Last Wednesday, the club welcomed Viveca Koh. Viveca was to take us on a journey from her beginnings with a box brownie, via the iPhone and its array of photo editing apps, to her achievement of the FRPS in 2014.

It became clear very quickly that Viveca’s creative mind is a family trait as her mother is a painter and her uncle a poet. What was particularly fascinating to me was that her vision for an image was always on, even during the commute to work!

Working with her iPhone – beginning with the 2012 model – she confessed she likes the discipline of only having a fixed focal length lens to work with. Alongside that, Viveca has invested many 99p’s – up from only 79p in the early days – in a multitude of creative and editing apps. She has produced a worksheet listing these in full which we hope she will pass onto the club so that we can carry out own trials and determine what works best for our own work or be inspired to try out something new.

A short list of her favourites:

  1. Photoshop Touch – scaled down photoshop for smartphones
  2. Glaze – Replicates paint texture
  3. Repix – to be able to add texture to specific areas of the photo
  4. Percolator – to use more of the colours in the image
  5. Hipstamatic – clearly Viveca’s most used app and one that (sadly for us Android users) appears to be only made for iPhones and iPads. It comes with a huge variety of lens options, brushes and designs and it seems Viveca must be very near the top of their Best Customer list!!.

Other apps are used to add vintage analogue effects, frames and borders.

Viveca made us aware of the words of Chase Jarvis, who said simply:

“The best camera is the one you have with you.”

In this day and age that, invariably, is your smartphone and Viveca then demonstrated her skill and eye for making everyday scenes into striking images. Her creative mind and ability to see something, figure out what app to use and then work on photos that she has taken out of a bus window as she heads to the office had this writer sitting up and being seriously impressed. Most of us are probably barely awake on the way to work or have our eyes on the phone or paper but Viveca shows us that there are so many possibilities with her iPhone and pointed out that it is less intimidating to use, being great for being able to get close to your subject – especially bird close-ups

Like many of us, taking street photography can be intimidating as it is not easy to point your lens at strangers in the street. Viveca found that using her phone also freed her from this element and working in her then local area, she took part in local photo projects with community publications. These included the “Dogs and Legs” set, of which she shared a sample of with us. 

Her favourite location is Venice and as a challenge to herself, on her last visit, Viveca set out to use only her iPhone for her photography – something she admitted finding liberating. Here again, we saw her wonderful creative skills in taking and making eye-catching images from scenes that would doubtless pass most of us by. Working with the translating tools on her phone, she managed to persuade the locals to pose and react for her images. It sounds like a work in progress and is something to keep a watch out for.

Part of the appeal of using a phone for photography is that it can be a very good rehearsal for projects on a “big” camera – in Viveca’s case, this is a Nikon. 

After tea break, Viveca gave us an honest and striking insight into how she obtained her FRPS. This was to follow her LRPS in 2010 and ARPS in 2011.

The inspiration for her attempt came from working on images created to accompany her uncle’s poetry. His words were formed elements of astronomy and what struck me was how much Viveca put into her work, with her ability to be able to match what came into her mind from her uncle’s words producing images that are visually stunning.

Having created her own book of images, she applied for the FRPS – with a book this needs 40 images – but did not pass. The advice she took away was to re-apply but using prints – this needing just 20 images. Seeking advice from other Fellows of the RPS, she eventually produced a set of images to propose. Some last minute changes to the panel – mainly to ensure a good balance in her portfolio – meant that she succeeded in her second attempt.

Viveca learned from this experience that, in order to achieve this goal, you need to be ruthless in judging your own work and not pick what you may consider your own favourites.

Again using her creative skills, much of what was used in the images came from the past, i.e. she has built up her own databases of sky, textures, etc. and images taken in such diverse locations as barbers shops and old, derelict buildings; also making sure her old stomping ground of Crystal Palace featured via using photos of her favourite mannequin!

She also offers a course on using Photoshop layers and masks, especially blending. This works best if we can gather 10 members who are interested.

Elsewhere, you can find Viveca’s website and blog here: 



I fear I may have gone on here but I did find the evening one to remember and I hope you all enjoyed Viveca’s intriguing and excellent journey and insight into her creative skills.

Thanks for reading!


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