Changing the Backdrop of Your Image With This Easy Smartphone Edit

While styling a creative photograph we tend to primarily focus on the foreground of our composition, however what is in the background can also have a big impact on the mood and context of your image. Not all of us have access to a wide variety of different coloured and textured backdrops in our home studios or local areas but that shouldn’t limit the creative scope of your photo.

In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to infinitely increase the number of backdrops you have for your images by superimposing new colours and textures underneath your photo. The best part is that you can do it all with your fingertips right from your smartphone! My secret to getting the most realistic results lies in a simple layering technique that will preserve any natural shadows that you had in your original photograph.

Here’s what you’ll need to start:

  • A photo of your subject matter with as close to white background as possible

  • Photoshop Mix mobile application

Original image photographed against a white wall

Original image photographed against a white wall

Step 1 - Photograph your subject on a white surface or against a while wall. You will get the best results if you ensure there is a good contrast between your subject matter and the white backdrop.

Step 2 - Edit your image in the app or software of your choice and get the backdrop as close to white as you can. Crop it to how you would like the finished image size and proportions to look as this will form the base of your image.

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Step 3 - Open your image in Photoshop Mix and hold your finger down on the layer icon and select duplicate to add the same image again over the top.

Step 4 - On the top layer, use the cut out tool to select the foreground of your image. It is important that you don’t select the shadows here and only select the subject matter itself.

Tip - Use the Auto tool first to grab most of the image and refine with smart selection tool. You’ll need to zoom right in and alternate between the add and subtract functions to make sure you are only cutting out the foreground of your image

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Step 5 - If you have soft or complex edges you can use the refine tool to help you seperate it from the background as best you can.

Tip- Use two fingers to zoom in and out and navigate around your canvas

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Step 6 - Now that you have cut out your item it’s time to add your backdrop. You can create a new layer and import the photo or image you would like to use.

Tip - You can search for free backgrounds and wallpapers on Google or download them from free stock image websites like Pixabay or Unsplash.

Step 7 - Hold your finger down on the layer thumbnails to change the order of them. Layer your background image to the back and select your duplicate image that hasn’t been cut out yet and layer it next with the cutout on top.

Select the blend mode Multiply

Select the blend mode Multiply

Whoops! Missed a spot

Whoops! Missed a spot

Step 8 - Select your duplicate image and set the blend mode to ‘Multiply’ this will blend the image on top of your backdrop and apply the shadows for the most natural looking results.

Step 9 - With the new background in place you may discover a couple pieces of your background that didn’t get cut out. The darker your back drop the more obvious the edges may be but you can go back and refine your cutout any time.

Step 10 - Once you are happy with your cut out and background selection you can export and save your image and you are done!

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How to Create a Simple Stop Motion Animation Using Your Smartphone

An easy way to add motion to your image is through creating a stop motion animation. This is when you combine a sequence of still images with gradually moving elements to create a motion video. Although technology is making it a lot easier to achieve this effect, the technique has actually been around for a very long time - I’m sure we are all familiar with the old school claymation show Gumby. 

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I have used this method before to animate a flatlay for our tea time challenge using a clock so I thought it would be perfect to try again for this week’s motion challenge creating some flying butterflies. An easy app to use for creating stop motion videos is iMotion*.

Flatlay backdrop for creating the stop motion

Flatlay backdrop for creating the stop motion

The clock hands I added to add the movement

The clock hands I added to add the movement

The feature I find most useful is the import function of this app where you can import your own sequence of images from your photo gallery and have the app stitch them together into an animated sequence.

The sequence of images with gradual movement I created for the stop motion animation.

The sequence of images with gradual movement I created for the stop motion animation.

I often use iMotion in the Creatively Squared Insta stories to create videos of our winners or grid features. There are other nifty features to this app like time lapse and manual filming to create the sequence but I’m yet to explore these features.

Tip: I have a little workaround where I create a series of images in the Photoshop Mix app rather than photographing each individual frame, the traditional method of stop motion. I use a consistent background image layer [generally my flatlay] and simply add overlay layers. This means I only have to edit one version of the background image which makes it much more time efficient for me as a lot of editing often goes into my flatlays.

 

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To create this image I photographed the butterflies in a few different flying positions and cut them out using the Magic Eraser app on my phone. If you want to use existing assets found online you can also download image cutouts called png files that have transparent backgrounds. To locate these online just google what you are looking for followed by the file extension png.

