Today I received feedback for my TAOP Assignment 2 from my tutor Derek. I’m very pleased with the feedback which I have repeated below.

Overall Comments

Your presentation and attention to detail is exemplary. I found the notes to be comprehensive, containing details of preparation, experimentation and reflection; all valuable assets in a learning log. The images too are beautifully printed and presented.

Arranging still life set-ups is a difficult task. Partly these difficulties are technical, but can also be creative ones. There are many good, professional images of food online and in cookery books. Maybe exploring some of these arrangements would have helped the design process?

Some images lack credibility as being authentic (e.g. the chess/draughts); we know it is set-up, but we have to err towards a plausible still life if possible. I think the word you used was ‘contrived’. I know it’s tricky to set up images but to make them look authentic, which is why I said this was a difficult task. However, the majority here are well composed, technically excellent and they show a wide range of scale, colours and textures.

What comes across strongly in the images is a strong sense of a graphic style, good composition and good use of colour. The set of images work well as a group, in that they all appear to be by the same person, showing some personal style. The level of skill in lighting, as well as your appreciation of the need for varying the lighting, is higher than would be expected at this stage. This will be a very useful virtue as you progress through the modules.

Another point I’ll make about the assignment is that it is clear that you have taken it seriously and put a lot of hard work into it – as shown by your preparation, the notes and the images.

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to succeed at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.    

Feedback on assignment

As I stated above, lighting skills are self-evident throughout this assignment. Examples are the spot lighting (?) and reflections used in curves, raking light to accentuate texture on the draughts board and the back-lighting on the lemon slice.

Colour accuracy appears good throughout. Sharpness, resolution and control of depth of field are also very good. I liked the use of shallow depth of field in the Single point shot, to highlight the cherry (in addition to the use of colour as an accent – see assignment 3).

The choices of designs for the themes, as per your titles, are largely very good. I would suggest that Diagonals is more of a pattern shot, as the image is made up of points just a bit too far apart. The cheese with the olives is probably too broken up for each to be a focal point, and the olives are regular shapes. I’m also not sure about naming the pomegranate shot as an implied triangle, as I can see a wedge and a sphere but no third point. The pineapple shot is a pattern as the rhythm is in two dimensions (as with your pattern shot). A rhythm shot is a row of points repeating along a line.

This assignment is about design and composition – the placement of subjects in the frame – so yes, it is about the arrangements rather than actual shapes. Think of a point, then two points, then an implied triangle (3 points); it is a natural progression based on position (even though most students suddenly head for triangular shaped subjects after leaving 2 points!).

The images that I found just a little too contrived were the Verticals and Horizontals image, Diagonals and Pattern.

Normally at this point I suggest to students the improvements needed in lighting, exposure and control of depth of field. I don’t feel that is appropriate for you. There is (relatively) one dull shot (olives and cheese), but the rest are excellently rendered. That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement, but at this stage I am suitably impressed. If, over the next few assignments, we can raise your level of creativity and editing to the same level as your technical skills, then the final assignment promises to be quite special.

Learning Logs or Blogs

I assume that the notes with the assignment are an accurate reflection of the log as a whole. As such my earlier comments at the top of this feedback still stand. As you progress through the module, include references to any books, websites, exhibitions etc. that you view, along with your reflections on them.

Suggested reading/viewing

I recommend reading ‘Approaching Photography’ by Paul Hill. It explores the ‘why’ of photography, rather than the ‘how’.

Pointers for the next assignment

Whilst technically very good, I would still like to see more consistency in the aesthetic and creative aspects of your images. The next assignment is about colour relationships. Once again, the subject choice is open but images should be visually interesting, taking account of composition and lighting, as well as the colour relationships. This is a chance to be creative and to take the time to find images that you really like, rather than ‘shooting to order’ on a particular theme or title. You have already shown good use of colour in this assignment, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next.