Brooke Shaden | Reaching Out

So this morning i decided to reach out to Brooke and ask her to come to the UK for Creative Futures Week! I honestly think i have more chance of winning the lottery but hey, if you don’t ask you don’t get!!


And if she even finds the time just to reply i will still be ever so happy! 😀

UPDATE JAN 2018***

Not only did Brooke reply to my email but she agreed to be put in contact with Uni to discuss what she can do for our Creative Futures Week!!! Unbelievable!! ( You can’t see it but i am still doing my little happy dance!! haha )

THIS IS AMAZING!!! She is going to be an absolutely asset to the line up! Because of her other commitments she can’t actually make it to the UK in person but she has agreed to do a live Q&A with us over Skype that week!!



Jason Ulsrud | PhotIllustrator

Composite Portrait Photographer

‘From the branding, to the marketing, to the process, to the portraits, and most importantly to the experience, I enjoy being Different, and I’m always looking for ways to stand out and be different’

– Jason Ulsrud


Jason Ulsrud from Dallas, Texas.

Jason is an amazing photographer who really captures the life and personality of his clients and creates incredible large prints to be the focal point in their homes. His images are realistic in that he photographs the scene and each person separately; sometimes up to 40 images are assembled together, yet his edits resemble a humorous illustration.

Originally starting out as an advertising photographer he soon realised that he enjoyed documenting people’s lives and stories rather than an object or campaign.


Above is a video from his Youtube Channel, it shows some behind the scenes of the reactions when his work is revealed to the clients….. These reactions alone are a true testimony of the impact his creative portraits will have on generations to come.

I love how Jason incorporates so many personalities in one image, there is always so much going on yet everything works together in perfectly as one image

Original / Bright / Colourful / Lively / Interesting / Busy / Humorous / Exciting / Dynamic / Wide / Cartoon / Chaos / Family Life

His Youtube Channel The Photoillustrator is full of tutorials and useful information on photography, photoshop, compositing and has been a useful reference for me whilst researching composites.

Jason Ulsrud | Interview

I recently made contact with Jason Ulsrud who is a Portrait and Advertising Photographer from Dallas, Texas. He specialises in amazing fun creative family portraits and i have been a huge fan ever since i came across his work and overjoyed when he agreed to an interview!

Hi Jason,

Do you think composite photography is becoming a crucial skill for photographers within different genres? I am a newborn photographer and i am seeing a massive increase in newborn composites using digital backgrounds.

I believe that Composite Photography is simply a skill, that if done well, can differentiate one from other photographers. For me, Composite Photography has made it possible to create family portraits that are Different, and that my clients are willing to pay top dollar for.

For many photographers, Compositing can open up new and different markets, provide a source of new income, or give the photographer more expressive freedom.

I always say, however, regardless of whether your a straight shooter or a Composite Photographer, “An image is only as good as your subject.”

No amount of photographic or Compositing skill will make a boring subject or story great. All great images and all great Composites start with great subjects and great stories.

Have you done many advertising composites? Do you have a couple of examples that i could include?

When I started out on my journey into the world of Composite Photography, like most other photographers, I wanted to become an Advertising Photographer. Who wouldn’t want to be a Bad Ass photographer shooting for top magazines and ad agencies?

As I practiced and developed my voice in Composite Photography, I began to realize that I didn’t see the world through an advertising lens. That when I sat down to develop a story, it was never around a product or campaign, but instead around a life and personalities.

To answer your question about Advertising Composites, YES, I have worked on a few small budget projects I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up through existing portrait clients. You can see a few samples at

Now, looking back at my very first Composite, which you can see here (, I realize I was never destined for anything but portrait photography and helping people tell their stories in a Different way.

Additionally, and most importantly, I want my images to impact the world, even if it’s just the world of a family. I imagine those families looking back at their portrait in 20 or 30 years, smiling and laughing about a time they all shared together, I imagine the kids in their portraits one day sharing their fun stories with their kids, and I imagine these portraits being a visual record of real lives lived.

In a world of consumable photography, where most images created have a shelf live of between a few minutes to a few months, if you’re lucky, creating photography that impacts a life is a rare thing.

That’s why in 2017 I committed myself 100% to only pursuing family portrait projects and in 2018 I am focused on pursuing a celebrity clientele.

What’s key to creating a good composite?

Practice your ass off, persevere past that annoying voice in your head, tell your critics to F&$K OFF, get really good at Solving Problems, and don’t lift your head up until you’re alone.

