Where to Draw the Line

There’s something almost every photographer, professional or amateur, shoots at one time or another… the sun on the horizon, either rising or setting. The drama, the colors — it’s all there. But one photographer, Sean Basdavanos, brings another component into his shots to make them truly arresting — lines and architectural elements. By emphasizing dramatic perspective, Sean creates a mood of mystery, pulling viewers into his photographs. We talked to him to get some insights into his work.

Follow My Lead

“Leading lines allow the viewer’s eye to travel all throughout the photograph. Being able to place them strategically and purposefully can add an important element to work.“ — Sean Basdavanos

When setting up your shot, think about how the viewer will interact with the image. Where do you want them to look? What do you want them to see? Shooting with the viewer in mind can help you create the most dramatic composition.

A Point of Perspective

“The vanishing point can have a very interesting effect on a photograph. I gravitate towards trying to have a moody and more mysterious view with my vanishing point. I like when the person viewing my photography can look into my photograph and have their mind wander. In my opinion, the vanishing point has the mind go in many different directions.”

When you make an image, you are creating a place for the viewer to go. It’s a destination for them to visit, maybe even get lost in for a time. Using strong perspective can bring the viewer more deeply into the world you have created for them.

Go Right to the Edge. 

“Edges, to me, mean a place of unknown. It’s something that is beyond our sight. It’s the merging of one world into the next.” 

Sean does most of his shooting on the South Shore of Long Island. This is his “landscape of choice” — where the mystery and power of the ocean meet the edge of the land. Are there locations and environments that you gravitate towards? Shooting a place you have a natural affinity for can help you create your most arresting images.

Hidden Connections 

“The favorite of my new images was shot on January 23, 2020. I really enjoyed the leading lines in this photograph accompanied by a dynamic morning sky. The scene seemed familiar to me in some way. I shot it freely. I later came to realize that it had a similarity to Edvard Munch “The Scream”. The photo holds so many of my emotions within it.”

One of the more incredible things about photography is the connections it creates — between photographer and location, light and subject, and even an image and something in the subconscious. You may not realize until later why you shot a particular image, or why the scene resonated with you. That sense of discovery is part of what makes photography such a deep and powerful art form.

Photographic Portrait

Who Let the Dogs Out?

It seems like every family has a fur baby or two these days — and you can never have enough pictures of the family. Pets, especially active dogs, make getting great shots a real challenge. That’s why we asked lifestyle photographer and fur mama, Samantha Brooke, how she gets such compelling pet photos. 

First Things First

How to get your dog to look at the camera: “Use high value treats and toys (especially squeaky ones!) above your lens. Also use ‘trigger words’ they respond to like ‘grandma, grandpa, eat, squirrel’ etc…”

The trick to real connectedness in photos like the one above involves using what you know about your pet to get them to respond to you. Samantha says the key thing about dogs is that they come from a place of love. “I find [photographing dogs} easy because [they] have a universal language: love. Love comes in many forms: safety, being caring, food (!), toys, and using a variety of obnoxious noises to engage their attention.”

Divide and Conquer

Minimize distractions. Except when that makes the perfect shot: The fewer people around, the better, and ideally, there wouldn’t be any other dogs in the area. This helps your dog focus on, listen to, and interact with you. If you have more than one pet, it’s a good idea to separate them. 

As for location, Samantha finds that shoots involving water or restaurants can be a “too much of a ‘shiny object’” for her dogs, and their willingness to cooperate and attention spans diminish. That said, great shots can still happen. “These are also the times when I can get a very authentic shot like Koa drooling at the sight of pizza.”

Planning vs. Spontaneity

“Back in 2015/2016 when pool floats became more popular, I thought ‘why not put my dog on a float in a picturesque setting outdoors?’ I set out with Aspen to emulate Taylor Swift on a swan float (but on a lake surrounded by mountains) and from there, I made it an annual ‘float’ tradition to capture my dogs on floats in different locations. On the other hand, dogs and toddlers are very unpredictable so half of the time I set out with a general goal and hope for the best!”

It’s always great to have a plan, but just know that things might not work out. “Unplanned” photos during a “planned” shoot can end up being the most interesting ones.

Finding Your Audience

“It’s funny in that I never thought sharing pictures of Aspen in a kayak would lead to a “niche” in dog (with family!) photography. Social media, specifically Instagram, allowed me to speak to a specific audience: dog lovers. Since my social media presence focuses on pets, people wanted me to take pictures of their families including their pets. As I built my portfolio and shared more of my dogs on social media, my business grew.”

