Blog - Carla Coulson
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5 of My Favourite Portrait Tips

Dear Photographers,

I love taking portraits and I am excited to share these 5 favourite portrait tips. I still get a tingle of excitement and nervousness before the shoot. What will they be like? Will I be able to do it? Will I get what I want?

The thing about taking photos of people is that it is a totally organic process, there are emotions and expectations involved, moods, weather, light and things that come up on the day so even though you can plan in advance (and I do) you also need to be willing to let go of ideas on the day.

Here’s what I am always looking at when shooting portraits:

 

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  1. SHAPES

Yes, dear folks even though I have a human being in front of me I am always considering the ‘shape’ they are making and how I can make it more interesting.  I ask my subject to turn in increments to get a better ‘shape’ that is more interesting or flattering or works better with the light. It can be these micro-movements that make all the difference in a photo.

You can see in the above photos my outlines as to what was catching my eye.

 

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  1. THE LIGHT

If you have interesting light almost anything can work so most times I start with the light. Then I see what I can do, what if I move her/him away from the light or turn them slightly, what happens? Sometimes it can be the smallest pop of light like a spotlight that can create an interesting effect and then I add some of the other tricks in my bag to take it to the next level.

Sometimes it’s subtle, like the shot above where it is just a pop on her face but because of the dark background, it becomes interesting. In the other shots, on the left, I looked to a lamplight to create the backlit effect in her hair and on the right the direct window light on him created a dramatic effect and the background became non-existent.

 

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  1. BACKGROUND

If I am not starting with the light it’s because a background has caught my eye or would work best with what I have in mind. When I start with a background I will ask my subject to jump in to see what’s happening with the light and where it is falling. I will move them around from left to right watching how the light is falling on their face and whether it can work.

In the above shot, I loved the idea of having the entire theatre behind the model and worked with window light in the foreground to light her.

 

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  1. WHAT’S MY VISION FOR THE SHOOT?

So before I start a shoot no matter what it is whether it’s working for Harper’s Bazaar or a private portrait shoot I take the same amount of care.  I pre-visualise it otherwise it scares me too much. I have to scout the place, see the clothes and understand the spirit of the person or the idea. Once I have the basics,  I can research some ideas, create a mood board and start to get excited!

When I was approached to do a shoot of wedding dresses in Paris I thought about how it was when I was married in Paris, going to the café and walking there. I loved the idea of an urban bride so I scouted typical Parisian things such as the newspaper stand, Metro etc all ways that people arrive to their wedding in Paris and what they do before and after their wedding.

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  1. HOW DO I SEE (FEEL) THIS PERSON?

Portrait photography is like doing an advanced course in psychology! There is a lot of ‘feeling’ your way to get to know your subjects, watching the person, gauging how far you can go and also how you would like to see them.

Remember Richard Avedon said ‘All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”

Ask yourself how do you see them? I start somewhere, anywhere like warming up before you go for a run. I will ask people to do very simple things, make sure they are in a place I like and with the light I like and then slowly I will start telling them jokes, getting them moving or something to let them forget about me and be themselves. And all the time I am looking for something, in my case it’s joy, authenticity, connection and I snap.

In the above pic, I wanted to keep the youthful feel of this girl, at once solemn and also fun.

I hope these Portrait tips has helped and you can try some of them next time you shoot.

If you enjoyed My Favourite Portrait Tips post, you may also like the tips on the Creating A Young Opera Singer’s Portfolio.

Sending portrait love

 

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Six Tips For Creative Clarity in 2018

Dear Folks,

I have just landed back in Paris and excited to start 2018 and share my six tips for creative clarity in 2018!!

I loved being in Australia and having the chance to meet so many beautiful new people, hear their stories and share mine.

I loved 2017! It was a year full of new and exciting experiences, a ton of travel and one that I am proud of.. including taking these pics of two beautiful gals the fabulous Sarah Hudson of Birdie Hill and her daughter Clare. What a fabulous day with two divine women!!

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I remember back to this time in 2017 and what my hopes and dreams were and how I jotted them down in my journal. It’s extraordinary to look back and see so much of what I wanted actually happened and the beautiful thing was at the beginning of the year I didn’t ask myself ‘how’ I was going to do it, I just knew I wanted to do it.

