Pixel Painting

In this exercise, the goal was to produce a portrait in which pixels have been moved, altered or otherwise manipulated.

How this was achieved was down to us but experimentation, many tries and looking at online tutorials would be needed.

As part of the research for the exercise we were asked to look at the work of fashion photographer Nick Knight. See Knight’s profile under the People section of my log for that research.

Looking at the example image in the course notes, the adjustments are simple and somewhat subtle.

My own first attempt at Pixel Painting wasn’t very good. The changes I made, although trying to follow where the hair had been highlighted was a bit too garish for my liking.

Exercise 2.7-4881 - Hair Highlights

My second attempt was a bit better. I took the existing red colour of the mouth and made it a bit redder. Subtle but it stands out.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4991

However, after looking at Nick Knight’s work I realise that it’s possible to go brighter but also to paint things into an image that weren’t originally there and that is something I plan to look at in the future.



Split Contrast

Split contrast is a darkroom technique that’s much easier to achieve in the digital world. It can be used to add drama to pictures or to correct problems in exposure.

The purpose of this exercise is to learn how to change the look of a photograph by adjusting the contrast in certain areas.

I’ve approached this exercise in a similar way to that for Exercise 2.10. I’ve looked at several sources for instructions as to performing this technique. These have included the Foundations in Photography course notes and the two books that I used for the Dodging and Burning exercise.

The results are interesting, especially those achieved using the course notes.

Exercise 2.6-4947
Original Image
Exercise 2.6-4947 - Steps 1 to 6
Black and White with Split Contrast applied to the sky
Exercise 2.6-4947 - Steps 1 to 6 Black and White Layer removed
Colour reapplied

Black and White images are a lot more forgiving than colour at times. I think the changes to the sky are good in the edited B&W image but there is a distinct lack when it comes to the people as for me they blend too much into the scenery, whereas in the colour version they stand out more.

Having applied the split contrast to the image and then removed the black and white layer so that the colour returned I was surprised to see the effect it had on the colour of the sky. At first I didn’t really like it but as I look at it more I find it growing on me.

The only thing that really annoys me about both the edited black and white and colour images is where the sky and trees meet, there needs to be a much better blending between the two, something I need to learn to do.

Trying a different way to adjust the photograph resulted in the following image, along with the colour version.

Exercise 2.6-4947 - Curves Adjustment Layer

Exercise 2.6-4947 - Curves Adjustment Layer - Colour


Lightroom and Camera Raw are more restricted when it comes to adjusting the contrast like this. They provide the facility for split tones/duotones. For really simple adjustments to an image I found these far simpler to use.

Exercise 2.6-4947 Camera Raw Duotone
Camera Raw – Duotone
Exercise 2.6-4947 Camera Raw Split Tones
Camera Raw – Split tone
Exercise 2.11-4947 Lightroom Duotone
Lightroom – Duotone
Exercise 2.11-4947 Lightroom Split Tone
Lightroom – Split tone

Adjusting the tones using Lightroom resulted in a much better image than adjusting it in Camera Raw. There is a lot more detail in the grass and trees in the Lightroom images compared to the Camera Raw versions. I also think that the detail is better than in the Photoshop image.

The split tone images are better than the duotone ones because you can get a sense of the clouds in the sky, especially in the Lightroom image.

Whichever technique you use to adjust the picture, it takes practice but the results can be worth it.

Dodging and Burning

The purpose of this exercise was to teach the techniques of dodging and burning, ways of darkening or lightening areas of a photograph.

I found that the details in the course description was a bit sketchy to say the least, unlike the instructions in the exercises that followed. As I’m using both Photoshop and Lightroom a lot during this course I invested in some books to help me get my head around using various features as I come across the need for them [References 1 and 2]

Pages 70 – 75 provide details of how to perform dodging and burning but rather than use Photoshop itself, the author has used Camera Raw. The steps detailed were very clear and easy to follow.

Exercise 2.6-4932
Unedited photograph
Exercise 2.10 Dodging and Burning_processed
Edited to apply dodging and burning to the sky, polo shirt, arms and head.

In the original photograph it is not easy to see clouds in the sky, the processed image still doesn’t really show clouds but if there had been then the process of burning would have brought them out.

The changes to Matt’s head and arms and polo shirt make him stand out a lot more from the background and enable you to see more detail in his face and also allow the tattoo on his arm to be seen a lot more clearly.

The techniques described in the Photoshop book [Reference 1] were clear to follow and allowed for a lot more fine tuning of the image so that the end result is a lot more satisfying.

Pages 192 – 197 of the Lightroom book [Reference 2] describe the process of dodging and burning within Lightroom. The process is very similar to the one used in Camera Raw with the exception that you can’t change Vibrance.

The photograph below was edited using Lightroom.

Exercise 2.10 - Dodging and Burning - Lightroom-4932

Of the two I prefer the one from Camera Raw, although it’s just a matter of practice using both applications.


