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Content Creation Challenge, Day 11

I had to put the challenge on hold to travel with my sister. She had to do a week of training in a hospital in Dresden, Germany (she’s a med student) and I went with her to keep her company. Although I spent most of my time in our hotel room, I did manage to meet up with a model and do a spontaneous shoot. I didn’t have anything planned, I just wanted to walk around the city and take pictures.

So for day 11, the theme was diversity and the challenge was to use a stranger. I decided instead of going out looking for a stranger to shoot, I would create a new piece using one of the images I shot in Germany. I opened it up and still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I was thinking of how to incorporate the theme into it.. then I realized I could have diverse elements in the picture. More specifically, bits and pieces shot in different locations.

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Capsized Souls, August 2017

So I shot the model in Germany, used ocean pictures I took in Hawaii, and cloud pictures I shot here in the UAE. Sometimes when I think of things like that, I can’t help but go like “yay brain! Good job!”
Please don’t judge me.

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4 more days!

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Content Creation Challenge, Day 6 & 7

Day 6

Sooo.. day 6 was interesting. I had an idea that I was super excited about, but then it turned out to be one of those things that are better in theory. I was so frustrated that it wasn’t working – I watched a YouTube tutorial on how to create stars and galaxies on photoshop for nothing!
Not really, it was awesome to learn. And eventually, I ended up with an image I’m proud of. I decided today that I wasn’t okay with feeling defeated, and not coming out of this challenge without 15 images I like, so I tried to shoot it differently. And it worked!

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We Are Stardust, August 2017

If you guys wanna check out the tutorial, it’s here. I wanted to create my own galaxy/stars because I didn’t really want to use a stock image. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just a control freak sometimes and I want everything to be my own lolol.
The theme was beauty, and the challenge was to “show your idea of beauty”. I may have strayed from the theme. I was thinking of beauty and how it’s our inner beauty that shines through. And when I thought of “shining through” I thought of stars. Then I remembered a beautiful quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson, about how we’re made up of stardust. Literally. I just thought it was beautiful.

Day 7

Today was AWESOME. The theme was time, and the challenge was to use a painting as inspiration. I was so excited because I instantly thought of Rene Magritte, my favorite artist of all time. I knew I was going to create something inspired by one of his paintings and I could. not. wait.

When I think of time, one of the things that come to mind is death. Not in a dark or creepy way, just that.. we’re all heading there, right? And sometimes I think about how everyday, we make a choice to be here. Alive. But what about parallel universes? And what about the afterlife (if you believe in it)? We look into the unknown and we never know if “the other side” is going to be better but still we stay. I think about the dead a lot.. I wonder what was on their minds when they took their last breath. And I think about people who commit suicide; in that very last moment.. were they relieved? And what came after that? Total nothingness, or peace?
And what if there’s a me and you, somewhere in a parallel universe.. making different choices, being better people. Will our universes ever collide? Will we ever know?

I know some people might think these thoughts are kinda morbid or weird or whatever, and right now, I’m totally okay lol I’m not in a dark place or anything. But yeah, I like asking questions.

So, back to the image. This was my inspiration:

Popular Panorama, 1926 by Rene Magritte

And this is what I created:

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When Worlds Collide, August 2017

Who’s your all-time favorite artist? 😀 Leave a comment and let me know!

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Content Creation Challenge, Day 5

Wohoo! 1/3 of the way through.
I’m liking this challenge. My brain goes like “nooo I can’t think of anything to create today” and I go like “oh yes you can”. Then we fight some more but in the end, I win.

Today’s theme was breaking, and the challenge was to use something shattered. I struggled so much with this, I asked my 5 year old niece what she thinks I could do. She rambled about broken flowers for a while.. but nothing made sense. Kids are fascinating.

Anyway! My brain wanted to go with a dark image, but after I bounced some ideas off my friend, I decided to create something a little more positive.

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Summer, Be Gone, August 2017

It’s really really hot here, and humid and dusty and yucky. I’m looking forward to the weather getting better cause I love being outdoors. That’s what inspired this image. And of course, I’ve seen variations of this idea (by Rosie Hardy and Brooke Shaden) and I’ve always wanted to try it out.

I’d love to know where you guys are from and if it’s super hot where you are too. Leave a comment and let me know 🙂

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Content Creation Challenge, Day 3

Today’s theme was endings, and the challenge was to use a door.

