“There are two distinct languages. There is the verbal, which separates people… and there is the visual that is understood by everybody.”
— Yaacov Agam
Dear Fellow Creatives, one of the things I love about taking photos is that photography is a language of its own. It’s a direct language that inspires feelings often before thought and this in itself is a powerful connector to the world around us and ourselves. We spend way too much time in our heads and creativity allows you to get out of your head and into your heart.
In one of my workshops, I loved helping photographers understand what a powerful tool a camera is to have in their hands, and often without knowing it, it is their instincts or inner being leading the way as to what they are compelled to photograph.
It’s this attraction to things, colours, shapes, scenes, relationships, emotions, and cultures that allows us to create our own vision or style. It’s something deep down within us and when we have the right tool for us in our hands whether it be a paintbrush or a camera we start to make meaningful choices that come from within. It’s what we choose to leave in or take out that tells a different story and becomes part of the way we ‘speak’.
Our spirit leads the way!
What we create speaks to people without uttering a word. Art and photography have the power to move people to action, to find compassion for those they have never met, inspire them to create for themselves and to bring joy. There is a language in every detail in a photo and it’s your unique language, stories, vision and it has the power to change the world.
Photography and creativity deserve respect for the instant connection and power it inspires.
Remember to keep creating, beautiful ones. Your stories are important whether they are visual or written and those stories have the power to move mountains.
“Do what you love. Do what makes your heart sing. And never do it for the money. Don’t go to work to make money: go to work to spread joy. See ye first the kingdom of Heaven, and the Maserati will get here when it’s supposed to.”
~ Marianne Williamson
Dear Creative Friends,
I love this quote by Marianne Williamson on doing what you love and the Maserati will follow! So many us have been convinced by what we see others doing around us that we can’t do what we love. Somehow we think to make money, we have to compromise on doing the creative work that lights us up. Instead, do the work we THINK others want!!
Mode Personelle copyright Carla Coulson
I have learnt that the more you go to work to spread joy, the bigger chance you have of the Maserati showing up (that’s of course if Maserati’s are your thing). You can compromise and go against what your heart wants to do and make money and you can do what makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and make money. Here’s the difference, one is done with grace, ease and joy and the other one is an energetic uphill battle.
So many creatives have swallowed the story that to make money we need to do what ‘everyone wants’ and not what we want. Well here’s the news, most people don’t know what they want till they see it. So often it takes us to have the courage to put the work out into the world that we want to do so that like minded folk can find it and fall in love with it.
One of the amazing things that happens when you do the work you love and share it, is that you attract your ideal client. Yes, by you creating the work that only you can do the people that are attracted to it get you, get your vision and want what you are having. You don’t need to change who you are, you don’t need to change your style or vision and you don’t need to convince anyone of anything. Oh and you are literally so excited about what you do and create you want to shout it from the highest mountain.. Match made in heaven!!! And massive bonus, you find your people, now that’s something to celebrate.
Linda Karlsson copyright Carla Coulson
So my lovelies if you would like to throw your camera out the window, put your paint brush down, walk away from the graphic work you are creating, here are some of my tips to get you back on the creative love train like I did when creating my portfolio.
What’s You Biggest Vision?
It would often take me to look backwards to when I started out in photography, when I had no constraints or to my biggest heros in photography or sometimes out of my field, to see how they dared to live their creative dream and how they could inspire me to live mine.
One of the things that really distinguishes you from your competition is your creative eye and voice and what you have to offer. The wedding industry is a classic where you flick from one photographer to another and you can hardly tell them apart. So the less that you are offering is ‘cookie cut’, the better for you.
Your clients will want to work with you because they have fallen in love with your work and it won’t come down to price. It will come down to your unique vision and they want to be a part of that.
I would ask you where you are you on the path of 1-10 of how much are you in love with what you are doing currently. If you are a 5 and under you might need to look close at what you are doing and re-envision it. It may need daring to go back to the drawing board.
If you are at a 6 and over it may need tweaking. You might like to take some time to remember why you got into your chosen field and what lit you up at the beginning of your love affair with it.
