16. Colour accent

16. Paris love locks – Colour accent – ORIGINAL

This was a simple case of over-processing. I got carried away boosting the yellow in order to make a more uniform backdrop. But as the tutor rightly pointed out, it comes across looking unnatural.

In the reworked version I maintained the more natural hues of the padlocks fading into the background. The overall effect of colour accent is still evident, but looks more true to life now.

16. Colour accent

16. Paris love locks – 16. Colour accent – REWORKED

I’m happier now that these two images look more natural. I’m learning that sometimes when it comes to post-processing, less can be more.


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Assignment 3: tutor feedback

I got my tutor’s report on Assignment 3: Colour earlier this week and so it’s time to write up and reflect upon some of the key comments.

The good

Generally it was quite positive (thankfully) and included in the overall comments the phrase I was looking for: “Overall this was a good assignment and you should have no problem when it comes to assessment”.

My previous assignment report had some constructive feedback about the sharpness of my images (combination of shutter speed / ISO decisions while shooting handheld, and frankly a sub-optimal lens, since replaced). This time round “you have obviously taken on board the previous advice as the sharpness issues have all but gone” – one image out of 16 was still a little too soft; the one I shot on the day I submitted the assignment…

I was also pleased to read that I have “notably managed to maintain [my] overall clean and geometric aesthetic” – I have a clean and geometric aesthetic! This sounds like a compliment :-)

Jumping to the end, the tutor did call out one image (below) for particular comment:

I was very interested in the Contrasting colours photo, number 15, of the interactions of the reflections. The photo showed a different way of working from what I have seen from you before and it was probably the strongest photo I have seen you produce yet. Your very graphical way of seeing works well here and moves your work beyond just documenting what you see and into something more lyrical. This might be an avenue for you to explore further in later assignments/modules.

OXO Tower Inside/Out

OXO Tower Inside/Out

It’s very gratifying to get such positive feedback and reinforcement, and helps get me some direction in where my photographic style might be heading.

The not-quite-so-good

Enough of the positive stuff… what’s really useful is the constructive feedback on ‘development areas’!

The main thrust of the critique was that in a couple of cases I “may have tried a little hard to show the viewer that they should be looking at these colour relationships, rather than it just being an inherent part of the photograph.”

One such example was the padlocks. The red lock stands out well but I’m not sure if you have done something in post-processing with the saturation or if the other locks really are that yellow, but the photo ends up looking somewhat unnatural. I would probably revisit this photo and adjust the saturation a little either globally or of specific colours.

Paris Love Locks

Paris Love Locks

He got me bang to rights on that one. I totally over-processed it in my desire to make it fit the brief. Hindsight being what it is, yes I could have been much more subtle. Less is more and all that.

The Rubik’s cube is also a tricky image. The colour seems a little off to me, but it’s not an easy photograph to rework. […] I feel it is a little too red in the shadows which is giving the whole photo a more orange than yellow feeling, that appears unnatural because the blacks are no longer black, but a dark orange brown hue.

Rubik's Cube

Rubik’s Cube

Now I will confess to being initially a bit deflated by this – I genuinely thought it was one of the strongest in the set, I really liked it! But I absolutely take on board the critique – and will go back to the RAW file and see if I can get the black to be properly black and see what that does to the overall colour tones.

So for both these two images, I will return to the digital darkroom (aka Adobe Lightroom 4) and reprocess them based on the advice. I will post the results of this in a new blog post shortly.

The other note of warning was that my prints came out a good deal darker and more saturated than the screen counterparts. This could be a colour profile or settings issue, and he’s offered to review my workflow in this regard before the next assignment. I think part of it is down to me using an iMac as my primary display, and reading online they have a reputation for being difficult to calibrate (strangely, given the reputation they have for graphic design etc). So as a precaution I have got hold of a ‘regular’ Dell PC monitor that I can use to sanity-check whether my iMac is seeing things very differently to the rest of the world.

Anyway – in all, a really useful set of comments that I will take on board and act upon!


Assignment 3: Colour


In this assignment you will show your command of colour in photography, being able to find and use different colours in deliberate relationships. Take about four photographs each (16 altogether) that illustrate the following colour relationships:

  • colour harmony through complementary colours
  • colour harmony through similar colours
  • colour contrast through contrasting colours
  • colour accent using any of the above


Please note that this post includes two images that were updated based on tutor feedback, so this is the final version of this assignment. For reference, the images replaced are both noted inline below and included in before and after versions in this explanatory post.

