Carla Coulson, Carla Coulson Photography,Carla Coulson Coaching

When Do Your Photos Become Valuable?

Dear Folks,

The easy answer for this is the moment you take them. They are our memories, the proof of our lives, where we have been and what we found along the way.

The longer answer goes something like this.

So many of the photos I have taken during the last eighteen years were for pure pleasure on my travels or holidays and today I have 100,000’s of thousands of photos on numerous discs and negatives.

When I first started taking photos the concept of them being valuable didn’t enter my mind. I was so excited to take them and then rush out and take some more, like a wonderful addiction to life.

I was terrible with them, in such a hurry to print them and see them appear in the darkroom that I would hastily discard one negative for the next and often put them back in the wrong packet.


Carla Coulson, Carla Coulson Photography,Carla Coulson Coaching


Hence if someone today asks me for a copy of a photo in my first years, I will go into hot sweats and do anything to avoid promising that photo because I could lose a day looking for it. I would rather NOT find it or sell it than go looking for it.

When I started my blog back in 2008 I put up the photos I loved with little SEO tags of when and where I took them and now I have a steady stream of magazines, publications and interior designers asking me for my photos from my travels.

Coupled with the photos I continue to take, I have come to realize that our archives have an enormous value and they should be treasured, catalogued and easy to find.

So dear photographers, I beg you to look after your images and no matter where you are on your journey start improving your system today.


Carla Coulson, Carla Coulson Photography,Carla Coulson Coaching


Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Right now today make sure you always have two discs of any series of images. One being an exact backup disc and mirror of the original disc and make sure they AREN’T stored together
  2. Number, date and name your discs and make sure they are marked clearly on the outside
  3. Categorise each shoot by date first, month and then name your project, person and place for each search reference. When you open your disc you should see a series of folders with specific jobs, subjects or travels.
  4. If you are super-organized start a file with the disc names and then sub folders on that disc. You could also do a hard copy reference book just for this for easy searching so if you are looking for ‘2013 Sifnos’ you know it is on disc 13 etc..
  5. Always keep your ‘hero’s’ in a 3rd place such as the cloud so if all things go belly up you have the best photos of your career in high resolution version.


I know so many of you are creating magic on a daily basis, look after your beautiful images as one day they will have an incredible emotional, historical and economical value.


Happy snapping!



If you want to learn how to take/create your body of work and sell it online, join my Free Training by clicking here.

Chateau Gudanes, carla coulson, karina waters, french chateau, france

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 Waters 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

Chateau Gudanes, carla coulson, karina waters, french chateau, france

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 Chateau Gudanes 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, 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, 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

Carla Coulson, french chateau, Karina Waters

carla coulson, french chateau, Karina Waters

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, Karina Waters, French chateau

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.

Carla Coulson, french chateau, Karina Waters

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.

carla coulson, french chateau, france, Karina Waters

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..

carla coulson, french chateau, karina waters,

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.

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

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

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.

carla coulson, french chateau, Karina Waters

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

5. Details

carla coulson, french chateau,

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

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 here cause it’s marvellous… A huge thank-you to the Walters 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




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overhead view of beach sifnos greek islands by Carla Coulson one of the places I love to visit

Sifnos – Places I loved

Photo of beach and white houses Sifnos

Today I am very excited to share with you places to visit on the Greek Island of Sifnos!

When the oversized ferry dropped its giant door and let us off on another Greek Island the excitement was high, just the same as the first time I put my big toe on a Greek Island.

Love rush is an understatement for how I feel about Greece and the Cycladic Island of Sifnos is now one of my new favourites.

Carla Coulson Sifnos Greece Travel Photography0006

Cheronnisos Beach Copyright Carla Coulson

Sifnos is surrounded by crystal clear water and if you love swimming as much as I do this is a real TREAT! Old fashioned beaches that look like they belong in a 70’s postcard abound and I imagine if you go out of season they would almost be deserted.

White greek church on Vathi beach sifnos photo by carla coulson

Vathi Beach Copyright Carla Coulson

We were so excited about Vathi beach and it’s tavern we were literally the only ones on it at 9am and camped under the tables to be sure we wouldn’t miss out on a lunch spot. I LOVED this tavern where you sit under the tamarind trees with your toes in the sand. The  food was amazing. I ate enough big beans to start sprouting!

white church on the greek island of sifnos

Vathi Copyright Carla Coulson

This picture-postcard church is at Vathy and you get the double whammy with water from both sides.

Zoodochos Pigi church on the greek island of sifnos by Carla Coulson

Zoodochos Pigi Copyright Carla Coulson

Now the Greeks know about building beautiful monasteries and they seem to like to build them in out of the way places, hanging off cliffs, perched on boulders or as in Sifnos’s case on its own private rocky Island.

 boat in the water and tavern on Cheronnosis beach sifnos by Carla Coulson

 Cheronnosis beach Copyright Carla Coulson

Loved this beach and the tavern that runs along the mini dock. Yep loved this tavern so much (not pictured) I was almost sleeping under the tables here too! Didn’t want to miss out on a seat at lunch.

