Do you ever get to a point where you’re feeling uninspired, in a rut or generally, well, slumpy? (A highly technical term, I know. Also, I may have made it up. Shhhh.) Anyway! I know the feeling – intimately. I believe that artists and creatives can experience this periodically, maybe even cyclically, when they’ve kind of been plugging along consistently over time… and I think it’s even more common in this age of social media and sharing where we get into a routine of posting posting posting, especially if we start feeling pressured (by our peers or just by some kind of internal need) to meet the “demand of the audience.” In my most recent “slumpy-time,” I found a way to re-inspire myself with my phone – mobile creativity helped me refocus and gain perspective.
At the end of 2014 I was feeling definitively slumpy. In the time period leading up to that feeling, I’d walked through some stressful, emotional things and dealt with some rejections that made me re-evaluate why I even make art and also to ask myself something like, “Is what I create just pure crap?” (By the way, if you find yourself asking this same question, it’s a sign that you’re totally slumpy and you’re also probably being a total jerk to yourself, so stop it, okay?) The answer to the second question, if you haven’t already guessed, was NO… and for me, that’s mostly because of the answer to the first question. I decided, as I considered all of this, that I wanted to really re-focus on why I make art, and I needed to find some way to inspire myself to get that focus back.
So, why do I make art? I don’t make art for money, or to impress, or to gain Instagram followers or Facebook likes, or be better than anyone else – I have no desire to compete with anyone other than the person I was yesterday. I make art to understand and express what is inside of me and to connect with the world and the people in it by showing them what I see, think, and feel. Reminding myself of that consciously was really important; I wanted to get back to feeling that all the time, instead of feeling SLUMPY! In order to really bring it back to center for me, I needed to focus on that pure drive again that I knew was still inside of me, waiting.
I let the year run out and just let these thoughts simmer and flourish inside as 2014 drew to a close. As often happens for me, an idea started to form from all of these non-slumpy simmerings and I felt motivated to start something new, something inspiring! So, at the beginning of 2015 I started making a piece of heartfelt art every day – poetry and an image that went together – and had to be created entirely in my phone (capture, edit, writing, sharing). Why my phone? What’s the big deal about that? Well, I figured this would keep me in the moment so much more than my other capture/create workflows, and help me focus on what has always been really important to me – feeling, expression.
I don’t make art because of money or attention – those can come along with it, but they are secondary bonuses when they happen. I love my camera and I love processing in Lightroom and Photoshop, etc… but those things separate me, often, from the very first moment of capture/creation. Those things separate me from the emotion with an image that I was moved to create by what happens when something inside me and something outside of me collide powerfully. This moment of emotive creation is a merging of internal and external awareness that turns into something I can share with others if I stay ready to do that. By using only my phone, I was staying closer to that moment, and my art felt more pure and focused again. It was a really, really good feeling! SO UNSLUMPY.
My friends and followers came along with me on this journey because I made sharing immediately (also great about being right in my phone) a part of this process. Some of them really seemed moved by what I was putting out there, consistently, with this project. I received many comments and messages from people who were touched by my words and images, who had something inside of them flicker and glow because I shared what was burning inside of me! That is a powerfully enriching and fulfilling thing; this kind of connection and evoking of emotion in others is essential to why I make art. It’s something you just can’t understand if you don’t share your heart with the world (which you should TOTALLY DO).
I did this for about 6 months or so, every day. It was an amazing experience. I created a large amount of what I consider pure art that I really love and made a lot of emotional connections with others. I was so freaking inspired by throwing my heart at the world, every. damn. day.
Recently, I was contacted by PicsArt, a quirky, tool-packed photo editing and sharing app with its own thriving community built right in. They wanted to see if I’d be willing to put together a sponsored post about using their app to make something that inspires you. Well, slap my face and call my Judy! Or don’t – I don’t really like that name much (sorry to all the Judies) and I really dislike pain on my face. What I’m saying is, it was a lovely coincidence because that was one of a handful of apps I relied on regularly to make my “in-phone art creation” project work so well – after all, I needed the tools to make what I shared as beautiful and complex as what I felt inside. The PicsArt app (which you can get here) was one that I considered invaluable during that process. The prompt they suggested when we were talking about doing this post was perfect: it made my heart and mind catapult back to this journey of focus on the reason for my art, the point of which was to help me be inspired again.
When I first started using PicsArt, it was because a super awesome friend of mine (who works for them now) recommended it to me – I’d never heard of it before, and was actually really surprised at all the tools it held. I am now kind of addicted to the lens flare tool in a way that makes me itch if I haven’t put a lens flare on something in awhile. Pretty much anything you’d want to do to a photo is possible with PicsArt: all the usual photo editing adjustments for light and color, crazy cool tools to add motion and blur, masking tools (!), filters, clipart (shut up, it’s awesome – I can make butterflies come out of my ear with that app) and more. I didn’t even know it existed until late 2014, but suddenly it’s this little gem sitting in my photo editing folder on my phone.
All of the images I’ve shared in this post were a part of my project – and they were all created using PicsArt. I continue to use it – and it continues to improve with new tools and functions to delight as time goes by. It is truly a treasure.
