Assignment 2: Shutterscapes

This second part of Assignment 2 uses existing and new landscape photograph series from East Anglia, Cornwall and Northern England.

The Assignment 2 project brief explicitly required me to focus on skills development rather than content and meaning. My aim was to start to significantly improve my digital photography editing skills and develop a number of alternative visual communication workflows in different photographic styles in different software. More specifically to:

  • significantly improve my proficiency in different modules of Lightroom : develop module, book module, slideshow module and print module to see what can be achieved through using Lightroom alone
  • explore potential role/s in my digital workflow of of DxOFX (NikFX) filters that I had not tried before.

My selection of images from my very large library of photos of varying quality and content was based partly on their suitability in posing a variety of technical challenges. Some of the images are older and less ‘professional’ low resolution jpg images shot with an iPhone or old compact camera. Others are newer and better considered RAW images shot on a DSLR. The aim was to explore a range of interesting and relevant technical treatments in different software as a more creative way of discovering ‘happy accidents’ as visual communication rather than focusing only on more conventional ‘professional photography’.

Although I am not asked to focus on content or meaning, my discussion of the images and the ways in which I develop them draw on discussions of beauty/sublime, the picturesque and ‘tourist gaze’ in landscape and documentary photography and considers ways in which different styles of digital processing can alter the meanings of the photographic image. In each series I explore a range of possible aesthetic and colour and/or monochrome technique before identifying those that best communicate the ‘spirit of place’, different ways in which human activity has ‘landscaped’ the ‘natural’ environment and my own ‘landscaping’ of what I see.

A further key aim of this assignment was also to start to look at ways of promoting my work, starting with Shutterstock stock image market. Advice from experienced stock photographers is to have a larger number of different types of image – editorial, commercial and also abstract. Rather than – as in higher end photography – to focus on a distinctive style and niche. So an issue in selection of series and images was how far I thought they might be suitable as stock photography rather than their documentary interest. I focus on five series of existing and new images from locations in East Anglia, Cornwall and North of England that potentially offered a different ‘aesthetic’, were under-represented on Shutterstock, and which I would be able to revisit and extend in different media for subsequent assignments focusing on content and narrative.

2.2.1/5.1.1 Aldeburgh revisited

focuses on colour, using two series of images (one high resolution RAW and the other poor quality iPhone) originally taken as background reference for sketchbooks of Aldeburgh in Illustration 2. I look at what can be done in Lightroom alone, and how poor quality images can be developed in ColorFX.

In Assignment 5.2.1 Zemni on the Move 1: Aldeburgh Great Escape I develop these, together with new ‘Lockdown images’ as moving image presentations in Adobe Premiere.

2.2.2/5.1.2 Norfolk by the Sea

Norfolk by the Sea revisits images of seaside towns, landscapes and seascapes that are disappearing with coastal erosion. Many of the cliffs and seaside attractions photographed no longer exist. In Assignment 5.1 I develop selected images as a Photobook and Photoscreenprints

2.2.3/5.1.3 St Ives Black and White

Lake Reflections revisits a portfolio of high quality RAW images processed in Lightroom for a landscape photography assignment on ‘Beauty and Sublime’ and looks at whether and how Nik Viveza and Silver FX can add more lift and impact to the images. In Assignment 5.1 these are extended with captions and new photographs as cards on humorous or thought-provoking themes.

2.2.4/5.1.4 Lake Reflections

Lake Reflections revisits a portfolio of high quality RAW images processed in Lightroom for a landscape photography assignment on ‘Beauty and Sublime’ and looks at whether and how Nik Viveza and Silver FX can add more lift and impact to the images. In Assignment 5.1 these are extended with captions and new photographs as cards on humorous or thought-provoking themes.

2.2.5/5.1.5 Dark Peak

starts to look at ways of working with low resolution jpg images in Silver FX to produce a series of ‘dark’ evocative images from photographs taken with an old compact camera in 2011. In Assignment 5 these are extended with photographs, black and white scraperboard images and photolithography from Hagg Wood in the Holme Valley.

Technical conclusions on digital photography software workflow

  • continues and extends my black and white explorations in Lightroom and SilverFX from Project 2.1 Bridge.
  • looks also at colour, split tone, vintage effects and ways of working with low resolution jpg images in Adobe Lightroom and Nik FX.
  • develops an effective and streamlined professional set of alternative workflows integrating Lightroom, and Nik FX with Photoshop for working with different types of image in different styles.
  • further explores use of different Photoshop filters to develop images for printmaking. Photoshop provides a very quick way of exploring different artistic image treatments that can then be used as templates for prints. Photoshop is also the software used for photoscreen – both for black and white photoscreen images as in Assignment 2.1 and also colour separations for photoscreen and photolithography.