In the following exercises I am going to encourage you to reach for your greatest creative vision and start there. If you are excited and in love with what you are putting out into the world and add structures to support it, it will almost sell itself!!
Let’s see where you are currently on your path:
1. On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your current portfolio of work as the work you have always dreamed of doing?
2. What type of work are you currently doing that exhausts, frustrates or causes problems for you? What would you be willing to let go of or how can you modify it to bring you joy? What are the pain points?
3. If you had an endless budget and incredible skills what work would you do? How would it make you feel to wake up every day and do this? Get into to detail, imagine the places you would work, the clients you would work with, the work you would create. Write a short free-flowing text on what you are seeing.
4. What comes easily to you and what would you consider your natural gifts? Such as working with children, getting people to relax, working with light etc.
5. Are you regularly complimented on something that you take for granted but others seem to find attractive or powerful? It could be personally or about your photography.
6. Who Inspires you? Who’s work makes your heart sing. What is it that moves you about their work?
7. In your career or life what has been the work that you have loved and enjoyed the most, paid or unpaid? That made you smile with pride and earned the respect you want? Who were you working with? Write a short text on your learnings.
8. Take the work you are most passionate about that you have created and make sure you can see it. Write a short text on why? What made you proud of this?
9. After doing the above exercises pinpoint what you need to do to get out of your creative rut. What could you tweak to re-envision what you do and move forward with clarity, joy and love?
I hope this little bit of advice has helped and kick starts your creativity and reminds you that your work is unique, beautiful and only you can do it. Do you, it’s always easier than trying to do something outside yourself!!!
Love to hear your view in the comments section and I will get back to you with any advice I can share.
I hope you are having a beautiful week. Spring is in the air in Paris and with Spring comes a whole new beautiful energy of renewal, hope and joy. I love Spring!!
I had the greatest joy on the weekend to photograph this beautiful gal in the last moments of Paris’s winter and really tap into a dream like world. It was a true collaboration between the beautiful Erica, my team and I, so looking forward to showing you more photos from this shoot.
As I was preparing for the shoot, I asked myself ‘how far do you want to go creatively’?. It got me thinking about how you can become more creative with your photography and these are some of the techniques I have used over the years to keep pushing my butt out of my comfort zone.
Here’s a little inspiration to get your creative juices flowing:
Grant yourself permission
Now this one is going to seem like an obvious one but it’s the thing we struggle with the most. Giving ourselves the ‘green flag’ to push our creativity further than what ‘we think others want’ is the thing that holds most of us back. Yes, folks when we constantly create from a place of pleasing others, we aren’t digging into our biggest creative selves. When you are looking to what others do and that becomes your benchmark, you have it all wrong. Make YOU, your benchmark. Let your inner dreams, visions and wonderment out! Unleash your emotions into your photos. Go one, give yourself permission!!
Values & Life Experiences
So many of us have deep rooted values we live by or have had big life experiences that have impacted us personally in a profound way. Ask yourself how could you bring what matters to you, into your work or your vision as a photographer? What stories are important to you? What values are important to you? What life experiences have profoundly changed your life? And take a courageous step forward, it could be creating a series of photos around strong women that inspire you, bring an element of your personal style into your work or ask yourself how YOU would express ‘honesty’ if it is one of your values?
This old chestnut. Imagine if you could actually take photos of things that brought you joy!!! This is exactly what I did when I granted myself permission to go to the beach. I knew I wasn’t changing the course of history with my beach photos but quite frankly I didn’t give a hoot. Instead I allowed champagne bubbles of joy to jump up and down in my blood about going to my favourite beaches and taking photos of them. End of story. Had fun, got excited, got really happy and other people loved them. Win, win.
Let your voice out
For so long so many of us have kept our voices quiet. Imagine if your inner dialogue ended up on paper in the form of a photo!! Wooooo what would you like to say? Would it be a story of joy, love, romance, heartbreak, fear, courage or something else? I found this a lovely way to tell a story when I created the Young Girl in Bloom series. I brought a story of my teenage years to a photographic project and let it all entwine in its own natural organic way.
