Tag: creativity

Where to Find Cheap Photography Props That Will Boost Your Inspiration

Photography-related products don’t always have to be expensive. Sometimes, the cheapest and most beautiful props can be found in the most unexpected places. If you take the time to look for them, you’ll find priceless gems that will boost your inspiration and make you a more creative photographer. Being able to make unusual items look graceful in photographs will give you a chance to improve as an artist. Your skills will help you make the most of any photo shoot, regardless of your budget. This will attract clients to you, give you more room to think outside the box and make you stand out as a photographer.

If you want to be a more imaginative artist, you should expose yourself to more opportunities. What every person can benefit from is the ability to find affordable items that will help him or her create a masterpiece. These items can be found almost anywhere: in thrift stores, libraries, and more. Here is a complete list of places where you can find awesome props and boost your inspiration.

girl browsing in a thrift store

Thrift Stores

Some items simply don’t look good when they reach a certain age. Others go out of fashion, are passed down to unenthusiastic family members, or lose their spark. While these possessions may not appeal to their owners, they could catch your artistic eye. Clothing items like scarves, which may not look that beautiful on a neck anymore, can be turned into props and used as elegant backdrops, foregrounds, or materials for DIY projects. There’s no limit when it comes to the potential of used items like these.

Other things you might find in thrift stores are vintage gems ideal for conceptual photo shoots, interesting items of clothing, and materials you could use to create foregrounds/backgrounds. Such props may also inspire you to embrace photo manipulation; for example, obscure items like curtains can be transformed into mighty waves or extravagant gowns in Photoshop. If you’re a fan of editing, thrift stores will open a whole new world for you!

second-hand books

Second-Hand Bookstores and Libraries

Purchasing used books will open your mind, give you creative ideas, and encourage you to experiment with something new. A fictional character’s perseverance, for instance, may become a source of empowerment for you. If you’re into fiction, look for relatable stories and characters. Finding comfort in magical realism will provide you with an unquenchable thirst for meaningful photographs.

If you prefer non-fiction, keep an eye out for coffee tables books with inspiring visual references or how-to books related to art. These guides will teach you something new about your beloved hobby or simply give you the opportunity to find pure inspiration.

flatlay - DIY materials

Online Stores

Websites like Amazon and eBay are filled with cheap props that can significantly improve your work. When you search for items, make sure you avoid products that might hurt you or damage your camera. Safe props include:

    • Backdrops
    • Wigs
    • Costumes
    • Accessories like glasses

The quirkier an item, the more striking your results will be!

children working on a diy project

At Home

Confetti garlands, giant polaroid photo frames, flower crowns, chalk drawings, dreamy photo filters, and paper masks are all things you can make on your own. (If you have children, some of these DIY projects will keep them entertained and encourage them to pose for the camera!) DIY projects can be found almost anywhere online. The ideas are unique, affordable, and fun.

If you’re interested in any of these projects, let us know and we’ll make a separate tutorial for you! 🙂

thrift store

Though investing in valuable photography equipment is necessary, you don’t have to do it all the time. Find used items, turn them into works of art, and show others how wonderfully creative you are. Once you’re happy with the results, donate your props; someone might find them just as inspiring and create incredible art of their own. It’s a beautifully organic process. Why not become a part of it today?

Getting creative with foregrounds: How to improve your portraits

When I first started taking photographs of other people, my portraits often ended up looking very similar and much too simple. Though I yearned to have inspirational and visually stunning shots in my portfolio, I couldn’t find a way to create them using the limited amount of equipment I had. Compelling self-portraits were especially difficult to make due to the fact that I had neither a remote nor a tripod at the time. Then, during a self-portrait shoot, I held an object in front of the lens for the sake of experimentation. This created a dreamy effect which slightly concealed parts of my face and highlighted others. The difference a single little thing could make a seemingly simple portrait astounded me. If I could place almost anything in front of the lens and create an interesting photograph, what would happen if I chose my foregrounds according to a theme, an item of clothing, and more?

