And now some FRPS photographer’s web galleries

I though I would finish this bit of research by looking at the web galleries of some photographers who had achieved The Royal Photographic Society’s Fellowship award, FRPS.  Fellowship is the top accolade of the RPS so it goes without saying that their photographs should be superb.  I started with a couple of people whom I have come into contact with and mentioned before in my blog.

Andy Beal, FRPS http://www.andybeelfrps.co.uk/  [accessed 9 August 2013]

As I already knew, Andy’s website is in monochrome, that is his speciality after all.  It is clear and simple to navigate by clicking on links in the panel to the left.  This is another website though where the homepage does not all fit onto the screen at once which is a bit of a pain and I’m not sure that the bit that doesn’t fit on the screen is necessary as it simply lists workshops which are also listed behind one of the links on the side.  Andy BealLike most of the other professional photographers whose web sites I have viewed, this site is more than simply a means of displaying Andy’s work, it also contains information about the various courses he runs, his diary of events, work for sale, lectures he offers etc.  This is one of the better ones I have to say although much more complex than mine needs to be.

Nicki Gwynn-Jones, FRPS. http://www.abirdseyeview.co.uk/ [accessed 9 August 2013]

Nicki Gwynn Jones

Nicki Gwynn Jones

This is very much an artist’s website, reflection Nicki’s approach to her photography. It is clean and simple to the point of being minimalist.  When you enter the site, there are just 4 tabs to choose from; home, which is the screen you see on the left, about, portfolio and contact/sales.  But actually that is all that is needed and although, personally I will not take quite such a minimalist approach in terms of colour at least, I really like the simplicity of this gallery.

The last two photographers I didn’t know but found when I googled ‘FRPS’; Susan Brown, FRPS. http://www.susanbrownphotography.co.uk/ [accessed 9 August 2013]  Susan is  a landscape photographer and looking at the images in her galleries, would appear to focus predominantly on beautiful waterscapes.

Susan Brown

Susan Brown

Susan’s website is clear and welcoming, again a white background with a large image, changing slide show style and not too many, good-sized tabs in clear lettering down the left side of the screen.  Once you click on a link, the tabs move to the top of the screen which is a bit confusing and there is no obvious way back to the home page other than the back arrow.  I really did like the feel of this site but just felt that a little help with navigation would have made my experience easier.

Dawn Osborne http://dawnosbornfrps.com/index.htm [accessed 10 August 2013]

Dawn Osborne

Dawn Osborn

Dawn describes her photographic interests as predominantly but not exclusively nature and this is evidenced from her web site.  In the main, I have steered away from black backgrounds but liked it on this site, whether it was the simplicity of white lettering against that plain black background or not I’m not sure.  I got the feeling that something is not quite right with the text at the right of the main picture though as it is butted right against the picture.  There needs to be a gap, or maybe another panel down that side.  This is yet another site where the homepage extends beyond one computer screen, at least my computer screen which.  I’m beginning to wonder if this is something to do with my monitor of whether it is just me that finds this irritating.   Dawn’s portfolio is broken down into themes and within that sub portfolios but navigation within the sub portfolios is inconsistent, in some cases there is an arrow to move you forward or back and in other you just scroll up and down.  Copyright information is across the bottom of the images so it does not distract and something that I really liked is that you can see your present location in the site on the title panel.  Dawn has included her RPS Fellowship panel within her portfolios which I found really interesting and useful for anyone planning to pursue this route themselves.

One of the things I would have liked in all of these web galleries but only found in one, was a little bit if technical information related to the images.  Having had a trip to the Galapagos Islands in January of this year, I found myself comparing some of Dawn’s images with mine and wondering what lens she had used, or exposure, or aperture.  I appreciate that most of the photographers whose work I viewed hope to sell their photographs, but I don’t think I am going to present much of a threat by knowing how they took their pictures!

