BA Phot

Border skirmish

and formats

Paterson Enlarging Easel
Paterson Enlarging Easel c. 1970
Image from Ebay


[7Apr19] Borders on my images have become something of an issue, in that my tutor has raised the matter on all three of my assignments so far.

I have added borders for as long as I can remember — in the darkroom it was the default with the Paterson enlarging frame — and digitally, I cannot remember not using them, right back to the days of Paintshop Pro and Windows. Now I add them to the final version of an image using a Nik filter in Photoshop or Affinity.

I will run this page as a retrospective blog of past mentions and add any future points as they arise.

15Sep18 - 25Sep - 10Dec - 20Dec - 11Mar19 - 29Mar - 7Apr - 20Nov - 7Apr20 - 21Aug - 20Jun21 - 23Dec22 -

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23Dec22 - Formats

I dropped borders during I&P, for no particular reason. I'll use them again.

But we are here today to discuss formats.

A series by Christian Ramade is shown in the DIC Blog which mixes formats. I note, "It is refreshing to see a strong and pleasing series using differing formats. I was told off in EyV Asg1 by my tutor for doing this and have not done so since. But I am still of the view that each image is entitled to its own crop and format sppropriate to its setting(s) and that mixing in a portfolio is quite in order".


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Salvation Army, 2001
Salvation Army Christmas band, 2001

My current thinking on borders is that I use them because:
1. I "always" have
2. They are my way of denoting a completed image
3. They draw attention to the artificiality of photographs
4. They draw attention to the incomplete items on the edges of photographs that I tend to include

While working on I&P Asg.4, I noted, "I am tidying a spare room at the moment, throwing out piles of old folders and came upon this image from 2001, made for some Photo Diploma course. It confirms my prolonged devotion to black borders."




C&N Asg.5

They were not mentioned in the written tutorial feedback for C&N, but I think I recall a brief discussion or two in the online live tutorials. I addressed the matter in the conclusion of the course zine that grew out of Asg. 3. (I added this only in v.5.3 of the pamphlet, the latest at the time of writing this).

I am … continuing, relentlessly, with my image border formatting, despite this being questioned by both tutors and in the EyV Final Assessment feedback. I have written extensively on the technical and aesthetic justifications for this, but ultimately it is merely a subjective choice of how a photograph should be finished. To me, a more interesting question is what image or series will cause me to stop using the border? C&N Asg.3 Zine, v.5.3

One answer is, of course, that I did not use it for the single image that was created for C&N Asg.5, but that was only because the filter used included its own border (discussed here).


EyV Final Assessment

They were referred to in the FinAss feedback as keylines, not a term I had heard before.

In terms of presentation, do consider if a keyline is always necessary. Keylines can become an unnecessary distraction for some image styles. EyV Final Assessment, feedback



4th assignment


Your prints are of a good quality, and I know we have discussed this previously, but I still wonder about the use of the black outline for every assignment? It may be more suited to some subjects than others, and perhaps useful to consider when it works best to serve your purpose.Tutor feedback, Asg. 4

To which I replied, "Noted."

There was no mention in the feedback to Asg. 5.

Dürer The Hare (1502)
Dürer The Hare (1502)

Rietveld chair


Now current

We are now up to date. I have given thought to the matter since it was first raised and one additional point is that I like to work the border by creating it over the edge of the image. I suppose this gives some sense of continuance: the opposite of the constraint an enclosing border would imply. An example is the shadow of the Rietveld chair, photographed for Exc. 4.4. One influence here is probably Mondrian (one of my several obsessions) who liked to flow over the edge of the canvas. Of this linked painting (Composition with Double Line and Yellow, 1932), Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art says,

This is one of the earliest of Mondrian's so-called 'tram-line' paintings. Before 1932 he had used single lines but he began pairing them in order to achieve a sense of optical movement. He also began to extend the coloured areas over the edge of the canvas. Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art

A simpler use of a border similar to the type I favour is Dürer's The Hare (1502): a strong and lengthy precedent.

And my last point for now, when printing to A4 (not a thing I had often done before Asg. 3, but something I hope to do with assignments from now on) I think the black border grounds the image rather than leaving it float in the spare white space.


Retrospective #6

My reply on Asg. 3

13. Borders
The question of borders has come up on all three assignments. After the first assignment, I neatened the border. After the second assignment I responded at length, describing my feelings on the matter (link). The corners are rounded because I use Nik filters to create them and that is the default. I do not understand why this is an issue. It is simple subjective aesthetic preference tutor on Asg. 3

When I sent my tutor a link to my response on 29th March I noted,
"I need to understand why you keep mentioning the borders I add to images. I tried to explain my approach on Asg. 2."
to which my tutor replied a few days later,
"I only asked you to reflect on the borders, because it is useful to consider when that aesthetic works well in relation to the subject or idea, and when it might be appropriate to explore different ways of presenting your work. As you move through the degree pathway you will be asked to engage with the presentation of your images in more detail so as to consider the physical nature of images and the impact on meaning or reception."


Retrospective #5

Tutor feedback on Asg. 3

The prints are a good quality and the images have a good tonal range. Can you [reflect] on your decision to include the black border and slightly rounded corners at the edges of the images? Tutor feedback on Asg. 3



Retrospective #4

My reply on Asg. 2.

3. [link] The issue of borders was also raised on Asg.1 and I conclude that they are unwelcome. I use a border for several reasons.
(i) Its purpose is to delineate the edge of the photograph. Borders go in and out of vogue but I think a border indicates a finished product.
(ii) It can be important online because I cannot control the background against which an image appears
(iii) It discourages others from taking the images and cropping them another way. 
(iii) It is part of my workflow, added right at the end when converting from raw (or tiff )to jpeg and thus easy to identify as the final version.
(iv) It is a simple personal aesthetic preference, probably a hangover from the Paterson enlarging frame.

I have changed to a more formal border than my previous irregular indulgence.

to tutor re Asg. 2


Retrospective #3

Tutor feedback on Asg. 2

Can you reflect on the function of the borders you have given your images and how they work with this set of images?Tutor feedback on Asg. 2


Retrospective #2

My reply on Asg.1.

4. Borders
My normal practice is to add a border as a final processing step. If I submitted any images without borders for Assignment 1 then this was an error. Images shown before the final selection would not normally have a border, but if I go back to an exercise and rework it there might then be a mix of images with and without borders in the selection group. I will try to standardise my approach as I progress. to tutor re. Asg. 1


Retrospective #1

First mention, tutor feedback on Asg.1.

Some of your images include borders while others do not, can you reflect on your choices here? Tutor feedback on Asg. 1


Bloomfield, R (2017) Expressing your vision [EyV]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2019) Identity and place [I&P]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

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Page created 07-Apr-2019 | Page updated 23-Dec-2022