To quote Les Brown, “To be successful, you must be willing to do the things today others won’t do in order to have the things tomorrow others won’t have.

Let me break this down…

Like everyone else, when I started down the rabbit hole of Composite Photography, I had no idea what I was doing or how to find out. I watched hours upon hours of video tutorials and I practiced my ass off for 12 to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. I was relentless and wasn’t going to stop until I could create a portrait that could sell for several thousands of dollars.

If you want to be good at Composite Photography, you have to be willing to put in the time and practice your ass off.

As you go through the process of developing your skill and style as a Composite Photographer, your inner critic will likely tell you that you’re not good enough and that you shouldn’t even waste the time because there are too many other photographers way better than you. At least that’s what my inner critic keeps telling me even to this day.

You will either decide to listen to your inner critic and quit, or you will decide to persevere past the annoying voice in your head and prove your inner critic wrong, and you can guess which choice a great Composite Photographer will make.

Humans are inherently designed to critique anything that challenges us. Whether it be from another photographer in a Facebook group letting you know how some small technical detail isn’t quite right or it be judges from the PPA telling you how your image doesn’t fit traditional portrait standards, if you’re creating images worth looking at, people will criticize your work.

I say tell your critics to F&$K OFF because the only opinion that matters when it comes to your images are the opinions of those paying you dollars, and sometimes they don’t even matter.

Every single Composite comes with it’s own special set of problems. From dealing with clients, to dealing with photo shoot variables, to technical editing issues, you will run into problems on every single Composite you create.

If you want to become a good Composite Photographer, you’ve got to become a Great problem solver.

The one thing we all want as photographers is for our work to Stand Out, Get Noticed, and to be appreciated for the awesome work we do. The problem is, those things don’t happen near as fast as you want them to. You’ll create a pretty good Composite and when it doesn’t get enough “likes”, you’ll try a different style of Composite, or you’ll try editorial portrait, or newborn portrait, or maybe go back to a traditional style of portrait. Always changing things and always looking for the attention.

In the beginning, as you’re developing your technical skills and style, you’ll be like everyone else getting little attention, but as you keep on doing your thing while everyone else is changing and trying different things, you’ll lift up your head from all the hard work you’ve been doing and realize, you’re all alone and getting noticed.

There’s very little room for Greatness in the world and while so many want to be great, very few are willing to do the work it takes to become Great.

Which part of the process throws up the most problems?

Regarding the technical process of Composite Photography, I believe the area most photographers struggle with the most is LIGHTING, and understanding the relationship between light and shadows.

I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to my Composites, so I like to light everything with a pretty flat light, giving me the opportunity to build the light and shadows as I desire. Because most of my Composites use 40+ separate images, many times photographed at different times and locations, building my light and shadows means I have to have an excellent understanding of light and shadows.

As photographers we must become better students of light and shadows.

What do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy being Different.

From the branding, to the marketing, to the process, to the portraits, and most importantly to the experience, I enjoy being Different, and I’m always looking for ways to stand out and be Different.

When I ask, every single client I have says they chose Photillustrator because my portraits were Different.

I’m super proud about being considered Different.

And lastly, because you probably get asked those questions all the time, is there anything you haven’t been asked before or would like me to include as a personal statement?

Composite Photography is a technical skill, not an art, which means it can be taught and learned by anybody willing to put forth the effort and time.

Nobody has ever paid me thousands of dollars because I’m technically a good Composite Photographer. In fact, none of my clients even know or care about “Composite Photography”.

How you compose the elements of your Composite and the story behind those elements is an art you must discover on your own.

People are willing to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for art that means something to them.

So, the question becomes, how do you take the Composite Photography skill you’re mastering and turn it into a meaningful product people are will to pay a lot for?

The reason you know of artist like Andy Warhol and photography icon Richard Avedon isn’t because they created artwork and images that were “better” than everyone else. It was because they understood the art of promotions, marketing, and public relations.

In other words, they hustled to become the icons we know today.

The key to Standing Out and Getting Noticed is Repetition. The more Composites you create and the more you share your art with the world, the better your chances are of standing out and getting noticed.

Never accept “I can’t” or “No” as an answer, because you can if you just work at it hard and long enough.



Jason Ulsrud, (2017), Kitchen Chaos [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 14 December 2017].


It seemed only right to do a composite image of Sophie with our first copy of the magazine to celebrate the release! There is no better smell than the one of boxes that have just come from the printers filled with perfect unopened books…it’s heavenly!

