Year in Review

I think we can all agree, what a crazy year it’s been! As we entered 2021 there was hope that we would be over the whole COVID pandemic thing, but here we are closing out the year and we’ll start a new year still dealing with this virus. For us at DS Visual Art we hope that all of our readers and their families continue to be safe during this time.

In addition to all of the other challenges that we’ve faced throughout the year, engaging in our photography business has been a major obstacle. In previous posts I have made mention of a weekly photography challenge, 52Frames, that I’ve been participating in. Not only has this helped maintain my sanity since joining, it’s pushed me in trying new things in photography.

The wonderful thing about this site is that its purpose is give each participant with a weekly challenge to help them develop their photography skills. I didn’t start the challenge until April of this year but have successfully submitted every week. In addition to the weekly challenge they have an “Extra Challenge”. If you love photography but find it difficult to stay motivated I highly encourage you to check it out.

Simple beauty

Sometimes single objects can make some of the most interesting photographs. With the studio now set up I’ve been looking for any opportunity to do some photography.

Simple low-key setup

For this shot I chose to use a single object, a head of garlic. Because of the small size of my subject I knew that I would have to not only use a small light source but also control the direction for the light in order to minimize unwanted lit areas.


  • Backdrop – Black Savage paper backdrop
  • Platform – Posing table
  • Flash – Nikon SB-800 speed light with snoot* made from a koozie
  • Light stand for flash – Located right of subject

*Snoot – In photography, a snoot is a tube or similar object that fits over a studio light or portable flash and allows the photographer to control the direction and radius of the light beam. These may be conical, cylindrical, or rectangular in shape. Snoots can isolate a subject when using a flash. Wikipedia

After taking a couple of test shots I found that because of the light position and narrowness of the light I needed some way of lightening some of the shadows on the left side of the garlic.

While there are many fancy ways that this could be accomplished the only thing that is required is some way of bouncing light back on the subject. For this particular shot I used a simple sheet of paper. This proved to be ideal to bring just enough light back onto the garlic head to help soften the harsh shadows.

Although not necessarily intentional, the posing table provided a slight reflection. For this particular shot I think that this really helps the image so it doesn’t look like the garlic is just floating in mid-air.

So as you can see with a small setup and just a simple subject you can achieve some really images. I highly encourage everyone to do whatever you need to in order to continue to hone your photography skills.

In the coming weeks I will be doing some low-key portrait photography as well as continuing to do some more still-life shots. Anyway, thanks as always for checking in at our site and if you have any questions or comments please be sure to reach out to us.

Thank you,

Sharon & Doug Shatto

Studio is LIVE!

Well we’ve talked about it, but we can officially say the DS Visual Art studio is live and open for business. The backdrops are up and lights are ready to go. As mentioned in previous posts the studio area has accessibility that allows photographing from a higher vantage point down into the main shop area.

Barn Door allows shooting photography down into main shop
Main studio with lights & backdrops

We so happy to have this new space and are looking forward to capturing some amazing photographs. If you’re looking for portrait photography call us today to book a session. If you’re looking for some amazing fine art be sure to check out our website,

Studio update

Well as we stated last month we’ve been working on building out some studio space for DS Visual Art. It’s with great satisfaction that we can say that the studio is finally nearing completion.

Studio space with new flooring

It’s been almost a year in the making, and years of dreaming, but the studio is almost complete. The photo above shows about 2/3 of the space. Since this image was taken we have installed our backdrop hanger (which will hold 3 different backdrops).

In addition to backdrops, we’ve started moving lighting equipment up to the space. One thing that makes this space unique is the fact that with the studio being in a loft area, we have build in the ability to photograph from the loft to the lower level of the building. While the primary space will be used for portrait and other types of photography, we will also have the space to accommodate vehicle photography.

Other features we will be adding in the very short term will be themed backgrounds and lighting supports to reduce the need for light stands which will help increase shooting space.

That pretty much sums up this update. Thanks for continuing to follow our journey. Stay tuned as we’ll be looking to start providing more instructional posts now that we have a space to do them.

Update on DS Visual Art

Well it’s been a while since we’ve posted anything here on our blog. One of the main reasons for this is we moved and as part of the move are building out a photography studio space.