1. Kelby, S., (2017) the Adobe Photoshop CC book for digital photographers. New Riders (ISBN: 978-0-134-54511-0)

2. Kelby, S. ; (2015) the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC book for digital photographers. New Riders (ISBN: 978-0-13-397979-4)


The purpose of this exercise was to learn to bring out a foreground subject with a flash that is balanced with ambient light, whether sunlight or artificial light.

All of the following images were taken using a Yongnuo Speedlite YN568EX.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4980

A lot of the photos I took either ended up slightly out of focus or with the sky so bright that it overwhelmed Barnaby. This is the first photograph where I thought that the balance was just getting to where I wanted it to be. The fence post and panel are almost fading into the background. The thermos flask that is holding the bear upright blends in with the sky where it is white around the base. The position of the legs makes the metallic base seem like it is part of the fence post.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4983

This is the first of the photos where I believe I got the balance between the flash and the ambient light balanced to my own satisfaction.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4987

Slightly further away and the flash doesn’t give a good representation of the colour of Barnaby’s fur.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4990

A much better balance between the flash and ambient light. I like the level of detail that you can see. The low angle of the shot with more of the sky in the background also make the bear stand out more from its environment.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4991

Again, I like the level of detail but he doesn’t stand out quite as much from the environment.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4992

With the distance shots he disappears into the background a bit too much.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4993

Again, you can see that he is there and the fence panels draw your eye to him but the patch draws the eye past him so that he fades in too much.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4994

Closer up, Barnaby again stands out from the background a bit more but the shrubbery overwhelms him.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4997

The fence panels and angle of the houses draw you to the bear but there is a bit too much distraction to the right of the image.

Exercise 2.8 Fill-flash-4997 - Cropped

A tighter crop removes a lot of the distractions and allows other elements of the photo to draw the eye towards the main subject.

I think having the flash on the camera makes it more challenging to get the balance right when you want to take shots further away from your subject. For the longer shots I would be tempted to position remote flashes so that they were out of shot but a suitable distance from the subject so that they were illuminated to just the right amount.

In 2016 I did a photography evening class at my local college. One of the sessions, which I unfortuantely missed, was about working in a studio and showing how to use flash and other means of lighting your subject.

Towards the end of the course we got the opportunity to do some work in the studio with someone who wanted photographs for her dance portfolio. The image I eventually selected is below. The biggest challenge I found with trying to work as part of a group was not having control over the lighting and flash, however, when you do have that cotnrol you can get some really good results.


Night Portrait

The objective of this exercise is to produce 3 portraits of a subject that are taken at night. Various techniques are to be used such as high ISO (3200 and above), flash, long exposures and street lights.

Prior to undertaking the exercise we were asked to explore the work of Weegee. The link to his work given in the course material did not work but some of his work can be found elsewhere on the ICP website [Reference 1] and it is this that was used to explore his work.

There are a number of images that were taken at night or under low light conditions and I focussed on six in particular when preparing for this exercise.

The image of, what appears to be, two homeless men makes ue of the light from the fire in the trashcan to illuminate hands and faces as well as a small area around the figures.

The image of a person stood outside a waterfront building is interestingly lit as it highlights just that area with everything else in darkness. Just getting that particular part of the image lit must either have required a great deal of thought and planning, or some clever processing of the image in the darkroom to develop that particular part of the image correctly while overdeveloping the remainder of the image to hide details and darken it. Something the could be achieved using dodging and burning techniques.

The image of the crashed car being lifted is lit by available lights, such as those of the vehicle lifting it.

The image of a city lit by a lightning flash must have used a long exposure to catch the flash which has provided enough light to show details of waves on the water. The streaked appearance of some of the lights in the background would support this idea as if the photograph was taken at the moment the lightning flash occured all of the other lights would have been frozen too.

The image of a crowd outside a theatre or cinema with police crouched over a figure on the ground makes use of flash.

The image of the guy carrying what appears to be bagels makes use of a light source that just lights the subject leaving the background dark. Almost like painting with light.

After reviewing Weegee’s work I plan to try and use high ISO as well, flash and available light sources, for instance street lighting.


This proved to be a challenging exercise for me personally for a number of reasons, but the main one being able to get someone to act as model so that I could take photos at night.

In order to progress the exercise I decided that I would work on taking photos using different techniques and not worry about having a person in the photographs.

The images that I ended up with cover High ISO, available light sources, flash and long exposures.

Exercise 2.9 - A Night Portrait - Ukelele Player Cropped-5459
Ukelele Player – High ISO – Taken during evening entertainment at Gunton Hall, Lowestoft

This picture benefited from a tight crop. The full image shows audience members, including some that are standing just to the right of where the image ends. The problem with high ISO is that the higher you push it the more noise that begins to be noticeable.

In order to take this photograph I had to push the ISO as far as I dared in order to get the exposure as right as I could in camera.

