Category Archives: Home Portraits

Portrait of a Church

I’ve been playing with this church portrait for a few weeks now, in between traveling and other projects. Today has been a “home portrait” day…two portraits of clients’ lovely homes started, one portrait of a family business finished, and the finishing touches on this church.  I wanted to do this church because it is one of four churches in our village and eventually I would like to do all four.  This one will probably actually be the easiest of the four.  When you read what was involved, you’ll see why I started with this one.

Churches are, often, a kind of home for many so it seemed fitting that my home portrait work should include churches.   This is St. James’ Episcopal Church in Clinton, NY along with it’s attached pastor’s home.  It is very typical architecture for Episcopal churches in this part of the country.   I’ve always loved it’s invitingly bright yellow color.

Obviously, the first step is always to photograph the building.  It can take some research and a few attempts to decide the best time of day for a particular structure.  This church faces almost directly west so an early evening capture worked best.  In the morning, the sun would have been shining directly into the camera.  I also watch the weather and the skies.  This day gave me lovely puffy clouds that I often have to paint into an image.

The church is on a lovely street with 19th century homes which are fairly close together, so I couldn’t stand too far back from the church.  Even though I was able to get it all in one frame, it still had a bit of perspective distortion (it appears to be leaning back) so that was the first thing to be corrected once I brought the image into Photoshop.

Next up, and the biggest job, were all those distracting wires.  Sometimes you can avoid them with a different angle but there was no way to do that this time. There’s no quick way to remove those if you want it to appear they were never there.  There are several tools in Photoshop that help with this and I use a combination of them depending on the spot, but overall it took a few hours to remove all the power lines.  The lines in the trees are actually the most difficult. It’s a task that is a bit meditative, not unlike working on a puzzle.  I would do a bit and go to another project and come back for some more later. Little by little the lines disappeared which makes for a much less cluttered image.  Someone someday, I’m sure, will invent a filter to quickly remove power lines.  One can only hope. 🙂

Original Photograph used to create the digiitial painting of St. James' Episcopal Church in Clinton, NY.

Original Photograph used to create the digiitial painting of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Clinton, NY.

Next, the car in the right hand corner needed to go as well as the one behind the bushes and to the left of the church.  The latter, I covered up with some extra bushes and siding.

The colors in the small rose window as well as the signature red side door needed a bit of a boost.  The overall color, contrast, and detail was also enhanced.  The lines of the board and batten siding, so typical for Episcopal church architecture, didn’t stand out enough, so those were enhanced as well. Contrary to that, the yellow curb was inordinately bright where the sun hit it, so the saturation on that was lowered.  I played with cropping the curb and road out but the church was then too close to the bottom of the image.  I considered turning the road into lawn but it would have taken it too far from what it is, so decided to leave it.

Finally, I was able to apply brush strokes and create the painting of this beautiful church.

Final digiital painting of St. James' Episcopal Church in Clinton, NY

Final digiital painting of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Clinton, NY

For more about the process of my home portraits, see the Home Portrait section on this website.

Portrait of an Inn

We often stay at country inns and b&b’s when we travel.  We learn so much more about an area that way than we would by staying in a big chain hotel.  For several years I’ve made a habit of photographing the inn where we’ve stayed and creating a “home” portrait like those I’ve been recently sharing with you.

We were traveling recently and stayed at Cooper’s Landing Inn, in Clarksville, VA for a couple of nights. The inn was loaded with the ambiance and charm that only an 1830 Southern home could possess.  I knew it would make a good subject for one of my home portraits.

Straight digital capture often doesn’t portray what our eyes see and our bodies feel in a scene. 

It took a while to decide the best time of day as well as the angle to photograph the inn.  AS we arrived back after a day of exploring, the early evening sun was glancing off the upper windows so I took that opportunity.  That time of day, it can be difficult to capture the true sense of the light with the camera.  Straight digital capture often doesn’t portray what our eyes see and our bodies feel in a scene.  I knew I could bring out those qualities as I was creating the digital painting.  Finding the right angle took a quite a few minutes as well as quite a few bug bites. It’s always a good idea to walk around a bit, change your perspective, trying various angles till you find the best one.  I finally found this angle but didn’t like the lack of surroundings in just one image of the inn.  Finally, I took 4 separate images while panning across the scene, planning to merge them together into the one you see here.  That gives a better sense of the setting of the inn.

Original image used to create Digital Painting of Cooper's Landing, Clarksville, VA.Original image (4 images merged together) used to create Digital Painting of Cooper’s Landing, Clarksville, VA.

A few of the steps in this digital painting:

The first step was to crop the image.  I used the walkway and the light streams as leading lines to draw the eye to the inn.  As it often is with digital images straight from the camera, it was a little flat, so I enhanced the contrast, color, and detail a bit.  I brought out the detail of the chairs and trees in the shadows on the left of the inn as well as some of the details on the porch.  The foliage on the trees also needed some attention to give it more contrast and detail, more life.  The sky was dull as well as blown out in places, which often happens that time of day.  I added in some blue and some clouds to make it more interesting.  the light in the scene didn’t reflect what I saw that evening so I brightened and warmed it up to better express the scene I had been in as well as the warmth and coziness of the inn itself.

Digital Painting?

Many people have asked me to explain digital painting.  The short answer is that it is using tools on the computer to create paintings.  As with traditional painting there are a great many tools and the results depend on the tools used and the person using them.  They are just different tools.  As one of my instructors states, “the magic is not in the brush but in the mind and soul of the artist.”