 

The different butterfly images I used to add motion to my animation

The different butterfly images I used to add motion to my animation

You then simply import these images into iMotion in the sequence you need them to be in. You can change the speed of the video by using the slide bar and select how many frames you want chosen per second. Once you are happy with the speed and sequence, press export and save to your photo gallery and voila, you’ve created a stop motion video!

All the still shots I created that became each frame of the stop motion

All the still shots I created that became each frame of the stop motion

I would love to see you create a stop motion video or two for this week’s challenge.

Happy motion creating!

Marisa xx

*iMotion is only available on iOS but alternative android versions are available.





How to Create Animated Images Using Simple Video Overlays

Have you ever wished you could bring your still photo to life after you’ve taken it? Thanks to mobile technology, creating moving images, animations and cinemagraphs is easier than ever and accessible to anyone that has a smartphone. There are lots of different ways to add movement or special effects to your photo but the simplest way is by enhancing it with video overlays. These animated overlays will bring a cinemagraph type effect to your photo right from your mobile phone.

After a quick online search I discovered that there are lots of different smartphone apps on the market that you can use to bring your image to life so I downloaded a few to try out. For this road test I am comparing three of them and applying the filters to shots from my personal camera roll to see how they work on real life photos. I’ll be reporting back on how easy they are to use, the best and worst features of each app and also the cost of use. It is important to note that while these apps are free to use and come with a selection of supplied overlays, to remove the watermark, increase export size or quality and unlock additional overlays does often require in-app purchases.

Note- the animations have been saved as GIF files for compatibility with this blog and as a result have been compressed and lost some image quality.

Lumyer

Lumyer is a basic app that will add fun, animated overlays to your videos and still images. Creating a ‘Lumy’ is relatively simple, you select the video effect you’d like to add to your image and then place it in the desired area of your image and scale and rotate to fit. There are not a lot of editing options or ability to mask or soften the edges but you can adjust the opacity of the effect if you want it to blend more naturally into your image.

You can access over 300 different effects and the app offers 35+ free ones to experiment with. As well as photographic effects there are a lot of fun selfie add-ons and seasonal themed overlays. Here are some of the best free ones that I tried out:

I love the icy feel these floating snowflakes add to this image I snapped in Norway

I love the icy feel these floating snowflakes add to this image I snapped in Norway

Some gentle cloud movement to add to the balmy feel of my holiday snapshot from the Bahamas.

Some gentle cloud movement to add to the balmy feel of my holiday snapshot from the Bahamas.

They have some fun free selfie add ons like this one, sunglasses and flower crowns.

They have some fun free selfie add ons like this one, sunglasses and flower crowns.

I tried to add a free steam overlay to my coffee cup but unfortunately it looks more like smoke.

I tried to add a free steam overlay to my coffee cup but unfortunately it looks more like smoke.

I purchased an additional bird overlay at a cost of AU$1.49 and didn’t realise that it also came with sound effects which was a nice bonus!

In this image I have combined the flying birds overlay with the free moving clouds download that I adjusted the transparency of for a nice natural effect.

In this image I have combined the flying birds overlay with the free moving clouds download that I adjusted the transparency of for a nice natural effect.

Pros

  • Ability to save Lumy as a live photo or gif

  • Easy to share as an MP4 straight to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp

  • A few great free filters

  • Some video filters include sound effects

Cons

  • A lot of the overlays are a bit cheesy

  • You can only combine two filters in the free version

  • Exported file is small at only 640px

  • It costs AU$5.99 to remove the watermark

  • Vertical image format not supported yet

  • No masking and limited editing features

Get it at: lumyer.com | Free (with in-app purchases) on iOS and Android

Werble

Werble works on the same basic premise of Lumyer but has much more sophisticated features for placing and editing your overlays. This app also offers multiple layers which allows you to overlay many different effects which are simple to reorder and edit as desired. The tool menu gives you the ability to change the proportions, colour and speed of your video effects - just to name a few.

I found the Starter pack and free overlays to contain a great assortment of animations to experiment with and the packages of additional effects available for purchase seemed like reasonably good value - some of them bundles of 100 for AU$10.99. I also liked that you can watch a video previewing all the effects prior to purchase so you know exactly what you are getting with each pack.

I was able to mirror the same cloud effect onto the reflection in the sand and adjust the opacity.

I was able to mirror the same cloud effect onto the reflection in the sand and adjust the opacity.

I adjusted the colour of these petals to match the exact shade of the cherry blossoms in my photo.

I adjusted the colour of these petals to match the exact shade of the cherry blossoms in my photo.

