November Photographer Spot Light with Christy Smith

Q. Where are you located, and what are any hurdles you struggle with in your every day business.

I am located in Southwestern Idaho.  I live in an area that is very oversaturated with photographers of all skill levels.  As a professional, I have to truly set myself apart from others in this industry by giving my clients a completely unique and memorable experience.  

Q.  Where do you find inspiration for your art?

I find inspiration in the seasons.  I find it in the colors around me and in nature as it changes.  I find inspiration in my children and I especially find inspiration in my senior models.  I even find inspiration in my pets and in the beautiful creatures around me.  I have a background in rodeo, livestock, 4-H and FFA and this inspires me greatly.

Q.  Where do you see your passion taking you in the next 5 years?

I have grown so much as an artist and as an individual in the past few years that when I look forward five years, I am truly excited about the possibilities. I plan to invest in myself over the next few years, especially by taking workshops whenever possible and learning as much as I possibly can.  

I would like to potentially teach some classes of my own and return to new aspiring photographers skills and information that I so desperately needed when I was first starting out.I hope to become recognized in some well-known publications.Most importantly, I just want to continue to learn and grow.  It makes me a better photographer, yes, but it also helps to make me a better person. 

Q.  Is photography something that has always been a part of your life, or when & how did you get inspired to become such an amazing photographer?

I have always loved photography, but I didn’t truly understand how much until just a few years ago.  I don’t remember a time that I didn’t have a camera in my hand, but I didn’t own a professional grade camera until 2013.  

In 2012, I went to load all of my personal photos to the cloud and at that time (which seemed like a great deal then), I had 27,000 photos to upload.  It was my husband who said, “Maybe you need to look at doing this on a larger scale.”  His aunt who was a photographer, told me – “Now, save up for the camera that you want… Now, save up for it twice.”  So, I did.  I didn’t settle for the first DSLR that I could afford and I’m so glad that I waited.

I began to add better glass (lenses) and when I was able to, a full frame body.  I took pictures of everything and learned some hard lessons along the way.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to shoot some beautiful events and sessions and become recognized for my work.

Q.  If you could shoot only for pleasure and not income, what would be your focus?

I will admit that I am not a specialist.  I have never narrowed down my area of specialty of photography.  Maybe it’s my ADD or maybe it’s just the fact that I love the beauty of so many different things.  I have learned along the way what I don’t want to shoot, and I have now learned how to say “no.”  I think that that is a hugely important thing to know.

If I could only shoot for pleasure, I would shoot more themed shoots.  I love the creativity that goes into them and I love the feeling that you get when you view the finished product.

Q.  Favorite post editing tools for getting the looks you achieve?

I love Photoshop actions and I have just recently discovered Alien Skin.  I wouldn’t be a photographer without them.  I know that I can do hand edits, but why would I want to when we have these beautiful tools that have been created for us to achieve these amazing looks to our portraits?

Q.  What are your favourite Chasing Light Actions?  

This is such an incredibly hard question to answer.  Some of my absolute favorite actions that I use consistently from Chasing Light Actions are the entire Retouch set, Maleficent, Cruella, Romantica, Romancing the Stone, and the Black and White set.Chasing Light Actions are the most amazing actions in my editing collection.  You can adjust them to suit any type of portrait for the most individual and unique looks to work!

Q.  What would you say is the best tool for your workflow, that you have purchased from Chasing Light?

The best tool that I have ever purchased from Chasing Light or any action producer is Chasing Light’s Retouch set.  I use this set on absolutely every portrait I edit.  I even use this set on pets (The sharpening eyes is spectacular!)  I use this set to start off every edit and I cannot imagine where I would be in my work without it.  Chasing Light’s Skin Perfection action in the Retouch set is unrivaled.

Q.  What Off Camera Flash do you use (if any)?

When working in my studio, I use Alien Bee’s, both 400 and 800’s with a 60” Octaboxand 24x36” Softboxes.  I also use a Beauty Dish depending on the session.When I am using OCF outside, I use a Canon 430 exii with a 26” Westcott Rapid box Octabox with a Yongnuo 622c transceiver set-up.

Q.  (If you are) How do you juggle being a mom, wife and a professional photographer? 

This is definitely the most difficult part of being a photographer.  My husband is a truck driver for Wal*Mart and is home approximately a day-and-a-half each week.   I still have three of my five children living at home and when my photography career took off, I used to always say that I was looking for “balance.”  I’ve given up on that.  I now say that I’m looking for “harmony.”  Synonyms for harmony are peace, cooperation, and understanding.  As long as my family respects one another and each other’s goals, we can all be successful.  I am blessed that my family is very proud of me.

Q.  Photographers you watch for inspiration?

There are so many photographers that I love to follow, but I think it is important to let them inspire you to a degree, but to always keep your work your own.While I love to follow photographers that are known on a larger scale, the women that I follow who I know personally who have influenced me on a greater level are important to me for inspiration.