Even if you don’t own a professional DSLR camera, chances are that placing any item close to your lens will cause blurriness. It’s even possible to create such an effect with a tiny camera phone. This kind of blur is ideal for all kinds of photographs, but it’s especially eye-catching when portraiture is involved. Hiding part of your subject’s appearance using things like flowers, hair, and hands will allow the viewer to feel like they’re a part of the story. Like well written stories, photographs that make viewers feel included will glow with potential. Furthermore, these works of art will touch friends and strangers alike, drawing more people to your photographs. Eventually, you’ll find yourself discovering all kinds of ways to include simple things in your photos to create spectacular images. Here are a few tips on how you can get creative with foregrounds:


Finding foregrounds at home

Whether you live in a tiny apartment or in an extravagant mansion, you’re bound to find useful, foreground-worthy products in your home. Since foregrounds are barely distinguishable when placed very closely in front of the lens, don’t worry about experimenting with items that aren’t necessarily used in the photography world all that often. For example, reflective kitchen utensils like forks and spoons can serve as great additions to a picture, allowing for shiny-looking results that direct the viewer’s eye straight to your subject. If you’re a fan of animal photography, your pet’s toys could enhance your image’s composition; in addition to having a fun time with your pet, you’ll be able to capture a beautifully framed moment. Take some time to look at your possessions from a fresh perspective, giving everything a chance to become creatively useful.


Finding foregrounds in nature

If your own possessions don’t spark ideas in your mind, take a walk. No matter the season, nature is always prepared to help you with your artistic endeavors. Branches, flower, grass, etc., can all serve as brilliant foregrounds. This is especially effective in the early autumn and all throughout spring when nature’s colors are at their most vibrant. Even shooting through a cluster of branches will add vibrancy and mystery to your shot. If you photograph a person using this technique, your results will be gracefully cinematic.


Instant foregrounds in portraiture

There are foregrounds which require little to no effort to create. If – during one of your portrait shoots – you’re out of both props and ideas, ask your model to place his or her fingers in front of the lens. By partially covering some of your subject’s facial features, this effect will make viewers wonder what the subject is hiding. Other easy foregrounds include hair and items of clothing.


Adding foregrounds in the editing process

If you already have a set of images you wish to enhance, you can do so by adding artificial foregrounds to your shots in editing programs like Photoshop. The Internet has an impressive amount of free texture packs. For instance, a free light leak pack will give you access to an abundance of stunning resources which will add vibrancy and brightness to your images. It’s also very likely that you already have the resources to create eye-catching photographs; look through your old work, especially your travel photos, and experiment with anything that stands out to you. Alternatively, you can look for great content on free stock photo websites; it’s very likely that you’ll find what you need there.

Working with foregrounds will give you a chance to appreciate the beauty in everything. Additionally, it will give you a chance to reinvent your style, discover new ways of photographing and find potential in the smallest details. In general, it’ll make you a better photographer. Always stay creatively curious.

Happy shooting!

Mastering golden hour: Setting your path to success!

Golden hour, also known as magic hour, is a particular period shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the lighting conditions are ideal for photographers, cinematographers, and anyone who appreciates the breathtaking light. During this time, light possesses an ethereal quality to it, softening any harsh shadows that may have been present when the sun was higher in the sky.

Summer was at its peak when I first discovered photography. The Golden hour seemed happy to go on forever; as a beginner, I cherished this significantly. While artistic limitations allow our creative minds to grow rapidly, moments which are easy to photograph teach us the importance of embracing every type of season and weather. When the colder months arrived, I was satisfied enough with the hundreds of golden images I owned to challenge myself in more elaborate ways. My portfolio, which had significantly grown thanks to the opportunities the magic hour provided, was ready for new atmospheres, lighting conditions, and emotions. Had it not been for a golden hour, my photographic journey would’ve been hindered much more intensely. Because of this, I’d like to share the many ways in which photographers, especially beginners, can master and enjoy the golden hour.


Practice daily

Every day after school, I’d eagerly run home in hopes of creating another set of magic hour photographs. This was an emotionally and artistically fulfilling experience as it prevented me from sitting in front of the laptop for the rest of the day. Dedicating half an hour to nature and photography gave me a chance to take a break from reality and to focus on my creative needs. Turning such a positive experience into a routine played a large part in my growth and discipline as a photographer.