Small versions below for online viewing. Larger versions and contact sheet in a downloadable zip file.

UPDATE: tutor report uploaded.

First: a gallery view of all the images – click a thumbnail to open larger versions. Then a brief analysis per image.

1. Harmony through complementary colours

1. Harmony through complementary colours

1. Rubber ducks – Harmony through complementary colours

For the first set of four images I arranged toys of various colours against coloured card, in order to give a coherent look and feel to the images. Toys lent themselves really well to this as they are usually in solid primary and secondary colours.

In this first image I aimed to stick to the suggested harmonious blue:orange ratio of 2:1. The warm and bright orange against the cool blue, mimicking sky or water, does give this image a pleasing balance, aided by the composition of three identical objects. The fact that they all face left to right, which is how the eye tends to read an image, further helps this image achieve harmony and balance. I was also attracted to the inherent humour in the image, making me think of the management-speak of ‘getting your ducks in a row’.


2. Harmony through similar colours

2. Rubik’s cube – Harmony through similar colours

The strong, solid orange-yellow shades in this make for a clean and sharp image. It’s a very warm image in terms of colour but the cube shape and especially the thick black lines give a real sense of solidity to the picture. The stronger orange colour is where my eye starts in viewing this image, and the receding side in the lighter yellow shade gives the sense of depth. I considered positioning the cube dead centre to further imply solidity, but settled on positioning it off-centre to the left, as this allowed the shadow to fall to the right, further aiding the sense of front-to-back depth. [note: reworked image, original here]


3. Contrasting colours

3. Contrasting colours

3. Counting cup – Contrasting colours

In featuring only green and violet, this image is inherently out of balance as these are sharply contrasting colours that do not have a harmonious relationship. Green is associated with nature and violet, especially in this quantity, is quite unnaturally rich, creating a jarring impression. I wanted to further imply a sense of movement by having the figure ‘5’ askew, implying that it is rolling towards the empty space to the right of the frame.


4. Colour accent

4. Colour accent

4. Dice – Colour accent

To complete the toy set of four, I chose to position a pair of yellow dice off-centre on a green background. As neighbours on the colour wheel, there is a sense of harmony in the pairing, as they are both quite warm and natural colours. Though small, the dice are bright enough to draw the eye down and right.


5. Harmony through complementary colours

5. Harmony through complementary colours

5. M&Ms – Harmony through complementary colours

For the second set of still life arrangements I again worked to subject theme, this time food. Again I aimed to keep a similar aesthetic across the set, this time all against a light background. This particular pairing came to mind as I wanted to find a blue foodstuff, and there aren’t many naturally occurring ones! In terms of the balance, in this shot I didn’t match the suggested natural 2:1 ratio, as this is more like 1:1. Due to this, the brighter, more vibrant orange catches the eye more than the blue. Although a fairly random-looking arrangement, my eyes see first an anti-clockwise swirl of the orange M&Ms, cupped underneath by a matching swirl of the blue.


6. Harmony through similar colours

6. Harmony through similar colours

6. Apples – Harmony through similar colours

Although apples tend to be thought of simplistically as being red or green, in reality some varieties spread between these two opposites, showing shades or yellow and orange. Here I aimed to position them such that the shading from yellow to the deep reddish orange moved fairly smoothly from left to right. All shades along this continuum are warm and bright and hopefully this similarity is pleasing to the eye. I’m hoping to give the impression of the fruit appearing to ‘ripen’ from left to right.


7. Contrasting colours

7. Contrasting colours

7. Carrots – Contrasting colours

Here the contrasting warm, vibrant orange and the rich, natural green take up about the same amount of space, maybe with marginally more green to balance out the brightness of the orange. Even though the colours are relatively evenly balanced in terms of quantity, the impression remains of disharmony due to the relationship of the colours, being neither complementary or similar. The eye naturally starts on the dominant orange but the swirl of the stalks makes the viewer move around the image in a clockwise direction as indicated. Depicting carrots with the leaves still on like this gives an impression of the freshness of the food, as this is not how one normally sees the vegetable under normal circumstances. The strong colours and the plain background aid this impression of freshness.


