Researching Artists | Erik Almas

Commercial Photographer

‘It’s very important for photographers to grow. I think that if you don’t challenge yourself somehow in the pictures you take you will very quickly become irrelevant in today’s increasingly visual and restless culture’

– Erik Almas


Erik Almas, born in Trondheim, Norway.

Given a camera by a relative when he was 12, never planned to be a photographer it was just something that he thought would be a fun thing to do. At the age of 22 flew to US to study photography at the Academy of Art University studying for 4 years to get his Degree. Graduated in 99 with Best Portfolio in the Spring Show. After graduation he did a 3 year apprenticeship and a further 4 years as a Photographer / Retoucher. In 2004 he received an Honorary Degree of Outstanding Alumnus, this was the start of a long line of international awards & clients such as American Airlines, Absolut, Microsoft & Nike.

Quirky / Conceptual / Bright / Sharp / Calm / Interesting / Dynamic / Original / Amusing / Narrow Aperture / Clever / Subtle Colour Palette

 Here are some key points i took note of during Phlearn: Interview with Erik Almas 

  • Like any craft you need to hone your skills, you need to be unique
  • There’s no shortcuts to finding who you are , that takes time
  • Bring yourself into the photos, in order for you to take amazing pictures they need to reflect you within them.


‘The more personal you make it, the more universal it becomes’

– Diane Arbus (influential documentary photographer)

  • Transport your emotions and feelings into your pictures and you’ll really have something. If you don’t challenge yourself you won’t go anywhere.
  • Inspiration comes from everywhere, not just imagery. There’s inspiration in music and in words. Reading helps conjure up pictures in your mind and then you’re not privy to something you have seen before.
  • Input equals Output, inspire yourself with music and books.
  • Cultural influences that you are faced with, help carve your style
  • Use your surroundings, make the most of what you have around you and draw inspiration from that.
  • No1 in compositing – same light quality and same light direction for the different pieces and correct perspective.
  • Strive for images that look seamlessly put together and don’t look like composites.


Design Approach – When he looks at a landscape he will ask:

What does this place feel like? How does it make you feel? Lonely, Quiet, Provocative, Awe-inspiring? Decide how to bring that back into the photograph then analyse further.

Does it remind you of anything, anyone? Film Actor etc? Put them in the scene and work with that, adjust the colour palette to suit the mood the scene sets.


Erik Almas has a beautiful book to showcase his work with high gloss pages and weighing 36lb it’s seriously impressive! In the interview he talks about the process behind them.

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In this image he took the sky plate first, this was taken from an aeroplane. He always shoots his own backgrounds and is a collector of skies. 100% of the components in his images are his except for small details like birds & smoke etc. The grounded blimp with the model inside was photographed by Erik who climbed up a 16ft ladder to get the right angle for the shot and then both images were put together in post production.


To create large commercial images he takes several images and stitches them together to build a bigger scene (plate):

erik almas

I often wondered how his images contained so much detail and now i understand it is because he takes long exposure images for the plate and then stitches several images together creating files at least 60MB.

In these images below he shows how he adds all the different elements in using in the layering process :

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Again he shoots the landscape (plate) first. You can’t change the way the light rises and sets on the landscape so you shoot everything in relation to that. If the sun is rising setting in the left of the image then all the other components you shoot to put in the scene have to be taken with the light coming from the same direction.

I absolutely love his work, such clever thought and application. They are really pleasing to the eye and all have a feeling of serenity within.


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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].

Researching Artists | Brooke Shaden

Fine Art Self Portrait Artist

‘The key to living a happy life is to figure out what makes you happy.’

– Brooke Shaden


Brooke Shaden, born in 1987 in Lancaster USA.

Studied English & Film making before settling on photography, she loves to write more than anything, she is a story teller at heart and originally thought she would be a film maker as this would be a great way to express ideas. The long process of the film making soon made Brooke realise that this wasn’t what she had expected and then moved on to photography.