That’s the magic thing about clarity. When you are clear on what you want no matter what area of your life and you mix it with passion, light, and love you are an unstoppable creative cabaret dancer (you know what I mean) !!!

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So I thought these tips might help you get clear on what you want from 2018.

  1. Think of your biggest vision for yourself and your creativity and don’t ask yourself how you will do it, just know you want to do it. Write a text on what you see and feel. Get into detail about the work you will create, the people you want to work with, the places you will visit, where you want to create or how much money will be in your bank account!! Whatever is authentic to you.
  2.  Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a stage or on a big screen at the end of 2018 telling your story, whose lives will you have touched, what work will you have created and what peace of mind do you feel? Will you have presented your first exhibition, launched your book, worked with the world’s best clients, made people laugh and dance and sing and touch them? Will it be that you have better relationships, more time and peace or dare to create what you have wanted to do forever?
  3. What are you going to make non-negotiable in 2018 for your business, creativity and life. What are you done with? What do you want to let go of?
  4. Close your eyes and ask yourself what is standing in your way of your vision for 2018 and where you are now. Is it a belief, systems, money, time or something else? Get clear on what will be the one thing that will come between you and your vision for this year.
  5. Create a morning routine that will support you and your vision for 2018. What you do in the morning sets up your day so create a routine that will take you a step closer each day. It could include meditation, exercise, journaling and visualizing.
  6. Give yourself permission to create what’s in your heart cause that’s where the good stuff is and when you create from a place of love and joy that’s when the universe sends you the magic.

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All photos copyright Carla Coulson of Birdie Hill

I will leave you with my new favourite quote by Marianne Williamson

“Do what you love. Do what makes your heart sing. And never do it for money. Don’t go to work to make money; go to work to spread joy. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and the Maserati will get here when it is supposed to.”

Happy 2018.

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PS: If you want to hit it out of the ballpark in 2018 (or create something beautiful)  and need a hand I have one spot left for the coming months and love to help you realise your dreams. More details HERE.

Related post: 10 Tips To Change Your Life

What Are You Starting?

 

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A huge Happy New Year to you!

I was recently in Australia and saw this fabulous ad campaign about quitting smoking.

I adored their focus, instead of focusing on what you are stopping or giving up it focused on what you are starting, what is opening up for you, what wonders and excitement lie ahead. That is the magic of stopping, you are creating space for something new.

I love a New Year, sort of like getting a fresh journal with nothing written in it. It’s the time I get quiet and focus on what I too want to stop (hey all our lives are works in progress) and what things I am excited to start.

If you are in a place of change today and fearful about leaving something comfortable and safe behind focus on what you are starting, what new chapter of your life awaits you when you create space for something new. It could be as simple as starting to swim, learning to dance, letting go of something in your business that isn’t serving you or doing something fabulous for yourself that you may not have believed you were worthy of in 2017.

Here’s to new beginnings and a wonderful 2018 and making your dreams come true.

What are you starting?

Much love

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Related Post: Six Tips For Creative Clarity in 2018

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How I capture these three things in my photos

Dear Photography Lovers,

When I fell in love with photography back in the year 2000 I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, had no previous knowledge of the history of photography and even of the photographers that one day would become my hero’s and heroine’s!

In the beginning I looked to other’s work for inspiration, to learn and to understand. I felt like I had sooooo much to learn and catch up on after all, I was late to the game.

It’s so easy in the beginning to be influenced by others and that can be a fun part of the game. It gives you a chance to experiment, try new techniques and learn of the possibilities there are with photography.

But one day I stopped looking. I put away the photographic books and magazines and stopped going to the exhibitions for a while. I  asked myself what I liked, what was I attracted to and what I wanted to say.

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Three things stuck from that day forward and are still present in my photography today.

Life

I love my photos to feel alive, full of life. When I look at the serenity of other photographer’s work I often think my photos feel chaotic but it’s the feeling of being alive I am so attracted to.

Tip – How I achieve it 

I go after life with a little chaos on purpose. This means getting involved in life. When working with groups (which is really tough), I take the shot I think they want and tell them it’s all over and then keep shooting what happens afterwards. Often, it’s authentic warm and has its own chaotic energy, for me these moments are far more authentic than the posed shot it started out as.

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Love

I wanted to capture the emotions of life that I saw daily and feel so deeply attached to. I wanted to express love, laughter and the intimate life stories between people.

