• Jessica Lemmons
  • Wakeena Redsky DeLaCruz ~ Cultural / HSS
  • Fall and Boys!
  • RaNelle Wallace
  • Color Swap
  • S&R Engagement - Family
  • A&S Engagement
  • Kaitlyn Martin
  • Newborn baby L
  • David ~ Bodybuilder pre competition
  • JDC ~ Family
  • Simon ~ High School Senior
CJ Wilkes

About CJ Wilkes Photography

Capturing Your Dance In The Rain is such a thrill and joy to me. Being able to look back on those special times through beautiful artistic imagery makes it a worthwhile challenge.
Learning to Dance in the Rain has been very easy for me. I am drawn to Water & Life! The exciting part for me is to teach you to enjoy your moment in the dance as I capture it from behind my camera.
Looking forward to Capturing Your Dance In The Rain
CJ Wilkes

Right in Camera?

April 13th, 2015

I hear all the time – well if you get it right in camera. Yes, getting it right is important – But what is right?! Stop and think about it.

I enjoy editing and sometimes I know that if I underexpose for some situations I will be able to not worry about blown skin or highlights. If I boost my exposure some then I can fill in the shadows more if I like.

Personally – The natural light feel is what works for me, but then I have heard some people say that Natural Light is for those who do not know how to use OCF (Off Camera Flash) or lights.  I say – WRONG.  I have worked with both and can use both equally well. I still prefer the natural light look for most situations… especially outdoors, unless I am using street lights or a vehicle…. or plausible source of light for the setting.

Then there is the issue of color. You are limited with a camera when you hit the shutter key – that is what you get. Once you take your images into LR or PS you can tweak colors individually so as to help compose a masterpiece. I actually prefer PS because I love how I can play with those colors in layers to marry together the perfect combination.


For me – this is right in camera for what I do. I wanted this exact Before so I could create this After. Could not be happier.  When it comes down to it you truly need to evaluate what you are doing and what you want in the end. There is more than one right answer. Like many things, there is often more than one way to go about achieving the desired look. Another thing to consider is that once you do understand the rules… they are yours to break as you see fit.

Don’t get discouraged – learn to make lemonade if you have lemons. In this case – I had just what I wanted and needed :)








How I See Color

April 12th, 2015

One of the things a person needs to be able to do is see color before they can effectively edit an image. Sure, there are tools in the editing programs and even while shooting that can assist, helping to make the job easier.

Here is an example of what I see when someone is just starting out in photography and the editing aspect of it. They want to warm their image and just have a hard time pinpointing what the problem is. They will post an image that looks something like this:



Editing does not involving just tweaking one color or even 2. Editing involves understanding which colors need tweaking and how to do it effectively without ruining the whole image.



In fact – if you look at the above image here – the yellowish orange seems to get stronger in the shadows and edges.



In the SOOC (Strait Out Of Camera) image there was some pooling of Blues and Magentas (which you will see in a moment).  The issues from the SOOC were greatly resolved by adding the warmth or yellow. But I do not want a beach that looks like a toilet or an orange model.



The islands are green here because of the trees – but even so – the atmosphere will give it an almost bluish look. This is too green.



Granted – the image is pretty like this. It is cool (blue tones) but one could get away with this as a final product. I like elevating my images to another level. I dislike blues in my whites. I think it gives the image an unfinished look. I find that the color always seems to grasp onto the shadowed areas. For myself – I see color really easily. I know without having to test it out that I would be Desaturating some Blues, Cyans, and Majentas. Maybe not completely -but some. Either I desaturate Or – I would need to bring in colors that will cancel out the hues that are bothering me.


Here you can really see the cool tones on the islands. For what I am wanting – it is too much blue. If I wanted to depict a winter scene I could easily leave it the way it is and not stress about it. She is in a positions where she is either enjoying the breeze or the warmth of the sun above – or both. When one thinks of warmth it is not a blast as in the first images. For the final product I had many layers combined and masks to isolate where adjustments were made.


(Note – My clients all know that I use PS and that I take artistic liberties. Jenny is gorgeous – as you can see. In the final edit she appears thinner. The reason is because the fabric I had wrapped her in heavily was bunched up heavily making her appear almost pregnant. I could have easily left it – but instead, I used the liquify tool to adjust that.  Some my like that some may not – It does not matter. What matters is she is happy as well as myself.)



That was meant to read – I like to add the sunlight on it’s own layer.



I did not let the shadows go black but at the same time – I ensured they were not Blue or Yellow or Red or Green.



Hahaha – I was doing horribly in typing quickly. That was to read Skin. When I played with the tones in LR I was able to adjust in such a way that the whites were neutralized beautifully. By paying attention to those areas – there was less for me to do in PS.



In fact – the layer I used for the sunlight an playing with the warmth and luminosity I was able to neutralize just enough, leaving an ever slight blue tone to the islands. Much like what you see in real life here.


In my editing flow I always produce a conversion for my clients so they can decide which they prefer best.



The colors were perfect in the final edit though so it would be my personal choice to showcase it.


Some things to note. In LR you have control with the colors. You can play with color tone. You can play with individual colors and their tones, hues, luminosity.  You also have color lens correction in LR & you have brushes where you can edit different parts of the image. The control you have is in the brush size and opacity or flow.  You can do a whole lot.

In my work flow I play some in LR but ultimately I bring it into PS because I love the layers, the masks, the ability to fine tune things so much more with blend modes, and modes – well there is nothing out there that compares. I love the overall control that PS gives me. I can tweak the whole image or just small areas.

Well there you go. I just let you in my mind for a moment. Hope you enjoy and that this helps you to seek out color more effectively.  Stay tuned to some great tutorials in the near future.

(I apologize for the misspelling on the images)

See the Light!

February 25th, 2015

See the light!

Light matters in Art & Photography. The way an artist portrays light can make or break an image. Learning to see it first and then capture it is truly vital.  When I started learning the basics, the concept I worked very hard to nail was Catch Lights.

What are Catch Lights?




These last 3 pieces were drawn by my daughter Miriam. I often wondered what that little circle in the eyes were. After studying light more in depth, I realized that this style of art was trying to portray catch lights!  This little piece added to the cats eyes help draw you in to look at its eyes a bit more, much like in photography.


Here you have my son, Edmond, holding his dad’s guitar. He is attempting to play like “Daddy”.  Take note of those eyes. Edmond has eyes that are so brown they look almost black. The only way I am able to see the pupil is in direct light. For picture taking that can be a problem – his eyes can look lifeless (because light is often associated with life, you can see how that may be a problem) if I do not take note to get catch lights. In the image above, Edmond has flecks of light in his eyes.  (The window with white shading was 45 degrees to the right of this image.) Those specks of light help give life & draw the viewers attention to his eyes.

Catch Lights by definition = Catch light or Catchlight is a light source that causes a specular highlight in a subject’s eye in an image. They are also referred to as eye lights or Obies, (the latter a reference to Merle Oberon, who was known for using this technique.)

There are correct and incorrect ways to capture catch lights, but that is not what this particular post is about. It is, however, important that you understand some basics, such as catch lights, though. Catch lights are essential if you want to draw attention to the eyes OR if you are simply wanting to add life to the subject. The lightest or brightest portions in an image will grasp the eyes attention. If you want to bring attention to any part of your image you add light. To take the attention away you will apply the opposite by darkening or removing the light.  Because of light’s affect on images and how we see them, this is something one must learn early on in art or photography.