While we’ve had studio space in the past it’s always felt very temporary, this new space is shaping up to be a very versatile space. We’re looking forward to it’s completion which we’re thinking should be Winter of ’19.

In addition being able to provide studio portrait photography, we’ll be better equipped to do product photography and creative shots. Oh and one thing that I forgot to mention is we’ll be able to do some indoor vehicle photography as well.

That’s about it for the update. Thanks for sticking with us and stay tuned for more updates.

Doug & Sharon

Pricing now available on our site

As indicated in our previous post, we at DS Visual Art have listened to you our customers. We now have added Portrait pricing as well as pricing for a variety of mediums for our gallery photographs. Head over to today to check them out and as always thanks for your feedback.

Change to services

As times change so must businesses. In the past DS Visual Art has not offered digital images files. There were a number of reasons for this decision. However, after heavy consideration of feedback received from our customers we have decided to begin offering digital image files with each of our packages.

This change is our way of meeting the needs of our customers. We appreciate the feedback and are always looking for the best way to serve you.

Back in the studio with lights

I’d like to start this post by saying “Thank You” to my wife and business partner Sharon for her constant support on this photography adventure.  It was because of her that we’ve established a studio location which affords us the opportunity to make full use of our light equipment without having to continually drag it out.

With the onset of colder weather here in Colorado my desire to be outside shooting is very low, having a studio location has been a huge benefit.  Recently I was looking for photography ideas and stumbled upon an article about photographing smoke.

Having done this type of shoot in the past I thought it might be fun to revisit this subject.  There were a couple of things that I identified during the planning of this shoot.

1.  Would like to use a “safe” source for the smoke.     

    2.  Want to reduce strong smell created by smoke

In the past I had used incense as a smoke source.  While this is a relatively safe source, the odor from incense can be very pungent and takes a long time to dissipate.  I also considered using a candle, but this poses many of the same issues as incense.  It was looking like I might be forced to use one of these two sources when it dawned on me that Sharon has an essential oils mister. SCORE!

Now that I had a safe source for smoke (or mist) in this case it was time to set up the lights.  For this shot I used two lights (one on each side) with matching stripbox light modifiers and grids against a solid black backdrop.

So why did I chose to light this using side lighting?  The primary reason was to retain definition in the smoke.  Had this image been lit using a light straight on from the front it would have flattened the mist losing detail.

Another issue with front lighting is minimizing light from falling on the backdrop.  This is where the grids on the stripboxes help limit where the falls, as you can see from the small strips of light on each side of the mister.  Without the grids the light would have wrapped around the front edge.

Now that I had the image it was time for post processing.  In order to make the image more dramatic I decided convert the base image to B&W and add some color to the mist.  The great thing about the process used to add color in Photoshop is I could change it to any color that I wanted.  This gave me an idea of combining three copies of the one image and using different colors.  Here is my “patriotic” edition.

Sharon and I have been asked in the past about how to reduce light hotspots or reflections when doing product photography.  Not only does this lighting setup provide a very dramatic effect it can be extremely useful for product photography.

Using the same setup as above I decided to do some test shots of my guitar.  Moving the lights slightly closer to the camera but still parallel to the subject I was able to achieve good front lighting without creating any harsh reflections.

This image perfectly demonstrates my previous point about side-lighting for product photography.  The finish on the guitar is very glossy which if lit from the front would have produced reflections of any light source which would could be distracting.

As you’re already aware I’m a big fan of using external lights for photography, both indoor and outdoor.  That being said I would like to  encourage you, the reader, to experiment with different lighting angles.

If you have any questions regarding the equipment or techniques used please feel free to contact me.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this article.




Expanding to Portrait Photography

When Sharon and I decided to establish an online presence for DS Visual Art the initial thought was to provide a “Fine Art” gallery showcasing select prints on museum quality mediums.  After several conversations and much introspection we came to the conclusion that we wanted to offer so much more to our customers.

