Talking with Susan Tuttle

Episode #183

Alison Lee:Ok everyone. Listen up. All of you people who love photography and want to learn more. I have Susan Tuttle on the line with me today who came out with a new book PhotoCraft: Creative Mix Media and Digital Approaches to Transforming your Photographs. She cowrote that with Christy Hydeck. And I am excited to talk to Susan today to pick her brain for some of the crazy new stuff that's out there for our digital photography fun. So, Susan thanks so much for coming on today.

Susan Tuttle: Thank you for having me. It's always a pleasure to be with you.

Alison:So much fun. Now I know we were blabbing just before this interview about what's going on with photography today. What's sort of your overview? Like, you know. Where is it at for you let’s say it at this point? Because there is so much going on. Where do you focus on let’s just say that?

Susan: Well I have two loves. I like or I love my DSLR, my Digital SLR Camera and my iPhone equally but for different reasons. because I think they both have their pluses and their minuses. One piece of information that I was very interested by, if you look at the uploading data on Flickr, most of the photos that are being uploaded these days are coming from a mobile device. So yes. So that's surpassing the point and shoot. So, I’m predicting it’s going to replace the point and shoot. I still think you are going to have DSLR cameras out there because as I look at that, I don’t know if you can every achieve the same quality with an iPhone or a mobile phone that you could with a DSLR just because you have the interchangeable lens, you have huge megapixels. There is just more you can do with controlling your aperture. But gosh I love my iPhone. I can have that thing with me in the back of my pocket, whip it out, take a photo. I can manipulate, I shouldn’t say I but anyone who uses their phone can manipulate it. The grocery store if they got a few minutes waiting for the school bus, whatever it is. And it makes it just so available to everyone. And with the social networks that are out there like Instagram, IM, you can immediately upload your photos and share them. And artists are using mobile phones as tools as well. And I myself explore self-portraiture and some nature shots that are kind of ethereal and vintage looking, and I upload them to my Instagram account.

Alison:That's your go to place, Instagram?

Susan: That’s my go to for that, yeah. It’s a little bit different and edgier than what you would see on my blog which tends to be more my DSLR stuff

Alison: Now are you a Tumblr person too?

Susan: I do Tumblr. You know what I’m really addicted to is Pinterest.

Alison: You know I go through different addictions. I was Pinterest now I’m Tumblr.

Susan: Your Tumblr. Do you have the Tumblr app?

Alison:I do. But here's the thing. I don’t like the app. You know we get, what can I say? It's just funny what we get addicted. I got addicted to Tumblr because I love creating this theme and of course you can got purchase themes and change your look of just beautiful images to just look through. It's lovely right?

Susan: It’s so inspiring.

Alison:I know.

Susan: And it just changes the outlook of your day or it might give you a simple idea for a project. It just makes life special.

Alison:I know. Now what’s your thing about Pinterest now? What's got you hooked?

Susan: Well if I think about the things that I pin, I pin a lot of photography stuff. I pin a lot of food. My husband and I both like to cook in a kind of artful way where you are sipping your wine and enjoying making it. A foodie, I guess you can call us foodies. I like that DIY stuff and home interior.

Alison: Do you go cruising around at night like sitting with a motorbike.

Susan: Oh yes. And now I am getting to the point where it’s like I pin a lot of stuff and then people are interested and it’s like, it’s fun. It's addictive on many levels

Alison: But I think it’s a good addiction. I don’t think it’s a terrible addiction.

Susan: No. Have you heard? There are certain, I forget what location it is. I don’t know if it's at a hospital, but they are offering addiction services and one is for being addicted to social media. I'm not kidding.


Alison: I totally believe it because you can live in there just like those games, the alternative universe world you can live it. So, you have to put you know a 12-step program in place for your social media. But what do you feel about on a more serious note? Because people don’t get credited. I mean I put things up on Tumblr, there is no credit for the photo left anymore. It's just something I love.

Susan: It's a big problem. I'm on forums where people are constantly discussing this like the rights that Facebook has. Take your image and use it. It’s true. And I think there is a culture out there that people aren’t even aware that images are copyrighted, and you can’t go and do that. I mean look what happened to Sarah Palin a couple days ago. New York Times is suing her because she used one of their photos. Did she not know? I mean that just makes me wonder if this is just part of our culture where people think they can do that. I don’t know.