Use the social media platforms at your fingertips to help grow your business. Putting your work out there is the most important thing. Like Samantha, you might be surprised at the turn your work takes.


Feeling Blue. And Pink. And Orange. And Red…

There are few things in the world as dramatic as color. And when it comes to photos, it’s even more true. But how do you squeeze every last ounce of color from the photographs you shoot? Lavina Lalchandani, a travelprenuer and photographer living in Los Angeles, gives us some insight.

Lavina Lalchandani photo of a venice beach sunset

The Power of Color

“Colors have the power to influence the mood of the audience. In fact, different shades of the same color can convey completely different feelings. My goal is that the viewer should feel certain emotions when they look at my work.”

Color has a tangible emotional component. For Lavina, this became clear as she browsed other photographers’ images. She noticed that different color themes evoked changes in her own feelings — which led her to do a color exploration of her own. Try it yourself. What colors bring out a pronounced emotional response in you?

Lavina Lalchandani photo of a Santa Monica Sunset

What Does a Sunset Feel Like?

“Warmer colors like red, orange, yellow and pink evoke feelings of happiness, friendship, passion, aggression and love.”

It’s worth learning a little about color theory and applying it to your photography. The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, & Violet by Joann Eckstut & Arielle Eckstut is a good place to start.

Lavina Lalchandani photo of Bioluminescence heart on the sand

Feeling Blue

“Cooler colors like blue, purple, and green are used to guide mood towards calmness, serenity, security, luxury, but can also evoke feelings of sadness.”

Thoughtful color choices can elicit particular responses in the viewer. It’s something to keep in mind when you’re composing an image. Imagine if the heart above was red instead of blue. What would that feel like to you?

Getting the Color Right

“I always shoot in RAW mode and opt for auto white balance. When I start post processing my pictures, first I adjust the white balance to the temperature I want to work with throughout my editing workflow. Then I target Hue, Saturation and Luminance to further build up the color theme and add depth. Lastly, I refer to the color wheel a lot while editing. I gauge the color scheme I am trying to achieve in the image – Analogous, Monochromatic, Complementary etc. And then I use curve layers and selective color layers in Adobe Photoshop for final color grading of the image.”

You don’t have to make all of your color choices in camera. Editing tools offer all sorts of possibilities to manipulate color to get the exact look you want.

Lavina Lalchandani photo of Bioluminescence on rocks and water at the shore

Camera as Paintbrush

“Paint brushes come in [a] different assortment of sizes, hair, length. When you choose a type of paintbrush, you have to evaluate it’s result against your vision. This scenario is very similar to selecting the camera you want to own and using it to make your ideas come true.”

The tools you use to create your work are vital. But the more grounded you are in the art of photography, the better your results, regardless of the camera you use. So, practice, and find resources to learn more about your equipment.

Lavina Lalchandani light painting photo of a model

Colorful Words of Advice

  1. Shoot every day!
  2. Make it a point to learn something new every day – be it a new feature on your camera or a new editing/shooting technique or learn about a new location.
  3. Connect with other photographers in the community.
  4. Take part in FFAs (Free for all) hosted by photographers on Instagram to practice editing. You will be amazed to see how a single image can be seen in so many different ways by different individuals.


The art of manipulation

After a life-altering injury during a game of rugby, Gilbert Kolosieke taught himself Photoshop. Not having a camera, he found photographers on Instagram who regularly hosted editing contests by uploading photos for others to edit. And he began to watch live streamed editing sessions by these photographers too.

“I began using photographs from these Free for All (FFA) editing contests to teach myself photoshop. They served as my underlying sketch, but instead of inking and painting them traditionally, I would embellish them with different tricks and filters I found on Instagram.”

Gilbert then taught himself how to shoot manually with a borrowed camera by watching YouTube videos. One thing lead to another, advancing him from newbie to a career as a photographer and editor.

“I kept adding kindling to the fire of the network of relationships I made everywhere I went, and never took my foot off the pedal learning and loving my evolution as an artist.”  

Gilbert Kolosieke portrait of a young woman wearing a yellow hat
Lightning has always held a sense of majesty, wonder, and power,  with an element of divinity. Sylina has music in her soul. The detail in the eyes mimic the frequency of sound waves, as a visual for thunder following the lightning in the catchlight.

Piecing it all together

“At this point, I can replace limbs, reconstruct faces, or composite additional elements or use parts of other photographs to create what I envisioned. In order of importance for aspects in which I judge a photo, being in focus makes it usable, lighting differentiates a mediocre photo from a professional one, and the facial expression seals the deal. When all those are met, it’s a matter of what speaks to me at the moment.” 

“The techniques I’ve developed to make particular changes to shape, value, color, and texture using light and layers in photoshop are simply entities in the arsenal, but workflow is drastically different for each piece. “

Gilbert makes it a point to keep in mind the model who’s image he’s working on while editing an image.

“I make a mental note of color palettes that appeal to the model, and listen to music that fits the mood from songs they find beautiful and allow that [to] dominate the direction of art.”

On the other hand, if a client is only looking for a “clean picture,” he’ll follow an extremely simplified workflow to match their needs. 

Gilbert Kolosieke photo of a woman with sunflowers on her head staring at the camera
I chose this particular image from the shoot, because the expression was so raw, and I believed the world felt the same way.

Favorite tools. Favorite images.

My favorite tool is the healing brush. It allows you to repair imperfections using pixels from another part of the picture. It’s a smart tool that can be used to effortlessly make distracting fly always disappear, blemishes vanish as you play digital dermatologist, and can be extremely useful while painting digitally. 

To Gilbert, choosing a favorite image is not easy, as he explains that everything holds more value than simply what meets the eye. When pressed though, he explains that the sunflower edit of Sylina means a lot to him.

“It was the last photoshoot before lock down. The image resonated with the hearts of so many people in need of brighter days, and as the most edited image in the largest international editing contest ever held with a total of over 11K entries for the #Nikonffa, it was concrete evidence of all the hard work I poured into my first year of photography.”

“Over time I have begun to refine my taste for what is considered professional, attempting to earn respect from photographers and digital artists as I find my niche in between two worlds of standards using everything I’ve learned about storytelling through beauty.”

Gilbert Kolosieke photo of a woman with a crown of sunflowers on her head
As an archetype of woman, Sylina is adorned with a crown of God’s flowers; sunflowers, Son flowers, God’s Flowers, to remind his daughter’s He is always near

Approach to editing

Editing is as important as the photography to Gilbert. Choosing his favorite parts from each file, he merges them together as the start to an edit. “I never know what I’m going to make. I tend to let the art evolve on its own until I’ve outdone myself.”  

“For most clients I always have to dial back my work. Shock and surprise tend to be the norm for model’s reactions. They usually don’t remember taking that photo or have no idea how I made whatever it is they’re staring at. Others seek me out just to be a part of the art and give me full creative freedom to do whatever it is that I do.”

Gilbert Kolosieke portrait of a woman sitting on the grass
More than Magic was created from a shoot inspired by my memory of the Studio Ghibli film, Howl’s Moving Castle, with color grading in the style of @geoleon.

Advice to others

You don’t need an expensive tablet to do high quality work. You can even use your computer’s mouse to edit with. Gilbert says 90% of his work is created with a mouse. 

“Enjoy the journey and be proud of the little victories along the way… Learn the software and in time as your eye trains itself, what once took you weeks or hours will be minutes. There are a lot of resources out there to help teach you, but you have to be willing to make time to put the skills into practice.” 

“Life as a photographer/editor can often be extremely lonely although social media portrays a picture-perfect life. Learn from each encounter and client. Respect is everything, the world is a small place. Never burn a bridge. Stay humble. If you are in photography for the girls, you would be better off spending your time, money, efforts, and energy into doing what you’re supposed to be doing in life.“

Gilbert Kolosieke portrait of a woman outdoors, with the wind blowing her hair
Spirit is a stylized painting created using a photograph taken on the one-year anniversary of picking up a camera.

BIO: Artists who influence me: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Dali, ARTGERM, @parkjinsukyPhotographers who influence me: @abelinsane, @3rdeyevisionx, @dylanbolivar.

Art allows my heart to tell a story where my words fall short. Heroes, mythology, movies, and faith instilled a sense of wonder and a love for beauty from creation to the Creator by the coupling of reality and fantasy. These interests align like a unique and unrepeatable combination of alleles that define the genetic make up of my identity as an artist. I have an unquenchable flame burning inside me, with the desire to leave behind a fingerprint of my identity in every piece I create. Perhaps, one day, I will inspire others to leave their mark as well. 

