Challenge Highlights: In the mood

We switched the mood lighting on and challenged the Creatively Squared Instagram community to experiment with different lighting effects to alter the feeling of their images. It was the best type of mood swing we could imagine and we saw over 400 entries tagged with #cs_inthemood during the week.

If you’ve just joined us, this month we are learning all about light - how to find it, work with it and use it creatively to enhance our visual story storytelling. Each week during June we are focussing on a different aspect of light and our second instalment was all about using lighting to affect the mood of your image. Even if you missed the challenge week we put together some great resources and tutorials which you can access any time.

Missed week 1? Catch up on all the resources and see the entries from #cs_chasethesun

BARBORA 11.jpg

Top tips from our special guest mentor

We invited a special guest Barbora Kurcova to guide and mentor us during the week. Based in Norway, Barbora faces limited light year round and has become an expert as using it to her advantage to build mood and communicate emotion through her imagery. Find out how Barbora fell in love with dramatic lighting moody storytelling in our interview.

During her mentorship Barbora shared some great tips with our community during the week. Here were some of her top recommendations for adding mood to your image:
1. The three key elements that have the most impact on the mood of your image are light, texture and movement.
2. Don't give up on creating in unpredictable lighting situations. There is always a way to set up your photo on window sill or by the open door no matter the weather!
3. If you want to take a moody image but not have it feel too gloomy or sad try adding a pop of colour to your composition.
4. Play with the contrast, toning the contrast up will make shadows look dramatic, toning it down can bring nostalgic feeling into photography instead.
5. Moody photos don't need to be dark. You can enhance the mood and create a nostalgic feel by adding layers and textures instead

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Pink, dreamy and ethereal by  @imagineamy_

Pink, dreamy and ethereal by @imagineamy_

Wistful ambience by  @zaeeema

Wistful ambience by @zaeeema

Peaceful, calm and serene with  @india_c_

Peaceful, calm and serene with @india_c_

Joyful hope and inspiration by  @lenaspicturebook

Joyful hope and inspiration by @lenaspicturebook

Stunning self portrait inspired by Barbora from  @_autumnjanelle_

Stunning self portrait inspired by Barbora from @_autumnjanelle_

Incredible lighting technique  @hanyphotographyuk

Incredible lighting technique @hanyphotographyuk

Joyful exuberance with  @thefashionmommy

Joyful exuberance with @thefashionmommy

Relaxed and cheerful with  @pears39

Relaxed and cheerful with @pears39

Thank you to everyone who challenged themselves to create a moody image this week. Your entries captured such beautiful moments and emotion. It was a truly impressive gallery and we are so grateful to have you share your creativity with us. Ready to sink your teeth into some more lighting inspired photography? Check out our next challenge Light em up!

Composing magical fairytale images with a touch of sparkle

There are so many ways you can add sparkle to your images and elevate them to a magical level. Judith Khlk takes us through how she creates her magic and inspires us all to have fun with a little shimmer and sparkle.

Light up a flatlay…

The nap time flatlay is one of Judith’s signatures as it’s often the perfect time to photograph an otherwise energetic toddler. Judith cleverly uses everyday items to create whimsical nap time scenes with her little one. This flatlay shows how you can add light both while you photograph your subject and later in the editing process. I love how she adds a magical glow to this image using fairy lights in a light bulb vase and adds even more sparkle in post production.

A nap time scene comes to life. Source:  @judith.khlk

A nap time scene comes to life. Source: @judith.khlk

The original photo as shot by Judith

The original photo as shot by Judith

How Judith brought this image to life

I took this picture on my bed. As soon as my son fell asleep I built a burrow with different textured blankets and placed autumnal leaves on it. When I was done I laid my son on the white blanket faffed into a circle. I played with the position of the props until I was happy with the scene of my little hibernating mouse.

To take the picture I used my camera fixed to a tripod, set in self-timer mode, that I held above my sleeping son. All the light comes from a big window on the left and the cozy feeling from the fairy lights in the bulb shaped jar. I added more sparkles later on in Photoshop.