I’ve been wanting to share the story of why I did my phone photography/poetry project for some time now, and this was the perfect opportunity to do it. What I really want you to take away from this is that it’s OKAY to feel SLUMPY sometimes. You are NOT A FAILURE.
Everything you need to start a spark that will inspire you is inside of you – when you’re ready to unslump, just reach in there and ask yourself, “What is really important to me?” and then reach for the necessary tools and get your focus back.
You can do it – I promise.
Are you on an inspiring journey, feeling slumpy, or somewhere inbetween? I would love to hear about where you are right. now. After all, great things happen when the simmerings inside of each of us smash into one another, too. <3
Sometimes you can say just as much with the suggestion of a thing as you can with all of the detail. This is true of silhouette photography – a genre that can be alarmingly beautiful and expressive. If you’ve never shot silhouettes, you may be wondering how to achieve this look. It’s fairly simple to get the basics down, and from there, you can let your creativity run wild.
The most important thing to remember is that your subject (the thing you want forming the silhouette, in the case of self portraiture, you) should not be lit from the front (we want to obscure most of the detail) and there should be a significant light source in the background (this is what creates an outline, or silhouette). There are many ways to obtain this kind of setting, from studio lighting to sunlight – I find that sunsets provide an amazing backdrop for silhouettes. Play around with it to see what you can achieve. Once you’ve identified a subject and have a way to backlight them, expose the image for the light behind, rather than the subject (or anything in the foreground). This way, your subject will be very dark, creating an outline with little detail from the front. Voila! This is the basic formula for silhouette photography.
A few things to remember:
- create distinct, clean shapes with your silhouette subject(s)
- try to reduce excessive clutter or multiple other confusing shapes in the image unless they add to the “story” you want it to tell
- avoid foreground lighting
- identify or set up a significant source of back lighting
- no one formula for camera settings is perfect – the strength of your light will dictate what you’ll need, so experiment
- don’t forget to pay careful attention to scene setting and composition, as with all photos, once you get the technique down
- for self portrait silhouette photography, you will find the following tools incredibly helpful: remote/intervalometer, tripod
Here are some examples of silhouette self portraits I’ve created, with some basic information you can review.
Of course, rules are meant to be broken, and you can play around with the basic setup and then go beyond it, tweaking things in so many ways to create different kinds of photos.
Here, there is obviously a lot going on, so the silhouette is clean, but there is “clutter” – but it’s interesting clutter, and adds to the mood:
You can also adjust lighting on the subject to create “near-silhouette” images – some details of the subject are lit and visible, while others are dark, as with the following self portrait.
Let me know if you have any questions, and I’d love to see your silhouette shots!
For this and other self portrait tutorials, Join us at The Art of Self Portraiture Community on Google+ – a fantastic photography resource, source of inspiration and place to share artistic self portraits.
This work by Lotus Carroll is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To license commercially, please email.
Have a ton of photos, but can’t find anything? Want to organize your photos so that you can accomplish sharing, editing, and delivering to clients with insane efficiency? Just getting started and want to have a sound strategy for organizing all your photo files from the get-go?
If any of these applies to you, this class will get you where you need to be. Lightroom is an amazing processing tool, but it’s also a powerhouse for organization and workflow streamlining. Learn how to use it for organization and efficiency, with me, here: Fundamentals of Lightroom I: Organize Files and Boost Your Workflow
If you take the class, I’m also available to answer any questions you have about Lightroom, so make sure make full use of the “Discussions” option behind the “Community” tab on the class.
This work by Lotus Carroll is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
To license commercially, please email.
Want to learn all about organization and processing in Lightroom? I recently partnered with the fantastic folks at Skillshare to create two classes that can help! Take one or both of these self-paced classes at your leisure; watch videos and complete lessons to learn “hands-on” with guidance. I’ll be there regularly to help out and answer questions, adding in additional information that I may not have covered in the class content itself, when necessary. So let’s get ready to learn and grow in Lightroom together: ready, set, go!
Please use these referral links to check out the class of your interest and sign up – for $10 a month you can take these classes and many more. Check it out and let me know if you have any questions!
Skillshare is a great platform to learn all kinds of things… from how to design a website to how to make the most awesome meatballs you ever put in your mouth. With amazing teachers like Seth Godin, Meg Lewis, Peter Shankman and more, you’re sure to find lots of classes that are informative and engaging. I’m honored to be teaching Lightroom classes there, and I hope you’ll find them helpful!
This work by Lotus Carroll is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
To license commercially, please email.
We had a great time on the show last Wednesday. Did you miss it? Watch it now! Juan Gonzalez and I were joined by guest Dave Morrow and panelists Alexis Coram, Casey McCallister, Jason Jakober, and Jeff Moreau to talk about Star Photography and share some amazing images. Dave and the crew gave us some wonderful tips for shooting the night sky and we had a great time hanging out. We were all lucky that Juan never actually proved that he wasn’t wearing pants on air (crisis averted).
