#pssTuesdayTips – Shooting a Frame Within a Frame

Compositionally, it can be very striking to frame your shot with an actual frame around the subject. 

Most commonly, we find frames in front of our subject but it can also look great with the frames behind the subject. 

This chef at MoVida in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane is nicely framed by the graffiti-covered wall. 

The frame helps to draw your eye to the subject, while adding an interesting extra something to the shot. Try to use a narrow aperture to capture focus throughout the shot. 

In this example below, another restaurant, the framing draws the eye down the aisle of the store, conveying and enhancing the depth in the field of view. For this kind of shot, it helps to have your focus on the subject that’s within the frame. 

Another example is this sculpture in Perth, at Cottlesloe Beach. It’s an obvious choice for a frame-within-the-frame shot, but I was lucky to catch the shot at sunset. At first, I was annoyed that this gentleman decided to take a seat when I was about to shoot, but afterwards I actually really liked the way it turned out. He added another element to my shot. 

This week, try to find a frame-within-frame. It could even be a window or doorway (as shown below in this quick iPhone snap that I got at an art gallery) or something natural, such as trees or shrubs around the subject. 

Or maybe, a cheeky side-mirror-shot. From a parked car, of course! In this one, I had to pull over to capture that dark storm behind us. 

Happy shooting! 

– Desley & Julz. 

Fine Art Conceptual Portrait Workshop, August 2017

What is a Fine Art Conceptual Portrait I hear you ask? Essentially it is telling a story. A normal standard portrait is a representation of a person, but you know nothing about them, and the picture tells very little. A Fine Art Conceptual Portrait, tells a story, has a mood, backstory, an overall portrayal of an ideal. That is a lot to convey in a single image, but it can be a lot of fun too. The use of color and props, as well as scene, can often help with visual cues.

Now that that is out of the way….The Pixel Sisters Studio ran its very first Fine Art Conceptual Portrait workshop on a very cold, wet and windy Sunday afternoon in August, it was a small group of photographers and a digital artist, come to learn how to run, direct and envision such a shoot. We had created three different concepts for the days shooting and many weeks of planning had gone into selecting models, makeup and hair, costumes, props, backdrops and special FX. As the weather is very inconsistent at this time of year we had to have contingencies for bad weather; we shot in the studio all afternoon, the hope of perhaps shooting in both studio and on location at the local park, was quickly dismissed and forgotten.


First up was Melissa Jade and the Broken Doll, we wanted to keep things simple and manageable, but still pack a punch. So Mel spent several hours in hair and makeup to look like a broken doll. A simple set, with a couple of variations, got everyone quite excited and furiously shooting.

Next was Jess Ami and a take on Julie’s Hide and Seek, this will be turned into a composite image in photoshop and took a few different shots to get what was required. Julie’s daughter also stepped in to help for a moment, as her small stature makes her almost invisible when hiding behind someone 🙂 We were actually quite busy helping people, directing and so forth and never took many photos of Jess, how can this be?

Our Final shot was a multi shot Levitation trick image with both the girls, with Mel in a wickedly splendor Mask and cape, also an outfit change for Jess. Once that was out of the way the girls left us, we did a quick tidy up and then set up trestle tables and computers with a one hour tutorial by Julie in editing one of the images in Photoshop.

JuliePowell_The Mask-1

And now…………for some behind the scenes fun! Oh and you really check it all out behind the scenes with images and videos, check out the video on Julie’s YouTube channel!


Desley and Julie, xo


Tuesday Tips; Back Button Focus, what is it and why should you try it?

For many of you, (I included once upon a time), you would compose your shot, depress the shutter button part way and then fully press and take the shot, right? Easy……but what if there was another way, possibly a better, more convenient way?

What is Back Button Focus (BBF)

Traditionally your camera focuses when the shutter button is pressed halfway, and then you take a picture when the button is pressed in fully.  BBF makes it so the shutter button doesn’t control the focus activation at all, but instead assigns another button on the back of the camera (hence the name) to activate focusing on the camera.

Why is this a good thing? Well if you are working in the exceptional low light you do not want your camera refocusing every shot, you set it once and forget, often focusing and then switching the camera to manual mode to prevent it from trying to refocus next shot. Same with studio shoots for portrait or still life, you only need to focus once, as long as the distance between you and your subject does not move. The best reason is for high-speed action, animals, kids, sport you can hold the BBF with your thumb while taking multiple shots, always keeping your subject in focus.

A little confusing at first? Yes…….but once you get a handle on it, it is amazing and you will wonder how you got along without it.

How does it work?

Most DSLR cameras have three types of focus, Manual, Single and Continuous, by using BBF you get all three;

Manual: Take your thumb off the back button and focus by rotating your lens barrel. (Note: do not do this if your lens doesn’t have an “M/A” focus setting. If it is in full autofocus you will be forcing the gears)

Single: Press your thumb on the back button until your camera is in focus, and then lift your thumb up to keep the focus locked until you press the button again.

Continuous: Hold your thumb on the back button as long as you want, forcing your camera to continually adjust the focus until you take a picture. (Note: you must be using Continuous focus mode for this to work).

Why should I try it?

