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Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the Heart 1st Edition

64 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0240813479
ISBN-10: 0240813472
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Editorial Reviews Review

An Excerpt from the Shutter Sisters Blog by Co-Author Jen Lemen

What happens when you choose once and for all to put what matters to you in the viewfinder, regardless of who approves or understands?

What happens when you claim your craft, your art, your expertise, and stop asking anyone more established or proficient or experienced to say it's good enough?

What happens when you throw away the rule book and all the measuring sticks and just say what you were afraid to say all along?

I am a photographer. Here is my work. Learn from it. Let it speak to you.

In many ways, this is what publishing Expressive Photography has meant to Tracey and the rest of us here at Shutter Sisters. Most of us learned the technical aspects of photography primarily by way of experimentation and trial and error, leaning on our creative instincts to guide image-making. While the technical aspects of photography can be researched, learned, and mastered, the art of uncovering and embracing the vision that is unique to you and letting it guide your lens is a far more challenging task. Some of us didn't know this was a passion until we looked through the lens at our ordinary lives and realized we were bearing witness to honest beauty and real magic.

Like many of you, our education in photography came over years, hand and hand with our own personal development. While we were learning about aperture, composition, and shutter speed, we were also mastering the art of how to see, how to really see what's worth honoring in an everyday life.

Not everyone will appreciate our particular contribution to the photography conversation at large. A quick scan of certain reviews and the Shutter Sisters inbox reveals that Expressive Photography has actually riled some members of the old guard--an outdated and small contingent of the fading old boys club that has dominated the professional photography scene for so long.

But times are changing. At this particular moment in history, it's no longer enough to have the longest lens or the most sophisticated mastery of your technical skills. What matters is your ability to infuse your work with heart and soul--whether you're standing on the fields of Rwanda watching two young girls wait for a miracle or whether the miracle is already standing in your own backyard.

This is why we wrote Expressive Photography. We believe in what you see, and we know that this book will inspire and help you show everything your soul already knows about what matters the very most.

--Jen Lemen

Amazon Exclusive: Six Steps to More Expressive Photography by Tracey Clark, Founder of Shutter Sisters [Click on Images to Enlarge]

What exactly makes a picture worth a thousand words? How is it that a single image can tell an entire story of the subject in the frame? What draws us in to images and not only piques but holds our interest? Although the reasons can sometimes be intangible, there are a number of things to consider as you attempt to use your camera to seek out and distill the kind of pictures you’ll want to frame.

Expressive Photography


How you approach your subject, whether it be a person, place, still-life, etc. will most certainly influence how you capture it in a photo. There is always a connection that is made between you and what you are shooting. Pay attention to that. Why are you compelled to click the shutter? When you aim to shoot a picturesque landscape, bring your own wanderlust. When it’s a portrait you’re after, you bring yourself in a different way as you meet your subject and connect on a deeper level. Really look at your subject and honor it with the picture you take. In shooting this picturesque landscape, co-author Jen Lemen approached it with love and longing. Albeit many miles from her home, this field is where a piece of her heart will always remain. We can feel that connection in this image.

Expressive Photography


Photography, like life, is all in the way you look at it. Consider what you see when you are looking at your subject and chances are you will be able to use that as your inspiration to help you creatively frame your shot. To move beyond snapshots you must be willing to change your photographic point of view from the basic point-and-shoot approach to something more deliberate. Perspective shifts can be so simple (shoot from above, get down low, etc.) so it’s merely just a matter of remembering to use a unique perspective to capture more interesting, expressive shots. Quite often, the more unexpected your perspective, the more compelling your image. Sarah-Ji chose to not only give us a window into her daughter’s world, she framed this moment in such a way as to reveal the magic and wonder of childhood itself just by her unique perspective.

Expressive Photography


Composing a good shot is basically a matter of how you choose to frame the elements of your image. Although good composition is intuitive when observed (you usually know a good shot when you see one) shooting it takes more of a conscious decision. Be mindful of where in the frame you place your subject, where you choose to focus, and what you choose to include in the big picture. Consider your view finder as a canvas and be discerning about the elements you include in your masterpiece. Contemplate balancing components such as lights and darks or positive and negative space. Try using texture, line, and/or shape to help you express the feeling you want to convey in your photo. The compositional choice that Kate Inglis made in framing this shot makes an ordinary plate of greens a thing of beauty. The dark and light divided by the curved line of the bowl which leads your eye to the texture and color of the food and brings visual balance to the entire frame.

Expressive Photography


Without light, there would be no photography so it makes sense that learning how to quite literally see the light will help you to better use natural light to create better images. Light can seem illusive but the more you study it with your eye and observe it’s nuances, the more effortlessly you’ll be able to do the same through your lens. When shooting portraits, for example, you can easily tell when the light is illuminating your subject in a complimentary way by just looking at your subject's face and avoiding harsh shadows and dark circles, for example. Take the time to rotate or move your subjects until the light flatters their faces and lights up their eyes with catch lights.