 Francesco and Octopus drying at Faros Beach tavern on greek island of Sifnos

 Francesco and Friends at Faros Beach Copyright Carla Coulson

You will be forgiven for thinking we passed our entire time eating (well we almost did). We pledged to try as many taverns as possible and that came true! On the rocks at Faros was another fave.

The port from Saint Eliseus monastery sifnos photo by Carla Coulson

The port from Saint Eliseus Copyright Carla Coulson

The Port from  Saint Eliseus up on the hill. Looks like I was in a plane but just trying not to be blown off the cliff whilst taking this pic.

Carla Coulson Sifnos Greece Travel Photography0018

 The transparent water always so difficult to leave Copyright Carla Coulson

Photo of Appollonia from Kato Petali on greek island of Sifnos by Carla Coulson

 Appollonia from Kato Petali Copyright Carla Coulson

I love walking the old paths that once connected the villages before the roads were built. This pic was taken on the path from Appollonia to Kato Petali.

places to visit on the Greek Island of Sifnos white stone Entrance to  Zoodochos Pigi monastery on the island of Sifnos

 Zoodochos Pigi Copyright Carla Coulson

Sifnos has 365 churches on the island and this is the big kahuna. In a spectacular setting..

Carla Coulson Sifnos Greece Travel Photography0001

 Appollonia Copyright Carla Coulson

I was obsessed with this house and it’s simple entrance. I could imagine living here.

Pink bougainvillea shade cover Artemonas sifnos by Carla Coulson

Artemonas Copyright Carla Coulson

And here. Now if that isn’t the best bouganvillea I have ever seen!! Love Artemonas a combo of village houses and big neoclassical homes with large gardens and lemon trees.. Divine. Definately would stay in this village next time.

Carla Coulson Sifnos Greece Travel Photography0009

 Figs Kato Petali Copyright Carla Coulson

Gawd was having daydreams of living on this island and drying my own figs in the sun. Ate kilos from the trees along the roads

ceramic workshop places to visit on the Greek Island of Sifnos

Ceramic Factory Vathi Beach Copyright Carla Coulson

This is one of the old ceramic factories in Sifnos up the end to the left of Vathi beach. I now drink my morning coffee out of the sweetest coffee cups this man and his son made.

Carla Coulson Sifnos Greece Travel Photography0014

 Kittycat Copyright Carla Coulson

And the greatest thing about leaving your beloved cat at home is wherever you go in Greece you are reminded of him. Cats everywhere and I loved this little guy at the shop in Vathi.

Carla Coulson Sifnos Greece Travel Photography0017

 Francesco Copyright Carla Coulson

There is a saying in Greece ‘una faccia una razza’ (which is actually Italian) which means ‘One Race One Face’. The Mediterranean has seen so many exchanges of culture through the centuries that it has become one place. When Francesco is in Greece they speak to him in Greek and he gets that inner glow of happiness to think the Greeks believe he belongs to their great country.

And of course just being in Greece makes you enjoy their love of life and teaches you about Kefi.

What to do in Sifnos:

Stay:  In the fabulous village of Artemonas with it’s neoclassical homes and lovely gardens. Divine village

Swim: At Vathi behind the church, At Cheronnosis and the beach on the left before you arrive. Faros is lovely too

Eat: Gawd you can almost go anywhere on this island but don’t miss Manolis Tavern under the tamarind trees Vathi. Don’t miss the tavern at Cheronnosis that flanks the water. Fabulous.

Shop: Almond sweets! The island is famous for the beautiful sweets and Artemonas is the home to three great shops. The oldest one is after the square on the path coming from Appollonia. Ceramics.. Sifnos is famous for it’s beautiful ceramics and there are many shops in Kamares and Appollonia.

See: The villages on foot, take the path to Artemonas from Appollonia and also the villages of Kato Petali and Exambela. Beautiful.. Oh and as many of the 365 churches on the island.

If you would like some travel photography tips please click here or if you would like more Greek Island Inspiration please click here.

I hope you enjoyed these lovely places to visit on the Greek Island of Sifnos

“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea.??? Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba The Greek


Please share if you love travelling. 

Your Personal Photographic Vision

Natalia Vodianova by Paolo Roversi

Photography is a personal vision. It is an individual way of looking at the world and capturing a photo that tells a story. Your particular taste and vision will set you apart from other photographers and this is your precious gift. So have faith in your style!

A photographer’s vision can be seen repeated in their photos over and over again, like a brand. Fashion photographer Ellen Von Unwerth produces splendid images of sexy girls having lots of fun in wild colours and high contrast black and whites.

Photo Copyright Ellen Von Unwerth

Paolo Roversi creates soft focused dreams with his large format Polaroid camera and Richard Avedon was renowned for his simplicity, elegance and his famous white background. Ansel Adams searched for silence, perfection and majesty in his landscapes and Helmut Newton’s black and whites have come to symbolise strong sexy women.

Paolo Roversi’s  said this about his style “When I look at my pictures from 20 years ago, even when the  technique  of  the  light  is  very  different,  I  see  a  kind  of unity, and this surprises me. Even in my book, Nudi, the photos look like they were taken in the same place, in the same light, on the same day. But they were taken over the course of 10 to 12 years, in New York, London, Paris???