Light up an outdoor scene

This is one of my favourite photos by Judith. It is such a beautiful and magical scene. I have always been intrigued as to how she created it so I couldn’t resist asking Judith to divulge her secrets. I particularly love how she has added the moon light to this image and its reflection on the lake, some celestial goodness right there.

Judith takes advantage of living in Dubai and visiting places like Love Lakes. This image is a compostite of two different images taken at the same location. Source:  @judith.khlk

Judith takes advantage of living in Dubai and visiting places like Love Lakes. This image is a compostite of two different images taken at the same location. Source: @judith.khlk

The original photos as shot by Judith

The original photos as shot by Judith

How Judith brought this image to life

I took this picture at the Love Lakes in Dubai. Two man-made heart-shaped lakes that are decorated with lots of hearts of wood and stone. I created this image of two different photographs. One of the lake and the other one of me and my son in a big heart on a parking lot. Both pictures were taken around the same time at sunset. I used Photoshop editing it and for the moon. Last I used Bokeh Cam Fx for the heart shaped Bokeh.

Light up a magical scene

Adding light to an image can elevate it to a magical status, and this image by Judith is simply astronomical. It is so interesting to see its humble beginnings and how Judith took it to this celestial level with some clever editing and by adding some glow and luminosity…not to mention some glowing starfish and a elegant swan.

This magical scene had humble beginnings. Source:  @judith.khlk

This magical scene had humble beginnings. Source: @judith.khlk

The before image as shot by Judith.

The before image as shot by Judith.

How Judith brought this image to life

The moon we’re sitting on was a big circled swing. We passed it every day when I someday thought that it actually looks like a moon. We’ve taken many pictures just swinging on it. I later used Photoshop to cut us out, add light to the moon to make it glow. I took pictures of the starfish as well and built everything else with stock images.

Thank you to Judith for sharing some of your secrets and original photos with us. Judith is our guest mentor for our June lighting challenge #cs_lightemup running from 17-23 June 2019. To see more of Judith’s whimsical photography you can follow her on Instagram @judith.khlk.

How to make your photos more creative by using alternative light sources

We’ve previously discussed how to get the best results from natural light and how to make the most of whatever light you have available during the day. Now it’s time to level up and learn how to work with the light you have available anywhere and anytime.

Limited sources of light should never hinder your creativity, rather it should inspire you to be even more innovative with your photography. There’s so many unexpected sources of light you can use to add unique and creative effects elements to your images. Once you start to look around you’ll notice so many light emitting objects around your home and neighbourhood that you may have never noticed before, let alone considered photographing. Some more commonly added light sources are items such as fairy lights and candles but have you ever considered getting more creative and using the light inside your refrigerator or household electronic devices?

Using car headlights as an alternative light source. Photo for Batch X by Creatively Squared creator Hannah

Using car headlights as an alternative light source. Photo for Batch X by Creatively Squared creator Hannah

How to find creative light sources to use in your photos

This is the easy part - simply start by observing your surroundings for all sources of light. Wherever you are, inside or out, look for where the light is coming from and see where shadows are falling. Inside there are so many sources of light to experiment with such as candles, table lamps, laptop screens, refrigerator doors and torches. Outside there is the moonlight, street lights, neon signs, car headlights and open fires.

There is no right or wrong way to use any available, or created, light sources and it may take some experimentation to position and photograph your subject matter to ensure it is adequately lit. Photographing in low light situations can be challenging and may require some extra patience and equipment to capture all the detail in your image.

Using fairy lights as an alternative light source. Photo for Macallan by Creatively Squared creator Jitz

Using fairy lights as an alternative light source. Photo for Macallan by Creatively Squared creator Jitz

Tips for photographing in unusual lighting situations

Composing your photo using alternative light sources can be a bit trickier, particularly if you are shooting in an unusual location with a smaller or unpredictable source of light. To help improve the outcome of your photo you can:

  • Use a tripod

  • Meter the exposure directly on your subject matter

  • If you are using a DSLR camera use a wide aperture and/or increase the ISO.

