Finding Inspiration – Determine color, style, and elements for your next artistic project
In preparation for the last phase of my winter passion project, a photo shoot was planned at the Camden Opera House in Maine. I’d been there many times for dance recitals and shows and was anxious to see what would result from the shoot. We planned for three hours. Corie and Annie were on board for a 50’s style movie star shoot, the theme was simply ‘Drama,’ the women could interpret it however they wish.
I really don’t know why I wanted to do this shoot. Maybe it was because I had become obsessed with 50’s style portraiture, or maybe just because my friend Kim has a fabulous collection of vintage hats, or maybe I just thought it would be cool. Whatever the reason, a little playacting was the plan and the girls came prepared with a huge wardrobe to work with.
I knew the lighting would be a challenge. My studio lighting would be lacking for the space and the opera house would only have house lights and stage lights, neither of which would suit the style I had in mind. To add to that, the entire auditorium is cream, gold, and red; strong and reflective colors. But I was not deterred, as I knew the architecture would be awesome and the space inspiring.
Behind the scenes – unedited shots.
The shoot went fabulously but it was a while before I could earnestly sit down and work with the images. Well, to be honest, there was major procrastination happening. I couldn’t seem to get started as is often the case when I am really not sure of my direction. I had a rough sketch in mind, but when I finally began, I was struggling. The images felt forced and constrained.
I showed the work I had done so far to my husband (who is also my creative cheerleader). He said the work was stodgy. Stodgy!! Me stodgy!!! He explained that it didn’t have that edge, that surreal quality that he personally loves.
With that, I realized that I was not putting my whole self into the work. I set out to make a better plan. I did extensive research to determine which direction I wanted to take. The colors, the style, the elements needed to change. I created three mood boards and found several different artists that completely inspired me. The mood boards were created in Canva with images collection by taking a cropped screenshot from the images I collected in Pinterest: the Camden Opera House board and the Abstract Art board. (Command/Shift/4 on a mac for a selective screen shot)
To execute my vision, new textures and overlays needed to be created.
Inspired by the work of Vilde Rolfsen, I layered crumbled pieces of tulle and parchment paper in front of the window and photographed them. I did the same with wax paper. It just snowed so the trees beyond were covered in white which made for a perfect backdrop.
Next, further inspired by the work of Beth Nichols, I tried my hand at poured paint textures. Sure was fun! I simply poured the paint on a board and encouraged it to run in the direction I wanted. With some, I layered another board on top and moved it around before lifting it.
I edited the images from the Opera House with a warm black and white edit in order to have a neutral palette to work with.
I am excited to show you the results, a composite of all three elements, coming in the next blog post. For a sneak peek, head over to Instagram.
If Only in a Dream – Dreamy Ethereal Photography
The second phase of my winter 2018 passion project is complete. The name ’Flight’ was chosen to depict freedom, weightlessness, joy. On second thought, what I should have named it is, ‘If Only in a Dream,’ for the way this series came together. I could never have planned it; both the shoot and the design process seemed to arrive out of nowhere.
The shots were taken at Watts Hall in Thomaston, Maine. Built in 1890, the building has been a central figure in community life in the Midcoast for more than a century and was the place where my daughter’s wedding reception was held. It was perfect for a shoot; plenty of light, space, freedom to move. The white pillar, red stage curtain, and black backdrop proved to be key elements in the final product.
Give a woman a length of tulle and some music to move to and wonderful things happen! Annie brought elegance and grace to the shoot. I shot the scene straight on, from the floor, and a couple of steps up on a ladder. Each angle brought a different feel and perspective. Several images were shot with a piece of crumpled clear plastic waved in front of the lens, something like what you get for a flower sleeve, a bit stiff so it will stay taught. The result was dreamy, dappled light filtering the scene in a way that left me speechless. The idea was inspired by photographer Jessica Kobeissi. You can find her video here.
The stage was lit with one large window on the right side of the subject (left in the images). This natural light was the only light used. My camera settings were similar to a dark and moody still life scene. Low ISO in the 100-400 range, low F-stop approximately F 3.2 and a shutter speed to create just enough light contrast.