  1. Katelyn James - Wedding
  2. Tami Brundage – Newborn
  3. Alexia Wardell – Seniors
  4. Chelsea Shinkle – Wedding, Family & Children
  5. Krista Melone – Wedding, Boudoir, & Conceptual
  6. Nikki Britt – Landscapes
  7. Rachel Murillo – Beauty & Children
  8. Sam Marvin – Seniors
  9. Jessica Southfield - Newborn
  10. Thank you Christy for this amazing and informative Interview!

Here are some of her amazing before and after shots using Chasing Light Actions!

For more information on Christy you can visit her here:

Finding Inspiration - Merging it with Your Vision

"Where or where, far out there Inspiration?
Where is it, where can I find it?"

So, the way I know I'm losing my creative "edge" is normally when I cannot find inspiration, or a flood of creativity any more.  The thought of picking up my camera feels more like a "job" than a passion.

Normally when this happens, its time for me to take a trip, whether its just a drive away for the weekend, put the phone down, shut down social media and snuggle up with my sweetie, or jumping on a plane and going to a big city and walking for  hours.

I knew I was reaching this point a couple weeks ago, nothing I did was anything I "loved" and I felt like I was falling flat on the creative side of things.  My recent trip to Los Angeles was just what I needed.  Walking around, seeing all kinds of clothing, being able to purchase very inexpensive wardrobe for my studio, and seeing the visions of beauty I would create with them, brought back my excitement.

We all evolve and grow, we change direction, and try new things during this photography journey. This next year I am doing a ton a speaking, teaching and traveling.  This is a new direction for me, since I normally focus on portrait sessions and creative work within my little area of Canada.  I am excited to meet a bunch of fellow photographers, share what I do, how I do it and see the fruit of that sharing come out of other photographers work.

At the same time, I feel my own creative juices evolving, changing.  I have never been interested in fashion photography, the photography of clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc, has never been anything of interest to me.  I've always been much more enraptured by the person, and the clothing was a supporting part of the image.  But now, I feel like I want to step up the high end portrait game by using much more interesting wardrobe, so since I can't afford to buy the amazing designs I'm most drawn to, I will start sewing more.  Ah, I have so many stories to tell via imagery, I'm excited for this next chapter.

Word of advice?  Don't get distracted by other photographers work.  I know, I know, its hard. But if you are constantly seeing someone else's work, and are trying to recreate it, you will suffocate the "you" in your work.  Nothing wrong with seeing imagery that resonates with you and loving it, but in order to be true to YOUR work and YOUR style, you need to find a way to implement tiny pieces of that into your work, and stop trying to make that image, as yours.

I feel like my style and body of work is a compilation of all the online courses, all images I adore, all my favorite photographers, kind of merged into ME.  Most people can see an image and know it is mine long before they see my watermark or my name.

So take trip, shut down for a couple days if you feel uninspired.  Remember the most important part of our lives are our families and our friends.  Spending more time with them and laughing and loving them, a lot of times will be all we need to get refreshed and re-stimulated!  


One on One Workshops with Nikki Harrison

This week marked the first one on one workshop of the year here in the Okanagan Valley.

Cheryl came in from Florida, a good 10 hour travel time via air to get here, that is dedication to her craft and determination to learn.  

I hired local make up artist Saara Labib and hair stylist Katie Hantula, and between the two of them, the looks were nothing short of amazing!

Local models came from our International Agency, DejaVu Models run by Mother Agent  Sabrina Notte, her dedication and the training she provides her models, is so clearly demonstrated in the talent and professionalism they have when on a job.

Wardrobe provided by local vintage consignment store Georgie Girl, and these items are available for sale on their online store as well!

Cheryl wanted to learn more about styling, shooting in natural and continuous lighting set ups, and then how to edit for it.

My student Cheryl, hanging out while we get ready for out next model-look.  Of course Charming has to be with us!

My student Cheryl, hanging out while we get ready for out next model-look.  Of course Charming has to be with us!

Here's what Cheryl had to say about her experience:

"I attended Nikki Harrison's one on one workshop April 2016.  I travelled from Florida to Canada for the workshop and was so happy I did.  The workshop was everythingI could have asked for.  Nikki was attentive and invested a lot of time in making sure I received help in any area that was important to me.  She listened which is a factor that has been lacking in most of the workshops I have attended.  The models were professional and hair and make up was impeccable.  I was able to watch and participate in a photo shoot of first class caliber.  When it came to the editng portion of the workshop Nikki went out of her way to make sure I understood what she was doing and would repeat if necessary.  She spent time with me beyond the expected.  I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone.  I plan to go back myself.  Thank you Nikki for making me feel at home, you are truly a kind soul and I am blessed to have met and spent time with you.  A true talent!!!"

