Category Archives: Practical Development

Practical exercise: Lightroom course (technical)



I recently completed a short course organised over a six-week period covering the fundamentals of the Adobe Lightroom photo editing software package. The course ran at City Lit College based in Holborn, London which in particular offers various photography and visual arts options which can serve to supplement wider study and practice.

For more information on Cit Lit you can visit the website at:

I decided to participate in the course as part of my technical development to ensure that my photographic skills can support my creative development and practice. I can see that taking photographic images which form a successful body of work involves a wide range of activities, skills and approaches which need to be properly learned, organised and managed in order for us to create a sound foundation from which our photographic practice can develop.

Lightroom was Adobe’s consumer proposition with Photoshop regarded as the choice of the professionals but with each new version Lightroom becomes more versatile in it’s aspects of image editing whilst retaining it’s ability to catalogue and organise a photographer’s work.

We covered all of the core basic components with particular reference to organisation, cataloguing and segmentation which I found particularly useful as I begin to see the importance and need for structure and organisation in my work-flow. The ability to reference work is invaluable for developing information for further development whether it be about successful camera settings or technical considerations, locations or particular scenarios which might prove to be useful or interesting in the future.

Understanding the export and outputting aspects of photography in today’s world was also highly relevant in recognising the different uses that we may have for our images whether that be for use on the internet or for print purposes and how this might effect aspects such as file sizes etc.

The course also provided a good basic overview to topics such as the adjustment of exposure, white balance, colour whilst we learned how to better control the tone and presence of an image whilst also making basic corrections and changes to the crop, scale and balance of the image.

Whilst many of these topics have been encountered previously it was an excellent opportunity to consolidate some of my knowledge whilst learning new things within the context of taking the image from a RAW file through to a fully considered and finished image.

The format was partly lecture based but in the main learning was very much of a participatory style working with partners and in groups which was great fun and an effective way not only to learn but to cross over into different topics of practice and conversation.

As a result I feel more confident in my overall approach to photography and believe that this stronger technical base can only better serve my creative side to improve my photographic image and artistic outcomes.



Practical exercise: Wide angled framing

As part of my feedback for assignment 3 my tutor suggested that I consider scale as some of the compositions may have been a little tight so to explore this further over recent weeks I have been experimenting with a 12-24mm DX lens.

I have found that by undertaking short practical projects I can continue to develop the technical side of my photography without getting caught in the trap of losing the motivation to make images without meaning. The objective is to ensure technical development as well as creative development.

I approach projects as a professional photographer’s shoot and try to measure my own progress in approaching different tasks and creating suitable photographic and technical solutions. Sometimes I am focussed on a particular technical issue and other times I am more concerned with more photographic or artistic challenges. Also I am now beginning to keep a practical journal useful for noting things that work and highlighting others that don’t. It’s not rocket science, just practise.

Working with a wider frame I made some portraits experimenting with how space works in enhancing an image by the inclusion of valuable environmental information. At 19mm (effective focal length of virtually 30mm due cropped sensor of a DX camera) this is substantially wider than I would ordinarily work at close distance but I was really pleased with the results.

What was also interesting was how by experimenting with a number of lighting considerations I encountered a range of different issues prompting further reflection on how we achieve our chosen frame.


Image 1 was made using a single Nikon speed-light fixed to the camera and whilst I was relatively pleased with the results I can sense that a single flashlight is ultimately an insufficient light source for wider scenes and I should invest time in understanding how some sort of studio lighting might be useful. Also I should have left the flash off camera/off centre and with some sort of diffusion as the light seems too central, too hard and not properly distributed across the scene.

I did like the gaze and the positioning of the hands and this image seemed to fit with my overall objective of picturing a young man in his father’s house and at a point in life where he was ready to strike out on his own.


Image 2 carrying shadows created by a single off camera flash had been my original idea but as we worked through the scene the outcome was clearly over dramatic and we were left with a version of an Alfred Hitchcock scene which was plainly disproportionate to my visual objective.


Image 3 had been the first frame of the day and was shot under natural light. Whilst I enjoy working with natural light as per my tutors feedback to my assignment 3 I am beginning to see where additional light might be required. Also there is a lack of sharpness in the subjects face due to the very slow shutter speed (1/6) selected although I could have gone higher on the ISO and would have had the option of adjusting a further stop and a half of light in the post-process; both options which would have allowed a higher shutter speed. I also felt that the open door and tea cup did n’t work so I removed those form the later shots.