See more of Gilbert’s work on Instagram:


A Tourist In Your Own Backyard

The world has changed, at least for the moment. So, how do you continue creating and making things in this restrictive environment? We asked travel photographer, Sam Stone, how he’s been able to make such hauntingly beautiful photos during this time — since the farthest reaches of his travels are now the four corners of his neighborhood on Long Island. His approach to the lockdown is a great template for all creatives.

Sam Stone B&W photo of a street at night

Look at the World Through New Eyes

“When you are in a new place, you are truly a stranger. I still wanted to take photos every day, but I really had to get out of the trap in my head that I needed to be somewhere different to make beautiful images.” — Sam Stone

Sure, we are limited to how far we can roam right now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to see. Behind all the things we are familiar with is another world we haven’t looked at before.

Slow Down

“I stopped driving and started riding my bike a lot more. Being able to be still and view [things] from a stationary perspective is so much different. There is so much detail in the banality of a gas station for example, a lot of things speak to you when you prioritize time and slowness.”

You probably have more time than you have ever had before to just stop and examine your surroundings. Take advantage of it — you’ll be surprised at what you discover.

Sam Stone photo of a bicycle lying on a front lawn

Seek Out Others

“Photographers that I love in no particular order are: Fred Herzog, Saul Leiter, Lee Friedlander, Gordon Parks, Daido Moriyama, Elliot Erwitt, Paul Strand, Garry Winogrand, Fan Ho, Vivian Maier, Stephen Shore, and William Eggleston. I think my closest source of inspiration are the people that I’ve met while I’ve lived here. I could go on and on about my friends, they inspire me every single day.”

From the artists who first influenced you to friends who are doing interesting things, take some of this time you have on your hands to revisit their work.

Sam Stone photo of raindrops out of focus on a window

Do Something Creative Daily

“I try to take photographs every day; and always have a camera with me everywhere.”

Make being creative a daily priority. Even small things, like a trip to the grocery store or watching the world through your window for 20 minutes can spark your creativity.

Remember, You’re Living in a Real Historical Moment

“It doesn’t seem meaningful to us now, but just as we look back on photos taken 20, 30, or 100 years ago, eventually this reality will become foreign. I want to be able to represent as many aspects of reality I can, and hopefully give people a glimpse into what the world was like for us.”

The things you create during this time have an historical significance beyond just what they are as creative pieces. This makes it all the more important for you to do you work now, even if it is more difficult.

Sam Stone photo of tree reflections in a puddle

A Parting Thought

“Feeling trapped and uninspired is temporary, it’s possible to become who you want to be — the choice is up you.”

Sam Stone B&W photo of a white picket fence

Bio: Sam Stone is an American photographer based in New York. Best known for documentary and street photography, his images focus on quietness, nostalgia, and communication as central thematic elements. Sam has been featured in several publications such as Booooooom and GUP Magazine. He has also also exhibited in several solo and group shows at galleries in Moscow and New York City.

See more of Sam’s work on Instagram:


When life gives you lemons

Inspiration Origination

Erica Reade was walking along the beach one in 2017 and came upon a mirror tucked between fence slats and she has been transfixed with shooting with mirrors ever since.

Along with the rest of us, she’s had to accept a new normal and in doing so, she’s moved from outdoor photographer to indoors, channeling her time and energy into being more creative.

“I took a few photos and was immediately enamored by the effect I had created. I was creating two photos in one, and it gave me a real sense of doing a “double take.”

Erica found that the first set of images she made during the lockdown felt so good that she found she was pushing herself to be even more inventive.

A Calming Force

Photography has become an outlet for her anxiety during the quarantine.
“It was a constant, consistent practice that grounded me. Photography was the way I coped and channeled my nerves and anxiety.”

A nod to making lemonade out of lemons during the quarantine. “Finding bright yellow inspiration amidst the darkness of the time.”

Making Lemonade

The series of mirror images is meant to encourage viewers to pause and do a ‘double take.’ “We’ve grown so accustomed to consuming images with the swipe of a finger, I began reflecting on what it meant to slow down as a photographer and take my time creating an image.”

“Once we were in lockdown, the idea of ‘reflection’ suddenly felt much more significant. We became united in our collective isolation, reflecting on how we had gotten to this point. ‘What did my time at home mean and what was I supposed to be doing as a photographer.’”

