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Nature spirit portrait photographers have a harder time of it then human portrait photographers. Humans can be moved into a setting that highlights their personality. Nature beings are embedded in an environment filled with other natural objects – trees, leaves, plants, twigs. We nature spirit photographers need to solve this situation in innovative ways. Here are some options I’ve developed in my two decades of concentrating on this subject matter.

First there is the option of using a narrow depth of field – as low an F stop as you can while still retaining clarity of your subject – I can sometimes go as low as an F4 but usually opt for an F6 or F8. This blurs the background a bit, if it is far from your subject.

Next is to use Photoshop to cut out your subject, blur the background then reintroduce the subject. This allows the subject to stand out. But care needs to be taken to adjust the image, using various tools, so that it doesn’t look like a cut and paste.

I have used these methods over the years. But recently I have been working with a third option – it is one I’d like to share here. This is the use of textures of various types to simplify the background in an attractive manner that highlights the personality of the nature spirit.

Working this way, you can overlay several textures for a depth of tone and judiciously erase the texture from the subject, at various degrees of opacity. You can create your own textures, or go online and locate sites that will start you out with a base selection of textures in hopes you will subscribe to their services.

Working with textures to simplify a cluttered background is a backwards way of offering your nature spirit subject the same respect and thoughtful focus that a good portrait photographer offers their customers.

If you find this of interest to you – I will be demonstrating this technique at the Greater Geneva Art Guild on Wednesday March 4th,  7pm, at the Geneva Public Library. The public is invited to attend this free club meeting.

I will also be teaching this technique, then taking the class out to capture appropriate nature spirit studies for their own work, at a Saturday, July 25 10 am – 4pm class at the Infinity Foundation in Highland Park, Illinois (sign up for this class is not yet available online).

Here are two subjects I have applied this technique to, in order to grant them the respect and focus they deserve.

Grandmother Dressed in Moss

Grandmother – actual setting

Grandmother WA

Grandmother – using several textures that emphasize the golden light of the dimension in which she moves freely

Jamming in Central Park

Flute player and nature spirits – original setting

Mystic Musician by Atala Toy

Flute player and nature spirit – with a texture emphasizing the sense of the other dimension in which they move freely


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