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.



Photographer: Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter died yesterday (Tuesday 26th November 2013).

Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter, 1923–2013

Strangely, he’d been on my mind recently. I hadn’t even heard of him til a few months ago when a stranger who saw my Leica started talking to me in the street saying he’d just been to see a Saul Leiter documentary at the ICA in London. Then he crossed my radar in the last couple of months as I worked through the Colour module of the Art of Photography course. Last night I was trying to find an online copy of the aforementioned documentary ‘In No Great Hurry’ and when I failed in that pursuit, I went to Waterstones at lunchtime today to see if they had a copy of his ‘Early Colour’ book (they didn’t). Once back at my desk I read the news that he’d passed away.

I won’t give a potted biography as you can get that through a little light googling. From a purely photographic point of view, I was immediately drawn to his innovative and striking use of colour in street photography. The genre of street photography tends to get stereotyped as being predominantly black-and-white, as that seems to lend an air of documentary authenticity to images, as well as suiting the graphical elements (lines, patterns etc) in urban settings. But Leiter turned that on its head, shooting in vivid Kodachrome film and producing a body of work that captures the streets of New York not in the usual moody monotone, but in bright, saturated colours that jump off the page, through your eyes and straight into your brain.

Taxi, New York

Taxi, New York (Saul Leiter, 1957)

His juxtapositions of vivid, solid colour in strong blocks demonstrate a use of colour as core element of imagery that I haven’t seen in many other photographers. His use of colour is brave, bold and demands your attention. In some images it comes across not as ‘capturing colour subjects’ but ‘capturing colours’ in and of themselves, with the shape they happen to have fallen in, the form the colours happen to have taken, treated as secondary. Many images veer towards abstract, and it was no surprise to learn that he was a painter as well as a photographer. Whether consciously or not, he seemed to love to ‘amp up’ what he saw: exaggerate colours, isolate details, simplify the composition into strong geometric shapes.

One very specific aspect of his work that made me take notice was his regular use of glass – such as reflections, misted windows, and the distortions that they bring. He used this technique a lot, and to great effect. Combined with his colour palette and his unusual angles and other compositional quirks, it gives a slightly other-worldly view on what would otherwise be a regular street scene.


463 (Saul Leiter, 1956)

One of the shots I took for the assignment – one I personally felt very proud of, and one which my tutor singled out for praise – has elements of the Leiter visual language in it. I’m not claiming to be of the same calibre by any means, but there must have been some influence going on in my head; it wasn’t a deliberate attempt at any particular style; it was only after the event that I realised I may have been inspired, subconsciously.

OXO Tower Inside/Out

OXO Tower Inside/Out (Rob Townsend)

Before starting the Colour module I was carrying a kind of photographic snobbery around in my head, the one that’s been erroneously repeated down the decades – that colour is inferior to b/w photography, that it’s garish and only good for fashion and advertising, it’s not ‘art’, it’s not ‘authentic’… well a couple of months on I have 100% changed my view on that. Colour photography absolutely can be art, it can be innovative  it can be beautiful, it can be abstract, it can be painterly, it can be evocative, expressive, thought-provoking…

And one of the reasons I now believe all that is: Saul Leiter.

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Reflections on Part 3: Colour

As briefly mentioned in my assignment 3 write-up, I found this section of the course to be a little more difficult to get through than the previous two. This wasn’t because there was a lot to do (although lots of reading/research, only four actual exercises) or because I struggled with the concepts (I think I got these pretty quickly) but more that I found it hard to find or create the images I needed to illustrate the specific colour combinations for the exercises and assignment. So it was a failing of imagination and inspiration more than anything else.

[I did have some external factors affecting the speed of my progress, like being knocked out by a heavy cold for a few weeks, and a lot of long days at work, but I think everyone has these from time to time so I’m not expecting any particular sympathy there…]

From b/w to colour

One of the things that I found a bit of a jarring juxtaposition at the start was that I’d spent two months shooting almost exclusively in black and white for the Elements of Design section, and actually found moving to colour slightly odd, like I was ‘cheating on’ the style that I’d learned to love. But after a week or so I got over that strange feeling and started to embrace a more colourful approach to photography.

Over time I found a similar thing happened as on the previous section: I started using strong colour combinations in my everyday (non-OCA) photography. Below are a few examples of photos from this period that were not part of the exercises or assignment (from my daily photo journal):

Also, as in the b/w experience on Elements of Design, after a while looking for colours and their inter-relationships started subconsciously affecting how I see the world; like a slight rewiring of my visual brain. In the same way as I came away from Elements of Design seeing lines, shapes and patterns in the world around me (whether I had a camera up to my eye or not), I finished the Colour assignment with a new-found (and increasingly instinctive) appreciation of the ways colours work with and against each other in everyday life. It’s not easy to describe but I do feel like it’s subtly altered the way I see the world.

Found vs arranged

One real eye-opener in the assignment itself was that I actually enjoyed the still life images, much to my surprise. Up until now I always steered clear of posed photographs, preferring to capture images of what was already there rather than staging things. However, when I spent some time on the toys and food sets in the assignment I realised it can be very satisfying to be able to finely manipulate the subject in a photograph to achieve exactly the effect you want – very different to working with the element of chance that always accompanies taking photos ‘out in the wild’. And this is related to the next learning…


I’ve recognised in my shooting on the assignment in particular that I am taking more time to think in advance what I want the end result to look like, before I lift the camera to my eye. I had particular subjects in mind for colour combinations and sought out (or assembled) real-life examples that matched what was in my head. In some instances this worked well – the ducks, rubik’s cube, apples and carrots images in particular – and in others, mainly the outside shots where I couldn’t control all the elements of the image, more approximately.

