Getting in the mood with Barbora Kurcova

Meet your mentor Barbora Kurcova!

Barbora Kurcova sure knows how to bring the mood to her images. Barbora, or @herinternest as you might know her, is an active member of the Creatively Squared community.

Q&A with Barbora

Hey Barbora! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared challenge about mood lighting. We love just love it when you enter our challenges so we are thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am so glad to be part of this amazing community, so thank you! I am Czech living in Oslo, Norway. I work full time in a regular nine to five and in my free time I explore and develop my creativity. I love photography as a tool to share my thoughts, ideas, knowledge and views on the world but I am passionate about so many things, perhaps that is why I rarely run out of ideas for my photography. My biggest passion at the moment is conscious and sustainable living and finding simple ways how can we all do just a little bit better.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

For me inspiration and ideas are all about being conscious and having your mind and eyes opened as ideas are everywhere around, even in the most boring everyday objects or activities.

I would say my creative process goes two ways: either I have a visual idea, an image in my head and try to make it happen, find the best location/background, props and lighting to make it live, or I have something I want to say and I try to figure out how could I visualise that idea or message. But in general it is a lot of failed ideas and a lot of figuring out how to make things work, so patience is needed!

This challenge is all about using lighting to alter the mood of your photo. What are your top tips for capturing a moody image?

The moody image is all about a story and story-telling. Think about the emotion, moment or situation you are trying to communicate with your photography. The light, texture and movement are in my opinion three key elements to making each photograph a bit more moody. I see moody images as a bit of a theatrical, movie-like images capturing moments rather than things. It is about translating the three dimensional mood full of amazing light, scents, sounds, into flat image whilst still managing to create a bit of mystery and tension.

Light is key to great photography in general and especially if we want to capture or create certain mood. But moody photographs definitely don't need to be dark! It is more about looking for contrast, shadows, depth but most importantly light fitting the mood be that soft morning light or harsh direct sunlight. I prefer daylight myself but candle light or strong flashlight can create interesting effects too!

Different textures really help to bring depth into the photography and also different layers of light as it will break in many different ways. And adding movement is amazing tool to translate the idea of specific mood into image! It doesn't mean that there need to be something moving, like twirling skirt or hair blowing in the air (although that is of course amazing). It might just mean that instead of organising flower petals into beautiful arrangements, you just through them from the height to let them fall on the surface more naturally!

What equipment do you use?

I do not believe that the equipment is what makes the great photography and try to keep it as simple as possible. For the longest time I was an Olympus PEN E-PL7 girl so most of my photographs up to today are taken by that camera with a 17mm lens. Unfortunately my trusty ‘photofriend’ said goodbye a couple of weeks ago and I upgraded to Canon. So at the moment I have Canon EOS M50 and a couple of lenses, 32mm for portraits, 22mm for more street photography and the kit lense 15-50mm which I carry with me on a lazy day as it is a really good overall lense. It is a fantastic camera but I still have so much to learn to quite understand it, it feels like I am starting my photography journey from the beginning the old ways don’t quite work the same.

As I am working on a one big project now, I upgraded to better tripod but have been using the cheapies they had in the shop up until now. Now I have one which can tilt 90° and is great help for flatlays! I can use an app on my phone as a remote control to connect to my camera which is super handy especially for self-portraits! And when it comes to editing, I am really basic as editing is not what I prefer to spend my time on, I rather try to take the photograph just right and usually just enhance a bit of contrast or saturation in VSCO.  

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Are there any techniques you use to enhance the moodiness of your captures?

I suppose there are two layers to it: before production and post-production. When I want to create moody image I usually look for beautiful natural light, often next to the window where the shadows are soft yet dramatic and I can play with where I want my light to hit the subject. You should definitely try it yourself and see what works for your idea, but in case of portraits, facing the source of light (window) or looking away or side ways will have very different impact on the photography! It is all about what is visible, what is hidden, what is in the spotlight and telling the story.

When it comes to post-production, I usually play with highlights, shadows and contrast to make the image feel just right. Maybe you want to create more soft, mysterious feeling so fading the image can help a lot, or maybe you want to highlight the dramatic shadows and then upping the contrast can help.

You have an imaginative and beautiful knack of taking self portraits. Do you have any tips to encourage people to take their own self portraits?

Thank you so much! If you would ask me two years ago if I would put my face on the Internet and enjoy it, I would laugh for sure. I think the biggest “push” for me came when I shaved my head about a year and a half ago and suddenly realise I have nowhere to hide, my face felt so bare. So I started to accept it more and show it more in the creative portraits, using my face as canvas (sometimes literally). I have actually written a free e-book with all the tips how to start and feel comfortable in front of the camera as I got asked so much!

To be very honest, I do really hate my photos being taken and take 99% of my photos myself, because I know how I look the best, what are “my angles” and no one is stressing me. It is an intimate moment, almost like a self-care routine really and I absolutely recommend to find a quiet time to start learning!

In general I would say take your time and way to feel comfortable and take it one step at a time. There is no need to have your face out there if it makes you feel any kind of negative emotions but if you really want to try, start small. Maybe first take portrait from a big distance, landscape with a tiny figure. Next photo could be you hiding your face with beautiful bouquet or big autumn leaf but a bit closer and slowly you will work your way to “close” portrait. And before you know it, your first portrait is out there!

What’s your number one home studio hack for working with limited space and resources?

Keep everything and think outside the box! I am a bit of creative hoarder so if I have a nice shoe box, wrapping paper, leftover flooring, sample wallpaper, whatever can come photo handy, I keep it. That way I have a lot of material to work with, mostly really “garbage” which can help me create virtual reality in my home. It is not about tricking people into thinking my life is perfect, it is just about getting the visual idea right. When trying to create serene floral portrait, messy kitchen in the background is just not going to work. So when the day is dark and I want to create something, I take out my wooden floor boards hidden under the sofa, put them on the window sill and create small home studio in no time!

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

What a great question! I had another IG profile or five before but when I started Her Internest, it  was more intentional, with goal to reach magical 10k followers. I was very present, posting every day and really putting a lot of effort into posting and connecting and I loved it. I grew about 20k in one year I think and then realised I do not want to grow much more as I was not able to communicate with people as before and the amount of comments and DMs became impossible to handle with full time job (thanks to my amazingly engaged audience). And the community and connection is what matters to me the most, sharing my creative visions and ideas with people who spend their time receiving my content is so valuable to me.

Fast forward to about one year ago, I stopped focusing on growth and started to focus on finding my true self and true style, what would I do or post if there was no likes, what would I create if there was no Instagram, those sorts of questions filled my mind. And to be very honest, I am still there figuring it out, sharing my journey with my followers. I am very purpose driven, conscious person so I would hate to waste people's times by posting ”whatever”. What is the next step, I don't know, but as Instagram is my hobby and not a source of income (except few gifted items which I am very grateful for) I don't feel too pressured to figure it out. And when I fall out of love with Instagram, I always try to reconnect to my own ideas and creativity and get out of the “comparison, everyone is better than me” Instagram loop. Focusing on doing something creative and sharing later always works!

Barbora xx

Barbora is the guest mentor for our June 10-16 creative challenge ‘In the Mood’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Barbora at @herinternest, her website or simply click on each image to take you directly to the post on Instagram. We invite you to join Barbora and the rest of the Creatively Squared community and get in the mood. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.