Below are three of the 14 edits. But they are not just Lightroom edits. Not sure what to call them yet. I am painting with textures. Putting them in, taking a bit away, layering and merging much like I do in a painting or collage. The process is described in this class. I have given you the before crop, one of the textures used, and the final image.
The image below was edited with two distinct processes, very different results. In the darker image, a grunge texture and a scratch texture were incorporated. In the lighter image a Pure Light fabric overlay was incorporated and then the whole image was colorized.
The remainder of the series can be found in my portfolio under If Only in a Dream and for sale as digital downloads in my shop and my Etsy store. The textures and overlays can be found in both stores as well.
By all means, leave a comment or send me a note if you have any questions about the shoot or the process.
Get your free mini master class!
How to use Photoshop Overlays in Conceptual Photography
Reclaim space on your hard drive – Back up your precious Lightroom files
It happened to me … sure did … my hard drive crashed. Then, a few months later, the external drive with all my pics from Europe decided it was not going to load again. Then, while trying to edit my images using the entire Creative Cloud suite, Photoshop kept sending up error messages … ‘I can’t do that – your scratch disk is full!!!’
Arghhhh! It was time to figure it all out, the storage, the backups. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN AGAIN!
I made a video for you with my BACK IT UP 3 TIMES process using an external hard drive for all my Lightroom files.
The video below is the best I have come across to explain in detail how to move your Lightroom files. Simple, direct, easy.
This video is great for creating a new Lightroom catalog on an external drive.
Overlays used in the featured image are from the Pure Light 2 collection.
As always, feel free to ask a question, by email or by commenting below.
Learn Lightroom in One Hour
Get the code!
30% off Learn Lightroom in One Hour from Creative Biz academy.
How to use Photoshop overlays and textures in conceptual photography
Phase one of my passion project is complete. I decided to name it simply ‘Emotion.’
It consists of seven images pictured below. Each one has the same model and was shot in my studio with a simple background of a navy velour curtain. The curtain did not quite reach the floor which required bringing in an additional layer in photoshop to repair it. Michelle was uncomfortable with the earlier part of the shoot but when we came inside to the studio and put on some of my favorite dubstep dance music she was right at home. She moved to the music and I clicked; sometimes from a floor position, sometimes from a step ladder.
The series is intended to depict feelings and emotions often hidden during emotional trauma. We try to go about our daily lives as if nothing happened when, in reality, forces unseen to others are weighing heavily upon us.
Emotion – Seven phases of emotional trauma
Above Water – when emotional trauma hits, it’s everything we can do to keep our heads above water.
Reverb – In the early stages, it’s as if our world has been shaken to the core.
Wavelength – We are on another wavelength. Others do not understand, they cannot relate, we cannot verbalize our feelings.
Pushing Ahead – We must push ahead; past the turbulence, past the scenes that keep on playing in our mind.
Forgiveness – It is time to forgive ourselves for any guilt we may feel or part we may have played in the trauma.
Alternate Reality – We need to create an alternate reality, a new life, one free from the heavy burden of the trauma.
Flight – we must throw off the weight, stop allowing it to immobilize us and learn to fly!
The images were created with several overlays in Photoshop. In some, I used hand-painted overlays, others had ‘light’ overlays, in others, I used overlays grabbed from the images where Michelle is waving wax paper in front of the window. Below are a few clips of before, after, and overlays used.
The techniques were executed in Lightroom and Photoshop. I created a mini master class for you that shows exactly how I placed and altered the layers so you can try it with your own work. Click the link below to be taken directly to the class.
Enjoy the class!
Get your free mini master class!
The first item on my list to create for my passion project this year is a new set of backdrops and overlays painted in an expressionist style. I developed a technique I am anxious to share. I used the ones I created in a few of the first images in the Hidden Emotion series. You can find the images as well as 3 packs of overlays on my new online shop. Make sure to go and have a look for inspiration. Can you pick out the textures I used in the conceptual photography work?
I used simple household materials and easy to find paints. You might even find you love this type of painting.