MaximusMarketable18                                                                                                by Maximus Visual Artistry

Maximus Visual Artistry does well here in this composition by using light to guide you to his focal point. The focal point should be the free floating orb between the girls hands. Then the light spills onto the girl, highlighting her hands, inner legs, chest, and parts of her face. The light does not, however, fall into the surrounding darkness. You can see that there are plants around because the dark sky is not as dark as the brush or grass, yet it is light enough that you know there is sky behind the foliage. The emphasis is not on the foliage nor the sky though. Maximus was sure to bring that point across by the huge contrast created by the background and the main subject.

Light gives an artist the ability to paint a story, or maybe better said, draw out the subject of interest by direction. When working an art piece, learn to lead ones eyes by the use of light.

MaximusMarketableFishoutofwater4                                                                                              by Maximus Visual Artistry

If you have an image like the one above by Maximus Visual Artistry, where the tones are pretty even across the board, the use of light is where you will find strength. If you look at the mermaid’s head dress on the left, also look at the left side of her face, and on her knees. These spots are the brightest portions of the image. Then behind her you see the blacks of the rocks. The contrast works like a map help to guide you to where you should be looking. Your eyes will lead you to to bright first then wander to take in the rest of the view. This is light being used to assist in the storytelling.  The source used is direct and spills over or onto the subjects.

Incident Light: Incident light is the light that falls on a subject, either directly or indirectly.

Reflective Light: Reflected light is the light that bounces off your subject and other elements in the scene.

Contrast: Contrast describes the difference in brightness between the highlight and shadow areas of a photograph.

You need to take into account the color or tone of the subject being lit. Dark colored subjects need more light whereas a light subject will not require as much light.

Direction of light – Note where the light is coming from. This will determine the way the shadows fall or where the highlights will hit.

Intensity – The darker the shadows or the hotter the light the more intense the mood that is created (It will also affect whether you need to add reflectors or other light sources for filler. Your camera can only meter off of one spot.)

Source – Take note of the Size and Distance – The size and distance will affect the intensity.

Sculpting with Light: Techniques for Portrait Photographers by Allison Earnest is a book I recommend to any artist.


AdrianMurray3180                                                                                                        by Adrian Murray

When I look at Adrian’s work it always triggers an emotion.  His work captures moments that are timeless. This particular piece is one that most any parent can relate to. I don’t think it would have been as great of an image had the light in the refrigerator not been on, nor if the light in the kitchen was spilling in. The fact that the shadows seep in from the sides to create a vignette, and the main source of light is coming from the refrigerator as the main source of light, allows the artist to bring the subjects to our attention. The contrasting darkness of the children vs the incident light plays a factor in the image as well.  It really does not take much – but it does take a know of the conditions (aka lighting) that you have to work with. Obviously, Adrian is in the know, which brings me to his next piece:

AdrianMurray8896                                                                                                          by Adrian Murray

I had first seen Adrian Murray’s work with his son and the sailboat. I adored everything about it. What caught my eye was how his focal points were placed in such a way that my eye could not miss the story unfolding. It dawned on me was that the lighting is what made this moment stand out in my mind. The brightest features in the image were on and around the main subjects. The light reflects off the water into his son’s face. You also see the sails that are backlit and mirrored in the water below. The backlighting is apparent on the top of the boys head where you see a thin rim of light. The light sail and the fair skin, both, do not need much light. Obviously, the spill of the light from behind and the reflective light from the pond were masterfully utilized in this sweet capture!

Backlighting is said to be a more difficult technique to learn. The reason for that is that you must learn to expose the skin properly and the camera cannot meter for 2 scenarios (as mentioned earlier.) So your options are to meter for one or the other OR have an alternative light source to fill in while you meter for the brighter area or background.

The lack of light with carefully placed or spotlit areas in varying degrees is just as poignant as the presence of light. One will often hear the following comments:

That movie/art piece was very dark!

That image leaves me with a light and happy feeling!

It was a gray and blah sort of day. OR It was a dark and gloomy sort of day.

That was from the dark ages.

I need to watch something light and uplifting.

It is not a coincidence that dark, neutral (gray), and light are used in the description of ones emotions or mood. People relate to light and dark in a very emotional manner.

Pauly Pariwat Pholwises quickly became an artist whose work I love to see. I suffer from chronic migraines, and have all my life. I am very sensitive to light. If something is too bright it can bring on a massive migraine. When I am viewing Pauly’s work there is a certain calming that his images bring. He is able to balance lighting in his images.

PaulyPholwises34by Pauly Pariwat Pholwises

We often talk about framing in photography. In the next image Pauly Pholwises utilized the reflections to create that frame. The lighter top portion almost forces your eyes down while the lower light section (almost a foggy looking piece) pushes your eyes up – The two ends bring your eyes to rest on the face of the girl looking back out at you. This is one instance where the light areas were such that the eye wanted a more soothing and less light shade to look on.

PaulyPholwises33                                                                                                by Pauly Pariwat Pholwises

In this next image – you can see that the variation in color is within the greens that surround the girl. The darkness moves to light from the base of the bloom to the bright tips. Pauly carefully guides your eye by having his subject hold a blossom right in front of her, the brightest part of the flower being just at her top lip leaves your eye to move on to explore her face.  A true artist. I commend his ability to create varying shades and still keep it within a range that allows mood yet not be so harsh that the brights are blinding or the shadows so dark you cannot see the detail. His balance is very soothing to the eye (and my head).

PaulyPholwises30                                                                                                     by Pauly Pariwat Pholwises

PaulyPholwises32                                                                                                 by Pauly Pariwat Pholwises

Pauly Pholwises, utilizes contrast in his work, but it is softened in the way he edits. His mastery of neutral tones is one that is sought after by many. That combined with his composition skills and artistic flare makes it easy to see why his work is loved everywhere!

Strong lighting or lack of lighting will tend to match the emotion it conveys, just as soft lighting will have a more calming effect or balance to that emotion.

InvitingHome.com state this in trying to explain how light creates mood in architecture:

Higher levels of lighting generally produce cheerful effects and stimulate people to alertness and activity, whereas lower levels tend to create an atmosphere of relaxation, intimacy, and restfulness.

As you can see – light creating mood is not limited to art alone, but in Architecture, Home Design, Psychology, and theater.

This next artist is one that I would consider a master at moody Black and White images. He has a way of making the dark & mysterious mood alluring.

EliDreyfuss4133                                                                                                    Imagery by Eli Dreyfuss

Darker shadows, like the way the light hit her hair and created a shadow across her face, gave me the sense that she was in hiding, while her eyes or facial expression tell me she is a strong individual, even if she may be scared. In Eli’s images, I notice that he is always mindful to include the catch lights. In this workflow, I find the catch lights to be vital elements to the images. It assists in definition.

EliDreyfuss38424Imagery by Eli Dreyfuss

The mysterious darkness leaves one longing to know more, understand why. Is she hiding? The use of complete blackness over the eye on the right makes me feel as if it is a way of saying she is in hiding OR is it a metaphor for some unknown secret?

305EliDreyfussPortraitImagery by Eli Dreyfuss

With more light than the first two images (also by Eli Dreyfuss), it feels as if the artist is willing to share more. I almost sense he is willing us to search her expression more and the details about her. Had she been as darkly portrayed we may not have noticed her fingers running through her hair, or the sadder portion of her face (the right eye and downward turn of the mouth on the right).

I know I shoot and show lots of images of people, but all of this applies to animals as well. One artist that I enjoy perusing through his images after he has been to the zoo is Mark Lynham.  Mark is simply put, brilliant, in his work with light. This tiger’s markings make for great contrast already so converting to a BW image allows the contrast to stand out quite nicely. Then Mark adds the negative space above. He could have gone with white, but because the tiger has a nice amount of white already, black is the natural contrasting color that helps the tiger stand out more dramatically. If you look closely at the tiger’s eyes, you can see the fleck of catch lights in the upper portion of the eyes. Flawless exposure, great conversion, and the experts composition makes this a great image that any tiger enthusiast could stare at for long periods of time.