She describes herself as shy and used to find it extremely uncomfortable talking to people, she would spend all her time in her apartment experimenting with her self portraiture and through this she learnt posing, directing, story telling and lighting. She learnt to love her work because it was 100% original and right from her heart. This made her realise what she needed to do, it was empowering & inspiring to be able to express her feelings & fantasies and she wanted to encourage others to do the same.



Brooke has featured in galleries, interviews, tv, is the author of Inspiration Photography.

She teaches all over the world and is also very excited about her charity work, she runs workshops on story telling to help people express themselves and encourage them to heal.

The Light Space – School For Survivors Of Human Trafficking


Her images all have a duality or theme which represent feelings which people can relate to.

I find Brooke’s images to be simple yet layers deep, they are like paintings in an old dusty book and each one different to the next they all represent each other. The square format and colour signature link her images together.

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Conceptual / Unique / Deep / Rich / Dark / Moody / Expressive / Emotional / Mysterious /  Painterly / Magic / Fantasy / Thoughtful / Heavy / Story / Aged / Loneliness 

Something that Brooke mentioned in an interview with SLR Lounge was that she always sees the final image in her head before she starts and i can’t totally relate to this, whenever i can visualise the final product it makes the whole construction easy to work through. She doesn’t actually enjoy the Photoshop Compositing as much because thats what anyone can do but its building the idea and developing that and then the communication that it leads to that excites her.


She never has a true black or white point in any of her images, Colour is a hugely important aspect in all her images.

How does colour relate to storytelling? How do other people interpret that colour? It is interesting to study how other people see colour. The answers to these are very predictable but Brooke ran this survey to back up the theory:

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She is very aware of how she uses colour and because of that has a very strong colour signature which she defines as:

 Rich / One Main Colour / Warm or Cool / Earthy

Brooke inspires me with her storytelling through imagery and strong colour signature, i hope to learn more to help me create images to develop my own style. To work towards this i am currently doing her Fine Art Photography Course via Creative Live and i will be documenting this process HERE.

July 2017 Challenge – 1 Image, 1 Video, 1 Blog Post Everyday

Brooke set herself a challenge to create 1 Image, 1 Video & 1 Blog Post everyday for the whole month! I completely understand how difficult this must have been because when i set myself the 7 Days 7 Composites Challenge it was really hard to come up with a new idea everyday as well as shoot, edit & finalise it. I was juggling work and 2 children at the same time though which definitely added to the workload.

In this video Brooke explains how each day started at 4am to leave in the dark to find a new place to test out her ideas. Some ideas worked and some didn’t and everyday she learnt something new, experienced new things and was able to look at the world from another angle. This challenge required dedication, skill, perseverance and endurance…. something Brooke has lots of!


Online Referencing:

Researching Artists | Sarolta Ban

Surreal Photographer & Artist


Sarolta Ban, born in 1982 in Budapest, Hungary.

Began her career as an artist and jewellery designer before becoming fascinated with the digital world and its possibilities which then took her down the path of creating fine art surreal photographs. Taking inspiration from life itself and its beauty along with a manipulated surreal perspective on it and carefully constructed to give the illusion that it’s real.

She has had her work in many galleries around the world as well as won Artist & Photography Awards.

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Heavy vignette / Dark / Moody / Fantasy / Surreal / Old film /  Weird / Cool tones / Desaturated / Deep / humour / Trees / Animals / Children / Monochrome / Contrast / Dramatic /

I see similarities to Brooke Shaden’s work regarding the murky subdued colour palette and texture overlays as well as a regular focus around nature.

She also helps homeless dogs to be looked at in a new light with her Help Dogs Project

She creates interesting fun portraits of the dogs to try and get them new homes.

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There isn’t a great deal of information about Sarolta Ban online, just a few interviews. In she says that she is not a professional photographer, she uses FinePix S5600 camera and hopes to one day own a bigger Nikon. She can spend a few hours to several days on each image which can comprise of up to 100 layers.


Online Research: