Ode To LOR

Ode To LOR

Princess and Swords

Dramatic Portrait 

Trying out some new lights with a beautiful young princess and Sting from Lord Of The Rings.  And a sword from the Dark Ages.

Using four and sometimes three lights.  

  • Four foot Octabox with grid to camera left.
  • 63" Umbrella just behind and right of camera with Strobpro 600 (
  • 12"x 55" Softbox with grid rim light camera right pointing at subjects shoulder and hair
  • Small strobe with snoot pointing at backdrop.

I honestly may have been able to get something similar with fewer lights but love that I was able to do this way.

A bit of editing in Lightroom and Photoshop.

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Self Portraits

Self Portraits

Photos of Me

I would love to be taking photos of someone different every day but alas the powers that be ...  So, here are a couple of self portraits done in a studio environment.  Thank god for remote shutter release.

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Warrior Women

Warrior Women

My Foray into Photoshop

I’ve been taking photos for years.  I always kinda wanted to learn Photoshop but I’m quite competent with Lightroom and have made do pretty well with that.  I could always find a way to do most of what I needed with Lightroom.  And silly as it sounds I always had difficulty understanding ‘layers’.  Fairly recently, having the need or desire to actually change a background and do a couple of other things that I couldn’t do well with Lightroom, I figured it out.

I was searching videos on how to emulate Sean Archer’s techniques.  I didn’t necessarily want to take the same photos but there were a few things that I liked about his photos, one being how he installed his backgrounds.  On Youtube, I came across Irene Rudnyk.  One simple video of hers helped everything fall into place.  I’m by no means an expert yet, ‘the devil is in the details’ and I need a lot of practice with those details but here are a few photos that where I changed the background to fit what I had envisioned when I took the original photo. 

There are certainly a number of factors that have to be taken into consideration when combining a couple of photos and I don’t know that I’ve done a perfect job on taking lighting into account with these but for me it was a blast.  I’m totally excited that I was able to get these three photos to the stage they are.

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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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