When the golden hour is at its strongest during the year, try to make the most of it as often as possible. Even a 5-minute shoot will allow you to stretch your creative mind and come up with impressive ideas. No matter where you are if you sense golden hour approaching, grab your camera and shoot something you’ll love.


Find a safe place

In addition to creating a healthy daily routine for myself, I discovered a beautiful corner in my garden where I could shoot daily. It was filled with cicadas and cheerful flowers in the hot summer months, a combination which made me feel safe and accepted. Because I felt safe, my images didn’t look forced, and my emotions were void of discomfort.

It’s important to find a spot where you won’t have to worry about strangers approaching or vehicles passing by. When it comes to developing a daily routine, especially a creative one, a feeling of safety is key. If golden hour enters your room, remain in your room and shoot; these indoor shots will be nothing short of beautiful. If the sun doesn’t reach your home at magic hour, go out with your friends for a shoot; this will create a stronger bond and provide you all with memorable, stunning images. No matter what, make sure to stay safe; safety will preserve your life and add a sincere touch to your images.



Include other elements in your shots

In the image below, I used a garden hose to create my summer rain. The raindrops, lit by gorgeous sunshine, created an absolutely cheerful summer atmosphere. With this in mind, make the most of your outdoor possessions, be it a garden house or a bucket of water. Hair looks absolutely wonderful when illuminated by the sun. Raindrops look breathtaking during golden hour; their shine is akin to the glow of stars, an effect which enhances any image. Make the most of these elements, and you’ll discover a brand new world of creative ideas.



Photograph everything

Photographing everything is ideal for both beginners and experts. As a beginner, it can be tough to find the type of photography you’re most drawn to. Because of this, it’s important to experiment with all genres of photography; this is when the golden hour comes in. Since the lighting conditions are close to perfect during the magic hour, you can completely focus on your subjects without worrying too much about light. Use this opportunity to photograph all kinds of things: animals, nature, landscapes, people, objects, and so on. The experience will increase your confidence as a photographer and allow you to appreciate every genre out there.

Experts who focus solely on one genre, be it portraiture or landscapes, can benefit from this opportunity in much the same way as beginners. If you wish to grow artistically and deepen your creative knowledge, try out something you’ve never taken the time to focus on before. The further you go from the knowledge and skills you’re familiar with, the more you’ll grow as a different photographer. Once you familiarize yourself with another genre, you’ll go back to your original genre with confidence, valuable information, and an open mind.


Golden hour, a seemingly short period, will significantly challenge you, compel you to come up with quick yet great photo ideas, and provide you with a pleasant daily routine. These newfound abilities and experiences will help you grow not just as an artist, but as a person.

Good luck!

how to make impressionism photos with Photoshop

The inspiration that leads the creation of your photography can come from sources that are not exclusively photography. The different art movements can be a great source of creativity. Romanticism, impressionism, realism, art Noveau… all these tendencies can give you ideas about color palettes, subjects, composition…  In this article I want to show you how to add an impressionist look to your photos in few simple steps in Photoshop.



Impressionism is a paint movement that started in France in the 19th century. They were pretty innovative at that time because of their new approach to their work. Briefly, some of the characteristics of Impressionism are:

  • They focused in visual effects and not details. Photography just appeared at that time and painters felt that this new field was able to represent all the details in an image. For that the reason they decided to change their strategy and aim for sensation instead that for accurate representation.
  • They painted mostly outdoors
  • They used bright colors
  • Their main subjects were: passage of time, seasons, weather, leisure…

One of the most famous painters is Claude Monet (1840-1926). In fact, its paint “Impression, sunrise” is the one that gave the name to the art movement. Others are Renoir, Bazille, Sisley

“Impression, sunrise”, Claude Monet.

To get the desired effect, impressionism artist used different techniques. One that relevant to us is the “Impasto”. They apply thick layers of paint. For that reason brush strokes are visible. Keep this in mind when you are creating your impressionism images.