  • If you are shooting on your smartphone you can experiment with apps that allow you to shoot in RAW and manually adjust the settings to give you more control over your image such as NightCap Camera, ProCam 6 and Camera+ 2

Using creative light sources doesn’t have to result in a perfectly lit or exposed photo, it is more about adding a unique concept to your image and having fun trying something new. The more unusual and unexpected the light source the better! We would love to see how you are experimenting with sources of added light, you can tag your Instagram shots with #cs_lightemup and view the gallery to see how everyone else in the Creatively Squared community challenged themselves too.

The wrap up: we chased the sun and captured its light

Our lighting month got off to a wonderful start with our #cs_chasethesun challenge. Here is the weekly wrap up of the challenge…I think we well and truly captured the sun!

Speaking of capturing the sun, I loved this whimsical image by @photos_by_anahy. Who doesn’t love a sunny balloon and a yellow dress, not to mention a candy coloured sky.

Capturing the sun. Source:  @photos_by_anahy

Capturing the sun. Source: @photos_by_anahy

Our mentor for the week Hannah from @hannahargyle did a wonderful job at inspiring us all week and sharing her invaluable lighting tips with us. Hannah was particularly taken by @peyluvrain’s images. Pey certainly seemed at home with this theme and captured the sunny challenge perfectly. Those speckled shadows and summery vibes really created some beautiful imagery.

Some of Pey’s beautiful sun filled captures.  Source:  @peyluvrain

Some of Pey’s beautiful sun filled captures.

Source: @peyluvrain

Another one that captured Hannah’s heart was this image from @e_sweet_little_home_. A lovely fresh flatlay to mark the beginning of June.

A welcoming June image. Source:  @e_sweet_little_home_

A welcoming June image. Source: @e_sweet_little_home_

I think all our hearts were taken by Tracey’s heartfelt images, especially this beautiful still life of flowers from her garden to commemorate her mother. A chase the sun capture both literally and symbolically.

I’ve so enjoyed this week’s theme and the entries have been beautiful and joyful
— Tracey Hunter
A light filled window cill vignette. Source:  @traceyjhunter

A light filled window cill vignette. Source: @traceyjhunter

Chantelle submitted this wonderful entry playing with different coloured liquids and the result when the sun hits them, and isn’t the result spectacular! Very clever indeed!

Rainbow chasing, minus the purple. Source:  @minimarshmallows_mum

Rainbow chasing, minus the purple. Source: @minimarshmallows_mum

I hope you enjoyed this first challenge of lighting month as much as I did and you are enjoying our new format. I’m very excited to get moody this week.

Love Marisa xx


See more of the entries by visiting the hashtag #cs_chasethesun. To join in with our latest challenge go to our challenge page and get involved.

Innovative ways to add depth and mood to your images

Nothing beats the magic feeling of viewing a moody photo and feeling a sense of calm, wonder and intrigue. The light, composition and subject matter all contribute to the emotions conveyed in a photo and there is a real art to capturing beautiful deep tones in your image in a way that allows the focal area to stand out.

We are constantly amazed at the resourcefulness and ingenuity our community shows when it comes to taking incredible images with very little space, time and using whatever items are on hand. One of our favourite creators Joe @joetravellersg is very innovative when it comes to capturing moodily lit photos and we were so grateful to have him share some of his tips with us in this blog.

Still life image with tulips by Joe Oetemo

Still life image with tulips by Joe Oetemo

Shooting a moody still life

The original photo as shot by Joe

The original photo as shot by Joe

The space I use to compose still life images at home is a very small corner with an arm chair near a glass door. To create the dark background like in the image above I drape a black cloth over the back of the chair and place a wooden board on the seat to create the impression of a table.

