6 Quick Photoshop Tips For The Non-Digital Artist

By Nicole Tinkham

Have you tried to explore the possibilities of Photoshop only to give up after 10 minutes over how complicated it seemed? We hear you artists! Photoshop is an absolutely incredible program if you know what you’re doing. But for the newbie, the numerous tools can be overwhelming. If you’re an artist who just wants to adjust a few reference photos or simply get your feet wet in the program, this blog is for you! We’ll go over everything from sizing to saving in this super basic Photoshop crash course. Read on for 6 quick Photoshop tips for the non-digital artist.

1.    Adjust the angle

Adjusting the angle of the image is rather simple but you may want to use the ruler tool (in the left hand tool bar under the eye dropper icon – Click and hold the icon for other options to come up and make your selection) to draw a straight line to compare. When you draw your straight line with the ruler tool, you can hold the “Shift” key while you click & drag to create a totally straight line. See the screenshot below for how to make your angle adjustments.


2.    Sizing

See image below on how to open up the resizing options. When you go to resize your image, a helpful tool is the “Constraint” symbol which will keep the image in proportion.


3.    Enhancing the color

To play around with the color of your image, you want to go to “Image” at the top of your screen and then hover over “Adjustments”. There are many options here (we briefly describe them below) so the best way to discover what they do is just to play around with them. Have fun with this and don’t panic if you don’t like something. You can always go to “Edit” and “Undo” to take a step back if you don’t like it.


Brightness/Contrast: Adjusts the tonal range
Levels: Adjusts the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights to correct an image
Curves: Allows you to adjust the tonal range in more detail
Exposure: Allows you to adjust the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights
Vibrance: Adjust saturation of all the colors or selective colors
Hue/Saturation: Allows you to play with the saturation on a particular color
Color Balance: Bring out specific colors in the image
Black & White: Turns the image grayscale
Photo Filter: Applies different color filters like “Warming Filter” and “Cooling Filter”
Channel Mixer: Tints the image
Color Lookup: Different styles added to your image which are already created for you
Invert: A negative of the photo
Posterize: Produces a poster-like look
Threshhold: Creates a black and white version of your image
Gradient Map: Creates different gradient fills for the image
Selective color: Allows you to select a color and then change it
Shadows/Highlights: Easily adjusts shadows and highlights

4.    Sharpness

If your photo doesn’t look perfect when you get it into Photoshop, don’t worry. You can always sharpen it for more detail and crispness. See screenshot below for how to do it!


5.    Adding text

If you want to add a title or quote to your image, you simply click the “T” icon on the sidebar and your type options (font, color, alignment, etc.) will be along the top bar. Draw out a text box and begin typing. Then you can format that text however you like.


6.    Saving files

When it comes to saving your file, you have many format options. You can find these in the drop down menu “Save As Type” when you go to save. Below we’ve listed some of the most commonly used formats and what to use them for.


PSD: Photoshop format, the default format that you can open back up and edit in Photoshop
EPS: Encapsulated PostScript, rasterized image that can be transferred between applications
JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group, compressed file used to display photos in HTML docs
PDF: Portable Document Format, A cross-platform format that preserves font and page layout.
PNG: Portable Network Graphics, Used for web graphics

We know this is a lot to take in all at once but take your time to explore Photoshop. There are so many creative things you can do with it. If you ever get stuck, there are a ton of resources out there that you can reference. You can also reach out to us (leave a comment below) and we’ll do our best to answer your Photoshop questions or at least point you in the right direction. Now over to you! We can’t wait to see what you end up creating with this incredible tool.

How To Take The Best Fall Foliage Photos For Your Next Painting

By Nicole Tinkham


Each season brings something new and exciting to spark your creativity and get some brilliant ideas flowing for your upcoming projects. Whenever you’re feeling stuck and just don’t know what to create next, turn to nature! With the changing seasons, there’s always something new to discover and try. We absolutely love the colors of fall and think this is the perfect time to get out there and be inspired. If you’re not a plein air artist, no problem! Here are 13 tips for taking the best fall foliage photos to help you with your next painting.