A nod to making lemonade out of lemons during the quarantine. “Finding bright yellow inspiration amidst the darkness of the time.

Erica Reade

Take this time to be vulnerable and share your journey with your followers. Be inspired by the work you see and create your own unique work.

“I had to really look at myself in the mirror in a way I hadn’t in a long time, to reflect on who I was in the world. Staying creatively busy gave me a sense of purpose during this difficult time.”

Get Inspired

“I have a number of practices outside of photography that help with my creativity. I meditate daily, spend a lot of time writing and go on long walks. I listen to podcasts about photography and play my favorite music.”

When she doesn’t feel inspired, Erica says giving herself a time limit to shoot helps. Once in the middle of shooting she loses herself in the act.

“I saw the confines of my apartment as a photographic challenge, pushing myself to think as creatively as possible. Admittedly, it’s been gratifying to be able to make work that I am so proud of during such a challenging time.”

“Once the restraints are lifted, my focus is my Beach Lovers series of couples on the beach in love. I’d like to get to the beach as safely and as often possible this summer to continue documenting couples at the beach.” Erica’s eventual goal is a photo book for the series.


Reflections on a city

Roaming through the city of Philadelphia, Patrick McAllister often finds himself wondering about the stories behind the streets and buildings.

“The feel and vibe of an environment can be felt as soon as you walk down the street, into a new neighborhood. The unique differences from neighborhood to neighborhood are just as interesting as the differences we see in people. Streets likewise have different feelings and personalities.”

His photographs of the city are akin to a portrait of a person.

Reflections On…

Reflections are a large part of Patrick’s work. He finds that it encourages the viewer to really look into the image and think about what they see.

“Initially, I began capturing reflection shots to encourage people to reflect on past times in life, on new ideas, on things internally. Itʼs grown deeply into myself at this point and is something Iʼm known for. Iʼm amazed how something so small, a puddle or little stream, can capture such a huge scene. I believe it keeps people eyes drawn longer.”

Boredom Breeds Passion

Patrick says he often finds himself getting bored or tired of seeing the same things over and over but every few months, he finds new passion for photographing the city.

“There are streets I’ve walked a thousand times, seeing nothing. But a change in perspective or a new life event makes me see things differently and Ill go back with a new vigor. Sometimes you don’t appreciate the streets you walk often until you walk new streets and realize they’re nothing compared to the streets that youʼve grown tired of.”

“When you make a living roaming the street for images, you learn a lot about the other people who walk up and down those streets. I have learned that people are kind, loving, genuine and pure. I have found a kindness in humanity. I have learned that I live in a pure place. No matter the message, I trust the purity in it. Negative or positive.”

Patrick McAllister photo of an abandoned warehouse

Lockdown Lifted

Throughout the lockdown due to the pandemic, Patrick along with the rest of us were forced inside. He created one of his current favorite images this past May of an abandoned factory in Philadelphia.

“That image was taken on my first outing, and it symbolized so much. This empty and abandoned building being shown new life. I felt like it mirrored this awakening in my creative life. So much was abandoned during the lockdown, and that moment just brought new light into my life.”

Immersed in the City

Photographing the streets of the city around him, Patrick immerses himself in situations and looks for scenes that match the emotions he’s feeling.

“If I wake up and see fog and I feel clouded in my thoughts, Iʼll rush out to shoot. If it rains and I’m feeling sad, I’ll rush out to find shots that match that feeling.”

“The sadness of life has been a major focus in my work. Not so much the reality that it exists, but our ability to outlast it. “My feelings, life with mental illness, music—they are the biggest inspirations for me.”

Actionable Insights

“2020 has been about chasing purposeful imagery. I want my work to point to a bigger issue, a bigger message. I want people to see my work and take action in life. Whatever ‘action’ means to each person. I just want my work to provoke change in thought. I want my work to drive people to do something. Smile or volunteer, hope or create something themselves.”

Patrick’s advice to other artists and creators is to not worry about what others are doing, or the latest styles or trends or chasing after likes and follows on social media.

“Chase your own version of creativity. Chase your own vision. Chase your own happiness. So much time gets wasted being worried about all the things that don’t help you make better, more meaningful images. Put your focus on creating what makes you happy, what looks good, and everything else will fall into place.”