Wedding Portraits

Wedding Portraits

Wedding Photos in the Studio

Recently did some wedding portraits in the studio for some friends.  Weddings are not generally my favourite thing but I've done quite a few, mostly for friends/friends of family.  Honestly, though, I love the studio and am still learning.  I like the control and the simplicity.  And the intimacy.  These two have been together for 10 years.  This was a few days before their wedding.  She was pretty wound up getting things ready for the big day.  Getting her to relax wasn't really an option.  So, we went with that. I love the results.  I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

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Muskoka Horses

Muskoka Horses

Muskoka Horses

A few more horse photos from the other day.  The owners were so nice to let me shoot their horses.  I'll be sending them some prints.  The white is a mare named Bella; took her a few minutes to get used to me but she was pretty sweet.

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The White Horse

The White Horse

Muskoka Horses

Up at the cottage asked a neighbour if I could shoot some of his horses.  I'd been driving by his farm for years and last month while on my bicycle asked if I could take some pictures sometime.  Stirling, the owner of the property, assured me that if I came by that this would be quite fine.  Took me about a month to get back there and I wandered around for a bit with the horses and got some great shots. I didn't get the names but will next time I visit.  I hung around for about 30-45 minutes and by the end of things the animals were quite comfortable with me.  I'm showing just the one white horse below.  True white horses, of which this is one, are quite rare.

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I Use Filters

I Use Filters

Phone App Filters

I take lots of photos and have a bunch of people that ask me questions about my art from time to time.  

I’ve had several folks ask about the water colour filters and oil filters that I use for some of my photos.  I’m not so good at drawing but know my way around a camera and lighting fairly well. Some of my photos are just fine as photos but sometimes I like to see what they will look like as paintings.  

That is how it started, anyway.

The two main apps that I use are Waterlogue ($2.99USD) and Brushstroke ($3.99 - the price changes from time to time).  You are not going to use these on your computer. Phone or iPad/Tablet only.  If you know what you are doing, you can likely get these effects better using Photoshop.  If you know what you are doing. But for me I had to start with something simple.

I use them both.  Waterlogue for water colour effects and Brushstroke for oil.  

Waterlogue has about a dozen filters and then once you have applied that particular filter, if you go to the right there are five ‘sizes’ you can apply.  Each of these gives a bit of variation to the image. You also have the option of adding a border or not.  If you apply the border colours will bleed to it on some of the filters.  

It is quite simple to use.  More and more I will edit a photo knowing which filter I’m going to use.  I beef up or dull down the sky or some other part of the image knowing how it will manifest in the app.  There isn’t a lot you can do within the app as far as playing with colours or light and dark, contrast, etc.  

If the original photo was taken on my phone or iPad, I will edit with Lightroom there before applying the filter.  If I took the photo on my camera, I’ll edit a little with Lightroom there then send to my iPad to apply the app.  I might go back and forth a bit to get it how I want. 

Using Brushstroke, I try and think ahead as well.  But… you have a lot more flexibility with this app. You can edit contrast, saturation, density, shadows, highlights and many more.  You can make the brushstrokes look thicker or thinner.  You have about 70 plus filters. Apply the filter of your choice, then you can get specific within each filter with the sliders. 

Once you have played with the apps, you may find that you take your photo with a plan for one or the other.

Another tool that I use is called ImageFramer. Use this on your computer.  I know it works for a Mac.  Don’t know about other operating systems.  This one is not free.  I sprung for it as I really wanted to see what some of my work would look like matted and framed.  It helps me to decide on sizes and shapes and colours for frame and matte.  The pro version is, I think, $80.  Not a big expense when I compare to what I’ve spent on camera and studio equipment.  

A couple of other points.  If you are planning on printing a photo that you have converted, figure out the format and edit to that before you apply the app. If, for example, your photo is 8x12 and you are going to print it as an 8x10.  If you apply the watercolour app so that it bleeds onto the border and THEN you crop smaller, parts of your border will disappear.  🙁  I’ve made this mistake.  Then gone back and can’t remember the exact settings and well….