Throw on some upbeat music and give it a go!
Materials list –
2 1/2 ” chip brush (You need just one not a whole case.)
glass palette palette paper or paper plate (I love the glass palette but a paper plate works just fine.)
I generally work on a hard surface such as the boards mentioned. You can put layer upon layer of paint and then paint over it again and again without it warping. When purchasing MDF board ask the salesperson to cut it down to 24×36 inch pieces. This makes them easier to handle and move around.
The video below does not show up in the email version of this post. Click here to view it.
Here are a few more examples … try adding contrasting colors or limit them it to two. Make your backdrop coordinate with your favorite flowers or props. A backdrop in a complimentary or contrasting color works the absolute best and gives your image a wow factor. Have fun!
painted over countless times
map of uncertain locations
rolled and stored for safekeeping
Introspective. November in New England. Somber days.
I am pulled in to November’s melancholy ways, its Wabi Sabi sensibility.
Brown tones, gray mosses, empty nests, dried remnants of summer weeds … give me permission … to indulge myself in aloneness, introverted meanderings, and moody reflections.
A necessary sojourn. Allowing oneself to see the gritty truth of mistaken steps. To accept our own failure to perform. And embrace it.
With the exception of two that were shot in afternoon setting sun (evident by the strong sharp light), the stills take advantage of a cloudy day, morning Northwest light. They were set up away from the window a bit. I wanted to take complete advantage of the mood and the atmosphere created by a soft sunrise not quite awake yet. I shot at ISO 200-400 and between F 2.8 and F 3.2 with a 35mm and a 50mm lens. I find a low ISO captures the moody darks perfectly. The low F-Stop also adds to the moody, dreamy, feel but one must be careful to focus on the spot in the image that the eye would naturally be drawn to. The rest will be slightly out of focus, which is what you are going for. A steady hand or tripod is helpful as well.
Both the backdrop and tabletop were hand painted on MDF board cut to 24″x36″ for easy handling. I used Waverly craft paint available at Walmart, applied randomly in various colors with a paintbrush, then rubbed and softened with a piece of wax paper. Wax paper has been an amazing discovery! Perfect for this type of effect. One could essentially paint the piece entirely with wax paper.
There has been a lot of talk over the interwebs about having a cohesive feed for Instagram. Truth is, most of us follow an account if we like what we see in the first 9 posts. We have about 3 seconds to convince someone we are worth following if we have never interacted with them before.
At first, I did not take this seriously. And I really wasn’t sure how to make it happen. Then I was asked to submit images to Bella Grace Magazine for an Instagram feature. It was then that I realized how important it was that the images relate to each other in a pleasing way.
But it was really difficult to make that happen without planning my posts ahead. I started making grids in Photoshop weeks in advance. That worked but was very laborious. And what if I wanted to change it up a bit mid-stream?
Enter UNUM. Perfect! With this little app, you can load your photos, move them around anywhere you like, even do a little last minute edit. You can put in your comment in advance and set a timer to post or write your comment and enter your hashtags just before posting.
The thing is … it takes the stress out of posting daily. You can plan a month in advance, say, your autumn themed photos in October and you already know which image you will post the next morning.
I have been using UNUM for 6 or 8 months now and truly love it. So I made a little video for you by way of a tutorial. I have included my thought process, how I plan the color and intersperse a variety of aesthetics. Because, as you may know, I can’t stick with just one.
To learn how to download images from Lightroom or your laptop hard drive grab my free class – Get Organized Stay Productive here.
Shoot Your Own Brand Lifestyle Photography
I was thrilled when Zoe Bond of Heirloom House in Thorndike, Maine contacted me regarding a brand lifestyle photography shoot for her new shop. Zoe opened a Parisian style boutique in the center of her small town. She wanted imagery that spoke to her brand, a beautifully styled shop with an eclectic mix of vintage and modern – clothing, jewelry and items for the home. She envisions the shop to be a meeting place as well, offering coffee and pastries in a space meant for community and family. I see this being such an asset in her community and enjoyed meeting her so much! The place and concept is so inviting, I wanted to do my best and deliver imagery that she could use on her website and with social media.