Expressive Photography


As we document the world around us in pictures, we are telling stories, and like in any good story, rich details are a must. Don’t overlook the things that other people might not notice. Begin to hone your eye to see more than just the big picture. Consider a lock of hair, a flower petal, or the mere gesture of your subject can all effectively tell more of a story than any obvious image ever could. Challenge yourself to capture the details of a moment that only you can reveal! These little tidbits of life, not only delight and inspire, they make for some of the most intriguing and enchanting images. The braids, tiny bows, and posture captured in this image of my twelve-year-old are exactly the details needed to effectively tell the story of that quintessential moment where childhood and adolescence collide.

Expressive Photography


Digital tools for improving and enhancing digital images vary in complexity and price. You don’t need expensive or elaborate implements to edit your pictures. Some of the most effective post-processing techniques are the most simple tweaks that almost every program or software offers. A little boost in contrast or increased color saturation can make a rather flat image pop! Post processing isn’t a way of creating a great photograph, it’s a technique that can be used to intensify a mood or vibe of a shot which can make for a more inspired photograph than perhaps the original was. Changing a color image to a black-and-white is one way photographers can dramatically alter the original image and transform it into something entirely different and often more evocative. It all comes down to the artistic discretion of the photographer. Stephanie C. Roberts’s choice to process her image to black-and-white gives it a timeless and true documentary feel. Removing the color keeps the focus on the engagement of the boys here and not the environment.

Enjoy what you’re doing, value your work, honor your journey, and celebrate your creative spirit! And always, shoot from the heart.

--Tracey Clark, Founder of Shutter Sisters


"In our new book, Expressive Photography: A Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the Heart, we introduce another approach to portraiture: focusing on the details. Although often overlooked, the small gestures and subtle nuances of your subject often can tell you more about them than any headshot ever could."--Digital Photo Magazine

"Ten authors, collectively known as the Shutter Sisters, successfully parlay their blog ( into an analogous print format, which is no small feat! Edited by Clark-a professional photographer and founder of the Sisters-the book is unusual among photography guides because it is far more concerned with questions of why than with lengthy explanations of how. The advice presented in this approachable guide addresses primarily issues of creativity, inspiration, and meaning for photographers in a way that many will find helpful. It is likely to appeal most to photographers less enamored by technological gadgetry and to busy young parents."--Library Journal

"Ten women photographers shooting from the heart collaborate and produce a wonderfully complete reference book for exactly that: expressive photographing.. The Shutter Sister's Expressive Photography is an eye-candy guidebook that illustrates how delightful and heartfelt images can be captured. From lighting through perspective and composition to approach, the reader is inspired to look at simple life and the world around them with a rejuvenated creative eye.. The book is filled with images from many facets of photographic opportunities-life as it happens in all sorts of lighting situations: outdoor in natural light; indoor with artificial light; or soft light from a window; and the world at night.. I absolutely loved this book and many times have it by my bedside for inspiration. It will be a cherished present for the avid photography buff."--Sacramento Book Review

"For the person who likes to take pictures or just got a new camera, EXPRESSIVE PHOTOGRAPHY: THE SHUTTER SISTERS' GUIDE TO SHOOTING FROM THE HEART is a collection of photographic techniques and ideas from a group of women who call themselves The Shutter Sisters. Check out their cool website to get a feel for their style. I love the life-infused tone and hearing different approaches to this accessible art form. Why not go the extra step and turn your photography more into art than chronicles?"---Ecomama Guide to Living Green blog

"It's such a relaxing, enjoyable book, I find that I keep going back to the book and leafing through it. Bring it to a cafe on a rainy day while you're sipping a hot beverage, or wrap it up for the holidays and give it to your favorite photographer. If you end up with photos even half as good as what's in here, you won't regret it."--CoolMomPicks Online

"I cannot recommend it enough, whether as a gift to yourself or a loved one. Whether you're a novice, amateur, or professional photographer, Expressive Photography is replete with inspiring imagery and practical tips and tricks on approach, perspective, composition, lighting, details, and processing for different types of photos (e.g., landscape, portraits, still life, etc.)."--Life.Style with Christine Koh on the PulseNetwork

"I also picked up the book, Expressive Photography, written by Tracey Clark and her and her friends over at Shutter Sisters. I really like the book, and feel like it's pushed me to think about different ways to frame my photos, things that I probably wouldn't have thought to try. This book is not full of technical jargon, rather, it's about looking through the lens with fresh eyes. I think it is the perfect companion for more straight forward technical books that you may own."--endorsement on the blog "two straight lines"

"Tracey Clark, a natural light photographer, started Shutter Sisters  (what an awesome place to visit) in Blogland and now has released a book called Expressive Photography.  I was so excited to get it-I can be found sitting outside piano/soccer/horse lessons with my face buried in it." --several websites including PhotoClique website, Information Publishing and Marketing Portal website, Photo Focus website, Linda's Reading Blog, Farewell Photograph Workshop website, and this from Modern Prairie Girl:


Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (August 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240813472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240813479
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 9.5 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Beyond raising two exceptionally amazing daughters (11 & 16), Tracey Clark has cultivated an expansive career that integrates everything she loves; photography, writing, teaching, speaking and of course, motherhood. Author of Elevate the Everyday: A Photographic Guide to Picturing Motherhood, co-author of Expressive Photography: A Shutter Sisters Guide to Shooting From the Heart, and a column in Digital Photo Magazine, she is also founder of Shutter Sisters, co-founder of Our Collective, teacher at Big Picture Classes, and one of the Disney Sisters. Tracey loves nothing more than to share the insights and inspirations she's gathered along her creative life's journey.

