Sharing without caring

Much has been written this morning about the recently announced update to Instagram’s terms and conditions, which comes into effect in January. If you’re not familiar with the matter, here is the relevant extract:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.

There are many emotive terms being used on Twitter and Facebook (and elsewhere) this morning talking about a ‘rights grab’ or ‘taking away your copyright’. Neither of these is the case; to be clear about photographer’s copyright (my emphasis):

Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here: http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/.

All well and good – you retain the copyright on your images, as you would expect. However it is the nature of the licence that you grant to Instagram that is the issue here.


Grey areas

The enduring popularity of black and white photography could, at first glance, draw similar criticism to that levelled at the current trend for Hipstamatic photography and its ilk. After all, in the digital era where all images are captured in full colour, isn’t converting to black and white also ‘fake’, and merely imposing an effect to replicate what was once a technical limitation? And is it not also true that many people convert a photo to black and white in an attempt to ‘improve’ a mediocre image?

These are valid points. But there is more to black and white photography than this. Many of the biggest names in photography are from the era of monochrome film, even though some of them (for example, Ansel Adams) built up large portfolios of colour film after it became available. So what is it that appeals about black and white photography? (more…)


One of the questions you may ask yourself when deciding to buy a digital SLR for the first time is ‘Full Frame or cropped sensor?’ Even if it isn’t, it should be. The obvious next question is: what’s the difference? Well, it’s more complicated than you might think. (more…)

The Rise & Rise of iPhoneography

If you have even a modicum of interest in photography it’s hard to ignore the rise of what has become known as “iPhoneography”. Even if you don’t have a specific interest in photography, but you have an iPhone, then it’s likely that you’re an unknowing proponent of it.

Put simply, iPhoneography is photography using the built-in camera on the iPhone and one, or more, of a plethora of camera and image editing apps available from the App Store.

Some of the more enthusiastic “iPhoneographers” might suggest, or even insist, that iPhoneography has to include editing the image on the iPhone, and others will go even further, insisting that to qualify an image has to be taken, edited, and published (usually to Flickr or to a Tumblr blog) using nothing but an iPhone.

At whichever level you want to take it to, something is very clear. There has never been anything like this in the history of photography. (more…)

Torture Porn

Many of the images in the aforementioned World Press Photo awards are graphic and uncompromising, providing a stark and explicit representation of suffering and torture around the world. Pictures such as these have often been described as ‘torture porn’, where the imagery is an end in itself, and people get some bizarre kind of thrill from viewing it.

On the BJP website, some of the judges of the competition defend their choices of such extreme imagery. And on David Campbell’s blog, he explains why the use of the term ‘porn’ can be misleading, and why concerns over ‘compassion fatigue’ are a false argument against the need for imagery of this kind to be exposed to the public.

On a personal note, I think an image doesn’t have to be explicit to be moving. In fact, where the violence in an image is implied, the impact of a photograph is delayed and as a result can be more lasting when it finally comes. This famous photograph by Roger Fenton of the aftermath of the Charge of the Light Brigade contains no blood or carnage, but the sheer number of cannonballs hints at just what a horrific place it must have been during the heat of the battle. This is not to say I disapprove of the power of an image to shock, but that I don’t think there is only one way to convey horror and suffering in a photograph.

Please visit our Facebook page and give your thoughts on whether you think explicit imagery is something that the world still needs.

Exhibitions in London and elsewhere

Professional Photographer magazine has a good list of current and upcoming photography exhibitions in London and other places (but mostly London).

New Canon products

Canon have announced a mouth-watering selection of new lenses, along with two new DSLRs, one of which further muddies the waters for people wanting to buy their first DSLR. (more…)

Greg McMullin, lens tweaker

Greg McMullin is an amateur photographer from Sheffield who makes and sells tilt lenses. He started taking photography seriously once he became a mature student and used his student loan to get a DSLR. He graduated in October 2009 and last year undertook a 365 project which you can see here.

Project 365 Day 272: DIY Tilt Shift Lens

Greg agreed to be interviewed by TBC about how he got interested in fiddling with lenses.

Graduated filters

In the previous lesson, The Zone System, I mentioned that the range of brightness that a camera can ‘see’ is much narrower than that of the human eye. In most cases, you can isolate an interesting part of an image and bring out the detail where it’s relevant, however there are many situations where this simply doesn’t work. For example, if you are taking a landscape photograph that includes a lot of sky, especially late in the day, the foreground will generally be three or four stops darker than the sky. By metering for the foreground, the sky will be blown out, but if you stop down to increase detail in the sky, the foreground will usually become too dark.

The Mac App Store

The Mac App Store went live, as we all expected, on 6th January. As we also expected, Apple’s share price continued to rise, and at the time of writing had just set at an all-time high of $343.20 before falling back slightly before the close.

As soon as we could, we downloaded a copy to try it out. Here are our initial thoughts:

Social Overload

When Gareth and I were working on this site, we went through various iterations and combinations of the items you see in the menu at the top. At one stage we were considering embedding a feed of Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr on various pages before realising that of the many WordPress plugins that are available, the level of customisation is so low that without time-consuming manual editing, the feeds would just look ‘stuck on’, rather than part of the site.

Fortunately, the Twitter element of this site was included as part of the template, meaning it was much easier to incorporate whilst maintaining the look and feel of the site, so we decided to stick with it. But while we were agreeing to discard the Flickr and Tumblr elements, it occurred to me that we are approaching a point of possible social media saturation, especially when it comes to photo sharing.

The Zone System

The zone system was developed by the American landscape photographer Ansel Adams, and the principle is simple. A camera can ‘see’ a more limited range of brightness than the human eye, so it needs to be adjusted to take into account lighting conditions. Most cameras try to render a scene so that the overall lightness is what’s known as 18% grey, or exactly half way between pure black and pure white. However under complex lighting conditions, this can result in undesirable results, for example a snowy scene will be underexposed making the snow look muddy grey rather than pristine white.