So what have I learnt from all of this?  Well, probably the first thing is that the web site or web gallery needs to meet the needs of the photographer.   In my case, at this stage at least, it will simply be a place to showcase my best work, mainly for the benefit of family and friends.  Therefore it needs to be simple but with the flexibility to add other pages at a later stage if deemed necessary, say for example if I am lucky enough to be able to sell my work.  It needs to be welcoming and easy to navigate with just enough text so that people know what is going on without being swamped with words.  Navigation tabs and text needs to be large enough but not overpowering.  At this stage I would probably only need 4 or possibly 5 navigation tabs on the first screen; Home, About, Galleries and Contact, the possible 5th being a blog. I would want clear guidance on where you are at any time and how to get back to the home page, or in the case of the galleries page, how to move between galleries and forwards and backwards once in them.  I also want consistency in the way that images are presented, for example is there a border around them, are they framed?

In terms of the technical stuff, I need to look further into some of the companies, such as Clikpic and Photium that host this sort of web gallery.  According to the adverts they place in photography magazines they are quick and easy to set up, offering a range of pre-defined templates and at very reasonable cost.  I know too that those mentioned here, and I’m sure others, allow trial periods where you can try them out and evaluate them and I will do that over the coming week or so.  I also need to think about image size, whether or not I want a slide show, which I know costs more, exactly how I want the images presented, copyright information and I’m sure lots more which will come to light as I research this further.

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More web galleries

The next group of photographers whose web galleries I viewed were previously unknown to me.  As I was considering flowers as my theme for assignment 5, I decided that flower photographers would be a good starting point and found the following.

Anna Booth, I found a link to her website when I was looking at David’s Ward’s web gallery and in fact at first glance it is very similar in layout so I would imagine managed by the same company. http://annaphotobooth.com/ [accessed 5 August 2013]

This was one of a number of websites that seem to sit in the middle of a white screen and you feel you want to enlarge it but cannot.

That may be something to do with the fact that I have a very large monitor but I felt that there was a lot of wasted space.   There are some navigation instructions in very small text in the bottom left of the screen, moving between photographs seemed to involve scrolling but this is not very clear.  I liked the simplicity of the website to a point but the pastel coloured tabs to the different areas seemed to be a bit ‘pre-school’.

Andy Small describes himself as a Fine Art Flower Photographer. http://www.andysmall.co.uk/index.html [accessed 5 August 2013]

andysmall The home page is very tall and narrow which was too much for me to take in all at once.

andysmall2

Andy Small

It took two separate screen shots, as shown here, to capture all of his home page and I would really have liked it all to fit onto my monitor at once.  Many links to other pages down the left of the page but not in any logical order, then suddenly he goes into colours, orange, blue, etc., and when you click on these you realise that you are in his photo galleries.   His images are lovely images and there is lots of information, probably too much, but the web gallery needs to be much simpler for me and with clearer navigation.  If this exercise is doing anything, it is certainly telling me what not to do with my own web gallery!

The next person I looked at was Jacky Parker who was the winner of the International Garden Photographer of the year Macro Art Project 2012. http://jackyparker.com/ [accessed 5 August 2013]

Jacky Parker

Jacky Parker

My initial reaction was that this was clean and simple.  A slide show changes the main images with 4 good-sized smaller images underneath.  The tabs across the top made navigation easy.  I did find the copyright information right across the centre of the images a little distracting and for me, the one thing that was missing was something about Jacky.  I liked the layout of this gallery though and noticed that it is powered by ‘Clikpic’ one of the companies I intend to explore for my own web gallery.

Finally I found Heather Edwards website. http://www.htedwards.co.uk/ [accessed 5 August 2013] Heather trained in horticulture so really knows her plants and gardens and this shows in her images.

Heather Edwards

Heather Edwards

Again, this had a clear, user-friendly feel to it with a large picture of a garden in the centre of the home page and good-sized tabs across the top to aid navigation.  When you click on the portfolio tab, you get a feeling that there is more to come.  The thumbnails are quite small and there is room for at least another row and a half, so maybe work in progress.  However when you progress to the next page, images are better sized and navigation is clear and easy.  Copyright information is across the bottom of the images which I much preferred.. This site is powered by Photium, another of the companies I plan to explore further.

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Photographers websites

I have spent this afternoon looking at a number of photographers’ websites and was surprised at the variation in terms of style and quality, especially considering some of these people are professional photographers and presumably use this as one of their main sources of marketing.