She can be found on her blog, on Facebook (Tracey Clark Photographer), twitter and on Instagram as @traceyclark.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Conrad J. Obregon VINE VOICE on September 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
When my daughter was 14, her best friend and she borrowed flutes from her school's music room, even though neither had ever played the instruments. As they sat trying to learn the fingering and to play a duet, I took a couple of dimly-lit photographs. Thirty years later, those images still hang on my wall, reminding me of that moment of friendship and experiment. Visitors often ask me what the photographs are about. I was reminded of this as I read "Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the Heart".

The Shutter Sisters are a group of women who operate a photography blog. Ten of the sisters have joined forces to create this book. Each of the sisters writes one chapter on a subject including such genres as Portraiture, Stillness, and Togetherness. Each chapter is illustrated with images taken by the writer and other sisters. There are also excerpts from the Shutter Sisters' blog and sidebars telling us to "See It!" with shooting data and "Shoot It!" urging us to experiment with a certain type of photograph.

Basically the book is a collection of random tips and motivational words about the importance of photographing from the heart. The pictures vary in quality from highly interesting to bland family snapshots. There is little of a technical nature in the book, and there is little that tells how to apply technique to one's vision, other than reminders that technique can help the photographer to capture what is in his or her heart. Occasionally, one of the authors will go on for a page about the difficulties of being a homemaker, or the anxiety and joy of being a mother. While I acknowledge the validity of these sentiments, the authors often failed to make the connection with creating a good photograph.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kristine Lofgren VINE VOICE on November 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Expressive Photography is a book written by the "Shutter Sisters" about shooting great pictures from the heart. This is not your typical photography book; you will find little about technique in this guide. Instead, this book focuses on helping you find the emotional side to your technique.

There are jillions of technique books out there, so I was happy to find a book that offers an alternative discussion. This book assumes that you already have a bit of technical proficiency and are looking to expand the heart of your images. Unfortunately, this book falls a bit short of being a useful guide that I would find myself turning to over and over.

So the pluses and the minuses.

- Lots of images, many with accompanying "Set It!" information (ISO, Exposure, Aperture, Focal Length).
- A blurb on each photograph that explains why, at least to the photographer, each image works.
- Lovely prose introducing each section and each topic.

- Not all of the images do actually work. Many seem as though they simply evoke the photographer's emotions and were included for this reason.
- A lack of real detailed information. Many of the tips and suggestions seem to fall under the umbrella of "shoot things that make you feel emotion." A nice sentiment, but it doesn't really help me become a better photographer.
- Perhaps too much of this book is occupied by the author's reflections on parenting, working from home and homemaking.

Make no mistake, there are tips in this book about shooting, many tried and true and some new ones, but there is a lack of any real direction about how to use that technique to create a picture that reflects the emotion.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By myriam on September 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
Having just recently purchased my first camera (at the age of 41), I am very grateful for this book. I've decided the book will serve as my companion in my photography endeavors. It's creators do a wonderful job of reminding me to take notice of the small details and to move at my own pace. With so much technology available to us, it is easy for one to feel intimidated by the immense possibilities for amazing photos. This book reminds us that none of that matters, the most important thing is to translate what is in our hearts to the image. These women, are brave in their encouragement of simplicity and intuition. Not to mention their generosity in sharing images that give us glimpses into their lives, giving us permission to breathe. Beautiful, just beautiful images!! BRAVO!!!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Walker on November 18, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this book. And I do. Just not as much as I wanted to. I'm an an advanced hobbyist photographer, and have noticed a lack of emotion/expression/story in my images. I want to fix that. This book helped. But it didn't really resonate with me. Written by a collection of women (one per chapter), I found it hard to connect with. I'm a male scientist, and this book was a bit too poetic for my tastes. Each chapter is structured identically: two pages each for Introduction, Approach, Perspective, Composition, Lighting, Details, and Processing. By the fifth time I got to "composition", it got a little repetitive.

The images are okay... and they are expressive. The writing, however, occasionally seemed to lack substance. A little too floofy and ethereal. And much of it was presented at a level more appropriate for beginners.

If you're a mom who's recently obtained your first SLR with a kit lens, you're about the perfect target audience for the book. If you're giving a camera like that to someone (especially female), this book would accompany it perfectly. Well, this one and Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera, which focuses on the basic technical stuff more.

Similar "how to be creative" photography books that I enjoyed more and feel that I got more out of included The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos and
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