Blog - Carla Coulson
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Voila The Beautiful Winners of a Portrait in Paris – The Menadue Girls


The Menadue Girls Copyright Carla Coulson

After months of waiting, the day finally came around and I had the chance to shoot the gorgeous winners of my portrait competition in Paris – the Menadue girls. What a treat! We had all waited months for the day, the Menadue girls had rejigged their European adventure to meet up in Paris and I thank them eternally for this.

I was lucky to have not just one beautiful woman in front of me but two! I can see where Felicity’s beauty comes from and we had gorgeous Ralph Lauren look-a-like dad along for the last couple of hours!!

Between the clothing changes and the coffee we traded stories. Felicity now calls.. drumroll…. Venice home! Four years ago Felicity swapped her Australian life for an extended adventure in Venice that still goes on! And her gorgeous mum Carolyn and dad are right behind her (rings a bell).

There are somethings that you would like to go on forever, like our shoot and having a friendship with the Menadue girls. Loved them to bits!! Not to mention dad (seen below).

So when the time came to say goodbye it all felt a little pre-mature but what a wonderful morning we shared and the world feels warmer knowing there are such great people out there with kind souls and big hearts.

I felt like I won the prize!!

Viva le ragazze Menadue (and dad)



PS: If you would like to see the before’s click here

Some backstage pics from Felicity’s mum with super make-up artist Veronique, myself, Felicity, her mum and dad!


I did it again – I Went for the Bikini

For Capri magazine copyright Carla Coulson

I have been thinking long and hard this season about whether I should hang up my bikini and go for a full piece this season.

I have always been a bikini girl, I grew up in a surfing community on the northern NSW beaches where the big deal each spring/summer was the latest bikini, kind of like a city girl getting the latest Louis Vuitton handbag!

How we loved our bikinis’ and what wonderful designs they were (especially on a 16 year old body)! I still remember a ‘fandango’ cotton printed bikini with big flowers and tied bottom in the 70’s, how I loved that bikini. I wore it till it literally fell off me.

But the 70’s were a long time ago and in Paris we have just passed the longest on record rainy season  that encouraged much action at the Boulangerie. Whilst I kept praying for summer and the hot weather to spend my hunger it arrived just two days ago.

So I hung off and hung off on the summer costume dilemma. I live just two steps from the Eres store (the best French cossies) and stalked their windows each and every other day. I would have emptied the shop had I had the budget instead I just did a lot of window shopping and stalled on my purchases as the temperature and my stress rose.

And then after a very light lunch with my great girlfriends and much European encouragement I launched in for another season of the bikini. For me throwing in the bikini means more than letting my stomach hang out. It means letting go of a way of thinking, of being, of living and I need another year of being that girl on a beach in Port Macquarie with a washboard stomach and a whole life ahead of her.

So folks, I am the proud owner of a Princess Tam Tam navy blue bikini! I think I have mentioned that this year after 5 wonderful years on Greek Islands we are visiting Puglia. I will keep you posted..

Bikini mightn’t look too hot after many pasta lunches.. ha ha..

Viva la bikini


Week 4 Taking Better Pictures – Light

Shot using a giant window light with a reflector copyright Carla Coulson

To all of you who have been along for the ride in my little ‘smirkshop’ a big thank-you. This is the last week of Taking Better Pictures and my favourite subject, light.

Photography is truly about mastering, understanding, feeling light and if you can do that you are well on the way to making beautiful pictures.

I am light obsessed, I watch light wherever I am, always looking at it’s nuances, what if I move my subject a little bit to the left, or a little to the right? What happens to the light on my subject.

There are many different kinds of natural light and they all have their own unique properties. The softest light is in the morning or the afternoon if you want to use direct light on your subject and it has wonderful long shadows. Open shade gives a nice even effect, mixed light is a mixture of different types of light (could be shade and direct sun) and can be hard to manage, backlight makes for great pictures and wonderful halo’s around your subject. And of course window light, my favourite.

Morning light Noto Sicily Copyright Carla Coulson

Window light is like a soft box, it creates nice even tones or can be drammatic depending on how you use it. Light can be changed by diffusing and reflecting so you can add or subtract light depending on what you need.