Tip – How I achieve it

To get the three things, you have to give. I allow people to feel comfortable by showing my vulnerability, provoking them or doing something silly. When I look back at some of the photos, I remember the ‘energy’ or the sensation of falling in love even just for a few seconds  to make that photo!

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Laughter

Even today when my photographs are too static I start to sweat! I am happiest when I am moving, when my subjects are moving and doing something fun that’s when the laughter comes out. I love to show women that they are beautiful when they are happy, alive and laughing. I can capture this laughter often in between the moves!

Tip – How I achieve it

On some shoots I walk kilometers and kilometers in an attempt to encourage my subject to move, to walk, run, jump and let life shout out loudly. I try to trick them to do some simple or complicated movement and wait for their reaction. Often it’s the moment after the movement I am hoping for or the in-between moment when their guard is down and the laughter comes rolling out.

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What three things keeps coming up in your photos? What is it that you love to capture in your images?

Sending love and light

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Related Post: The Secret In My Photography Sauce

Creative Career Backstage: An Artist’s Life

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Matthew Usmar Walkswithdogs 

Dear Creative Folk,

I thought you might enjoy a little Sunday read about a dear friend of mine and super inspiring artist.

He’s living the life I secretly want on a Greek Island and this talented soul not only is a prolific multi media artist but he rescues cats and dogs on a daily basis, feeds them, cares for them and re-homes them.

I am in love with his latest series of art prints and can’t wait for mine to hang on my wall.

Over to Matthew..

 

You are living the dream life on a Greek Island with your own studio in the main village square. Tell us about the inspiration for your new flower series.

Flowers are everywhere here, especially at springtime and this island is particularly abundant. This life, is predominantly rural and the villagers traditionally grow their own produce and that includes flowers. In the forecourts of petrol stations here, one can find prize displays of roses. They even eat flowers, the glowing, robust orange and yellow flowers of the zucchini plant are stuffed with feta cheese or rice… it’s said to be the signature dish of the island.

What do you think makes your work really unique?

Well I hope it is original… I never try to kid myself with my work and I gave up a very long time ago trying/ hoping to find external validation. If one is honest and genuinely enjoys, (perhaps in some cases needs), to work/paint/ create, then I don’t think you can go wrong and everything will move in the right direction.

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White Hydrangea by Matthew Usmar Walkswithdogs 

 

Was this series painted outdoors or in a studio? Are there important parameters for you when you work?  
With ‘still lives’ such as the flower paintings I’ll be working in the studio. Its in the title, it is a subject that is generally set up or at least created inside… unlike hiking up to the foot of a mountain or in to the middle of a forest with an arm full of canvas and brushes and a rucksack full of paint. The light here in the North Aegean is sublime… strong or subtle and very rich, packed with ultraviolet… everything positively glows.
It’s also very peaceful here, very little distraction, and if distracted it of the gentle kind. A dog barking or a man selling fish or produce, an animated conversation between two octogenarians.
What insights into life does your creative career and life as an artist give you?
I think anyone who is genuinely, let’s say creative, watches the world, uses the world as a muse. An artist is in some respects an outsider, perhaps sometimes a little eccentric, but artists, (creatives), watch and listen and learn and seem to be generally accepted in most circles. This village has seemingly accepted me and my comings and goings, but if asked I think a lot of them wouldn’t be able to describe just what it is I do behind the Greek blue doors of my studio… but I think they know it’s positive.
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What is one of the most joyful things about the process of painting? 
Painting is my vocation, I have to do it. Frankly for me it boarders on compulsion, but it is the language I feel at home with, the language that has proved to be the most eloquent in trying to describe… well, anything in life really. One of the most joyful things about the process of painting is, I guess, having a language that is visual and therefore pretty much universal. To be able to express a subject, an idea that most can understand and, perhaps, appreciate.

 

You have been painting for, well, over 20 years and have had a distinguished life as a artist working at the National Theatre in London and creating incredible sets for bands such as U2. Is there something you wished you knew as an artist when you started out? 
In retrospect I would say, and I say this to anyone asking about venturing into any vein of artistic self expression, is that there are no rules… absolutely none. And that, once fully appreciated, gives rise to a wonderful and whole hearted sense of freedom.
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 Huge thanks to Matthew for sharing his story and insight.

 

You can check out Matthews Flowers prints HERE.

 

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.

 

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