Depending on what you have in mind for your final product, plan your steps.  

Another point: if you are going to print something that you have put through one of these filters, you also have to think on what kind of paper you are going to use.  I get my photos done at  They have a really nice rag paper that I will use.  But… I have to edit the image a bit lighter than I would for a normal matte or semigloss print.   

You'll see on this page a couple of beautiful images that I’ve done in Brushstroke.  I’ve then used clear gel with brushes to give an even more painterly effect.  A couple of layers.  Both of the photos included in this article were edited in Lightroom, then messed with in Brushstroke. Then a couple of gel coats.  Back and forth several times to get exactly what I wanted.  One is 11x14 and the other 11x17.  My wife did a beautiful job matting and framing them.

Check out some other pages:

And a bit more on Art and Photography

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The Art of Photography

The Art of Photography

The Art of Photography

How to “Art” Your Photos

I was asked recently the most important things I consider when taking photographs of models.  Kind of like ‘What makes a good photograph?”  Ask a hundred photographers and you will get some answers that are basically similar and many that are different as you will get what has worked for that particular photographer.  But there are basics.  

There are things that you need to know about your camera and how it works; the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture and what happens to a photo when you change these things in ration to each other.  (All this was discussed in my last blog article.) You need to know how different lenses ‘see’.  

That is only a part of the equation.

There are some basic art techniques that work whether you are shooting landscape or a fashion model.  With a model where you are shooting to show off the outfit, there are sometimes very exact rules that apply for posing. These things flatter the clothes as much as the model.  The intent here is for both to look fantastic.  Small details can make an otherwise mediocre photo look fantastic!  

A lot of photographers concern themselves with the technology of the camera and its bells and whistles.  These are key tools of a photographer of course and his or her knowledge of various settings and how they will affect the final resulting photo, are very important but…

Don’t forget the Art of Photography!

I see someone learning about the ‘Rule of Thirds’ thinking they know all there is to know about art and figure that the rest of art rules belong with the Renaissance or the Old Dutch Masters.  (Some of you reading this already know that ‘The Rule of Thirds’ is inaccurate… I know - more on that later.)

The purpose of this article is not so much to iterate the specific techniques that you should know but really to inspire you to search out these basic art techniques and apply them to your trade.  

Don’t call it cheating. There is technology for everything, including Art.  I’m sure you wouldn’t want the engineer/bridge builder to ‘wing it’.  An engineer has a set of rules that he or she follows so that the bridge won’t collapse with the first vehicle that crosses.  An airline pilot has a set of rules that allow him to fly and plane… or land it in the Hudson River with everyone still alive!  

So, too, do visual artists have technologies or rules they can follow to help make them more competent.  Many of the techniques of the Dutch Masters and the Renaissance* painters can be easily applied to photography.   

There is a key here. If you know the rules, then you know when and when not to break them.  

You will never have good judgement on what works and what doesn’t if you don’t first understand what your tools and techniques are.  And to do that you have know the rules of whatever game it is that you are playing, in this case art.  Learn ‘em, drill ‘em.  

Art Techniques

I won't go in to detail on all of these. But do research them out so that you can get your own take.

1. The Rule of Thirds or The Golden Rectangle?

The Rule of Thirds is kinda of a bastardized version of The Golden Rectangle.  

  • Golden Rectangle(The real rule of thirds…)  This one is so easy to apply if you know of it and especially if you have Adobe’s Lightroom.  This includes The Golden Spiral and the Fibonacci Sequence.  
  • Here is a great article that fairly simply explains these: Golden Rectangle

And another that explains how to use and shift between these in Lightroom.


2.  Eye Trail.

3.  Colours: what colours come forward and which recede.

4.  Shapes

5. Perspective and vanishing point - themselves and in relation to golden ratio 

6. Focal Point
(Focus: definition, n, “ … or a point at which converging rays would meet…”, “… in figurative use, a central point, as of attraction, attention or activity”
Focal: definition: a. ‘of or pertaining to focus’)  So, Focal Point would the point of focus.  There are various ways to lead the viewer here. 

