Devon photographer

Featured student: Photography for Beginners: Composition, Posing and Light Course - Carisa Wenstrom

Composition, Posing and Light Student Carisa Wenstrom

Composition, Posing and Light Student Carisa Wenstrom

Firstly I just want to say how excited I am to introduce you to one of my photography students, in the first of what I hope will be a series of blog posts that will help us to get to know some of the members of my online photography community a little better!

To set the scene, I really love to share my knowledge and give up-and-coming photographers some little tips and tricks of the trade, so a couple of years ago I developed a series of online photography courses showing students how to make the best out of their DSLR cameras and really optimise their photography.

Two years down the line and I’m so delighted to have taught more than 5200 amazing students, in an unbelievable 121 countries – all via the brilliant media of video-based online courses, where I guide students through their learning bit by bit with lots of practical assignments along the way.

One of my favourite things has been getting to know my students a little better as they post their photographs in my online community group for photography enthusiasts – especially seeing a colourful array of images from all over the world!

Without further ado, I think it’s about time I shine a light on some of the talent that I’ve had the pleasure of coaching, starting with Carisa Wenstrom from Memphis, Tennessee (USA) who enrolled on my Photography for Beginners: Composition, Posing and Light course.

All images in this post are by Carisa - check out her beautiful work! 

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What is your experience in photography? How long have you been doing it, what do you like to shoot? Are you amateur, semi-pro or professional?

I’ve been a photographer for about a decade now (where does the time go??). My first subject was my daughter Lucy who was barely a year old at the time. I was hooked from the first *click*. Over the years I’ve explored different subjects like landscapes, weddings, etc. I kept coming back to portraits and still life which are mostly what I focus on today. I work full time as a graphic designer during the day, so I’d say my photography is definitely still in the hobby stages (with a few paid gigs here and there), but someday I’d love to really find my spot in the photography world and make a living from it.

What equipment do you shoot with?

Right now I use a Canon 60D, and I favorite my nifty fifty more than I care to admit (1.8 50mm). I’m saving up for a full-frame camera though, with my sights set on either a 6D or a 6D Mark II. And hopefully I can add a Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art lends to my arsenal one day if I get the Mark II (fingers crossed).

What were your biggest photography-based frustrations or difficulties before the course?

Posing and finding the right light. I love doing portraits - there’s something about being one-on-one with someone and making that connection that I feel really brings something magical to the photo. But posing has always been one of my biggest setbacks, and it’s something you don’t really think about until you’re in the moment and suddenly find yourself blanking on where to put your subject and what to tell them.

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What made you decide to do this photography course in particular?

The fantastic reviews of course! And the fact that this course covered natural lighting and posing, which are two of my biggest focus areas when it comes to improving my portrait photography.

What were your favourite parts of the course?

I really like the Case Study section, especially the Engagement Portraits and the Gypsy Caravans. Both were great in giving me a hands-on look at lighting and how to pose your subjects. Plus both locations were absolutely gorgeous! It was great to see Rosie really use those beautiful surroundings to add that extra something to her work.

How has it affected your photography?

Before taking the course, I was notorious for shooting anywhere and everywhere. I was so focused on just getting my subject captured that things like lighting and posing where always an after-thought. It wouldn’t be until post-production that I would really notice the missed opportunities. Now, lighting and posing are at the forefront of my thought process and I’ve been learning how to use these attributes to really boost my photos to the next level that I’m looking for. It’s also saved some time in post which is always a good thing, haha.

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I think you’ll agree, Carisa’s work is absolutely stunning, and it makes me really happy to think I helped play a small part in that!

Thank you so much Carisa for telling us a bit about yourself, and of course I am delighted to hear that you got some really specific benefits from taking the course.

If you’d like to see what the course is all about for yourself, I’ve got the course on sale for my blog readers at just £19.99 until the end of the week. Learn more here:

Or you might like to join Carisa and hundreds of other likeminded photographers over in my Facebook community group where you can join in some really fun monthly photo challenges – we’d love to see you there! xx

Devon family portraits on location at the beach : Clarke Family

I hope everyone had a really great Easter break and lovely May bank holiday, we had a great time! In the first week the kids went along to a children’s holiday club called The Secret Garden in Ottery St Mary, which you might’ve seen in my last blog post as naturally I couldn’t resist taking some photos! But while they were there I did some lovely family photoshoots at Beer beach (in East Devon) making the most of the children being off school and the amazing weather.

The sun was scorching down - it was pretty tricky to shoot with no cloud cover!

