Category Archives: Photography Tips

Starting Out As A Photographer – Overview

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Morning Lovelies,

I know so many of you would love to work as a photographer and I often receive questions about starting out. So I thought a brief overview of what’s involved in working as a photographer.

Who wouldn’t want to be a photographer?? We get to go to great places, meet incredible people, participate in amazing shoots and work our own hours.. Sounds like the best job in the world.. And most days it is. But what is the reality of working as a photographer?

For any of you thinking of taking the plunge here is a little overview of some of the things that may help you start out as a photographer. Don’t be freaked out!

So many people not involved in this industry don’t see what the big deal is about being a photographer. Isn’t it just a couple of clicks here and a couple of clicks there??

I often have people say “I would like to do a shoot for just an hour”. Well the truth is 99,9 percent of things in photography take a whole lot more than an hour including (just packing your gear and getting to the job) all the post processing and unless you work in photographer it’s difficult to get a grasp on all the time and effort photographers put in to be able to get that shot over and over again.

Being a full-time working photographer requires hardwork, planning and most of all a burning passion..

Here’s my list of some of the things you need to know if you are starting a career as a professional photographer.

A Clear Picture of what field of photography you want to do (ie, travel, food, fashion, wedding, portraiture etc) If you start with a clear idea you can focus your energy on working in that field, marketing and contacting the right people and not losing your energy trying to cross over many different fields.

Your own style of photography. Having a unique look in photography and your own eye is what will differentiate you from others. Don’t be frightened to be different or take the photos that are burning deep down inside this is the key to the kingdom.

A Business Plan (yes folks this is a business). This is probably the most important point that new photographers overlook. They love taking pictures and being creative but to keep doing that you need clients. And knowing who they are, how you will find them and communicate with them is vital.

Money Though on the outside it seems as though you can get into photography without spending a fortune you still need to consider all the equipment other than cameras you will need to buy, such as computers, back up systems, money to live on in the first years when you are getting established, setting up a website, paying an accountant and all the other important things that need to be taken care of.

Camera gear to suit your field of photography. Each type of photography requires different equipment. You can save yourself a fortune by choosing the right camera gear for the style of photograph you want to do, that’s where the focus and being clear from the start will help you.  Being a professional photographer and offering your services to clients means that you need to be able to produce over and over again the images in your portfolio. Everybody can take a great photo once but being able to do this over and over again is what will differentiate you from an amateur. Don’t be afraid to do courses, workshops and specialisations and hone your craft before putting yourself under the pressure as a working photographer.

Portfolio and Presentation – You need a red hot portfolio and your work needs to be visible to the public in an online presence of your best work. I am often contacted by young photographers looking for assisting work and often they don’t have an online portfolio where I can see their work. This is our language and it is the language of photography so without this you haven’t got to first base.

Team Up – Find your tribe! Form a community of people in your field that you can work with and help each other. (ie I regularly work with journalists, make-up artists, stylists)

Work Ethic.. Do the right thing. Your work ethic will get you jobs over and over again.  You are only as good as your last job so do what you have promised.

Money streams – There are many alternative ways to earn money as a photographer. As the world of technology, publishing and photography continue to evolve and move quickly there are many ways as well as offering your photographic services to supplement your income including royalties from book or print sales, photo libraries and agents on-selling your photographic stories.

Photographer’s Agents – To be respresented or not?  It is a photographers’s personal choice if they want to be represented by an agent and particularly important if you want to eventually access high end advertising clients. Depends on where you want to go and how you want to live your life, you will need a polished portfolio.

Social Media – Marketing your work is of great importance to a photographer. Social media gives you access to the world, having an online presence is vital. Start with one social media such as Facebook or Instagram if you feel it’s too overwhelming.

Set Backs – If you know from the beginning that there will always be humps in the road. What’s important is how to handle them, to turn a negative into a positive.

Pricing, Paperwork and Model releases.. Uggh the thought of paperwork.Who would have ever thought that there would be so much to think about as a photographer. This is a vital part of life as a working photographer. Paperwork covers your back and makes everything clear upfront. PUT IT IN WRITING.