Having to work in such a confined space means that I don’t have enough room to set up a tripod so I need to rely on having a very steady hand to take my images. I usually shoot on manual with a low F stop setting on my camera to make sure that the image is not too bright and creates a shallow depth of field which adds to the mood of the photo.

I usually experiment with a few different manual settings on my camera and then edit the finished image on my phone in Snapseed.

In this image I used the healing tool to remove the metal bar in the background of the flowers and then added more depth to my dark tones by using the curve and tune tools. The last step is to add a vignette which adds a nice frame of darkness around the image and draws the eye to the focal area in the middle.

Vibrant still life with birds and flowers

Vibrant still life with birds and flowers

Capturing mood with vintage cameras

Capturing mood with vintage cameras

Morning start vignette by Joe Oetemo

Morning start vignette by Joe Oetemo

Capturing mood on location

The original photo as shot by Joe

The original photo as shot by Joe

I often take photos while I’m out and about and trying out new cafes. I get the best results by sitting near a window in a corner where there is a wall adjacent so I can utilise the dark and light areas of the room in my photo.

To add more context to my images I will find props to use from inside the cafe such as salt and pepper shakers, utensils holder, books, magazines or my glasses. If there aren’t many props available I will sometimes place the saucer separately from the cup to help build the scene.

If the focus of my photo is the food, I will place the coffee cup at the foreground so it will be blurred when I take the shot. To add an interesting human or action element I may ask my friend or even the waiter to "lend" their hand to do something with the food or drink.

When shooting on location like this I will often just use my phone and edit the image in Snapseed.

Taking advantage of a light cafe windowsill

Taking advantage of a light cafe windowsill

Asking the barista to help out with an action shot

Asking the barista to help out with an action shot

Coffee, cookies and flowers by Joe Oetemo

Coffee, cookies and flowers by Joe Oetemo

Moody flat lay

The original photo as shot by Joe

The original photo as shot by Joe

I used the same wooden board as the make shift table top in the first image as a backdrop for my flatlay images as well. I invested in this small wooden backdrop that is about the size of an A4 piece of paper and it makes a great base for vignettes and flatlays alike.

To capture the right lighting for my moody flatlay I placed the board outdoors and used the soft morning light to get the shot before the sun gets too bright. I don’t have much time before work to do photography in the ideal light so I didn’t set up a tripod for this image, I just shot it by hand before leaving for the day.

I composed the image allowing for some negative space to allow my subject matter some breathing room, I don’t like to overcrowd my images. The soft morning light allows me to add further mood with my edit by enhancing the dark tones and adding a soft vignette.

Vibrant vegetables in a moody scene

Vibrant vegetables in a moody scene

Exquisite poached pears

Exquisite poached pears

Thank you to Joe for sharing his styling tips and original photos with us, it’s amazing to see what creative results can come from such limited space and basic equipment.

To see more of Joe’s beautiful moody photography you can follow him on Instagram at @joetravellersg

Using light to evoke emotion and enhance the mood of your images

Altering the lighting to add mood to an image is the perfect way to enhance the feeling of a moment and tell an emotive story to your audience. Adding mood is not just about making an image dark, it’s about playing with the lights and the darks of your scene, the shadows and the contrast, and the props you use. In this blog, Barbora Kurcova from @herinternest shows us how she creates mood and drama in her images to take us on a journey. Her simple yet sophisticated approach to image creating adds a depth to her images which is simply beautiful.

In the moody moment

This image, despite its dark and moody ambience, evokes such a cosy and happy mood. It captures the spirit of the holidays and how it feels to slow down and live in the moment. The beautiful light highlighting the hands and the small wreath tells a personal story of the small rituals we have and the moments we celebrate.