During the show, we unveiled the winners of the Drink and Click™ November Challenge: “Transportation”. Burc Biagi (Drink and Click NYC), Matthias I. Lambrecht (Drink and Click™ Tokyo) and Amalia Diaz (Drink and Click™ ATX) took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, respectively. Thanks so much to our prize sponsors: Think Tank Photo, Gary Fong Flash Diffusers, and Pan Am http://goo.gl/T8mDZD
Congratulations also to Michael O’Reilly who had the correct answer to the trivia question on air – Dave uses Blue Marble http://blue-marble.de to discover levels of light pollution when he’s looking to shoot somewhere. Michael won Dave’s complete Video Tutorial Set and all of his Lightroom Star Photography Presets. Woot! If you’d like to look into Dave’s products & services, check them out here:http://goo.gl/fG5OEo I have his presets, and they rock!
Remember to watch us every month on the second or middle Wednesday at 9:30PM CST. Our next show is on Wednesday, January 15th with the one and only Joe Azure and we’ll be talking about Long Exposure Photography.
Don’t forget to join in on your city’s monthly Drink & Click Photowalk Event – you get to take photos, socialize with people who share your interest, and have a chance to win great prizes. Check the website for a chapter in your area!
More information about Drink and Click™ http://drinkandclick.com
Subscribe to Drink and Click™ on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/DrinkandClick
What do you do if your room is messy but you want to shoot a portrait? Clean it up? Hell, no. Who has time for that? Instead, just clone and heal, baby, yeah.
You can always create the illusion that you have a clean room for your portraits (or just get some encroaching couch arm and leg out of the way) by using the spot removal tool in Lightroom – and in LR5, it’s so much better than before. Previously, there was only a circle of differing sizes to do any cloning/healing work, but now you can paint with the tool to create whatever shape you need. Witness the magic unfold.
Here’s my raw photo… you can see that I am SUPER EXCITED TO THE MAX! about
how I’ve decided to just leave my crap laying around indefinitely the thought of editing this photo in Lightroom 5 soon!
I whip out the spot removal tool and make quick work of the annoying couch parts and outlet to the left.
Whew, I’m already feeling like I could do a flip even. But wait… there’s a load of stuff to my right. Totally messing up the Fung Shui up in here and that will harsh my spirit. I’ll probably land on my head. Time to get to work on the real problem…
This is no easy task, but with the new tool I can do it more effectively, without going to Photoshop. This will take some layering of spot removal swipes and a bit of patience. My trick here is that I make small painted sections like lines or even little squares, depending on the shape of what I want gone. For the first pass, I clone just to get to the general color I want. Then I go back and even things out with heal in the places where it needs to blend more. This can take multiple passes to get right.
Heck yeah! The hard part is over and I’m feeling the float. A few more things and I’ll be set! I cropped to bring in the right side a smidge and used the lens correction tools (rotate, some horizontal adjust – you can also play with the new leveling tools in LR5 which are sometimes spot on and other times not so much, but are fairly neat). Then desaturated, and hit the slider on a few things (bumped up exposure, shadow, whites, and clarity, bumped down blacks). Finally, pulled out the jazzy new radial filter and dropped an oval over my body and bumped up clarity and shadows just in there to make my body pop. You know you like it when my body pops.
Yeah, baby! Who needs to clean up? Not me.
This is the time of year to play with light bokeh and force it into cute shapes! In a nutshell, to create light bokeh you want a very wide aperture (small f-stop number, like 1.8). Then adjust focus so that the lights are out of focus. They will be blurry, pretty circles.
If you want the bokeh to take a certain shape, you need to use a filter on your lens. You don’t have to spend any money, though! I’ve made my own filters in the past, and you can do the same. Here’s how.
Bokeh Shapes DIY Supplies
• black posterboard or construction paper
• tape (black is a bonus, but regular works)
• cutting implement like x-acto knives, scissors, shape punchers
• optional: lens filter ring
• recommended: your sense of wonder
Carefully trace a circle around your lens on the black paper. Cut out your circle.
Next, you want to draw and then cut a small shape (about 1/2 inch, or 15-20mm) from the middle of your circle. If your shape is too big, you get poor results. Popular shapes include hearts, stars, and crosses. You can get creative here, and that is part of the fun. Be very careful with your shape – clean lines, no tears, clearly shaped and cut. This is easier to do with x-acto knives or shape punchers than with scissors.
Cut a strip of black paper to wrap around the lens, about 1 inch wide, like a cuff. Tape that shut on the lens, and tape your circle carefully to that, so it sits in front of your lens. This must be flush; no light leaks!
Another method is putting your paper circle inside a lens filter ring. This eliminates need for tape. Experiment to see what works best for you!
If you don’t want to make the shape filters yourself, you can cheat and order this cool set of shape filters http://goo.gl/JcNFs from Photojojo, like I did last year. They are awesome and there are blank disks included so you can make more of your own!
Whichever you choose – purchased or DIY, just put the filter on your lens, use the settings mentioned above, and voila!
PLAY WITH THE LOVELY BOKEH. SMILE. REPEAT!