Professional Qualifications in Denmark with the dff

As I am constantly travelling and delivering education, training and mentoring of a global basis, I thought I’d give some thought in this post to the differences of delivery to the dff, the world’s second oldest organisation for professional photographers. So here goes….

A synopsis of the two different level workshops.

  1. Master
  2. Qualified Master

The Workshop for aspiring ’Masters’ (BIPP and MPA Licentiate equivalent) covers the minimum basic requirements to qualify as a dff “Master’ photographer. The key elements of camera craft, lighting, composition and posing (where appropriate in people photography) are examined and developed in a mixed theory/practical workshop. Demonstrations are given in posing and handling groups in particular. Simplistic but effective lighting techniques are demonstrated and discussed illustrating the better known and used lighting patterns. Individual appraisals are undertaken of each applicants work and in group format, planning, presentation and layout for a digital submission is introduced as another essential element for success.

The Workshop for aspiring ‘Qualified Masters’ (BIPP and MPA Associate equivalent) examines not only the more substantial requirements to achieve a higher level of qualification but also instils the need to understand and practice self appraisal in a constructively critical manner. This is not simply a ‘top up’ of the M workshop as it requires a fresh start by all candidates where there can be little or no reliance on a current and past portfolio. Attaining a higher degree of qualification requires a serious commitment and investment in your future. Increased standards of imaging and ethics undoubtedly result in a better client experience. There are obviously a few areas of common ground between all levels of qualification but these escalate exponentially as the levels and requirements rise. This is a dynamic workshop integrating discussions and planning sessions focussing on personal continuous professional development. Lateral thought will be encouraged and a better understanding of the importance and implications of one to one Mentoring discussed. Your trainer will also explain in detail the systematic approach to conceptualising, planning and executing a person project as the base of your qualification.

If you’re interested in progressing your professional qualifications or simply improving the standard of your imaging, contact me.


The Photography of Fatma Fahmy – Egypt

First a quote from this young lady rationalising her photography and the motivation behind it.

“Photography is another world to me. It allows me to live different lives of different people. It allows me to stop moments in time by capturing them to show the world the beauty that possessed my heart and soul and make it last forever. I wish I could affect people’s lives with this magnificent art.”

Fatma Fahmy – Cairo, Egypt

For this post I have decided to review a number of images submitted to me last month. The collection are well crafted and composed showing a variety of content that adds credence to her statement. They are a combination of what in the west we would call ‘Street Photography’ and more controlled, observational portraiture.

"Eye Contact" by Fatma Fahmy

“Eye Contact” by Fatma Fahmy

This image entitled “Eye Contact” does exactly what it says. It directly engages with the viewer with a delightfully captured expression that shows the happiness of a child no mater what his domestic environment, social background, living conditions or wealth. Simplicity is golden here and one cannot fail to empathise with this little boy. If one of the tools of a photographer is to create images that contain a story, then the story of this child’s life is is to be written by the viewer based upon its content. In truth, the off centre composition is not particularly necessary and does not add power or dynamics. The subject could have been centrally placed for that matter as the viewer finds it virtually impossible to stray their gaze from those eyes that express a simple, joy of life.

"Fisherman's Net" by Fatma Fahmy

“Fisherman’s Net” by Fatma Fahmy

As a contrast, quite a lot of work has gone into this image, photographically with good control of depth of field, compositionally by careful subject placement and in post processing where the problems lie. My best advice to Fatma is ‘less is more’ and although this is a good composition, a clear storyline, convincingly engaged subject, the processing has left a few artefacts and issues that could easily be resolved. When such processing issues are visible they can detract from the all important content contained in the image, the subject themselves and the narrative.

Martin Grahame-Dunn 2016

Ahmed Gaber – Aged 19 – A young Egyptian Photographer with something to say

The next in my series of constructive critiques of the work of young Egyptian photographers. When I asked Mohamed Mahdy to arrange this I could not have hoed for a more enthusiastic group of young people.

Ahmed Gaber text

This image entitled “Break Time” shows great insight and a natural flair for composition in its simplistic, documentary approach. It just goes to show that his opening statement is humble as he clearly demonstrates a budding talent with a good eye for an image.

"Break Time" by Ahmed Gaber, aged 19 from Egypt

“Break Time” by Ahmed Gaber, aged 19 from Egypt

Even thought there are differing points of subject engagement and interest, Ahmed has worked hard on subject placement within the frame and constraints of his DSLR. All to often we hear the terms “fill the frame”, but to do so effectively one should ensure that the content is properly constrained. He has grasped the premise that space around subjects is golden. To enable them to live and breathe giving life and credibility to the animation. ‘Street’ images of this kind are not all about exercising absolute control of your subjects. Rather to affect the composition by placing yourself in the right place and controlling the content of you capture. Well done Ahmed, I can some great images will emerge from this young image maker.