Slowing down and making traditions with Barbora. Source:  @herinternest

Slowing down and making traditions with Barbora. Source: @herinternest

The original photo as shot by Barbora

The original photo as shot by Barbora

How Barbora brought this image to life

To achieve a bit of a dramatic look I always take the picture close to the window so I have one source of natural light. In this instance I am sitting on the floor under the window (on the left), and there is a kitchen table next to me (on the right). Since I am sitting pretty much “under” the window and only my hands are up, almost at the window level, I can control which areas of the photo will be brightened up without too much editing. I also decided to leave the material used for creating the wreaths and some of the half finished/unfinished ones to lay around to give you an idea of the activity happening, not just the object itself. And to add a bit of Christmas mood and cheerfulness into really moody shot, I decided to wear red skirt and cosy woollen socks. The imperfection of the skirt set up and the rolled socks give the photo much more humble, human feeling I think.

This was taken before I bought a clever tripod, so I just had the basic cheapest one, so to get the height, I have a chair on the table with three shoe boxes on it (I am keeping the same boxes now for 2 years as they fit just great) and then I put the tripod vertically on the top of the chair-box construction and stick the tripod legs in the back of the chair. It balances quite nicely and allows me to have both hand in the frame. You can do the same with your phone, just tape it with a paper tape to the broomstick! I used my Olympus PEN E-PL7 camera with a 17mm lens.

With this setting and the dark Norwegian winters, I almost didn't edit this one at all. When I set my camera, I always underexpose, so I take it one step darker as that way you don't loose the details if you want to edit later. I am really lazy when it comes to editing and rather spend the time faffing around, so I use VSCO and use mostly filter A6, here on 2,5, Exposure plus 0.4, Sharpen plus 7,7 (I tend to oversharpen my photos in editing if there is such a thing and make them just teeny tiny brighter then I would like to as I always notice, especially with the moody shots, that Instagram makes them less sharp and darker, slightly, but it matters to me. And that is it, I don't think normal eye will see much difference between edited and not.

Capturing the mood

This is such a surreal and thought provoking image. The double exposed bed scene brings an early morning dreamlike sense and makes us wonder what you are dreaming of and what your observant self is thinking.

Double exposed Barbora. Source:  @herinternest

Double exposed Barbora. Source: @herinternest

The original photo as shot by Barbora

The original photo as shot by Barbora

How Barbora brought this image to life

This was very spontaneous idea when I came to the bedroom and there was this strange light on the wall (I am still not sure where it came from). So I put my camera in front of the bed in the bedroom, the window is on the right with some sunlight on the wall.

I used my cheap tripod as you need to stabilise your camera for double exposure, but you can use a shelf or chair which I sometimes use too. And I used Olympus PEN-EPL7 camera with 17mm lens and the in-built function of double exposure in the camera. So that way you take one photo first, second photo right after and the camera puts them over each other. I use my phone with the Olympus app as a remote and hide it somewhere under the duvet.

In terms of editing, I will tell you a secret here. It was a first time I tried double exposure and the result was way too bright for my style so I had to edit it a bit more then I would like to. Usually the editing takes away from the quality but here it was fine as the whole photo has a bit of a imperfect, ghostly feeling. For this one I used very random filter in VSCO called 08 legacy on 5,6 which gave it more contrast, took the exposure down -2,2, contrast +0,5, saturation +1, sharpen +12 (which didn't make much difference anyway but gave me a bit more detail on the blouse).

The moody flatlay

This flatlay is simply beautiful and I think the moodiness and darkness adds to its beauty. The juxtaposing of the real flowers, the paper flowers and the vintage bag all work perfectly together. The placement of your hand at the bottom anchors the flatlay and it’s elegant position adds to the composition’s beauty and brings a human element.

A beautiful moody arrangement. Source:  @herinternest

A beautiful moody arrangement. Source: @herinternest

The before image as shot by Barbora.

The before image as shot by Barbora.

How Barbora brought this image to life

Again, this was just by the window with the light coming from the top. To decide where the light is suppose to be coming from, think about the shadows. If the light would be coming from the bottom, the hand would be dark as it would shade itself and the flowers would not get enough light in the end. The backdrop here is actually just a footstool which is big enough to work as a background. But I also have a collection of wallpaper which I collected as leftovers from work, you can use nice wrapping paper or even paint your own background.

