5 Tips for Beginners To Take Better Photos

Laurito Copyright Carla Coulson

I love helping people, especially beginners to take better pics.

Once you understand light, movement, F-stops, depth of field and shutter speed, photography becomes second nature.

I too had a lot of trouble absorbing the basics in the beginning but once you have mastered these vital components photography no longer becomes a thought process but one of feelings and emotions.

It’s magical.

Here are 5 tips if you are a new photographer that will help you take better photos.

1. What is your light source. Ask yourself every time you are about to take a photo ‘where is the light coming from’? You might be outside and it might be a cloudy day but still take the trouble to find where the sun is. If you are inside ask yourself ‘where is the light coming from’? Is it a window, overhead light etc.

2. Ask yourself what type of light you are using. Sunlight, open shade, window light, mixed light, artificial light? Know what your light quality is and what effect it will have on your subject is important. Each light source will have different properties of colour temperatures and this is really important for you to know when shooting.

3. Interference in your composition. When composing your shot take a photo and have a good look at the screen to see if there are any lines, poles that are interfering with your composition. Can you improve it by moving something in the shot? There is nothing worse that taking pics for 10 mins to find there is a pole coming out of your subjects head!

4. Move your subject. If you are working in light that you don’t like or it isn’t flattering,  move your subject to a better light source. I find open shade on a sunny day is always flattering. Mixed light can be difficult to manage unless you have lots of experience. The trick is to always find the best available light.

5. Depth of field. The amount of depth of field in a photo is really important depending on what you want to achieve. I find when shooting movement as in the above photo, it is great to have lots of depth of field i.e F16 as  my subject was moving (and I was treading water taking the photo) and if I had had a low f stop ie F2.8 it is probable that she would have jumped out of my field of range.When shooting portraits with more than one person standing in different positions be careful that you have at least F5.6 otherwise you risk someone being out of focus. If you want lots of blur when shooting just one person,  consider shooting at F2.8. Always focus on the eyes..

These are just 5 simple tips that hopefully will help you improve your photos.

My Favourite Gear

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 

Canon EF 24-70mm 

Canon EF 35mm 

Happy Snapping.

Check out my Portrait Lightroom Presets.

Happy Mother’s Day Mum

Happy Mother's Day Mum Black and white photography, photography workshop, italian photography workshop, travel photography workshop, travel photography workshop italy, portraiture, fashion portrait, movement, carla coulson, creative coach, creative entrepreneur, photographer, photographers life, italy, photography workshop puglia, beginners travel photography workshop, photography

My mum and dad Copyright some fabulous Sydney photographer that unfortunately I don’t his name

Just writing the words ‘Happy Mother’s Day Mum’, being so faraway makes me want to burst into tears. You all probably know that I am sentimental fool but with the passing of the years I have now lived almost 12 years away from my family and my mum and I don’t know what the future holds for me. Maybe I will spend many more years away from my family. The thought breaks my heart, the tears have started to roll!

My mum is special for so many reasons. She is one of those incredible women who makes things effortless, she has the energy of all her children put together and for mum nothing has ever been or ever will be impossible. There is always a solution to every problem and with her wonderful country spirit and her reams of positivity,  if anyone will find the way it will be my mum. She loves us unconditionally no matter how annoying and impatient we can be!!

Most of us kids take our mothers for granted no how old we grow. Our mothers are the guiding force of the family and the ones that glue us all together they work hard to never let the family un-stick and keep the love and the chat flowing. Mum juggles all our different personalities and ducks and weaves to keep us happy, always putting our happiness before hers.

I wish I lived next door to my mum (and dad). I would pop in for afternoon tea, hear all the family news from the one source and the shenanigans of her and her mates (whom I love – Dawn, Lorna and Audrey)! I know her eyes would light up just like they do on skype when we chat except we would be together in the one room, in person with scones and jam or cream or something delish she would have on hand.

For all of you lucky enough to be with your mother on mother’s day, look after her, cherish her and remember all the little sacrifices our mums have made for us throughout the years.

Mum, I love you and happy birthday too!!


Ps; I have always loved the above photo of my parents, the photo was taken before I was born and I adore to see them as just two people in love as well as my mum and dad.

Related Post: Happy Father’s Day To This Fabulous Dad

Fashion Pics and How I Shot Them

Shot at the George V Hotel for Simply You Copyright Carla Coulson

I am a natural light photography girl wherever I can squeeze it. Sometimes due to the season or the day, the light isn’t doing what I would like it to do. One always needs a plan B especially in Paris. The above photo was taken on one of those days. It was mid November and the winter had truly set in.

The George V Hotel were kind of enough to allow us to shoot in their beautiful foyer but I only had 15mins. My asssistant put a pro foto flash outside the window to the left of the model with the aim to create the effect of window light on a sunny day. We didn’t open the doors as we wanted the effect of the shadows of the door frame to give it a real feel. The light was positioned almost parallel to the girl and you can see the drop off on the right side of her face. We left the flash head bare. And in 15 mins with a simple light set up we had our shot.

Shot at the George V Hotel for Simply You Copyright Carla Coulson

I posted this pic Monday and had a lot of enquiries as to how I shot it. So here goes with the details.

I set up a large softbox on a profoto flash almost parallel to the bar which created the light that is falling on the back and left hand side of the girl. You can see where her shadow is and that will give you a good idea of where the lightbox was. The right hand side of her face was obscured from the light so to light this side of her face we added a second light with a snoot on it. A snoot fits onto the end of the light head and allows you to control the light to a defined spot. We pointed the light with the snoot on it at the side of her face in the dark and voila the photo.