Decide where you want the viewer’s eye to land — that will be the primary area of interest in the painting or photo known as the focal point. A properly designed composition will lead the viewer’s eye right to it.

“Although this is more relevant in landscapes than still life paintings, your focal point should be supported by your design and the value patterns that lead up to it. Elements of color, value and directional shapes should be employed and emphasized so that there is a pathway leading around your painting to the focal point.

The eye will automatically be attracted to the area of the painting where the lightest and darkest values are in closest proximity to each other. If the values are scattered and don’t offer any type of path toward the focal point, the viewer won’t know where to engage with the painting.  Notice how the perspective lines of the fruit, flowers and sidewalk in Flower Dude (above) lead the eye directly to the figure, which is the lightest value surrounded by the darkest value. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the strongest areas of contrast in the painting. Use this strategy when establishing your focal point.” Artist's Network


Don’t be afraid to crop.  Also, when you are taking a photo, your camera is taking a rectangular image of around 3:2 and you may want a sort of panoramic or a much wider than taller final image.  Take a wider image, a photo from much further back and allow yourself to do that long wide and short crop.  If you are not completely sure what you want take a couple of both and mess with the images later in the darkroom.

I have gone back to some particularly favourite photo shoots and re-edited some that I thought were mediocre and cropped in different ways to find gems.

Roads and railway tracks are commonly used to lead to a point on the horizon and give the image perspective. Do you want your eye trail and perspective to lead the viewer to focus on the very centre of the photo or to one of the points of the Golden Rectangle or Golden Spiral?  And why? Or why not?


Definition: II,n, … also, the art of representing solid objects on a flat surfaces as to give them the same appearance as in nature when viewed from a given point; … hence, the appearance of objects with reference to the relative  position, distance, etc.; - The New Century Dictionary, Volume 1, Copyright 1927

Change your perspective when you are shooting.  You can shoot low, so the main subject is above the horizon.  Or you shoot from higher so that the subject is below or partially below the horizon.  Perspective can create a huge difference with the appearance of the length of peoples legs. Shoot high, shoot low?  You will find that when photographing people standing, models for example, that if you shoot higher, their legs will look shorter than if you shoot from a lower perspective.

How did the Renaissance painters create perspective?

"The mathematical precision of architectural linear perspective, applied to painting, allowed Renaissance artists to create a sense of real dimension in their work. By painting subjects so that they became smaller and appeared to vanish into the distance, artists added depth and the illusion of rounded, whole shapes to flat stucco walls or canvas. The paintings seemed to come alive, to show real life and people, not two-dimensional painted shapes. Blurred edges on distant objects mimicked the effect of the atmosphere on what the eye could see. Vivid color in the foreground, gradually fading into murkier blues and greens in the background, enhanced the "distant" vista. Another perspective trick, planar perspective, separates a canvas into planes. In Leonardo's "Mona Lisa," the foreground is the colorful figure, the middle plane is a distinct section of brown and green trees, and the distant plane is mostly blue."   Renaissance Painters



This ties into perspective.  Where do you want the Horizon?  If you have it in the middle of the photo most of the time it will look boring.  Raised or lowered to the level of the line of the Golden Rectangle will give it a greater dynamic.  


This is a great drill.  Whether you are applying it to painting or photography.  Take some piece you like or has the technique or techniques that you would like to emulate and copy it.  Do this more than once or twice if you need to as you get comfortable with the process.  Never discount the importance of drilling.

And there is the whole subject of lines and shapes and their directions.  What feeling or emotion will a certain line or shape elicit?  

A flat, horizontal line could be considered calm (or even boring), a very neutral mood.  Like this photo below:


A line or figure rising to the left or to the right may elicit different feeling.  Using perspective, colour and vanishing point, with certain lines, you could show something either receding or approaching.