8. Colour accent

8. Colour accent

8. Tomato soup – Colour accent

In terms of colour relationship, red and green are complementary, although in this imbalanced ratio the green serves only as a colour accent and so the dominant visual effect is very much the deep red of the soup. The bowl edge serves as a natural visual cue for the eyes to circle around the red before settling on the green of the basil. The whole subject is positioned off-centre simply to avoid an overly static composition.


9. Harmony through complementary colours

9. Harmony through complementary colours

9. Watering cans – Harmony through complementary colours

After the first two sets of four being very deliberately arranged, the remainder of these photos are all ‘found’ subjects and not in a particular theme.

First up, this display of watering cans caught my eye as having a good balance of red and green. The fact that there are two of each, and with the reds facing right and (one of) the greens facing left gives a compositional balance to support the colour harmony. Although there are other colours in the image, notably the pink top left, I felt that the red and green dominated enough to give the desired effect.


10. Harmony through similar colours

10. Harmony through similar colours

10. Leaves – Harmony through similar colours

Given the time of year, I couldn’t resist including a shot of fallen leaves. In this one I went for a shallow depth of field such that the eye starts on the sharper portion of the image about a third of the way up, then recedes into the deeper background. Though similar, there is enough variation in the shades to give a sense of texture to the scene. There is a warmth to the image with these shades of orange, yellow and brown that I found quite welcoming.


11. Contrasting colours

11. Contrasting colours

11. Love sculpture – Contrasting colours

The iconic ‘Love’ sculpture by Robert Indiana is currently on the corner of Bishopsgate in the City of London. It’s a very arresting image, and caught at the appropriate angle you get the strong blue colour of the sides to contrast with the vibrant red. This combination of passionate blood red, the colour of love, against the cool, calm blue is a striking juxtaposition. Although square, as the sculpture spells out a word the eye is clearly guided around the image. Although I originally shot this in vertical format to complement the shape of the artwork, in editing I chose a horizontal composition to match the other images. In this crop the only accents of colour around the main subject are also red (the bus, the pedestrian’s jacket) and blue (the window top right).


12. Colour accent

12. Colour accent

12. Paris statue – Colour accent

A golden statue atop a pillar in Paris, its subject appearing to be waving a sword at a passing aeroplane, really caught my attention due to the clear and bright blue sky. The pillar, being grey and half in shade, doesn’t diminish the yellow-on-blue accent effect. In looking at this image, my eyes first settle on the statue, then move up and left to see what the statue appears to be addressing.


13. Harmony through complementary colours

13. Harmony through complementary colours

13. Primula – Harmony through complementary colours

Although I had more than enough candidate shots for red/green and blue/orange, I was determined to include a violet/yellow combination in my final series. To me it was the most difficult combination to find occurring naturally, but eventually I came upon a primula flower with the right colours, albeit not in the suggested ratio for true harmony. There is rather too much violet compared to the yellow, but I do believe the brightness of the yellow helps to achieve a reasonable sense of colour harmony. Hopefully the green background is subdued enough so as not to fight with the violet/yellow as the dominant colour. The eye starts on the main flower but then moves to the right, with the half-petal gap being balanced out by the smaller pieces of violet and yellow to the right, almost as it a portion of the main flower escaped and exploded to the right.


14. Harmony through similar colours

14. Harmony through similar colours

14. Gourds – Harmony through similar colours

Again, the combination of similar colours I found was in the orange-yellow range, this time moving towards the green end of the spectrum a  little too. These decorative gourds offer a pleasing variety of textures as well as the variation in shades. The diagonal of the sign spike is reflected in the angles of the gourds along that axis.


15. Contrasting colours

15. Contrasting colours

15. OXO Tower view – Contrasting colours

These last two images are a little more experimental and I’m hoping that I can justify that these do meet the briefs in each case. In this first image I have attempted to use lighting conditions to bring the colour combination that I was looking for. It is a combined interior/exterior shot from the top of the OXO Tower in London; with the reflection of the kitchen, bathed in yellow/greenish light taking up the lower portion, and the deep blue lighting of the main restaurant area lighting up the skyline outside via the slats of the blind. It almost has the impression of being a multiple exposure, but it is really just down to the positioning and angles of the windows. There is a strong downward diagonal aspect to the image, accentuated by my choice of angle that rendered the interior scene straight and the horizon tilted; the colours divide along the same diagonal, giving it a real sense of dynamism and vitality. I initially thought that the dome may interrupt the image, but on reflection I believe it helps give context to the exterior portion of the scene.


