Talking with Susan Tuttle
Today I talk with photographer and digital artist, Susan Tuttle.
Susan shares lots of photography and photoshop resources!
Also in today’s show I have a new polymer book you’ll want to check out and some fun new apps to download, plus the latest happenings here in the CRAFTCAST studio.
Transcription of Interview with Susan Tuttle
Alison Lee: Well, I'm back today with someone I've talked to a bunch of years ago. So, we are going to talk about how much we've changed in our chosen fields and what's going on and all kinds of fun stuff. Today I'm talking to Susan Tuttle. Her website is hernamephotography.com. She's an artist, she's a blogger, she's the author of Digital Expressions Creating Digital Art with Photoshop which we love, Photoshop elements as well as Exhibition 36. And she has a new book coming out. Susan hello and welcome to Craftcast
Susan Tuttle: Hi Alison. Thanks for having me and it’s great to be back.
Alison: Isn’t it. It's like oh my gosh, a few years have gone by but let's refresh everyone with how you got started in this crazy world called Photoshop and blogging and all that kind of stuff.
Susan: Yes. Well let’s see. When I had my son in 2003, I was taking a lot of pictures just as all new parents are and at the same time I was introduced to Photoshop because it’s something that my mother had been working with for a couple years. She got me started and then I just started to do some basic things, playing around and the subject matter was my son, photos of my son. So that was actually something that was exciting to work with. As you know and as many people know Photoshop has a high learning curve.
Alison: It sure does, doesn’t it? Yes.
Susan: Yes. So, there was some incentive in working with images of him that were just so adorable.
Alison: No wait. Do you remember what Photoshop you started with? Let's see.
Susan Yes. My mother she had 2.0 so I started with 2.0 then I went to 4.0. I pretty much have gone all the way through. And then when I got Creative Suite, I started with Creative Suite [inaudible]. Now I have Creative Suite 5 and I have elements 9.0 because I purchased it right before 10.0 came out. I haven’t upgraded to that.
Alison: Yes. I hate that when that happens.
Susan Yes. Don’t you hate that?
Alison: I hate that when that happens, but we have to keep up with the times. But I remember those old Photoshops. Just so people can even if they weren't into Photoshop way back when. When we wanted to save something, we would go take a lunch break because it would take an hour to save. And you couldn’t change anything, there was no command Z in Photoshop back then.
Susan No, none of that.
Susan So, there is definitely some new tools that are wonderful.
Alison: There, it’s easier today.
Susan But I also have to say the tried-and-true tools and functions still remain.
Alison: That's true.
Susan So that's also helpful for teaching, when I teach, that's why I can people with different versions still able to do the same tasks in my classes.
Alison: Well now did you have photography in your background in the, you know the way with film and dark room and all of that?
Susan No, I actually.
Alison: You didn’t, oh.
Susan No. But I had this passion which is, don’t laugh but when I was a little kid, I had my 110 camera and I just got so into taking pictures and looking through that little plastic lens and I would take pictures with friends.
Alison: I love that camera.
Susan Yes. But I got to say I was disappointed at the results when I got them back.
Alison: You were?
Susan Because they were often grainy. Yes. It's just you know it’s like that's not. Keep in mind I was nine. That's not what I say when I looked through that little lens. So, I do still have those pictures and then I kind of put my camera aside and then I didn’t really begin again until my son was born. And I got a really nice Nikon camera. I know have Canon. So, it was really self-kind of exploration and I kind of took it on myself and online found resources, went to the bookstore, magazines. And I have a music background and I went to music school for that. So, my experience with that was not entirely positive in terms of keeping my creative spirit alive and fresh and untouched. I found like for me the rules and, it kind of felt that my creative spirit was crushed a little bit.
Alison: From what now?
Susan Just from formal training.
Susan: That I had. So now when I pick up my flute, I'm always hearing my professor saying keep this in mind, posture, this, this and this. So, it sometimes can be a little bit paralyzing. So, with photography and mixed media art, I just decided that I was going to get to choose how I would learn and what my instruction would be so I could keep that exciting feeling that no one would take away. So that's what worked best for me. You know I'm not saying that's true for everyone across the board but for me, that's how I've maintained excitement and a fresh approach towards my photography. I've been doing this now for ten years and I'm still just as excited as I was back then. And I keep on growing and I keep wondering where am I going to go next with this.
