Category Archives: Photography Tips

Travel Photography Series Part 5 – Colour Palettes

travel photography, food photography, carla coulson, colour palettes, octopus panino, octopus, carla coulson

Octopus Panino Polignano A Mare Copyright Carla Coulson

For those of you who love travel photography I started a Travel Photography series a while back. The series was in four parts and covers food, people, architecture and events and if you missed them the links are at the end of this post.

I have been meaning forever to add a chat about colour palettes as it is important when creating a travel story so I have added a fifth part to this series.

Colour is one of the most powerful tools we have to use in photography. And when you look around life just serves up the most extraordinary colour situations and is often repeated in the strangest of subjects. Love this!

The way we use colour in our images talks about what we want to say, what mood we want to create, what feelings we want to heighten and it can also speak of your style. Just the way painters choose a colour palette when creating a canvas we can do the same thing with photography.

Some photographers will go out of their way to avoid a certain colour or go in search of their favourite colours across a range of subjects.

The language of magazines and the way an art director will put together a story revolves around the way images sit harmoniously together and it all depends on the colour.

Here’s a quick look at some colour palettes:

Neutral Colours

Nordic photographers are famous for their simple colour palettes based around white and neutral tones of beige and grey which bring a sense of calm, serenity and cleanliness to their images.

blue and white

Neutral Colours of blue, terracotta and green at Masseria Cimino Copyright Carla Coulson

puglia, travel photography, carla coulson, baroque, martina franca, white and beige, colour palettes

Neutral colours of white beige and brown repeated in statues in a workshop and the baroque streets of Martina Franca

Copyright Carla Coulson

Spot Colour

Shooting a spot colour can be loads of fun, like going on a treasure hunt. You can focus on one particular colour that appears in all sorts of different situations with a neutral background.  It could be red repeated in a jumper, a sign, scarf, or a door or in the case below the green doors, curtains and shutters against the white backdrop of Puglia. It adds a pop of energy to your images.

Green

 Spot colour on the streets of Ceglie Messapica and Door Martina Franca Copyright Carla Coulson

travel photography, puglia, italy, colour palettes, carla coulson, ceglie messapica,

 Neutral colours of white and blue repeated in the streets, shirt and umbrella

with a spot colour of yellow repeated in the tie and doorway

Local boy and a street in Ceglie Messapica Copyright Carla Coulson

Bright Colours

Bright, strong saturated colours bring a sensation of energy to a photo if combined harmoniously. When I was shooting the pics below on different days in different locations I was surprised at the repetition of royal blue and orange..

travel photography puglia, carla coulson, colour palettes, san vito polignano a mare, blue orange,

Beach Polignano A Mare and San Vito Polignano A Mare Copyright Carla Coulson

There are loads of other colour palettes you can choose to photograph including beautiful pastels, serene blues, dark colours to add mood or quirky colour combinations.

Depending on your aesthetic as a photographer as to which colour palettes you will find pleasing.

If you would love to hone your travel photography skills and shoot colour palettes to your heart’s content you might like to join me and my ‘Caravan’ and travel to the yet to be discovered part of Puglia in Southern Italy (where my hubby’s from and in the pics above) with like-minded souls. It’s gonna be fun! All details here.

If you want to read more travel photography posts you might like these about Food, People, Architecture and Events.

My Favourite Gear

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 

Canon EF 24-70mm 

Canon EF 35mm 

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Theatrical Portraits + Shooting Tips

Carla Coulson portrait paris oscar wilde L'hotel Paris 0001

All photos copyright Carla Coulson

There is nothing I like better than two gorgeous gals rocking up in Paris with suitcases bursting with clothes and theatrical ideas in their heads.

What a treat it was to shoot this job. This fabulous mother and daughter were bunkered down in the beautiful L’Hotel just a couple of steps from the Beaux Arts on the Left Bank.

L’Hotel is were Oscar Wilde famously passed away so Oscar had to be a part of the fun.

As I shot this mother roaring with laughter with her daughter I thought what a special bond they have and what a treat to doing something as fun with your glam mum in Paris. Brava Mel!

Stay tuned at the bottom on the post for shooting tips on how I shot these pics.

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Carla Coulson portrait paris oscar wilde l'hotel paris

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Carla Coulson portrait oscar wilde l'hotel paris

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Carla Coulson portrait paris oscar wilde L'hotel Paris 0010

All photos copyright Carla Coulson

How I shot these Photos..

I am a huge fan of two light looks. Natural light and dramatic flash.

Where the natural light was beautiful I took advantage and used large window light.

The room was fabulous and I have learnt in Parisian hotels the bed moves! So to create extra shots I moved the bed to the other part of the room and added the sofa under baldachino.