I purchased the Coffee themed animations and effects pack for $3.99 which came with 23 different effects (much better value than the $1.49 per effect pricing with Lumyer) and also the Sky pack which came with 17 overlays. These effects were great to add onto photos I already had on my camera roll and I could definitely see myself using them in the future.

I love this particular effect for adding some movement into this coffee cup.

I love this particular effect for adding some movement into this coffee cup.

I combined some steam with a fun coffee top overlay to fill my mug in this image.

I combined some steam with a fun coffee top overlay to fill my mug in this image.

In addition to adding video overlays you can also add some movement to your original image using the Pulse tool. I found this to be a bit hit and miss but perhaps after a bit more experimentation you would be able to get some good results.

Pros

  • Sophisticated export options

  • Unlimited layers

  • Easy to drag drop layer order

  • Extensive layer editing options eg. blend modes, colour, lighting

  • Share straight to a multitude of social platforms

Cons

  • Couldn’t find a way to save original files to edit or export later on

  • No layer masking

  • Costs $6.99 to remove watermark

Get it at: werbleapp.com | Free (with in-app purchases) on iOS and coming soon to Android

Story Z

Story Z is a multifunctional app that enables the user to add motion and ripple effects to animate their original images as well as adding their own and supplied video overlays. However, for the purpose of this blog we will just be discussing the video overlay features.

One of the clear advantages of this app is the ability to mask your layers which allows you to apply the video overlay on just a portion or the background of your image, resulting in a much more realistic effect.

In the overlay feature the free effects are a bit more limited than what you get with the previous two apps but the bundles are the among the cheapest with a pack of 5+ for $1.49

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To get this effect above I searched for ‘free storm cloud video’ and downloaded one to my phone. I then overlaid it using the ‘Motion’ feature of the app which enables you to add your own video effects. Using the eraser tool I brushed out the sky in the background and adjusted the storm clouds video underneath. Being able to add your own video elements allows for a lot more creative freedom and you can shoot your own video assets as well as using any free resources you find online.

Pros

  • Layer masking with smart brush and erase features

  • Supports multiple image sizes and formats

  • Sophisticated layer masking

  • Can add your own video effects

  • No watermark on exported images (provided you watch an ad)

Cons

  • Limited number of available video overlays

  • You do need to watch some ads but that’s the trade off for a free app

  • Can only export video at 1200px unless you purchase premium app

  • Editing tools seem to only apply to the original image and not the video overlays

  • Can’t create looping effect with added video

Get it at: storyzapp.com | Free (with in-app purchases) on iOS and Android

The Verdict

If you have no experience and don’t want to spend a cent you can certainly obtain some great free video effects using the apps mentioned above. Matching the right image with the right filter can be a bit of an art but it is a great starting point for creative experimentation. There are of course limitations in the assets available both in app and online but you will still be able to exercise your creativity and create some great moving images using what you can download or shoot yourself.

There is not much of a learning curve required to use any of these apps, a basic understanding of layers and masking will help but there are enough video tutorials and resources around to help you if you need it. Luckily most smartphone video and image editing apps have similar functions so once you know how to use one you should find it easy enough to navigate and operate others.

Have you tried any of these apps or anything like it?





7 steps to style the perfect vignette

A great way to showcase your favourite pieces and add style to a space is by creating a vignette. A vignette, simply put, is a grouping or arrangement of items, usually on a shelf or a table.

It can sometimes be difficult to get that ‘perfect' balanced look when styling a vignette, so I thought I would share a few of my tips and tricks, that I have learnt along the way, to help you create a fabulous arrangement.

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1. Inject some personality

To avoid your vignette looking too staged, add in some personal items that reflect your style and personality. I will often include beautiful perfume bottles, jewellery, loose pearls or even a bag or clutch purse.

2. Hunt & Gather

I find it helpful to have already assembled a selection of items that I could use, like plants, candles, vases and books within reach of the area I am styling and then I cull as I go.

Stacking books or magazines is a great way to add height to smaller items

Stacking books or magazines is a great way to add height to smaller items

3. Play with height

A very important tip to remember is to make sure you vary the height and scale within your vignette, this allows the eye to travel freely over the display and create visual interest. Stacking books or magazines is a great way to give smaller items height.

Start adding items that are different heights & shapes

Start adding items that are different heights & shapes

4. Odd is best

Grouping items in odd numbers, especially in three, is far more visually pleasing to the eye than grouping items in even numbers.

Adding the hanging greenery to the pot creates more layering of heights

Adding the hanging greenery to the pot creates more layering of heights

5. Avoid clutter

Remember, less is more! Stand back & review the pieces you have chosen, do they work well together, does everything flow? If you feel your vignette looks to busy, try swapping out or eliminating a few items until it works.