If you know these and other rules and you are studying really great photos, whether they be fashion photos or action or landscape, you will have a much better understanding as to why they are good or great shots.  And why others are just not.  

One would not always use all of these techniques all of the time but knowing of them and where they would be used can take your photos, whatever type, to the next level. 

Take the time to be professional.  There is so much good, useful information out there.  Examine for yourself what, of these techniques and skills, will enhance your art.  Use the technical to increase the quality of your art. 

*The term renaissance means “rebirth” and is the period in Europe’s history right after the Middle Ages. During this time, society during turned to classical teachings, world exploration, and cultural achievements in language, art, and science. This period was rooted in Italy and lasted from the 14th Century until the 17th Century AD. It provided an important stepping stone into modern history. Wealthy patrons from Florence sponsored writers and artists so that they could pursue their interests. This renewed knowledge of ancient Roman and Greek cultures gave way to humanism, the appreciation of human achievement and expression. Artists employed these principles in their work.

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Portrait or Landscape for Headshots?

Portrait or Landscape for Headshots?

Studio Headshots and Senior Portraits - Portrait or Landscape?

The standard for years for individual portrait photos is vertical.  Particularly headshots for actors and actresses.  With the advent of the internet and the wide computer screen, it is often more attractive to go with a horizontal exposure.  

There are other factors that can make this equally or even more appealing such as the use of negative space.  Negative space is part of the picture that is not your subject.  For example, if you were taking a photo of a tree or a couple of trees, then the space around and between the trees would be ‘negative’ space.  

Shooting wide or using a landscape or horizontal image can give you more of this negative space which can be quite effective if used wisely.  

I've included a few examples shooting in a landscape or horizontal mode.

This is a Senior shot for graduation.  The railway tracks add some dimension or depth to the photo without distracting from the main subject.


Here, in this next photo, the girl in the hat is turned ever so slightly to her right, so giving extra space in that direction makes it all look more natural.  And that space is used with light/shadow add some dynamic to the photo.







This next is from a series.  A studio headshot for an marvellous opera singer.  A series of simple headshot but using the wide frame.  Again, the body is turned, to the left this time, and giving space there, makes sense again.  The same with Mikayla in the outdoor shot (right). (We agreed that was the coldest of that type of photoshoot ever!)







The use of ‘Landscape’ layout allows for more creativity in many instances.  You can give more depth and focus to your image without in any way detracting from your main subject.   Use this negative space to take advantage of eye trail, perspective, colour and host of other techniques the will help focus on the person you are photographing.  Or some aspect of the person that you want to accentuate.

A ‘wide’ photo like this will actually look just fine and often better on websites and enlarged fit a computer screen almost perfectly.  If you do an image search for example for real estate agents, almost all of them are using the Landscape format.  Same for insurance agent.  And doctors.  These photos fit better on the screen.  And they can communicate much more.  That little bit of extra space can give dimension that is otherwise very difficult to create.

I also find, doing portraits using this wide frame aspect, allows for a more relaxed subject.  The person you are shooting has a bit more flexibility in movement and can appear to being ‘doing’ something instead of looking so static.  The wide frame portrait, if done reasonably well, will draw the viewer in.  And that’s always a good thing. 

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Gottfried Helnwein – Quote

Gottfried Helnwein – Quote

Helnwein – Quote

Gottfried Helnwein - Quote

“Most societies are ruled by mediocre people that have no vision and no imagination. Most rulers are scared of creation and creative people. Artists are funny people, all they want is to touch and move, challenge and surprise others. But dictators hate surprises more than anything else. All they want is to turn their territory into a neat little toy prison camp and play with their little toy people. Push them around, rip a leg or a head off now and then or throw them into the garbage when they are tired of their stupid, little doll faces.”

– Helnwein

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iPhone, Samsung or ‘Real’ Camera?

iPhone, Samsung or ‘Real’ Camera?

Phone Camera or Proper DSLR* Camera?

Which camera do you need?