How to create an impressionist looking image in Photoshop

Creating images that look like coming from an impressionist artist can be done in few steps using Photoshop.

#1. Choose an image

You can choose any image you want, but I think it is more meaningful to respect the Impressionism ideas. They optimize the technique in order to represent their vision of reality, so if we try to think with an impressionist mind, we have more chances of getting a nice result. Impressionists painted mostly outdoors and they loved to paint about sensations. I would recommend you to start by choosing a nature photography.

For this tutorial I chose an autumn photo because of the impressionist’s love for seasons and passing of time.

#2. Choose an impressionism paint you like.

We are going to use the impressionism paint for its colors, so focus on them when you are choosing them. You can, of course, choose any other photo with colors you like or skip this step. But I think that spend some time looking for impressionism paints is a source of inspiration that can have a positive influence in your photography.

I chose “The Avenue”, a work of Claude Monet

#3. Open both images (your original one and your impressionist paint) in Photoshop


It is important that you open the 2 photos in Photoshop (Learn about photoshop here).

As you can see inside the blue rectangle, I opened both files.

#4. Create 2 new layers in your original image

In your photo, click Ctrl+J twice to create 2 duplicates of your background. You will now have: background, layer1 and layer 2 copy.


You can rename them to “pixelate effect” and “oil paint effect” if this makes things easier for you.

You can rename a layer by double-click in its name.

#5. Add impressionist effects to the “pixalate effect” layer.

You can change colors in Photoshop in different ways. Here we are going to use the “Match color” tool. To do so, with the “pixelate effect” layer selected, go to Image>Adjustments>Match color


A Match color dialog will appear and here you need to select 100 in Luminance, 100 in Color Intensity and 0 in Fade. Then, in Source you need to pick the Impressionist picture you previously chose (step 2) and open in Photoshop (step 3).


Press OK and voila! You have the colors of the impressionist picture in your photo! (I love the Match Colors option in Photoshop!!)


Now we will add the pixalete filter. For this, you just need to go to Filter>Pixelate>Pointillize.


This filter will add points to your image. You can play with the size of the points by changing the Cell size value. I personally like them small, so I am leaving here 3, that is the minimum value.


Press OK to apply the filter. The last thing we need to do in this layer is to change the opacity to for example 40-50%.


If you don’t like the Pointillize filter, you can try others by going to Filter>Filter Gallery. I personally like trying different filters from the section called “Brush strokes”.

This is how the Filter Gallery look like. There are different “Brush stroke” filters that might work really nice (like the “Angled strokes” filters. I think this one is my favorite!). Fell free to experiment with them.

#6. Add impressionist effects to the “oil paint effect” layer.

If you want to see better the changes you are going to make in the “oil paint effect” layer, you can deselect the “pixalate effect” layer.


As in the previous step, we will Match the color to the Impressionist paint you chose. Select the “oil paint effect” layer, and go again to Image>Adjustments>Match color. Same than in step 5. You select 100 in Luminance, 100 in Color Intensity and 0 in Fade. In Source, you pick your Impressionist picture you previously chose and press OK.


Now we will add the oil paint filter. This filter will add the look of the brush strokes to your image. Select Filter>Oil paint.


A new screen will open. In this screen, you can play with the different values until you get the result you like the most. I personally go for Stylization=10, Cleanness around 7-8, Scale= 0.1, Bristle Detail=10 and Shine=0. You can play a little with all these values until you find one that you like.


Press OK to apply the filter. You can now adjust a bit the colors, tone and contrast of the image by selecting Image>Auto Color, Auto Tone and/or Auto Color.

In this screenshot you have highlight in blue (selected) the “Auto Color”. The two options on top of it are “Auto Contrast” and “Auto Tone”.

Now select again the “pixalate effect” layer to make it visible and that’s all! You have a nice impressionist looking photo!


You can play with your image by changing the impressionist image to witch you Match colors.

These two Monet paints have 2 different color palettes. On the left you can see “The Avenue” and in the right “San Giorgio Maggiore At Dusk”, both courtesy of www.claudemonetgallery.org.


