Photocamp Bradford 2009

This is a live blog from Photocamp Bradford 2009. No promises about completeness or relevance! Apologies in advance to any speakers who I've accidentally misrepresented. The fault is all mine - let me know and I'll fix it.


I'm currently sitting in the kick-off session for Photocamp Bradford 2009 at the National Medium Museum. The media museum is an impressive place - apparently there are 3 million photographs in boxes in the basement, as well as the exhibited shots.

There's a rich variety of sessions - too many to choose from really, but we're not allowed to complain about that :)


Now listening to Miss Aniela, aka Natalie Dybisz, who is now making a living as a successful photographer based on her Flickr self portraiture.  She's showing a slideshow as she's talking, with some stunning self portraits.  There are quite a few images where she appears multiple times - my favourite so far is one with a boat, where she's sitting in the boat and at the same time standing outside pushing it out from the bank.

She's making some very interesting points about what being a professional photographer online means:

  • She is recognising the relentless Internet self promotion thing, and appreciating connecting with real people at events like this

  • She questions the nature of professional photography, discussing high art, commercial, and other genres. She's done something differently from that - how could you define her style? Galleries like things to fit in genres, but she's stuck to her guns, and has been exhibited (quite a lot, it seems)

  • Interesting point about successful pictures on Flickr, and how they are the shots that look good at thumbnail size.

This talk has caught me by surprise - I'm really enjoying it. Particularly loving the clone pictures... I hope I'll be able to get into her compositing workshop later.


Not in the Strobism talk after all, it was oversubscribed.  Now upstairs having arrived late in a Project 365 talk, by Alex Wolf who is doing 101 things in 1001 days, which sounds pretty cool in itself.

It's interesting that a lot of the pictures depict things other than self portraits - people just take pictures of stuff from their day.  I hadn't understood that about Project 365.

"Your Life is Unique - the events in it are replicable but the details, people and circumstances aren't."

Cool Project 365 things on Flickr:

  • There's a "resignation letter" group on Flickr, apparently. So people are documenting things in their lives, not confining themselves to self portraits. Someone wrote their resignation letter on a cake :)

  • Photographs of yellow stickies with cool quotes written on them.

  • New job pics - an NHS lanyard, a picture of a screen showing Dolly Parton's 9-5 playing.

  • Breakfast pics!

  • A cuddly toy that has "more of a social life than some people in this room". Well I laughed anyway.  Since it manages to make it to a pub on Friday night, it's doing better than me anyway.

Damn, I love Flickr. Things like this lead me to wonder what other amazing and wonderful things are going on in Flickr groups that I've never seen or heard of.

I really hope that she puts these slides on Slideshare. Lots of cool images! Feeling quite inspired to do this now I know it doesn't all have to be self portraits.  I must say that I greatly respect people that manage to do the self portrait thing every day and keep it alive and interesting...


Inspired by Alex's talk earlier, I am now attending a panel discussion moderated by John Fotohouse with Joanna and Simon about the Project 365s that the panel are all finishing off tomorrow.

Loving these slideshows of the panel's 365s. Such imagination! Some of these pictures have clearly been the result of a significant amount of work. Apparently, the received wisdom is that if you can't think of anything, stick something silly on your head!

John has posted one picture every day, but it isn't compulsory - you can save them up for a couple of days.

Joanna: People do themes - rainbow themes, alphabet, and she is doing a countdown theme down to the end of the 365 tomorrow.

Little vignette about compositing - John puts shots in layers in Photoshop, and erases through to allow the versions of him on the lower layers to show through.

The panel all agree that their pictures must have them in, and have clearly thought it through quite carefully - whether footprints or shadows count, etc. This is a quite different approach from the shots that Alex showed - I think that if I do a 365 I'd like the shots to at least have some sort of link to me or my day, but I won't necessarily insist to myself that I have to be in them all.  All are in agreement that however you choose to do it, it's a personal choice. Set your own constraints and live within them.

Constraints breed creativity!

Well, today seems to be all about self portraiture for me.


Lunch time!


Back in room 1 of the conference suite again, for Miss Aniela's workshop on compositing. It should be good if her excellent talk this morning is anything to go by.  Apparently a lot of other people agree with me, because the room is crammed.  I managed to get one of the last chairs.

So, Miss Aniela is saying that she has always been fascinated by the post production side - likes being able to change how the picture looks. "Photography is not just about the camera, it's about the whole process."  She's never used film.  She has three categories, to illustrate how much change she's done to them:

  1. Tweaking.
    Very little processing - perhaps colour rebalancing, levels, simple filters, etc.

  2. Moderate changes (aka 50:50).  Removing the surroundings, b&w conversion, mirror image.  May go through some compositing, but generally are composed as in the camera.

  3. Large changes (aka composites).  Something creative and substantial.

She's going to cover clone images, where there are lots of her in the shot (like the boat I linked to above), flying/levitating images, composites where bits of more than one image from a shoot are used, not necessarily obviously.

She's saying that there are a lot of people playing with compositing (just look at Flickr!).  It's easy to do, but it's also about how the things in the frame balance with each other.

In Photoshop, she uses the pencil tool to draw roughly round figures to be cloned, makes it into a path, creates a new layer with the selection, and then drags it into the master composite. (Hope I got that right!)

For illusions, like flying, etc. taking a lot of shots with each limb in position, then compositing them together with little bits from each picture.  Alternatively, use a chair or other furniture and edit it out.  Putting in the shadows is really important, so that the light makes sense.  Uses the dodge tool for shadow.

Fascinating to see the images from which these amazing composites are composed.

Things to remember when compositing:

  1. Keep camera still - use a tripod!

  2. Get an image without you and any objects

  3. Look carefully at the lighting - it's a make/break thing.

  4. Keep it simple - don't overclutter the image, or it's just more work to do later.

  5. Do what you can in the actual shooting - solves many lighting issues, etc.

Can also use compositing to get around lighting issues.

(It's very warm in here!)

Also, using compositing to get everything in focus. Adding main subject in focus as close foreground while keeping separately shot background in focus.  Try using Image->Adjust->Shadow & Highlight in Photoshop - Miss A uses it on a lot of pictures.

Know when to stop!

This is a lot to take in - I wonder if she is going to publish her slides anywhere (apparently yes, keep an eye on the Flickr group).


The Future of Photocamp.

We all seem to have enjoyed Photocamp this time.  The Flickr online community really adds something.

We're now discussing the busy-ness of the event. Some are saying that this is the first time that space is an issue.  However, I think that a lot more people are here than were at OBH last time.

How could Photocamp go forward.  It sounds as though the intention is to retain the Barcamp-derived format, and remain in dialogue with the Media Museum as long as both parties are interested.

Vigorous debate on anarchic Barcamp vs more structured Photocamp-so-far.  People don't think that the uncomfortable Barcamp anarchy will work for something like Photocamp, because of the more general audience with more varied skill levels, who might not be prepared to pay the £7.50 for a blank agenda.  I don't know if I agree with this - it feels like a knee jerk response to the lack of control. I'm on the fence on this one I suppose.

Interesting discussion about the social aspects. It feels as though folks have met less new people than in the past, this time. Not sure what kind of social activities could be put on to remedy this.

Talking about potential sessions for next time: remaking classic pictures, short talks "what's your passion", analysing iconic images asking why a picture is great, ...

I think I just volunteered to help, next year... doh?