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How to turn your photo collection into art by Carrie Bullock Photography

How to turn your photo collection into art by Carrie Bullock Photography


How to turn your photo collection into art

Move desk to window: check. Grab a pillow for the cat: check. Coffee and water: check. Now that I am on government-mandated Stay Home/Stay Safe rules with Covid-19, I have more free time on my hands than I ever dreamed of being possible. Suddenly, as the World slows down, I have a boatload of time to play. And for me, what that entails is revisiting over 80,000 photo files and deciding what is useable, what is salvageable and which are ready to take a trip to the recycle bin. I have all the time in the world to be creative and focus on what I’d rather be doing instead of ‘work’.

So, to keep it real and tell you who I am and what my ‘style’ is, I am a GenXer who found my artistic abilities in high school after years of watching my mom oil paint. Admittedly, I had some skills; my dad would’ve been happy to send me to art school, but I lost interest in school after 4 quarters of community college. I went for nearly 30 years without sketching, drawing, painting…I lived in big cities, mostly tropical climate, and was far too busy to quiet my head long enough to hear the birds sing.

A few years back I got married and returned to my hometown of Kirkland, WA, across the Lake from Seattle. I felt like I just stepped into La Jolla! What? This is not my beautiful town! I began the process of convincing my husband that we were ready to find a slower-paced, smaller city. I could not stand the noise and crowds of living so close to a major metropolitan city any longer.

We chose Bellingham, WA located 85 miles north of Seattle. We totally found our jam here in this laid back, hipster/tree hugger/academic, lush, green college town, bordering British Columbia. Something happened to me when we moved here; I had what I have now labeled, an ‘awakening’. Due to it being so quiet here, surrounded by cedars and pines, lakes and farmland, Mt. Baker and the Canadian Rockies, my senses were suddenly invaded by pure, magical beauty. The birds, although I have heard those chirps and songs all my life, I finally slowed down long enough to actually see them. Who knew we are surrounded by everyday exotic birds?! So at heart, I’m a closet bird nerd.

Enough about me; let’s get to the art. If you’re anything like me, having a large cache of photos is the result of having a DSLR that goes with me everywhere. And that means that I take a large number of photos. I don’t expect every capture to be a prize-winning photo, but there are many photos that I can later utilize in one of my ‘projects’. So at first glance, a photo may be a good shot. But if I zoom in, crop it here, adjust the lighting, fix the clarity… I may well end up with a really cool, frame-able piece of art! Or, utilize that image later in a layering or photo-collage art piece.  See here how I utilize salvaged photos!

Of course, who doesn’t experience total euphoric triumph when they discover 10-12/1000 shots that are crisp, clean, glorious images? Thank God for digital! Otherwise I’d go broke wasting film, right? But those perfect shots are rare, as most photographers would agree. It takes an awful lot of practice and experimenting with settings to capture the perfect image.

I shoot with a Canon EOS Rebel T5 that my husband purchased for our Maui honeymoon. It was the fanciest camera that I had ever taken pictures with and I instantly found my passion! With two lenses to choose from, I discovered the amazing, close-range shots of flowers, bugs and detail with the 18-75mm lens. With the 75-300mm I was able to get great shots of birds, landscapes, incredible sunsets, cityscapes and so on. It has been a good camera to get me started.

I often find myself searching for texture, either in nature, architecture and environmental installations. Ornamental manholes, a 1,000 petals of a blooming dahlia, decaying train trestles, the historic theater’s ceilings, the intricate details of a Great Blue Heron’s feathers or the ornate, metallic gorget feathers of a hummingbird’s throat… these are things I love. And they make great art! Check out the detail in the petals of this Dahlia Canvas!

In 2020, nearly everybody owns a camera of some sort; high-end, high-priced gear or as simple as a cell phone. If you can take a picture, you can make art! Google Play offers way too many options for photo-editing, but we all find our favorites. For some projects, I may use up to 4 different apps for editing. Some are social media apps, others are straight editing tools. This may seem crazy, but all of my photos are edited, wait for it… on my cell phone. Between downloading my camera files directly onto my laptop, selecting my favorite captures, emailing them to myself, I then download them to my cell phone and the editing begins. My favorites are PicsArt, Pixlr, Instagram and Google Photos. I tried Lightroom for a minute, but I found that I had so many more tools to experiment with using the apps I mentioned.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t care so much about being a photo purist. There will be a time for that as I upgrade my gear. For now, I want to create eye-pleasing, soul-touching art with my photos and art. I attempt to show the beauty around us, that so many, like me, are too busy to stop, look around and notice a whole existence that gets (dis)missed with burying our heads and hearts in the daily grind.

Remember those ‘salvageable’ photos I mentioned in the beginning? If you travel to my artist page on The Design Tank, take notice of the photo layering pieces. “Skagit Farm”, my most popular collage on Pinterest is a photo-layered creation utilizing some of those photos that may not have made the first cut. I layer images utilizing ‘add photo’ options and create silhouettes. All photos are mine and often include at least one bird, some type of interesting texture to layer and multiple color layers. My photo-layering projects came about during the long, wet, cold winters of the Pacific Northwest. I giggled yesterday when I noticed that ‘photo collage’ was actually trending on Pinterest!

So no matter what you are shooting with, that photo-bank that you’re carrying around can be an amazing source of endless creative opportunities. I would love to hear from other artists to discover what you’re using to express your unique style and intrigue. Please feel free to comment!

Carrie Bullock