Here my two impressionist looking versions of the same image: On the left you can see the one that matches colors with “The Avenue” and in the right the one that does it with “San Giorgio Maggiore At Dusk”.

How to get the impressionist look just using my original photo

If you want to keep your original colors, you can follow the same steps skipping all the “Match colors” parts.

Here the same photo that we used before, but just with the pixelete and oil paint filter. I didn’t matched colors with any impressionist paint.

If you do so, you might need to increase the saturation of your images color to get the impressionist look. No problem. You can just add a Saturation layer on top of all the others.

Add a saturation layer by clicking in the icon in the lower part of the screen, here marked in blue and then selecting “Hue/saturation”.


Move the saturation slide until you get the bright colors that are the signature of the Impressionism.

I hope you enjoy this tutorial! Now it is your turn to experiment with your own images. Have fun!

Next learn how to create dramatic effect in Photoshop

Inspired by Blue Lightning TV Photoshop.

Photo Walks: A Way of Improving Your Photography Skills

According to Wikipedia a photo walk is the act of walking with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things that the photographer may find interesting. For me a photo walk is much more than just walking and taking photos. I see it as a way of improving your photographic skills. Photo walks are commonly considered group activities.  The groups might be formed by amateur photographers that organize themselves or they might be also activities offered by a professional that set some guidelines and teach along the walks. Although I like the idea of group photo walks, I didn’t have the chance to do it yet. I hope I’d get the chance to do it in the near future. For now I have a less communal approach: either I go by myself, or with a friend. In group or alone, I highly recommend you to try photo walks.

Photo walks partner
I usually go on photo walks alone or with one or two people. My husband is one of my photo walks partners (here is a challenge for you: can you find where I am in the photo?).

Theme photo walks help you develop your creativity

Choosing a theme for a photo walk is an interesting thing to do. You can choose any subject such as shapes (triangles, circles…), colors (yellow, blue..), numbers or things (windows, doors, traffic signs…). If that day I am unable to decide a subject, I just ask somebody to tell me either a color, or a shape. And whatever they say I do. I saw that this helps me to develop my creativity because it forces me to take photos of things that I wouldn’t choose by myself. Trying to take nice photos of things that you don’t find attractive at first sight might push you out of your common thinking box.

Thematic photo walks
I did a photo walk about circles. This subject pushed me to take photos that I wouldn’t usually take.

Photo walks help you to improve your composition

You can pick a composition subject and focus on it in your photo walk. You can work on finding leading lines, look for patterns, rule of thirds, symmetry… Practicing composition when you are enjoying a relaxed photo walk will take you to the point that you can create well composed images even under stress (as for example in the middle of a portrait photo session).

Composition and photo walks
Using leading lines is a technique of composition where you lead the eye of the viewer through different elements of photo by using lines. They also give a sense of infinity. I like doing photo session focusing on leading lines.

Photo walks give you the chance to experiment with new things

Have you been reading about a new photography technique that you would like to try? Go on a photo walk focusing on that technique and you could see how you get better at it along the walk. You can try night photography, macro,  HDR, long exposure photography…

Night photo walks
I am not a night photographer. But planning photo walks at night took me out of my comfort zone and made me experiment with my camera.

Photo walks help you to find your photographic style

I learnt this from the photographer Marlene Hielema. When you photowalk, you don’t have to focus on the technical aspects of photography. You don’t have to take perfect photos. You can even set the camera on program mode (I know it can be hard to do it, but give it a try). What can you do if you don’t need to take care about the technicalities? You are left with just the creative side of photography.  Focus on the way you see things. Once you return home, check the results of your walk. Pick the photos that show better what you wanted to express and analyze them. Do they follow a pattern? Finding these patterns will help you to understand your style.

Photo walks are a great way of networking

If you are going in a group photo walk you will have the chance to meet new people. If you are going alone, you will have the chance to talk with the people you are taking photos of, and you will probably meet a few curious people who would want to know what you are doing. You can interchange details with these people (phone number, social media) and share your photo walk images with them.

