Do your photos match your vision?
Imagine having the skills to capture a moment exactly as you see it… to interpret and harness light, mindfully compose and expertly apply tone in a way that conveys the mood, and tells the story you want to record?
Dana Whitley can. But it wasn’t always that way…
Today I chatted with the wonderful Dana Whitley who’s a much loved member of our CLG Community and former Workshop Mentor teaching Childhood Portraits. The Advanced Photography Course was a big investment for Dana but she said it was the best thing she ever did for her photography, and it’s allowed her to capture images of her boys as they grow. She said:
“Being able to capture my kids year after year and knowing I’m going to be able to document them the way I envision it in my head… I just love that.”
So today Dana talked about the skills that help her do this and in her typically generous way shared some great tips for anyone wanting to know how to bring their vision to life!
Dana says when her sons were young, she was taking SO many pictures of them, and some would work out but mostly they didn’t match the vision she had in head. So she started googling for an easier way, and somewhere along the line she saw an ad for Click Love Grow free 5 day course.
“I thought perfect, it’s gonna change my life! So I did it, and I loved it… and after that I found out they had courses that were more in depth and I was SO excited. I signed up for the Enthusiast Course, and I never looked back. It was fantastic.”
Dana says after the Enthusiast Course she was confident in manual mode… and getting pictures that she liked and felt a lot better about it. But she was still hungry for more!
“I had heard the Advanced Course went even more in depth and I wanted to keep learning and growing… and it (the Advanced course) just blew my mind!”
I asked Dana what it feels like to compare her photos now to her photos she was taking before.
It’s astonishing! I still love my before photos, he has a funny hat and a cute smile that I love. But there was so much that I never even thought about and considered and I can see faults left and right. The Advanced Course opened up a whole new world for taking pictures of the kids!”
On the Advanced Course we teach you how to shoot in all kinds of light so you can move beyond soft light. We take a deep dive into golden hour, backlighting, directional portrait lighting, dark and moody, light and airy and more.
Dana credits the Advanced Course for giving her the strong foundation in light she needed to help her take photos that not only match her vision, but convey the mood of the moment.
I never really considered light as something that could really change a photo until I took the Advanced Course. We went through all different kinds of light and it really helped me explore. I watch light in my house now, through the seasons, how different patches of light falls and how I can use that”.
She says she never aims to edit her photos for a consistent light look. Instead she prefers them to reflect the reality of what was going on at the time, and this in turn is what helps tell stories in her photos.
“I try to just embrace the light that I have there and the mood it creates”.
She says with respect to the image below, on this day everything was dull and had cool light and tones, so she embraced it. She didn’t try to change those tones because it fit the mood of the environment. She adds you can tell it’s stormy and raining outside, he was enjoying watching the storm rolling in, and she wanted to keep that authenticity.
In this next shot Dana shows her skills in capturing golden hour light and using it to tell a story of lazy summer days, growing up and brother love.
By the time Dana was taking this next shot, she had the skills to see beautiful light coming through the window, but she had also strengthened her compositional skills.
“I learned that once you have the skills and know the rules you can creatively and mindfully break them to achieve what you want”.
For this shot below, she made the mindful choice to leave the curtains in the foreground for some texture and layers, and purposefully incorporated tone through the pattern in his pajamas. This not only adds interest and makes him pop from the background, but that tonal variation is especially relevant in black & white photography, which Dana knew she would do before she even took the shot.
As well as creating images with really strong visual impact, Dana also puts those advanced compositional skills to work to tell the nuanced details of stories she wants to remember when her boys are grown. With respect to this photo below she says:
“They learned how to play chess and they really loved it and I really wanted to capture that stage they were in. My son takes so long to move his piece because he’s just staring and tinking through what could happen, and you can see the look on his face, that he’s processing all of it. I chose to include my other son in a low aperture so he’d be blurred and frame my other son and the sweet look on his face”.
I asked Dana what her favourite lesson was…
“Light has been huge. Just knowing that there are different types of light and being able to figure out different ways to harness that light to bring different feels to my images, and to convey different moods and tell a story”.
And lastly I always like to know what our Grads would say to anyone thinking about doing the Advanced Course. Dana said:
“Just do it. It was hard for us to make that financial commitment but it is the best decision I have ever made for myself. Being able to capture my kids year after year and knowing I’m going to be able to document them the way I envision it in my head, or capturea certain expression or use certain light I just love that. I can make that happen. I couldn’t have done that before I took the CLG classes.
A very big thank you to Dana for your time, your always generous words and stunning images! If you want to see more of her work, you can find her here.
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