I get mostly inspired by situations or objects I have and then the idea clicks in my head. Here I wanted some fun idea for the #cs_bagspill challenge so I used my old vintage floral purse, leftovers from dying bouquet, paper flowers I kept from previous project and even some pink crystals to finish off the visual expression. I really often just collect things around the house and make it work. I wanted it to look like the flowers are growing from the bag so that is where I started to build the composition and then was working my way up. Everything is pointing upwards so you really feel like the bag is blooming.

With ths image I have used similar equipment as before, tripod on the table and chair, Olympus PEN E-PL7 and 17mm lens with timer. When taking photos with my hands like this when camera is easy to reach, I set the timer on multiple shots, so it takes 10 shots with 0,5s in-between. That way I can easily re-position the hand a bit to find the best one later on. I really pay a lot of attention to the hand position in my photograph as they can say a lot and here I wanted a bit more elegant, sort of old times feeling.

I said earlier I always use A6 in VSCO which I really do, but not here either. I usually try to find filter which does the job for me but doesn't change the colours, just helps to get the contrast and exposure right so then I just manually tweak it tiny bit. Here I used J4 on +6.0 and that was it and it worked perfectly. And then I used Snapseed to erase some of the lint on the sofa which I didn't see until I looked on the photo later. I very rarely photoshop something, but this is super easy healing tool so I removed a couple of white dots.

Thank you to Barbora for sharing these wonderfully moody tips and original photos with us. Barbora is our guest mentor for our June lighting challenge #cs_inthemood running from 10-16 June 2019. To see more of Barbora’s beautiful moody photography you can follow her on Instagram @herinternest

How to use visual cues to build on the narrative of your image

Masterful image creators know how to do more than just capture a beautiful looking image, they use the light, colours and composition to help build mood to draw the viewer in and make them feel something. By evoking emotions in your audience you will enrich your visual storytelling and invite the viewer to connect with your narrative on a deeper level. The more your audience can connect with your image the more engaged they will become.

Barbora Kurcova from @herinternest is an expert at creating emotionally charged images and finds new and inventive ways to tell intimate and interesting stories though her photographs. Her images are a wonderful example of which elements can be manipulated within in your image to evoke certain feelings in your viewer. In this post we will discuss how, like Barbora, you can use colours, light, location and your composition to build mood and deepen your visual narrative.

Light and Colour

The way you use light and certain colours in your images can have the greatest effect on the feeling of your viewer. Typically bright light and colours are seen as energising and uplifting, muted colours and low contrast for adding calm and dark tones can inspire mystery, foreboding or sombre feelings.

The colours you use within your composition can have great impact on the emotional response to your image. Many colours have symbolic meaning for example red is often linked to love or romance and the colours of nature can inspire feelings of calm and hopefulness.

The changing colour of light at different times of day can create vastly different feelings in your photo. Golden light from sunrise or sunset can add warmth, happiness and vibrancy to your image whereas the cooler blue light afterwards can make the same setting feel tranquil and serene. You can adjust these colours in your edit or post processing to manipulate the mood you’d like your photo to convey.

Bright well lit subjects can create uplifting feelings of happiness and joy. Outdoor images with an expanse of blue sky can feel whimsical and free-spirited.

Composing an image with darker shadows and less light can feel mysterious, fearful or sad. Increasing the tonal contrast can add dramatic effect whereas low contrast images appear more calm and relaxed.

Location and Composition

When it comes to composing your image, choosing an appropriate location and backdrop of to set your scene is vital to building on the narrative of your photo. Starting with scenery that adds character and the right tone will assist in communicating the appropriate emotions to your viewer.

A busy backdrop can communicate a feeling of liveliness or urgency, capturing movement in your subject matter can add a sense of speed or frivolity. To create the opposite effect and evoke feelings of peacefulness you can use subtle backdrops and compose your images using lots of negative space.