The sun was scorching down - it was pretty tricky to shoot with no cloud cover!

I don’t know what you did throughout the hot spell but wow, it was just stunning in Devon and I think it was across most of the country, so we really made the most of it down at Beer which is a gorgeous little fishing village if you don’t know it, with lots of colourful boats pulled up on the shore.

From a photographer’s perspective it was a little bit of a challenge as it was so bright, there’s not a lot of shade down there but I got some lovely shots of the Clarke family - Scott and Sharon along with their two daughters. We shot some pictures down by the cliffs which made a really nice textured backdrop and got a real mix of shots with the sea in the background and then the boats.

Sharon got some gorgeous matching dresses for the girls to wear especially for the shoot, which really does make a big difference to the final photographs – what you wear to a shoot is really important and I’m always happy to talk it though with my customers beforehand.

I think one of my favourite shots from this shoot was one with the older daughter surrounded by her family with her sister and mum and dad looking at her and cuddling her – I love this sort of shot because although it’s posed, it feels really natural and it really helps convey the love the family has for each other.

Talking of poses, when I photograph a family, I always try to get a balance of posed and natural, candid looking photos. On the beach I ask people to walk along holding hands, but with children it’s always important to keep things fun and fast paced, so I set up shots that bring out natural expressions but are still structured in a way to bring out the best in the people I’m photographing. I do always love getting people to focus on one another rather than the camera as it helps everyone relax!

After the Clarkes I had another family to shoot who’d travelled 5 hours from Reading with their young baby on a Bank Holiday – I look forward to sharing their photos soon! But luckily for me, I was able to have a little break in between shoots and when it’s sunny, Beer is just the best place to work – I sat at the beach café with a latte and my laptop and it was just marvellous, I felt so lucky to do my job.

If you have a nice sunny day with nothing to do then I do recommend heading down to Beer, it’s a lovely place to relax, with two cafes on the beach and for me, just a great place to take pictures.

Interested in photography?

Join my free Facebook community group to take part in monthly photography challenges, ask any photography related questions and share your own photographs with a likeminded community of enthusiasts.

You can also learn how to make the best of your own camera and learn the basics of photography on one of my online photography courses here.

Photographing the Secret Garden Children's Holiday Club, Ottery St Mary

Over the Easter holidays you might’ve seen that I’ve been busy with some beautifully sunny pop-up photography sessions on Beer beach in East Devon, and while I was behind the camera, my own kids went to a rather special holiday club at The Secret Garden in Ottery St Mary.

Summer and Sienna after a happy day, swinging over the stream at the Secret Garden!

Summer and Sienna after a happy day, swinging over the stream at the Secret Garden!

I’d known about it for a little while and had been keen for the kids to go but some of you will know that I have no less than four children and at £40 per day per child it was a bit of a consideration! But with a full diary of bookings for the week I thought I’d spoil them and book them in for a couple of special days that the owner, Jules Corkhill, was running - and as it turns out, it was well worth it!

The first special event was a blacksmithing day and at first I thought, ‘wow, can kids even do that?!’ – but I finished work early that day and my curiosity got the better of me so I popped in to join them for the last hour and it was great! Of course, I couldn’t resist getting my camera out and snapping some nice shots of the children at play.

I wondered how they would encorporate a furness into the day - would they come up with a makeshift forge in the garden? Who knew!? But it all became clear as small groups gathered around Jules’ chiminea in the garden, just two children at a time. I enjoyed watching my two girls heat up the copper and make it into bracelets, and even getting involved in hammering the metal. It was so lovely to see them producing something beautiful and also having fun and enjoying themselves in the process!

Aside from the bracelet-making, there was so much else to enjoy about The Secret Garden – it’s so unassuming from the front, a wooden gate in a wall which doesn’t look like much and then you go through and it opens up into this AMAZING huge garden. They’ve got a pet pig, a stream running through the garden with swings suspended over the water – and the children just loved running around having the best time, it was really lovely to see! I wish we lived there!

So, here’s some of the photos from their blacksmithing day and if you like them, do check out The Secret Garden for your own kids - I’ve linked up the website here.  

If you’ve got a special occasion or party coming up, or even just a summer’s day in your own garden, don’t hesitate to contact me as I’d be pleased to come and capture some beautiful photographs of your own family and friends for you to keep and look back on.

Interested in photography?

Join my free Facebook community group to take part in monthly photography challenges, ask any photography related questions and share your own photographs with a likeminded community of enthusiasts.

You can also learn how to make the best of your own camera and learn the basics of photography on one of my online photography courses here.