Make mistakes!! That’s where the learning and the beauty is. By allowing yourself to play, experiment and make mistakes, you might just find the secret to your soul or a technique you never knew was possible and you really, really love. I decided on the weekend to put a scarf over my lens to see what would happen. Stop playing it safe!!
Yes folks, safe keeps you where you are today and as creatives, we need to keep moving, to evolve, move on and doing the same things over and over again means we mostly stay in the same place. Let go of perfectionism and embrace playing.
So, my lovely photographers, I hope this gives you a little inspiration for your week to bring more of YOU and YOUR INNER WORLD into photography.
Wishing you a spectacular week.
Love and light,
P.S. A huge thanks to the beautiful Erica for allowing me to share these images.
I am having the best time with a great bunch of women who are saying Yes to themselves in my Yes, Yes, Yes – The Year You Say Yes To Yourself online course.
There are all sorts of marvellous souls bringing what is important to them into their life and it is such a joy to see these different things come to life.
One of the gorgeous ladies coined this phrase for her year of creativity and travel, she calls it her ‘Gap Year’. I loved it instantly, the name often used for teenagers having a break from studies to go out and experience life, let their hair down and have fun. Who says it’s only for teenagers?
Procession Ischia | Copyright Carla Coulson
I remembered back to my ‘Gap Year’ back in 2000 (although I didn’t call it at the time) that led me to Florence and photography and I thought of all the amazing sensations that year brought me.
Finally, time, peace and ease in my life with a giant dose of adventure, friendship, curiosity, travel, the search for knowledge and feeling of being inspired by every day.
This Gap Year led me to photography and whilst doing a little de-cluttering the other day I opened one of my boxes of photos I printed in my first year of photography school in Florence and it felt like a treasure trove of memories.
I hardly knew what I was doing but I can see the excitement, wonder, joy of travel and trying to capture what I saw on those old prints. Often I ‘failed’ at what I was trying to achieve, going out with a friend at night onto the streets of Florence and trying something a little Helmut Newton-like yet not managing to get the picture in focus or having the shutter speed on the right setting (is there one?) and getting a little too much blur.
But it was these failures that taught me the most about photography, myself and often what I liked! It was this willingness to play, to try, to experiment that brought so much fun, joy and creativity. Some of my failures led me to my style and vision that I still see cropping up in my photos today.
Left: Jill on the streets of Florence; Right: Jessica in Popi’s bathroom | Copyright Carla Coulson
Photography coaxed me to get on a 24-hour train to Palermo and fossick around a market on my own, it led me to a religious procession on Ischia and walking the streets trying to capture the rich street life.
The photographs I took of my flat-mates in Popi’s bathroom would one day lead me to shoot for Collezioni and Harper’s Bazaar, the shots of markets all over Italy to shooting for Gourmet Traveller and Vogue Entertaining and Living.
Photography is my calling, I do it every day even if it is with an I-phone I am looking, feeling and seeing life in the moment.
So many people think if you love something you ‘have’ to make money from it but I agree wholeheartedly with Liz Gilbert, if you love something as much as I love photography just doing it is your greatest pleasure.
My Gap Year where it was just my camera and me, was one of the greatest years of my life, it was my best friend, my travelling partner, my teacher and my source of joy and inspiration. Some friends you don’t need to make money from!!!
Collezioni | Copyright Carla Coulson
May we all grant ourselves a Gap Year one day in our lives or at least give yourself permission to do something creative you love for the pure pleasure of it – no pressure, no outcomes just joy.
There are many wonderful things I see when women find their way to photography and these are some of my favourites.
I can see it in their eyes, they are a little more ALIVE than the day before, I can hear the EXCITEMENT in the timbre in their voice when they talk about the images they have just taken and they can’t get the words out quick enough about the people they have just met. I see it in their stance, as their craft improves, so does their CONFIDENCE in themselves, I can see it in their ENERGY as they whizz out the door to go get some more of that photography ‘juice’ of goodness they have just imbibed on.