In total I took 48 frames and took the necessary time in organising the scene before shooting and with light stands, tripods, off camera flashes so I had quite a bit going on hence how I also forgot to set custom white balance and I missed the opportunity to add a nicely framed family photograph into the background space which might have added a little richness to the context and narrative.

As the saying goes, practise makes perfect!

Gallery visit to the Framers Gallery: Beginning to think about presentation


Figure 1: Framers Gallery, London

As part of my assignment 2 tutor’s feedback it was suggested that I begin to think about how images could be presented over and beyond the learning blog and some artist photographers were suggested which I have followed up on. I particularly liked how Paul Graham moves away from the standard linear presentation for his exhibition showing the project ‘A Shimmer of Possibility’ so I bookmarked this topic of presentation for my next assignment.

To expand my research on this topic I visited the Framers gallery, a commercial gallery on the side of small a picture framing business close to where I work, where I sometimes pop in during a lunch hour if the current exhibition catches my eye. I had a really interesting and productive conversation with Diyana Yovcheva the Gallery Assistant Manager.

Diyana is herself an artist who studied Fine Art at Middlesex University and now works with natural materials found in the urban environment making art whilst reflecting on her thoughts and feelings towards her rural homeland in Bulgaria which contrasts enormously to London the place where she is now based. Diyana also photographed her artworks as part of their presentation so we also had an interesting debate around the whole idea of what is an image.

I explained my position in terms of my own studies and photographic practice and we showed bits of our work to each other and then Diyana described how she approached the challenge of her own graduation show.

She talked about the available space that she was offered and how this affected her decisions in terms of ordering and spacing of her work. She discussed a number of issues such as; where do you place your best pieces? What will be the expected flow and direction of the viewers and how does this affect your decisions?

As I reflect back over our conversation I was really left thinking about two key areas going forward. Firstly there is the technical and logistical components of presentation including space, lighting, how the work is hung – framed, pinned to the wall, laid on the floor. There are many different formats and combinations of these factors and more, the possibilities really begin to multiply.

Secondly, once we start to begin to understand the technical and logistical possibilities of presentation it then becomes about what the artist is actually seeking to achieve, what are the objectives. With so many different possibilities but also by beginning to appreciate how the dynamics of presentation can completely change the viewing experience I can now see that presentation is actually quite major consideration and part of the artwork itself whereas I probably hadn’t thought about it at all previously. Once we know what the idea is then a successful plan of presentation can be worked up.

Whilst all of this seems very obvious as always you have to start somewhere and standing in an empty gallery space with blank walls being prepared for the next exhibition made the subject and process of presentation very real and relevant and even the process of thinking about presentation has started to affect how I will go about creating images for forthcoming assignments.

At a recent exhibition I spent time observing the different angles of the spotlights in the ceiling and saw that there were in the main at a 45 degree angle pointing down towards the images but set outside the outer edges of the picture frame so pointing inwards; and this was really the first time that I had even thought about presentation so very much a new and interesting area for consideration.

What was also very interesting was by speaking to an individual who is part of the commercial management of the gallery the whole process of financial investment and return were highlighted again a very interesting subject.

On a completely different level it was fantastic and very motivational to speak to an artist who was fairly recently graduated and in the process of developing art and striving to exhibit her work. Diyana was very generous with her time and I was at least able to suggest a few theoretical essays and ideas about photography which she found useful so at least I could give a little back in return.

Diyana Yovcheva has an exhibition at the Framers Gallery which is just off Tottenham Court Road in early 2017 so I will stay in touch and try to learn more and support this event and who knows where these contacts leads to.

Reference list

Paul Graham (2007) ‘A Shimmer of Possibility’ shown on The Douglas Hyde Gallery website (online) at:

(accessed 21 August 2016)

The Framers Gallery, Windmill Street, London W1T 2JT for more information visit:



Practical development: Costa Brava


Costa Brava -1

Costa Brava -2

Costa Brava -3

Costa Brava -4

Costa Brava -5

Costa Brava -6

Costa Brava -8

Costa Brava -9

As part of the continued development of my technical skills and awareness I set out to make some photographs whilst taking a holiday on the Spanish Costa Brava. As the trip was primarily a relaxation break I was n’t sure how much time I would be able to devote to this project so my brief was simply to make images of the things which caught my eye.