1.    Unique angles – Fall scenery photos have been done before, numerous times. They’re almost always brilliant but to mix it up a little try out different perspectives. Look up at the trees, get a close up, snap a photo from a distance, and just play around.

2.    Find color elsewhere (not in trees) – Gorgeous fall colors can be found in other areas besides trees. Think about the yellows and oranges reflecting in the water. You can still capture that color but in a unique way.

3.    Strategically scatter leaves for composition – Leaves fall randomly which we love! But if they just aren’t working for your photo, arrange them in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing.

4.    Look for a combination of colors – Don’t just focus on the oranges and yellows of the leaves. Also try to get in a nice blue sky for contrast or something else in the scenery that really stands out. Color is all around. Open your eyes to see the not so obvious.

5.    Look for cool effects – When a row of trees reflects in a body of water the effects can be really cool. If you spot this at just the right time (can’t have much wind!) snap a photo real quick.

6.    Scout out the perfect place – If you happen to be at the right place at the right time, perfect! But if you’re on a mission, don’t aimlessly drive around. Plan it out and know exactly where you want to go so you don’t waste your time blindly searching for the ideal location.

7.    Choose your time wisely – They say the best times to shoot are at dawn and sunset. At these times, the sunlight is at its warmest color so photos tend to come out really nice. But if your timing is off, don’t let that stop you. You can still capture amazing photos at other times in the day.

8.    Get the most of the whole season – There’s more than one type of scenery to capture in the fall. You have the moments when the trees are full, when leaves start to fall, when leaves pile up on the ground, and then when winter comes and the trees are bare. You have many opportunities to capture the different stages of fall.

9.    Slow down your shutter – This will help you capture movement in waterfalls and falling leaves.

10.    Tripods make life easier! You may want to invest in one to get the best scenery shots.

11.    Bring leaves home to play around with – The tricky thing with leaves is when they blow around out in nature. Instead of getting the job done there, grab some good ones and bring them back to the studio. You can arrange them and photograph them exactly how you want.

12.    Fall portraits – Get creative! There are so many fun ways to capture fall foliage in portraits.

13.    Other fall things – When we think fall, we typically think beautifully changing trees. However, there are other ways to portray the fall feeling. Think farmer’s markets and apple cider.

Don’t let this beautiful season pass you by! You don’t have to be a pro to get incredible photos, just follow these tips even if you’re working from your smartphone. Keep an eye out for interesting perspectives and beautiful colors. Even if you’re working on several paintings at the moment, it doesn’t hurt to snap a few photos to have for later use, like in the middle of winter when you don’t want to leave the house.

Tell us, have you taken any breathtaking fall foliage photos yet this year? We’d love to hear how they’ve helped you with your painting projects!

5 Top tips for taking better photos of paintings

By Nicole Tinkham
5 Top tips for taking better photos of paintings

Are you still wasting time snapping photos of your artwork with your smartphone in bad lighting, trying to get rid of the shine and glare, and becoming frustrated with the whole process? We understand the struggle all too well. Before giving up and hiring a professional, read over these 5 top tips for taking better photos of paintings. You don’t even have to be a camera know-it-all to achieve a nice photo of your work. It’s all about the right equipment, lighting, and some simple camera settings that do all the work for you.

1.    Invest in a camera and a tripod

If you want PROFESSIONAL quality photos of your paintings (which we strongly recommend), you’ll need to invest in a decent camera. Sorry, but your smartphone may not cut it this time. We must admit, we aren’t the camera experts but this blog does a great job on explaining what to look for when shopping for a camera.

A sturdy tripod is another thing you’ll want to have. They allow you to line up your shot and keep the camera steady for a nice picture. They don’t cost a whole lot but you should invest in a decent one that’s easy to use and easy to move around.

2.    Photograph paintings BEFORE framing them

When photographing your artwork, you want to avoid shine at all costs! That means no varnish and no glass frame unless of course you want shiny highlights in your photo (trust us, you don’t want that!). Wait until all photography is finished before framing.