Window light with direct sun hitting subject and black backdrop

Fashion pic shot using large window as only light source copyright Carla Coulson

Open Shade Copyright Carla Coulson

Here are some tips to understanding and playing with light:

1. When placing your subject look closely where the light is falling, are there any shadows, is the light flat, too strong or even?

2. Before shooting try moving them slightly to see what changes. Is the light better or worse?

3. Watch areas around where you live or work to see what happens to the light at a particular time of day, note the time when it is spectacular.

4. Always move your subject even if you are happy with your shot, change light, create variety.

5. Don’t be afraid to play, ask someone to be your model and shoot them in as many different lighting situations as possible and get a feel for what lighting situations you like.

6. Watch the light no matter where you are, see what causes the light to be better in some places than others? Reflections, light bouncing off white walls etc.

7. Have fun!!

Some great books for beginners in photography:

Understanding Exposure

Better Photos Basic

The Photographers Eye

Light the Way

Week 3 Taking Better Pictures – Movement

Shot in India using Panning Copyright Carla Coulson

Thanks to all of you who participated in my smirkshop! Gorgeous images and so great to see what photos you are all taking.

I love movement, have always loved movement and adore what emotion it injects into an image. There are lots of different ways you can use movement to create speed, poetry,drama and dreamy images by using different techniques such as panning, shutter speed, camera blur and your subject moving.

Here I am chasing my subject as she moves and shot at 1/125 second.


Subject walking past me quickly and I am shooting standing in a fixed position and shot at a 250th second

Subject moving towards me shot at between 1/30 second and 1/60 second.

A word before we start, when it comes to shutter speed anything under 1/60 second without you or your subject moving risks camera shake or if your subject moves even slightly you will get blur. A shutter speed of 1/125 is the minimum you need to start freezing your subject but the faster your shutter speed is ie from 1/250 -1/2000 the more their movment will be totally ‘frozen’.

Pannng (top photo) is a fabulous technique where your subject is in focus and the background is blurred movement. To achieve this with cars, motorbikes etc you set your camera to 1/60th second and choose an f- stop with lots of depth of field then follow the movement of the car etc as it passes you. It gives the sensation of speed.

Often as in the second photo I like to chase my subject which makes for interesting photos because not only do you get movement from the subject but also my movement in the camera. I normally attempt this at at least 1/125 second otherwise it is a real mess. You can see the blur on the back of her foot and I am using also a really low f-stop so the background is also blurry..

In the third photo I want to freeze my subject therefore I need to use a shutter speed of 1/250 second or faster.  I love to get my subject really moving, not just walking and in the case above you can see even his kilt is frozen.

In the forth shot I am going for pure emotion. We were in a tiny bathroom with limited space so I asked my subject to take a step forward towards me working between 1/30 and 1/60th of a second. I wanted blur and I got it!! I was also using a low f-stop as well as I didn’t want the tiles in the background in focus.

 Best of luck..

Blur = Love = Emotion

Pro Photo – I Made the Cover

Australian Prophoto June 2012 story by Alison Stieven Taylor copyright Carla Coulson

There are still days even after 11 years of having my work published, literally hundreds of photographic stories in print that I STILL feel like doing a little ‘oh what a feeling’ Toyota jump’ (translated for the non Aussies as so excited you need to jump in the air) in my loungeroom for joy.

Today is one of those days, cause this crusty old photographer made the front cover of Australian Pro Photo and the lead story! Another little tap dance of excitement and a squeal thrown in.

I can’t wait to see the issue of any magazine that I have worked for to see how they have laid out my photographs but there is something extra special about being on the cover. Thank-god I am thousands of miles away on the other side of the world or I could have done a little newsstand stalking today and probably wouldn’t have resisted a couple of self portraits in front of my covers!!

BTW the cover pic was taken at the Lido de Paris for superstar Aussie showgirl Shay Stafford.

Thanks to the kind folks at Pro Photo and especially the wonderful and generous journalist Alison Stieven- Taylor for her kinds words about my work.

Merci, merci et mille grazie from the other side of the world.