I have always enjoyed the Mediterranean region and since I bought a camera I have become fascinated with the light which when coupled with the differences in the natural and built environments, cultural and economic differences makes for a really interesting photographic challenge.

My influences

It was through seeing El porque de las naranjas by Ricardo Cases (read more here), which originally inspired my signing up with the OCA. More recently I have also enjoyed Luighi Ghirri Kodachrome (read more here) and Steven Shore’s Uncommon Places (read more here). I also made the Mediterranean region the context for one of my assignments from OCA Expressing Your Vision (read more here).

My way of working

I am developing my interpretation of what I see but not necessarily seeking to capture the essence of the area. I avoided the beach, partly due to a desire to avoid sand and partly due to a desire to avoid a Martin Parr styled irony format.

The images become an exercise in how I see, influenced by all of the media – both text and images – that I have absorbed and the experiences and perspectives that I have developed so it’s always interesting to see where we take ourselves on these informal exercises. The intention is always to develop some sort of coherent path whilst opening up further possibilities and areas to reflect upon.


I think that this is an interesting first draft, a more interesting set of images than I made last year made with a greater confidence and technical competence and maybe the basis for further research. Perhaps I could link the two, or will my intention be to remain an occasional and observational tourist?

At least a very useful working practice exercise which will hopefully support my main studies and research.


Cases, R (2014) El-Porque-de-las-naranjas (online) At:

Ghirri, L (2013) Kodachrome, second edition, Istanbul: MACK.

Pantall, C (2014) The Reason of Oranges. British Journal of Photography July 2014. 9page 68-77), also (on-line) At:
(Accessed 20 May 2016)

Shore, S (1982), Uncommon Places. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

Practical development: Creating a single image from a series of photographs

Rosie Zizzi final-1-2

As part of an ongoing development of my technical skills I set out an informal practical project to create a single image from a group of photographs. Working on the basis of the better my technical command of camera and editing software the better my attempts to articulate ideas and concepts into photographic images.

The above image was by using 9 images taken with my camera phone and arranged using the lightroom print module where you can select to create a jpg as the output format thus creating the new single image which can then be re-edited as an original image. Simple but effective!

Andy Warhol

Figure 1. Marilyn Diptich (1962)

Starting off with Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe I thought that it would be quite useful to play with the organisation and presentation of multiple images of the same subject as a presentation tool for going forward.

There are plenty of possibilities which start to come to mind with this concept from comparisons and contrasts to making statements as Warhol did on repetition and reproduction.

As part of my general interest in mass media I will take a closer look at pop art and see where that leads to.


Figure 1. Warhol, A. Marilyn Diptich (1962). (online) AT: (accessed 3 July 2016)




Research: practical development: Focusing on you

As part of my efforts to improve my approach to research and development I am starting to take concepts of interest and develop them into practical projects in order to further develop my creative process and technical capabilities.

During my OCA studies I have found that I am spending more and more time considering photography, art and the creative process generally but less time behind a camera and the main reason being that I am finding it increasingly harder to find the motivation to make images without any sort of brief or purpose.

Reference point

My initial idea came from my visit to the Mona Hatoum exhibition (previous post see here) where there were strong themes of camera and video surveillance (of individuals) so I thought that I would try to make some images with some of these thoughts as my starting point.

Watch You Rosie 1-1

Image taken by A.O’Neill (2016)

I took some initial images (as seen above) using a telephoto lens based on the idea of surveillance but this moved onto develop my reflections from an earlier exhibition that I had visited Performing for the Camera (previous post see here).

Interestingly at the time I had n’t been particularly positive about the exhibition and I was disappointed that I had n’t taken more from the visit at the time. Rushing around during my working day and visiting what was a vast and slightly over-whelming exhibition I felt that I had initially missed the whole point of the exercise.

After the initial exercise I decided to develop a different exercise within the same sort of area and asked my son to model by sitting straight and still within a chair whilst I took images in his state of passiveness.

Whilst I did n’t necessarily have any sort of plan my underlying idea was to seek an intimate and or invasive moment/space. I will certainly reflect more on this exercise in the future and possibly revisit the concept in some shape of form.


Reflecting more on the Performing for the Camera exhibition I realise that it was as much about the concept of using the camera to create a representation and of the image being considered in it’s own right with a function other than just being a picture.

This image making exercise becomes part of my subtle but increasing awareness of the existence of the image as an entity rather than considering solely the subject of photography, as the medium used for making or taking the pictures.