It really depends on what you want to do with it.  Snapshots for Instagram or something more comprehensive and original.

With the advances in phone cameras, people use their DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex *see end of article for full description) cameras less and less.  Small carry around digital cameras, a thing of the past, are pretty much invisible these days.  

I’m not going to argue whether the Samsung phone camera is so much better than the iPhone, as good as they both are, they still don’t come close to competing with my Nikon or my son’s Canon.  

One of the biggest benefit of your phone camera is convenience.  You always have it with you anyway.  And it takes pretty good photos if you know what you are doing.  

It all really depends on the quality of photo you want to have. If you really want to learn photography, shooting with just a phone camera is going to hinder you.  Even an entry level DSLR will gives you much more functionality than your phone camera.

Some of the drawbacks of a phone camera:

1. The lens Quality. When light passes through a lens, you want as little distortion as possible.  Companies like Nikon, Tamron, Cannon, Lieca (and many others) that create lenses for DSLRs, spend millions on research perfecting and making the glass in the lens of such a high quality that there is minimal distortion.  

Many camera lenses on phones are made of plastic instead of glass, which in no way, shape or form will compare to even a low quality glass lens. 

2. The lens Size.  The amount of light that passes through a real camera lens is a hundred times what will pass through a phone camera lens.  So, the sheer magnitude of data that gets to the sensor and recorded is immense on a ‘real’ camera compared to your Samsung or iPhone.  Big window in a room, lots of light, small window, very little light.  

As a result, of these two factors, with a DSLR and the quality and volume of data, you will have much more to work with in your image.  Take for example shooting outside on a very bright day.  With your phone camera, you will have a little play in improving the image, but not much. On the other hand, with what is called a RAW image from the digital camera, you will be able to see the detail in both the very light and very dark parts of the image.  And you can adjust the image so that you can see both at the same time!

In low light, your phone camera will show the photo but hugely degraded quality.

It has been said the RAW images, in that state are kinda dull.  True to some extent, but a very small tweak here and there makes it pop.  A  RAW image is not designed to be a final view.  There is so much more information to work with. You can be a little or a lot more creative.

One of the things that I love, in working with RAW images, is editing in black and white.  I used to do a fair bit of darkroom processing of my photos.  Printing black and white.  That was really magical.  Using Adobe's Lightroom editing program, there are these sliders for each colour, yes, even in black & white, that you can use to adjust areas of your photo.  For example, you have a scenic shot, you can adjust the greens of the trees, again, yes, in black & white!  Adjust the sky the way you want by adjusting the blue.  You will be amazed at the adjustments that you can work with even in a black and white image.

The ‘how-tos’ of processing is not the point of this article but the fact that you have much more flexibility is.  You can be so much more creative.   

But before you can process the photos, you have to have something decent to work with.  

With your Nikon or Canon or whatever, you can capture amazingly high quality images even in very low light.  There is a bit of learning curve but most of these techniques are fairly simple and easily learned with a bit of practice.  

Speed, Aperature and Sensitivity

These three factors can improve your creativity greatly.  


First of all sensitivity, which is the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) setting on your camera.  This term is a carryover from film.  It was basically a measurement of how sensitive to light a certain film was.  The higher the number, 100, 200, 400, 800 and up the more light would be allowed. So, you could basically shoot in much darker environment with an 800 ISO film than you could with a 100 ISO.  The problem, though, it was necessary that each piece of pigment that reacted to the light was larger to make it effective.  So the more sensitive film, the grainier the final photo.  

This translates similarly to the sensor in your digital camera. Even though you can still get a pretty good photo when it is darker using an 800 or 1600 ISO, the photo will be grainier.  

The wonderful thing about digital is that you don’t have to change your film every time the light changes, which you had to do with film.  Sun goes down or you go inside, you can still get some pretty decent photos by first pressing a button, moving a dial and then you are all set.  

Speed Setting

By adjusting the speed you can freeze or blur action.  You have all seen the photo of the river rapids blurred smooth.  That is someone setting their camera on a tripod and using a slow speed on their camera.  