RTLemurMLby Mark Lynham

Of coarse, if your subject has white fur, as this Ring-Tailed Lemur has, when against a darker backdrop, it will stand out. That combined with beautifully focused eyes with awesome catch lights in the upper portion of the eyes makes a very stunning image!

CheetaML by Mark Lynham

Depth of field is usually spoken of hand in hand with blur or aperture. Yes, Aperture does help with creating that depth of field, but as you can see in Marks Lynham’s image above, the depth of field is made that much stronger with the use of light. By making a point of ensuring the large cat in front was lighter than the 2 unfocussed ones behind, the eye is assisted not only in focusing but making that depth of field more prominent.

StormTrooperMLby Mark Lynham

The term “silhouette” has been extended to describe the sight or representation of a person, object or scene that is backlit, and appears dark against a lighter background.

Silhouette’s came about in the 18th century as a cheap representation of a person, object or scene. Today it has been taken to another level. It is not uncommon to find a silhouette created with a spectacular sunset. The brightness of the sun combined with the vibrant colors create an ambiance that paired with the nearly black or solid black of the objects can’t help but make them pop. The key is to get the brighter light source in front of your object.  The back light will help outline your subject best because of the contrast.

_DSC7996cby CJ Wilkes

When Silhouette’s were first created, the backing was usually white or a solid color. Of coarse you would see some that were inverted, but they were hand drawn rather than done with cameras like today. The great artists could pop out a silhouette by eye (without the use of screens), but even the ones that used a screen would get so good at them that they could pop them out in minutes.

Mood created by light is very intriguing to myself. Of coarse it would be! I see and feel emotion in everything. The following site site was fun to study LumiFi They break down lighting and color into moods.

Here are a few interesting examples in terms of how lighting shapes behavior from InformeDesign:
—Visibility of vertical and horizontal junctions aids orientation
—People follow the brightest path
—Brightness can focus attention
—Facing wall luminance is a preference
—Lighting can affect body position
Understanding the ratio of the light on a task or object compared to its surroundings can be very useful.  Since the lighting on the artwork is five or more times brighter than the rest of the room, it draws the eye and commands special attention.
The same can be said about the subjects within an art piece or photography. It is a balance. Mastering that balance is key.
The IES also states:

Our eyes permit us to see not only the shapes and surface characteristics of objects but also to perceive color and its relative brightness.  Color contributes greatly to the quality of life – the thrill of a pink sunset or a blue sky.

Color plays an important part in our selection of furnishings, walls, and window treatments in a variety of applications – and since all color comes from light, it is an important part of our lighting decisions as well.

Light is more than a just a necessary part of the seeing process, it shapes the way we view the world around us and can dramatically increase the enjoyment of your home…

…or art piece or photography.

As IES states, Color comes from light. When I think of light combined with color to make an image strong, I instantly think of Lisa Holloway’s work. I feel that the path is set out for me when I look at her images. There is no guessing. The light guides the eye to her subjects face or desired targets.

LisaHolloway2                                                                                                        by Lisa Holloway

I see a ring within a ring of light in the image above. Starting from the outer vignette to the light from the back lighting to the dark auburn hair and then back to a light colored complexion of the child’s face, and then her eyes are seemingly darker than her face. It is like looking into a tunnel. When the tunnel is strait you look right at the end of it or what is at the end of it. Here, the analogy is at play.
LisaHolloway3                                                                                                          by Lisa Holloway

Living in a forest, there is already contrast with a child vs nature, then add colors as rich and vibrant as the child’s including her blonde hair, then on top of it the drama of the lighting. Because of the lightness of the little girls skin and hair, the light from the source makes her stand out perfectly. That is not done by chance. Lisa looks around at the lighting conditions, angling them in the perfect spot so the light will fall on them just right. It is a dance, it is not chance.
You hear that there are better times for shooting in. It is true. The time of day can affect how nicely the light is.  If the day is overcast, it will work like a giant soft box for you. However, even on cloudy days, you have to watch how the light affects your subject. The Golden hours are a favorite for many (the couple ours at sunrise and the couple hours before sunset). Those times are loved and coveted because the shadows are not harsh like at mid day. But in mid day, there are things you can do to help with your shooting. You can use reflectors or Off Camera Flashes. You are not limited to just those 4 hours. The most important aspect to all of this is to get out there and practice with your camera.  Always take note of the light around you. If you are in the trees and you see light spatters all over the ground and within it is the shadowing of the leaves and branches, chances are you will get a dappled light on your subject as well. Maybe you have to block the light source some or find a location that is not being affected so.

Place your subject in the location you are thinking of. Look in their eyes, look at how the light is playing around them. Is the light hindering your view? Is the light enhancing? That is very important. In the end, you want people drawn to your image. Or do you want to negate the light and simply outline your subject? Create a silhouette? You are the master of your art! And like all masters, you must practice and learn to see in light, in color. Watch and learn from others who are well versed in their crafts. There is a reason they are amongst the best of the best.  These particular artists, featured here, are consistently producing images that Ooooo and awe the masses. For myself it is easy to see why. They understand the fundamentals. Lighting being at the top of the chart.

LisaHolloway6                                                                                                     by Lisa Holloway

When you are reading up on different techniques or concepts, try not to let it all overwhelm you. Pick one, then study it until you know it inside and out. Then move on to the next. For some, this subject is one that they understand while others will need to get a few more books out and play a whole lot before it clicks. That is how it works. Just don’t give up. Work until you see light in such a way that you will have full control over your shoot. Work on back lighting, then move to playing with your shadows, then play some with catch lights. All the while, remember to look over the work of those you admire and love most.

A very special thank you to all the artists that allowed me to feature them in this blog post.

Thank you ~

CJ Wilkes (Cindy)

Are they Pictures or Stories?

February 14th, 2015

Something often said to me is – “Your pictures are more than pictures! I can feel the emotion behind them.” Admittedly, that is such a flattering comment. However, I often feel like I am in a rut. Like my work needs to evolve into something more. Why? I am an artist and we are always overly critical of our own selves or striving to be that much better. Sure, I can fall on that – but I think I have since found the answer to my own question. Are my pictures just pretty pictures? Or is there truly something special about them?




My approach to this has been from an emotional starting point. From a rough childhood to life as I know it now, my view on life has been a positive one, even during the darkest times. I think it was my need for beauty and peace that allowed me to look at life the way I do. In fact, I strive to bring what I see to the world through my work.

One day while looking through images, I ran across the work of Morgana Creely of Image Cinematic
Morgana’s style was nothing like mine, yet I was very drawn to it. So much so that I decided to take her 13 week course to see how her mind works. How are her images so profound in my mind? Along with many other artists. She helped open my mind to a new way of thinking. She thinks in Stories! My big profound moment came while looking at this image of hers:

A glass of pills sitting on a table

Can you believe an Ah-ha moment would come from an image as un complex as this? I looked at it over and over. The image was so simple. But what would the point of such a simple image be to me? That was when I realized that I take pretty pictures. Sure, some have a story but my mindset has always been about bringing the beauty before me forth. Allowing each person who see the work to enjoy in the beauty and peace that was before me. Nothing wrong with that except I yearned to be a Artist capable of telling a story through my work. Maybe stir emotion in someone?!

Goodstory PhotographyRecipe

Morgana hit the nail on the head for me which spun me into a search for some good resources and information that I am bringing to you. Thank you for helping me evolve Morgana!