Photo walks might improve your mood

A photo walk is a physical activity done outdoors (sometimes even in the sunlight and the fresh air!). Walking is good for your health and being outside will bring refresh your mind.

Outdoor photo walks
Going outdoors and enjoying the fresh air is always good for your mind.

And finally some tips:

Take only the essentials

You will be walking for a while, so if you carry a lot of gear and other stuff it will become heavy and will make the photo walk a not so nice experience. Be brave and take just one lens. Take out unnecessary things from your camera bag.

I do recommend to take with you water (and maybe a hat and sunglasses) and a small snack, just in case your walk turns a bit longer then you expected.

Be safe

When you are focused on taking pictures you can disconnect a little from the surroundings. But you should keep all the time a certain amount of awareness. Don’t walk into the road without looking for coming cars. Don’t walk into other pedestrians. If you are in a place with a lot of people, keep an eye out for possible thieves. If you are going alone on a photo walk, tell somebody where you are going and for how long. Although a photo walk can also be a great chance to disconnect for a while, evaluate the area you are going to be at before leaving the phone behind, on long walks, walks in the wild, or in unfamiliar neighborhoods, it might be better to have your phone with you (just in case).

Keep safe in your photowalks
If you are taking photos in a place with a lot of people and traffic, you need to take care to be safe and not to disturb the others.

Be respectful (with people and with the law)

If you are taking photos of people, it is important that you keep a respectful attitude. Remember that it is nice to ask people for permission to take their portrait (it is also an opportunity to meet new people). Depending in which places, you must do it. For that reason it is always good to know the laws regarding photographer’s right (They change in every country). You should know beforehand what you are allowed and not allowed to do with your camera. It can save you a lot of problems.

Sit from time to time

I know that the activity is called photo walk, but you can also sit from time to time to rest. Sitting is also good for observing. You can study the place where you are and take other kind of photos.

Sitting during your photo walks
I decided to sit for a while. It was then when this little bird came close enough for me to be able to take a photo. This wouldn’t have happened if I was walking and moving around.

Do you like photo walks? Have you ever tried them? Are you going alone or with a group? Share your experiences with us, we would like to hear form you! 🙂

Have a happy shooting!!

Family Photography Activities To Enjoy Together

As a photographer, you can spend a lot of time learning about your craft, looking for perfect locations, setting all your gear, taking the shoots, editing the photos… it might seem like it is not compatible with a family life. I totally disagree! Family photography activities are perfect way of combining photography with having a good time with your family and friends. You just need to find activities that will be appropriate for all ages and that will be fun for everybody.  Besides, they can also be an educational tool. I collected some ideas that might help you to set up your first family photography activities. Soon you will be designing your own!

ABC photos/colors/numbers

For the ABC photo activity the whole family should look for objects that start by a certain letter. You can do several letters by day or just one letter by day/week. Once you have all the ABC letters you can build a collage. You can print it and hung it in your kids’ room or in a shared space at the house. A more advance project would be to take photos of objects that look like letters. In this last one you can build words combining the different photos.

Family photography activities
Apple, book, cup… the ABC activity is fun for the whole family and you can always get surprised from the ABC of the other family members.

In the same project style, you can take photos of colors and numbers too. I think that the most important thing in these type of projects is the collaboration of the family members in both taking photos and in designing things with the photos.

Family photography activities
Looking for a certain color can be a fun challenge too.

Family scavenger hunt

Set a list of objects to look for in the house and send all the family to take photos of all of them. The first person that photographs all the objects wins.  Or take as many photos of one thing as you can (flowers, cats, trees…).  The idea is to turn it into a challenge that will keep the whole family active.

Family photography activities
Scavenger hunts can have a high educative value. For example, you can do a scavenger hunt about flowers and then your family can get to know the names of the flowers and which ones are endemic to the area. Other nature related subjects can be trees, insects, just butterflies….

Create stories with daily objects

You can create a story with simple objects or toys and take photos of it. It doesn’t have to be a long or elaborated story. Here the fun is in being creative and let fly your imagination. Once you have the photos, you can put them together and add some text. You can also sit with your family and work together  in Photoshop or any other editing tool in order to make the photos look a bit more as like a cartoon.