While we continue to showcase a wide selection of photographs that are available for purchase on higher end mediums such as giclee canvas, premium papers and metals we’re now offering lower cost materials as well.  In addition to that we’re expanding our services to include Senior Portraits, Families, Children, Commercial and Event Photography

You might be asking yourself “Why the change?”  That’s a great question and one that deserves an honest answer.  Regardless of the subject we have a strong passion for providing people with the highest quality images that they can proudly display in their home, office or any other location.  Being creative spirits the thought of limiting our photography to a single area seems too confining.

With the ever increasing number of “photographers” in the market these days how does our approach to portrait photography differ?  One of the primary differences is lighting.  Lighting is just as important for an outdoor location shoot as it is in the studio.  Certainly outdoors there is a huge light source called the sun but it is a challenge to control without the assistance of lights.

Most photographers will rely solely on the sun to light their subject.  Others will use handheld reflectors to either block the sun or redirect light.  While these are both options, Sharon and I feel that in order to provide the most pleasing light it requires studio lighting with the appropriate light modifiers (e.g. beauty dish, soft box, grids, etc.)

Let’s take a look at a few examples to help demonstrate the difference.

It’s clear that this image was taken outside with no lighting or reflector other than the sun lighting the right side of her face.

While the shadowing on her face certainly lends itself to adding depth, notice how the lack of light on her face makes her eyes look very shallow.

Another issue with this photo is that there is almost too much contrast in lighting between the right and left sides of her face.  This is where a reflector would have helped balance out the lighting.  Now let’s take a look at a photograph using studio lighting.

As with the previous photograph this photo was taken outdoors but a light with a soft box was used for the main light and the sun as a back light.

Placing the subjects with their back to the sun eliminated any squinting due to bright light while providing a beautiful rim light.  Notice how the subtle lighting on Mike’s green shirt helps provide separation from the grass in the background.

You’ll also notice that while there is some shadowing on their face to provide depth the lighting is more evenly distributed providing a more pleasant look.  Another thing you’ll notice is how the light helps eliminate unwanted shadows.

In the first image I talked about how the lack of light made the subject’s eyes look shallow or vacant.  Let’s look at a another photo to show how lighting helps in this area.

Let me begin saying this is not how I would normally have cropped this image, but in order to help demonstrate my point it’s cropped in very close.

As you can see from the background this was an outdoor shoot in a very shaded area.  There are two things I would like to draw your attention to.

    First notice how nicely lit the boy’s face is.  Now look at his eyes.  Those little bright spots are called “catch lights”.   Notice how much these little bursts of light bring life to his eyes as opposed to the first image with no light?
    Rest assured, when you hire DS Visual Art we will use every tool at our disposal to capture that “heirloom” quality image.  After all it’s your complete satisfaction that we are striving for.
    We invite you to visit our newly added portrait gallery along with all of our galleries at our website.

Portrait Gallery

DS Visual Art Galleries

    In closing Sharon and I would like to say “Thank you” for reading more about DS Visual Art.  We hope that we’ll have the opportunity to assist with your photography needs in the near future.
    Best regards,
    Sharon and Doug

Welcome to our Grand Opening – Happily sharing a graceful turning point in our lives!

Such an amazing adventure for Doug and I as we enter into our true calling of fine art photography. We are very excited to share this graceful turning point with all of our new and lifelong encouraging supporters.

Doug and I have been “fighting” our truest desire to open up a formal Fine Art Gallery for some time. We humbly owe this grand opening to the supportive words of many of our friends and family for the last 25 years. As a matter of fact we entertained renting studio real estate in Sonoma, California, Old Colorado City, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico on several occasions.

We finally decided that our approach needed to be much further reaching by developing a “virtual” gallery that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home by anyone who owns a computer or smart phone.  It comes to you from our hearts and hope that each piece displayed tells a story and creates an emotion for all of our followers.  We continue to be blessed with “everything” we need to be successful to include abundant experience, equipment, talent, and never ending passion for digitally mastered fine art.

We hope that you enjoy the “live” site as it evolves.  We also hope to inspire other likeminded photographers going forward with blogging, showcasing, mentoring and coaching programs.  We are learning much about the e-commerce business and continue to polish our photography skills from things as small as the flowers in the garden to our international travels and adventures. We both agree that when it’s time to shut out the lights it would be a shame to have ignored this calling.

Blessings to all,

Sharon and Doug