My plan for Negotiated Studies 2 was use what I had researched and learnt in Negotiated Studies 1 to create a series of unique newborn composites. A bespoke service that I plan to offer future clients, creating one-off pieces of art to be hung in their homes.

The concept for the triptych was developed around the birth of a baby using minimal props to symbolise different stages of that time.

Each image took several weeks to complete, the process starting with research of props, colours & the set up. Followed by photographing the background that I planned to composite the baby into. Once that was done it was time to photograph the clients baby at their newborn shoot, all babies were photographed on a beanbag to ensure comfort, safety and the least disturbance. Using techniques recommended by Cleare Photography from her Newborn Composite Workshop, the babies are laid and surrounded by material that match the colour and textures of where they will be composited into, making the blending process easier.

The editing process varied greatly between each image, with Creation it was a lengthy process because I didn’t have the clear visual of how I wanted the final edit to look. I knew the feeling and the meaning I wanted it to have but that’s all so when it came to the edit I wasn’t happy with it and ended up doing a full re-edit to remove everything that was distracting the eye from the baby. Thus leaving the raw minimal image I had intended. With Growth & Nurture the edit was much easier because I had the end result in my head so there was no experimenting needed. Nurture was more difficult technically because the baby wasn’t as settled as I would have liked. Time was running out and I was unable to finesse his pose and the material around him, this made the edit more time-consuming.


This lengthy process of creating a series of images with a concept was a really rewarding exercise. It’s something I’ve never done before and I feel emotionally attached to the images because so much time went into each one. A totally different experience to anything I have ever done before and I learnt a lot. Not only about developing the concept, but also in the edit to get 3 images from 3 different client shoots to work together, with every detail being crucial. I am really pleased with them and feel that I achieved the brief that I set for myself and if I was to attempt this again there isn’t anything that I would change.


Arabella Orb 20x20

In contrast to that series of images I also created a ‘non-planned’ composite. ‘Falling’ was created when I was having writers block, inspired by a falling petal that landed next to me. This lead to a burst of inspiration and an image that was made and completed in one evening. There was no concept behind it, it was purely the aesthetics of the petal as it fell and landed on my white desk that brought this image to my mind. It wasn’t shot with careful planning, equipment and good lighting, I seized the moment and used what I had and the limited light that was there. The ‘7 Days 7 Composites Challenge’ was great practise for this, making the most of what I have and with a small time frame. I am excited to add this to my Negotiated Studies 2 because alongside my time-consuming triptych of three dark meaningful images I have a light and airy one that was a flash of inspiration which shows diversity in my creative process.


Inspiration is like a moment of awakening, like a lightening bolt that hits you on the top of the head and then travels through to your stomach swirling around and shooting little bolts of energy and tingles through your body. Is that what drives us, is it the adrenaline and excitement when that moment strikes. You can’t even think about eating, a day can go by and you don’t even give it a thought, there is no hunger when you are flying on the adrenaline train! It can strike at any moment and anywhere and usually when you are least looking for it.

This is what happened to me, whilst sat at my desk, looking at a blank screen. Knowing I need to write, there are Blogs to write, time’s running out, not knowing what to write first…why is writing so hard, my mind is searching but avoiding what I need to be doing. As you can see my desk is all packed up because we are in the process of packing, we move house the day after the Degree Show. So finding the headspace to write has been difficult recently.

Then a petal from my beautiful flowers that were bought as a gift from a wonderful friend floated down next to me.


And then I was on that train, the whooshing in my stomach and tingling feeling all over as the idea explodes in my mind. A little baby curled up in the soft enclosure of the petal. Surrounded by nothing, a pure angelic image of a little life as it falls into our world.

Writing??? That can wait, when an idea strikes you have to run with it, never let it pass!

It was in the evening, light was limited and all my equipment was in the studio still except one camera and a 50mm lens…. so that was going to have to do! I quickly ran round the house to find the window that had the most light coming through and set up a mini studio with 2 pieces of white A4 paper.


Light was disappearing fast, I had to use a higher ISO than I would have liked so there was going to be grain in the image but I’d compensate for that later. I shot the petal from lots of different angles and a few different apertures to get varying DOF.



This composite was going to be a different process to my previous ones, normally I would photograph the background and then photograph the baby accordingly to fit with that. In this case I was going to use a baby from a shoot that I did last year, I knew which one the moment the petal fell next to me on the desk, I didn’t even bother to check before I photographed the petal… which in hindsight I probably should have? That’s the sensible thing to do but I maybe had 15 mins of light left so I wasn’t going to waste that time hunting for the photo.

I placed my mini studio at a 45 degree angle to the window light because this is generally how I light babies in the studio.


Once I was happy with the selection of images that I had taken the hunt was on for the baby image I had in mind:


Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 20.07.11

Beautiful little Arabella!


I started the compositing at 7pm:

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 20.56.10Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 20.41.28Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 20.33.07

And finished at 11pm.


Arabella Orb (square)

I used the same methods as in my previous composites, selecting parts of each of the images and adding them in as layers and painting the areas that I wanted with layer masks. I also used CURVES & HUE/SATURATION LAYERS, and the DODGE & BURN tools to enhance areas.



