Exploring Color With Claire

Shooting in Downtown Los Angeles with my friends was the thing i'd do after a bad day in High School. In that process, I learned so much about the importance of good lighting, controlling long exposures, and how sketchy the Los Angeles transportation system can be. I seriously don't know how I made it back home safe every night. I did it until now that i'm in Braselton, Georgia, where the city is about an hour drive away, so I don't really get the chance to do that anymore! Which sucks because to me, going out for a casual shoot in the city, especially with another person as your subject, is something I found deeply therapeutic.

I flew into Los Angeles to visit around February 7th after living in Georgia for a few months. It felt good to be back in an environment i'm familiar with. The rush of the city is like a constant pressure to be productive, something of which i'm fond about. Out of spontaneity, I reached out to an internet friend of mine to see if she would be interested to meet downtown for food and photos, to my excitement she agreed! Here's the result of a day of photos made out of pure excitement to shoot in my city again. 

Sometimes I can't make up my mind so I make 50 different edits and see what works best.


I ended up going with this one, lol.


I'm really proud of the processing on this one.

I think what makes it 'pop' is the very small but specific curves adjustments I made on the highlights. Use this tool a lot more if you aren't currently, don't let it intimidate you. It lets you specifically target contrast through out your image, its the secret to perfect tones!

The sharpening and noise reduction was carefully dialed in to the best of my ability, I am no export on this tool yet but i'm trying to get better at it. I also used a brush to sharpen and expose her eyes a bit more. The edges are blurred a bit to give the image a fantasy feel.


Here's the original version of the photo.


Before the vibes.

Vibes: A

Vibes: A

Vibes: B

Vibes: B

Couldn't make my mind up on a vibe so I made em both. Which one do you vibe with the most?


Mounted a vintage Nikorr 50mm 1.4 AI-S to my Sony A6500.


Not a fan of split-toned black & white but I told myself I would try more things I stay away from when it comes to editing and i've actually become very comfortable with it. I've tried my best to make it look as organic as possible without making it look cheesy.


I was kicking myself about the lighting here until I turned it around and post and restored some of the shadows under her eyes that is causing the image to look not right.


It was a great opportunity to break out the curves and mess with it until it looked correct in my eye, I also softened the edges again and used a brush with the exposure set to 1 and painted over her cheek bone to accentuate it.


My attempt at black and white. I'm not great at it, but being not great is sign of progress. I like my colors more but can see it's use for portraits.


Edges were de-hazed but restored with contrast with the blacks and shadows sitting in the negatives. This gives it a faded yet vibrant texture to the image. Also the cherry blossoms in the back made this photo for me. This was shot on a Sony A6500 and my new Sigma 16mm 1.4 lens.


The real beauty of this particular piece of glass is the fact that it is so wide yet so shallow in depth of field. This combination gives the photo a 3D feel I find.

Claire In The City (Experiment)


Shot handheld in S-LOG 2 'Pro' color mode on the Sony A6500 paired with the new Sigma 16mm 1.4. The car sounds were recorded separately with a Zoom H6 and a Rode NTG-2. Color graded with the curves tool and textured with Filmconvert Pro 16mm grain in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

My Process

b&a glow.jpg

The dolly-zoom was easy. I just walked towards my subject and had her turn her head to look forward when I got to a specific distance. In post, I warp-stabilized the clip, then I just zoomed in until the frame of her outline in the first frame of the clip is about the same size as the last frame. It doesn't have to be exact, and since I shot in 1080p, zooming in and out caused a degrade in quality. I added 16mm grain from Filmconvert Pro to try and cover up some of the pixelation. I find footage very usable for most purposes using this method. A duplicate of the original clip overlayed with a gaussian blur set to the screen blending mode to give it the ghostly glow effect. The opacity changes from 100 to 30-ish to create the transition.

I don't know what I would call a clip like this. I'll call them experiments for now. The nature of this clip is short and edited in a way that is fun to play back over and over again, which is great given the average attention span these days. I make these clips with every set of photos I take to help me practice a range of editing techniques.

All photos were processed with COLOUR I and COLOUR II presets as a foundation to my editing in Lightroom. If you download these presets, please do not use them as a crutch. Tweak them, reverse engineer them, see what I do and try to do it a different way, do it better. Point being reverse engineering presets by other photographers was how I developed my own style, and developing your own style is crucial to your art.

Inspiration is a load of bullshit.

Inspiration is a load of bullshit.

When it comes down to it, ‘inspiration’ is just a fancy word for ‘excited’, and if you have any experience with either, you’ll know that they eventually run out. The problem is that inspiration, motivation, whatever you want to call it, will inevitably escape as quickly as it came in.

Of course it's okay to take advantage of those feelings. I myself thrive in those moments, but inspiration is not something you can count on forever because although you started enthusiastically, the hardships you'll face throughout the process will quickly drain you of any inspiration you had from the get go. If you rely on it to get your work done, you'll never get anything done.

So what do you do when it starts to get incredibly difficult to stay optimistic?

Stop Obsessing Over The End Result

Before starting your project, you fantasize about the destination without considering the journey and that actually makes you feel like you've already reached your goal! It's smart to have expectations, but the more I make the more I find myself getting something completely different in return, sometimes, for the better. Train yourself to be okay with getting different results, the important part is getting it done. This is something I personally struggle with on a daily basis. 

Be Persistent

Schedule your creative times and start small if you really have to. Sometimes you’ll produce mediocre ideas, other times you’ll create a masterpiece. Allowing yourself to create subpar work gives you the opportunity to learn from the mistakes and to find your identity within that task, so stop waiting for those good days and grind on your worst days. Putting in your repetitions is key.

Declare A Deadline

‘Inspiration’ to me comes from giving myself a deadline. It's funny how you find yourself to be your most creative when your deadline begins to approach you isn't it? Deadline pressure is a great motivator, so try publicly committing to one and see what it does for you.

Just Take Action

You make your impact with action, not with contemplation. Starting small, even if it's taking it a day at a time will get you into a productive flow and you won't want to stop once you begin. Inspiration is easier to sustain when you're in this state of mind. Stop thinking about it and starting doing it. It's what you do that defines you after all.

Final thoughts, nothing good comes easy. If you want to reap the benefits of accomplishing something big, something victorious, you have to put in the work. Think about it: If it were easy, everybody would be successful! You have to physically get your ass up and do it even if you don’t feel like doing it. Inspiration is awesome when it's there, but it's not the end of the world if isn't. Love y'all, keep creating!

Reach out if you want to talk about this particular subject. This is somewhat of a public letter to myself, but I hope you can find some substance in it and apply it to your creative lifestyle. Social media links below: