It wasn’t that many years ago that I was chasing around a bunch of little people I loved at the beach and the pool with a Leica and a Nikonos hanging around my neck trying to capture them in moments of joy, action, play, and laughter.
They were my greatest photography joy, my nieces and nephews. I’m grateful to them for so much, for coming along on my photography journey, diving underwater, jumping down slides giddy with delight, doing handstands in the green sea off Positano, playing dress ups and being willing participants in the act of image-making.
Photography inspired us to play together and mostly they were as excited to see an image of themselves underwater, as I was.
Maybe some of it has rubbed off on them. The years have rolled by and one of those dear sweet people that I once chased around is now a multi-talented photographer and designer and just hours before jumping on a plane to Paris we switched roles.
Inspired by a special new dress gifted by the gorgeous people at MATIN Studio, I was photographed in a way I’ve never been photographed before and had the chance to see a subject I know so well (myself) in a whole new light.
You see that’s the magic of handing my photography (baton) to a member of the next generation, to let her bring her story, her light, her ideas, vision, energy, hopes, dreams and rudder to the act of creating.
I love these photos, I love this version of myself I’ve never seen before, I love the way Eliza has captured my love for life but in a modern way that I’ve never been able to do. There is a little Jean Loup Sieff vibes when he photographed Tippi Hendren and Alfred Hitchcock.
Inspiration is a magical thing, sometimes it just takes a dress gifted by someone you love, a sleeve, a row of buttons, an idea, a spark, a whisper of maybe and hours later something exists from that gossamer idea.
As a woman in my fifties I can’t tell you how much pleasure it is to hand the baton on, to let another generation have their time, their voice, their space, their creativity and to see it executed in such an amazing, elegant and original way.
And like many women I’ve photographed over the years who have had the pure pleasure of seeing themselves in a new light, I too partake today in that same feeling of magic of loving a version of myself that I never new existed.
Thank you to the beautiful Eliza Prichard for this beautiful gift, talent, time and incredible eye and also to MATIN Studio for the dress and inspo.
Left: Sophia Loren, photographed by Tazio Secchiaroli. Right: Fashion editorial by photographer Hudson Wright.
I have been wanting to create some of these photos forever. I have had them on my Pinterest boards for years, knowing that one day we would meet in a not so distant future and these would be the fuel for some magical days.
And as I am putting the finishing touches on the planning of the Puglia workshop the excitement has started to mount as the mood board came out.
Finally, I can roll all my Sante Fe, Puglia, Sicilian, Monica Bellucci, Sophia Loren et al. fantasies into this workshop and as a gal that is fully invested in this style in every way, let me tell you the decisions are difficult.
Will it be a Dolce Gabbana ad that will inspire us with a Monica Belluci look-a-like dancing? Or an old image of Sophia Loren taking a break between sets? Or maybe the cool Kelley Ash of AWildAtHeart with her modern take on Santa Fe/California and beautiful hats and long flowing gowns.
This is the bit I love, the creativity, the stuff that gets your blood flowing and hooks you up to the motherlode of energy. The stuff that has you poring over images for hours at the wonder and beauty. And the sheer excitement that shooting in a place you love can bring. The connection to something so powerful as pure joy for doing what you love.
I love passing it on almost as much as I love doing it myself.
If you would like to be inspired in a totally unique environment, take some amazing images you always dreamed of taking and see me frothing at the mouth in October with a passion for all of it, we’ve had a cancellation and we have one place left on the Heartland – People and Spaces Workshop.
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”
Huge thanks to Mithra for allowing me to share her photos with you…
P.S. I have just had a shoot postponed so if you are feeling game and will be in Paris in July or early August I would love you to be my muse. Shoot details HERE.
This is a video about how my passion for portrait photography developed in the beginning of my career and how I found my style and vision.
Today’s blog is a video! To Watch click ABOVE OR HERE
Here’s the Transcript.