Keeping Accounts – As I mentioned in point 3 if you plan to work as a photographer you need to be clear that this is a business as much as a creative art. You need to know how to keep accounts and run a business.

Have fun – This is one of the most important things we need to hold onto. We started in this photography thing because we love images. Great images come in fun atmospheres and through people doing what they love. Never stop taking the pictures that come from your heart.

I hope this helps you with some things to think about so when you start it will be clear sailing..

If you have a question please leave it in the comments section and I will do my best to answer it.

You may enjoy this interview with fashion photographer Mario Testino on how he got started

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” Aaron Siskind


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A Vermeer Inspired Portrait (and a 2 min studio)

vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt portrait inspiration, carla coulson, black background, portrait paris, portrait photographer paris

Photo Copyright Carla Coulson

When I landed back in Paris after the big, bright skies and colour of Australia something happened.

Everything about my world had changed. The light, the clothes, the skies, the surroundings, the colour palettes and I felt inspired to reach inside and take advantage of this feeling!

It inspired me to create moody images, beautiful soft portraits photographed with a slow shutter speed on black to replicate how I was feeling.

These photos were shot in a very simple way. I created a ‘2 min studio’ by using a black backdrop that you can see at the end of the post and a shutter speed of 1/15 second..

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vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt inspired portrait, black background, portrait photographer paris, carla coulson, photo like a painting

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vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt inspired portrait, slow shutter speed, carla coulson, portrait photographer paris, cheap studio set up, black background

vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt inspired portrait, slow shutter speed, carla coulson, portrait photographer paris, cheap studio set up, black background

vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt inspired portrait, slow shutter speed, carla coulson, portrait photographer paris, cheap studio set up, black background

vermeer inspired portrait, rembrandt inspired portrait, slow shutter speed, carla coulson, portrait photographer paris, cheap studio set up, black background

2 Min Studio

We taped up a piece of black cloth perpendicular to the window and the light fall off between the cloth and my model did the rest.

If the window had been facing the cloth instead of perpendicular to it we would have had to have been careful with the cloth and what was underneath it as the light from the window would have illuminated the scene more evenly and shown all the defects.

Sending you lots of camera shake!

“My style is definitely schizophrenic; it does change from day to day a lot. It depends on my mood: sometimes I’ll be going through a girly, childlike stage and wear a pretty lace dress with a bow in my hair. Then sometimes I’ll be moody and just wear black.” Amber Le Bon


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Chateau Gudanes – Tips On How To Shoot A Chateau

Chateau Gudanes, karina waters, Carla Coulson, France, French Chateau

All photos Chateau Gudanes Copyright Carla Coulson

A while back I was asked by Harper’s Bazaar to shoot the beautiful Chateau Gudanes and the Water’s family, the wonderful family that fell in love with this place and have taken on the massive job of renovating it.

While it’s awfully exciting to be asked to shoot a Chateau (I blogged about it here) it’s also daunting. The sheer size of this place makes it a photographic challenge in the taking and in the planning. You see we are talking about a place that has 70 rooms and is perched on an exquisite piece of land surrounded by mountains.

I thought it would be fun today to give you some inside tips on how I shot it.

1. Scout It

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I Shot the exterior and interior in one day but I was never going to be able to shoot everything. I had the luxury of seeing the Chateau months earlier which made me realise I would need to rent special long lenses to be able to shoot it from up on the mountain.  I made a list of my favourite things and started with number 1!