Alison: Oh. It is. It's so exciting. I mean.
Susan: It is.
Alison: Digital is overwhelming exciting.
Susan: Overwhelming, yes. And I do feel like I finally found my niche in manipulating photos also in doing digital art and finding an outlet in blogging. Also, I’ve [inaudible] which we can talk about late but it’s just like a never-ending journey.
Alison: Isn’t it crazy how it’s taken off between iPhone photography which I love my camera on my iPhone?
Susan: Don’t you?
Alison: Yes. Its crazy good.
Susan: It is. So how often do you take pictures?
Alison: Oh, every day.
Alison: I mean it’s how I remember things. It’s how, today. I saw things in two windows I'm like I took pictures to remember something I saw for colors and shapes. I mean it, and my background is the old fashion photography with film. So, it's, I love it.
Susan: I think I'd like to interview you because I'd like to hear your perspective on dark room photography versus digital photography, but I've often hear that traditional photographers just kind of look as digital as being, I don’t want to say cheating because I don’t think that at all.
Alison: I don’t think that either.
Susan: Oh Good.
Alison: No. I don’t think that at all. I think it’s just; I'll tell you it makes it easier if you have the background because it’s all the same so it’s just a different approach. I mean do you approach your work with also an archival thought in mind?
Susan: I do in terms of saving it and where do we save our things? I mean we have multiple hard drives here at home. We have online venues. My husband has a hard drive at work, and I know when you put things on CD's that they have a very short shelf life. So, we actually buy gold CD's.
Alison: I didn’t know that.
Yes. Its maddening. We actually had, I had some DVD's or CD's rather of pictures of my kids when they were young and they actually I don’t know it was humidity or whatnot, they didn’t play anymore. Luckily, my mother had a copy we had sent her so, we didn’t lose them. But that's when we woke up and said, oh my god we got to get on this. We have to be serious about saving things so.
Alison: Do you print out a lot of things or is it, I'm sure it’s mostly digital?
Susan: Somethings. I want to do more and one of those things on my mommy to do list is to make some photobooks.
Alison: Right. I love those.
Susan: I love the ones you can make through Apple. They are really good.
Alison: Aren’t they? I know, they're beautiful.
Susan: They are. Yes.
Alison: I know. Think about how easy it is to have your own book in a beautiful sleeve of all your photographs.
Susan: Yes. Do you print yours out a lot?
Alison: No. I don’t. I don’t anymore but I do love, you know. I mean I'm sure like you don’t you love just the internet being able to share all of our different images that way?
Susan: Yes. And blogging. I actually just moved my old blog, which was on blogger. I moved it over to my WordPress venue because since blogger is free, although I never had any issues I worry down the road. There is no customer support, I'm not paying.
Alison: That's right.
Susan: So now that I have WordPress and that I have Pro Photo Blog and support, I am moving everything over, so can’t lose it.
Alison: Well things have really changed since we've started with all of that. Let’s talk about a little bit, I mentioned it before that you had a life changing accident that really sort of thrusted you into art it sounds like. I'd love to hear more about that and how that unfolded because it's interesting how that happens with people.
Susan: No, it is. It's true. I think that happens to a lot of people when they have a life changing moment it puts them in the direction, they are meant to go in. I was in my early 20's, this is 1996, April 13 to be exact and I had a very bad car accident. It was a trip I was trying to make to go visit my sister and it got postponed several times and I actually had premonitions of being in an accident. So, when I was actually in the middle of the accident I was not surprised.
Alison: I totally understand what you are saying. I totally understand.
Susan: Yes. And if you at a picture of the car you'll look at that and think we'll there's no way somebody came away from that. And I did. I mean the car was completely crushed. There was a little space where I was sitting, and I didn’t walk away but I practically did. I had a lot of swelling all around in my head. My head blew up to the size of a giant pumpkin, but it was a miracle because the swelling was above my skull.