I was going to make a blog post about this morning, and then I thought, why don’t I delve into my archives and show you what’s in the box and boxes of my pictures and how my story. So, for those of you that don’t know my story. I had another life years ago and at 35, sort of had a midlife crisis look down. And I am back. So, during that time, I decided I had to work out what to do with photography, so I decided.
I just like taking pictures
I didn’t have any background in photography I just allowed myself to be attracted to what I like and it changed my life
So the one thing that I’ve learned by luxury of looking back, is that I get to look back at all these pictures, and one of the things that I feel when I see these images is extraordinary amount of people who were so kind and allowed me to photograph them.
This is all when I was at photography school so any poor person hanging around doing absolutely anything was game. This is on the street in Sicily. Anyone hanging around who didn’t have anything to do Carla was there to torture them! Flatmates who had a half an afternoon off at school. I would ask them to pose and I would try and come up with some sort of interesting fashioning looking picture, and this is another gorgeous friend who was kind enough to model for me.
My Love for Italy and Daily Life
I was really really drawn to people, also because people in different situations. And I just love Italy, and the daily life really so much it was so inspiring and even though I was shy and sort of awkward people were so kind to me. So, I felt like I could just keep going and taking all these pictures.
I just kept going and then when I was in Paris, some how the girls in bathrooms turned into girls at the Mouln Rouge and the Lido!!
Taking a Photo versus Creating a Photo
One of the things that I really learned is take pictures there’s sort of two different types of of ways of taking people pictures and that’s finding people in their environment and just taking a picture and then of course, trying to create something, and then create an emotion and have fun between you two or, or create something serious whenever you really click take pictures.
So when you’re creating a photograph from nothing from scratch and the two of you just sort of staring at each other, it really kind of feels like a rodeo ride in a sense that you know it’s exciting this tension, it’s kind of fun it’s nerve wracking. And you don’t really know where it’s going to go like that in the beginning, you feel like yeah I’ve got the good ingredients but I don’t have a cake yet, so you might have a nice location.
Thing is about having the ingredients you then try to make it into something.
And often, it really does feel like a rodeo ride and I think one of the most important things about portraiture is that when it is just so uncomfortable most people walk away.
But the art is to stay with it.
The camera connects
That the camera is an excuse to connect with people. My passion for portrait photography meant that I could go up to that person say hello and take a photo. And I loved it and kept doing it and it became my life.
And the wonderful thing was in the beginning, I didn’t put any pressure on myself so I just wanted to give you a couple of tips today.
You know, in the beginning allow yourself the joy.
Because, you know, when I was at photography school I had the most fun.
I experiment, I make a ton of mistakes.
Do What You Love
When I just noticed it the same kept coming up and up and out, and then eventually I allow that to happen that became part of what I do, how I do things, you know, these very first photographs like this girl, you know this is still at photography school this is in Popi’s bathroom the lady I use to live with in Florence.
This is one of my flatmates. You know, it is all movement in here I probably at the time didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was attracted to move and I didn’t like things to be static, then this became a big part of my style over a period of time so often in the beginning when we’re fresh, you know, we don’t have these preconceived idea that’s when when you are so powerful, so don’t ask yourself why you’re doing it just allow you to do it.
And even if you feel like you’re just going on, you know, over the same subjects, over and over again, just stick to it. Allow yourself to do it. So I thought I’d give you some little tips today on the rain day ride of portraiture, and how you can hang through it stick with it and get the pictures that you want to take. First of all, number one, is to stay with it. Okay, most people don’t stay with it. So, when you’re about to be thrown off the bull. Most people walk out.
The art is to hang on for the ride. So that is my number one piece of advice is to take a break, or to get really really uncomfortable and everything.
Often it could be, you could change position.
You could change the light you could change the energy to change your angle.
So, instead of walking away and starting from scratch all over, ask yourself what you could to change something.
Then, you know, I’m really love photos with energy so you’ll see all my photographs are kind have energy. Every now and then I do have a quiet moment. But, you know, a lot of my photographs, really are about being alive.