Where you place your subject matter in your composition can also affect the way it is perceived and felt by your audience. Up close can feel more personal and intimate whereas shooting your subject from further away can feel isolated or mysterious.

If you change the angle of your photography you can further amplify these emotions, shooting from underneath can make your subject matter look more empowered and regal and from above can feel vulnerable and meek.

There are many ways that you can enhance your visual storytelling through your photography and this overview is just the beginning. Emotions and responses are felt differently by everyone and you can keep experimenting to discover what resonates best with your audience.

All images in this blog are courtesy of Barbora and the originals are linked and can be viewed on Instagram at @herinternest If you’d like to find out more details about how Barbora takes such beautiful images you can read our guide to Using light to evoke emotion and enhance mood in your images

Recharge those creative batteries with our new creative challenge format

As a creative community and business Creatively Squared has thrived and continues to grow and evolve. We are signing up the most talented creators to our platform, working with our dream clients and producing incredible content. So much has changed but the one thing that has stayed largely the same is our weekly creative challenges.

We've had a lot of fun running over 150 challenges but now we feel the time has come for us to refresh the format so that it is better aligned with our vision and values.

Our goal for this community is to help each and every one of you realise your full creative potential. To achieve this goal we need to remove any obstacles and distractions which in this instance was the competition element of our weekly challenges.

Organising these weekly competitions and securing suitable sponsors and prizes takes a considerable amount of time and resources. Our community manager Marisa does an incredible job but much of her energy is directed towards managing our sponsors and their expectations which ultimately isn't bringing us any closer to achieving our goals.

We need to make sure we can focus all of our attention on you. The creators within this community are our number one priority and instead of enabling a few of you each week to win a prize we want to be able to add value to the entire community by providing better support, content and opportunities.

So what’s new?

Monthly challenge topics.
We are introducing overarching topics are designed to help you up-skill in a specific area ranging from techniques to creative concepts. When you complete all four weeks in the challenge you'll be taking away four new skills and adding examples demonstrating these abilities to your portfolio.

Extra resources
We want to make sure you have all the tools you need to execute your biggest and best creative ideas so we will be providing lots of resources and tutorials to help you learn each week. You’ll find these in our Creative Journal and relevant links will be provided with each weekly theme announcement.

Inspirational guest mentors
We are upping the ante with our guest hosts and inviting inspirational creatives to mentor the community during the challenge week. They will be featuring their favourite entries and sharing tips and trade secrets along the way.

For the most part the challenge structure will stay the same. We will continue to recognise great achievements and commend the best entries in our daily features. The community will still be sharing their tips and supporting each other throughout each challenge.

We hope you will continue to join us and that the desire to play, experiment, learn and connect with others on the same path continues to motivate you to challenge yourself creatively each week.

Check out our first monthly topic and upcoming challenge themes

Expert tips to amplify ambient light when shooting indoors

Natural light from the sun is the most impactful and challenging creative tool to work with as the colour, brightness and direction of the light changes continuously throughout the day. You can’t let unexpected lighting situations hinder your creativity entirely, instead use them to change the creative direction of your shot or employ some simple tools to make the most of the light you have available.

When you are relying on ambient light through a window at home to work your magic behind the camera it can feel very frustrating when the seasons change or the sun disappears behind some dark clouds. If the sun has taken a vacation or the light coming in from your favourite window isn’t quite bright enough you can use reflector boards or bounce cards to brighten up your subject matter by bouncing the light back at it.


Reflector boards can help amplify the available light, soften shadows and highlight contrasts in your image. White reflectors can provide fill light and reduce harsh contrasts in both indoor and outdoor photography. Being white in colour there is no risk of colour casts as it provides a versatile neutral light.

Content Creator Connie Chan from What She Pictures left her role as a commercial photographer to work from her home. Often relying on window light for her photos, Connie uses several foam boards to better illuminate her images.