Susan: Yes. I knew it wasn’t my time. And while I was healing, a friend was taking care of me and I spent a lot of my time on the couch. So, I just requested if she could get me a journal and some charcoals and I starting drawing. And then that soon turned into exploring with paint and mix media and collage type of stuff and it just kept growing from there. And I found online communities that were doing some of the same stuff I was. And then I got into the digital and I just kept experimenting and I knew that I loved doing mix media art, but I never quite felt that it was my thing. I was seeing other people doing things like Misty Mon who I'm in love with her work. I'm in love with her. And I just knew that what I was doing was never going to be of that caliber and I was OK with that. But I just knew there's something else, there's something else in me, I just have to find my niche. And I remember listening to an interview that Claudine Hellmuth gave, and she kept talking about when you're trying to find your style and your voice, take notes of the things that you love and go from there. And so, I guess everything just came together and I found my niche with photography and sharing that on blog and then doing digital art as well as just manipulating single photos. So, there you have it and I haven't looked back.
Alison: Isn’t it amazing how taking some downtime from something like that, you know finally have the time to like to go on a journey?
Alison: I know, it’s true. I've had the same thing. I mean everyone I think can look at that and say you know, where that journey began. And I have to tell you, eight year's old with your camera, I've talked to hundreds and hundreds of people I've interviewed, there is always an eight-year-old moment that comes up.
Susan: You’re kidding.
Alison: I’m not kidding you. So, your future self was just looking at the camera saying, this is not the quality I was thinking this was and you just put it down for a while.
I did. Yes. But then now I can look through the same little square and I can get amazing results and I can take it into Photoshop and even enhance it even more, so all my dreams have come true.
Alison: There you go, it’s all come around.
Susan: Little heart music playing.
Alison: Exactly. Well do you ever play with some of those retro crammers that they have out now. Do you know the ones that I am talking about? Well, they are coming back, and people are putting film in them again?
Susan: Oh yes. I do.
Alison: What’s the freaking name of that right now? I can’t think of it.
Susan: Well, I have attachments that go on my.
Susan: I have a fisheye attachment.
Alison: Oh, you do?
Susan: I have a Diana lens. I have a [inaudible] lens.
Alison: That's it. Yes.
Susan: So yes, I would say that I get some interesting results. I have Lensbaby. I love them so I have their whole system at Lensbaby.com. I hope its ok that I'm [inaudible] all these products. Is it ok?
Alison: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Susan: And in my new book that's coming out with Christy Hydeck who is my coauthor, she and I did some experimentation with a lot of the Lensbaby lenses and there whole system.
Alison: Oh. I am excited to go look.
Alison: Always fun.
Susan: That's like replicating holga pinhole.
Susan: Double glass, single glass. So, you might need to pop a Dramamine before you look at the images because you really, when I photo manipulate them and I know this happened to Christy too. We were like whoa, I’m feeling a little dizzy.
Alison: Well, it cracks me up when we work hard to make our pictures look like if you had your instamatic with your flash cube, recreate those looks with that whole retro feeling and how in that is and I loved that.
Susan: So fascinating. I love it to because to those movements you know back in the 70's were kind of like became popular and against some more rigid forms of photography so I find it interesting that they are coming back and being embraced.
Alison: I do too.
Susan: I love you because you just embrace it all. That's wonderful.
Alison: Are you kidding? I, you know what don’t get me started. It's not, you know. Some people just finally go you have to be quiet now. They can’t even handle it anymore when I start on this [inaudible] people so. I just, it’s very passionate about it now. But now let’s talk a bit because this is the other things and I know you've taught many people and when probably in particular. The approach to Photoshop
Susan: Most of them are women and a few guys who are like love the class because they are the only guy in the class.
Alison: Of course. Well, there is always that. Exactly.
Susan: Go ahead.
Alison: But this is teaching something technical like Photoshop to women, what do you think drives women to then want to take the class? Like what is it that they want to create? Is there a general thing?
Susan: Well, I think it’s different for everyone but one thing that I notice from a lot of the women, they like having a sense of community. and I've notice this. I’ve had some comparison because I’ve given classes like one, I’m giving now "Toy Camera with Photoshop."
Alison: I saw that. Looked good.
Susan: It’s fun, it’s so fun. So, I have a lot of women who returned, and they really like the forums. They like to talk to each other.
Alison: And share.
