Photoshop & Beyond: Nourish Your Creativity

Almost everyone has a creative streak, though it can appear in many forms. Maybe you enjoy cooking or baking, knitting, crocheting, sewing, painting, drawing, sculpting, woodworking, writing, scrapbooking, jewelry making, soap making…the list goes on.

One of my creative passions is photography and although I’ve been fortunate enough to land a few freelance jobs over the years, I still consider myself an amateur. I have much to learn and even more to practice, both with my camera and gear, and especially with my image editing skills in Photoshop. I love Photoshop, but am not nearly as skilled with it as I’d like to be.

If you’ve been following this 365 blog, you know I’m taking a online course called Soul Restoration from Melody Ross and Kathy Wilkins, founders of the Brave Girls Club. Taking part in Soul Restoration has allowed me to take time for myself and really think about the things that make me me. It’s allowed me to focus on and remember who I am at my core, not just through the filter of me the wife, me the mother, or even me the blogger. It’s taught me how to nourish my creative side with new intensity, and since doing that, I’m a firm believer that taking time to nourish your creative soul should be mandatory work for everyone.

Since it’s impossible to take you through the course with me, here’s what I hope: I hope you’ll let me be that little voice that reminds you it’s ok to take time for yourself and indulge your creative passions. In fact, it’s not only ok to take time for yourself, it’s vital to make this time for yourself. Whatever your thing is, whatever creative outlet you enjoy, however you express yourself in a positive, artistic way, just do it: learn it, practice it, do it; be brave, be bold, and believe in yourself. Nourish your creativity; see where it takes you.

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Portrait photography isn’t really my thing. I prefer shooting food, landscapes, and objects. That said, taking part in Soul Restoration has forced me to re-examine my own beliefs about my talents, abilities, and skills. It’s reminded me not to judge myself so harshly, how not to be my own worst critic. It’s also taught me to open up a bit more, share myself, my work, my hobbies and know that it’s ok to be vulnerable.

Because of that, I’ve decided to share a glimpse of what I’ve been working on this week—editing portrait images in Photoshop (thought I may as well explore the aspect of photography that intimidates me the most). I’m not claiming this is my best work—it’s still too new for me to do that. But I am opening up and using this example to show you what’s possible when you nourish your creativity and allow yourself to practice your art, whatever that may be. How else will you know what you’re capable of producing creatively unless you challenge yourself?

Last year, I took this photo of my daughter. This is the original image, straight from the camera, with no editing done. There are so many flaws with it (from a technical aspect) that I almost didn’t use it, but I love this photo of her and wanted to see if I could rescue and improve it.

The next image reflects the edits I did in Photoshop at that time. They improved the image to some degree, but certainly not as much as I would have liked. Here is last year’s attempt to edit this portrait:

Better, but still not the look I was after.

Now, flash forward to this week. I dug this image off my portable hard drive (because it’s always a good idea to back up your images) and tried my hand at editing again. I wanted to see if I could create those polished-looking shots it seems portrait photographers produce so effortlessly. I had my work cut out for me, because the original image was so flawed, but that didn’t stop me from experimenting. Here’s a shot of my new edits:

I’ve taught myself to smooth skin, brighten eyes, correct exposure problems, and do some basic edits to enhance the overall image. I’m pleased with the results, especially when compared to the original image and even my first round of edits.

Then I wanted to see if I could push my artistic limits even more and still maintain some integrity of the original photo. That’s when I got back into Photoshop and created this:

Definitely more of an artistic look, I decided to push the contrast and hues in this image while adding in some background noise (see the brick wall behind the subject) for interest. I’m not sure if I like this image more than the third photo pictured in this post (in some ways I do, in some ways I don’t), but it was good for me to experiment, to push my artistic boundaries in Photoshop.

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Now that I’ve shared some of my strengths and weaknesses as a photographer and Photoshop devotee, what are some of the ways you could nourish your own creative abilities? Could it be as simple as carving out more time for yourself? Or could it be something that pushes you to work and practice beyond your current level of expertise? What could you accomplish if you took the time to practice, learn, and hone?

I hope I can encourage you to do just that.

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