Martin Grahame-Dunn – April 2016


“Nubian Man” by Yasser Alaa Mobarak – Egypt

“My name is Yasser. I’m 23-year-old, award-winning amateur photographer based in Alexandria, Egypt. I’m Sony World Photography Awards commended photographer. I won photography prizes from The International Federation of Photographic Art, National Geographic Egypt, Photographic Society of America and Prix De La Photographie Paris.

I’m a holder of AFIAP distinctions from the International Federation of Photographic Art and holder of Associateship from Image Colleague Society International. I were judge in the photoessay category at Adobe Youth Voices Awards 2014 and in the visual composition category at Adobe Youth Voices Awards 2015. Also I were judge twice in Romania National Creativity Contest.

I saw your constructive powerful artistic critique on the photographs of my Egyptian colleagues. I will be pleased if you can give me the honor by critiquing one of my photographs.
Thank you. Greetings from Egypt.”

Yasser Alaa Mobarak,
International Youth Representative,
International Education and Resource Network
This delightful request appeared in my email just a few days ago. It’s particularly pleasing to know that constructive image critiques are appreciated so much, so I have much pleasure in complying with this young man’s request…..
"Nubian Man" by Yasser Alaa Mobarek - Egypt

“Nubian Man” by Yasser Alaa Mobarek – Egypt

Entitled “Nubian Man” this observational portrait is generally well composed but a little too tight in the frame. To add space around one’s images is to give them ‘room to breathe’ and add further context. Just perhaps, a moment captured with direct eye contact may have been more powerful. If one looks to the subjects eyes, there is a clear catchlight. The benefit of such a catchlight is to draw the viewers eyes to a definitive point of engagement. In this case it lies in the white of the eyes and results in a disengagement. Yasser, please try to tone down the processing which can often be a problem to the eyes of a photographic judge. Perhaps experiment with Nik Software by Google but learn to use it in a delicate way. The subtle tones do the image justice and are to be applauded. Well done young man and continue to follow your passion.

Martin Grahame-Dunn – April 2016


Belal Yousry – “Life of Music”

A wonderful statement by 16 year old Egyptian photographer, Belal Yousry. This young man has far to go!

A wonderful statement by 16 year old Egyptian photographer, Belal Yousry. This young man has far to go!

At only 16 years of age, this creative thinking Egyptian photographer has been producing surreal images with his new-found skills of digital manipulation and a love of photography that is clearly a medium with which he can express himself. I am sure that as his experience and knowledge of technique grows, we will see greater things emerge.

"Life of Music" by Belal Yousry

“Life of Music” by Belal Yousry

The constituent elements are well composited and conceived, but Belal would do well to look at specific lighting directions and the resulting shadows to make this image more plausible. Perhaps if the music in the background was in more of a wave form it could add motion to an otherwise static image. Even though the subjects are statues, implied movement, more depth and density, would increase the drama and narrative. Even to consider ‘flipping’ the statues to constrain the interest may change the nature of this image. In conclusion, research surrealism in art. Study experts in the field of digital manipulation and continue to set your mind free!

Martin Grahame-Dunn – April 2016


Critique: Mohamed Mahdy – Egypt – Through the Childhood

Through the Childhood - an image by Mohamed Mahdy of Egypt

Through the Childhood – an image by Mohamed Mahdy of Egypt

This is the first of a new series of Image Critiques for young and aspiring image makers, most of whom are from the Gulf and Arab States. At the HIPA 5th season awards in Dubai in mid March 2016 I was privileged to meet Mohamed Mahdy during the Photo Forum at the new D3 design district, the venue for the Photographic Exhibition that featured the work of so many Photographic Artists. For me the works of the young Egyptians, curated by my friend and colleague Ayman Lofty, were outstanding. Mohamed is just 19 years old and already making a significant contribution, so here goes…

For me the strength of this image is its content. Stories within stories. The viewer is invited to travel into the image led by the vanishing points and dynamic lines that take the eye directly to a centre of interest. I do wonder if a more decisive crop outside the 3:2 ratio offered by the DSLR may be more appropriate.

Cropped image - illustrating the lines of dynmaic, vanishing points and decisive crop

Cropped image – illustrating the lines of dynmaic, vanishing points and decisive crop

The additional subject matter above the level of the plank could be viewed as more distracting than complimentary. In short, I encourage you to ‘think outside the box’ and utilise powerful and decisive cropping that will make your images stand out from the rest.

MGD April 2016


HIPA Grand Awards and the Dubai Photo Forum 2016

Moderating the Dubai Photo Forum

Moderating the Dubai Photo Forum

It’s only a week or so since the event of the HIPA Grand Awards and the new format, Dubai Photo Forum 2016. The Grand Award ceremony was a glittering affair attend by nearly 1000 people to celebrate the culmination of their 5th season, “Happiness”. But that wasn’t all. Under the guidance of 18 international curators and the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashi Al Maktoum the first Dubai Photo exhibition proved to be a resounding success.