16. Colour accent

16. Paris love locks

For this final shot, I initially considered it – or a similar shot from the same scene – for the ‘colour harmony through similar colours’ brief, as the huge wall of padlocks (the length of a bridge over the River Seine) broadly merge around the yellow/gold/bronze range of colours. However, I thought I would take a punt and justify this as an example of colour accent, due to the bright red heart-shaped lock that immediately catches the eye. The justification part is, I suppose, accepting that the wall of padlocks is broadly a mass of yellow (although it is clearly dotted with other colours, which gives it more of textured feel) against which the red lock sits. Once the red heart catches the eye, the depth of the image reveals itself through perspective and diminishing focus, showing the context of the dominant heart. As the premise of the scene is that each padlock represents the love of a couple who have added theirs to the bridge, and that Paris is traditionally known as the city of romance, the fact that the visually dominant lock is a heart shape is particularly pertinent to the message. [note: reworked image, original here]



Although I’m now very happy with the final results, I found this quite a difficult assignment to get into, much more so than Assignment 2. I found that compared to the subject theme-driven second assignment, this required me to find or create a significant number of different colour combinations and the shooting took place over a longer period of time. Also, after two months of shooting mainly in black and white for Elements of Design, the shift back to colour took some getting used to!

Following a chat with my tutor and a bit of preparation, I got cracking properly a few weekends ago. The real breakthrough was adding a bit of structure to the set of 16 images, as this gave me some of the thematic cohesion I was missing. Whilst I originally envisaged four sets of four images, each set with a strong theme, in the end only the first two sets had such themes (Toys and Food). The plan was for the ‘found’ subjects to neatly divide into two sets of four (Urban and Rural, Interior and Exterior, etc) but in the end I treated this as a set of eight without strong delineation.

Evaluating my submission against the Assessment Criteria:

  • Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:
    • I believe I’ve addressed the image softness issues my tutor raised on a couple of my shots submitted for Assignment 2; all of the first eight shots here were taken using a tripod, and for most of the remaining eight I used a good quality fast prime lens that allowed handheld shooting without boosting ISO too much
    • I’m shooting RAW and taking a little more time in post-processing to try to get the look to match what I saw in the viewfinder (or in my head) when I took the shot
    • In a similar way to how I started more easily identifying shapes and lines in the last section of the course, over the last two months I’ve gradually ‘trained my eyes’ to see colours and colour relationships more clearly; it started off as a conscious thought process when out shooting for the exercises and assignment but evolved into something I’m naturally finding myself doing
    • As ever, I am aiming to maintain all of the learnings from the previous sections of the course whilst delivering this set of images, so making sure the composition and framing are supportive of the look I’m trying to achieve with the colour relationships
    • Specifically on the Food set, I wanted to get a really consistent, clean white background but have not been able to achieve this; I need to work more on lighting and possibly post-processing if I want to achieve this particular technique well
  • Quality of Outcome:
    • Overall I am pleased with the aesthetic quality of the images, and in particular I’m very happy with the Toys set as these most closely match what I pre-visualised – strong, solid blocks of colour
    • Whilst some images have stronger concepts than others, I do believe I am considering the messages or ideas behind the images more than I used to; whether these concepts are at all clear to the viewer is however another matter
    • I made specific compositional and processing choices in all of these images that I believed helped to depict the colour relationship to match my vision for the picture; again, whether this is successful or not to the viewer is unknown, but I am consciously thinking it through more
    • I think a lot more now about how a viewer might interact with an image; what they will see first, where their eyes will go… I aim to replicate what I saw when I decided to take the picture; in selecting which shot to use, I’m trying to identify which is most likely to elicit the response I want/expect
  • Demonstration of Creativity:
    • I do wish I could have found two coherent themes for the ‘found’ subject shots, but found this inherently more difficult and fragmented than an arranged studio series like the Toys and Food sets
    • I found the still life sets much more interesting to set up and shoot than I expected; previously I always thought I preferred ‘finding’ pictures than ‘making’ them, but in this assignment I gained a lot of satisfaction out of pre-visualising what I wanted to achieve and then methodically working to turn that idea into reality
    • By contrast, with the exterior shots I found it more frustrating and restrictive that I couldn’t control all the elements of the image to meet my inner vision of the desired effect
    • In terms of subject matter, I wanted to avoid too many clichés and at one point was determined not to even have a flower included (I folded on that one)
    • I did work on thinking a little more laterally, for example on image 15, the inside/outside split view from the OXO Tower, where I saw the different light colours giving me the colour split I was looking for
  • Context:
    • As mentioned earlier, I found this assignment a little tricky to get into; my difficulties weren’t really with the theory, as I think I got my head around this early on, from the course notes and other reading (including Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure [1], not specifically about colour but contains some great examples of colour combinations) but more with the inspiration to actually make or find practical examples that demonstrated the theories
    • Regarding colour theory, in particular the changing relationships between colours when used in certain combinations, I found an iPad app called Interaction of Color [2] – an interactive version of Josef Albers’ famous workbook on the subject – hugely educational, and I strongly recommend it
    • I found a colour search engine on the web that was fantastic for both providing examples of colour relationships in the suggested ratios (to validate the theories) and for inspiration on subject matter
    • I did a couple of learning log posts in my preparatory stage for the assignment, first of all detailing my difficulties in getting started and what advice my tutor gave, and a much more positive second one from when I was seeing the series take shape
    • Even more than in assignments 1 and 2, I have kept in touch with other TAOP students on the same assignment, and shared ideas and discussed mutual concerns and challenges – which has hugely helped me in realise that my doubts and difficulties are not unique
    • I looked at and took some inspiration from photographers who are known particularly for their colour work such as Saul Leiter, William Eggleston and Martin Parr – the latter not so much for subject matter inspiration, as he’s very much a people photographer, but for his colour palette choices.