Because this is a game changer, using Servo Mode (Or Continuous Shutter) greatly improves your focusing accuracy according to many people in the know, but manufacturers leave it turned off for fear of confusing new users. If you enjoy photographing kids, animals or sport, even things in low light like Fireworks or Light Painting, this can really change your shooting style, I know it certainly did mine.

How do you set up BFF?

Each manufacturer is slightly different, and each model has a different way to set it up. Check your User Manual for Back Button Focusing or Google “How to set the Back button focusing on my [insert model here]”. It won’t take long to find written instructions, blog posts and video tutorials on how to set it up and how to use it with confidence.

~ Desley & Julz, xox

Floral Fantasy, July 2017 Workshop

Well, it finally happened, the day finally arrived, for our first ever workshop: Floral Fantasy Workshop. It was a fairly hectic morning with lots to still organize, picking up flowers and packing backdrops and such.

We had eight participants for our workshop, so an excellent turnout. Everyone arrived on time and there was much excitement when they saw the set up before them. We had four workstations set up: two white and bright for Desley’s Macro and two for me which was dark and moody. I actually had a whole wall for the extra-large floral arrangements which were on loan from Desflora Flowers, three very large and beautiful displays.

So we split everyone into groups of two and they got to spend approx 45 minutes on each workstation, with Desley and I standing by for helpful tips, hints and general photography discussions.

Many of the participants had never shot macro before, some had lenses but had never used them, some borrowed lenses for the workshop, some just had to do the best with what lenses they had. Macro style shots can be achieved in some cameras with some lenses, but the true macro lens does give the best result. In the end, though, there were some really beautiful images created.

Macro Gallery

I had two stations set up from Dark and Moody Still Life, none of the participants had shot Still Life, and were at first hesitant about shooting angles, direction, staging and such. But as per usual, once given a little instruction and guidance there were some ready to jump in and truly get creative. We had a small sectioned off area with a dark backdrop and a moody snoot light to really get dark and moody, small simple, elegant sets ups, plus of course the giant floral displays which were placed on a small antique table or an old rustic ladder (both brought from home). We had a whole wall right next to the very light and bright macro tables and creating a dark and moody atmosphere was both challenging, but rewarding given the badly worn and threadbare backdrop and over bright lights.

Still Life Gallery

So three hours of furious concentration, a few aching backs (I keep telling people that Still Life can be a bit of an endurance sport!), and some very happy people. It was so lovely when these wonderful ladies starting posting and tagging us with their beautiful creations. It was lovely to know that we helped them to achieve such beautiful photos.

We are certainly looking forward to the next workshop and planning some more for this year as well. We will leave you with some behind the scenes fun.

Behind the Scenes

This last group of pics was shot by Suzanne Balding, the paparazzi 🙂 and one of the participants.

~ Cheers, Desley & Julz, xo

Tuesday Tips – Macro Photography

For our Floral Fantasy workshop, I prepared a little cheat sheet with some helpful hints for macro photography. I think they are especially useful for those who are just getting started with macro, but might also be nice as a refresher for those of us who’ve been doing it for some time.

You can download the sheet here: Macro Tips

What tips do you have for macro photography?

What struggles do you have with it? I’d love to discuss them in a future post.

If you use any of these tips, please let us know, we’d love to hear all about it.

x Desley & Julz.

PS don’t forget to join us on Facebook and Instagram!

Tuesday Tips – Adding Text to Images in Photoshop

We did a post recently on how to use various Apps to add text to your images, so we thought we might also show you how to expand your image to add a quote or inspirational phrase by extending the canvas (or overall size of the image) as well. That way you do not have to have text over your favorite image.

Once you have the final image you love in Lightroom (or whichever program you use) and open a copy in Photoshop.


Make a Duplicate (Ctrl + J) and then use the crop tool to drag your canvas out past your image, perhaps leaving your background set to white (we can change that later). It’s a great idea to constrain your size to 5×7 or 4×5 for Social Media, as well.

Now taking your Marquee tool select the new area and fill in the desired colour (if other than what is already there). A terrific idea is using the eyedropper and selecting the lightest colour from your image, for the background.


Now select the Text tool, pick a nice font and change the colour to the darkest colour from your image as the text colour. Now type your quote, you can always use one font for the quote and another smaller font to mention whose quote it is. You can also make the background darker and the font colour light, just to switch things up.


Now either Save As and rename image_quote.jpg or similar, or if you opened from within Lightroom, just Save and PS will load the new image back into Lightroom.

You can also watch a Tutorial on How to do this on YouTube

Upload your favourite image with a quote and don’t forget to hashtag #pssWednesdayWords #PixelSistersStudio  and #pssTuesdayTips we can’t wait to see what you create.

~ Desley & Julz, xox



Friday Feature

Welcome back to another Friday Feature and it seems Instagram is most popular this week with many images to feature, pop over and have a look pixelsistersstudio.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, there were these two cuties, thanks, Cheryl and Lisa


Alas, it seems everyone has had a very busy week, Desley and me included. Don’t forget to tag us so we can see your wonderful images, another week starts tomorrow with #pssSaturdayStillLife

the daily lineup-4

I Hope you all have a terrific weekend…

~ Desley and Julz, xo