Alison:Yes. People are not aware of Copyright Infringement. I have done things to as well. You know you're sharing on Tumblr, Pinterest and other tings and they are not credited. So, it’s sort of just the way it is there.

Susan: I’m doing it to then on Pinterest. If something wasn’t credited, I pin it. So yes, I’m part of the problem too. You're right

Alison:I would rather when I know where its linking to, add the link because it’s frustrating when I go to any of those places and can’t find the source to see more about it. But it’s a whole new world that way. Now where the line really gets drawn that I found, is that you can’t resell. Everything there so far is free. It’s when you exchange money, and someone else's image is being used that it becomes really infringement of something that way.

Susan: But it feels strange. And I've had my image. Two or three times I have come across one of my images that someone used on their blog and it wasn’t credited, and she did a post about coffee. And I said "That's my photo! That's my hand that’s touching the coffee cup!" And they get insulted. I wrote a very nice email and asked her to take it down.

Alison:Oh, you did. OK.

Susan: Yeah. But it’s not always well received.

Alison:Yes. It’s trying to find a way to do that. I'd rather just, yeah. You just have to decide, do you want someone to remove it or credit it or how you want it to be used? But it is part of it. It is part of it. It’s just like when people open up brick and mortar. Stealing is part of your bottom line so copyright, people using your photograph in today's world is part of the business. It just is. It’s hard to not get emotional but it just is. What are you going to do there? But let’s get back to the fun though of photography. So, do you shoot every day?

Susan: I do. I either shoot every day or manipulate every day and I've been doing this now for 10 years and I have not tired of it yet. And I still feel like I’m learning and growing, and it still feels like Christmas morning to me. I don’t think I'll ever get tired of it honestly.

Alison:I know it is. It’s very exciting. Tell everyone your books.

Susan: So, starting from the first one?

Alison:Yeah. Do your first one because you have a whole bunch out there.

Susan: The first one was Exhibition 36. So that’s more of a mixed media book and that one was sort of a virtual art exhibit and there's 36 different artists, myself included who are sharing a project with you and talking about their work. So that one was really enjoyable. So, I got to me a lot of different artist and present a lot of different people's work. And hopefully there was something for everybody in that one. The second one is digital expressions and that focuses on digital art and using photoshop to do various projects. And each project is stepped out with screenshots, very clear so you can replicate the projects in there. And then Photocraft which is what we are talking about today with Christy.

Alison:Which is great fun.

Susan: You can manipulate your photos. On Christy's end she takes them and manipulates them with mixed media materials after they have come out of the printer. Mien takes place in photoshop, so mostly photoshop activities.

Alison:Right. Gosh I used to love doing, gosh what do we call it? You would paint your own emotion on the surface right and then make a huge, I don’t even know if you can buy that film anymore. Can you buy like codalith film really big and make [inaudible]?

Susan: I think so. I think it’s rare, but I do think you can.

Alison:So much fun to play outside with making your images that way. I enjoy anyone who wants to play with mixed media. play around with Photocraft, take a lot at Susan and Christy's new book. And you can find the link on the Craftcast site. Because there are lots of projects to play with and get addicted to. And then you can just take one technique and start playing with it and do endless things with it. Which is always fun to go do.

Susan: And you never know where it will lead.

Alison:I know, that’s the good and the bad. That's the two-o clock in the morning you've taken a link as far as it can go. Sometimes I say to my son, "Well that’s it. I finished the internet last night. Time to start at the beginning" [Laughter] Finished it all. Nothing else to look at. But tomorrow there's more. You just wake up and start again. It’s always fun. Now how many hours do you spend? Do you become a junkie on your computer at this point?

Susan: Well right now I'm working my fourth book so I'm pretty much working relentlessly. Over the summer I had my kids home with me, so my priority was with them and my family and going camping and having a good time. So, I did work but it’s not as concentrated as it is now. So, I have the next couple of months to finish up the manuscript.

Alison:Do you like working on a book?

Susan: I do. I love it. Right now, because I wasn’t able to kind of spread out my work evenly, it’s kind of concentrated now and maybe a little bit more than I would like to have. I love it and I know that after I’m finish writing the manuscript, I’m going to feel like "OK. I’m a little lost now. What do I do now?" And I know I'm going to get a little depressed for a couple days but then I'll just move on. I usually go from one project to the next. So, my next project is to work on another online class, maybe doing mobile photography. But I think I need to force myself to take a break. I'm not very good at that. But I think I need to.