You do have to have a balance between the speed and aperture though.  If you slow the speed to let more light in, you will have to make the aperture smaller otherwise too much light will come in and over expose the image.  

Aperture Size

The larger the number the smaller the hole or aperture.  This is because they were originally meant to be fractions.  1/16, 1/8, 1/2, etc.  So now, you just see the numbers without the ‘1’ on top: 16, 8, 2, etc.  The size of the aperture affects something called depth of field.  This will be what part of the image, front to back, is in focus.  Your phone camera will make everything in focus.  You cannot create a photo like the close up of the horse with an iPhone or Samsung.  Well, you can go in and blur out certain parts of the photo afterwards but it looks very unnatural.  


So, for the photo of the horse, I would have used a wider aperture, maybe 1/4 or some such.  If you are shooting an outdoor scenic shot and you want everything in focus from amsterdam bicyclefront to back, you would likely shoot 1/16.  Or as small as possible depending possible depending on the amount of light.  This next photo of the Amsterdam canal was shot with a narrow aperture allowing most of the photo to be sharp.


So you see that is all about balancing the three: Speed, Aperture and Sensitivity  (ISO).  If you are shooting with a small aperture, you may have to slow the shutter speed down to allow more light in.  

You can make minor adjustments with your phone camera, generally, to adjust light or dark or focus on a particular area.  

So, for your real camera it brings us to the next step.  

Manual or Auto?

I will say here, and I may mention it once or twice more, when you are learning with your DSLR, shoot only in Manual.  It will slow you down at first but you will understand what your camera can do.  Some techniques you will never learn fully otherwise.

If you ever learned to touch type, you know that you had to force yourself to NOT look at the keyboard.  Same concept here.

Shooting in manual all the time forces you to actually learn.  You will make mistakes.  But you will learn to use your camera and understand how these three functions all work together.  There are many more aspects of your DSLR that you can learn but get to know how the speed, aperture and sensitivity work together, and go from there. 

You will need to edit your photos a bit to get the most out of them.  You DO NOT need PhotoShop.  You really don’t.  It is way beyond what you need for processing your photos.  

There are many different editing tools out there but the one you need is Adobe's Lightroom.  It is very easy to learn the basics with this program.  You load your photos and there are sliders on the right so you can start messing with your photos.  Keep it simple to start.  It is quite user friendly.  I’m not getting into the how to’s of Lightroom here as there are tons of videos out there.  I just want to stress that for processing or editing your photos please don’t feel you need Photoshop.  

So, if you really want to take a step up, or several steps up from your phone camera, you need a digital camera that shoots RAW and a basic copy of Lightroom.  


(* Definition of DSLR or Digital Single Lens Reflex.  This from

"‘DSLR’ stands for “Digital Single Lens Reflex” – a type of camera. The DSLR format provides the user with a direct view of the scene through the main lens. The viewer will therefore see the same scene the sensor captures."  There is a good photo on that page which shows light from the object reflecting from a mirror, through a prism to the viewing eye.  So, as a result, with a DSLR camera, you see what the camera sees.)

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What Do I Like About Christmas?

What Do I Like About Christmas?

What Do I Like About Christmas?

By and large, people are friendlier.  They come together, smile and say hello more.  Some decorate their houses inside or out to make them a little (or a lot) more attractive.  Some, I do have to say, are a bit gaudy for my tastes but I will not fault someone for communicating.  I don’t like every piece of art that I see.  

And I really think it is more important to display art that you like as opposed to art that you think will impress someone.  As to creating art, there are two parts to that.  You are always going to have your own ‘slant’ to what you create, but if you want to sell what you create, you have to, to some degree, market what people want or need.  But that is a subject for another time. 

Because of this openness of communication, I think that Christmas is a great time to use your art as a way of communicating.  For a few years now we have been sending out Christmas cards.  Sometimes it is a photo of our feet on the beach and sometimes an ‘artsy’ photo that we have made into a card.  It is a great way christmas bellsof staying in touch.  I know, I know, with FaceBook, Instagram and the like, it is much quicker, (and cheaper). But I do know that most people like getting that actual physical bit in the mail.  