3.    Get the perfect lighting

When possible, use natural lighting to photograph your artwork. Hint: Morning light seems to work best! If you’re taking photos outside, do it when there’s a little bit of overcast so the light isn’t too harsh. When taking photos, we’re typically concerned with whether or not the subject is in the frame. This is important but you should also train your eye to notice the lighting. The light should be consistent over the whole piece. You don’t want one side to be in shadow and the other side to be lighter. Check and make sure you can see all the details in the painting. Too light and it’ll look washed out. Too dark and you’ll struggle with lightening it without losing detail when editing. Also make sure you can’t see any white highlights from the weave of the canvas. These can appear when you’re at the wrong angle. Simply adjust the canvas and lighting until you get the perfect angle and those weaves disappear.

4.    Adjust the camera settings

There are a ton of camera settings you can play around with but here are some of the basics that can really make your life easier.

TIME DELAY: A time delay will shoot the photo a couple seconds late which prevents the blurriness that a shaky hand or finger can cause. You can simply press the button and remove your hand from the camera before it takes the photo.

AUTO FOCUS: Let the camera do the focusing for you. Just make sure that the painting is straight and parallel with the camera.

TURN OFF AUTO FLASH: If you don’t have enough light, move around until you do. Using your camera’s auto flash is a big no-no when photographing your work! Instead, play around with lighting elsewhere.

5.    Edit your photos

Don’t freak out about editing your photos! You aren’t doing any major edits, just these few minor things:

Crop the image so you don’t have too much background in your photo

Straighten the image

Adjust the brightness (but only slightly!)

Save different versions and different sizes for print and web

Remember what’s IMPORTANT. Focus on your artwork and stress less about the photography side of things. Investing in a decent camera and tripod will make your life much easier. Lighting can be difficult but play around with it until you find something that works for you. You don’t have to be a photographer to get great photos of your paintings. Just follow the super simple tips in this post and you’ll be well on your way.

What are you currently struggling with when it comes to selling/promoting your artwork? Leave a COMMENT below and it could be our next blog topic!

What you need to know about hard light and soft light

By Nicole Tinkham

What you need to know about hard light and soft light

You don’t have to be a photographer for lighting to make an impact on your artwork. Whether you’re doing a photo shoot, taking reference photos or setting up a still life, it’s important to get the lighting just right. We know how complicated and frustrating lighting can get especially when working outside. That’s why we’re taking it step by step starting with the two main types of light: hard and soft. Here’s what you need to know about the two and how to achieve each look.

What is hard light?

Hard light produces a great amount of contrast with bright light and dark shadows. You can often see defined lines where the shadows are. You can remember hard light by thinking about the hard edges created by shadows. Use this type of lighting for a harsher look.

How to achieve hard light

To obtain a harsh contrast between light and dark, you can do one of two things. You can use the sun, in which case you’ll have to determine what direction you want the light to come from and schedule your photo shoot or art session accordingly. Really think about how you want the light shining on your subject. Do you want the light source coming down right over top of the subject? Do you want your model gazing into the sunset? When it comes to natural light, it’s all about timing. A cloudless day is PERFECT for hard lighting.
And of course you can always use studio lighting to achieve the harsh look as well. You can use a flash, a bare bulb (light without a shade) or spotlight to do this. Remember that the closer the subject it to the light, the harsher the contrast will be.

What is soft light?

Soft light is the exact opposite of hard light, producing soft shadows that seamlessly blend into light areas (unlike the harsh edges mentioned previously). You can think of it as light that wraps around the subject. The shadows are so gradual that you can’t make out where they begin and where they end. Soft light is ideal for portraits because it’s a flattering light on anyone.

The power of natural lighting

Soft light is best achieved in natural lighting which can be a little tricky sometimes. You don’t have as much control over natural lighting as you do with studio lighting but when you get it just right, the results are incredible. Here are a few things to keep in mind when going after a soft look with natural light:

Open shade
Open shade is something to be aware of when working by a building or something of the sort. The side of the building opposite the sun will produce something known as open shade. When working in open shade, your subject should face outward (not toward the building) to achieve shadows without the harshness.