6. Play with texture

Mix various textures, tones & shapes together to make your vignette really pop.

Use pieces that reflect your personality & style. I absolutely love this Chanel snowglobe & gorgeous black marble candle from Burn Baby Burn Candle Co.

Use pieces that reflect your personality & style. I absolutely love this Chanel snowglobe & gorgeous black marble candle from Burn Baby Burn Candle Co.

7. Be you

Have you ever brought an entire outfit that you saw on someone and tried to recreate that exact look on yourself, only to have it miserably fail? No matter how hard you try, you will never master something that isn't your true style. So embrace who you are & surround yourself with things that you love. I guarantee you will have way more fun creating a space if it reflects your true style.

Try adding a framed print or photo to your vignette.

Try adding a framed print or photo to your vignette.

I am so excited to be guest hosting this week's ‘Black’ themed challenge & look forward to seeing your vignette styling & featuring your amazing entries.

🖤 Em xxx

The finished vignette - height, texture and personality!

The finished vignette - height, texture and personality!

Em is the guest host of our 'Black’ themed photo challenge this week. Find out how you can participate here - Creative Challenge Entry Details

You can see more of Em's beautiful photos on her Instagram account @stilettos_and_bricks and visit her website stilettosbricks.com

Ceiling height photography: How to capture the perfect 'on the bed' style flatlay

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Have you ever been scrolling on Instagram and seen an image like the one above and wondered to yourself ‘how did they actually take that shot?’ If you have pondered this exact question, you aren’t alone. The logistics of getting your camera high enough to take in what appears to be a whole bed can be a little puzzling and not everyone has access to drones, tripods or 6ft tall Instagram husbands to help them out.

We have the wonderfully creative Eszter Csáky from Instagram account @handmadeglamour sharing her secrets to indoor aerial snapping so you’ll be able to take your flatlay game to new heights. Luckily the trick to snapping from the ceiling is easier than you think and you’ll be able to achieve it at home just by getting crafty with some basic household items.

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1. Find a box or some cardboard

Any size will do to begin with as you can cut it to fit. In this case, this small one was already nearly the perfect dimensions for an iPhone which is what you’ll be using it to hold.

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2. Open it up and cut to size

Cut off the sides of the box and any excess parts so you will end up with a long straight length of cardboard.

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3. Measure it to fit your device

Measure the width of your phone and mark it so you know where to fold the cardboard

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4. Fold the cardboard 

Fold the sides in so that it will cradle your device and apply some tape to the tabs so that you can attach it to the ceiling.

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5.  Attach it to the ceiling

Use the tape (or your adhesive of choice) to stick the cardboard box to the ceiling and place your phone inside it with the camera facing down

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6. Use a remote timer to take the shot

If you are getting in the shot yourself and the 10 second timer isn’t long enough to get into the right position you can use a remote for your smartphone iPhone camera  (Note - You can purchase these bluetooth smartphone camera remotes for under $10 online!)

7. Take your shot!

You are now ready to start snapping your ceiling height photo - how easy was that?

Behind the Scenes: Getting Creative with Amy Shamblen

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Hey, Amy Shamblen here! If you follow along on my Instagram (@amyshamblen) then you know that I LOVE color and typography! I’m super excited to let you in on a little behind the scenes on how I created this week’s Creatively Squared challenge #cs_trickortreat. From inspiration to the final image, here’s my steps that I use for all my images!

  1. Sketch it out

When it comes to brainstorming, I like to write random words down that come to my head on whatever subject I’m creating around. Since this week was Trick or Treat, some quick words that came to mind were pumpkin, candy, spooky, and ghost. Since I love color and sweets, obviously I had to go with candy!

I always start with a rough sketch of what I want to do beforehand. I like to incorporate typography into a lot of my work; I was a designer before a photographer and love the merging of the two worlds.

I decided using the challenge name would fun, so I started looking at some typefaces to gain some inspiration. Since I decided to go with candy, I knew that I would need a lot of it in order to bring the idea to life. The thought of lots of tiny objects instantly reminded me of those I Spy books, which was a big source of inspiration, too.  

Once I found a typeface I liked, I sketched it out and refined it until I got a pretty good rough to base my photo on.

2. Gather props!

Or in this case, LOTS of candy! This is definitely the fun part. I wanted something in a pink color scheme, so I picked out lots of candies with pastels. I avoided chocolate since I felt it would stand out from the rest of the bunch and become a distraction.

