Reflection on Assignment 3 – Tutor feedback

I have pasted below my Tutor’s comments on assignment 3, highlighting and annotating the points that I need to act upon:

Overall Comments

Your topic has great merit in terms of a complex (life-) story that has plenty of human interest: Kelly’s situation and determination generate empathy with the viewer. The brief suggests ‘not a day in the life’ and, although it does seem to err towards that style, they appear to cover a wider period. Overall I felt there was a clear engagement with a story in the text, whereas the images seemed more passive. The images are quite similar in technical terms, i.e. many have flash on camera, Kelly in middle distance, similar focal lengths used etc. If you have images with more variety that could be swapped in – of lighting, shooting height and scale for example – that could create a variation in pace in the sequence.

I am guessing that the ‘explanatory text’ featured in your log is your commentary. *If so then this should be in the PDF with the images. The text tells us the story that you want to convey. I’d suggest including comments on how you are conveying that story through the images, so that the text is also about the images, rather than the same story as the images, told in parallel.

*I misunderstood my tutor’s advice  when I emailed him on this point.

Feedback on assignment

The strength of the assignment is in the topic and the story this tells. The images support that story and illustrate it. *What I’d like to see more of is engagement with the subject(s) and timing of images that captures Kelly’s interactions with others – the decisive moments. What I mean by engagement is that some images show peoples’ backs (e.g. studio and calendar), or Kelly looks away (D/A). Looking away, at something we can see, tells a story. Looking off into the distance leaves us wondering what they’re looking at. In modern portraiture (e.g. Taylor Wessing competition) this is a popular style, but they’re portraits, not documentary storytelling.

*At the moment , my plan is to reshoot some of the images if I have the opportunity to go the the studio again with Kelly. I have contacted her to see what new opportunities there may in the coming weeks.

Some distractions take my eye away from the story e.g. *the TV and that bright green wall. If those could be excluded by camera position, or by editing that would improve the thrust of the images. There may well be others in your original set that would be better in this respect. In other images the engagement is clear, e.g. a great shot with the kids that looks completely natural, and the final image that also has an ‘observational’ mood, rather than a posed one. Better positioning for the stage shot could have separated the two people, as with excluding bright lights and screens in the next shot.

*The green wall was unavoidable and I could see that it was a distraction. The TV screen  was included  deliberately as my attempt to show that Kelly not only has to engage her audience but she has to compete for attention. Clearly this did not come across.

There is a greater camera-to-subject distance in some of the images that contrasts with the closer pictures. What I’d suggest is an edit of the images you took *to shift the balance to increase the ratio of closer shots. Retain two or three images taken with Kelly at a distance, or in the middle-distance for variety, but the rest could be closer. You may find that you could crop existing images to do that, rather than re-shoot. If you have images taken with (more) natural light, or with bounced flash these will look better than those with flash on camera, which is a harsh light.

* There are some crops that I can make and some opportunities to reshoot.

Overall I think the story and the (original) images are strong, but I’m less sure about the final edit. I feel there is perhaps a better set with more variety and engagement to be had from your sessions.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

*In your reflections on this assignment you state that ‘I consider myself to have good visual awareness and technical skills’. What the assessors will be looking for in your reflection is slightly different from this: it’s how you think that your assignment rates for these criteria. The log entry is a reflection on the assignment, not on your skills in general. I’m not sure I’ve explained that particularly well, so if that bit doesn’t make sense then please let me know and we can have a chat about it.

In the outcome section, Kelly’s story dominates that comment, rather than the ability of the images to convey that story, i.e. does the set of images and captions ‘do what they say on the tin’ (to paraphrase the Ronseal ads!). Again, it’s the outcome of the assignment (words and images as a photo project) we’re looking for here, rather than the extent of the completion of the assignment, or the subject’s story.

I’m not sure what you mean in the comments on creativity – is this a plan for the future, to rework with more creativity? You conclude with a good summary of contextual research, which is steadily improving. If you can relate comments on this to your own work, so that the two are interacting more, rather than in parallel, that would be even better.

* I will look again at my reflection on the assignment once I have re-edited it.

I understand your despair at academic language! Nobody expects you to understand all of this as you read it. If you did then that would indicate you were on a course that was too easy for you. Accumulating ideas (and the associated vocabulary) is part of education. Re-reading texts from the first year whilst in your final year will show just how much you’ve advanced over that period: they will seem like completely different beasts!

Suggested reading/viewing

Take a look at *Art Photography Now by Susan Bright (published by Thames and Hudson, 2011). I also suggest taking a look at an interview with Andreas Feininger for insights into lighting and lens perspectives.

*I own a copy of this book and I reviewed it  for  Digital Photographic Practice. I will look at it again to remind me.

Andreas Feininger’s film was interesting.  The interviewer asked several questions about technique and design to which Feininger gave some illuminating answers in particular related to black and white photography and contrast. His illustration of the effects of  focal length on perspective   were also effective.

Pointers for the next assignment

I know you’ve picked a good topic for your critical enquiry. See what you can research around the topic and get a flavour of the different opinions on that topic to form your own opinion(s). Start with a plan and your ‘findings’. The plan sets out what you want to say and why, written as simple statements/arguments: probably no more than about 9 sentences (otherwise you’re writing the essay before you’ve planned it). This will give you the structure. Then you fill in the gaps with your research/findings. Do an introduction and conclusion afterwards: when you know what you’re saying.

There are ‘how to do an essay’ pages online and in books. I’d only recommend looking at them to see the level of a 2nd year BA essay. Have a look at the OCA Academic essay writing study guide, which is available as a downloadable PDF from the resource area of

Tutor name:

Derek Trillo



Next assignment due



I knew when I submitted this assignment that I would have more work to do to it . I have found Derek’s feedback very constructive and will made the changes that he suggested. I have a fairly short deadline for assignment 4 and I also want to improve assignment 3 before I start planning for assignment 5.


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