Now before I move on I would like to bring you the definition of Perception. In art, a piece can evoke different emotions that are as vast as there are colors or numbers.

1. the act or faculty of perceiving, or apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind; cognition; understanding.
2. immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment: an artist of rare perception.
3. the result or product of perceiving, as distinguished from the act of perceiving; percept.
4. Psychology. a single unified awareness derived from sensory processes while a stimulus is present.

5. Law. the taking into possession of rents, crops, profits, etc.”

An artist plays with a person’s perception. Artist are often attacked on the precept of being irresponsible in their deliverance of their piece. Running a large group of almost 93,000 members and growing, we often run across huge debates brought about by how the process is perceived. For instance, A small boy was near a body of water. The artist had edited the image so the mother standing right behind said boy was not seen. The angle of the shot gave you the illusion that the water was deep and possibly dangerous. The artist was given the third degree, even when he explained that all precautions were made to protect that child.

People often do not see or understand the process that is taken by Professional Photographers and artists. When working with a client we have to take into consideration not only our vision, but the safety of the people we are working with. Many do not see that the processing is one place where we could delete additional people or, in some cases, the image is put together by multiple pieces of photography to come up with a creative image. That last one is ones imagination being pieced together through the use of today’s technology.  Then there are other things such as the angle an image is shot to alter ones view or perception of depth, size, and even lighting perspective.

The Chase


Tracy Williams is a Fine Art Photographer and Digital Artist. I am often mesmerized by her work. I am grateful to her for letting me use this image for this blog post about Story Telling. All of her work is, simply put, a great example of story telling. Just like a great Author, Tracy is able to tell her story through her imagery. In this particular piece, my heart beats fast because the light coming from the right of the image (you can tell it comes from the right because it is brighter from that side and fades as it cascades over the boys back) is headed straight for the young boy running away from it. You could say – JUMP! But then you see the water below and the distance from the bridge is higher than the boy is tall. To make matters worse, it is dark! The details are not entirely perfect as it would not be at night time. All the mind want to say is Run boy! Run!All the pieces placed together melted into an entire story in my mind. I want to know what the heck that boy was doing on the bridge in the middle of the night in the first place! I want to know if he made it! I want to know where his mother and father are! Tracy Williams is one I would consider a true artist and master story teller!


© Mark S. Johnson Photography


Mark is another great artist that is able to bring images together in such a way that is tells a story. What I love about much of his work is the bright happy feel that he paints by his use of brilliant colors. He takes the different pieces, plays with light and color while spinning his story. I could sit all day and stare at this image, but then I want to go pick up a book after seeing this too. His ability to portray that message is definitely that strong. Easy to say that his work holds much of what dreams are made of. That is what story telling is about! Being able to suggest that the story spilled from the pages of the book, then walla! Here it is before you to behold.
Details! Details! Details! Would it have been as strong of an image without the butterfly? Without the balloon? What about the colors? And the light?!I see Mark’s work here and there and I always know it is his. It is filled with fun imagination and happy thoughts. Helping to bring me to a very good place. He also is great at making the impossible seem like the norm, or at least it should be!


Mark S. Johnson is a Photoshop luminary, a longtime contributor to the KelbyOne and Planet Photoshop sites, a member of Dewitt Jones’ Healing Images campaign, and a Trey Ratcliff Flatbooks author. Mark’s site, www.msjphotography.com, is overflowing with enlightening tutorials and limitless inspiration.


It is very hard to not feel inspiration from such artist surrounding me. Not everyone finds inspiration at the tips of their fingers. I looked around and realized that inspiration is not always happy. There are stories everywhere you look!


1. How are you going to find inspiration in a way that portrays you?
2. How you feel?
3. What you see?
4. Where you have been?


I am often awed by John Mitchell, in a very different way. He is quite profound in his way of depicting life. Much of his art is dark in nature. That does not lesson the intensity of his work, because his work is just that! Intense. Thought provoking. Some of my favorite pieces from him include a poem or story, but do not require it, because the subject is deep.


AntigonishAntigonish by John Mitchell


John’s work uses light in such a way that shadows are lurking everywhere. His poses are menacing, uncomfortable, frightened, or depressing. I also see the blues in many of his pieces. Is the blue to give you a sense of night, cold, unfeeling? It is strange to say this is intriguing, but I am in a state of mind that, if everything was beautiful you could not really understand how beautiful it really is because you would not have anything to compare it to. In life, there are some truly dark and depressing aspects that cannot be ignored. And should it? Maybe it is not for you. Is it possible that it is a cry for help form the artist? Is it a memory? Is it what he pictures as a consequence to some action? Or is it that he is simply looking at life from a different perspective? Either way, there is a story.


Imagery can tell so many stories. Babies, Fairies, Rainbows are all so nice – but issues sometimes need to be addressed. Sometimes the way it is addressed is not so obvious and other times it is quite blatant, shocking even. As a survivor of incest an rape, I am a strong advocate for survivors! I have found that some abuses are overlooked though. Sometimes we need someone to bring to light that truth in a shocking manner, in a way that makes you stop and think! This next artist went to the top of my list with this particular series. I am only going to show 2 of the images, but will provide you a link to his work so you can peruse the series in it’s entirety.


Weapon of Choice by Richard Johnson of SpectaclePhoto.com


Weapon of Choiceby Richard Johnson of SpectaclePhoto.com


If you cannot tell by the imagery alone, Words Hurt! We often look at the bruises because what we see is the easy thing to spot, but then we do not always look at the hurtful less obvious situations such as neglect and verbal abuse. The imagery is profound and spot on. When this series was released, I literally cried as I carefully thumbed through each image. It’s affect on my emotions may not be the same for you, but it spoke to many who have seen it. That is the thing about photography though. Not everyone will be affected in the same manner or for the same reason. What I find touching may come across as, touching, annoying, frustrating, spectacular to a handful of others. In story telling, that is how it goes. It is also the reason there are different ratings for movies. If you have 100 people all in one room – not all of them will like the same sort of movie as the others in that room. The same holds true to photos, and art.


Here are some different ways to help you find inspiration:
1. Go for a walk in nature
2. Meditate
3. Go to the zoo – Take time to watch the people around you
4. Attend an opera or ballet
5. walk into a costume store
6. Look through abandoned areas (Ghost town, Old industrial, Old section of town)
7. Find some magazines of different genres and read them
8. Have a movie a thon
9. Write in a journal
10. Go take some pictures, practice, play, try


Vanille                                                                                                       Jay Kreens Photography


Jay Kreen is know for his beautiful pictures of women with flawless skin and the sensuality they exude in just one movement or look.  I love how Jay will use light and aperture to draw a person to look at what he wants you to look at. Her eyes, her body, her setting.
There have been several images of his that really draw me in as quite a story telling type of piece. This particular one  being one of them. There is hardly anything to the story by way of props. What do we have here? The setting, as perceived through my mind, may be a bed with a very plush blanket. To me the plush blanket gives a feeling of comfort and safety. She is not fully dressed, but is not concerned. Is it because she is alone? What is she thinking? Is she dreaming? Is she thinking of the past or future? Is she happy? Is she content?
Story telling does not have to have all the bells and whistles, it just needs enough to tell the story you are trying to share.