Exercise 2.9 - A Night Portrait-5528 - Fireworks
Fireworks Display – Availble Light Source – Gunton Hall, Lowestoft

Available light sources can be useful when taking a portrait at night. Although there isn’t actual person in this photograph, it would have been possible to have taken a photograph of a person using the light from the fireworks as they exploded. Admittedly this would have meant taken a large number of photographs in order to get a selection that could be worked with.

Exercise 2.9 - A Night Portrait -5700 - Bear and Elf - Flash
Barnby and Elf friend (on a raised gravel bed, most definitely not on a shelf) – Ring Flash

In December I bought a ring flash and the above photograph was taken using it. Adjusting the power levels, changing position in relation to, and distance from, the subject results in different effects.


Exercise 2.9 - A Night Portrait - Barnaby and Elf Cropped-5711
Barnaby and Elf friend (on a plank) – Long Exposure

I’ve included the photograph above, not as part of the exercise but because it was taken using a long exposure and has been cropped to remove part of the raised gravel bed that was intruding into the left hand side of the image. I think the orange tinge to the photograph is partly due to the exposure time but also a result of light from a street lamp that is situated behind where the photo was taken. Light from the street lamp wasn’t able to illuminate the bear and elf directly as to the left of the photo, out of shot is a large plastic bin store that ensured that the area was in shadow. The street lamp is on a timer system, which results in it turning off for 30 seconds before slowly illuminating again.

After taking this photograph I took a few more photograph increasing and decreasing the exposure time by various amounts. After examining the effect I then took one last photograph but trying out the techique we have to use for assignment two. The experience was useful as I found out that the snoot I was using needs to be refined somewhat because as it is at the moment it bathes the entire area in light. A good thing to know before I embark on the assignment.

Despite this being a challenge to complete I can see that some of these techniques could lead to some really interesting photographs if with a bit of planning.

The fireworks would certainly have provided an interesting backdrop to a portrait of someone, a couple in a romantic pose for instance (despite the possibility it might seem a bit cliched).

A portrait taken using a long exposure would have it’s own challenges, getting the subject to sit still long enough to capture the image. Something that our predecessors from the early days of photography would appreciate. I’m not sure I’m going to find many takers willing to have their head clamped so that I can taken their photo at night, though.

Contact Sheets

The following are all the images that I took as part of this exercise. Included are some other high ISO images that I took at a burlesque show in April 2017.

Selected Photos-1

Selected Photos-2

Selected Photos-3

Selected Photos-4

Selected Photos-5


  1. International Center of Photography. Weegee Archive, Selections. Available at: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/collections/weegee-archive-selections Accessed: 28th October 2017.

People in light

The objective of this exercise was to take a series of photographs of the same person in different kinds of light over several days. The final selection of photographs were to be presented in a grid.

For this exercise I drafted in my partner because I knew that I’d have more opportunities to take her photograph on a number of occasions.

While completing this exercise I decided to make use of the Lensbaby 3G lens I’ve just bought. The lens is designed to have a sweet spot that you use for the main subject of the photograph, it is then possible to soften the focus in the remainder of the image in-camera with no need to apply similar effects during post-processing.

The photographs were taken over a period of about four days with some being taken indoors while others were taken outside. The outdoor shots utilised both days with cloud cover as well as bright sunshine. The indoor shots were taken using normal house lighting, flourescent lighting in a restaurant and also indoors with sunlight backlighting the subject.

The final selection of nine images and the contact sheets are shown below.


Selected Photos-1Selected Photos-2Selected Photos-3Selected Photos-4Selected Photos-5

Near and far

The purpose of this exercise is to make use of the knowledge gained with regards to depth of field and to photograph a figure in an environment combining portrait with landscape and emphasising the sense of space.

To meet the exercises objective a series of full-length and head-and-shoulders portraits need to be taken using a foreground figure or face in front of a background plus a foreground space with a figure in the distance with both areas in focus.

The figure needs to be placed in the edges and corners of the frame as well as in the centre and on the four points of the ‘golden section’.

For this exercise I roped in my friend Matt as my model. We’ve been talking about me taking photos of him for a while so this was a good chance to do that.

We met up at Stourhead House and Gardens. Unfortunately Matt was limited with the time he had available due last minute work committments so I took photos of him as we made our way around the gardens using a two mile route. The gardens would provide plenty of interesting backdrops for shots, especially as we walked around the lake.

Wanting to maximise the Depth of Field for my shots I set the camera to an aperture of f.25 / f.28 using my 18-55mm lens.

Of the photographs I took a number of them didn’t work because part of the image wasn’t in focus or Matt was moving, resulting in blurring of hands, arms or legs, which was an interesting effect but something I found distracting for this particular exercise.

I also rejected a number of images where Matt was to one side or the other of the photo but was looking towards the same side of the frame as he located.

Images were processed in Lightroom to make adjustments to exposure as well as the Tone Curve.

The results of the exercise can be found in the slideshow below along with a selection of the images.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Exercise 2.6-4887Exercise 2.6-4890Exercise 2.6-4935Exercise 2.6-4932Exercise 2.6-4925Exercise 2.6-4937