Alison:Yeah good luck with that. Good luck with that.

Susan: I think I’m talking to a person who totally understands where I’m coming from right?

Alison:Yeah. Like a break [inaudible]. Go out for the afternoon and I don’t know [crosstalk]. Exactly.

Susan: Off to the next thing.

Alison:Yeah. That's sort of one of those, not one of those things. Well yeah. That's fun. Your baby gets born and then you have to move on to the next project. There's a little bit of lost and you have to figure out where you are going to create next.

Susan: Yes. And I keep wondering if there's something that will come out of that book, like more of a focus of teaching photography with some photoshop where in the past, it’s been really digging into photoshop with a little bit of the photography stuff. But we'll see. And I've developed a following and an audience that takes my classes so I don’t know how they would feel about more photography or let’s do an iPhone class, do you know what I mean? Have to see, to kind of test the waters and see.

Alison:Well where do you get your inspiration? Because people who make content, you are creating out of sort of empty space. So, you have to be filled up and excited. So where do you get your inspiration to get recharged?

Susan: Sara: Well I think it happens naturally because I do live in the woods, in Maine. So, there is just so much natural beauty around. So just that. If we are talking about my iPhone work, all I have to do is go to the thrift shop and find a used tutu and I’m good to go.

Alison:Oh, I wish we could play together [inaudible]. That just got my attention.


Susan: I have a makeshift studio that I can put up easily and take down easily. It’s in our bedroom and it consist of a clothesline that we can attach and then I have various sheets that I hang up there whether they be white or black. And my husband will sometimes assist me if I don’t feel like using the tripod. So, I'll position myself and he'll take various shots. But what I found is that my eight-year-old daughter is an amazing photographer. She has an amazing eye, and she loves to be my assistant. So, she comes in and stands up on this little bench and she is directing me. She's like "Mommy, move your arm this way." And she comes over and she adjust the dress. She thinks the fold is not quite right. She's like "Put your head this way mommy." And she gives me these little directions and then she gets up and takes these photos and she blows me away!

Alison:Don’t you love it?

Susan: She's almost eight, she's seven going on eight.

Alison:It’s not a surprise considering you are her mom. but don’t you just love it? And it will just get more because my son is much older.

Susan: She is an artist.

Alison:And I see when he'll tell me, I'll go to his apartment. now he grew up in New York City and I worked in advertising. So, it had a certain design look where we lived and things you know it was all styled and [makes noises]. So, I go to his apartment in LA and it looks just like it. And he is saying yeah, you know. Friend comes over and he's like I can’t believe you live this way. And it’s like well I grew up with a mom in New York City who did advertising and styling. It’s sort of, I can't help it. So just wait. Your daughter will have the same thing. She is going to blow you away. It’s so much fun to watch what they do.

Susan: That is funky. And she loves to be my subject.

Alison:She does? Oh Great.

Susan: She's all over my blog. I mean she'll look at the camera and she knows somehow. She'll look at it in this soulful way and some of it is posed. She goes in this mode and I am just left baffled. Like how do you know? You are looking right into lens.

Alison:She's an old soul.

Susan: You're like looking right into my soul. Like what are you doing girl?

Alison:Yeah. It’s so great.

Susan: Both my kids are amazing.

Alison:She's got that artistic side. Now are you the kind of person that gets excited when you see a garage? You can’t hear me? Did we just get a bad connection?

Susan: Oh, I can hear. You are going in and out, but I think you just asked me do I get excited about garage sales?

Alison:Yeah, wait. Let’s just do it clean. Hold on. Yeah. Are you the kind of person that gets really excited when you see a garage sale sign and you have to stop? Do you stop for garage sales?

Susan: Yes. Oh yes. All the time and my daughter likes it now too. And I'm very excited because I used to be the lone garage saler. Nobody else in my family wanted to go but she's like "When can we go next mom? When can we go next?" Yeah, you find some great stuff.

Alison:I know it.

Susan: My home consists of lots of yard sale pieces and I love goodwill too. Clothing and fashion, I find there. It’s a unique way to construct one's life.

Alison:It is.

Susan: It reminds me of Maya Angelou when she talks how about fashion is really about what you like and wear it if you like it. And bring it into your home if you like it. It’s exciting when you can do it on a budget too.