I didn’t get to work on today’s theme until about 8pm (Friday’s family day), and the whole day I was kinda freaking out about not knowing what to do. I wanted to come up with a brilliant concept, but I think I stressed myself out over it to the point where my mind was just ok nope I’m not doing this.
So I went through my stock images, I knew I had pictures of doors somewhere. And I found something I shot when I was in Germany two summers ago. It was perfect. I asked my little sister to model for me and it went smoothly. Well, setting up lights wasn’t smooth at all, I knew what I wanted the lights to DO but I couldn’t get them to do it. Eventually, I got to a point where I was happy with what I was getting and knew I couldn’t manipulate in photoshop.
I ended up having my sister stand against sheer fabric and set up a Profoto light with a giant umbrella behind the fabric, that was perfect for the background I was planning on using and it matched the light direction too. Then to add some fill (she was almost looking like silhouette), I used an LED panel. The LED panel wasn’t too bright, and it was overpowered by the profoto, but it was enough for me to able to pull the shadows in Camera Raw.

Ok, things are getting too technical, I’ll stop now. This is the image I created:

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For Better Days, August 2017

And here’s how I did it:

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Although I didn’t have a solid concept before starting this, I’m happy with what I ended up with 🙂

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Content Creation Challenge, Day 2

Day’s two theme was emotion, and the challenge was to not show any faces.

When I was brainstorming last night, I was drawn to words like grief, loss, death. So I decided to have a stream of consciousness exercise; writing nonstop for 2 minutes (might have been longer), without stopping to think or edit.

The day I lost you, I lost all hope. The world suddenly became dark and bleak. I lost all purpose. The day you died, you took a part of me with you. Now I walk around aimlessly, hoping that it would all just be a dream, and I’ll wake up and find you next to me. The day you took your last breath, I wanted you to take mine with you. I don’t want to live in a world where we don’t breathe the same air. 
I’m holding on to what doesn’t exist anymore. 

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In Memoriam, August 2017

A long time ago, I lost someone who meant the world to me. Circumstances weren’t on our side, and I went through a long period of time where I convinced myself that he’s dead. I killed him in my head. Mourning his death meant his memory remained pure, but grieving over a broken heart meant his memory was tainted with anger.

Whew. That was tough to write, shoot, and edit. I’m reading to move on to day 3 now haha.

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Content Creation Challenge, Day 1

Okay, let’s do this!

So the awesome Brooke Shaden started a challenge – to create every single day for 15 days straight. I’ve started so many projects this year and stopped halfway through (sometimes not even getting that far), but I decided to do this because I know that doing it with other people is going to hold me accountable. There’s over 500 other people doing this and Brooke created a Facebook group for all of us to share our work and be inspired by other people and ask for help when we need it. Brooke always manages to create a community where everyone feels welcome, I love it.

So today’s theme was rebirth. Of course, I ran into challenges and made mistakes and learned a lesson. A small one, but still. This is the image I created:

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Rise Again, August 2017

Now, although this is definitely not a portfolio piece, I’m kinda happy with how it turned out. My initial idea was to combine dead flowers with fresh flowers, to kinda imply that with death comes new life. I wanted to create half a dress out of a dead/dried flower, and the other half with fresh flowers.
That part was relatively easy, the difficult part was the lighting. I shot this indoors, because there’s no way I can shoot outdoors right now. On average it’s 38 degrees outside (That’s about 100.4 F), and it goes all the way up to 46 (115F). It’s not that I can’t shoot outside, it’s that I know I’m gonna hate the process. And I don’t want that to happen.
So I shot this with an umbrella and some LED lights and a reflector just to fill in the shadows. I was trying to get something.. kinda flat.
Then I had this idea that I’d have a “swirl” of dead flowers around my subject, but it didn’t work. I feel like I may have strayed from the original idea a bit.. especially with the background. I wasn’t planning on compositing that background into the image, but of all the ones I’ve tried, I liked this one the most.

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My takeaway from today’s shoot is:
– Plan which background I’m going to use so I can match the light on my subject as best as I can.
– Don’t merge layers without saving the original files first (I composited the flowers onto my subject and merged the layers planning to save it as a different file, but I ended up saving it on the original, boo.)
– Put a little more thought into the visualization of the idea. I feel like if I’d planned this better I would’ve been able to create the image I saw in my head.

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Experimental Portraiture

Lately, I’ve been so in love with shooting portraits. Which might be a little strange, considering that with my conceptual work I tend to hide faces. I separate the two because I’ve always felt like with conceptual images it should be about the story, not what the person looks like. I almost have two different processes when I shoot. When I shoot portraits, I know what I want the makeup to look like, I know what the wardrobe would be, and I know how I want the hair. I don’t focus so much on story as much as I try to shoot beautiful portraits of women while still maintaining that dreamy, ethereal vibe. My poses aren’t pre-determined. Unlike my conceptual work – where everything is planned. The pose, the wardrobe, and a specific story/emotion. I almost always know where I want to take the image on photoshop.

This time, I thought I’d let the conceptual work influence my portraiture style. I knew I wanted to composite my subject onto a flower wall.
It’s summer here. It’s unbearably hot and shooting outdoors is impossible. And I like that cold, winter-y vibe. So I decided to create it indoors (with studio lights!!)