Arabella Orb 20x20


This image was created purely from the inspiration of a falling petal, there was no planning, no theory, no searching for a concept. It was the result of a visual that presented itself to me and all I did was bring it to life. These creations are always the most enjoyable, I almost feel like I have no part in them… they make themselves.

I completed the edit in an evening because I knew that if I wanted to get this made into wall art it would need to be ordered by morning. There is a company that I registered with that day – C41, based in Ellesmere Port and they said they would be able to turnaround within 5 days if I collected… so that was the plan.

In contrast to my series Creation, Growth & Nurture which were all very dark on Mounted Boards with dark edges this needed to be produced with a softer finish. I have chosen the 20×20″ Birch Circle from C41 which I think will work really nice.

It has been sent into production and will be ready for me to collect the day before the Degree Show… so I will be doing some last-minute hanging on thursday afternoon! ūüėÄ

Ordering products…. how much time do we allow??

When the time comes to order wall products to showcase your art that you have painstakingly worked on for weeks, it’s not something to take lightly. We are spoilt for choice with different types of paper, finishes, mounts, laminates, each with different qualities to enhance a wide range of images. A perfect image can be ruined with the wrong selection, matt finishes can reduce the detail which is no good when the detail is the important part, acrylics really stand out but are extremely reflective, no good if it’s placement near a window that will bleach out the image. So there is much to consider before you place your order.

After deciding what type of finish would work best for my Degree Show pieces, I ordered test prints. I can’t explain how important ordering test prints is, the last thing you want to do is spend hundreds of pounds only to find that when your products arrive that the colour isn’t right or it’s not sharp enough or you don’t like the finish. Something that would have been picked up if you’d had test prints done first.

I needed my final wall products to arrive before the 23rd May, so I made sure that I started the process ONE MONTH before that date. I thought that would be more than enough time to go through the process and receive in plenty time to hang them before the show.

WRONG, my first lot of test prints arrived after 5 days, and the quality was poor. The matte finish that they apply means a reduction in details up to 10% which is a lot! I then had to re-edit my images to compensate for that loss, I did that the same day and sent them off to have a second set of test prints done. They took another week to arrive, when they did I was happy so I asked them to go ahead and print.

We are now exactly 7 days away from the show and I have just received my finished products.



They are covered in horizontal lines, which I assumed was from the packaging as it lines up perfectly with the lines on the images.


Absolute nightmare and not something I can ignore, these are meant to advertise quality products to clients. The print company have apologised and insisted that it’s to do with the laminate process which they will fix and remake for delivery next Tuesday ….. WHICH IS 3 DAYS BEFORE THE SHOW!!! I am really disappointed that if it was done in production rather than by the packaging why it wasn’t picked up before it was sent out? But I can’t knock their customer service and quick turnaround for the remake. I am concerned though that if there is anything wrong with those then I am out of time to get replacements.

So this is just a little bit of advice for those ordering art that’s crucially important to have by a certain date, allow plenty of time, more than I did, because even if you think your images are perfect and good to go there’s so many things that can go wrong or slow down the process.


The remake of my wall art arrived today (Tuesday 22nd May – 3 Days prior to the Show)

They don’t have the horizontal marks like the first batch but they all have other varying marks on them. Can’t describe my utter disappointment:


They aren’t extremely noticeable but there are still marks, if these were products for clients I would not be able to deliver them.

After contacting the company they are making a third batch to be delivered tomorrow (2 days before the Show). Even though the damaged products have been a let down, I cannot fault the customer service in trying to resolve the issues.

Without the marks these products are absolutely gorgeous, I love the matte finish it’s exactly what I wanted for my images and I can’t wait to hang them.

Hopefully the 3rd batch will arrive today and be PERFECT! Fingers crossed!



Throughout this series of images there has been a prop, there is an infinite amount of props that I could have used but I wanted it to be minimal. By using as little as possible to tell the story, I find it adds an intensity to the image. Each prop in my images has symbolized something; the wooden shell was the mother’s womb and the flower was artificial surroundings a baby is born into. When it came to choosing the prop for this image I struggled coming up with ideas for what could represent the act of nurturing. In¬†The Philosophy & Practices of Nurturing Parenting it is defined as:


Nurturing is a critical skill for all forms on the planet. For human beings, it is the most important characteristic for all of us to treat others and ourselves with respect, compassion caring and dignity.


Understanding the meaning of nurturing was one thing but finding a way to show it in a non-literal way was when I hit a wall. All I could think of was a baby with a parent or loved one?? Which would be a realistic representation not a symbolic one.

Referring back to Inspiration In Photography by Brooke Shaden, she discusses the use of props:


Do what makes you happy. Try thinking about what objects are near and dear to you. It might be a favourite necklace or rose that was pressed in a book years ago….. Whatever it is start with what you love

Brooke Shaden


And like magic Brooke’s words opened a different door of thinking, I went to my home and as soon as I seen Charlie Bear I knew he was perfect. I don’t buy teddies, unless they are for my children but on our recent trip at Christmas to Chester Zoo I fell in love with him. I’ve never seen a teddy with such a beautiful face and although feeling rather stupid I couldn’t leave without him. I’m thinking of him more as a collectors item that can be kept in the family…. that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! He can sit, move his head and has movable limbs which made him even more perfect for this image.