I usually keep several foam boards in the studio. You can get them from a craft store and they cost a few dollars each. Their only function is to be a white, flat surface to reflect light so any other white, flat surface can do the same thing if you don’t have foam boards handy.
— Connie Chan

Don’t have a reflector? Here’s some other accessible and affordable white objects you can use to bounce light:

  • Walls or cupboard doors

  • Shelf or wooden planks

  • Sheet or white fabric

  • Styrofoam or foam core board

  • White coated MDA board

White boards won’t dramatically light up your image but can be used strategically to enhance your scene depending on where they are placed. There is no right or wrong way to use bounce boards and how you arrange them will have different results on your photo. As each lighting situation and subject matter is unique it is best just to experiment with placing your reflector boards in different positions to discover what gets the best results for you in your space.

Having an abundance of natural light isn’t always something we can take for granted and bounce boards will help you maximise whatever light you have available. If you have a home studio or a room in your house you like to work from a great starting point is to monitor the different outcomes the light has on your subject matter at different times. The same space can conjure up vastly different moods depending on the colour and harshness of the sunlight.

Images and expert tips courtesy of Photographer and Content Creator extraordinaire Connie Chan from What She Pictures. For more tips on how to up your content creation game head to Connie’s blog we found this post on ‘How to shoot products at home’ particularly helpful!

How to add a quick sun-flare or lighting effect onto your image using Photoshop Mix

Shooting into the sun can create a beautiful and artistic flare effect but it can be difficult to control. Alternatively you can add in the same effect to your image after you’ve taken it right from your smartphone in a couple simple steps.

There are lots of different apps and tools to add overlays onto your image but you are limited to whatever image files they supply or you may need to spend money buying add on packs. If you want to let your creativity run wild, our app of choice for enhancing your image is Photoshop Mix. This is a fantastic free tool that has great blending modes which allow you to easily add lighting effects onto your image in a natural way. Combined with the ample free png files you can find online the possibilities are endless.

In this tutorial we will be focusing on simple lighting effects, these could be a sun or lens flare, a light leak or any type of lighting effect you would like to experiment with. The key here is finding the right combination of images and selecting a blending mode to melt the effect onto your image in a realistic manner.

Ready to add some sunshine? Let’s go!

Step 1 - Choose your image and think about what type of lighting you would like to add. Is it a sunny day and could use a sun-flare? Do you want a coloured gradient or light leak?

Select your image making sure that the scene suits the type of lighting effect you’d like to add.

Select your image making sure that the scene suits the type of lighting effect you’d like to add.

Step 2 - Source or create your added sunshine or lighting effect. For this tutorial I searched ‘lens flare’ on and found this image which I downloaded onto my phone. A png file is an image that usually has a transparent background suitable for layering onto another image.

Step 3 - Open your original photo in Photoshop mix and tap the ‘+’ symbol to add a new layer

Step 4 - Select your chosen png file to add it onto the new layer and use your fingertips to adjust the size and position of it on your photo.

A free sun flare png file

A free sun flare png file

Add your chosen lighting effect onto a new layer

Add your chosen lighting effect onto a new layer

Select your blending mode to melt your lighting effect onto your photo.

Select your blending mode to melt your lighting effect onto your photo.

Step 5 -  Once it is in position, select ‘Blend’ to select which mode will help your lighting effect integrate with your original photo. I chose ‘Screen’ but Lighten and Overlay also would have worked well in this instance. You can tap each option to see what looks best on your image and adjust the Opacity slider to make the effect more gentle or intense.

Step 6 - Once you are happy with the result you can layer additional effects or export your image.

Ta da! The finished image with added sun flare.

Ta da! The finished image with added sun flare.

For the most natural looking effects It is important to ensure that your added layer compliments the existing lighting in your image and comes from the same direction as the sun. The best results come from enhancing the original light source rather than creating a new one.

Will you be trying this tutorial out? We’d love to see the results if you do.

Want to try some other tools to add fun lighting effects to your image? Check out our blog post Let’s get lit! 9 awesome tools to add glitter, sparkle and shine to your photos