I made sure I got candies with lots of size variation. The bigger pieces are great for filling in big spaces, and the little ones are perfect for finishing off the edges of the letters.

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3. Lay them all out

Easily the most time consuming part, ha! I keep my sketch off to the side when I start organizing my candy. I first start by separating the big pieces, the long pieces, and the small pieces so they’re easier to locate when I need them. To add a bit more Halloween spirit into the mix, I also used some little bones and spiders from the craft store.

Once they’re organized, I fill in the areas that have lots of space. In this case, the T’s and K were my starting point. I wanted to try something fun with the candy buttons, so I rolled them up and held them in place with some tape.  

After the large areas were finished, I started filling in the spaces with the smaller pieces. I try to find the natural places where something may fit best. For example, the top left of the “R” was a perfect place to put the square piece of licorice. A lot of this process, though, is trial and error to see what works best.

4. Shoot!

Once everything looks pretty good, then it’s time to photograph! I know that it won’t be absolutely perfect at first, but stepping away and looking at it in the camera helps aid what edits to make.

I always use the lights in my studio as opposed to natural light. That’s how I can get those crisp shadows. It also allows me to have complete control over the lighting situation because let’s be real—Ohio isn’t the most ideal place for consistent sunshine. I also use a white bounce card to fill in the shadows of my subjects.

After I touch up some areas that looked a little off, then I capture the final image and get ready for editing.

5. Bring it into Photoshop

I always capture my images in RAW and import them into Adobe Bridge. From there, I can quickly rate them from 1–5 stars and choose the best one. Then, I open up the best image into Camera Raw and play around with the color saturation and luminance to really make them pop.  

I then bring the image into Photoshop. From here, I start fine tuning the image by moving around the individual pieces. Often, there’s a lot of extra space that I can condense by bringing some pieces closer together. This helps form more cohesion within the image. If there’s a lot of extra space, sometimes I duplicate some pieces to help fill in the voids.

Once everything looks fabulous, I crop it down to a square and export it at a web resolution for Instagram!

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Thanks so much for following along on my behind the scenes! I hope you enjoyed it and are inspired to create some fun images of your own!  


Amy is the guest host of our 'Trick or Treat' photo challenge this week (October 29- November 4)

Find out how you can participate here - Creative Challenge Entry Details

You can see more of Amy's beautiful photos on her Instagram account @amyshamblen


How to include fresh flowers in your flatlays and not break the bank!

I don’t know about you but I always feel more at home when I have fresh flowers in the house. Though in my home, flowers don’t stay in the vase for long! I’m always asked about how I can afford to include so many fresh flowers in my flatlays. Well the answer is pretty simple really...I keep them in the fridge to prolong their freshness! I learnt this trick off one of my Instagram idols @HumphreyAndGrace and I haven’t looked back since. I shared it recently on my Insta stories and I was inundated with messages so I thought I would write a quick blog about it and answer some of the common questions.

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Off with their stems...

Yes, I do cut off their stems directly under the flower before I refrigerate them but this simply is a personal preference. I find they sit better in my flatlay without their stems, and this also makes them easier to store in the containers. This is certainly not necessary though. It’s all dependent on how you will eventually use the flowers in your flatlay builds.

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You use what?

In terms of containers, I use my Tupperware containers because I find the little vents are handy for adding some air ventilation if needed but honestly you could use any plastic container really. I don’t think it’s a deal breaker if you prefer to store your vegetables in your Tupperware instead and use the Chinese takeaway containers for the preservation of your flatlay flowers...completely up to you!

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To water or not to water...

I generally don’t add any water. I may give them a little spray if they are looking a bit sad but I have found that the condensation in the container is enough. I have also found that if you add too much water they do start to go mouldy. When I first started I did use moist paper towel on the bottom of the container but I have found that this isn’t worth the extra hassle either.

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The best of the bunch...

Recently I have been using Ranunculus because they are in season here in Australia and they are perhaps my all time favourite flower to flatlay! I’ve found that they don’t last as long as other flowers though, perhaps because of their delicate nature but I can still get a good couple of weeks out of them!

My most successful flowers to have on chill would have to be roses. Obviously it does depend on the freshness of the flowers but if you source the freshest of roses they can last for over 4 weeks. I have thrown some roses away because I simply grew tired of using them in my flatlays!

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So there you have it, a simple way to include flowers in your flatlays without a trip to the flower market every other day!