The plan for this image was to have the bear sat holding the baby, with his moveable limbs I hoped to be able to arrange him in a position that would allow this. I will use the same backdrop as in the first 2 images for consistency. Like before, I photographed the background plate first. I sat Charlie Bear in various positions that would allow room for a baby to be placed in and around him.


Tripod¬†‚Äď Essential!! Everything needed to be in focus, I used a small aperture and a slow shutter speed to maximise the light.




LIGHTING: Jinbei EF 200 watt sunlight LED | 45 degree angle from the front upper left of the teddy


Since researching Anne Geddes for my Dissertation I realised this image was definitely a subconscious inspiration in the creation of ‘Nurture’.


Although different in colour and format to what I intended, I also wanted to show a connection, creating the illusion the bear is real, caring and nurturing the baby.



As I predicted, there was no way I was going to have 3 shoots in a row that went without a hitch! Baby Noah was great but he didn’t like being fiddled with once he was off to sleep. And the fiddling is key to perfecting the perfect shot!


Tripod¬†‚Äď Essential!! BUT because Noah was already not settling for long I didn’t want to waste any time so I skipped setting up the tripod this time.


I also forgot to use a smaller aperture, because I was concentrating on just keeping him asleep it slipped my mind.

Histogram 2


Lighting: Jinbei EF 200 watt sunlight LED | 45 degree angle from the front upper left of baby.



I planned to tuck some dark fluff under his head and hands which would make the composite easier but he was waking up every time I moved him. This meant I had to make the most of what I had, sometimes you can push your luck. If he had woken I might not have been able to lie him in this ‘head on hands’ position again.

The composite took many hours in Photoshop to get right, there was lots of time spent correcting areas pixel by pixel. If the baby was on a similar coloured fabric it would have been much easier. The fabric was almost white so this had to be removed completely, if it had been a different shade of brown changing the colour to match would have been easy to do by changing the HUE / SATURATION.


Teddy sml-2

At this stage it was nearly finished, I then compared it next to my other images:

It was noticeably lighter, like with ‘Growth’ I warmed it up in Photoshop using curves and made the colour of the bears feet and baby’s hat more saturated then painted on a darker vignette.

Much better!

Each image was individually designed adhering to the six main principles of design:


 All having visually pleasing aesthetics that work together as a series / triptych.



Nurture - FINAL SML

The plan for my final image of this series was to symbolise the act of nurturing and I feel like I have achieved this here. Like the other images only one prop was used along with a single light drawing your eyes to the bear and baby. I consciously edited this so that it would match in colour and composition to the others.

We know the bear’s not real but the way it tends to the baby gives it life and draws you into a story where maybe it could be real. Some might look and think the baby is in the arms of a giant teddy, or others might know it’s not but wonder …. and that’s the great thing about creating composites or any art of any kind. If a viewer has to look twice then you’ve got their attention, something has resonated with them.

‚ÄėArt is about connecting with others, building communities of people who can relate to or be inspired to do something similar. Everyone has the ability to impact others with their work. You may not realise it or you may never realise it but it will happen‚Äô

Brooke Shaden


Growth was the second image for my series, it is to represent the next stage after birth.

When planning this image I referred back to ‘Creating A Series’ in Brooke Shaden’s book Inspiration In Photography. Some key wording from this section in her book:

“Creating a series is relevant because it allows the photographer to tell a meaningful story in an organic way…….a series takes the viewer into a new world……each picture expands on the last and when images relate, the story grows”


Image from Brooke Shaden’s Facebook Page

In this series by Brooke there is a different agenda to each image, three parts to the story, although all photographed in the same place with the same bed sheet each image conveys a message or feeling that can relate to the next.

Whilst researching for my Dissertation – Composite Photography and how is it used by contemporary photographers? I included the work from Anne Geddes who is an award-winning pioneer of creative newborn photography. For example, never had babies been posed and edited to give the illusion of flying on the back of a bird before her success in the 1990s.



The introduction on her website says:

Like no photographer before her, her imagery singularly captures the beauty, purity and vulnerability of children embodying her deeply held belief that each and every child must be ‚Äúprotected, nurtured and loved‚ÄĚ.¬†


Developing the concept for ‘Grow’

Anne Geddes’ mantra and theory behind her baby images was Protected, Nurtured, Loved – this inspired the concept of my series.

When creating a series of images they need to form a story, my first image was about the otherworldly stage before birth. This next image is about what happens when a baby enters our world and the changes that take place.

As soon as a baby is born it is forced into a new world, before it was naked curled up in a warm, dark, comfy place surrounded by amniotic fluid. There it is fed and has everything it needs, soothed by the muffled sounds of its mothers movements.


‘Coming into the world initially means coming from another, leaving a first environment, a first dwelling in another. There the surroundings were liquid and warm, and the foetus lived in almost weightlessness, beyond the fact that it’s weight was carried by another. Giving birth to itself, the new human behaves like a demiurge and takes an incredible risk. It can do nothing else, but such an exploit will prey on its entire existence as an incentive to and an anguish of venturing to attempt the impossible: to live by oneself.’