The first one I looked at was Heather Angels as I am a fan of her work, particularly macro and flower images.  I struggled with her website though.  http://www.heatherangel.co.uk/ [accessed 4 August 2013]

For a start, the background is dark grey and I felt it would have had more impact, had it been black or white, or green even.  The sequence of pages did not seem very logical to me, there is no home page for example and some open as a new page, others do not.  The menu consists of a list down the left hand side and navigation instructions are in small text at the bottom left of the page.  What is good is that you can choose between thumbnails, normal view or full screen, though once in full screen, what you have to do to get out is not obvious.  For me the most confusing thing though is that Heather’s images are in two places, either the portfolio or a separate image gallery run by Nature Visions.  Love your pictures Heather.

The second website I looked at was another of my favourite photographers, Laurie Campbell, Scottish Natural History Photographer.  http://lauriecampbell.com [accessed 4 August 2013]

My initial reaction is that this site is much more inviting, you are met with a panel of 9 stunning pictures and although there is a very small ‘click to enter’ at the bottom of the page, wherever you click gets you into the home page where there is a short biography.  A series of tabs, in very small text, across the top and bottom of the page, takes you to portfolio, stock list etc., and when you click on portfolio, the images are very large and take a time to open with no obvious means of navigation, although once they are all loaded, you get a set of thumbnails and from there you can choose an image and navigate by arrow but no obvious means of getting out of the sequence.  There is some absolutely stunning work here but I’d like to see larger text and better navigation.

I read Outdoor Photography magazine and always enjoy David Ward’s articles so his website was my next stop.  Not easy to find in the search engine as there are so many photographers called David Ward.  The one I wanted is called ‘Into the Light’ http://www.into-the-light.com/ [accessed 4 August 2013].  Again, a really inviting website with 3 stunning images on the front page and tabs across the top of the screen taking you to workshops, gallery, blog, etc.  This was fairly easy to navigate and I like the exif data that went with each of the images.  I also liked the fact that you could choose a standard or full-sized version of each picture, although once in full size, it didn’t tell you how to get back to standard.  Some of the pages needed updating, for example when I  clicked on ‘news’ and ‘basket’ I got a page which didn’t mean anything to me but for me the biggest problem is that there is too much text on most of the pages and that it is quite small.

The best by far, in my opinion, of this first batch is Colin Prior’s website.  I was fortunate enough to join one of Colin’s workshops in North West Scotland last year, which was a real inspiration, so maybe I am biased!   http://www.colinprior.co.uk/ [accessed 4 August 2013] Colin’s website is clear and uncluttered with a white background and good sized tabs across the top of the page to aid navigation. The portfolio tab takes you to further sub portfolios shown in good sized images and from there to a series of thumbnails of the images within.  The images are quite large but once loaded they’re fine and you can view them individually or as a slide show.  This was the first site that I looked at that gave you a route-map of where you are, e.g. home, portfolio, wild land, and also the first that showed an option to ‘close’ the large images.  Definitely my favourite to date.

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Project: finishing

The last couple of times that I have attempted to include photographs in a text post I have been unable to upload the images.  So this time I thought I’d try a different method, i.e. creating ‘photo’ posts which I didn’t know I could do!  Now I find that there is an option here to include photos so I’m going to try that too.  Sharpened photo overload!!

We were asked to choose one image that had been processed but not sharpened, save that, then copy the image and apply different amounts of sharpening to the copied photos so that we could compare them.

A portrait photo was suggested so that we could consider the image of sharpening on the eyes, where we might want some as well as on the skin, where we probably would not and I chose a photo that I had processed in part for when we were looking at adjusting skin tone, highlighting eyes, etc.

Although I printed the 4 images as was suggested, I actually found it easier comparing the results in Photoshop, using the ‘actual pixels’ view and Lightroom in the 2:1 view. I have cropped all 4 images to get a closer view of the eyes and those with ‘no’ and ‘some’ sharpening are posted below.

