Friday, 4 December 2009

TAOP ASSIGNMENT 1: tutor feedback

No more than a week after sending my assignment I was pleased and relieved to receive an email back from my tutor having tentatively watched my mailbox electronic and real. For the first assignment I did take a slightly different approach and I was nervous how it would be received. I have to say I was really very impressed with the detail, thought and consideration my tutor had invested in my assignment. As well as being positive, I was delighted that he not only 'read' my images as I'd hoped, but also contributed ideas, thoughts and constructive criticism going forward. You can see the set here.

Previous to this course I completed the T189 course which is a ten week Open University course. I enjoyed the course and on completion got 94% and a four line paragraph of feedback.  I was pleased with the score but the feedback was vague and left me wondering quite what worked and what didn't and why.

My tutor feedback for this assignment was to the contrary.  Infact, it is probably the first time that somebody has scrutinised my photography in detail and more importantly, the thought processes behind them. It is also helpful that feedback is available at five stages throughout the course which gives a good benchmark going forward.

As I've alluded to, I was delighted with the feedback and I am in general agreement with my tutor's suggestions to improve certain images. I have edited this post since, omitting all specific tutor comments after reading this thread on the OCA forum.

I am pleased I achieved what I set out to achieve and for the most part, the creative ideas behind the images were successful.   This is where this course stands apart from others as you are largely in charge of your own photographic destiny.

Stronger Images


This was considered to be the most original in the set and for me was the most 'invigourating'.

Rounded & Horizontal

The concept behind these two images was considered to be worth pursuing. The lighting was very challenging, but I was pleased with the high contrast between the shadows and light.


This remains one of my favourites as it brings up a surge of emotions albeit leaving me vulnerable and exposed.  It is one of the more ambiguous images in the set and perhaps because of this it is open to a range of interpretations.

Weaker images
Images that would benefit from specific improvements include high, black, large and long:


This was one of my earlier self-portraits.  However there are a number of distractions at the edge of the image that would benefit from being removed. I have therefore recropped and cloned out the bannister and other distractions. I also had to distort the image and remove some of the foreground otherwise I was unable to keep the photo dimensions correct. It is a cleaner image because of it.


 The skin tones were considered too dark on this image.  I agree with this and had altered the exposure already but not enough.  Ideally, it would have benefitted from proper studio lighting to light up the subject.  To set the shot up, the back-lighting is natural light from the window and no 'front' lighting was used.  I think with hindsight, this would have helped.  However, I have altered the levels further to try and increase the contrast between the skin and the black shorts.


My tutor thought the triangular composition worked well but didn't go for the ketchup bottle on the right as it was distracting.  It is possible to clone this out which I have done in the image on the right. Again, it is a cleaner, simpler image because of this.


This image was perhaps one of my most ambitious, ambiguous and complex in the set. And because of that it has failed in communicating a clear message. "Technically it doesn't work so well because the figures are barely visible".  Yep, I agree with this.  There are ways of doing this with layers in photoshop which my tutor has suggested.  I think when creating this image I was aware of better ways of doing this however I tried to limit my use of photoshop as I was concerned that for this course the focus was more on the 'art' rather than than the digital side of things. I haven't re-shot this image as my lens is still 'poorly' and I'm still considering whether the concept is not strong enough.  This is an important lesson for me as I do have a tendency to 'over-complicate' things and so often in life, simpler is so often better.

So in conclusion, for me this assignment has allowed me access to my imagination, to play and try new things.  And for this reason it has been a real success for me.  I want to continue exploring imaginative ways of communicating and am looking forward to assignment two although I'm stumped for ideas yet.

My knowledge of photographers is still very limited and there are a number of photographers that my tutor has compared some of my images with in terms of style and ideas.  So, I would like to spend some time looking at these particular photographers and to learn from their ideas and how they have been executed so well.  In addition, it is important for me to have a better idea of what has been 'done' before.  When I'm embarking on a concept that I think is original but find out later has been done many times before and much better is disheartening!!

My tutor has also advised me to look at contemporary art painting and sculpture to see whether the broader range of creative possibilities is of interest. I have found myself already looking at fine art in general and am keen to do more of this.

So, there is much for me to learn and study.  Infact, it is the studying and reading I thought I would enjoy the least, but as the weeks pass I find myself studying more and photographing less.  Not sure if this is a good or bad thing or transient, but I'm finding this course is all about the journey not the end result so I'm happy to take detours, re-route and take the odd picnic.  Who knows what or if there is an end-destination.


  1. I am glad you found your tutor feedback positive. The tutoring process can prove a bit hit and miss in my experience so getting off to a good start bodes well for the remainder of the course.

    You certainly had an interesting set of images, I think mine were quite dull and a bit obvious when I did this assignment, seems a long time ago now.

    Of course you have set the bar quite high now for your next assignment!

  2. Thanks for the feedback Duncan. You are a lot further down the line so it's useful to hear your comments. I can imagine doing the landscape course too in the future.

    You're right - still looking for inspiration for assignment two.

  3. Penny, these are so inventive, creative, and in some cases, brave - mine seem so dull by comparison. I'm really pleased it went well - good luck with the next one.

  4. Thanks Gilly. Yes, I was out of my comfort zone to say the least!