                                                       To Be Born: Genesis of a new human being | Luce Irigaray


The transition from the womb into our modern world is what could be described as traumatic and brave. Removed¬†from its safe place, it’s soon surrounded by lights, shapes, noises, prodded and poked, washed then dressed in clothes. This is a very different situation in comparison to ancient times, babies weren’t born into a sterile room. Many born in their humble homes or in fields as their mothers worked. Even for the higher class there was very natural apparatus used. As stated in an article Childbirth in the ancient world¬†it refers to information from the Roman writer Soranus, who lists the simple necessary items for childbirth:

‚ÄėFor normal labour one must prepare beforehand: olive oil, warm water, warm fomentations, soft sea sponges, pieces of wool, strips of cloth, a pillow, things to smell, a midwife‚Äôs stool or chair, two beds and a proper room’


Researching flowers

I planned to have a baby lying in a flower, still keeping the connection with nature but paying attention to the changes that happen when the baby enters our world. As it is touched and surrounded with man-made artificial items like clothes and hats.

At first I thought about using a real flower but decided on fake as a better representation of a hospital bed which is far from natural. I then did some research on different types of flowers to get an idea of what type might look the best with a baby inside.

The peony or the dahlia appealed to me, the centres of them could be flattened to allow a curled up baby inside so I set out to finding an artificial version similar.



The plan was to create a symbolic portrayal of a baby born into artificial surroundings. To do this I plan to photograph an artificial flower to create the background plate. Making sure there is enough space inside the flower for a baby to be added in Photoshop.


Tripod¬†‚Äď Essential!! Everything needed to be in focus, I used a small aperture and a slow shutter speed to maximise the light.

Camera Settings:



LIGHTING: Jinbei EF 200 watt sunlight LED | Top left angle



I chose the one below, the foliage is real but the flower is fake. I tidied it up in Photoshop, removing any distracting marks and used curves to reduce the magenta from the background. It was then ready to add the baby inside:


Pink Rose-2



Histogram 3


The Sleep Gods were on my side again in this shoot, everything went to plan and I was able to photograph her exactly how I needed to in order to add her to the flower in Photoshop. Same process of set-up was used as for ‘Earth’, the pink wool that was inside the flower was the same as what was around her.



I didn’t struggle with the edit of this image like I did with ‘Creation’ it was pretty straight forward. I used two images of her because I liked the ribbon and her feet in one but I preferred her hand and mouth in another. When I think I’ve finished a composite I still keep tweaking it, every time I look at it for at least a week or so there’s always something that I’ve missed. Once it was finished I¬†had it printed and realised when I placed it next to ‘Creation’ that the overall colour of ‘Grow’ had a cold tone in the background:



To fix this I warmed up the background and added one of my textures layers over the top and using a layer mask I painted it on where needed:


dark sml


It was only a subtle change but enough to make them look more balanced next to each other:


Colour theory was an important consideration, I chose blush pinks because not only are they generally associated with girls, a controversial subject which I am unbiased about, but are referred to in many other ways which applied to this image:

Pink, a delicate color that means sweet, nice, playful, cute, romantic, charming, feminine, and tenderness, is associated with bubble gum, flowers, babies, little girls, cotton candy, and sweetness.

The color pink is the color of universal love of oneself and of others. Pink represents friendship, affection, harmony, inner peace, and approachability.

Pink is the official color for little girls and represents sugar and spice and everything nice. Pink is the sweet side of the color red. While the color red stirs up passion, aggression, and action, large amounts of the color pink can actually create physical weakness.




‘Growth’ was a much easier process than ‘Creation’, perhaps learning from what I did the first time round or just having a clearer idea of the final image from the start helped. Luckily I had another plain sailing shoot with a settled baby so there was nothing to trip me up along the way. I probably won’t be as lucky the third time round! I’m really pleased with the final edit and think that I achieved the second part of the series. A symbolic portrayal of a baby born into our world dressed and surrounded by the creations of man.




My image ‘Creation’ took a journey of its own throughout the design process. I rather liked the idea of it transforming and taking its own form because that fit the concept. Babies go through a lot before they even arrive in our world as they develop physically in the womb. English philosopher John Locke presents an idea in his book Some Thoughts Concerning Education that they are born a blank slate,¬†beginning their lives morally neutral.

“a child’s mind must be educated before he is instructed, that the true purpose of education is the cultivation of the intellect rather than an accumulation of facts”


I wanted to create an image with a baby in a natural surrounding, without any distracting artificial items, an exciting new untouched life as it enters our world.

Trying to create this type of image, with a baby outside in a forest in one shot would have been difficult.¬†For the baby’s comfort and minimal disturbance, the best option was to photograph him separately to the scene and then layer them together as a composite.





Composite photography allows the creator to build an idea into a visual that wouldn’t physically be possible.¬†This 19th century photograph is a great example:
Two ways of life


The Two Ways of Life was one of the most ambitious and controversial photographs of the nineteenth century. The picture is an elaborate allegory of the choice between vice and virtue, represented by a bearded sage leading two young men from the countryside onto the stage of life. The rebellious youth at left rushes eagerly toward the dissolute pleasures of lust, gambling, and idleness; his wiser counterpart chooses the righteous path of religion, marriage, and good works. Because it would have been impossible to capture a scene of such extravagant complexity in a single exposure, Rejlander photographed each model and background section separately, yielding more than thirty negatives, which he meticulously combined into a single large print.