And it’s a perfect opportunity to share my brand lifestyle photography process with you!
So here are 5 essential tips for shooting lifestyle photography for your brand, whether it be a store, product, any type of artwork, or service.
Tell Your Story with Real-Life Situations
What real-life actions and situations would your customer be engaged in? Imagine the scene as if from the movie of your ideal customer using your product or shopping at your store. Would the items be used in a luxurious home or are they for everyday use? Is your store filled with precious items or is it a welcoming place for families? If your brand is a service rather than a physical product, imagine the feeling your customer will have after using your service and set the scene depicting the feeling or emotion that relates the benefits.
Props are extremely important and should be chosen carefully. They should add to the story of your brand and relate to the words you have chosen to describe it.
Choose Your Models Carefully
Another thing that must be carefully considered is your model choice. Family and friends may work out perfectly … or they may not. You do not need professional models but they should feel comfortable behind the camera and enjoy having their picture taken. If the friends you ask to help don’t readily say “yes!” – consider putting out a call on Facebook or advertise in a local paper. You will be surprised at the response. My latest call for models was extremely successful and I live in a pretty small town. Have them email you several pictures so you can choose someone who has an aesthetic that would fit well with your brand. If you have an opportunity to meet with them beforehand, choose someone who can move gracefully and slowly.
Direct Your Models
Tell your model ahead of time that you will be bossy and be telling her how to move. You may also have to move her arm or turn her head in just the right way, so make sure she is OK with that. You can also demonstrate by standing and posing in a similar position to make your vision clear to her. Help her forget you are there and direct her to go about doing normal things in slow motion. Speak in a calm and soft tone to facilitate the process. Use words like dance, dream, imagine, to help her relax. If two persons will be interacting, make sure they relate well to one another. They may need time to get to know each other a bit if they don’t already.
Pay Attention to the Light
Of course, as with all photography, lighting is the most important element to consider. Interior shots can be challenging, especially on dark, cloudy days as it was at this shoot. Thankfully there were plenty of windows allowing light in from several directions. Even so, I was glad to have extra lighting. In the image below you can see the equipment I used to cast extra light on the scene. I also used this set-up to create balanced lighting for Zoey’s head shot. She was standing by a window to her left and the light was to her right. I was very happy with the effect, soft light with very little shadow. You can find the equipment I used here on Amazon, I loved it so much (it being quite inexpensive and pretty great!) I ordered another.
In some cases, I left the lights in the store on as well. They all had a warm glow which added another dimension to the images. I especially like the shots where we caught a mirror reflection too. Artsy, don’t you think?
For more camera setting and lighting tips head over here.
Keep on Clicking!
And last but certainly not least … click away! The only way to catch nuances of expression in your models is to continually click the shutter. There is no way around it … if your model stops and poses it will not look natural. So make like a fashion photographer and click, click, click! You might come away with hundreds of images to cull through but it will be worth it. And the easy way to do that is with Lightroom, but you probably already know that!
* Just a little heads up guys. I am now an affiliate for several companies and may link to products and services that I use and love. They will turn around and pay me a small percentage for this, which is awesome because it helps pay the bills. Thank you in advance for using my referrals.
“If you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit, it will go anywhere.”
First, comes inspiration – a spark, a muse, a thought beyond reason.
Next, comes awakening – a moment of beauty or insight that pushes one to action, an awareness of new possibilities, the clarity to see our vision at its completion.
Then, we fall in love – with the idea of actualization, with the dream of bringing that to vision to reality.
“Highly motivated creative people fall in love with an image of themselves as a person who will do whatever it takes to achieve their dreams – and this identification becomes, in a way, a self-fulfilling prophecy.” *
We often view the creative work of others at a gallery or a museum or on Instagram and remark, “I wish I were that talented!”
In fact, you truly are.
Think about it. Can you remember a time when you were so involved in something that the world around you all but disappeared, the cares of the day evaporated and all that remained was you, your mind and body on automatic, engrossed in your activity? It could have been a sport, cooking, hiking, even decorating. What was different about that moment?