2. Hero Shot

Chateau Gudanes, Carla Coulson, Karina Waters, French Chateau

Ok, so on a place like this there are probably only going to be a couple of hero shots (the one the magazine will use to open the story). I felt it would be a shot of the Chateau or the gates because both of them a breathtaking. So I shot the Chateau from as many angles as possible. I was up at sunrise and it was a day that changed every five minutes so I was lucky to catch fog, sunshine and rain in a space of an hour.

french ironwork, french chateau, chateau gudanes, Carla coulson, karina waters,

So I am like a dog with a hamshank! I am not walking away from a shoot without the shot so I will shoot from as many angles as I can to make sure I have what the magazine needs. These are just half a dozen of maybe 16 options I handed in of the Chateau and the gates giving horizontal and vertical options. French ironwork, gates, chateau gudanes, carla coulson, french chateau, karina waters,

The gates were such an amazing subject to shoot..

3. Get Up High Or Shoot It In It’s Context

Chateau Gudanes, Carla Coulson, french chateau, Karina Waters,

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So we all want to know where is this Chateau and what’s around it! The only way to do this is to go for a drive and see what you can find. Fortunately I had the lovely Karina Waters as a guide who knows this little baby’s best angles and she kindly showed me her favourite spots.

4. Shooting Interiors

interior staircase, french ironwork, carla coulson, chateau gudanes, karina waters,

I am super excited by interiors like this, I love the patina, the architecture and the light. There is only one difficulty the proportions are huge so you really need to be careful from where you shoot or you end up with very distorted lines. I shot all the interiors on a tripod on approx 400 ISO..

In the case of the staircase I centred myself between the staircase and the door on the right and put my tripod up as high as it would go and then stood on a little stool.

Chateau Gudanes, Carla Coulson, french chateau

As you can see I loved the staircase and didn’t want to miss a shot of this beautiful balustrade. I rarely use a wide angle lens but this is one case where it was the only way to get the whole perspective. When using a wide angle lens on architecture I often find it is better when you are on top of the subject as opposed to being far away. When you are far away it looks distorted.

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To shoot this pic I paid careful attention the lines and distortion. I had my tripod as high as it would go and used a ladder to shoot from so that I was as close as possible to the middle of the distance from floor to ceiling. The closer I am to the floor with a height like this the more the vertical lines will be distorted..

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I adored how Karina had little still lifes happening in many of the rooms, I wandered around the rooms looking at them from all angles taking hand held snaps till I liked something I saw and then I would set up my tripod.

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As I was conscious of shooting a whole series of portraits the following day, I wanted to be careful that I had many different angles and wasn’t presenting the same room over and over again shot from the same perspective for the interior shots and the portraits.

stairwell, carla coulson, french chateau, karina waters, chateau gudanes,

I love playing with lines and shapes when shooting interiors and this one was fun but a challenge. I had recently bought a super tripod with a central column that lies horizontally (I could have got a pair of Louboutins for the same price) but this is where it out performs any other tripod. I set the camera up with the lens pointing straight up through the stairwell and I crawled under my camera to check focus, composition and exposure.

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This too was shot from a ladder and I centred myself in the middle of the shot.

5. Details

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I shot as many details as I could of the architecture. Detail shots give you a sense of intimacy and are great combination for an art director to work with with general interiors (of course we managed to squeeze a cat into our pic – thanks Karina).

6. Exterior Landscapes and Grounds

chateau gudanes, carla coulson, french chateau, karina waters,

We are almost done! I shot scenes from the Chateau windows down onto the village below, shot from the front of the house looking back towards the mountains, in the park and played with the light.

Unfortunately I can’t show you all the shots as my blog will blow up but I hope this helps and gives you an idea of what a wonderful place Chateau Gudanes is and if you ever stumble across a Chateau to shoot  these tips might help.

Check out the fabulous Chateau Gudanes cause it’s marvellous.. A huge thank-you to the Walter’s family and the lovely Karina for making this shoot a dream. You can find them on Instagram and Facebook.

You can see the Harper’s Bazaar final shoot here.

“For me, every day is a new thing. I approach each project with a new insecurity, almost like the first project I ever did. And I get the sweats. I go in and start working, I’m not sure where I’m going. If I knew where I was going I wouldn’t do it.” Architect Frank Gehry




PS: Love you to share.. xx

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Travel Photography Series Part 5 – Colour Palettes

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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.


