First things first: I am indebted to fellow OCA Level 3 Photography student Phil Sliney for his hard work pulling all this together. As summarised below, he went above and beyond in leading this.

Source magazine provides an annual platform for the year’s BA and MA photography graduates and their final year bodies of work, in the form of both a printed magazine supplement and an online exhibition. It’s kind of one big virtual group show.

I had heard of the opportunity some time ago but initially ruled it out as I won’t be graduating until 2021. Then the deadline of 12th May passed and I thought no more about it. However, Phil contacted the organisers and did two things that led me to get involved…

First (and most impressively) even though the deadline of 12th May had already passed, he persuaded Source to extend the deadline by a few weeks if he could rustle up an OCA cohort of at least five students in time. Second, he lobbied on behalf of those of us not actually graduating in 2020 and obtained clarification that as long as we’ve got a final year body of work, we can participate in this year’s show.

There are, I understand, seven of us OCA Level 3 students whose work will be added to the 2020 BA Index in a week or two. It’s a mini-OCA group show :-)

Submission instructions

There were three main criteria for the submission, and I confess I found two of them a little restrictive. It is however good practice to be able to work within the parameters set by external organisations! How you present your work is not always under your direct control – this is something I have learned thus far.

  • Maximum 8 images
    • I find it easiest to think of the work as the full set and sequence of 15 that I have been working with since BoW Assignment 5
    • When I need to edit it down I find it more difficult
    • Edit process and outcome covered below
  • JPG format at 800 pixels on the long edge
    • This is the limit that I found most challenging
    • 800 pixels is very low resolution, even for online use
    • In particular, the text on the bottom border of my images loses clarity at lower resolutions (text is less forgiving than photographic imagery at low res)
  • Artist statement maximum 120 words
    • This was OK actually – the version in the portfolio PDF was 129 words, so only a little editing was needed
    • I got it to exactly 120 words :-)

The edit

I started with the full set in the preferred sequence:

full set.jpg

The first three images below are the ones I personally feel are strong and should be in any edit I do. The final one is an image I have recently been using as the cover image for the portfolio PDF and the website, so I think for consistency it makes sense to keep that in the core set.

After the inclusions I turned my attention to what could be excluded. I decided to be ruthless on subject duplication and removed the other three glove images, the other bird image, the other building front image and one of the three images featuring seating of some sort. This left me with nine so I only had to remove one more. I felt the steps going down to the overgrown field wasn’t as strong as the overgrown bench, so the former was removed. Now I was down to the required eight.

Source edit.jpg

I confess I’m still not 100% happy with chopping the series down (by almost half). I do think it loses its sense of rhythm a little. But needs must.

The resolution

The 800 pixel limit is clear and I don’t think I’d get in anybody’s good books for disregarding it. And if I did, I suspect someone else would resize it before publication anyway. So I decided to stick to the rules but export the JPG to the best possible quality.

For online use, when resolution can be higher, I tend to save JPGs at 70–80% quality. If I have to stick to a lower resolution, I figured I might as well dial the quality up to 100%. My understanding is that this minimises the software compression applied at the point of export.

Anyway, the images came out with the text just about on the edge of what I’d consider readable without being distractingly pixelated:


Posting this here has made me check what colour background Source uses. It’s white – which means that the images will bleed onto the background without an obvious border.

However, I do have (somewhere on my hard drive) bordered versions of all images – as used higher up in this post. But the versions I exported for Source are without the keyline border.

So now I need to re-export the images with a keyline border and see if I can replace the images I have already submitted. Thankfully the submission process was via Dropbox, which means that I can theoretically nip in and replace the JPGs directly, as long as Phil hasn’t already passed the set to Source.

Below is the version with a keyline border. Looks better on a white background. Still not totally happy about the text, but…

I decided to play with the border and the text to make it all more legible at 800px. This entailed going back to the master Photoshop .psd file and making a copy, then resizing the whole thing to 800px wide. I then tweaked the border width, text size, kerning and anti-aliasing until it was clearer at the required size.

01 - Rob Townsend - to take Henry with me to my mums

I am now happy with this. Just need to apply the same tweaks to the other seven and pass the reworked images to Phil!

UPDATE: all sent off now.