It is also a great way to stay in touch.  I know a couple of people that would send out newsy Christmas cards, a broad letter to all bringing friends up to date on goings on from the last year.  Some didn’t like this as it was a little less personal but I honestly thought it was a great idea.  I like to know what is going on with my friends.  Though, I don’t mind the more personal touch.  

Use your art.  Create something. Take a photo. Get some cards made and send them out next Christmas.  People like attractive things. It also gets you creating and there is nothing better in the world than creating something aesthetic.  Something beautiful is like a ray gun on bad emotions or an upset.  The correct piece of music can annihilate a bad mood in seconds.  It is OK to send birthday cards as well.

My wife writes notes in a lot of our cards which makes them even more personal.  Takes some time but, hey, how much time do you spend a week in front of the TV?  I wear the hat of turning what I hope is an attractive photo into a card, getting them printed, addressed and sent.  

If you are doing your art as business, painting, drawing, photography or some visual art, you can easily incorporate something into a greeting card or even a post card.   Send out birthday cards.  Or seasonal greeting cards to your client list.  Again, people will brighten up when they receive an aesthetic card in the mail.  And you could do much worse handwriting the name and address.  Even if your handwriting is atrocious, as mine is.

While you are at it, make your life art!

Helena Bonham Carter says it best:

“I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.” Helena Bonham Carter

If your strength is poetry or prose, send cards to your clients or friends

Mountain Christmas (Paint)

with that inside or on the front of the card.  If you are a visual artist I’m sure you can find any number of decent images to use for a greeting card.   Simple to get 50 or a hundred cards made - cheaper that way - and send out regularly.  

Ideally, you want to send something of yours but if you can’t, always go for the aesthetic and as close to personal as possible.

And it doesn’t always have to be perfect.  Another great often used quote that remains true nonetheless:

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” Kurt Vonnegut

Art is at its heart, communication.  So, don’t get too fussy.  A nice photo of you smiling put on a card for your family at Christmas will be much appreciated.  Or a

Back Up The Hill

drawing that your 8 year old did of the Christmas tree!  Pretty easy to scan and get printed as a card.  Grandma and Grandpa would go nuts over that one.  

The best thing about Christmas is the smiles and friendship. It doesn’t really matter how you greet someone as long as you greet them with a smile in a friendly manner. The words you use are so much less important than the fact that you are smiling and wishing them well. 

Others may disagree but I believe that it is important to create and communicate without necessarily expecting something back.  Do it for the love of it. 

Mom used to say that you should never wait for someone to communicate to you.  You should be the one to start.  You will be much happier that way.

Bringing a little bit of joy into the lives of others will just make the world a bit better place to live.  Sometimes all it takes is a smile or a kind word.

So, Be Good, Do Good and have a very Merry Christmas!

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3 Basics My Mother Taught Me About Photography

3 Basics My Mother Taught Me About Photography

3 Photo Basics My Mother Taught Me

Photography 101: 


3 Things My Mother Taught Me

Mom was a pretty decent photographer.  She was first a single mother of 4. In 1978 when she was moving to Denmark and getting remarried, her very talented friends threw a going away party for her.  It was a ‘song and dance’ skit that ran a good hour.  Her friends were a bunch of very talented people.  I still have the cassette tape of it around somewhere. The theme was ‘Courses’.  My mother was always taking courses in something or other.  Whether it was French, photography, or taking up skiing when she turned 50!  

I asked her once about the fact that she volunteered to drive cancer patients, people she didn’t know, a couple of times a month.  She would drive them to and from their treatments. She told me she felt she “needed to give something back to society”.  !?!?

She obviously learned something in her photography classes as she won a couple of contests for her art. One was for a naked grandson when he was about a year old - I don’t think that would go over so well in this day and age!