Many who write about creative process call it flow. What happens neurologically is that we become of two minds, both our conscious and nonconscious minds are operating at once. We are aware of our surroundings but are not distracted by it. The nonconscious mind, or how we behave when we actively engage in spontaneous thinking, using intuition, emotion, and skill, is taking charge. If allowed to continue for an extended period of time, this state of being can be euphoric, taking us to places in our imagination we never thought possible.
Can we create an environment for that creative flow to happen? Yes! I have done it many times!! It is a wonderful process for shooting creative photography.
Below I have prepared for you a recipe for creative flow. For this recipe, I used my own creative photography process but it can apply to any creative activity you desire to be engaged in. It’s not difficult really, but there a few key ingredients.
Recipe for Creative Flow
- Set aside a block of time, preferably 2-4 hours, less is not enough, more is too much, preferably the time of day you are at your best. You must be alone in your space.
- Turn off and shut out all distracting buttons, beeps, and notifications.
- Collect together your materials. Using your inspiration, bring together what you will need to realize your vision. For the shoot below, I gathered orchids (my inspiration), a collection of similar fabrics (in this case, light weight linens), my prop door and backdrop boards, and camera with both my 500mm and 35mm F1.8 lenses. I also gathered lifts made of wood to put under the cloth and raise the orchids to various heights. I did not use a tripod as it hinders spontaneity and rapid movement.
- Add stimulants. Possible stimulants could include green, white or hibiscus tea, a latte, a green smoothie, anything to drink that gives you a boost and is outside your normal routine.
- Add music. Plug in the earbuds. Having your music of choice pumping directly into your brain aids in nonconscious thinking. I personally prefer something energizing and driving. I want my mojo revved.
- Begin. Don’t think too hard about it, just start and then continue and continue some more. Take shots straight on, looking up, looking down, close up and far away. Move the props a hair, turn them this way or that. Change the backdrop, the lighting, add something, then take something away. Work up a sweat – fling open the windows. Work until you are exhausted.
- Reflect. Remember how good it felt to be unplugged and unhinged, to let your imagination fly! Do not focus on results, focus on the joy of the process. If you do, you will desire to experience that free-spirited creative flow again and again.
No doubt you will find you’ve created something you love, or at the very least, you had an aha moment or discovered a new technique. Do this every week for 6 months or even 3 months and you will be amazed at what you are able to accomplish. It really is about the process, but after all, in the end, we want something to show for our concentrated efforts and believe me, you will!
*Quotes from the book ‘Wired to Create,’ by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire which am still reading and totally love.
Well, it’s getting a bit easier. Just a bit. When I decided to create online still life photography classes I had no idea what I was getting into, the skill set needed was way beyond my comfort zone. But I had a mission and it was going to happen and it did. As with any other creative endeavor, once you push past the painful, uncomfortable feeling of fear, it turns to joy!
I am happy to announce that I have posted two new online photography classes in addition to my first one on Skillshare.
The first one is:
Fabulous Photography for Instagram: Dreamy Backlit Scenes
The next two are:
Fabulous Photography for Instagram: Dreamy Backlit Scenes: Adding Detail
Fabulous Photography for Instagram: Dreamy Backlit Scenes: From Above
This completes the series of three on back light that I intended to create from the outset. I would love it if you would go and watch my intro video for both of these. (It feels like I am a little more comfortable in front of the camera. Now that was way past my comfort zone!)
Have you checked out some of the other classes on Skillshare? It’s a growing community of super talented creatives with all kinds of cool classes. I am honored to be a part of it. It is now my go-to resource for all things techy and artistic.
Some of my favorites are:
That last one is a free class. There are quite a few free classes on Skillshare actually.
Make sure to go and check them out when you get a chance.
Have you checked out all the classes available on
I am super excited to announce my new Skillshare class today! I know many of you have been asking how I take my dreamy backlit scenes. Here it is in a class, all the tools you will need in a 20-minute video!
It is available for free for the first 25 persons who go on over and grab it!!