If you have a couple of simple light set-ups that you know backwards to can work quickly and be guaranteed to get your shot.

Light and Love

Whatever You Put into Your Photography Career You Will Get It Back

 Simply You on location at the George V Hotel Paris Copyright Carla Coulson

You may recall on Monday I discussed the process of putting together a portfolio/body of work before launching your career.

My advice is not only to prepare your portfolio/body of work but also to have in place your  websites, business cards, composite cards and social media before launching anything. This way you tell two stories, one of your work and the other that you are professional and organised.

I want to tell you what happened to me when I went on one of my first forays into the magazine world. I had prepared approx 6 different photographic travel stories that at the time I was using as my portfolio hoping to have the stories published. I had been fortunate enough to have one of the stories published in Australia and on my return to Italy I planned a trip to London to try and connect with as many English magazines as possible. It seemed to make sense, we were on the same time zone and they spoke English!

I started researching all the fabulous English magazines with whom I wanted to work and then slowly started to call them and make appointments. All of them were fabulous, all of them allowed me to come and see them and when I told them I had travel stories on Italy including Conde de Nast Traveller.

Simply You on location at the George V Hotel in Paris Copyright Carla Coulson

So off I trotted to London with kilo’s of my worked tucked into my luggage. I went to see approx 15 different magazines in the space of four days, each art director was divine, each complimentary about my work but no promises to publish anything.

I remember flying home lugging my suitcase, it felt like it weighed a thousand kilos and so did my heart. I felt as though I had wasted all that time, money and energy and I started to ask myself if I knew what I was doing.

Though I was despondent I continued on my path to becoming a photographer by continuing to shoot. Approx 3 months after my return from London I received a call whilst riding across the Ponte Vecchio. I couldn’t answer it quick enough. It was an English number. A magazine that I had seen months earlier had a two day job for me in Tuscany the following week. Yippee.. I was doing cartwheels on the Ponte Vecchio and the locals thought I had lost it!

After I returned from my job in Tuscany I received another thrilling call. An Australian magazine whom I had seen almost 7 months earlier had a four day job for me in the north of Italy.

This has happened to me over and over and over again through the years. Whatever I have sown no matter how long ago, all seems to flower sooner or later. What you put into your photography career you will reap, even if it takes a little time.

Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano ( I adore this Italian proverb, he who goes softly, goes safely and goes a long way)!

Going Pro? – What You Need is a Plan

Copyright Carla Coulson

This post is for all the new photographers that have written to me over the years and continue to write to me asking me how I managed to get started as a photographer and how you can too..

Getting started is definately the most challenging part but if you have clear ideas about what photos you want to take, where you want to go and who is your future client the path will become clearer. Nothing worse than wading through chest deep mud not knowing where you are going!

My advice is to write yourself a business plan. Now for a creative that word business can grate on ones nerves a little but I think of it as a ‘get where you want to go plan’!! This is the most basic of all but it got me started.

I thought it might help by using myself when I was starting out as an example.

Here’s what I knew at the time way back in 2001:

I loved taking travel photos.

I wanted to work with magazines (and as I had already spent a patrimony on magazines all my life I knew exactly the ones I liked).

I wanted to live in Italy.

I had created my first travel story on Naples.

I knew how much it cost to survive on a shoestring in Italy.

I knew my strengths (living in Italy and having access to incredible material)  and weaknesses (not having clients in Italy)..

Here’s how my plan looked:

Definition of my work:

Travel/Lifestyle photographer working with travel magazines in Australia and Internationally. To evenutally work with publishers of travel books about places I love.

Exhibit my photos in group and solo exhibitions.

Partake in a photo library and find a syndication agency for my eventual travel stories.

Prospective Clients:

The list was long but included Vogue E + T, Gourmet Traveller, Marie Claire Australia, Harpers Bazaar. Also included all the Australian newspaper magazines, travel supplements. English magazines .. I remember in the space of an afternoon I had 40 prospective clients on my list.

I also wrote on my list the names of reputable photo libraries and sydnication agencies and the top Australian advertising agencies that I thought would be interested in lifestyle shots of Italyfor advertising brands.


Create Website

Design and print Business cards

Design and print comp cards

Start blog in the future

Use published work to create a name and presence through ‘by line’.

Tell everyone I know that I am now a photographer and find out if any one has any contacts in the industry

Create targeted list of clients and contact them personally for portfolio/body of work presentations. The telephone has always been the most powerful marketing tool I know!

Budget and Equipment Needed.

I made a list of what I would need equipment wise and by the time I had finished photography school I had enough equipment to get me started.

I made a budget for the next couple of years based on my expenditure of rent, electricity, travel costs, office and the simplest lifestyle possible (lots of bread and water that year but hey I wasn’t going home)! This allowed me to understand how much I needed to earn to break even or make a profit.

I didn’t break even in the first year but I had some money aside to give me time to create work. It’s tough to make any business work in one year. In the second year I had almost 8 different stories published (that I had created and pitched to magazines) and fell across the break even line. In the third year everything became easier I received magazine commissions and in my fourth year was lucky enough to get a book deal..Who would have ever imagined???

A real business plan is far more indepth than my example above but it’s nothing to fear. It will give you an idea how you can focus your energies to move forward in the right direction. My plan has changed over the years as life and my mood has changed but I have always re-adjusted my business plan to suit.

I hope this helps..


Your Dreams are Valid!

If you are 40, 50 or 60+, you are the perfect age to bring what you want into your life.

How do I know?