In summary, whilst it has been the most challenging assignment so far, I am proud of my achievement here and am really looking forward to getting comments and suggestions back from my tutor.

Equipment and technical info:

  1. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm lens. 1.2 sec at f/11, ISO 200
  2. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm lens. 1 sec at f/11, ISO 200
  3. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 18-55mm lens at 55mm. 4 sec at f/16, ISO 200
  4. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 18-55mm lens at 55mm. 2 sec at f/16, ISO 200
  5. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm lens. 2.5 sec at f/16, ISO 200
  6. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm lens. 0.5 sec at f/8, ISO 200
  7. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm lens. 2.5 sec at f/16, ISO 200
  8. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm lens. 1 sec at f/16, ISO 200
  9. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 27mm lens. 1/35 sec at f/2.8, ISO 200
  10. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm lens. 1/700 sec at f/1.4, ISO 200
  11. Fujifilm XF1 compact at 25mm. 0.5 sec at f/4.9, ISO 400
  12. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 27mm lens. 1/600 sec at f/8, ISO 200
  13. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm lens. 1/250 sec at f/2, ISO 400
  14. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 18-55mm lens at 55mm. 1/125 sec at f/6.4, ISO 200
  15. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm lens. 1/50 sec at f/1.4, ISO 1000
  16. Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 18-55mm lens at 18mm. 1/350 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800


1. Peterson, B. 2004. Understanding Exposure: Revised Edition. New York: Amphoto

2. Albers, J. 2013. Interaction of Color: iPad Edition. Yale 



Assignment 3: Colour – progress!

After knuckling down and starting properly on the assignment last weekend, I’ve made some headway. I think the very act of writing my ‘preparation’ blog post hugely helped to get me in the zone.

I’ve managed to take lots of shots already and may have selected about half of the final series so far.


I think I have three good shots for this theme. It was four at one point but looking back at my attempt at photographing an orange balloon against blue for the Complementary Harmony brief, I realised that I haven’t been able to reduce the reflection enough, and it’s very distracting. But I do have a fallback idea for the same colour combination (a rubber duck!) so that will be done this weekend.

I’m quite pleased with the toy ones, as I arranged them against coloured card and I think they’ve come out really well. Especially in comparison to the food ones…


I had ideas in mind – and by the end of the weekend, shots done – for the four food photos. However… I intended to shoot them all against a plain white background for consistency, and I’m really not happy with the results. Turns out there’s something of an art to getting a clean, pure white background. I do have a light tent, but the lamp I use with it isn’t terrifically strong and I’m getting very uneven light on my subjects. Also, despite custom-setting white balance with a greay card, I’m getting a bit of a pinkish tinge to the background. Hmm…

After a bit of googling I found some tips for clean white background, including exposing to the right, using a flash, setting a reasonably wide aperture, spot metering and some clever post-processing in Photoshop – I usually only use Lightroom. I think one of the four shots (carrots with their stalks on) is usable with just a touch of processing, but think I will reshoot the other three.


