Photo review from Rise International Photography Awards – Creative

The RISE International Photography Awards is a unique, online photography awards system aimed at seeing entrants elevate their work from one award year to the next.

The judges gave written feedback to all entrants on all photos entered. I entered three images into three categories: Maternity, Family and Creative.

Better than expected

My entry for the creative category was the first image from my ‘Daughter of Woman’ series, entitled –Daughter of Woman.

I hadn’t created any other images in the series at the time of entering the competition.
I had no idea how the judges would respond to this type of image, but the early bird entry fees weren’t expensive and I was curious as to what they would say about it.

The feedback

This is quirky and very cool; I love the repetition between the flower-head and the pattern on the shirt, and it’s even echoed in the background. To improve it, be careful on the masking for the glass dome-thing; there are some portions where the masking could be cleaner. It’s easiest to see the masking issues along the top left edge of the glass where it is in front of a shadowed bit of wall. The focus control on the shirt, the glass, and the background is really good, well done.

The image has great impact that grabs your attention.
A well developed and executed creative concept.

Overall a very interesting concept. Lovely use of patterns to create an intriguing composition.

I’m so cross with myself for not spotting the masking issue! It just goes to show how useful a second pair of eyes and professional review can be!

I’m going to post the feedback from my family entry soon.

Take care,


Using Lightroom for commercial photography

I did some commercial photography recently. The first time for years! The images were for the website of a new business, plus marketing materials. 

I edited the majority of images in Lightroom and used Photoshop to clean up a few with the clone and healing tool.


Lightroom is great for editing lots of images that require similar changes. It speeds up the process and is non destructive to the original photos. I hadn’t used Lightroom since I shot weddings a few years ago, and it has had some nice updates since then. The spot healing brush and gradient tool were particularly useful for brightening and cleaning up images quickly.

It is simple to import images into Lightroom for editing and to export the finished photos to a folder on your computer. Collections are a useful way of dividing up your images into sub-categories or clients. Particularly if your are processing groups of image differently.

I like photographing objects and spaces. Finding interesting compositions and perspectives appeals to me. I’m more nervous photographing people!

I enjoyed a step away from fine art photography and it felt great to help someone with a new and exciting endeavour. However, I do love the freedom of fine art photography, and the fact I am only accountable to myself!

Take care,


Creating shadows in Photoshop

Creating believable shadows in Photoshop is something that elevates composite photography. It is something I have found SO hard, over the years. I have tried different methods, all gleaned from YouTube and gathered a couple of go-to strategies. The same strategy doesn’t always work for every image.

Curves and select and mask

Select the area you want to shadow with the Lasso tool. Click select and mask and then feather. The more you feather, the softer the edge of the shadow. Remember, shows and darker and harder the closer they are to the subject.

Use a curves layer to adjust the depth of the shadow. Often a play in the highlights area is enough.

Painting shadows with the brush tool

Select a new layer below your subject, for shadows behind your subject.

Use the brush tool to paint shadows. Keep the brush fairly hard for shadows that meet the subject. I add a new layer for each part of the shadow as it moves away from the subject – dark, mid, light.

Reduce the hardness of the brush as you move through the three layers of shadow. I use a super soft brush for the mid and light shadows.

Reduce the opacity of the brush to as little as 4%. It’s easy to add more depth. Start light.

Sometimes I have 5 or 6 shadow layers for a subject, or part of a subject, adding a bit at a time. Plus it easier to get rid of mistakes!

Top tip for believable brush shadows! – Colour match the brush colour to the shadows on your original subject using the dropper tool!

How I create my fine art photos

To create my images, I deconstruct my original idea into a number of individual images.

Then I capture those images on camera whenever possible. I prefer to use my own images. But if an idea requires an image I can’t capture, then I use stock photo sites. Unsplash and Pixabay offer some good quality free images.

Next, I use Photoshop to layer, blend and adjust the images to create one perceived photo. Believability is something I work hard on in Photoshop. I like my work to have a sense of realism.

To ensure believability, where the shadows and highlights fall are especially important.

Check back in a few days for a post on adding shadows in photoshop.

Take care, Michelle 🙂

Happily ever after

“Kiss me and I’ll turn into a prince. Then we can get married and you can be a princess,” said the toad.

“I don’t want to be a princess and I don’t want to marry a prince!” exclaimed Hope. ” But I do need a horse… ”

With a swish of her wand, the Frog Prince grew tall and sleek, with a flowing black mane and jet black skin.

 “You make a pretty pony!” Hope beamed. The frog prince snorted and stamped his foot. “Oh, shush,’ replied Hope. “I’ll restore you to your princely glory. But first I need you to take me somewhere.” She waved her wand above her head. Her body grew and her wings disappeared. She climbed onto the Frog prince and whispered into his ear, “Where we’re going, I need to be human, and I need your speed.”

A lot of traditional children’s stories end with a ‘happily ever after’, which is often the main female lead marry a prince of some sort.

While this was the only aspiration offered to girls in centuries gone by, it is now outdated and patronising.

The stories that we read with our very young children help shape their brains, beliefs and values. With these traditional stories, are we subtly programming our little girls to believe that happiness lies in marrying their prince?

I don’t mind reading them, I think they are part of our historic culture. My daughter loves these stories and already aspires to get married!😱 🤪However, these stories need to be counter balanced with stories of strong female characters who’s happily ever afters don’t involve being rescued or getting married. I struggle to find a huge variety of such stories.

If you have any story book recommendations to inspire little girls, please leave them in the comments!

Fairy stories

I loved fairy stories when I was a child: Enchanted worlds filled with magic; the battle between good and evil; places where anything was possible and my imagination could run free.

I read every fairy story ever written – quite a claim I know – but I’m sure I did.

I went through phase of being obsessed with actual fairies. I loved their miniature worlds, where ordinary objects and places became things of awe and wonder. A walk in the woods or the bottom of my garden became filled with fairy possibilities of how they lived, what they did, who they spent their time with.

When lockdown began, I was seriously ill and just out of hospital. It took a month to be strong enough to venture out for a walk in local woodland. And when I did I was greeted with a sea of bluebells. It was beautiful and enchanting. I was transported back to my childhood, back to fairy stories and fairy gardens, to a place where magical things happened.

These woods inspired me. I was giddy with excitement as I waded through bluebells and foliage, looking for tiny places where fairies might be. There, I was transported back to my childhood, creating miniature worlds with my imagination, surrounded by nature, which was so soothing during such a difficult time.

Being unable to go anywhere beside the woods over the past few months, I have focused on creating these fairy pictures. From capturing the pictures to editing the details, the creative process is always cathartic.

I’ve also learnt new editing skills along the way. Trying a different type of image requires a different creative process and I love learning new tricks.

More to come on editing soon.