Happy flower faffing! Marisa xx

@Marisa.Young








Less is more: How to refine and simplify your creative aesthetic for visual clarity

We’ve all heard the saying ‘less is more’ and, although there is no single origin or definition of this phrase that we know of, it is most often interpreted as taking a minimalist approach to design which will inturn maximise the clarity of the output.

While most frequently used in reference to design and architecture, this concept can be applied to all of the creative choices we make. From dressing ourselves on a daily basis, to decorating our home or composing that next snap for Instagram. Each step of the process can be curated and refined to obtain a more simplified and practical result.

Although it sounds like it should be easier to do less, the art of refining our choices can often be more difficult. To help you apply this philosophy to your own creative aesthetic, we are going to discuss a few easy ways that you can incorporate the mantra of ‘less is more’ to different areas of your life.

Embrace simplicity

Many popular design trends are inspired by the tapering back of unnecessary decorative elements to focus on form and functionality. Although creativity doesn’t always need to be functional it can help to think about ways to clarify the message or narrative you are trying to tell. Simplifying the elements of your composition can assist in clearer visual communication and increase the chance of your vision resonating with your audience.

Try not to overthink it and focus on the core message of what you are trying to achieve. Founder of Third Boi apparel Bianca Latorre says that when it comes to designing “it’s often almost more challenging to create something beautiful and original whilst resisting the temptation to over do it.” It helps to take a step back from your creation and question each element - does it help strengthen the story or does it distract from it?

Keeping it simple at home. Photo by Lisa Lee featuring logo sweat from Third Boi.

Keeping it simple at home. Photo by Lisa Lee featuring logo sweat from Third Boi.

Use a limited colour palette

Experimenting with colour is a beautiful and powerful way to express yourself creatively and a simple way to clarify your vision is to reduce the number of colours you are working with. Although, applying a minimalist mindset when it comes to colour choice doesn’t mean you have to stick to classic monochromes or neutrals.

You can still make bold colour choices and experiment with prints or patterns, as long as you stick within a select range of complimentary shades. Working with a restricted palette can also enable you to focus more on other elements of your composition and make more deliberate choices when it comes to design, shape and hierarchy.

Using a restricted colour palette doesn’t mean you can’t use bold colour or prints. Photo by Lisa Lee featuring her favourite items from Third Boi.

Using a restricted colour palette doesn’t mean you can’t use bold colour or prints. Photo by Lisa Lee featuring her favourite items from Third Boi.

Curate your collection

Whether you are styling your home or a photograph it is important to know what you want the focal point to be and then minimise the surrounding distractions. Trying to work with too many elements can be overwhelming, so start with just your hero piece and then see what else you need to incorporate to complement it visually.

Taking a simple approach to your home decor or fashion choices can result in a more elegant aesthetic where individual elements are able to be appreciated more. When items are given room to breathe they can be better recognised and celebrated for their unique design and architectural details.

Reduce clutter to increase your creative clarity. Photo by Lisa Lee

Reduce clutter to increase your creative clarity. Photo by Lisa Lee

For the avid photo stylist it can be hard to part with props that you might want to use one day but clutter can be a creativity killer. The Marie Kondo approach to possessions is if they don’t serve you, they would be much happier to serve someone else. This philosophy is handy for focusing on what you actually need and identifying what is worth keeping on hand. Prioritising only what is truly beautiful or is needed for functional reasons can help simplify daily decision making and leave more time for creativity.

Maximise negative space

Experimenting with negative or white space as it’s often known can be very liberating. We are often tempted to fill up any space we have - whether it be hanging art on walls, decorating coffee tables or the filling the full frame of our camera. Knowing which areas to leave intentionally blank can often take a lot more consideration than simply utilising the entire area at hand.

There are many design theories, such as the rule of thirds or the golden ratio, that explore different ways to use negative space within art and photographic compositions. These methods support the notion that in order to be visually pleasing a composition must strike a harmonious balance between positive and negative space.

Considered use of negative space can also help you draw the eye of your audience directly to the hero or focal point of your space. By leaving the surrounding area intentionally blank or clear you can direct your viewer right to where you want them to look. This simple technique works for many creative applications of design, decoration or styling and results in a more dramatic impact.

Interested to read more on this topic? You might also enjoy our blog post: When less is more, finding freedom and fulfilment by living simply

In Summary

When we focus on doing less we are more deliberate, measured and present. We can prioritise what is most important and ensure quality over quantity. This results in a more fulfilling outcome for many people and there are a growing number of movements that support this ideology from slow living to capsule wardrobes.