In contrast to the dedicated photo sessions I set up for the above ‘arranged’ images, I’ve been taking shots for the outdoor theme as I’ve been out and about for the last few weeks. As far as possible I’ve stuck with the same camera/lens combo (a 35mm f/1.4 prime) for consistency, but in one instance I spotted a really great red/blue sculpture while I was out with only my compact camera. I’m hoping it will still look OK as part of the final set. For other colour combinations, I’ve been trying to think fairly laterally, but I do need to sort through lots of candidate images and possibly reshoot some if I’m not happy with the image quality (after feedback on the technical flaws on assignment two). At present I have a mix of urban and more rural settings. If I have enough images I may split into two sets of four?


I had the idea early on to do flowers for one set of four images. As for outdoors I’ve taken lots of images at different times, which may dilute the visual consistency somewhat. I’m also getting a bit concerned that flowers is a bit cliched (well so is food, so maybe I shouldn’t have both?).

Anyway – I’m getting through it now. More progress next weekend!


Assignment 3: Colour – preparation

… or up until now, procrastination.

I confess I’ve been struggling with this assignment. Even though the Colour section of the course has the fewest exercises so far, I’ve found it’s taken me longest. This is a combination of a few things; work being very busy and my time being short (I presume everyone gets this at some point), nursing a heavy cold for about three weeks and – the only excuse that’s photographically relevant – I’ve struggled for inspiration.

I’m certain I fully understand the concepts in this part of the course, but I have found it difficult to source appropriate subject matter that demonstrates the concepts to my satisfaction. I found the exercise on specific colour combinations hard work from this point of view, and my heart sank a little when I realised that the assignment is essentially an expanded variation of that exercise.

For the first time I had to ask my tutor for an extension. He was fine with this, and offered some very simple advice for shifting the photographer’s block: just get out there and start shooting.

So last weekend I did just that. And I think it worked! I stopped over-thinking it for a while and just rattled of shots of colour combinations I saw, without worrying about whether they were part of the final series, but just to ‘unlock my eye’ a bit, if that makes any sense at all.

Finding a structure

Following the ‘just get out there and start shooting’ intervention I started to relax my mind on the assignment and worked out part of what was bothering me about it. What I realised was that I was worrying over the same things as I did in assignment one – namely the total number of shots and the diversity of ideas required. I found assignment two better in this respect as once I’d decided on a central theme (train stations), the ideas came thick and fast. This assignment, like the first, specifically requests a range of subjects. I’m realising that I find it more satisfying to work to a coherent theme.

With this in mind, and having got over the fundamental photographer’s block thing, I decided to brainstorm with myself how I could bring more cohesion to the brief, give myself a framework of sorts.

What I came up with is a the idea of a 4×4 set of images, where there are four examples of each colour combination (complementary harmony, similar harmony, contrasting, colour accent), one each from four thematic areas that I reckon I can find images within. I mapped this out in a grid to help me get a reasonable balance between the colours, like this:

Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 22.08.52

It’s not to say that I will stick rigidly to this, more that I’ve realised that I need some kind of structure to my planning and this is helping me do that right now.


In terms of inspiration on subjects, as per previous assignments I’ve looked at assignments submitted by other students. Not to plagiarise, more to give my brain some jumping-off points that might trigger ideas of my own. For the first time I found myself being more critical of other people’s work; in some instances I didn’t feel that the student met the brief well at all, and in others I was awestruck by the beauty and imagination on show – a real variety of responses to the brief.

The real breakthrough I had in terms of inspiration was the discovery of the MultiColour Engine search tool – it’s amazingly useful and somewhat addictive. It allows you to select up to five colours from a palette, adjust the ratios and search for images that match your chosen criteria. It’s given me lots of subject ideas already.



Keep in mind

So armed with the insight of what I didn’t want my images to end up like as well as what level I aspired to, I put down some thoughts, or maybe self-imposed rules, for my series:

  • Bold colours, dominating the image – colours need to the first thing you notice, not incidental details
  • Primary, secondary and maybe tertiary colours only – no whites, blacks, greys, creams etc
  • Keep in mind all the compositional and design learnings from sections one and two
  • Visual consistency in the thematic sets of four – lighting, focal length, colour temperature, saturation and so on

Now to take more photos… wish me luck.