Susan: Do the Flickr. Yes. Cool. Share their work, get feedback. And people like to feel comfortable, they want to have an environment where they can share and feel like it’s safe. I myself don’t generally give constructive criticism or feedback unless its asked for. I think there’s part of it this is like a place to feel good and grow. And some people of course want more specific feedback, and they will generally email me in private for that. Some people are beginners and they actually never experimented with Photoshop at all. But I really work hard to give clear directions that anyone can follow. So, a lot of people have actually learnt Photoshop through taking my classes. And then I have some people who are familiar with the programs, more well-seasoned and they just want to improve, or they want a new technique. So, there's a whole range of reasons while people take a class.
Alison: And you think its best in starting with Photoshop because it’s so freaking huge. I mean you know, it’s about just, you can do anything you want which is overwhelming that you show people, here, start with some techniques so that people start seeing what's possible by learning a specific technique to create?
Susan: I do. And there are somethings, there's something called Photoshop Crash Course online. I want to say it’s through Photo Argus. Don’t quote me on that.
Alison: Photoshop Crash Course?
Susan: Yes. So just to learn the interface and a few basics on tools and functions. And then I think it’s important to learn about layers and that seems to be something when people are beginning, it’s like what is going on here? And it’s really just a few easy steps of using your move tool to drag one image into another and then you use a blending mode to blend them. But actually, doing that for the first time and getting it, I mean it. Even for me I remember thinking way back that its very complicated and mindboggling. And then you get it and it’s like oh, Ok.
Alison: Then it’s easy. Yes. It’s crazy at first.
Susan: Then it’s easy.
Alison: Yes. I remember first opening up Photoshop and I just couldn’t even find like where the tool was never mind start using the program. Like the window where the tools disappeared, and I was done.
Susan: Oh, I know. Well, that can happen. If you click on and then it’s like how [inaudible] that fast.
Alison: I know. I mean the interface it is intimidating. It's in, there's a lot. But I find it fascinating that a certain look or you know best, is there a certain look, I want to say filters or type of thing that are most popular right now that you see people wanting to know for sure?
Susan: I wouldn’t say that. Well, what I was going to say before I forget, if you are new to Photoshop, I definitely recommend starting out with elements.
Alison: Very good point.
Susan: Yes. First of all, it’s a lot less expensive and it’s a little bit easy to learn, a little more simplified. And I actually, I use both CS5 and then My Elements because I find that there are certain things, I can do with elements that I can’t do in Creative Suite and vice versa. So yes. So, I really do recommend elements. Now the other thing is, there is more than one way to skin a cat. And you can do, you can get the same exactly result in probably five different ways. So, there may be a way I can do it in Creative Suite very easily, but I figure out a way to do it in Elements. It’s just a different approach but you get the same result. And when I'm teaching through my books or I'm teaching online, I teach through Elements because it’s just, it’s a more user-friendly program, I got some beginning students. I'm not going to tell them to go out and get Creative Suite. And if you do have Creative Suite, nine times out of ten, you are someone who is more experienced so you can take the Elements instructions and when they veer a little bit. You will be able to figure it out if you have the experience. You see what I’m saying?
Alison: I do.
Susan: I get that question, what program do you recommend? And are they vastly different? They are and they aren’t, you know. My Photoshop classes right now, most of the instructions are the same for both programs and when they veer, I will give a supplemental approach.
Alison: Right, yes that’s a good point. Plus, can't you even download elements for free for trial or something?
Susan: You can for 30 days.
Alison: Right. Which is great. Because you can know sort of really fast whether or not it's for you or not.
Susan: Exactly and well and you might think it’s not for you but keep at it.
Alison: If you keep at it yes. If you keep at it, not just an hour but if you keep at it every day for 30 days, you'll be either hooked or you'll know, never mind. It's definitely a great approach to do that. Now do you work, combine other programs with your Photoshop. Are you strictly a Photoshop gal?
Susan: Well, when I'm using my computer, I'm strictly Photoshop then I use apps on my phone when I'm doing.
Alison: Oh yes, let’s talk about that.
Susan: Let’s talk about that too.
Alison: Yes. I love your phone for doing images.
Susan: Oh yes, I love my phone. And I'm sorry I keep jumping around. My brain, the neurons are going. You asked me are there certain filters that are popular? I just think of something to say to that but.
Alison: Oh good. Go. No, no, no a love this because this is how women think. We go back and forth, forward and around.