I photographed the background plate first, using various bits of wood and shells in different formations which the baby could lay in. I paid careful attention to the amount of light that was falling across the shell where I planned to put the baby in, making sure there was no heavy shadows where his face would be.


Tripod – Essential!! Everything needed to be in focus, I used a small aperture and a slow shutter speed to maximise the light.

Camera Settings:


LIGHTING: Jinbei EF 200 watt sunlight LED | Top left angle



The image below of the baby in a nest was definitely a strong influence when I was planning my set-up. It is by Kelly Brown, Little Pieces Photography, who spent a day training with in 2017 and I continually be inspired by her gentle approach to newborn photography.  Her style and colours are very natural and never distract you from the baby, her set-ups focus on the simple beauty of this each new life.


Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 10.44.41


That image however, is not a composite. The nest is very large and the baby lies in the middle and this is where I wanted my image to be different, otherworldly.


1a : of, relating to, or resembling that of a world other than the actual world

Brooke Shaden’s images can be described as otherwordly. In her book Inspiration In Photography¬†she describes herself as “a creator of worlds, a purveyor of magic, or in short, an inventor of magic”¬†


As with all composites that I create for clients it’s never guaranteed to work for time. Especially with newborn babies, some don’t sleep, don’t like laying on their back, some don’t like being naked etc. So there are lots of things that can get in the way of a perfectly planned shoot.

The shoot with my client went really well, luckily he was a content little thing and quite happy lying on his back undressed which was important for this image.


_OC15918 a

TIP** Something that I have learnt throughout creating composites is that if you have a similar colour/fabric around the person then it makes cutting them out and editing so much easier. As you will see when I created the background plate, there was a piece of dark brown wool that I had placed inside the shell.




The wool was a similar colour to the wool and fabric around the baby, this made it easier when blending the edges together.


wood heart composite sml

Initially when I got to this stage with the edit I felt I couldn’t go any further but I wasn’t happy…… I don’t think I’m ever 100% happy but I wasn’t even 80% this time! For one it was too warm and too busy, there was too much going on in the image it was distracting your eye from the baby. It had the earthy items and brown tones that I wanted but it wasn’t right.

I left it for a few weeks, kept coming back to it to see if a change would reveal itself to me. Then one day (probably after a decent sleep for once) my Superior temporal gyrus jumped into action and PING!

Great article to read about where our ideas come from on

Flashes of insight¬†are those aha-moments when relaxing our mind, and without thinking methodological and logically, we are coming up with significant solutions. You know it yourself, when suddenly realizing ‚ÄúI can do this in a better and smarter way‚ÄĚ or simply getting an idea, that seems obvious, but you haven‚Äôt thought of before ‚Äď a sudden realization.


I stripped the image right back, took away all the distracting factors until finally it was minimal and raw like I had originally planned.

earth sml


When composing this image, like all images, the placement of the subject has to be visually pleasing. The Rule Of Thirds or the Golden Ratio should be considered, but at the same time it isn’t the only way to frame something. Just by placing the subject on one of the cross points isn’t necessarily going to create the perfect composition. The overall image has to be visually appealing, Sometimes a change of angle or filling the frame in a different way can work better than only abiding by the rules, although they shouldn’t be ignored completely.


Earth - Rule Of Thirds


This image fits the Rule Of Thirds or the Golden Ratio, the negative space isolates the subject and draws your eyes towards the baby which is lying over the cross points in right hand side of the central rectangle. And if you follow the curved line of the Golden Ration it also leads your eyes in to the baby.



I experienced a love / hate relationship with this image during the editing process. Which happens a lot, you have a perfect idea in your head but when it’s brought to life it doesn’t reach your expectations. There was one point when I considered not using it but thankfully I had my lightbulb moment and was able to finish it. I am extremely happy with my final edit of this image. The more I played with the textures, colour, light and shadows the more it turned into what I set out to make. A raw but beautifully natural image of a new life as it transitions into our world from the safety of his mother’s womb, thus represented by the shell in which he lays.

Degree Show Exhibition Plan

I am currently offering a photography service that is very similar to that of many other local photographers. For this reason I chose to focus my time at University around learning composite photography. A bespoke service that I can offer my clients….. creating unique portraits to suit the individual. The images that I will be displaying at my Degree Show Exhibition, will showcase that i can offer something more than the a standard photoshoot.

To appreciate these type of images I feel like they would lose detail if they were small, for this reason I have chosen to display 3, a triptych of my newborn composites. I will also have a portfolio on show containing more examples of my work that might appeal to a more diverse client base.

Researching Degree Show Advice

In an article by Spectrum¬†on how to ‘Make the most of your degree show’ I picked out these key points….