Not everyone can find satisfaction in a minimalist lifestyle but when it comes to your creative expression incorporating less obstacles for your audience to visually interpret will enable you to more clearly communicate your point of view. Don’t make them work too hard to appreciate the story you are trying to tell or to admire the beauty of your artwork. Simply put - a more minimal approach can help maximise the effectiveness of your visual narrative.

Top 6 Ways to Creatively Frame Your Photography Subject

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Framing isn't just for finished art work - it is also a clever way to compose your image before you take it. Whether are you are photographing people, places or objects, there are many creative techniques you can to draw your viewers eye right to your subject.

Creative framing can help add drama and impact, set the scene and balance the hierarchy and aesthetics of your image. A frame doesn't have to be a traditional box or hard edge, you can frame your image with organic shapes or any type of line that helps visually direct your composition.

Here are our top creative ways you can frame your photography subject for more impact:

Using kitchen items such as trays, plates and boards

This is one of the easiest and most effective framing techniques you can use in your images. Plates, trays and other types of serving ware make excellent frames for photographing table top or flatlay scenes. Simply by placing the items you wish to photograph inside a larger item and shooting from above you can create an instant framing effect for your image.

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It doesn't have to be just for food or kitchen related photography, other household items like clipboards, books and linens can be used to achieve the same effect. Think about how you can contrast the size, colour and shape of your subject with the background prop you are using to frame it.

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Creating a frame with flowers, food or other objects

Arranging a collection of complementary items to form an edge or arc around your subject is an eye catching way to showcase the hero of your image. This technique is very popular in product styling because it allows you to add context to the item you are styling while adding visually pleasing elements to your image.

Image from creative campaign for Global Nature Australia, styled and photographed by Shelley J

Image from creative campaign for Global Nature Australia, styled and photographed by Shelley J

Your frame doesn't have to be a square or rectangular shape it can be any arrangement of objects or decorative elements that help showcase the hero of your image.

Framing two ways using florals by Marisa Y 

Framing two ways using florals by Marisa Y 

Framing two ways using florals by Marisa Y

Framing two ways using florals by Marisa Y


Using Negative Space

Leaving large areas of your image intentionally blank is a great way to draw your viewers attention right to the focal point of your shot. By adjusting the hierarchy of the elements within your photo you can make even the smallest object stand out. 

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The 'hero' of your shot doesn't have to be the largest element of your image. With clever framing you can create an elegant composition where your subject can still shine without dominating your photo. 

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Working with shapes found at home or in architecture

In your own home windows, doorways, shelving or even baths can make great frames for composing your image. Taking advantage of existing shapes in your house and neighbourhood is a simple and effective way to frame your shot. Look around and see what shapes you can find in the structure of your home and also in your furniture.

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Using buildings and their framework is also a very impactful way to photograph people and places. There are so many amazing architectural shapes out there in the world, look for shapes, contrasting colours and interesting elements of the places you go that you can use to create more drama and highlight the focal point of your photo.

Creatively Squared founders Ruth and Scott on holiday in Hoi An, Vietnam

Creatively Squared founders Ruth and Scott on holiday in Hoi An, Vietnam


Reflecting your subject using glass or mirrors

You can neatly frame your photography subject within a mirror or reflection. This technique allows you to compactly display a portion or your shot within the existing frame of your reflective object. 

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On a larger scale you could even use the other half of the reflection to complete the frame and completely surround your subject matter. Think about what half a frame might look like and how to continue the effect on a reflective surface.

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Looking through a phone or glass

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Framing your photograph through a looking glass, your phone or viewfinder can put an interesting twist on your image. Some glass items even reflect your image upside-down which can add a surprising and whimsical element to your photo. At home you could experiment with photographing through a fishbowl, vase or wine glass - even your reading glasses could make an intriguing frame for your shot.

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Using an actual frame

Traditional rectangular shapes or picture frames themselves can be used in creative ways to compose a visually interesting images.

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Use an old photo frame or create frame shapes out of tape or other household items. This is a really cheap and effective way to frame your shot and can be used on horizontal and vertical surfaces.

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Alternatively you could arrange boxes or trays to get the same effect as a photo frame, this will create more depth to your image and allow you to consider more angles and orientations for your photo.

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Are you up to the challenge of creatively framing your next image? Join our 'In the Frame' Instagram photo challenge and you could win some great prizes! 

For more creatively framed photo inspiration check out our Pinterest board
 

Interior style tips: How to transform your space using art prints

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How do you style prints in your home? Do you stick to larger pieces that make a statement? Or do you use art to make your space feel tranquil and relaxing? In our home, its all of the above. I have prints that I have selected for their calming qualities and I also have prints that we have chosen for their “wow” factor. Each space in my home is different and as a result, the art we have chosen for that space must be styled differently. The perfect print can transform your space, if styled correctly.