Susan: Well, I think the blur effect is very popular right now so having like a [inaudible] spot where it’s clear and then you are blurring the rest. And what I find fascinating is people are really breaking away from what cameras can do. Let's say in your digital camera you've got the F stop set really low, so you got this really crisp foreground and you've got the background really blurred. So, you can do that in Photoshop, but people are also putting blurs in places that a camera could never recreate, its funky. So, I noticed a lot of that, and I've actually noted that increase since I phonography because they have all these title shifts kinds of apps where you can just put a blur wherever the heck you want. So.
Alison: It is sort of crazy right?
Alison: Blur, you're right? It is. My mind is thinking now the blurs, yes you can put them where it can’t really happen naturally in normal photography. Yes, it is sort of funky. So, you love your phone. You are doing lots of photos with your phone. And it’s a whole world, it’s a whole other world.
Susan: A whole world. I started out a couple of years ago, was it? No couldn’t be a couple years ago. About a year ago with my phone. And I just started by taking photographs that I would see you know something that was attractive or go out to eat take pictures of food. And I enjoyed that. Yes. It was fun.
Alison: Who doesn’t take pictures of all their food?
Susan: Of all their food! It’s one of my favorite things.
Alison: Right. Or their cappuccino when its beautifully done on top.
Susan: Oh yes. I think I've had enough pictures with coffee to last until the end of time. [Laughter]. So, I started to notice when I was on Instagram which is the social.
Alison: We love it, yes.
Susan: Oh yes, love it. And I was really attracted to people who had styles. So, like there are people doing strictly black and white or strictly portraiture and I thought, this would be a great opportunity for me to find something that just had a style, a very clear style. Something maybe a little out there, something that was challenging, and I don’t know. I don’t even know how this happened. At the same time, I was thinking this, it was around Halloween and I started accumulating really nice costumes and my friend who goes and does funk shows for vintage costumes and things, she was lending me anything I wanted. So, I started having these little dresses up sessions with myself, taking photographs and I realize that I could do portraits and I used myself as the model because I don’t have anybody else to use and I dress up and become these characters and take these photos.
Alison: Oh, you'd be fun to have a playdate with, I can tell.
Susan: Oh my gosh. But it’s fun because some of the characters are maybe a little shy, some are a little risqué, stuff that put on my Instagram I would never put on my site I think you know. Its tasteful enough but it’s a side of my I’m exploring so anyway. And it’s purely with the iPhone. I don’t take it into Photoshop. Take the photo with the iPhone and use the apps.
Alison: What is your favorite phone app.
Susan: My favorite phone app is Scratch Cam.
Alison: Scratch Cam.
Susan: Scratch Cam.
Alison: I don’t know that one. I’m running it down. That sounds good. Do you ever and I get it so you can scratch it like it looks old is what you are saying right?
Susan: Yes. So, they have different filters that scratches and textures. You can change the color; you can add a border.
Alison: Oh fun.
Susan: It’s so fun. I actually, I won a contest. I entered one of my photos and I went to go use their app and it was on the menu its says first place winner and I nearly fell out of my see because I never expected.
Alison: Congratulations. I love that.
Susan: Thank you.
Alison: I love that. That's so much fun. You know what? I should share this with you. I just ordered today; you know Photo Mojo I believe it’s called?
Alison: I love them. They have a remote for your iPhone now. So, if you want to set it up a little remote that you can just click, and it will just take your picture.
Susan: I need one of those because I use the timer and so I've got it set and I'm running up to take the position.
Alison: I know. A little remote. I thought they had it all now. So, there you go. That was like, that’s a nice little thing to have. Yes. It cracks me up all the little accessories you can get for your iPhone.
Susan: Well, this is fun. I remember seeing someone in one of the summer digital studios. She used to get underneath this glass table and press like parts of her body up against it and it was so funky, and I was like how did she get that photo? Well, she had one of those remotes for her camera.
Alison: Coming through the glass table in other words?
Susan: Yes so, she could do really cool poses like that and see her own photographer. Yes. It really got my head spinning now. The neurons are firing.
Alison: Oh, we'll check that out. I just got the email this morning. I'm like that's a must have for all of us. Wacky is with doing this kind of thing. Well tell a little bit about your next class coming up on [inaudible], the one that’s going on now so that people can get an idea of the fun. Because I know people are thinking I want to learn this too.