Susan: At Christmas time we'll go to relatives and they'll say, "Oh I love your outfit, your boots." And I say, "Well it cost me about $10." I like to say that you know.

Alison: No that's all about personal style and creativity. It’s very joyous when that comes together. We all love that.

Susan: So, you go to yard sales too? Do you look in the paper and decide what's your route going to be?

Alison:I don’t do that. I did that years ago. No, it’s just carefree. I just stop because the truth of the matter is, I have to draw a line and I've made the decision. I don’t get it unless I really, really can’t live without it and can use it in something. Otherwise it has to stay where it is. That doesn’t mean I still don’t enjoy going and looking though.

Susan: No, I understand what you mean. There comes a point where you just can’t have any more stuff. And I like things, but we have a minimalist style in the house. So, if I bring something new in, something has to go.

Alison:Something has to go.

Susan: Because we just don’t have the room.

Alison:But it is so much fun. And I always rationalize it by, I did that I can use it as a prop. I have a shoot coming up, I'll use it as a prop. So there is easy rationalization for everything. You never know when you are going to need it for something.

Susan: I can’t fit the costumes in my closet anymore. I'm renting out space for my daughter's closet. If you go in there, there are antique dresses and ballroom gowns and tutus. I own three tutus.

Alison:Lovely. Enjoyable I say. Well now what's your passion right now?

Susan: Yeah you definitely have to come over and play.

Alison:I would definitely enjoy a good tutu day. What’s your passion right now for the kind of photos your shooting? Like what’s your expression that you are working on that you keep being drawn to. Is there a constant thing that you are doing?

Susan: Well it depends what device I’m picking up. If it’s my digital camera with the interchangeable lenses, I am really inspired by seasons and what’s going on just in my own backyard. So I would go out and maybe I'll attach my macro lens and photograph things very close up or go on a day trip with my family and then I'll put on my zoom lens so I can get a landscape shot with a wide angle. Or I can zoom in and take a picture of my kids in the woods. That inspires me. And then if I pick up my iPhone, I go pick out a costume. Maybe put on some interesting makeup, do my hair and pull the sheet across and start dancing and playing and modelling and just, I don’t know. its looks sort of like maybe Martha Graham gone wild.

Alison:I love it. Yeah, I'm looking right here, right now at your site with the beautiful pictures of your children and everything. So gorgeous. Yeah. The whole vintage thing too is just pulls its weight in.

Susan: That was apple picking.

Alison:Oh, it was apple picking? Yeah, that’s beautiful. You know I’m going bet because I can see right here.

Susan: And I love that one of my daughters reaching up with the apple.

Alison:Oh my gosh. She's so gorgeous. I can see what you mean about. I’m sure she does know exactly what she is doing. Yes, beautiful. And I can see right here your class on lite.

Susan: She does. She knows exactly what she is doing.

Alison:Exactly. You know how light the importance of light. Do you ever walk outside and go, "Oh my gosh this is the most beautiful light right now? I have to take pictures?"

Susan: I do, and I know that you are really only supposed to shoot during the golden hours, but I shoot all different times of day. because I always find something amazing about the give and light. Like if it’s the bright light of day, water looks amazing when you photograph it. Oh, someone is coming up my driveway. If I’m picking up my iPhone, that whole style is very different from what you see on my blog. And I’ve entered a lot of contests, I've done shows and my work has gone to London and New York and Vermont so that’s exciting. Because I haven’t really gotten into shows with my DSLR photography. So, it’s kind of exciting that my little iPhone can take me to these places. I've have yet to follow that iPhone piece to a gallery in London but maybe someday I'll be able to just pick up and go. I think that's exciting because anybody can do that. Anybody can take that iPhone out and use it as an artistic medium and find their niche and enter these contests. I mean you never know. You might have your next show in London. It can happen.

Alison:Beautiful. Now which iPhone are you using?

Susan: It’s the beauty of the iPhone.

Alison:Really. Which one are you using?

Susan: Well right now I have not upgraded. I have my 4S. But I am looking at the exchange program and thinking about the latest one. There's two, now right? There's the 5C.

Alison:Well there is the one that’s coming out this week or did it come out last week?

Susan: Yeah. Aren’t there two that are coming out? The 5C and then there is, the 5C comes in fruity colours and then there is a more expensive one that comes out and then I forget what letter it is. But those are silver, gold and black. And I’m thinking, well it doesn’t really matter. You are going to put on your own little case on it anyway. I do find that funny. It’s like American Express Gold.