I met Vivien Jones; Founder & Editor of Kookie Magazine, on delivery day when the mountains of KOOKIE boxes arrived and was so excited to get my copy. I knew as soon as i looked at it that i had to incorporate it into a composite to advertise the magazine on social media. Viv is also hosting a KOOKIE launch party this coming saturday (In 2 Days time) for all the contributors and i wanted to take her a gift so my idea of the composite to celebrate is going to be framed and given to her then…… as always with any ideas i seem to come up with i had to do it fast so that i could get it edited and off to print!

This was my timescale:

Received my magazine copy: Tuesday evening

Came up with the idea for a Composite print as a gift: Wednesday morning

Shooting of Composite: Wednesday evening 8pm after my daughters Christmas Play

Editing of Composite: Wednesday 9-11:30pm

Print ordered: Wednesday midnight

Last minute ideas are always the most fun, it really gets my adrenaline pumping and i work so much better…..pressure is good!

I won’t breakdown the Composite process in as much detail as previously in my 7 Days 7 Composites Challenge because i didn’t use any new methods but i will just show a brief outline of the different components.

I would like to show this though:


This is the glamorous studio of my bedroom floor! There was no time to travel to my studio with Sophie because it was already getting late because we were out at Sophie’s Christmas play at church till 7pm so i had to improvise!

Equipment used:

  • Nikon D750 & Nikon 85mm 1.8 Lens for the full shot of the magazine (85mm so that it didn’t distort the shape of the magazine)
  • Nikon D750 & Nikon 35mm 1.4 Lens for the stars (because i had to be really close to them while i was throwing them) and for Sophie because my bedroom is really small and i needed to use the wide angle lens to fit her whole body in the frame.
  • Yongnuo Flash bounced straight up off my white ceiling for all shots.

First i photographed the magazine and then i sat and threw stars around with my left hand whilst trying to take pictures of them with my right hand (if only i’d had my tripod and trigger!! ha)

I then photographed Sophie wearing the same clothes as she wore on the Cover Shoot on the same white sheet:

I then put the kids to bed and set to editing …. only to find that all the shots i had taken of Sophie standing just wouldn’t fit right with the magazine…. the perspective was off which you can see here:

comp test

I always cut around my subject really quickly at first with the ERASER tool just so that i can test the perspective of them when i place them onto  the background, it’s a good indication to how i need to change my angle of the shot if its wrong. If the perspective is right i will then cut out the subject properly using more fine tools like the LASSO and then refine the edge.

I should of taken the photos of Sophie from a slightly lower angle…… unfortunately by this point she is fast asleep in bed and totally wouldn’t appreciate being woken up and dragged into my bedroom to throw imaginary stars around! So i had to make do with what i already had and decided to use one of the jumping shots because the perspective of this isn’t as important with her feet off the floor:

Kookie 1st issue!! PRINT small

This ended up working quite well and arranged more of the stars that i had shot separately around her as if she had thrown them in the air when she jumped. I also removed the original background and painted a new background that was the same colour of Sophie’s face on the magazine. There was quite a lot of tweaking to get the shadows right and lots of CURVES & LEVELS layers to balance out the image but i got it to a point i was happy with (….and had no choice because i had run out of time anyway and had to send it off to print).

The image above is the one i sent off to print and will be framed and given to Viv as a present for the launch of her new Global Magazine KOOKIE on saturday!

I also put this together for the social media advertising:


This is a screenshot from the KOOKIE SHOP where you can buy the magazine in the UK & AUSTRALIA:


All in all …….really bloomin exciting!!!!!! 😀

Client Work | Christmas

In November i run a weekend of Christmas Mini Sessions, they are 20 minutes long and i run them back to back all day. It’s really nice, we have Christmas music on and the parents get mulled wine and mince pies while i take photos of their children…. and if they’re good they get a little treat afterwards as well.

This was my 2017 Facebook advert with images from last years sessions.

I’ve also put a little behind the scenes of my preparation for this years sessions:

Client Work | Newborn Sessions

I am so passionate about newborn photography, I love the opportunity to capture these early stages of new little lives and create Bespoke timeless images for families to treasure forever.