Susan: Well, it’s called Toy Camera with Photoshop. And what I've done. I've noticed as you know I have just talked about how popular these retro cameras are going back and so we are replicating toy camera effects and also film effects. So, things like pinholes, holga, polaroid, silver gelatin techniques, [inaudible] processing. Yeah. So, there is a total of 10 projects, and we spend the first part of the week gathering photos that are going to work and be appropriate and I give some tried and true ways to improve those photos before you even use them in the projects. And then we just dive into the projects and we've got three projects a week that people work on. And it’s a four-week class and then I give two weeks after that where people can still sign in and finish up their projects or revisit things. And I may either give that again or I’m toying with two ideas. One, doing a kind of like a rolling admissions type of a thing. The drawback of that is you don’t have that community which we talked about earlier. I'm going to mull that over a little bit more. the other possibility is turning it into an eBook. You can do a multimedia eBook.
Alison: Right. Right.
Susan: I'm still thinking about that because there are good things to that. People can access it whenever they want but the downside is, they may not have that sense of community and also how do I, am I available 24/7 if someone has a question? So, I don’t know. There is a lot to think about there.
Alison: There is, and we're used to it because what I've learnt is because people then get interested from around the world. I don’t have a time zone anymore. It’s just where are you on the planet sort of thing you know. It's live in our time zone is, no longer means anything. Well, I like what you said in your book in the end there. You sign up line was jump in and have fun because some people are just so intimidated and that’s how it should be right? Just jump in and give it a shot.
Susan: Yes. Absolutely.
Alison: It's so much fun.
Susan: There's a lot of things you can google. If you're stuck just google what you’re stuck on and you are going to find some tutorials.
Alison: Yes. But then there's nothing like a class or you said community to keep you going through when it got sticky and hard.
Susan: Absolutely. And I love to help people. I have a teaching background so it’s a joy to exercise that teaching muscle again and I love breaking things down for people, meeting people where they are at. And for me I want them to be comfortable. There are no silly questions you know; you know it’s not like a college professor [inaudible] you.
Alison: Yes. Exactly. It’s supposed to be fun. Well tell us again the name of your new book coming out.
Susan: OK. Its Photocraft. The title has changed so many times and so has the subtitle. Speaking of taking pictures of your iPhone. I took a picture of my screen with the name.
Alison: That's good. Always good.
Susan: Photocraft: Creative Mixed Media and Digital Approaches to Transforming your Photographs. I will never remember the title of my own book. It's so long. Its Photocraft.
Alison: I understand that. Yes. That’s good. I understand that but people now can get Digital Expressions which is totally cool and has tons of tutorials to walk through to get certain effects.
Alison: And there's even a CD in it as well, a DVD rather with like brushes I'm assuming or things to add into your Photoshop to play with?
Susan: And something I should add too. I made sure when I did digital expressions that I used the tried-and-true tools. So, using, I did this with Elements 6.0 because when I worked on it, that's what was current. But there is tried and trues and there the [inaudible] that you can still use.
Alison: Without worrying about things not really working.
Alison: Yes. Well, we love that because things do change and that's one thing that you have to understand in the world of digital. It changes and there are glitches that pop up randomly.
Susan: Yes. It’s true. And I always cross my fingers because you know when I do the book and then it actually is published, Photoshop has put out one or two more versions and then down the line even more, here we are at 10 and this book uses six. But it will still work just fine.
Alison: Yes. Well, I'm excited. I'm going to go look up Scratch Cam, Photoshop crash course, Lensbaby. I love learning.
Susan: Lensbaby. Join the Photo Argus. I love their newsletters. There's great tips from everything from photography techniques to starting your own photography business.
Susan: Oh yes.
Alison: All good. Well, everyone can come over to CraftCast.com to get all the links. SusanTuttlePhotography.com, you can click over at CraftCast.com plus I will make sure and put up all these different links because I know people are listening while they are running or at the gym, they don’t have a pen to write them down. So, they will be over there so people can find them. So, thank you darling for coming on again and chatting with me.
Susan: You are welcome.
Alison: It was fun.
Susan: It was a pleasure boy the time went by so quickly.
Alison: I know its crazy right. Alright well I might be calling you for some Photoshop lessons in the near future.
Susan: Sounds great. It's such a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you for having me on.
Alison: My pleasure. Take care.
Susan: You too. Bye Alison.
Alison: Bye Bye.