To create different scenes we kept moving the furniture.  To have the studio look in the top images I selected a simple part of the room as a backdrop and used the light fall off between my subject and the background to create a little drama with the darker background.

The flash shots..

These pics were taken in a room with no natural light.

I set up my Nikon Nikon SB 910 on a Light Stand and I added my Gary Fong Diffuser
to the flash and pointed it directly at my subject, front on just slightly tilted down towards their faces. I used a set of Wireless Transmitters  to fire the flash.

All images were shot on my Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-70mm Lens

In post-processing I added a vignette to these images in Photoshop.

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of Parisian fun..

“Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is the one they would like to show to the world… Every so often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe.” Irving Penn

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Are Your Photos of Movement a Disaster?

Kerrie Hess Carla Coulson

Kerrie Hess shot at 1/640 second on F4 copyright Carla Coulson

Do you love photos of movement but struggle with the technical side? Are your images too blurry when you don’t want them to be? Out of focus? Too frozen or there is too much camera shake?

I too love shooting movement especially people. It’s a big part of how I take portraits and create emotion so today I want to share a couple of tips.

1.  Depth of Field – So once you get someone moving such as walking or running they are generally moving in a range from a couple of metres to who knows where! To make sure they will be within your depth of field (the distance in focus as the camera sees it) choose an F-Stop such as F-11 or F16 (the higher the numbers the more depth of field).. This will give you a really wide depth of field from your focal point to infinity (i.e. lots of distance in focus). You will see in the above shot the F-Stop is F4, I wouldn’t recommend this if you are just starting out as the depth of field is very shallow. You can read more about depth of field here

2. Shutter Speed – This is your creative choice.  Your choice of shutter speed will depend on how fast your subject is moving,  whether you want a little movement blur or the movement to be absolutely frozen. In the above shot I have chosen a fast speed of 1/640 second as I wanted the movement frozen but as she was running I still have a little movement blur which I love. If I had wanted no movement blur I could have chosen a shutter speed of 1/2000 second. The slower the shutter speed i.e. 1/30 second the more movement blur, the higher the shutter speed such as 1/2000 second the more your movement will be frozen. More on shutter speeds here

3. ISO – Ok now you need to select an ISO that matches your above requirements. Dial up or down depending on your light conditions. The above shot was taken in mid-winter in Paris on a really low lit day. I had to go up to an ISO of 2000 to allow for a high shutter speed and that’s why I ended up using an F4 as I didn’t want to go any higher. As I mentioned above I recommend more depth of field when starting out. You can read more about ISO here

As movement is one of the key elements I use to create emotion in images and it is a technique I use everyday in my photography it will be a big subject at my Picture This Workshop along with many other of my shooting techniques and secrets.

If you feel blocked with how you are currently taking portraits, want to get out from behind the desk and get behind the camera or take steps forward to making photography a career you might like to join me and a great group of photographers at the Picture This Workshop in Sydney January 5,6,7,8 2015. It’s going to be a hoot! Last Places left..

If you have any questions about shooting movement leave me a message in the comments below and I will be sure to get back to you.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Steve Jobs

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How To Shoot The Blue Hour

Carla Coulson Blue hour

Florence by Carla Coulson taken in winter

Have you ever wondered how to shoot the blue hour – that magic twilight when the sun has set but the night is yet to fully descend?

I have shot the blue hour over and over again and used it as a ‘get out of jail’ card when I was shooting travel stories for magazines and needed a good shot of a city with atmosphere or wanted to have a little fun like with Christmas decorations in Place Vendome (see below).

I even used this technique on miserable, rainy winter days in Europe because even the blue hour works under these conditions – love the blue hour.

What is the blue hour?

The blue hour isn’t actually an hour, it should be called the blue fifteen minutes instead!!

After the sun has set and the pink in the sky fades, the colour temperature cools as the sun goes. This cooling of the colour temperature produces a beautiful blue and it lasts between 10 and 15 minutes before the balance is overridden with the black of the night.

Carla Coulson Blue hour 2

Florence by Carla Coulson taken in Winter

When does it work best?

I find there needs to be a good balance of city and street lights to achieve this result. If you want to shoot a building or city to create this effect they need to be sufficiently lit otherwise you will have a lot of dark areas and bright points. When the city or building is well lit you have a nice balance in the image of blue and street/city lights.

I tried this once on a private home in Provence and too make sure it was well lit we turned on all the inside lights, all the outside lights and added lanterns for more points of light.

Most cities turn their street and monuments lights on right around the blue hour. I have stood waiting in the cold throughout the years begging those lights to come on before the blue was gone and nearly every city turned them on on-time  (thanks guys).