A passionate discussion featuring Henk Van Kooten from the Netherlands, Adeeb Alani President of the Arab Union of Photographers and Ayman Lofty from Egypt

A passionate discussion featuring Henk Van Kooten from the Netherlands, Adeeb Alani President of the Arab Union of Photographers and Ayman Lofty from Egypt

Instead of the customary workshops attached the the week, HIPA decided to host a vibrant series of forums with topics to discuss and highlight issues in the world of photography. I was honoured to moderate a particularly lively discussion on standards and judging practices. With issues aired and possibilities abundant, I can’t wait to see what the future will bring!


HIPA Grand Awards – Dubai Photo Week – Dubai Photo Forum

Its hard to believe another year has passed and we are about to witness the climax of the HIPA “Happiness” Competition. The glittering ceremony will be held at Burj Park on March 14th as a reprise to the very first season awards. Lucky or should I say deserving and talented winners will be recognised and awarded with some $400,000 dollars in prizes as well as stunning trophies by His Highness, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, HIPA’s Patron and Crown Prince of Dubai.

From 16th – 19th March the new D3 Design District will be the host for the inaugural Dubai Photo Week where Curators and Exhibitors from all over the world will exhibit photographic works of art.

Dubai Photo Forum 2 - Judging: International Standards and Judges personalities

Dubai Photo Forum 2 – Judging: International Standards and Judges personalities

For me, a real highlight will be to moderate a new format of Photo Forum on the 18th March where the key subjects will be the processes, ethics, mechanics and intricacies of International Judging and image evaluation. I have high hopes that with the participation of my learned panel, it will be a real eye opener for those who have entered or will enter competitions and awards globally. See you there!



Judging Professional Photography – Critic or Critique?

There are clear definitions of both in the world outside of photography. A Critic is a professional who communicates his or her opinions and assessments of various forms of creative work such as art, literature, music, cinema, theatre, fashion, architecture, food and indeed most importantly here – photography. Critical judgments, whether derived from critical thinking or not, may be positive, negative, or balanced, weighing a combination of factors both for and against.

In our industry, the perception of one who is critical when making an image assessment is more often than not perceived as destructive. Looking for every facet to express a negative opinion without the means or guidance towards a resolution that may result in a successful submission at a later date. These ‘critics’ also use projection to negatively influence the opinions of others on a jury. The worst example of course is the judge that instead of talking to a print, stands, faces the audience and loudly exclaims how he or she would have made the image and perhaps finishes with the comments, “I’d have done it this way…”. Not satisfied with that ‘showboating’ they proceed to offer their training wares for a price.

On the other hand, ‘Critique’ is a method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse. Although critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgment, it can also involve merit recognition, and in the philosophical tradition it also means a methodical practice of doubt.

In practice, the very best jurors will offer a deeply constructive analysis of the image before them, always addressing it directly and finally offering possible solutions to problems detected. Suggestion rather than unjustified command to execute an image in the way they would have done it. We must always be respectful to image makers and forever bear in mind, like it or not, we can influence careers.  This clearly illustrates exactly why Judge and Audience (participant) training is vital to the worldwide photographic industry.

In 2016 it is my intention to hold a series of workshops in the UK as well as overseas, to train photographers in the various judging procedures that they may better self analyse images in preparation for both competitions and qualifications. If you are interested I strongly suggest that you contact me at to register your interest. My Leamington Spa training studio is perfectly and centrally placed, fully kitted out for the exercise including the equipment and software to perform ‘mock judging’. It is so often said that photographers learn more from constructive image critique than any other type of workshop.

Judging in action at WPPI 2015

Judging in action at WPPI 2015


Guidance for Photographers and Photographic Judges – Referencing outside of Photography

by Anthony Van Dyck. An analysis of dynamics

by Anthony Van Dyck. An analysis of dynamics

The art galleries of this world either actual or virtual are a primary source of reference outside the world of Photography and to an extent there is a wealth of visual content on the internet courtesy of those temples of aesthetics. But what should we be looking for to derive both education and inspiration? What is to be learned by making a careful study of figurative art?

For a start, LIGHTING! Then closely followed by POSING and perhaps most influentially, COMPOSITION. Paintings were often created to fit a given space. The client, in many cases the Catholic Church, would say “I need a piece for just over my altar. Perhaps a Triptych?”. And that constituted the compositional brief. In the same discussion, the Bishop, Cardinal or even the Pope himself would ‘suggest’ the subject matter. Perhaps relating to the patron of the particular church or cathedral. Take a good look at the majestic piece, the crucifixion of St.Paul by the Renaissance master, Caravaggio. You’ll learn so much about the application of light, a limited palette and his Tenebrism style so often attributed to Chiaroscuro.

My own photographic journey is on a new but at the same time, old course. A determination to use photography in its digital form as my paint brushes and palette as I strive to create ‘Photographic Art’. More soon…

My experimentation creating images for "Shadows of Magdalene" a poetry collection in the making from Katypoetess

My experimentation creating images for “Shadows of Magdalene” a poetry collection in the making from Katypoetess