reflections on tutor’s report

A most unnerving feeling when—because your tutor posts on your blog—you know he’s looking at your work…

That really happened just before lunch on Monday—and to be honest—for the rest of the day I was a little scattier than normal. The blog’s set-up to let me know when there is a comment posted; and my tutor posted a comment for Penny about Lowry. So I knew that he was going through my blog and looking at what I had been saying. Consequently, I did not really concentrate that well for the rest of the day until I managed to read the report on the way home—commuting is such a wonderful thing!

initial impressions

Overall I am thrilled—for a number of reasons. Really grateful that my tutor gave me such a long, thorough and positive report—admit for feeling rather bad for submitting so many images. I did not expect for him to look at anymore than the eleven I had submitted in my ‘select’ folder; but possibly my lack of clarity or documentation accompanying my CD caused the problem.

Also really happy that the feedback was so positive—when someone takes that amount of interest in your work, it really enthuses you; and motivates you to do even better next time. What follows here is a reflection on the comments made by my tutor in his report; and also further feedback from him when I asked a couple of questions after reading the report. I’m not going to comment on all the images—especially those with total positive feedback as that seems a little silly; and possibly over-egging myself. You might also want to read this post in conjunction with another one where I commented directly on the assignment without reference to my tutor feedback—was written directly after I completed the assignment.

personal voice

In the report, it was mentioned that I was beginning to express a personal voice—which I took as being a positive—although, to be honest, I was not too sure what it meant. I asked for clarification on it and the response I got was this: “You may confuse this with a personal style, approach. Think about comedians they are all funny but in different ways . Photographers develop an approach so we can recognise their work in the way they comment visually. It takes  a long time – some never achieve it at all.”

Now I understand the concept more, but I am going to have to look through this latest body of work and see if I can see this in it, because it was not something I consciously set out to do—obviously, because I had no idea of what it was! Also, I am treating this entire TAoP module as a time of experimentation and discovery; doing things that I have never done before—thus far food and street—will such experimentation hinder or allow this voice to develop?

fluffing the diagonals

It was quite funny that my ‘diagonal’ images were not that strong. Funny in a learning, ‘oops I took my eye off the ball’ sort of way, not in a funny-ha-ha way! Because I came to the assignment ‘knowing’ what a diagonal was, maybe I did not work as hard on that element. It was the ‘new’ elements that I strived harder to realise, and that was my weakness. A lesson learned for future assignments! But what did surprise me was my tutor’s assertion that diagonals had to run from corner to corner—this was new to me—thought they just had to have some sense of diagonal?.

selecting images

Sure other students have this problem as well; and also just read the latest post on ‘We are OCA’ about Assessment laid bare —”I can see how difficult it is for the assessors when a student submits everything they’ve done and have shown no judgement…Students need to understand the importance of being selective, I’ve seen students lose marks today because they lack the conviction to plump for their best work.”

I think it’s one of the hardest things to do, to select the image that you think fulfils the required criteria; and wanting to submit more, just in case! [Note to self—will try harder next time!] Have two, sealed books on the bookshelf —Magnum Contact Sheets and The Contact Sheet—not to be opened until assignment 3 colour is at least captured. Hoping that by looking through the books; and getting an understanding of why certain images were selected, I can improve my process of selection! [BTW the Magnum book was my first Xmas present to myself this year!!]

over-cooking images

We were both in agreement that some of the images had been over-processed—and there was this odd-HDR effect coming to the surface! It was most noticeable in the image of the couple on Tower Bridge and the clocks at Canary Wharf. This was my first time working with Silver Efex Pro and the new Colour Efex Pro V4; and I think I have found the culprit!

There is a new filter in Color Efex that I used quite often—Detail Extractor—and by studying the histograms of the before and after when I use the filter—what I have seen is that it seems to act quite strongly on both the highlights and shadows in an attempt to bring out the details in them. Will obviously re-process when I have a chance and also get more to grips with anticipating how the filters will impact on my images and how to control then more successfully.

Watching all those webinars were not the magic bullet; and I need to experiment more. Two more books have made it onto the bookshelf—Nik Software Captured: The Complete Guide to Using Nik Software’s Photographic Tools and Black and White: From Snapshots to Great Shots. Both deal with Nik software as part of the workflow; and hopping that reading through them will help.

reprocessing images

There are four images that would benefit from some work or revision; and agree with all his comments.