The more sharpening that is applied, the grainier the image becomes, particularly around the eyes and fine strands of hair.  What is more noticeable though is the effect sharpening has on the skin, it becomes puckered and blotchy and every blemish becomes more pronounced, so the photos with less sharpening are certainly better for that reason.  The DPP part 5 text suggests that one of the problems with over sharpening is that halos can appear around the sharpened edges although I think I have been able to reduce this to some extent using the ‘lens correction tool’ in Lightroom.   One thing that I did discover though was that when you sharpen and image in Lightroom, one of the options is to add an amount of ‘mask’  I’m not sure exactly what this means but the effect is to smooth out some of the graininess created by the sharpening.  This is clearly a tool that needs further exploration and I can only imaging that the best way to do this is by trial and error.

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Project Finishing

Project Finishing

Debbie with some sharpening
The idea here was to reproduce the same image several times with different amounts of sharpening. I have a problem uploading media into a text post so tried this as an alternative. This image has a fair amount of sharpening and as can be seen, is quite grainy, in my view not very flattering for a portrait.

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Project Finishing

Project Finishing

Debbie with no sharpening, although the eyes are still quite sharp, the skin is smoother that in the image above.

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Need to move on to part 5

I could spend a lot more time exploring the ethics of digitally enhancing photographs but my next assignment is supposed to be in by 7th September so I need to move on to part 5. Part 5 of DPP is called the final image and is about displaying photographs, either in printed form or on a website.  There is not a great deal to do in terms of exercises however there is plenty of research required before I’m able to complete the assignment which is to build a collection of 10 to 12 images on a theme of my choice.  The first project discusses, among other things,  sharpening the image, something that I have steered clear of as I haven’t been sure about how much is too much.  Feedback on my last assignment taught me that you don’t have to do this intentionally.  As I found to my cost, I had the export option in Lightroom set to apply quite a high level of sharpening when images were exported. That has now been switched off and I’m hoping that the first exercise, which requires me to apply different levels of sharpening to the same image so that I can make comparisons, will prove useful in helping me assess the differences. The second project requires me to research photographic web sites with a view to setting my own web gallery up.  I’m not sure how much benefit I will get from a web gallery at this stage of my photography but I will enjoy the research.  One thing I can’t bear is a web site that sends you round in circles or is not intuitive so this will be a challenge! With regard to the assignment itself, ‘a collection of 10 to 12 images on a theme of my choice’.  One of the first things it asks you to do is ‘return to the brief you set yourself at the beginning of the course’  what brief?  So I go back to the beginning of the DPP materials and there it is at the end of the section marked ‘Before you Start’.   When I started to read this, it was very similar to the information at the start of ‘The Art of Photography’, so I skimmed through it and missed the important bit at the end. So, if I was to write that brief now where would I start?   That’s a difficult one because  I did not at that point know what I would have learnt during the course.  Writing my brief now, there are certain learning points that stick in my mind, such as:

  • basic workflow, I’m following a much more logical set of procedures now
  • I am now shooting in RAW
  • use of histograms to check exposure
  • setting black and white points and checking for highlight clipping and blocked shadows
  • thinking about whether noise is acceptable and if so how much in my chosen topic
  • thinking about the dynamic range of my subject and what the most suitable lighting will be
  • would my topic be a suitable candidate for black and white conversion
  • how much if any, digital manipulation should I apply

I think I have decided on a topic; plants and flowers, although this has not been discussed with my tutor.  I did an assignment based around flowers for the Art of Photography and was quite pleased with the outcome at the time.  However whenever I look at them now I realise how they could have been improved, for example if had I chosen natural daylight in a bright room but out of the sun, or set the black point when I was processing the image so that my black background was black instead of dark grey. I have considered some other themes, the Bristol Balloon Fiesta for instance, my theme for assignment 1. The problem with that though is that the event only lasts for a few days and if the weather isn’t right, the balloons may not fly at all. Even if they do, I would have a very limited time to get my shots and one thing that I learnt from the black and white project is that I need to revisit the location time and time again. Although this is the same level course as TAOP, I’m aiming to step up a fairly big notch with this series of images. The preparatory work I need to do for this assignment involves researching and viewing the work of other flower photographers and looking for specific guidance on taking flower photographs, Heather Angel comes to mind as does Nancy Rotenberg and there are many more.  I will need to plan my schedule  though so that I have time to take and process the actual pictures

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