My conclusions of workflow are that the key is to explore a range of image possibilities through initial experimentation as unexpected discoveries are often made – the more one becomes familiar with the software the more possibilities open up. This helps clarify what one is aiming to communicate – often a number of different interpretations that are relevant for different purposes and combinations of narrative. Then images can be reviewed and refined in different ways as photographs for different markets, and also as the basis for further development in printmaking media or illustration and art.

For more details see: Digital photography software workflow

Conclusions on stock photography and agencies

A key aim in this project was investigation of the differing requirements of major stock image libraries and landscape photography libraries and then submitting relevant images and starting to get concrete professional and audience feedback on my work. I identified Shutterstock as the best place to start because You Tube contributors said Shutterstock was easy to use and very good at giving technical support and feed back. For more details see posts on:

I started to develop a quite diverse portfolio – following You Tube advice not to specialise at this stage or narrow my stylistic options. Before selecting images and places to work on I did a search of the Shutterstock image library to see which subjects, places and styles were over-represented and for which places and styles I could fill a market gap that was in line with subjects and styles that appeal to me. There were few images for all the places I selected, and the images that did exist were overwhelmingly high/over-saturation high over-sharpness images. Many of which I find very ‘over the top’ – but was not sure if images were that way because they were what the market wanted or whether other types of image might be successful also.

My Shutterstock portfolio includes (!! did not have time to update these figures and links. there are more now):

  • Lake District (48 images in colour and monochrome processed in Lightroom and/or Viveza)
  • Norfolk: Burnham Overy Staithe (34 colour images processed in Lightroom, including abstract seascapes)
  • Suffolk: Orford Marshes (10 colour, monochrome and split tone images processed in Lightroom and/or Silver FX)
  • Norfolk: Hunstanton (39 ‘English seaside on a cold New Year’ colour images processed in Lightroom) and Norfolk: Cromer (5 colour images including 2 that were substantially processed in Lightroom to correct lighting and perspective, and 2 ‘nostalgic sea-side images in Analog Pro)

My experience of submission so far has been broadly positive – good resources database on areas like intellectual and privacy rights, technical tutorials and quick and helpful response to some queries I had. I have learned a lot technically. and the experience has taught me a lot so far. Most of my 253 images were accepted when submitted first time (having consulted all their documentation first). The main reasons for rejection have been because of issues like titling, editorial vs commercial categorisation or keywording. Only 3 have so far been terminally rejected on jpg quality issues, but even these I think I plan to re-submit as more artistic creations using NikFX.

Sales have been less successful. Shutterstock is generally considered by You Tube contributors to give highest income because of volume of sales rather than percentage of price. But in order to make substantial income you need to have around 2-3,000 images and constantly have a drip of new images going on. I have so far sold two images for the huge total of USc50! The first download was someone local in Isleham, Suffolk and the second someone in Korea.

Both images are suitable for backgrounds, rather than editorial. They are also desaturated and different from the overwhelming majority of highly sharpened and highly saturated tourist images. Possibly this distinctive style is one of the ‘niches’ where I may eventually choose to focus. Particularly as I enjoy the experience of taking and processing these types of landscape image and would like to develop my photographic as well as software processing skills. Alongside more socio-political editorial images that may have less of a market as stock photography and may need to be part of a proper narrative as a book or on-line experience.

Adobe Stock??

Assignment 5.3??

Future Plans: Edges Shifting for Sustaining Your Practice

I also worked with other series of photographs of East Anglia coast that I submitted to Shutterstock. I had intended to work on further for different local and international audiences in Assignment 4. However this proved impossible because of my need to self-isolate and also difficulties meeting and developing content with local communities and National Trust during the COVID-19 outbreak. At the time of writing I am intending to develop these bodies of work fully as part of my final degree module ‘Sustaining Your Practice’.

And further study beyond this degree.

Part 5: Further Development and Future Plans

In Assignment 5.1 I develop these series further as more subjective and/or objective ‘documentary of place’ for on-line galleries and photobooks in the light of further reflections and skills from Assignments 3 and 4 and – where possible under restrictions of COVID – further visits and research.

Some of these series are developed further in Part 5: Zemni 2021 as:

5.1 Wish You Were Here: a series of photobooks and on-line galleries around issues of tourism in coastal towns and national parks building on my audience-based work with photobooks in Assignment 4: Colour and Life in Kyrgyzstan

5.2 Edges on the Move: new moving image work as slideshows and videos in Adobe Premiere and After Effects:

Aldeburgh Great Escape

A Very British Day Out