He said the image of the bike in the water with the fern as the second point was a little flat in tonality or in my question to him—”Two points – bike and fern – you say the tonality is too flat—does that mean it’s just a mush of midtones with no decent highlights, shadows and contrast?” So that needs work on those highlights and shadows to try and introduce more contrast.  [Have since looked at the image again, no use of the dreaded 'Detail Extractor'—which I suspected; and the histogram goes from the extreme left to the extreme right—which suggests I have a good tonal range? So maybe the image is just a duff, flat image?]

The second image that needs reprocessing and possibly a closer crop is that of the clocks in Canary Wharf. It was suggested that it would work better as a panoramic, so will try and crop without the loss of a clock-face—if possible. it is also one of those that has the faux HDR effect, totally unintentional though. I seemed to get better with the Silver Efex towards the end of the assignment. This was one of the first processed. I had considered going back and reprocessing before submission, but what worried me was that I would then put myself on this wheel of processing and reprocessing and not submitting. I needed another eye on the images to make sure that what I was seeing was being seen by others. And it was! So that in itself is a rseult.

My tutor has suggested that I try a duotone for the shutter image in my horizontal and vertical section. I’d not considered this before, thinking that introducing a duotone when everything else was pure black and white would change the theme. But I am more than willing to give it a go; and see what it looks like.

Finally, the couple on the bridge needs some work. The comment is that the sky is too light behind the girl, that we can work on; and that possibly there is ‘an end-of-the-world’ sky. I don’t quite see that, but I will work to bring it back a bit. The other comment was the slight lean in the image! Now, this is a problem I do have. First noticed it a while back in Venice, where a number of my images leaned down in the left corner. I put it down to the camera [5D] and not to me. But since purchasing the little x100; and using the digital viewfinder at times, I am noticing that—at time of shooting—images do tend to lean that way. Not sure if I hold the camera slightly higher with my right hand; or if I can blame the fact that my right leg is longer than the left and I am always slightly at an angle. Either way, need to keep an eye on this. But thrilled, mentioning Robert Doisneau and an image of mine in the same paragraph=big smile!

When I have read through the two books on Nik software mentioned above, I will return to the images and make the changes. Will post comparison links here.


On my tutor’s advice I have opted not to return to reshoot some of the images that I was not totally over-the-moon with. Have since discovered that I can shoot on the Underground with a student permit—at a reasonable price—and was contemplating going back for more now. But have put that on hold, with a semi Alexey Titarenko/City of Shadows approach—possibly PnP? I don’t know what the assignments are in there yet. So it may come to nothing.

referencing other artists

It was noted that I did not tend to reference other artists that often. This is true, but the fact of the matter, is that up until now I have not really taken much inspiration from other artists; and have just meandered on my own little road. This may well change in the future as I am starting to look more at other artists work and possibly take inspiration and ideas from them. I know I have a ‘path’ being developed in my mind; and for this reason, I have this set of links up on my website, hoping to revisit them properly in the future as assignments arise that can be linked to their work.


Overall these comments were positive. I think the way that I have tried to approach my blog in a category-driven manner, has in some ways worked against me, because it is difficult to follow my development chronologically. I have opted not to change the arrangement because I am a category-based type person; everything in its little drawe. But I have also added every post to the blog menu at the top of the screen so that if someone wants to look at my progress in this manner, this would facilitate that approach. Have also changed my front page layout so that it includes more posts and the dates of the posts are visible.


Overall very happy with the comments that I received and thankful for the feedback. So it is hopefully, onward and upward! The ‘single point’ images were not commented on—maybe this was also down to the way I submitted the assignment? And some questions in the body of my submission were not answered—maybe I need to put those in a separate email in future?

  1. Catherine
    November 28, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Well-done on completion. Sounds like your tutor is one of the ideal – lots of positive feedback and constructive comments on areas and ways to improve. Onwards and upwards Vicki. I enjoy reading your blog. Catherine

    • vickim
      November 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      Hey Catherine Thanks for the positive comments! Yup, I do count myself very lucky with my tutor because he is always so supportive, positive and encouraging!

  2. Penny
    November 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Congrats Vicki. It is a nice feeling and well deserved by all accounts.

    • vickim
      November 14, 2011 at 5:51 am

      Hey Penny—thank you! It was a slog, but very happy that it paid off!

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