Photo Copyright Paolo Roversi

One thing that all these photographers have in common is that you can easily recognise their work without seeing their ‘byline’ (byline is a photographers or a journalists name printed alongside of their story in a magazine).  Their work is their byline.

They all have their own vision, their own style of lighting, emotions they wish to portray, their own presentation of their photos, mood of their work, personality and their own special way that they communicate with their sitter and this shows in the photos. 

So don’t ask yourself why you take the photos you do just take the photos you love! And try not to be influenced by everyone around. Believe in yourself.

“Be yourself, the world worships the original.” Jean Cocteau


Black and White Photography – How and Why We Use It

carla coulson portrait shoot, carla coulson, black and white photography

Copyright Carla Coulson

I love black and white photography, it is part of how I take photos and I couldn’t imagine photography without it. A frequent question I am asked is how and when to use black and white. So I thought today we could have a little chat about black and white in photography.

My fabulous printer in Paris ‘Toros’ of Toroslab, in an interview in Paris Tango said “Black and white is an attitude, a different way of looking at things. I knew many photographers like Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau who preferred to work in black and white. There is an indescribable magic in black and white that is impossible to explain, it is the shadows and the highlights, in the details and in the mystique. Black and white treads that fine line between reality and fantasy.”

My French Life, Carla Coulson, black and white photography

Image Copyright Carla Coulson My French Life


Not all photos look great in black and white and one of the arts of photography is ‘seeing’ how the image will look before you take it.

When converting colour it is important to have different tones in the photo so your subject will jump out of the background or surrounds ie.. there needs to be contrast in the image. Often if the subject has the same tone it can look a little flat in black and white.

When converting images from colour to black and white make sure you don’t have any strong colour ‘casts’ otherwise the colour cast will be converted to the same grey tone and applied generically to your photo.


In film photography you needed to decide prior to taking a photo whether to use black and white film or colour but we now have the luxury with digital photography to choose to convert a colour image into black and white.

The art director on a book once said to me ” a colour image is only valid when the colour is great colour.”  Hence if the colours jar, or they are not harmonious or are distracting that is when I convert an image to black and white.

I use black and white often when an image is graphic (like in the fashion pic above), when the photo has been taken in a ‘reportage’ or ‘lifestyle’ way and I want to make this image stronger (like the family in Naples), when I want to cut to the core of a portrait and let the person stand out not the colours  like in the first picture in this post.

Carla Coulson Family Naples, black and white photography

Image copyright Carla Coulson Italian Joy


When you take away colour you are taking away one of the primary ways the viewer can ‘read’ your image. Therefore there needs to be strong dimensions.

  • Tone and Contrast – The photo subject will work best when it has a varied range of blacks, greys and whites. Always look for dark and light areas in your images as this creates tone and contrast.
  • Lines, Shape and Form – Images that have graphic elements, strong lines, geometric shapes or form make wonderful subjects for black and white especially when the image has good contrast between the elements. Always look for lines that run diagonally, horizontally or vertically through the image and try and create interesting compositions with them.
  • Textures and Detail – All details in photos add to the message and depth of a photo. Black and white works well with textural walls such as brick, sandstone or whitewashed stone especially when the subject is of a contrasting tone. Strong skies and clouds also are wonderful subjects (check out Sebastiao Salgado’s work). A person or detail strongly lit can make a wonderful subject in black and white.
  • Portraits – People and the environment you find them in make for strong subjects in black and white particularly when there is good contrast in their clothes, the background and surroundings. Look for interesting hats, clothes or textures in their environment that would make a strong portrait in black and white.
  • Reportage/life photography– Storytelling of an event albeit sporting, religious, musical or cultural can be strengthened using black and white and add to the weight and message of the photo.


In my interview with Toros he discusses the character of a photographer depending on his taste in black and white. ‘There are some photographers that come to me and say “Toros,  I want my photos very dark, very black and deep. There are others they tell me “I don’t like grey; I want black and white without details.” This says a lot about their characters. Once Cartier-Bresson told me, “Toros, don’t print my photos with too much contrast, don’t print them too dark because my character is soft and light.”

Have a look at the following photographers style of black and white and let me know in the comments what you learn about the differences in the style of black and white and what it says about their styles and how it enhances their photos. (sorry you will have to google as their sites are under construction).

Ellen Von Unwerth

Paolo Roversi


Film photographers would choose a type of film based on it’s effect. Low ISO films produce fine grain and strong contrast and the higher ISO film produce prominent grain and generally a softer contrast.

With digital conversions we have the choice over contrast and how we want to manipulate the image afterwards. I use a program called DXO filmpak and when I bought it I spent almost a day going through every film option on a series of photos to see the effects that I like. I arrived at a couple of favourites Kodak Tri-x 400 and Ilford Pan F Plus.

These are just my personal preferences but I would encourage you always to try all options and find your favourites as this is part of your photographic style.

I hope this helps you make some decisions about your black and white photography.

“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”  Henri Cartier-Bresson




Check out my Portrait Lightroom Presets here.