Olli Thomson

Tag: Photography

Keegan the Photo Coach

Petapixel carried a report on a French startup, Regaind, who have created a computer based photo critique programme called Keegan. The programme, based on input from human photographers, offers a basic critique of your images, together with a mark out of ten and a more detailed breakdown of elements of the picture.

The first thing to be said is that it’s great fun to play with. It has a simple drag and drop interface and only takes a few seconds before delivering its verdict. Beyond that, while Keegan is certainly artificial it is clearly lacking in intelligence, at least, in the sense that that word is normally understood. Though, having said that it is definitely cleverly programmed. It can identify blur, angles of vision, colour intensity, placement of the subject and much else besides and generate criticism of images based on those criteria. However, once you get beyond these basic elements of an image the programme runs into trouble. It is simply incapable of dealing with complexity or subtlety.

Of the images that I tested it with, here is the one that scored highest:

Accidental Projects – Walls

While organising files on my back up drives I came across a number of images that I had previously saved but then subsequently deleted from my main catalogue. At some point I had obviously decided that they weren’t up to much. As is often the case the passing of time and, perhaps, the evolution of personal visual taste led me to reassess that judgement and restore some of these images to my main collection. The image above taken in Tbilisi old town is one of those. Out of curiosity I then did a Lightroom search on the keyword ‘wall’ and discovered over 200 images. It seems I like walls. Here are a few of them.

The Rules of Photography – 2

Rule number two is very simple — stop buying cameras.

Over the course of 37 years Nikon introduced five top of the range film SLR’s, the F1 to F5. With the announcement of the high end Nikon D5 in 2016 it has taken only 17 years to get to the same stage with digital. Seventeen years, is of course, a very long time in the world of digital. Step down from the professional level cameras to the consumer end and things speed up considerable. It took Nikon less than six years to move from the D5000 to the D5400 — that’s a new model every 18 months. I’m using Nikon as an example because I have the information to hand. The same would be true of the other major camera makers.

Not only do manufacturers replace — or ‘upgrade’ as we’ve been taught to say — models more frequently, they generally have a much wider range of models available as well. The end result is that each year photographers are bombarded with dozens of new cameras, launched with glitzy advertising campaigns and devoured by the photographic internet, desperate to fill up a few more pages with near identical articles largely lifted from the manufacturers’ press releases.

The Rules of Photography – 1

Like so many photographers before and like many more to come I begin this post (the first in a series of precisely two) on the rules of photography by asserting that there are no actual rules — just guidelines, or principles — and that good photographers should ignore them at will.

So far, so predictable.

Here, though, is where I want to start thinking about the rules of photography from a different perspective. Generally, when photographers discuss the rules of photography their intent is to help us understand how to create better images. I agree with that intent, but I believe that the single most important rule that will enable a photographer to create better images isn’t so much a rule — or a guideline or a principle — as an attitude, even a virtue.

That virtue could variously be called empathy or compassion or humanity.

René Burri – Photographs

I’ve always liked the photographs of René Burri who died last year. Burri came from Switzerland and was a longtime member of the Magnum Agency. He documentary work and his portraits appeared in many of the great news magazines. I finally ordered the major retrospective of his work, simply titled Photographs, recently and I plan to pick up Impossible Reminiscences, a collection of his work in colour.

Accidental Projects – Bicycles

In principle I’m totally convinced by the idea that shooting photographic projects is an essential practice for any photographer. In practice, I’ve never quite managed to do so. This is partly a result of moving every couple of years to a new location where I often feel like I’m starting from scratch, though I recognise that there is no good reason why I couldn’t work on a project that didn’t restrict me to one place. Mostly, though, it’s because as photographer I’m lazy and a project sounds as if it involves a degree of commitment and discipline that doesn’t sit comfortably with my meandering and haphazard approach to shooting urban life.

Shoot Manila – Get Around and Stay Safe

Welcome to the Fourth and final post in my urban photographer’s guide to Manila. In the first post I identified four neighbourhoods with great shooting opportunities for the urban photographer and noted three more in the second post. The third post offered some suggestions for what to shoot and this final post will deal with getting around and staying safe.

Mobile refreshment. An ice cream vendor on Arnaiz Avenue, Makati

Shoot Manila – What To Shoot


Welcome to the third post in my urban photographer’s guide to Manila. In the first post I identified four neighbourhoods with great shooting opportunities for the urban photographer. In the second post I look at three more. This third post will consider what to shoot, while a final post will deal with getting around and staying safe.

What to Shoot

Street Portraits

In much of the world photographing people in the street is becoming more challenging; laws are increasingly more restrictive and people more wary. Manila is a glorious exception to this trend. One of the first things I discovered when I arrived here is that, not only are many people willing to have their photograph taken, but lots of people positively insist on it when they see your camera. Your subjects will pull all kinds of poses for you, but if you want a more restrained portrait just ask. If you are the kind of person who finds it difficult to approach a stranger and ask to take a picture (as I am) Manila will be a revelation. Enjoy the opportunity while it’s there. You can take a look at my gallery of Manila street portraits.

Shoot Manila – Where To Shoot Part 2


Welcome to the second post in my urban photographer’s guide to Manila. In the first post I identified four neighbourhoods with great shooting opportunities for the urban photographer. (Click on each neighbourhood name for a map). In this second post I look at three more. A third post considers what to shoot, while the final post deals with getting around and staying safe.

Where to Shoot

Bonifacio Global City

Bonifacio Global City (aka BGC, The Fort) is very different from most of Metro Manila. Development on this former military base began in the early 2000’s and is still ongoing on a huge scale. BGC is marked by a concentration of retail, business and residential high rises so if your interest lies in architectural photography this is the place to go.

Bonifacio High Street is the heart of the neighbourhood and is one of the few areas of Manila that is largely pedestrianised and traffic free. The High Street is an excellent spot for photography, particularly on weekends and evenings. As a visitor to Manila, you will also blend in a little more easily here since the neighbourhood is popular with the expat community.

Shoot Manila – Where To Shoot Part 1


Welcome to my urban photographer’s guide to Manila — or, strictly speaking, Metro Manila. This first post on where to shoot identifies a number of neighbourhoods with great shooting opportunities for the urban photographer. More suggestions will follow in part two. A subsequent post will consider what to shoot, while a final post will deal with getting around and staying safe.

Metro Manila is huge. The population is something like 12 million and even though the city sprawls for miles many areas are very densely populated. Metro Manila is made up of sixteen different cities (including the city of Manila just to confuse matters) and one municipality, though these all run together into one vast urban space.

Opportunities for urban shooters abound. If you can’t take great pictures here you might as well put your camera away. The biggest challenge for the photographer is where to start. The second biggest challenge is, once you have decided where to start, actually getting there given the state of Manila’s traffic. To help you on your way, here are a few suggestions and a few tips. (Click on each neighbourhood name for a map).


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