Getting the emotions you want
So, how do I get that. So this is the number. I provoke the situation in the nicest possible way. So if I want joy. I give them joy, so I make them laugh I do all sorts of funny things. My niece who worked with me for about a year and years ago, she said to me at the end of the year, that which I took as a compliment, was that “you don’t care what people think about you”
She came on many shoots with me, including the shoots for Harper’s Bazaar and saw that I would say to someone who was considered famous, something stupid, but I do it for purpose which is to get a laugh or get a reaction. S
So another tip for you would be to, to create that energy, whatever energy you want, create that energy.
One of the things that I would like to say to you, all these pictures I took in the beginning,
I didn’t know what I was going to do with these pictures, I just allowed myself, the time and the investment really of energy to take them. But when you do things that you truly love, they don’t always have to have a purpose, and, but often when they really good, they’ll find a purpose, one day, and I wanted to show you this because a lot of these pictures I’ve just shown you, which were taken.
Chasing A Dream
Even some of them from the beginning, these pictures became a book called Chasing a Dream. And a lot of pictures.
So all of these pictures that I just took with love and just with curiosity and trying to learn and get better over a period of years, they became the book really which is possibly one of my favorites, other than Italian joy because they became like a private collection of images.
And that’s what I would like to say just to finish this little message right now is to allow your intuition, and your instincts to be free.
You don’t know where they’re going to take you, but they are your strongest guidance anything in life that comes from the heart will always be the thing that will take you where you need to go.
Over the years many people have asked me about my portrait post processing look and for the first time ever I am pleased to share with you my personal Lightroom presets.
I use these guys to get my distinct look on my black and white and colour portraits.
These presets are for folk who are familiar with Lightroom and know what it means to twiddle with the exposure, colour temperature, contrast and highlight to get your own unique look. These presets will give your images a distinct style depending on the lighting conditions you photographed them in and whether they were well exposed or not.
I have included some of my favourite high contrast and black and whites so you get an instant ‘Carla Coulson’ high fashion look.
Raw file left and Preset Crunchy Black and White Photo copyright Carla Coulson
All the black and white presets have grain to make sure your photos don’t feel empty and for the folks like me that love a ‘grain storm’ I have snuck a ton in to ‘Rock n Roll’.
The colour presets come without grain but I have added an option to add your own.
Each order comes with a guide on how to use your presets and some do’s and don’ts.
Raw file above and PresetRock n Roll bottom – Photo Copyright Carla Coulson
Here’s what you get:
Paris café Portrait Collection is a collection of some of my favourite high contrast black and whites so you get an instant ‘Carla Coulson’ high fashion portrait look. They are inspired by my love for film photography, Paris, Italy, portraiture and the way I love black and white to look and feel.
4 Black and Whites
Crunchy black and white – yes folks this preset packs a crunch, it’s high contrast and has a light film grain
Easy Like Sunday Morning – is a soft black and white with almost grey tones. When you don’t want your images to shout
On The Wild Side – This is an unapologetic high contrast black and white with even brighter highlights than Crunchy black and white
Rock n Roll – It’s a little darker and moodier than the others with more definition in the highlights and dense grain
Raw file above and Preset Get Your Motor Running bottom – Photo copyright Carla Coulson
Raw file left and Preset Natural Born Woman right Copyright Carla Coulson
Daily Juice Portrait Collection are my favourite portrait colour presets and they come without grain but I have added an option to add your own.
Get Your Motor Running – Has a nice rev in the engine! Bright skin tones and good contrast, it gives you an instant graded look.
Moody Blues – It’s in the polaroid look family, with deep blues in the shadows and golden hues in the highlights, it’s soft and dreamy.
Natural Born Woman – this is for those days and jobs when you need a natural look. Simple but beautiful natural colours
Too Cool for School – less blue in the shadows than ‘Get Your Motor Running’ but with some sass of its own and a lovely warm tone on the skin.
No Apologies – This is a ‘get out of my way’ effect very similar to cross processing. With strong contrast, definition in the shadows and definition in the lines. Hold onto your hat!
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