How exactly do you do that?? I would love to give you the perfect answer, but I am still searching for it! What I can give you though, is a few tips and tricks that I have come across to help you to style your prints in different spaces in your home.

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Shelfie

You can spend a huge amount of money on the perfect piece of art for your home but will you like that art piece in 12 months’ time? I am constantly changing over prints in our home, especially on my favourite styling tool – my mantle, because I get sick of seeing the same piece over and over again. For this reason, I don’t buy lots of expensive forever pieces, the majority of my art has been sourced from affordable online print stores. This allows me to change up my art every few weeks to change the look and feel of our home without breaking the bank!

Most of the frames that I use on my shelf are from Adairs. Their gorgeous timber gallery frames
come in a range of sizes in natural or painted finishes. Their frames can be leaned against a wall or attached with permanent hooks or 3m command strips (perfect for renters or those who like to frequently change things up!). The Adairs frames can also be used time and time again without the frame fixtures wearing or breaking. Don’t be afraid to add and layer multiple prints on your shelf. I love to layer 2 – 3 different prints in varying sizes, usually sticking to the same theme.

After I have selected my print, I add my decorative items in varying heights just to the side of the print. Decorative items can include candles (my personal favourite), vases (with or without real or faux flowers), stacked books, greenery, marble décor, jewellery cones etc.
I always try to add an odd number of homewares if they are to be grouped together; my number of choice is usually 3. I like to group my items in a triangle arrangement – the largest item is first at the back, the next in size is placed to the left and moved a little forward and the smallest item is put in the middle of the other two items, but again moved a little forward to create the triangle.

Once you have arranged your items, step back and assess whether you are happy with the way it looks. Does it feel balanced? Are you happy with the colour and tone? Is there enough space between your items? You might need to move things around, swap over décor items until you are happy with the way the space looks and feels.

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Bedroom

We chose a large piece to hang above our bed, but there are no rules about the number of pieces you should use or their location. Framed prints can also be leaned on picture shelves above your bed, hung above bedside tables, or larger pieces can be casually leaned against a wall. If you have multiple pictures on the same wall, they can all be brought together cohesively by using the same colour or style of frame.

Size matters! Bigger is always better. Artwork that is too small can look lost and disconnected in the space. There are a few factors to consider when choosing the perfect piece - bed size, ceiling height, bedhead height, room lighting etc. Your artwork should measure at least half to two-thirds of the bed below. And prints should also be hung at least 15cm above the edge of your bedhead.

Less is more, adding too many pieces in a bedroom can make the room feel cluttered. You don’t need to have art on every single wall in your room. Try and keep a balance between art and bare walls to promote calm and relaxation. No need to overstimulate in a room where the goal is to relax and sleep!

Choose a piece that matches the style and colour theme of your room, including the furniture and bed linen. We had already selected bed linen, cushions and throws to match our winter colour scheme before we purchased the print now above our bed. The grey quilt cover and euro pillows are from my favourite linen brand Aura Home (Vintage Fringe Linen). I added extra charcoal pillows to add depth and some cushions that match the cream and natural coloured throws I have at the end of the bed. I found our print online (The Print Emporium) and I couldn’t believe how perfectly it matched my winter colour pallet! It has completed the space and given it a balanced and cohesive feel.

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Living Room

In our living room we have large statement pieces. They range in size from 50x70cm to 100x140cm. Larger framed prints should be hung at eye level. The mid-point or centre of the framed print should be between 57-60 inches (roughly 152 cm) from the floor. Go for the lower end of the range if your ceilings are low or if your family is on the shorter side (that’s us!). In rooms with higher ceilings, art can be hung a little higher.

I have a plant under each print in this room. I loving adding greenery indoors – I have fiddle leaf figs, rubber leaf plants and a monstera (Adairs have a great range of faux plants if you are a notorious brown thumb!).

My main print in this room sits right next to my entertainment unit so I have styled the space with more homewares and personal photos. Here I have also arranged my decorative items on a tray. When your items are grouped on a tray the space looks less cluttered as your brain is more likely to see it as one element in a space rather then seeing the items individually. It gives a more organised and less cluttered feel.

Ultimately print selection is going to be based on your personal preference. Only buy art that you love. My final top tip would be to stalk your favourite Instagram accounts. Nothing better than seeing how other people have styled art in their own homes.