 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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How To Shoot An Event As Part Of A Travel Story – Procession in Ceglie Messapica

Carla Coulson procession ceglie messapica puglia san antonio di padova 0011

The ‘main event’ the statue of San Antonio di Padova in the streets of Ceglie Messapica copyright Carla Coulson

I love the feeling of arriving in a new place, my ‘photographer’s antenna’ on overdrive at all the wonderful nuances and differences of that town or country. I am endlessly fascinated by the food, the architecture, the scents, feelings and excitement it all inspires.

I have always loved to travel and it was by no accident I passed the first 12 years of my photography career as a travel photographer. I knew in my heart the day I started photography school that was what I wanted to do.

One of my favourite aspects of travel photography is shooting a cultural, sporting, musical, religious or fashion event that is particular to that place.

There are many great reasons why you should shoot an event as part of a travel story. When we are photographing a place we are trying to tell a story of that place, it’s people, it’s culture, they way they live, eat and enjoy life.

An event inspires powerful feelings. As photographers to tell a great travel story means more than a sun setting over the sea, it means showing emotion, belief, joy, happiness, devotion and connection of the people to that place. Lots of these emotions naturally occur at events.

It’s also a great way of using the place as a backdrop whilst something rich is going on.

An event often has deep historical significance, it’s part of a tradition that can go back for centuries and the whole town turns out in their best outfit for it!

Oh and there are fabulous costumes, brass bands, fairy lights and a whole lot more depending on the particular event.

Before I shoot an event, I research it.

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Shooting around the event nun arriving at the church copyright Carla Coulson

These are some of the things I take into consideration when I shoot an event:

1.  What’s its history, what is the story or legend behind the event?

2. I want to know how the event ‘works’. What time it starts and finishes. This is really important in regards to shooting it as often events are held at sundown or night and this needs to be calculated when planning your equipment and degree of difficulty.

3. Where it is and is there a particular route it follows? I walk the route if this is possible looking at all sorts of vantage points where I could shoot from.

4. I do light tests if an interior venue is to be used..

5. What’s the main event? In these pictures the main event is the men carrying the statue.

6. What’s going on around the event? This often is more interesting than the main event. It could be people arriving, worshipping, selling things, children together playing. All sorts of things happen around the main event and there are many beautiful storytelling  moments to be captured.

7. I am constantly looking, scouting around to see what I can find that isn’t the ‘main event’. I have learnt throughout the years that often the best shots around to be found in the streets around the main event, backstage or afterwards when everyone is relaxed.

8. When someone points something out or suggests something I will go and check it out.

9. I have fun.. cause an event feels like a big fabulous party..

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Shooting around the event copyright Carla Coulson

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A new perspective copyright Carla Coulson

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Shooting around the event copyright Carla Coulson

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 The main event and a side story copyright Carla Coulson

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Shooting around the event, lady waiting for the procession copyright Carla Coulson

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Shooting around the event.. cat waiting for procession copyright Carla Coulson

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The boys in the band copyright Carla Coulson

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A new angle on the main event copyright Carla Coulson
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The Boys in the band during a break copyright Carla Coulson Carla Coulson procession ceglie messapica puglia san antonio di padova 0018

 The statue of San Antonio di Padova just before it leaves the town copyright Carla Coulson

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 The statue leaving the old town copyright Carla Coulson

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Shooting around the event.. fairy lights that decorate the town copyright Carla Coulson

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Families who join the ‘after party’ copyright Carla Coulson

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A selfie with the lights behind.. copyright Carla Coulson

All these photos were shot during last years Caravan Travel Photography Workshop in Puglia Italy. If you would like to eat, breath and  live travel photography for 7 days next June in beautiful Puglia please click here for more information.

I hope you enjoyed this insight into travel photography.

“As a young boy growing up in rural India, most of what I knew of the world was what I could see around me. But each night, I would look at the Moon – it was impossibly far away, yet it held a special attraction because it allowed me to dream beyond my village and country, and think about the rest of the world and space.” Naveen Jain




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