  • Have a plan / Make a list / Give yourself deadlines
  • Get ideas from other exhibitions you enjoy, get advice where you can
  • Choose an exhibition presentation display style that suits your images but also works in relation to the space.
  • Don‚Äôt be afraid to be ambitious. Consider objects, aside from photographs, that will complement the display and message you want to convey
  • Naming –¬†Consider your image titles and captions and how you want to display them ‚Äď does it all fit in with your overall vision
  • Write a clear and concise artist statement
  • Market yourself


  • Quality over quantity –¬†When it comes to printing, go for optimum quality. Big isn‚Äôt always best ‚Äď don‚Äôt go beyond the capability of your negative/file
  • Test prints –¬†Allow time for running test prints and experimenting with different types of papers to ensure your vision is best for the work
  • Lead times –¬†And don‚Äôt forget to take lead times into account ‚Äď how long will all of this take and how long will it take for the final exhibition panels to be produced?

This information was all found on


So taking advice from the very wise Buzz Lightyear I have made a clear plan on my calendar for the next 2 months to keep me on track with everything on the run up to the show.

april-plan.jpgMay Plan

…. how can I go wrong now ūüėÄ


Print Layouts & Options

Different coloured frames


Large Prints or Small Prints, White walls or painted walls &

In line or randomly hung



How do i find out what works for me and where do i start??

I have been printing my images in many sizes and on different paper types from One Vision Imaging to see how that effects the final image and I also have a 30×20″ HD Acrylic Print from The Print Foundry on the wall in my studio:


I love the HD Acrylic and everyone always comments on it but it has a glossy finish and that’s something that when I was doing the test prints on different papers the matte finishes suit my images better. Acrylic & Gloss finishes are very reflective and that can distract from the image.


 Matte                                                                                              Gloss

There is another option from The Print Foundry that I might use, they are like the HD Acrylic in the way that it looks like it is hovering in front of the wall but without the gloss finish.


Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 19.26.20



I decided to try and make a mock-up gallery to get an idea of what my images would look like on a wall first so I downloaded this image:


I cloned out the current pictures and replaced them with my own and scaled them using the PERSPECTIVE tool in Photoshop:

gallery mockup

These three images are what I have worked on during Negotiated Studies 2, they are from 3 different client shoots but I have edited them so they work together as a collection. I have other images that I would put on the wall but with space being limited and that the images need to be large I have decided to put them in a portfolio on the table for people to look through. It is great to have large displays of my work but I need an equally powerful portfolio when talking to prospective clients.

Cost of 3 Pro Mounted Prints:

30×20″ Pro Mounted Print with (studio sample discount) – ¬£37

30×20″ Pro Mounted Print – 2 x ¬£60

= £157 +VAT & Shipping


OR I could have 2 Pro Mounted Prints either side of a Framed Pro Mounted Print in the middle:

Degree Show Layout practise 2.jpg

This is the Framed Pro Mounted Print:

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30×20″ Pro Mounted Print (with studio sample discount) – ¬£37

30×20″ Pro Mounted Print – ¬£60

30×20″ Framed Pro Mounted Print (with studio sample discount) – ¬£58

=    £204 inc VAT & Shipping


I like the idea of having a framed print in the middle because this displays another product that I offer.



Expanding on my display idea:


In the scene above I have added a studio set, having the tiny teddy (that looks huge in final picture compared to the baby)¬†in a mock up shoot with a pretend camera…because what I create with the composites is realistic but not reality?? And the room would be half black half white like you’re stepping over the line into the other world… like Charlie & The Chocolate Factory…In the TV room where everything is big and then they shrink it….just like I do with babies!



The portfolio that I would like to get is from Plastic Sandwich, I looked at their products at The Photography Show and loved the simple natural style of them.


The leather is considered to be of the highest grade and is died with Aniline rather than sprayed with a pigment. This allows the natural growth marks and character to remain visible in the absence of artificial surface treatments. This will deliver a UNIQUE piece as no two Aniline hides will be the same.

I highlighted UNIQUE in their description because that is why this portfolio is the perfect home for my unique portraits.



When I received my quote I was disappointed, it wasn’t made clear when I enquired that everything was added on as ‘extras’ so the ¬£233 book ended up a ¬£466 book!! And this is without the prints, I would still have to get them printed at my lab so I would be looking at somewhere in the region of ¬£500 just for the portfolio.

Quote - Suzanne PMBS Photography


I thought about having a printed book as my portfolio but I don’t want all my images mixed together permanently. I liked the idea of the Plastic Sandwich portfolio because the prints are in sleeves which I could interchange whenever I needed to.

There is a portrait box that i like and currently have a sample of in my studio from Koylab:

The box holds between 10-20 mounted prints which you can swap around as needed, so this is another less permanent option.

OR I could have a selection of photo books, one for each collection:

Maternity & Newborn Collection

The Wedding Collection

Family Photography

Commercial Photography

Unique Portraits

These would be good for people to choose what collection they want to look at rather than sift through a box of mixed prints. After the Degree Show, I could display these books in my studio showcasing the albums that i offer.


In reflection, although I would like display all the work that I do, my Degree Show is focusing around my composites so I put together an album ‘The Bespoke Portrait Collection’ and ordered it in the lush red as a 12×10″.

12×10″ Album + Box = ¬£110 inc VAT & Shipping




It was an exciting morning, 2 weeks before the show, when we found out our allocated spaces. It was hard to visualise the end result before this. Our room is filled with natural light, spacious and lovely. When we arrived it was still filled with students work from last year which was all to come down that day ready for our areas so start being cleaned and painted.