Family photography activities
“Kiwi” is a foreign exchange student at Eggland High School. He is a nice guy, but he can’t control his strength so well. He just wanted a hug from their new friends, but…Upppps… he screwed up…
Family photography activities
You can also add some fun filters in Photoshop to make the photos look more like a paint/cartoon.

Document your traveling toy

Let your kids take photos of one of their toys in several locations: garden, park, at home, in your holidays… You can create postcards with them, make a collage or even to write a story about the adventures of the toy.

Family photography activities
We took our favorite Minion to visit the Yezreel Valley (North-Israel). We think he liked it! 🙂

Light painting

Light-painting is fun for all ages.  Using this technique you can draw with light: you can make shapes or even write something. You can also use light-painting to animate some objects. You just need to find a dark place to set all the equipment. You can do it both at home and outdoors (it is a perfect activity for camping nights). Light painting can go from simple settings to really elaborated ones. Make sure to choose the appropriate level for your family and have fun!!

Family photography activities
Light painting doesn’t always need a complicating setting. You can also have fun doing light painting at your home. Here we tried to animate our VW van piggy-bank.  We set the VW van, we put the camera in a tripod and we turned off all the lights of the room. We shoot using the bulb mode (this mode allows long exposure times. The shutter stays open as long as the shutter button remains depressed). With a simple flashlight we lighten the van (our flashlight was pointing to the van at that time, and not to the camera. It is like if you scanner the object with the light) and we “draw” the smoke and the sun pointing with the flashlights to the camera meanwhile we did it. We repeated the photo a lot of times until we got something we liked. Maybe it is not the best light painting photo ever. But we have tons of fun, and this was the most important thing for us!

Family selfie project

Family selfies are always fun. Grab a selfie stick and take family selfies at different moments of the day. You can also do longer projects and take one selfie by day for a month. Or even one by week for one year. See the option that suits better your family and go for it! For making it funnier, you can let all family members to participate in staging the selfie: with huts, clown noses, eating ice-cream… all the ideas can be good for making the selfie project outstanding. You can share your family selfies with other family members and friends. This project is also a great way of recording the changes of your family during the time that the project lasts.

One photography skill by month

If you want to develop the photography skills of your family, you can teach one thing by month and let them practice. At the end of the month you can sit all together and show to each other the photos. You can then celebrate that all of you learned something. How to celebrate it is up to you!

Family photography activities
One of the skills that you can teach them is how to use depth of field/aperture. Try to adapt the explanations in a way that everybody can understand them.

I just want to add one last thing. Photography projects are fun when everybody wants to participate. If some member of the family hates photography, this kind of activities will be a nightmare for him/her. As we are passionate about this craft, it might be hard for us to understand them. But it might happen. And it is OK. They don’t have to do it. We are all different and in consequence, we like different things.

Are you thinking in trying one of these activities? Do you have any other activity to add to these list? I would love to know about them!

Have a happy shooting!!

Photographer, Does Your Perfectionism Help You or Block You?

Being a perfectionist seems like a good thing to be. What is wrong about aiming always for the best? Well, I am a perfectionist myself and along my life I learnt that perfectionism is a double-edged sword: it can either take you to greatness or it can paralyze you.

Being a perfectionist helped me to get good grades and finish my PhD in Biology. It pushed me to be a good worker because I care about everything a lot. It also helped me as a photographer because I always try to do things well. I even read my entire camera manual because I wanted to understand my new Nikon D7000 perfectly. Being a perfectionist is motivating. It pushes you you forward.

Being a perfectionist can lead you to great things. When you achieve them, you feel like having fireworks inside your head. However, perfectionism can also paralyze you or make you dismiss your own work as “not good enough”.

