Thursday, 13 May 2010

Dean Collins: Live at the Brooks Institute

Since getting a smartphone, I have finally come to grips with instructional video. I have bought videos but not watched them because there is always some celebrity reality show or other on that my family want to watch and I if I try to watch them on my laptop I am easily distracted by the chaos at home. But with my android I can now watch them at leisure and on the move.

One of the videos I bought recently was Dean collins Live at the Brooks institute. Dean Collins was a commercial photographer and teacher who sadly succumbed to cancer in 2005. This video is of a very slick presentation he did at the Brooks Institute in front of a live audience

Shortly after the introductions there is a rather brutal cut with a screen announcing that Promotion and darkroom printing were ommited from the original program. I found this quite disapointing because when the video resumes, there is a complex diagram on the screen and a photo of a black knife on black paper and Dean starts talking about three dimensional contrast refering to the image and the diagram as though he had been talking about them for a while. I also suspect that the cut portion of the presentation would have also resolved some confusion over the chromazones portion of the presentation later on.

The presentation itself is very slick. Dean had three projectors on the go, often with a setup shot, the shot and a diagram all at once. The man is also very funny, full of anecdotes and jokes. If anything he reminds me of Bill Hicks. There's another reason for resenting the cut portion of the seminar, missing out on all that humour.

He discusses concepts of three dimentional contrast: the shadow, the diffused value ,the highlight and the transitions between the three. His example images are taken from real shoots that he did for clients like Laura Ashley. The images do look a little dated, but thats because its an old video shot in 1991. But don't let that put you off because you will still learn plenty.

The reason I bought the video is because I wanted to learn more about his Chromazones system. Its an empirical system that he uses to reproduce colours from a swatchbook on any neutral toned background be it black or white. You really do have to listen carefully for this bit and I had to watch it several times before I really got it. But this is another area where I suspect the missing portion of the presentation would have helped. It occurred to me that he only had three stops from middle grey to pure black, and this confused me because there should be more. But the reason for this is that the print process the system is designed for, only has a three stop range in either direction before you hit pure white or pure black. This may be explained in the missing section, but I guess I'll never know.

You'll learn stuff from this video that is very different from what you'll learn from a news based photographer like David Hobby where there are different considerations. Dean talks about the difference between lifestyle and catalogue and how to get consistent backgrounds across images when the backgrounds are different in tonality.

All in all its a great little video despite some flaws, you should learn plenty from it assuming you don't know it all already and best of all it will make you laugh. I also think that its good value for money even though its more expensive than buying a book, it engages with you in a way that makes the information more likely to stick.

You can purchase the video from and there is a clip available for viewing


  1. Paulo,

    I've been on the razor's edge of ordering this for quite some time. I've already got the "Best of Dean Collins" DVD from Software Cinema.

    Question - there's a brilliant 7-minute portion of the original Brooks seminar posted to youtube here:

    Is that bit on the DVD? Or is it sadly part of the seminar that was cut from the DVD production?

  2. No that's not on the DVD. It looks like it could be part of the same seminar, but he did do more than one.