In addition to this, I’m trying to get inside the head of the viewer and how they will read the image; in a sense I’m trying to not only second-guess how they will look at the image but increasingly trying to steer or even manipulate how they look at it. For example, with the carrots I wanted a strong focal point with the orange then move the viewer’s eyes clockwise around the plate with the curved green lines of the leaves. Obviously this kind of thing is easier with still life. In pure captured moments in the real world, there’s an element of pre-visualisation that needs to be accompanied by a little bit of luck, and plenty of shots in the bag to pick from.

Subject themes

I covered this point in my preparatory notes blog post, but it bears repeating here as it’s a key element of my self-analysis this time round. When trying to get started on the assignment I was wondering why I found it harder to get going on this one, and after a while I put my finger on it: I work best (or at least I’m more comfortable) with a subject theme that gives me some structure to the set of photographs. This is why I found assignment 2 so satisfying, and this one so much harder to get off the ground. I think this need for a theme reflects the fact that I’m generally an organised thinker rather than a true creative thinker (I work in project management, if that gives an indication of how ‘left-brained’ I am…).

This search for a theme works in two ways, one for me and one more for the viewer, I believe. For left-brained me, I simply find it easier to be inspired when there are some parameters to the brief (and if there aren’t, I will invent my own); for the viewer, I believe that a coherent set of images with a unifying theme is much more powerful in getting over a message than an unconnected set of random images.

An appreciation of colour interactions

This wasn’t covered in great depth in the course notes, but for me the most fascinating element of colour relationships was not simply how colours look together, but how they affect each other. I found it very interesting how colours can appear significantly different dependent on what other colours they are juxtaposed with. What really brought this home was an iPad app called ‘Interaction of Color’ based on the Josef Albers workbook of the same name. It allows you to see the effects of placing colours in certain combinations, producing what amounts to a series of optical illusions. It’s really quite addictive to play with.

Interaction of Color, Josef Albers

Research and reading

I confess that I haven’t spent a lot of time on this section of the course reading about the history of, or theories of, colour photography. I found the above iPad app on colour interactions hugely interesting as it was both informative and interactive, and I think my learning style needs some practical application like this. Dry textbook reading alone isn’t the most effective way for me to learn. I am however very much enjoying the journals that I now subscribe to (BJP and Hotshoe) and several photography blogs that I now follow, some suggested by my tutor and some that I discovered myself. Every single day I am absorbing something new from looking at the photographic works and thoughts of others, and I’m finding this kind of ‘research’ and learning very easy to fit into my daily life. I do however intend to return to the textbook that I have temporarily put to one side.

I have visited a couple photography exhibitions over this section of the course, one yet to write up and one detailed here. Ironically, given that I’ve been working on the colour section of the course, and Martin Parr is most famous for his colour work – the exhibition of his that I attended (and loved) was of his early black and white work!


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 



Exercise – Colours into tones in black and white


Take a photo with green, yellow, blue and red in, then convert to black and white, first at default settings, then emulating each of the coloured filters.


Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 27mm f/2.8 lens; Adobe Lightroom 4.


This old wooden abacus had all the right colours so made a good subject.



Using Lightroom I did a straight ‘neutral’ B&W conversion as seen below.

No Filter

No Filter

The Green Filter preset made the green lighter, but also made the yellow and red look lighter; only the blue came out looking darker.

Green Filter

Green Filter

The Yellow Filter preset made the yellow beads almost white, and the red slightly paler than the default version, but rendered the green and blue as quite dark.

Yellow Filter

Yellow Filter

The Blue Filter preset surprised me the most, as it made everything apart from the blue beads much darker than all the other versions. The effect was so extreme that I went back and checked a couple of times, and also looked at other students’ submissions of this exercise. It seems that this can happen with a blue filter.

Blue Filter

Blue Filter

The Red Filter preset had the expected effect of washing out the red beads, and also made the blue beads in particular look darker.

Red Filter

Red Filter

What I’ve learned:

This was an interesting exercise. I’ve used B&W presets before, not particularly based on colour filter presets but more by trial and error until I achieve the effect I’m looking for. This exercise has filled in some of the gaps on why a certain B&W conversion has the effect on colour tones that it does, and hopefully will inform my B&W shooting and processing choices in future.

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Exercise – Control the strength of a colour


Find a strong, definite colour and choose a viewpoint so that the colour fills the viewfinder frame. Find the average exposure setting. Then take a sequence of pictures; all composed exactly the same, but differently exposed from bright to dark by adjusting the aperture setting.


Canon EOS 650D with EF 18-200mm f/3.5 lens.


I chose a red scatter cushion against red upholstery. The over-exposed shots, especially the +1.0EV, render the red rather bright, almost pink-like. As the exposure was changed the colour became more saturated, as expected. Also, in the under-exposed shots the detail and texture in the material becomes more visible. In my opinion the slightly under-exposed one (–0.5EV) most closely matched how my eyes saw the colour in real life, which goes to show that the camera’s metering isn’t always perfect.

1/20s at f4.0

1/20s at f4.0 (+1.0EV)

1/20s at f4.5

1/20s at f4.5 (+0.5EV)

1/20s at f5.6

1/20s at f5.6 (0.0EV)

1/20s at f6.7

1/20s at f6.7 (–0.5EV)

1/20s at f8.0

1/20s at f8.0 (–1.0EV)

What I’ve learned:

It’s possible to control the strength of a colour through a deliberate choice of exposure. This is something I’ve usually left to post-processing, often boosting saturation if I think the camera didn’t quite catch the colours well enough. What this exercise has taught me is that to a certain extent I can actually do this in camera. Very interesting.