What are the best ways for you to share your story?
Do you find you are drawn in by color? Or the lack of? Are you drawn in by emotion? Extreme or just whimsical? Do you like to bring contrast to the world? How are you going to do that? Is lighting a factor in the images you like or want to create, or the lack of light? Do you like it all to be in focus or do you want to draw the attention to one focal point? Photography does not begin and end in that moment when you hit the shutter. The possibilities are endless.

 mitova2png                                                                                                            Annie Mitova

The moment I saw Annie Mitova’s work it seemed to draw me into another world. The childhood I only ever dreamed of. The one where there was innocence and happiness. The colors drew me in to the fantasy, the costumes into another era, the textures of the clothing assist with the frilly, romantic feel of the setting. In the image above my first thoughts were of first hints of love and friendship. The connection and reaction the children have with each other both adding to the story being told.

abortweb                                                                                                           Annie Mitova


One aspect I have not spoken about much that Annie is great at implementing is movement. In my own work that too has been a favorite to include. She does it flawlessly. In this particular image the setting lets you know that the child is in the middle of a dance. The child’s clothing builds upon that particular belief: her costume looks like a ballerina’s with feathers and tulle (lots of flowing tulle!) The flowing tulle not being fully in focus help with depth of field. The focus on the child’s face along with the lighting makes you feel like she was captured mid movement while recalling her next move…

 mitova1facebook                                                                                                           Annie Mitova


Textures are often used in story telling and can be found in the fabric, in the environment, in the way one edits. Being able to combine textures successfully to convey a setting and capture the look desired is essential. I remember as a child, having stories read to me and looking ahead to the images just to see if the image on the next page matched what the story was spelling out.  Often those images would allow my mind to race a head to what may or may not happen in the following pages. Much like the winter scene that Annie Created just here.


Subject matter is vital when contemplating the story being told. Is your story telling better achieved with children? Or do you find that your stories are centered primarily around adults? There are those that can set everything up around animals. Maybe humanizing them through the settings they are shot to draw in the very real human aspect to the emotion conveyed? One person who did that so well and built an entire business off the concept was Walt Disney. His ability to think up very human scenarios played out in cartoon by animal characters with human attributes. Another favorite of my own children is Anne Geddes and the worlds she created in her work with babies. Her images captivate many. And although some find her great – others are horrified. She definitely had her own vision which did bring on a spectrum of different emotions. My children and I, however, really enjoy her images and often contemplate what the story must have been to have her build upon it to create such images.


This next artist I have the pleasure of introducing you to hit so many keys of emotion in his work for me. The subjects can be from children to adult while the topics he presents range vastly. What is so riveting about his work, in my minds eye, is that the stories are raw, real, and sincere. His work is displayed much like emotions. Emotions range or vary considerably, much like his work.  I love how his lighting, color, and composition, and set detail dance together to create a spectacular piece.


                                                                                                     Adrian McDonald


The first time I viewed this particular image, it caught my breath. Some artist will create what they are inspired to create then are surprised to see the reaction that was provoked by it.  Really, everyone needs to realize that if an artist is able to bring on strong emotions out of people, then they have definitely found the right key. Maybe not the viewer’s desired key, nonetheless a key that raised a certain level of awareness, awe, and thought. My particular story was mine. I only wished my little brother would have had someone rescue him back in the year 2000. Instead, we are now 15 years without my brother here to share our lives together.  I still long to see my little brother’s face and even the man’s face here. I want to look in both their eyes and say “I love you! Can’t that be enough?!” And yes, I am typing this with tears running down my face.


That is my story. What story in your life did this image trigger to come to surface?
In my mind and heart, Adrian McDonald is an absolute Master of his craft! He not only makes me bawl like a baby, but as mentioned earlier, he can then make my heart swell with happiness as he did here:


bubbleweb                                                                                                         Adrian McDonald


The simplicity, the expression, the innocence. As I said, a master of capturing and captivating.
I have often been told that looking at an image alone cannot teach you anything. I have also been told that artists should be willing to spill all their secrets in how they create what they do. Something that is said repeatedly. The part that people are not getting is that these images are all so very telling. Let’s review what you have seen in these images. I will then share what all of these and other artists inspired within me.1- You can decide to either shoot a pretty picture OR take it the extra step and tell a story with it.
2 – You can use more than one way artistically to create your story. You can set up the scenery before you, OR you can piece it together and complete it in post processing.
3 – You can decide if you want to reach a very wide audience by shooting across a spectrum of ages from young to old OR you can hone in on a specific age range, OR even not use people for your story telling.
4 – You can choose to shoot in a Dark Setting OR Light setting.
5 – You can choose to use color to help tell your story (such as Warm or Cool) OR not use color as part of the story process.
6 – You can choose texture and how it plays in your image OR you can choose motion.
7 – You can choose to Shock and Wow OR you can be more subtle in your story telling.
8 – You can go and look for things that interest you, intrigue you, move you OR you can draw on life’s experiences.
9 – You can go about this on your own OR make it a group effort.


There has been a turn in my work since thinking all of this through. In my last blog I have addressed this. What I will say about it is that this has turned into a Family Thing. That is what works for me. What works for you? Either way, take time to study the artists around you. Take a moment and look at the ones I have shared with you here. I promise that you can learn by looking. But I also know that many are willing to help and share. Some teach courses, while others will answer questions. Either way, in my mind, their contribution to the world of art is very much appreciated. To see my latest growth from pretty pictures to themed or story telling images please check out that last blog It’s a Family Thing


Check back regularly for Introductions to Artists, Tips, and Great images! Thank you
CJ Wilkes (Cindy)



It’s a Family Thing

February 13th, 2015

Getting really “into” photography starts with family for me. It ends with family as well. I love the chances I have had to work with clients – But my true inspiration is Family. My own grandmother was never seen without a camera in hand. I remember Grandma Joy at family events snapping at anyone and everyone. People would snicker or cringe at the sight of the camera, but nothing stopped her. She has albums all full with family pictures and events. Her actions stuck with me. That and my love for capturing what was seen before me.

When Nathan and I married, we both knew we wanted children. After years of trying we were told we would never have children of our own. On our sixth year of marriage and trying to have children, I became pregnant. With no hope of keeping the baby (because of all the other losses), I went into the dr.s office to confirm and see if there was a possibility or if this one will mimic the past pregnancies.  They said the chances were very small but we would try. I had to inject myself with progesterone daily and take asprin for the first 3 months. There were a few scares in those months, but the baby stayed. I had to have shots in each hip for 5 months instead of 3 though. All the sudden I was at 31 weeks of pregnancy and my body said NO MORE! From 31 weeks to 35 weeks she threatened to join the world early. I was bed bound. After week 35 they told me they would not try to stop her from coming and I no longer needed to be on bed rest. Well, she decided she liked it there and stayed put until week 39.  My first child was born February of 2002; 7 years into our marriage.  If you think that was an adventure – we went on to have a set of twins and 2 other singleton live births after. My world changed forever! I was going to capture their lives the best way I could. I wrote journals, but pictures spoke volumes to me.

My 5 children have always known me with a camera. The funny thing is they beg for their turn to have mom shoot them. I ask them where they want their pictures, what they want the theme to be, and what they would like to wear. Although I have thoughts and share it with them – they expound on it and then allow me to be creative with it too. It has turned into a family project. So last year, the kids and I decided on Artistic themes. We have done just a few so far.  We have Halloween & Hands completed.

Halloween was intended to be quirky, fun, unique and Different. I think we did well with that.

Meet the Wilkerson Family

FAMbanner1Right to left we have Nathan (hubby), Samuel (bottom 4th child), Nathanya (top 3rd twin B), Jared (bottom 2nd twin A), Miriam (top 1st child), Edmond (bottom 5th child), and lastly – myself.