What image makes a better black and white version?

Often I see people post on social media that they "can't decide" which version they prefer.  Color or black and white.  I don't do a lot of black and white imagery, because I am really drawn to color, it makes me feel something.

Occasionally, there are images that even when they are shot well, the pose is good, it pulls some emotion out, there is something lacking.  These images could  be converted to black and white for more impact.  Or, should they?  

Believe it or not, there are images that simply look better in black and white.  It really has nothing to do with anything other than light, and a bit of color.

The best images you can consider converting to black and white are ones where the image is quite dark, with the majority of the light on the subject's skin.  

Here is an example:

The color image is ok.  It's not "wow".  I found the colors rather boring, but I knew the light was nice because it was focus'd right on the subject.  Once it was converted (using Black Dhalia from the Black and White Set), to me, it is now a much more impactful image.  The eye is drawn straight to the subject and the back ground becomes rather unnoticeable.

New Bundle of Textures, Sky & Moon Overlay's Out!

It has been a long time coming, but finally there are new textures and overlay's available.  These are some awesome add on's to your arsenal of creative tools. The image below was edited with Retouch + Floral Overlays + Moody Black and White (Kiss Set) + texture from this new Awakening Bundle.  Go check it out today!

Awakening Bundle by Chasing Light

Awakening Bundle by Chasing Light

How to minimize "banding" in Images

So many times when you use a blur tool from Photoshop to your image and then throw on a gradient or two, you will get "banding" in your image.  There is a way to minimize this, it doesn't always get rid of it completely though. First you have to create your pattern or noise pattern that you want to create.  Lets start with a new document.

Make it about 80x80 pixels in size, in 8-bit RGB colour. Next go to Edit, choose Fill. Then, choose Filter -> noise -> add noise. --->  settings are:   Amount - 5%, Distribution - Uniform You should see a little grey box now. Choose Edit - Define Pattern - Name it Noise, press OK.

After you have finished with your blur tool and gradient tool, add a new fill layer from your layer menu.  Choose pattern. Set your blend mode to "Linear Light" and the Opacity to between 20-25%. Make sure the pattern you are choosing in the next step is the one you just created.  Select OK.

Now paint the noise OFF your subject(s).  Remember the noise is so small you won't think you have to, but if you zoom in, you will see how important it is to do this.

Use this tool if you want to create creamy smooth backgrounds without banding.  It isn't prefect all the time, but will help a lot of the time!

CL- Tips and Tricks

CL- Tips and Tricks

Using the "Love Set" with Boudoir

I love natural light.  I love studio light.  Okay.  I love light.  Painting with light specifically.  When I shoot outside there is no real direction of the light, I shoot when the light is flat (cloudy) or just after sunset so that again, there is no real contrast.  This way I can direct the light any way I want.  However, when I shoot in studio, I can control every aspect of the lighting direction and achieve exactly what I see in my minds eye as well.  I don't shoot a lot of Boudoir.  Not that I don't want to, I just haven't.  I would like to, very much.  I think the female body is a work of art, an incredible schwoopy canvas on which to play.  (I love the word schwoopy, many young ladies ask me what that means when I tell them how to pose).  This is an example of schwoopy.  I love her posing ability and the fact that she is aware of herself.  The perfect model is one that is aware of themselves, and ooze the confidence to pull off the pose.  This image was processed with "Butterflies" from the Romance Set.  As you can see, there was a great deal of retouching to achieve the final effect.  The final "butterflies" action really did complete this image.



Boudoir Images and Chasing Light Actions

Just finished my first session of the year yesterday, here are a couple images I processed. This one was processed with "Moody Black & White" from the Kiss Set + "Butterflies" from the Love Set + "Old Hollywood" from the Chemistry Set.

Chasing Light Actions

Chasing Light Actions

This next one was processed with "Love Story 2" from the NEW Robust Romantic Actions Set 2 + "Rockefeller Center" from the NYC Texture Set.

Chasing Light Actions

Chasing Light Actions

Hand Editing 101

So what is the difference between hand editing, and photoshop actions? The ONLY difference is that an action is recorded, and editing without aid of an action is all free hand.  Or "Hand Editing" which seems to be the new term these days.

Are using actions a weak way out of learning photoshop?

There is no weak way, in a creative process.  There are time savers, and ways to harness other looks you may not have come up with on your own.   If someone says it is wrong or lazy to use an action, chances are, they are just trying to sell you something else...  I can pretty much guarantee at one point or another in every creative's process, they tried, bought, played with, alternative's to "hand editing" as an aid.

On a side note, the image example below shows this image from Adobe Camera Raw and this other one from Capture One.  I am a huge fan of Capture One, and what this software does to your images initially in Raw.  Wow.  Download your free trial today, you will be blown away.

hand edits by chasing light

hand edits by chasing light