I have seen it hundreds of times from the women (and men) who have made their way to my workshops, that once they have drunk the photography ‘koolaid’, they and their life will be never the same. They get connected to themselves, life, creativity, learning, being present, technology and the thrill and love of creating images that I too know so well.
When we start something creative we never think about what happens in the process, we just think about the outcome and most of the time the quickest way to get there. But I have learnt that photography if you allow it some time, it can change your life and this is how.
1. YOU GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
When we learn anything it pushes us to go out of our comfort zone and this going out of our comfort zone is where the magic is. It’s called a comfort zone because it’s comfortable but there is no growth, evolution, or learning there. So when you pick up a camera and decide to play with it, explore life and creativity and connect with others, you are taking a daily step out of your comfort zone and little by little the magic starts to come your way. Your world starts to grow, your boundaries change from week to week, you get more daring one step at a time and it’s only when we look back at a chunk of time that we realise how much more zing we have in our life today, thanks to getting out of that comfortable place. Up and at ’em!
It’s happened to me a million times and I can see it in the girls who run off to go find another photo, there is magic in the connection that comes as a bonus (like getting a set of steak knives for free when you were purchasing something else) that you never expected when you picked up a camera. You get connected to people when you ask, “Can I take your photo?” or when you see magic in their life and get invited in, you get connected to you when you pass by a homeless person and ask yourself, “Would that be a subject I would be interested in photographing or does it hurt too much, feel too private or invasive?”
Every shot for me has been a question, a questioning of my values, of who I am, of how I feel about things and it happens to most people walking around with a camera. In holding the camera, in deciding where to point it and what to focus on, in dialing down into your vision, style, values, behaviour, and your interest in life, you get connected on all levels and folks, if that isn’t something worth celebrating as an easy-peasy way to do some self-development, I would like to know what is!
One of the big diseases of our modern life is never being present in the moment. We are always looking to the future or reflecting on the past but to be truly present in the moment, for many of us is a battle. What photography does is invite you to look closely at life, to feel, to get your antenna up on situations and people. In this process of looking, studying, framing, and composing, you are in the moment 100%. It is the most delicious way to be mindful without trying to force anything. Win, win!!
We all come into this world as fresh, fearless, loving creatures full of creativity. We draw, paint, dress up, create imaginary stories and love to play but then as we grow society starts to condition us about those things and often we stop, feel shame and tell ourselves we aren’t creative. Well folks, here’s the good news, even if your creativity has been buried for years it is still there. It might be underneath a pile of annual reports, or trapped in the middle of Excel files (although that in itself is very creative) or pushed to the bottom of some law documents, all creativity needs is a little time, love and water and she will grow from a seed to an oak tree as it was always there. Creativity is there waiting for you to shine a light on her and it just takes for you to turn on your heel, smile in her direction, and call her over and the unfolding will start, just like the best of love affairs.
The number one thing that sends many women (and men) into shutdown is technology but folks the news is that technology is here to stay. Yes, technology isn’t going anywhere, Fred Flintstone is not coming back with a hammer, a block of stone and a chisel and we are Not going back to hieroglyphics so what that means is if you want to be part of the human race in 2019 and thereafter you should start a love affair, even if it is ever so small with technology. Photography is one of those things that ‘sucks you in’ to loving technology. You WANT to see your photos look even sexier with a little post-processing razzmatazz, so you WANT to learn how to use Lightroom; you want to bring more emotion into your images, so you WANT to learn how to use F-stops and shutter speeds till you can do it in your sleep. The love of seeing your images and putting them out into the world makes you WANT to share them and master Instagram. So dearest folks, photography makes you WANT to learn more technology, stay up with what’s going on and it shows you that technology can be SEXY and SEDUCTIVE. Hot to trot!
So dear photographers and photography enthusiasts, remember each time you pick up your camera, compose and press the shutter speed, your photography muse is working for you on all levels, emotional, physical and spiritual. Sheesh, that is a fun mind, body, spirit workout!
“No place is boring if you have had a good night’s sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film.”
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