“Cross My Heart”

We all had so much fun in this venture that we were excited for the next one. In a small group I run we do a monthly challenge to help each photographer hone in their skills or just let loose and have fun. The challenge before us was Hands/Protection – Interpret as you will.  All the sudden my mind had some very specific thoughts and images that needed creating. This one was done only with my children and not with Nathan and I. However, I might rectify that down the road. To create this image I decided that it would work best in my dining room. I wanted the focus to be on the faces and hands. It was important to include the hands of all their siblings. I think that part was more for me than anyone.  My childhood was not the best and I have never had much support from my family. There are a couple of my own siblings that talk with me, but it has only been that since 2010. I know children will fight with each other – but developing a love and friendship with your own siblings is very special, at least in my mind.


“Healing Hands”

Miriam is my oldest. We have found out this last year and a half that she is plagued by migraines like myself. Here her siblings all cradle her head in a show of love and empathy to her situation.


“Speak no Evil”

Jared came up with the theme for himself. I had to laugh because he is my child that never stops talking. It was great though, because each of my children watch out for the other, and that sometimes includes censoring or discussing what is or is not appropriate behavior. I sit back in amazement at these children of mine!


“Hear no Evil”

Edmond is the youngest of my children. In large families, the youngest often finds that every one of their siblings seem to act as parents. In this house, he turns it on them too, hahahaha. Anyhow, it is not uncommon to see the others sheltering him from hurtful, mean, or just bad words.


“Lean on Me”

Each child has their own struggles or difficulties in life. Nathanya being a premature baby needed support medically as a baby with her twin brother Jared.  We all have our certain supports in life. What I hope my children learn is that they can each help to support each other. Not having had support I have grown in many ways, but to have the loving care of a sibling is something that goes such a long long way to making this life a better one than it can be at times. Lean on me has such a deep impact to me personally!


“See no Evil”

Samuel opted for seeing no evil. It is funny that they chose themes that at first I would not have expected but match them perfectly. Samuel is a great kid who has a soft heart. He likes Legos, super heroes, and all boy things. The interesting thing is, he is not a fan of the gory and overly scary. When he asked for this it just clicked. I love his ability to get into character too.

Throughout the next few years I have several themes set up with my children. They each are contributing with ideas for themes as well. We are working on 2 others at the moment. If anyone falls in love with any particular theme, I am more than happy to replicate a theme shoot for you. Simply let me know which theme when signing up for a session. If it speaks to you I am willing to help make it a reality.

All in All it is a Family Thing and we are having a blast with it! Stay tuned for the next family project. We cannot wait to share it with you!

Thank you,

CJ Wilkes (Cindy)


Organization in Photography or Digital Art

February 10th, 2015

Organization is vital in my workflow. On my Hard drive I have files broken down within Business, within year, within Month, within Day, and then to the individual session names. In those files I have Edited, Non Edited, Purchase Order, Album, PSD, RAW, Web images.


My system makes it easy for me to find things on the computer. However, I am not just using the computer. I have to record my workflow as well and my appointments – Dates for shoot, Dates for completion, Dates for ordering. I also need to record the orders and so forth.

On my desk I always have pen and small notepad for recording my workflow. That is a must! Why? Well, I can record an action, but for me to make a nice neat action that works flawlessly, I need to know what I did exactly. So as I go through an image for a set I will then write down exactly what I do. Every detail. By doing so I understand the process thoroughly. Then I can record my action on the next image and use it for the entire set. Consistency is so vital if you want your work to be considered professional. A client appreciates it too, when they can use the images from one session on one wall or in an album and not have to worry about whether it flows with the other images.

In my file holder I have folders for each client. In that folder I have their discount & contracts.


In the image above, you can see my daughter (and assistant for the day) holding one of those such files with Contract agreement and pen. Yes, I color code my folders using my business colors. Because I am like that, HaHa! This image was taken at a wedding shoot on a very rainy day (Seattle LDS Temple in Dec.)

Then a daily planner or calendar. All of these are a must! I wish my brain worked like a super computer, but after a 5 children, 3 businesses, and just life – I can’t keep it all straight. So I turned to Franklin Covey & a wall calender with my favorite images or quotes. All in the pursuit of organization.

Here is a discount from Franklin Covey for all of you who like to keep ultra organized like me.


(That offer is good until Feb. 27, 2015)

I was searching for a calendar but realize you would all have different taste than I. I love Maxine and anything that will make me laugh or landscape images. I will look and see if I can find a great discount for wall calendars though. For now enjoy looking over Franklin Covey products.

My next step in organization is a huge 7 foot wire shelving that keeps my cd’s, video’s coupons, boxes, wrapping, programs, anything business related to CJ Wilkes Photography.
And finally, I have 2 large boxes with product in it to share with customers. This is where I store some of each of my products I offer to customers. These boxes go with me to a shoot so I can let the customers see and feel product in person. If they choose to wait until time to order then can view the product on my shelves and walls.

When you are working and developing your workflow, it is vital that you come up with a system that works for you. If not, things get lost and very very frustrating. Because of the steps I take, I usually am able to find what I need in moments.


Just a little write up on the importance of Organization to me and my business.

Cropping of images ~ Rule or Preference?

February 3rd, 2015

Today someone had asked a question on a crop and why people may shy away from it. In Art there are certain “rules”, yes, but once you know the rules they are yours to break.

Some rules for cropping fall under composition. There are certain compositions that simply are more appealing to the eye. Just to list a few

1 The Golden Ratio

The numeric ratio is Phi  1.618… (number never ends.)  The easiest way to picture the Golden Ratio is by looking at a rectangle with a H = 1 & a W = 1.618… . If you drew one line in the Rectangle resulting in 1 square and 1 rectangle, the square’s sides would = ratio of 1:1. And the rectangle would = exactly the original rectangle: 1:1.618. You could repeat the process in the smaller rectangle and can infinitely continue the process.

2 The Rule of Thirds

It is probably the most referred to rule as to the placement of your subject in the frame.  If you were to divide the framed area into 2 horizontal lines (creating 3 sections horizontally) and 2 vertical lines (creating 3 sections vertically) there would be 9 squares and 4 intersecting points. Those would guide you in placing your subject within the thirds. Usually you want the main subject to be either in the third quadrant or their eye or main part of interest landing on one of the 4 intersecting points.


In a group I help moderate The Photo-Help Group they had a challenge being on the topic Rule of Thirds. This is the banner I created as an example of the rule. The grid helps give a visual as to the placement of subject VS the points and sections.

3 Asymmetrical Balance

When the left and right sides of the design are unequal it is said to have asymmetrical balance. You can also have an asymmetrical balance with just 2 subjects that are not mirrored.

4 Radial Balance


This can be obtained if all the elements in the image radiate from the center in a circular motion. Several elements emerge from the center making the focal point illuminate or pop out. Think of the spokes of a tire or a daisy with it’s pedals moving away from the center.

5 Symmetrical Balance

This can be Mirroring – but is not limited to an exact replica. There is an equal balance to the image. You can have a different design on each side of the image but the portions are equal. Think of a wall of windows and a door in the middle. Equal numbers of windows on both sides. Now the paint may be some odd design but the proportions are equal balancing the image perfectly.

There are other things talked about in composition – but it is important that I mention these when talking about cropping because it may help you determine the perfect crop for your image. I will talk about them further in their own future blogs. For now, let’s get back to cropping.

