Cornerstones of Photography

I’d like to start out with a confession of both jealousy and subsequent smugness.

The year was 1995 and I was in the first year of my undergrad degree at Manchester.  The last two years had been spent burning through as much Ilford Delta 400 and FP4 film as my parents could purchase, and as many hours in the darkroom as I could afford.  Now I was responsible for my own finances, I decided I had to go cold turkey on the photography.

As I weaned myself off, I spent many therapeutic hours talking photography with a new friend that I met in halls.  He made pleasing comments about my portfolio, we talked technique, but we mainly discussed gear.

Then one day he nervously showed me his new purchases.  He had gone out and bought my dream kit, with Nikon’s new F90x at the centre.  I was dumbstruck.

He managed to partially help me out of my jealousy, when he came back from a photo shoot around the city and told me that he wasn’t happy with any of his images & couldn’t find inspiration.  Of course, that’s when the smugness took over…

It would appear that the ideal camera did not result in perfect photographs all by itself.  And neither does a fundamental grasp of photographic technique.  Conversely, I wasn’t shooting at all, so I have much less to show from my university days.

view of the Canongate Entrance of the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh (Martin Currie/©2013 Martin Currie


In this last month of reflection on how to build the perfect photographer, Laura & I have come to the conclusion that there are four fundamental cornerstones of photography: the Photographer, the photographer’s Technique, the Subject and the photographic Kit.


Naturally the photographer is first on our list.  My father was fond of quoting Edison’s “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”, but these days with auto-everything digital cameras, you could probably pull off an impressive portfolio with with a 50:50 inspiration:perspiration blend.

There are four elements that we currently plan to consider in this site under the Photographer heading:

  1. Planning – where 90% of the inspiration happens
  2. Post-production – the digital darkroom
  3. Presentation – why take photos if nobody sees them?
  4. Profession – all the dull bits for people who are paid to take photos

You can read more about them in our cornerstone page on the Photographer.

Julie Cheung-Inhin in Mauritius. (Martin & Laura Currie/Photograph copyright Laura & Martin Currie all rights reserved)


Despite the wonderful advances in camera technology & photographic software, good technique is still a must have.  We don’t just mean f-stops, hyperfocal distances and inverse square laws.  Laura isn’t the type to be performing calculus when posing a model so that the light falls perfectly on her face.  Most of the best photographers either have an innate eye for composition, or have spent enough time looking at or contemplating masterpieces that they have developed one.

Again there are four components of technique that we aim to cover:

  1. Composition
  2. Exposure
  3. Focus
  4. Light

You can read more about these in our cornerstone page on Technique.

Chandre at an ice cream van in Mauritius. (Martin & Laura Currie/Photograph copyright Laura & Martin Currie all rights reserved)


Deciding what to shoot was at least half of my hall-mate’s difficulty.  Living in Mauritius, we are spoilt for choice.  Being a small island with relatively few international pros we also have the privilege of not being forced to specialise in any one subject.  We therefore plan to discuss most of the subjects that we find ourselves shooting:

  1. Social
  2. Sport
  3. Fashion
  4. Architecture
  5. Nature
  6. Landscape
  7. Product
  8. Food
  9. Wedding

If there are any subjects that are of interest to you that we haven’t covered here, let us know in the comments, and we’ll see if we can’t find a friend to talk about them.

Our cornerstone page on Subjects can be found here.

Blue Kraft shop in Mauritius (Photographer: Laura/Martin Currie)



We’d love to say that no equipment is required to take wonderful photographs, an HB pencil is all you need.  Unfortunately that’s not quite the case, and while you can do an amazing job with many phones, the laws of physics do get in the way.  Due to these physical laws, photographic equipment selection is all about compromise: lens brightness vs weight & cost; pixel count vs noise; aperture vs sharpness; sensor size vs depth of field, etc.

As Chase Jarvis says “the best camera is the one that’s with you“.  However, it’s understandable that his commercial clients would rather pay for his Hasselblad H5D & Nikon D4s work rather than his equally inspired iPhone work.

There’s also more to kit than cameras.  Lenses for one are a much better investment.  I still remember my photography teacher at school telling us that after a camera body and a couple of lenses, a tripod should be your next purchase.  You can read more on the kit topics that we will be covering soon in our cornerstone page on Kit:

  1. Cameras
  2. Lenses
  3. Lighting
  4. Support
  5. Accessories
  6. Desktop Software
  7. Mobile Aps

Getting back to my hall-mate, he moved on to collecting classic cameras.  Also a great hobby.  I further failed him when he asked me to sell his Rollei TLR – I couldn’t get the price he wanted, so I left it at my parents house.  My mum manages a charity shop in Edinburgh, so you can imagine how the story ended…


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