Alison:I know I thought that was funny too. Well maybe that’s a take-off of years and years ago when you worked in photography, professionally all your equipment had to be black.

Susan: Is that right?

Alison:Oh yes. I guess I’m showing how long I've been doing this. Yeah. You could only use black equipment. You couldn’t buy your camera with the silver. That meant you weren’t professional.

Susan: Oh gosh. That’s so silly.

Alison:It was major. It was like oh my god that was like, that's not professional. Now of course you can be professional with one of those plastic vintage cameras.

Susan: You can. Isn’t that great?

Alison:I know.

Susan: Well it is very funny. All you have to do is attach a giant honking lens to your camera and go into a restaurant and you get great service. They think you are there to receive their food.

Alison:Exactly. OK, that’s a good thing. I have to remember to bring my lens that way. That’s always important. You know it’s sort of, it is just endless fun. Now tell everyone, how many backup drives do you have at this point because you have to have a lot of storage for this.

Susan: Yeah. We have two at home and one at my husband's work. And then we also have put certain things on gold cd's because they supposedly will last a hundred years. The other ones, yeah. And also, let’s see. I have drobox. Oh, we have something else that’s online. My husband does a lot of this stuff too. He's in the background. So, it’s very helpful. He is very techie so.

Alison:Oh good. You need a good person like that to help with saving everything.

Susan: And I can be techie too, but my focus is more on if I’m going on the computer it’s to do my photos, do you know what I mean. So, it’s nice to have somebody that actually relishes in the technical aspects. So, I’m doing my blog post, and something goes awry, I’m like honey I can’t figure out why this WordPress plugin wont update. So, he just sits down and takes care of it. So, this is a good.

Alison:Oh. Let’s post his phone number for everyone so we can [laughter]. We all someone like that in our life. Well now would you say on your photographs you spend, percentage wise how many of your photos are manipulated in photoshop?

Susan: That's a great question. I used to do way more. I think less these days because I'm enjoying doing a lot of the work with my camera. And so, I’m getting very crisp, clear good photos to begin with and creative blur, I’m getting really good at manipulating abature. Knowing what to do with the settings. So, when I bring it into Photoshop, generally I do a few tweaks. Maybe sharpness, a little bit of contrast, maybe up the saturation and fix a couple of tonal problems or if there is any extraneous pixels in there, I would get rid of it with the healing tool or the clone stamp tool. But its minimal. And if I want to do something with a texture or something a little bit more fancy, that takes a little more time. But I think now I'm manipulating less in photoshop than I used to.

Alison:And playing more.

Susan: When it comes to the iPhone, I’m manipulating everything, but I have some go to apps. And I don’t know, pieces can take me months, weeks, sometimes an hour. It just depends. I just kind of know when it’s done and most of my stuff that I do I’m like, no, no, no. Not there, not there. I say no to most of my things.

Alison:You are a good editor.

Susan: But when I get something, it has to really get me in the gut, otherwise I’m not going to share it.

Alison:You know what we used to call that? When I was a consultant for Disney, I directed their kids and toys and creative for that.

Susan: You did?

Alison:I did. But the photo didn’t get through until everyone in the meeting went [makes sounds]. And then I knew, ok it’s a good one.

Susan: Yes. It’s that wow factor.

Alison:Yes. You just went like oh.

Susan: And you can’t always explain what it is or why. And even if you followed all the rules from the beginning of time, that’s not what it is.

Alison:It's that x factor thing people talk about. You just go oh that looks so [gasps]. And that’s when you know, ok that works. That one is good. We love that. So, it’s a very good thing. Well tell people because you said you're on all the different fun Pinterest and things up there. They should all go to to get all these links, correct?

Susan: Yes. It’s all there.

Alison:Ok perfect. Come to the site if you forget that URL. And as always, it’s a pleasure chatting with you Ms Susan Tuttle. I know we could have an easy play date and probably stay up very late at night.

Susan: That would be fabulous. I would love that.

Alison:Doing all kinds of fun things.

Susan: I always like talking to you. It’s just so easy, it’s so fun. I feel like I’m hanging out with a girlfriend. So, thank you for that.

Alison: My pleasure. Thank you for coming on and I’ll talk to you again soon.

Susan: Wonderful. Thank you.