After examining what you know about composition “rules” and you have an image you have just edited before you you have the option of leaving as is or adding a new touch or feel to it by the way you choose to crop it. Myself, I take several shots of the same subject so that I can offer several perspectives or even so I can play with cropping. This happens to be one of my favorite things to play with in deciding how to display my work. The rest of this blog will be assisted with a visual – just one subject shot multiple ways and cropped to assist in creating the best visually appealing display of it. These were shot at the LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) Seattle Temple grounds at a wedding I was shooting. Because cameras are not allowed inside the temple during the ceremony, I spent that time photographing around the temple grounds. It is a special part to their culture and lives. Here are some examples of just the one subject and its variations:



2 slightly different perspectives in the original 2:3 ratio out of camera. I personally do not like the 4:5 ratio which is known as 8×10 or 16×20. I dislike how it cuts into the image even though I leave plenty of space to do so if I need to because of a clients needs or desires. In a camera the images usually export as the 2:3 or 4×6, 8×12, 16×24. It is a personal preference – but if I take a picture I like to see it how I envisioned it in my mind and before me – not to mentions how I see it in the window. To cut into it just is not how I usually intend.  The perspective in how I shot was mindful of the rule of thirds in that the grass was in the first third, the figurines began on the first horizontal line and you were led upward – at the same time keeping symmetry because of how they were displayed. Center focus being the main subject.

Now I did mention that there are other options & truly, those options are limitless. For myself I tend to crop in either 1:1, 1:2, & 1:3 ratios for sharing with my clients. I am going to show the 1:1 = square and 1:2 which is often done as 10×20, 15×30, or 20×40. Why do I design this way? I love the ratio’s.

1:1 square is one that people either Love or dislike. I find that it is functional. If you are going to do a wall display the square can be used as a center piece, help with symmetry, or be a great filler. It also can bring you to focus on one subject nicely.


I shot this with a square in mind. I also made sure that I was down on my belly so that the lines would lead up to the figurines.


This is an instagram shot of my dining room wall. You can see that the wall display has a 1×1 ratio image in the center as I spoke about earlier. As I mentioned, the square is a very functional shape and ratio to use for your crops.

One of the photographers who had caught my eye in the past was Brooke Shaden. When I visited her site I had noticed that most if not all in her gallery were done in the square crop. This is her artistic preference. Is she wrong for doing so? No. She knows what she wants in her end result and it is her right as the artist.

The above image of my wall display brings me into the next crop which I have so much fun with!!! I fell in love with this crop when working with my husband and his art. Nathaniel P. Wilkerson, Gitxsan Artist – many of his pieces fall into the square crop because of drum designs which are circular. Then he has a few others which are different because of A – the design itself lends better with a different crop or B – we ended up with scraps that we did not want to waste, so he designed his Medeek print (and the Kermode) specifically with the thin ratio in mind.



Copper Medeek




Those can be seen on his sight here: http://wilkersonart.com/prints.html

The fun part of this is that when his clients purchase this they can place it over doorways, archways – areas where they were blank. It became such a popular print not only because of the design but the size lent well to the needs of those looking. So much so that he has others in mind to be designed in that same aspect ratio.

For myself, I loved having a different way of looking at the images and my clients loved it too. Besides that, 1:2 ratio works very well on a spread in albums which is one of my top selling items, it works well in a trio on the wall or small areas. Simply a fun crop all around. Here is the figurine image done in the 1:2 ratio:


In this ratio the display is more of the focal point. There is not as much room for the background or foreground to take up the attention. With people, it is also a great way of bringing the attention strait to them and their eyes. Here I have a photo of the lovely Kaitlyn Martin. The spot was so fun and the stairway gave a special element to the overall shot. The 1:2 ratio married well with this shot.



There really is no right or wrong decision as long as you understand how to make those crops work well with your work or your work work well with those crops. It then all comes down to your preference. I hope this helped you view some of your possibilities in a new light. Keep tuned for some other informative posts on techniques.




Black & White vs Color – Why? How? When? Where?

January 14th, 2015

The question that we see come up repeatedly that boggles many yet is an issue to many others. Which image is better and WHY? WHEN? WHERE? HOW?

Through the next little while we will explore this topic and include many interesting blogs, tutorials, and links that will hopefully help people understand when, why, how, where it is appropriate to choose one or the other of these for your image. Starting out in photography we are learning so many different things from how to use the camera, composition, different editing techniques, focus, proper exposure, textures, two tone, white balance – ok we get the idea, the list goes on and on. We learn through practice and error. We train our eyes to see the different things like what is blown out color channels? What is white balance and how do we properly fix it? What is calibration? All of these are learned and valuable to our art and craft. Same holds true to choosing black & white or color for your image. There are many reasons a person would choose BW or Color.

I will start out with – learning to appreciate both. I have found some people have a strong hold and love of one or the other. As artists it is our choice and preference that directs what we go with. But if you do not have an appreciation for both in the beginning then you may find down the road you might end up questioning that preference and wonder “Will this look good with the other option?”  Wonderful question because then you need to learn the When, Why, Where, and How to choose one or the other.

Color has often been associated with life, vibrancy, the Here and Now, and moods or emotion.

Black and White is often associated with being classic, Forever, Never ending, the past, the here being capsulized for always.

In my own venture I had always had a great love for color. The last few years of being a photographer I developed a great respect, admiration, and yes Love for Black and white images. I offer both to my clients – but if I feel one is a stronger then I just show them the one.

Here is an example of my practicing on a daughter a while back using BW vs Color and light.

Color http://www.cjwilkes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/DSC4014fweb.jpg

BW    http://www.cjwilkes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/DSC4014bfweb.jpg

With a candle – the glow of the light on the subject’s skin adds a gorgeous golden shine. But sometimes – black and white still wins – even with candles. The decision would then rest on me as to which is better and why. I would fall back on several questions. What is this for?

A -Is it for a client? If yes, I would show both. Their decision. Solved.

B -Is it for an album? http://www.cjwilkes.com/blog/?p=1382 If yes – What is showing on that spread? Color or BW? If color then I would stick with color because mixing BW and color disrupts a flow. If BW then I would stick with BW for the same reason as with color.

C -Is it for a series being released? If yes – then I would stick with the pattern in the series. I would not show 1 color in a series of all BW or one black and white in a series of all color. If the series is a mix (which I do not recommend for the fact listed before, that mixing BW with color disrupts flow or boggles the mind. If you do choose to do a mix though – then make sure that mix is half and half with your strongest colors and your strongest Black and Whites. (Also, taking into account keeping your tones of BW matching – Consistency does matter).

Here is a blog I had done of my youngest boys. You can see that I did mix both color and black and white. By following a pattern and helping keep a consistent flow by matching the editing style and tones it still works nicely.


Here is a blog where I had done a session all in Black and White. I went into the session with that in mind. The entire shoot from clothing to lighting and finally editing in Black and white was predetermined and executed just how envisioned:


When shooting cultural shoots many think of the old style sepia. I tend to lean in favor of the Black and white or my own version of a cooler or semi warm black and white. Depends on the mood of the actual shoot. But the vibrant colors from the regalia screams COLOR to me. Yes, in past times maybe black and white is what they had, but today we do have color. So my reverence is often done in the way I pose them rather than by taking it to a classic conversion. I want everyone to experience the Ooo and awe of witnessing the intricate and colorful designs. Of coarse I provide the black and whites for them to view as well, but for display I hand pick what I want the world to see of my work.


As an artist I believe you should be selective in what you show. I believe you should be confident in what you show. If you don’t have the confidence to decide then ask, How am I showing this piece? Why would I want to show it in Color? Why would I want to show it in Black and White? What is the emotion or do I want emotion felt so strongly based on color? What is the Mood? What purposes are these being shown? For a client? For an album? For a showing? What is it being shown with? What are the other images? Will this compliment the other images it is showing with or will they compliment your image? Will your image stand out? Break it down in your mind or on your screen. Make your decision. Stand behind it with pride!