However, trying to achieve perfection also increases my stress level. I always live with the slight fear of making a mistake or that I am not good enough. This is what I called “the perfectionist’s course”: you can do awesome things but you won’t appreciate them because you are too busy thinking that you were able to do it better.  Taking it to an extreme, perfectionism can even block your creativity. It happened to me. I have always been fascinated about composition. Now that I feel confident with some of the basics, I decided that it is time to try new things. I started reading about more complex composition techniques. I saw some tutorials. I wanted to understand everything perfectly because I wanted to create the perfectly-composed photo. I read everything once again and I re-watched the videos. I did it one more time, then another time, and again…. Time passed and I didn’t take a single photo. Perfectionism blocked me. I didn’t want to take photos because I was scared they will suck. I know it might seem silly, but this is how a perfectionist’s mind can work sometimes. You can feel so scared about failing that you don’t even try.

The rule of thirds is one of the first things I learnt. It works really well in a lot of situations because it gives balance to the image. But composition is not synonym of  rule of thirds. You can achieve nice compositions following other approaches.

I understood that if I wanted to keep growing as a photographer I would need to handle my perfectionism issues better. If, like me, you get to the point that perfectionism is not helping you any more, keep reading, I have good news for you. With a bit of effort you can change this negative behavior. Totally worth it!

Work on the concept that perfection might not really exist outside your mind

What you can see as perfect might not be perfect for me or vice versa. Aiming to such a subjective concept is like building castles in the air. As Salvador Dali said: “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it”.

I wanted to learn more things about composition because although the rule of thirds is useful, I didn’t want all my photos to be based on it. After reading and studying a lot about composition I got a bit paralyzed because I thought I will never be able to get the perfect composition. Result: I spent several weeks thinking about compositions instead of taking pictures and practicing what I learnt. How did I overcome my crisis? I decided to practice small things, like for example playing with lines. Well aware that my first photos are not going to be perfect, but at least I learn.

Accept that “the best I can do” is enough

This can be hard but it is important to work on. In the moment of taking/creating a photo there are a lot of things to consider: location, model, time of the day, using filters or not, tripod…. Then you have all the post processing decisions: enhancement, cloning out… If you are a perfectionist, all these factors become a long list of things to be worried about. This will slow you down so much that it will get tedious or you might even get blocked. If you see that this might happen, make the decision of aiming for the best you can do in that particular moment. Take the photo and learn from it. Remember that photography is a craft. Learning is what will make you better. You improve by taking photos not by worrying about everything all the time.

When I was taking this photo I adjusted the aperture, shutter speed and ISO to get the best histogram I could. I used a tripod. I worked on the leading lines of the composition. I edited it thinking what I was feeling when I was there. I didn’t want to take a perfect photo. I wanted to take a photo about summer. And I think that I achieved what I aimed for. Practice is what moves you forward, not perfection.

Break down your progression in small steps

Letting go a bit of perfectionism doesn’t mean that you give up on improving on quality. It just means that you adapt to factors that are beyond your control. Do you want to become a landscape photographer? Great! Instead of just deciding that you need to take the best landscape photos ever, try to set a series of smaller goals. First you can learn about the best apertures for landscapes. After that you can learn about using a polarizer filter, then about ND filters…. This strategy works better because you can really reach the goals. This will make you feel much better than just aiming for a perfection that is impossible to reach.

One of my little steps about improving my landscape photography is learning how to use a polarizer filter. I started practicing in the Dead Sea (Israel). The polarizer emphasizes the colors of both water and sky.

Give value to your effort

Nobody was born knowing everything about photography. You need to advance step by step. We are all a bit impatient these days. We compare ourselves with other photographers and we want to be like them, and we want to be like them NOW. We take pictures and we want them to be perfect NOW. But we forget about the learning curve. Stop thinking that you need to be perfect NOW and enjoy your learning process. You should be proud of all the efforts you are doing to improve.

Focus on the creation process and not on the result

When you are not so worried about the final results or thinking that you must be good in photography, then magic happens. You can enjoy the simple act of taking photos, just because it brings joy to your heart. You probably started photography just because you liked it. Try to keep this light-hearted spirit. It will do well to your health.

I always wanted to try to do this shaped-bouquet effect. The process of getting the shapes was really fun, but it took A LOT of trials and errors. Totally worth it!

Let me know if you tried some of these tips. Do you have your own strategies for handling perfectionism? I would love you to share them with me.  Have a happy shooting!!