Concept to Creation: A peek into the inner workings of creating an image.

Vanessa Powell
4 min readMar 3, 2021

Photography starts with an idea. Whether that idea is yours, someone else’s, a challenge, a project, a job, or an inspiration…someone had an idea to create something.

This photo was a challenge from my daughters dance studio, that we ultimately didn’t enter. We felt like we had an unfair advantage but that didn’t stop us from creating art anyway!

Your best Snow Queen/King dance pose in the snow — photo challenge

I immediately thought of The Nutcracker Snow Queen. Where she either wears something icy blue, white, or silver. Our dancers have fake snow that is thrown, dropped, and carried in various ways. It is by far my favorite scene of the entire production. We thought about borrowing a costume from the studio but ultimately decided to use what we had on hand.

Photo by the Author

My thought was to have her en pointe, dressed in whatever we decided, holding a wand, and slowly dropping snow. However, wearing a leotard, tights, and pointe shoes in 30 something degree weather is cold. We couldn’t seem to get the right footing for what I wanted.

So I punted to my next idea → sometimes that happens in photography. I can’t tell you the number of times my original idea was just a starting point. The starting point that evolved into something greater than originally imagined. That’s part of the beauty of creating and why I love to create.

Photo by the Author

I used to be so protective yet simultaneously embarrassed to show my before images. I would be so bold to say, that 90% of the time I am shooting, I will NOT show you any photos I have taken from the back of my camera. I am an over thinker and have anxiety about the weirdest things. Which is probably why I like to over explain / educate people on what it is I do and why I do it. So, here we are!

Photo by the Author

Accidents happen… you’re in a hurry, you’re cold, you’re up close, you’re far away, you’re changing poses in a flash and BOOM…you accidentally under/over expose your image.

No problem! This was NOT that bad… totally worth saving

Photo by the Author

Easy adjustments that were done in Camera Raw via Photoshop:

  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Highlights

Things I found distracting:

  • The concrete steps near her elbow
  • The concrete driveway peeking through near her shoulder
  • Part of the tree above the house on the right
  • The imperfections in the tiara
  • The bobby pins holding down the tiara

Things I wanted to enhance:

  • The sunset
  • Makeup
  • Sharpen: Eyes, snow on hair, tiara, wand

Other things you may or may not have noticed:

  • Hue/Saturation adjustments to her skin, leotard and snow
  • The illusion of falling snow
  • Her left (our right) shoulder (if you look closely she needed to drop it down, so I adjusted it to make it more balanced)
Photo by the Author

If this were for a client, I would get their permission/have a discussion about these types of things beforehand.

With my daughter, I know she struggles with acne. She is fair skinned, the seasons/weather, hormones, and now mask wearing has affected her sensitive skin. I know she would want me to remove any imperfections in her skin. I also know that she doesn’t mind me adding make up to her images. → If I wanted her to wear it, she would, she chooses not to because she knows I can add it in and she doesn’t want to put it on just to wipe it back off LOL

I have to be honest, it seems like the images that I don’t try too hard on… are the ones that go over the best. It’s always the ones that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into that don’t gain as much traction as you hope.

Don’t lose hope or get frustrated though! That’s part of being a creator. You never know how wells something is going to go over. This is one of those images that went over better than I thought it would. I am grateful, don’t get me wrong, it makes me think though!

Where did I go RIGHT on this one? Was it the pose? The colors? The composition? Was it the snow that was so fun? Was it different and if so, why?

Did you enjoy this post? Give it a heart, a share, or if you’re feeling extra → tips are always appreciated too 🥳 Have a before & after you want to share with me? I’d love to see it!

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Vanessa Powell

I am a portrait photographer, graphic designer, creator extraordinaire. I suppose I am dabbling in writing too 😊 | 721vanessa Photography |