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I shot this with a Profoto D1 and a Profoto 3×4 softbox. Omg so technical lolol. Guys, this is a big deal. I went from avoiding studio lights like they’re the enemy, to shooting portraits with one light, to SHOOTING FINE ART PIECES with studio lights. I’m kinda proud of myself. Ok, it’s really not a big deal but progress is progress so I’m happy.
(p.s. this was definitely inspired by Bella Kotak‘s work)

Another thing I’ve been loving is creating my own props/wardrobe. For this shoot, I wanted to create a top with dead flowers. I wanted something soft, light, and romantic. So I used an old piece of white tulle I had, got some lace trim, and dried flowers and glue-gunned away! I love glue gunning stuff. I don’t love burning myself, but it’s the price I’ve gotta pay right?

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I’m sad I didn’t film this, it would’ve been fun to do a time-lapse cause it was so much fun to make it. Would you guys wanna see stuff like that?

These are the portraits we ended up with:

My lovely model, Anna, reminded me SO much of Emma (Jennifer Morrison) from Once Upon A Time. It was surreal.

I also knew I wanted to do something totally different, and go with a darker theme. So I based the second look off a dress I bought from Rosie Hardy. She sold some of her photoshoot dresses a while back and I was lucky enough to get this one!

© Rosie Hardy

Continuing on with the flower theme, we created these images:

The makeup was done by my little sister. Isn’t it crazy how 15 year olds can do incredible stuff with makeup and people like me are still struggling to perfect a winged eyeliner? Haha I’m grateful though. It’s like having a makeup artist around 24/7. As for the hair, I knew I wanted something soft and simple so I did it myself. I love curling and braiding hair – but that’s about as much as I can do.

I enjoy sharing my thought process behind these shoots, so if you guys are interested in reading more on that and on other shoots I’ve done, please leave a comment and let me know 🙂

And if you wanna book your own dreamy, fairy-tale inspired portrait session, just send me an email at info@amanialshaali.com

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I Hate Everything I Create

I can’t wait to look back over the last year and a half and laugh at how my work has taken a deep, deep plunge. I haven’t been able to create like I used to, I haven’t been able to write like I used to, I hate almost everything I create, and I’m just stuck. I can’t wait to get to a point where I’m happy with my work and accept that the downs have to happen. Sometimes, they’re just a few days. And sometimes.. they’re over a year. Which is where I’m at now. Feeling like I’m clawing my way through this. I have dirt under my fingernails and it feels like it’ll be there permanently. And I’m embarrassed because no matter how much I try to wash it off, it just doesn’t go away and everyone can see it. Everyone can see how I haven’t been producing work like I used to.

Drought, April 2017

Drought, April 2017

I made this image earlier this month and decided it won’t see the light of day. I hated it. But it’s exactly how I feel right now.

I have this fear that people will forget about me. Which, when I stop to think about, shouldn’t bother me. I didn’t start creating to be noticed or well-known. I created because I needed to. That’s what I wanna get back to.

I tried the 52 week project, I tried committing to a smaller project, but I realized that I can’t force it. I know that creativity is a muscle that you have to train, but I’m at a point where I’m sore and tired. I just feel lost.

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Take 52 Chances 2017 | Captivity

I’ve been experimenting with different editing techniques for the last two images for the 52 week project, and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve always been scared of trying photoshop things to make them bigger or smaller than they actually are. I’ve only done it once and I always felt like I got lucky with that one because the next few times I tried it, it didn’t work.

So for the captivity theme, I decided to create something about feeling like you’re stuck in time while everything around you is moving forward. It’s a theme I’ve portrayed in another image a few weeks ago, but it’s something I feel so strongly about that I needed to create this image.
I often feel like I’m not making as much progress as I’d like to be making, and time isn’t something that I can ever get back.. I’m terrified of wasting it.

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What Can’t Be Resurrected, February 2017

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Take 52 Chances 2017 | Paradox

My computer died. I have everything backed up but for about 4 days I did not know what to do with my life. I couldn’t edit, update my blog, or do any work. It’s crazy that our whole lives depend on those machines. I’ll spare you the details of the painful recovery process (recovering my files, I mean) haha but here’s last week’s image for the 52 Week Project!

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The Twists And Turns Of Being, February 2017

This image was a bit of a struggle. Ok, it was a lot of a struggle lol. I had no idea how edit my model’s skin the way I wanted, and I couldn’t find any tutorials on it. I could see the image so clearly in my head but it took multiple edits for me to slowly start figuring it out. I still think it could be done better, and I might revisit it when I have better photoshop skills. But for now, I’m happy with how it turned out 🙂

This week’s theme for the 52 Week Project is poetry, and I’ve already shot my image but didn’t get to edit it yet. I’m trying something new so I’m not sure how it’s gonna look, but keep your fingers crossed! 😀