My Newborn Galleries consist of around 25 – 30 Images for the client to choose from. A viewing appointment is arranged within 2 weeks of their session, here they can choose their images from a slideshow gallery on my screen in the studio. An example session:

Here are a few images from some of the sessions I’ve had during 2017-2018:

Baby Gabriella


Baby Esmae


Baby Harry


Baby Valentina


Baby Jaxon


Baby Elsie May


Baby Alice


Baby Joshua


Baby Seren


Baby Oscar


Baby Aaron


Baby Betsie


Callie & Tomos


Baby Harper


Baby Edith


Baby Emmie


Baby Harper

Coronation Blue | The Plan

Coronation Blue Global Art Project


I have been asked by my lovely friend and fellow student Roy Barry to be part of his Coronation Blue Project….

The Story

“I was recently lucky enough to rescue a large and unopened bottle of “Coronation Blue” Ink-a quart in size, produced 60 years ago(at least), this bottle had probably spent its’ entire existence at the back of a school or office stationery cupboard, gathering dust, just waiting to be used as the lifeblood of some young creative’s imaginative musings.

I couldn’t stand the thought of this bottle of as yet uncreated Art being thrown into a skip, so decided to build a collaborative project around it, by inviting as many Artistic friends as I could, to each take it in turns to take custodianship of the bottle and its’ contents, create something vibrant and meaningful with it, then pass it on to other like minds, so they may do the same.

My initial intention was to get all of the Art and Writing collected back here in Wales, and to have an exhibition based on the bottle’s journey and its’ meeting with creative minds, all over the world. I now realise that rather than just being the creator of the idea, I also want to create something meaningful in the project and intend to visit my fellow collaborators and photograph and interview each in turn, and ultimately intend to produce a documentary and book based on this global Art project.

I look at this bottle of beautiful indigo liquid and dare to dream of fabulous and as yet unborn works of Literature and Art, all waiting their time to be brought to life, to shine.”

– Roy Barry

I am so excited to have the chance to create something unique from this ink, what i plan to do is use the ink in one of my composites and i was inspired by Roy’s video of the ink being released into water.


The way it moves and flows is really hypnotising and instantly reminded me of a long swirling sweeping dress like the one from Cinderella.


I then came across this video from Benjamin Shine, an incredible artist from Surrey who uses different mediums to create portraits, i was blown away by how he uses tulle and an iron to make these dynamic floating images.

And after watching this is sparked another piece to my composite, i will photograph my daughter wearing a dress made out of tulle that i will make the same colour as Roy’s ink and then combine the image with the ink and water so the tulle dress has elements from the swirling ink in the water.


A very quick sketch i made on a piece of paper while i was out walking (always good to have a pocket full of receipts and to-do lists and pencils!!) as the different elements that i have discussed all started to come together and form in my mind.

She will be pulling blue tulle down from the sky and as it meets her body its wrapped around her into a dress and then the bottom of the dress will blend into the swirling of the Coronation Blue Ink in water. The background needs to be nondescript, i want the focus to be only in the centre so possibly a a flat field and sky that is all, it will be deep rich but slightly desaturated colours, even the blue will be a little desaturated but not too much so that it becomes flat.

I will be working on this in January, more to follow…..

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 14.07.25


I then created a Mock-Up Composite using these web-sourced images and a screen shot of Roy’s ink in water:

To create this:

blue dress mock up sml

Rather than me try to sketch it, it made more sense to assemble a mock-up composite to build a better visual as a guidance of how i need to the separate elements.



Information taken from:



Stream Raza Ali Durrani




Youtube Links

There is so much inspiration online, especially on Youtube there is a world of knowledge only a click away. Below i have listed a selection of tutorials that i am drawn to in regards to concept, colour & edit and i will be using these as reference material when creating my Fine art Fantasy Composites.

Brooke Shaden – Fine Art Composites:


Rafy A – Fantasy Composites:

I could watch Rafy A’s videos all day, clear steady paced and with beautiful relaxing music in the background.



Brooke Shaden Workshop | Evaluation

Brooke’s calm relaxed and thorough approach to creating composites is very encouraging to anyone starting out.

You don’t need fancy equipment or props and she proved this during the workshop, amazing images created on a shoe string with only what’s available.

Her understanding of light and how she can visualise her editing process before she takes her photos is the most important part to creating a great image. I understand this completely, whenever i visualise something i can make it exactly how i imagined it because i can see the final product. And this allows me to work backwards and try and forsee any problems that might occur and plan how i’m going to deal with them.

I really love the painterly finish that Brooke gives her images by using desaturated colours and texture overlays, they add a fantasy, dreamlike edge to them and this is something that i would like to pay attention to when creating my fantasy composites. Brooke’s work has herself stamped all over it because she is consistent with the moody colour pallatte she uses, the square crop, and the texture overlays.