ChristmasPlaceVendome Carla Coulson

Christmas Place Vendome My French Life Copyright by Carla Coulson

How to achieve this effect:

1. Check the time the sunsets where you want to shoot with a program like this

2. Go at least 30 mins before the sunsets and set up your tripod and find your frame because once the light fades you gotta be quick.

3. Work out your focus point before the light fades as it can be tricky once the sun has set.. Technically quiet dark for autofocus and for your eyes if you haven’t got great eyesight.

4. Working on a low ISO of around 400 will still give you room to move with F-Stops..I find working on ISO of 100 gives you little choice with the F-Stops and depth of field and you end up with long exposures of 30 secs plus.

5. Start checking the light meter once the sun has gone because you are about to lose stops of light quickly.

6. Do a test and check focus whilst there is still light

7. Set your camera on self timer or use a remote shutter release so you aren’t touching the shutter when the photo is being taken. You will be working on long shutter speeds so any movement can blur the photo.

8. I normally take photos throughout the 15 mins to see which effect I like. You will need to keep changing the exposure based on the light dropping. Often in the early shots the sky is more cyan blue and then towards the end a little more deeper royal blue.

9. Note on clear blue sky days the blue is more prominent that on grey cloudy days.

10. Once the ‘fifteen minutes’ are up the sky becomes black and the streets lights give a very strong golden cast. The ‘blur hour’  has passed.

I hope this helps you have a little fun taking shots of a place or special thing you love.

My Favourite Gear

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 

Canon EF 24-70mm 

Canon EF 35mm 

Manfrotto Lightweight Tripod

“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.” Victor Hugo

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Photographing Your First Book

Books Carla Coulson  Some of my books rubbing up against my heroes..

Nothing like a new start, a new week and a New Year that brings so many new projects and hope.

I love hope!

I have been preparing images and a presentation for the upcoming Caravan Travel Photography Workshop in Puglia and going through 12 years of images. This is such a wonderful process in itself, like looking through a visual diary of your life, moments in time, familiar faces and ones you have forgotten.

Grandfather Naples Carla Couls

I like to think I remember every photo but even I found some lovely surprises.

Trawling back through the images from now to the beginning of photography school, through projects such as Naples A Way Of Love, Paris Tango and and all the way to Italian Joy I had a thought that may just help you shoot your first book.

Carla Coulson Italian Joy

When you are at the beginning of anything you have ‘things’ that money can’t buy – endless oodles of enthusiasm, no expectations,  the joy at looking at the world as though you have just seen and ‘felt’ it for the first time and shooting what you love.

Sunbaker Carla Coulson Italian Joy

The cameras I invested in in the early years were like new toys for me and I couldn’t get enough of them. My underwater camera meant even at the beach I could explore photography from a new angle.

Carla Coulson Italian Joy

The photos that ended up in Italian Joy were a product of innate curiosity of life, the burning desire to take photos that said or made you feel something, sheer unadulterated happiness and untiring enthusiasm that would have me out in the rain, the wind, the snow… asking fishermen (that I didn’t know) to board their boats and shoot them.. holding my breath and shooting ladies underwater.. treading water whilst kids jumped off the rocks one after the other waiting for that perfect moment ….and stalking lovers in train stations.

Italian Joy Carla Coulson

The photos I took in those early years are still some of my favourites because they were taken for sheer pleasure and love of photography with no end use in mind. They were photos born of freedom.

And this my dear friends is your advantage when shooting for a ‘probable’ first book.

Carla Coulson Italian Joy

Some things I notice in my photos looking back:

1. I shot ‘my’ world, the people around me, people who would give me access, my friends, family, Florentines and Popi

2. I was obsessed with movement, I shot vespas over and over again

3. I was also obsessed with religious iconography in Italy and drawn to every tabernacle on a street corner, statues of Madonna’s in churches and religious art (I have thousands of images).

4. I loved the innate elegance of Italians and would stop well-dressed people in the street and ask if I could take a photo (yep I was obsessed).

5. I loved shooting love in all it’s expressions…

6. I shot things that made me laugh (still do)..

7. I shot almost exclusively in the early years in black and white…(and I never felt the pressure to shoot in colour)

Made in Italy Carla Coulson Italian joy

 All Photos Copyright Carla Coulson Italian Joy

So here are are some tips if you are at the beginning of your photography career and hope one day to shoot/write a book.

1. Shoot what you love and don’t question it.

2. Shoot what is accessible and don’t ask yourself where it will fit?

3. The world needs original books so if you think it isn’t mainstream enough.. Keep shooting you are probably onto something.

4. If you are shooting a well known subject put your spin on it.

5. Take the photos you love and trust your inner ‘photographer’s voice’.

I hope this little insight helps you on your path.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Elliott Erwitt
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