This is my booth, and although I don’t have my wall art yet, please see blog –


Once I knew how much space we had, I sketched my idea for it. Originally I had thought about having a miniature studio set up with backdrop, camera and the little props I used for the images. That wasn’t going to be achievable within the space I had. I modified the idea and decided to still use the props but have them on little white shelves underneath each of the images. Two floating shelves would be on the side walls to hold my album, business cards etc.


I made paper templates to scale where they will go, so that when they do arrive it should be a quick process to hang them.


Kamila is in the booth next to me, unfortunately she won’t be there on the opening night so I will be there to talk to anyone on her behalf who is interested in her work.


At this point there is nothing else I can do until my products arrive. So I made some invitations, I have already electronically invited lots of people but I may be old fashioned and a paper waster but a REAL invitation is much better than a digital one….. just like a printed photo is better than a digital one!



I have also ordered a 20×20″ Birch Orb of a composite that I created minute.

Arabella Orb 20x20


This wasn’t planned but I was inspired to make it whilst suffering with writers block one week before the Degree Show. Blog link:



I will be collecting this the day before the Degree Show and hanging it on one of the side walls of my booth. I hope there is no issues with it like I’ve had with my other wall art, which are currently being re-made for the THIRD time!! These are due for delivery this morning…..and my nerves are in tatters because this is how close we are now:

Screenshot_20180523-064716_Time Until

Research | Flowers

For the second image in my series I would like to have a baby inside a flower. I haven’t decided yet if it will be real or fake but I started out looking at different types that might work for the image I have in mind.



Ranunculus –

It blooms in early spring to midsummer and grows between 0.5 to 3-feet in height.




Pink Dahlia –

They grow from 2.5 to 5.5 feet in height and bloom in midsummer to early fall.



Pink Peony –¬†

Peonies will last throughout the entire summer season and will return each spring.



Calla Lilly –¬†

This flower is native to Southern Africa and actually very easy to grow from a bulb or rhizome.



Crocus –¬†

The Crocus Vernus is an early spring bloomer that is native to the alpine areas of the Pyrenees, Alps, and the Carpathian



Delphinium –¬†

This splendid flower is often found in English Cottage Garden designs and are often cut for use in bouquets. They grow to impressive heights between 3 to 8 feet and will bloom in early summer through to early fall.



Magnolia –¬†

The magnolia is one of the oldest flowering trees in history.  Incredibly, it’s older than the evolution of bees and therefore is only pollinated by beetles!  The magnolia is native to North America, Central America, and the West Indies.



Sunflower –¬†

Early summer – mid fall


The Plan

Newborn composites are the focus for my Negotiated Studies 2. This is a service that I plan to offer my clients, to have a bespoke image that is created entirely for them. A unique piece of art to hang on their wall, a statement piece for their home.

I will use the compositing skills which I have learnt during Negotiated Studies 1 to plan and execute each image for this series:

  • Planning & Time Management
  • Originality
  • Sketches
  • Contingency plan
  • Prop building
  • Studio Shoot – Lighting & Equipment
  • Continuity
  • Photoshop compositing
  • Meet client brief
  • Deliver high-resolution images printable up to A0

My inspiration for this has been a culmination of looking and evaluating what’s been done before, what appeals to me and what I want to offer my clients.

I recently purchase an online workshop – Newborn Composite Photography by Cleare Photography. Her newborn composites are amazing, she has such a recognisable style.¬†Aside from her technical skills I agree with her approach. Not only is it important to provide bespoke images to clients it’s just as important to do this with the least disturbance to the baby.

As a member of BANPAS – Baby And Newborn Photography Association,¬†I have access to education in all aspects of photography & safety to finance & marketing. Below is some of their examples of newborn poses, some that I wouldn’t even attempt like the ‘froggy’. If it’s done correctly it’s perfectly safe but I prefer to have babies in less compromising positions.

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Cleare Photography chooses to photograph babies mainly on a beanbag in the simplest of positions whilst changing the wrap / hat etc without moving the baby.

As much as I want to create original images I also want my clients to have an equally wonderful experience. They need to be as relaxed as possible with what I’m doing with their new baby. So with careful planning, and the use of compositing I will be able to provide each client with a gallery full of diverse images with the least disturbance to their baby.

For my composite series the process will start before the client session. The background plate which will be something from nature, photographed up close with a small aperture to retain lots of the detail. It will then be edited in Photoshop ready for the composite. The baby will be photographed during the family’s newborn session and then added to the background¬†in Photoshop.

During each newborn session there is many things that can interfere with getting the composite:

  • The baby won’t sleep
  • The baby doesn’t like being in certain positions
  • The baby wakes up every time it is put down.
  • Pressure to keep clients happy whilst working to the brief
  • Time

Unfortunately it is difficult to have a contingency plan in this situation, I can’t re-schedule a newborn session just to get one image unless the client wants to. I have to be prepared for the possibility that it might not work and concentrate on getting all the other images required for that session.