Head on over and watch my intro video, then click ‘enroll’ to grab the class. There is absolutely no obligation and the class is yours just by clicking on the link.
It actually helps me if you do, because my class will trend on Skillshare after 25 persons enroll in the class.
‘Fabulous Photography for Instagram: Dreamy Backlit Scenes’
Thank you so much, friends! You are completely awesome!!
Exploring the dark and the light with high contrast photography
I love soft and dreamy photography as much as the next still life photographer. Dark and moody photography, absolutely essential! Especially in winter. Although, when I am flying through my Instagram feed, what catches my eye the most? High contrast photography. Posts such as this one by Fiona Tan makes me stop, and stay, for a long while, studying it. This kind of work evokes the deepest of emotion.
In the space I am working in right now, either in my home (which basically means my kitchen) or at the Art Loft, I have either bright sunlight or gray light. There are no dark corners with luscious navy walls or gunmetal gray cement. Can I pull it off anyway? Without an artificial light source?
The discovery came when I was away at mom’s house. The strong afternoon sun was streaming through the living room directly illuminating the flowers my aunt brought to cheer her up. The light created strong shadows. With a few minutes to distract myself, I set out to capture this scene, fiddling around until I got what I was looking for. I lowered my ISO to 200, set the F-stop to somewhere between 2 and 3.5 and played with the shutter speed, getting darker and darker until I could barely see the background.
This image was shot with a 50mm lens, at 200 ISO, F 3.5, 1/3200 sec. “Not bad,” I thought. Lowering the ISO to 200, rather than my usual 400 or 800 indoors, gave me more shadow. I pulled up the highlights just a bit in Lightroom. That’s it.
I rather liked this image with a Kim Klassen Lightroom preset applied, kk_hazed, one of my favorite.
Now to try this in my space. Among my first picks from the garden center is this show stopping begonia. The window at the loft is north facing but large. It was a grayish day so all that was available was soft, muted light. I pulled the set up away from the window a bit, still allowing for some sidelight. I used a dark grayish blue backdrop board that I painted myself.
I shot with the same 50mm lens at 200 ISO and F 3.5, the shutter speed was at 1/100 sec. I did not spot meter, I let the shadows fall where they may.
This is the shot out of camera.
Couldn’t decide which edit I liked the most so here’s a few.
A few more detail shots of the same scene. And a vintage version.
I have a feeling this will not be my last shoot with the intention to create high contrast photography.
I think I might be in love with it!
One on one photography classes
Want to learn still life photography but do not have time for a weekly class? Perhaps you have a small business and would like to learn how to shoot your own product images. I offer personalized instruction on an individual basis. Prices start at $80 for a 2 hour class within the Midcoast Maine area. Additional charge for travel beyond the Midcoast or for classes at the Art Loft in Rockland, Maine.
One on one WordPress instruction
Interested in setting up your own WordPress site for blogging or business? I offer personalized instruction to get you up and running in no time. Theme customization not available. $80 per 2 hour class.
I am thrilled to announce I will also be teaching group classes in WordPress and still life photography at the Art Loft on Main Street in Rockland, Maine beginning May 2016. Check the schedule for upcoming classes or email me at email@example.com
Come and join the fun! Become part of the still life community!
Discover the power of still life photography as an art form. Tap into your creative side with lessons designed to introduce “stillness” into your life. This satisfying medium is a wonderful way to explore your own personal style and awaken your creative abilities. See how much fun photography can be with still life photography classes on the coast of Maine!
For more details and to sign up click here!
An introduction to still life and product photography, for business or personal imagery. Still life photography classes designed to create brand imagery for your business.
Are you interested in creating a brand presence with beautiful imagery? Do you want a cohesive and engaging feed on your Instagram account? Then this class is what you need! Contact me if you are interested in this class. I will keep you informed of future dates.
Are you looking to create your own blog or website? WordPress is the most popular platform to accomplish this goal. This class will help you design and maintain a website or blog for yourself or your business. Contact me if you are interested in this class. I will keep you informed of future dates.
This fabulous event is coming soon! Space is limited. Learn more here!