As a youngster I’d carry a camera around with me a lot - an old Brownie 127, I think it was.  Not sure the exact model but it was 2 1/4” negative.  Much later I got SLR cameras but as kid it was the Brownie with the black and white film.  I got some great ‘horse’ photos even then.  Learning with a large negative camera was kinda cool.

Here are a few things my mother would constantly remind me of, as I learned photography.

Rule #1: Watch Your Background

This one was hammered into me.  Almost often as the poke in the shoulder to stand up straight!  The idea here was that you didn’t want a telephone pole or church spire sticking out of the top of someone’s head when you got the photos back.  Taking pretty photos of flowers in the back yard, you didn’t want the neighbour’s laundry hanging in the background.  Well, I didn’t anyway!

There was more to it than this really.  It made you look at the complete photo as opposed to focusing on just the person or cat or dog that you were trying to capture.  As a result, I would move to one side or the other, up or down and sometimes closer or further.  This had the added effect of seeing light and how it lay over the whole image.  How it changed.  As a child I could see that there was more than one way to shoot that object or scene.  Something as simple as crouching down as you are taking photos of small children.  It completely changes the intimacy of the relationship between child and photographer.  I find that now, I will walk the extra ‘mile’ to get a different perspective on scenery without thinking about it.  They always don’t turn out but I’ve had exclamations from enough people about my photos over the years by applying this one rule.    

This also would allow you to look at the photo as a whole.  I watch tourists in even in Niagara Falls concentrating on one part of the photo - either the person or the Falls.  They don’t ‘stand back’ and see the whole photo.  You might have someone standing by a tree.  If a large overhanging tree, you could use it to frame the person.  Or have them lean against it, having them interact with the tree, making it part of the photo instead of just another thing cluttering up the picture.

Rule #2:  “Add some red.”

This ‘rule’ made sense to me in that I could see in photos that had something red - that colour became the focus or there was at least something about it that gave perspective to the overall image.  The color red could draw you into the photo or give some depth to an otherwise bland image.

Warmer colours like red, orange, yellow and the in-between shades of these come forward or appear to be closer.  Cooler blues and greens will generally appear further.  This tends to mimic the reality of the fact that things in the distance tend to fade to pale blues and greys.  

And to belie that rule, brighter, intense and more vivid, of whatever colour, will appear closer. 

Try putting certain colours in an otherwise monotone photo to see what happens. 

Rule #3: Don’t Cut Off Their Feet.

This by itself is a simple but important rule.  When the feet are cut off at the ankles, it makes a standing subject or subjects look as though they are going to fall over.  It looks terribly unnatural.  When shooting a full body photo of someone standing try and make sure that you include the feet.  If you want to cut things short of the feet try above the knee or the waist.  If you are trying to include background try changing the angle, how high or low you are shooting from.  

Part of the issue with photos like this, where you have someone standing at attention facing you, well, it makes for an incredibly boring photo anyway.  It doesn’t lead you into the photo.  There are numerous ways that you can make it more interesting many of which only take an extra few seconds.  

If you are trying to get your subject in front of Niagara Falls, have them turn sideways and look at the Falls.  It will likely be easier for them to have a relaxed visage and smiles will be more forthcoming.  You can also have them sit or lean against the rocks that hold the railing.  This as I mentioned earlier with the tree, the overall look will have them interacting with the environment as opposed to be just standing there completely separated from it.  This has an added benefit of distraction.  When people are just standing there, they often don’t know what to with their hands, face, etc.  Have them leaning, pointing, or touching something or someone.  This can be used to help pull the viewer into the photo as well.  (Eye Trail)  Create different moods with expressions at the same time, even in the same series of photos.  Smiling, puzzled, serious, moody….  

So, to recap: 1. Watch Your Background; 2. Add Some Red; 3. Don’t Cut Off Their Feet.  These all pretty much add up to observe what you do.  Try different things, change the angle, change the pose.  Then take a look and compare the different photos to see what you like best.  

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