There is many photographers that offer composite images to their clients and these are done during newborn sessions. In an article from BANPAS:

Sadly, we are unable to police the newborn photography industry, there are no regulations or health and safety laws specific to this genre of photography, nor can we sit in on sessions and watch to see how photographers are handling client’s babies.¬†What we can do however is raise awareness amongst both the photographic community, and the general public, that working with, photographing and posing newborn babies requires skill, patience and safety awareness.

It explains to parents the importance of safety in newborn posing and how composites are done. This is also great education for photographers starting out that aren’t yet trained in newborn posing and don’t realise that these precarious looking images are done by compositing several images together.



In an article by FamilyShare it shows that even though there is all the correct education available photographers still attempt extremely dangerous set-ups.

It’s a lot of pressure to be a parent these days. Pinterest and Instagram have set new expectations of capturing perfect baby photos for your perfect, new bundle of joy. But many people don’t realize that attempting these photos on your own or with an unexperienced photographer is extremely dangerous.¬†



There is absolutely no need for the baby to be held in such a dangerous set up when a composite could be done with exactly the same final result. Here the blood flow would be restricted in its body and especially around the neck which can cause asphyxiation, the branch could snap and the jolt from the fall could break the babies neck and the branch could even the baby when it fell…… how any parent allowed for this to be done in front of them leaves me speechless!!

Another disappointing outcome was shown on Stuff

One mother admitted to English that her baby fell out of a hammock made from a wrap during a photo session. The mum said her baby was OK but it scared her. The photos were being taken by a wedding photographer.

“There’s ‚Äčnot enough awareness around it and it is not talked about enough,” English says.


Luisa Dunn,  an advocate for risk free creative portraits, designs digital backgrounds which can be purchased for composites.


These digital backgrounds as well as others are made by many other artists and are used widely by newborn photographers to give clients more variety in their gallery.

What I plan to do is similar but my images will be bespoke to each client because I¬†don’t plan to re-use the same digital backgrounds unless requested to. Like the image below which was requested by the client, I photographed the hat and the baby separately and then put them together in photoshop.

Composite PhotoBook-30x25cm-12x10in 7

This is a one of a kind image, by creating images like this I hope to stand out in the photography industry at the same time as offering a unique service to my clients.

I plan to create 3 newborn composites for my degree show, these will be displayed as a large triptych on the wall. There will be research into printing options, to see what suits my images as well as possible mounts and frames. I will also have examples of my portrait and wedding photography on display, possibly in an album but I will decide once I have looked at several options. To create a 3 images that work together as a series is another new challenge for me and I can’t wait to get started!

Negotiated Studies 1 | Evaluation

Throughout Negotiated Studies 1 I have researched Composite Photography and Contemporary Artists within this field across different genres. I have looked at what they create, why and how through tutorials, interviews and workshops. Using what I have learnt I plan to further my compositing skills and start to build my portfolio and eventually have a substantial body of work worthy of a Gallery.

Before starting this I knew basic compositing techniques but I wanted to fast track my learning. To do this I set myself a 7 Days 7 Composites Challenge. This become a really worthwhile exercise, I learnt so much regarding lighting and how important this is, as well as perspective and how this has to be perfect otherwise the composite will not work. With only a day for each composite, time was an issue and there was definitely days that were a struggle and needed more careful planning therefore more time.

For future composites having one or two contingency plans will be a necessity because sometimes an idea just isn’t going to work. The weather plays a vital part also, something you can’t control and if planning to shoot outside then several days need to be scheduled just incase it decides to rain or turns foggy (Coronation Blue Project)

The image below is a composite that I created for the KOOKIE Magazine launch which they now have as their Website Homepage:

Kookie 1st issue!! PRINT small

Kookie website

Christmas Advert on my Facebook Page and christmas cards for clients & friends:

Christmas Card Composite crop -Edit-3

The next project was a collaboration with Roy Barry for his Coronation Blue Project. I was to create something using the Coronation Blue Ink as one of the artists involved, more information regarding this can be found on his website:

Coronation Blue PLAN sml

Again I¬†learnt a lot, this was a really good stepping stone from the 7 Days 7 Composites Challenge because I wasn’t restrained to the restrictions involved plus I had more time to come up with the concept for my image. In saying that, it still didn’t quite go to plan. Even though I put more time and thought into the theory behind the image when it came to shooting it unfortunately I didn’t have any ‘back up’ days available to re-shoot. The weather has been awful over the past few weeks and I kept waiting for a decent day which didn’t come and then had to shoot on the last day before it needed to be sent off for print. Which lead to a very panicked recovery plan and I had to change the whole idea for the image and shoot it indoors. I was fairly happy with the outcome but ultimately I didn’t achieve what I set out to do therefore I hope to look at this project again in the summer.

Angel Wings is the next project, this involves compositing with more theory behind it. It will be a series of images that will take inspiration from children’s novels & films. They will be a realistic realm of fantasy, my daughter will be the angel with handmade wings and she will be featured in beautiful sunset/sunrise scenes. I will be working with my daughter, as well as making the wings so there will be prop design involved which will have to be researched. It will also require going out location scouting and I look forward to heading off on foot and exploring.

Angel 1 Mock up

In each project there is always a need for further learning and experimenting, this is important for my growth and shows that I am keen to try new things and always looking to improve. I love taking an idea and turning it into reality and I can see myself working for commercial clients, creating bespoke images for their brand.