Clouds are an excellent way to achieve a soft light but you can’t always count on them. When it’s a little overcast, make the most of it.

It is possible to achieve a soft natural light without going outside. You can set your photo shoot up in front of a north facing window and diffuse the light if needed with a white curtain.

Soft boxes

Soft boxes are another way to achieve a soft light. The further away you go and the LARGER the light source, the softer the light will be.

What you need to know

Basically, hard light is hard shadows that can be achieved when the light source is smaller than the subject. You can easily see where the shadows begin. Soft light produces shadows that blend into the light areas and is achieved when the light source is larger than the subject. You cannot determine where the shadows begin with soft lighting.

As far as which type of light to use, it all depends on the look you’re going for. Hard light is very dramatic and can be difficult to get just right. When done right, however, it can be very powerful. As mentioned, portraits are best done with soft light as it’s flattering on anyone. Soft light gives an overall softer look.

Lighting seems to be a never ending topic from warm vs cool, natural vs studio lighting, angles, and more. We know that our minds were spinning when doing the research on lighting. This mini guide on hard vs soft light is short and simple for a reason. It gives you just enough information to start playing around with different lighting. Stay tuned for further blogs on the topic to expand your lighting knowledge.

How to take better pictures with your smartphone

By Nicole Tinkham

How to take better pictures with your smartphone

STOP! Before you hire a photographer to take professional photos, read on to discover how you, the amateur, can take high quality photos right from your smartphone. Whether you’re photographing your artwork, gathering inspiration, capturing special moments, or just trying to get an interesting shot for your Instagram account, we can help you seem like a pro even if you aren’t one. Ready to give it a SHOT? Here’s how to take better pictures with your smartphone.
1.    The rule of thirds
When you go to take a picture where do you typically align the subject? In the center of the frame, right? Actually, the trick is to break the frame up into thirds both horizontally and vertically in an imaginary grid (or your phone may have a grid option for you). Where you see the lines intersect is where the focus should be. See below for an example and notice where the star is. Your subject can be aligned wherever those lines intersect.


2.    Use natural lighting when possible
Natural lighting will always give you a better picture especially when doing portrait shots. However, natural lighting isn’t always available. In the case of little natural light, reflect as much of it as possible using white objects like a white poster board or large white sheet.
3.    Use editing apps
There are numerous photo editing apps available for your smartphone which allow you to crop, rotate, add filters, change colors and more. Play around with them as well as the settings on your smartphone camera.
4.    Digital zoom is a no-no
Instead of using the zoom feature on your smartphone camera, get a little closer to the subject. Fill the frame if possible but remember that you can always crop the photo if you need to. Note: High res photos mean better quality. You should be able to adjust the resolution in your camera settings.
5.    Accessories to have
Two things to invest in: Attachable lenses (yes, they make them for your smartphone) and a tripod. Lenses can give you special effects like fish-eye shots. All you have to do is pop them onto your camera lens. Tripods are a MUST especially if you have a shaky hand. Many of these are small and portable so you can take them anywhere.
6.    Make the most out of panorama mode
Most likely, your phone has a panorama mode and we highly recommend you play around with it. Landscape photos come out great using this! You just can’t have anything moving in the scene.
7.    Clean the lens
Smart phones go through a lot. They get shoved in pockets, thrown in purses, and are touched throughout the day. Clean your lens frequently so you don’t end up with gunk in your photos!
It’s great to take all of these tips into consideration when doing some photography work but if there’s one thing to start doing right now, we’d recommend playing with your camera settings. You’ll start learning all the really cool things you can do right on your smartphone. Also be sure to look up some editing apps and play around with lighting. Quality photos don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Start doing these things to take professional looking photos right from your smartphone. We know you can do it!

Have you taken a brilliant photo with your smartphone? We’d love to see it! Share the photo with us over on our Facebook page.