Here are some links talking about BW or Color images:1. Pauls Photo Blog http://paulsphoto.com/blog/2013/08/29/why-choose-black-and-white-photography/


2. Image resource http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2012/11/09/color-vs-black-and-white-photography-debate-stirred-by-new-cartier-bresson


3. Outdoor Photographer http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/how-to/shooting/why-choose-b-and-w.html#.VLX9zHug-zw


4. Eric Kim Street Photography http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2011/04/04/which-is-better-black-and-white-vs-color-for-street-photography/


5. Photoble  http://www.photoble.com/photo-inspiration/black-and-white-vs-color-photographs


6. Ellen Annon writes  http://masteringphoto.com/black-and-white-vs-color-photography/


7. VIDEO Marc’s Photography Tips http://www.silberstudios.tv/videos/marcs-photography-tips-choosing-black-and-white-versus-color/


8. FStoppers  https://fstoppers.com/post-production/determining-if-photo-should-be-left-color-or-converted-black-and-white-8485


9. Photography Vox  http://www.photographyvox.com/a/color-vs-black-and-white-photography/


10. Good ole Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-and-white


11. Good ole Wikipedia Color Photography http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_photography


Interesting research on Color:


1. Color wheel with color meaning http://www.color-wheel-pro.com/color-meaning.html


2. Life Hacker Learn the Basics of Color Theory http://lifehacker.com/learn-the-basics-of-color-theory-to-know-what-looks-goo-1608972072


3. Psychology of color in marketing and branding http://www.helpscout.net/blog/psychology-of-color/


4. Color Theory for Designers http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/08/color-theory-for-designer-part-3-creating-your-own-color-palettes/


This page also published http://photoshoplightroomgroup.com/faq/black-white-vs-color/

Adding Haze or Light

September 30th, 2014

This is a quick tutorial using images from my cell phone because – I want to do it quickly. This is in CS3. You can do this in CS6 as

well. I am starting out with an image that has a bit of a bright spot on top where they sky is shining through already. It just helps

me to direction where the light source should or will come from. I have circled it for you to see what I am talking about.


I then created a blank layer. Selected a warm color so you can view what is happening easily. Found a round soft brush, lowered

the opacity of the brush to 20 so I could have control of the painting.  Then I painted along the top where the bright spot is and

then in the middle, painted more so it was not so faded. In a sunspot, the middle will be darker or brighter and as the haze

moves out it fades.


It does not have to be perfect… this is just how I chose to create the design to start with for this image.  Now I start free

transforming. I am on a PC so the shortcut is Control+t. If you look at the mini squares around the box… that is what I am going

to use to pull out and change the shape of this paint job.


I started by pulling it horizontally so I knew it would spread along the bright spot at the top.



Next I started to change it so that it stretched vertically


You can see it altering it’s look and feel as it spreads. I then adjust the image, stretch here and there until I have it in the spot I

want. (I am so sorry for my messy desk. It is obviously time to dust hahahaha)



It looks fine in that spot. I double click on the free transform so it sets it how I have stretched it.  So now I decided I want to see

the color options and lighting options. I change the mode of my layer. This first one is set at luminosity. I love the white on a

blue setting. This would work great if I lowered the opacity of the layer slightly. However, this is set at 100% opacity.

This first image is the before the haze image.


This next is at 100% Luminosity. A nice haze. You can lower the haze to your liking.


This mode is  Overlay set at 50%


Here is Soft light at 100%


Here is Pin light 100%


Pin light pleasantly surprised me by turning my butter yellow to a pink.


I lowered the pinlight mode paint layer to 49%

The great thing is that now I can do a layer on top where I have the flare and can add some yellow to make a spectacular sky with fun hues.

Sorry for the sloppy put together, but hopefully you get the gist of what is needed to be done to create this look. It is quite simple and just takes a moment to do or create.

~ Cindy


Concept Generation

September 28th, 2014

There are many parts to a concept From A to Z. I am going to cover the first few steps, which I find to be the most vital, and that is making the concept a reality. Of coarse the first step is to have an idea. Second step for me

is to go and shoot some images that can possible work. Of coarse, getting it in the first shot would be awesome, unless I change my mind – so I shoot several ideas and then some closer details. Once I get home, I cull

through the images until I have found the ones that would work nicely. In this case we are starting with the following 3 images of my daughter just taken yesterday:


These images won the lottery for the project. They will become the third image in the “Cross My Heart” series. So now that I have the images I need to put them together so that they seamlessly fit together. I started with

Images A & C c being the image on bottom and A on top. Before I did that though, I had to extend the walls from image A (This is going to be a vertical layout.)
To extend A I made duplicates of A. 4 to be exact. Sure I could have free transformed, but I did not want much distortion. Instead, I duplicated and masked back. Once I did that, I merged the copies and placed c on top

with a mask.


Once C was on top of a I lowered the opacity so I could see the image below and still see C. Next used Free Trasform (locking it so the dimensions would not warp) and altered the size of the image so it lined up almost

perfectly. I then put the opacity back to 100% on layer c. By inverting the mask I had less to paint, so that is the option I chose. I painted the legs in. For any areas that did not mesh perfectly, I cut and pasted new layers of

the back wall and masked where I needed so it blended well enough.
Here it is with the legs extended:


I knew this image would be a darker image so I did not stress about it being too perfect. The legs would not be the highlight of the image.


Nathanya’s face is lovely here, but the series as a whole is a bit quirky. The first image of my son crossing his heart – his lips were puckered. The second image with my daughter Miriam, her lips were semi puckered and her

eyes were opened wide. When deciding on this particular image, I wanted it to match in flow – not only by color. By tying actions I felt that I could achieve this particular goal. So with this image I had taken some images

where her eyes were open very wide.


I had made a copy of all the below work. Next I placed image B on top with a mask again. (When shooting for a concept I try to shoot several images in a row that are similar. Little details really matter. Same with the close

ups. I try to have those done in the same spot, angle, lighting.) The image with her eyes open were a close up, this helped me not only to get the look I wanted, but the clarity as well. I did the same as I had done with the

other 2 layers. I added a mask to B. Lowered the opacity so I could view the image below. Free transformed the image, locked it so that it does not warp when transforming. I then proceeded to use the eyes as my guide. I

matched the inside of the eye near the nose. Once I matched those fairly well I then set the transform and put the layer back up to 100%. This time, I was using more of the image so I did not invert my mask. (Again, less

painting for me.) Using the black I masked until I was satisfied that it blended well enough.


Now many of you may think that the changes are too subtle, well they are quite subtle, but attention to detail will make and or break an image.


Can you see that mark on my baby girl’s hand? Well that would be one of those stick on tattoo’s. Kids love them. My children are no different. Only problem is, they are a pain to get rid of and fade into an ugly mess. I could

have taken a picture of her other hand and covered it – but instead, I thought – This is another chance for me to learn a new skill! So I decided to make a new rub on tattoo for her hand. Hopefully one that would match the

scenery nicely.


Talk about control freak! Hahahaha I guess I am when it comes to my art. I simply used my brushes to create this little piece:



Sticking it on her hand did not go so great. I had to duplicate the image, add noise and lens blur. Then I added it. I played with a few mode options to see what I liked. I had a normal layer and I believe a linear burn layer.

Lowered the burn layer to the opacity where it blended best. The end results were perfect!


Once I have my piece ready then I can go crazy with color, lighting and overall feel. This is exactly what I wanted to start with. Turned out great! Because of the patience of my girl, I had the shots I needed and was able to

add on to the collection. Introducing the newest image “Lost-N-Found”



If you have questions feel free to ask. Would love your feedback. Thank you!

~ Cindy


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