Instead of moving paint around a canvas, pixels are moved around. Instead of using a paintbrush, a pen and tablet as shown below become the brush.  Within digital painting programs, there are thousands of brush qualities that you can create with the pen. Some digital artists begin with a blank “canvas” others begin with a photograph and work with and add to the information available there.  Because of the prevalence of push button effects for images on phones and such, it is often assumed that digital painting is simply clicking a button but it is much more than that.

 As one of my instructors, Jane Conner-Ziser states, “the magic is not in the brush but in the mind and soul of the artist.”

Wacom Tablet and pen used in digital painting.

Wacom Tablet and pen used in digital painting.

The pen is used instead of a mouse and brush-like strokes are made on the tablet service.

The pen is used instead of a mouse and brush-like strokes are made on the tablet surface to create the strokes in the image.

The final painting of Coopers Landing  reflects the warmth and charm that we experienced during our stay there.

Coopers Landing © GSHaile

Coopers Landing © GSHaile








Portrait of the White House

A trip to Washington DC would not be complete without a visit to the White House.   

We tried to get tickets for a White House tour through our representative’s office  but were apparently too late for the spring rush on visiting Washington.  So doing a walk by would have to suffice.

While I was standing in front of the fence taking pictures of the White House along with several hundred other tourists, I wondered to myself why I was doing it.  I seldom, if ever,  take the “usual” sorts of images in tourist locations.

Then I thought of my new project doing portraits of people’s homes.  This would be the ultimate home portrait – the White House!  

It was fun and a good way to practice my skills, as each image presents it’s own challenges.

Like the post from a few weeks ago, Makeover Story: Portrait of a Cozy CottageI thought I would share with you the steps involved in creating this home portrait of the White House.

  • For this image, I wanted to capture as much of the landscaping on either side, so that I could make decisions later about what to include or not.  So I took three images, as you see below.
White House Originals_©Gail Haile

White House Originals_©Gail Haile

  • In Adobe Photoshop, I merged those three to make one image that included the whole wide view of the house and the landscaping.
  • I added to the sky to give more space above the house and the one tall tree.
  • The image was cropped to make an interesting composition.
  • There were quite a few distracting elements that needed to be removed, a green golf cart, some blue things (no idea what they were), some spot lights, a person walking down the front left steps, and a few other small items.  I use a variety of tools and techniques based on the specific element and what is around it in the image.
  • There was a long row of spent tulips in front of the hedge, between the red tulips currently blooming.  I decided to paint in red tulips over the spent ones so they became a focal point that frames the house.
  • I love cloudless skies, except in a painting.  So I painted in some clouds, just enough to balance out the image.
  • After that, it needed some contrast and brightness and extra color painted in on the shrubs, trees, and flowers.  Some overall adjustments to contrast and color were also done.

The result, a home portrait for the White House! 



As always, please share this with anyone you know who may also be interested.  Thanks!

Makeover Story: Portrait of a Cozy Cottage

Everyone loves a makeover.  The list of television shows based on the idea of a makeover , extreme or otherwise, is very long.  Before and after photos of kitchens, backyards, hairstyles, fitness programs, and more can be found all over the internet.  We love the the sense of renewal that comes with makeovers.

A makeover is a one description of what I like to do with my images.  What comes from the camera can be a bit flat and full of things that don’t belong.  For me, that is just the starting point.  What comes from the camera is not always what I envisioned in my mind when I first encountered the scene.  There is a category in this blog call Second Look, examples of images that I’ve revisited and given a makeover.  I’ve been particularly enjoying doing this with images of homes and buildings recently.

I happened upon this lovely cottage when we were visiting Connecticut last fall.   I knew it had the potential for an interesting home portrait.

Cozy Cottage RAW file_ ©GSHaile  This is the image just as it came from the camera.

Cozy Cottage RAW file_ ©GSHaile This is the image just as it came from the camera.

The image just as my camera’s sensor recorded it with no processing at all is a RAW file. Many cameras only give you a JPG file that had been compressed and lost information.   RAW files give you much more leeway to make changes and be creative.

Then the work (and fun) begins. To makeover this image:

  • I cropped out the bit of the house to the left, the little bit of car on the right, and some  of the road in front.  There was still some of the house on the left remaining when I got the proper crop so I added greenery over it, extending the wooded area.
  • There was still a bit of the road in the bottom right corner and I turned that into leaf strewn gravel like the rest of the foreground.
  • The messy power lines were removed.  (One of the most time consuming parts of the image.  Someone should invent a magic filter to take out power lines. 🙂 )
  • Color and saturation adjustments were made throughout the image, both globally and selectively.  Painting in brightness and contrast selectively gives more depth to the image.
  • The dark area to the left of the cottage seemed empty and my eye kept going there, expecting to see something.  I tried adding a bench but that didn’t really do what I wanted.  So I painted in a trunk to anchor the greenery there.
  • The sky was bright and colorless. It’s subtle, but I added a hint of blue to the sky to convey that bright, hazy October sky.
  • The window on the door had something covering the middle panes and I restored the glass in that area.
  • The roof of the firewood structure had the green tarp hanging down which wasn’t very pleasing, so I worked some magic and made it go away.
  • Finally I did some digital painting all over the image to take it even further from the realm of a straight photograph.

All of this makeover was done in Adobe Photoshop.  Sometimes, I also use Corel Painter.

The final image is much more what my eyes and my mind saw when I first came upon this lovely cottage. Not as much a makeover, as bringing the life back to the original image.

Cozy Cottage ©Gail Haile The final painting of this quaint cottage in Chester, CT.

Cozy Cottage ©Gail Haile
The final painting of this quaint cottage in Chester, CT.