Category Archives: PHoto inspiration

Flatbooks Interview

I was recently interviewed by Flatbooks, the publisher (Trey Ratcliff) of my new eBook, Photographing Children Naturally and wanted to share. You can also find this interview on

Photographing Children Naturally by Cheryl Machat Dorskind

FB:When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?

I always had romantic notions of being an artist. As a young girl, I studied painting at the local art studio. In my teens, my father traveled to Europe often and would bring home all sorts of cameras. When I was 16, he built a darkroom and I spent many high school nights developing black and white film. I was amazed as I watched the prints develop. I saved money for a couple of years and bought my first “pro” camera—a Nikkormat with a 105 mm f/2 lens. I still have them.

My childhood passions—photography and painting—are the foundation of my career today. I started off hand-painting photographs (layering washes of oil paint onto fiber prints {traditional darkroom prints}). This is the topic of my first book, The Art of Handpainting Photographs. Motherhood propelled me into the field of children photography, a common gateway for many photographers.

FB: What is the essential equipment needed?

The short answer is, it depends. Photography is more accessible for newcomers as the prices of Prosumer cameras continue to drop. On a certain level, all you need is: a camera, a lens, a media card, a computer, and photo editing software.

I learned from Allen Ginsberg that you don’t have to have a “great” camera to capture meaningful pictures. Rather, you must always have a camera with you and have something to “say.”

FB: How is photographing a child different than an adult?

The biggest challenge with children is getting them to stay still and act natural. Give them enough space and time and they will cooperate. Better yet, they will forget that you’re even there.

Adults are more easily directed but, they often hide behind a mask—they are nervous and self-conscious. Patience and understanding helps dissipate unease.

A portrait is a collaboration between the photographer and the subject. The whole experience is very social and personal. With subjects of all ages, it’s important to relate, be conversational and encourage relaxation—then real moments appear. This is what I’m after—honest and true expressions. With experience you learn to anticipate the twinkle in the eye, the relaxed mouth, a real smile, loving glances, and emotive body language. You become synchronized and are able to click the shutter at the decisive moment to create a natural, honest portrait.

In my eBook, Photographing Children Naturally, I offer tips for posing and rapport.

FB: What kind of education and skills are necessary to be successful?

I’m a self-taught photographer. I have a BS in Marketing from Boston University, School of Management. Before photography (BF), I was a Product Manager at CBS Records (now Sony Music). Later, I worked as a graphic designer. These work experiences have been instrumental in my own success as an author, photo artist, and educator/mentor.

Understanding the anatomy of a camera, lighting techniques, and photo editing software are critical to photographic success. Inspiration and innovation arise from understanding the history of photography and art. These cross disciplines are a core component of my teaching and mentoring.

If photography is a business aspiration, it’s important to be proficient in business skills, social media, and writing.

FB: How important is capturing in camera versus post-processing?

Capture (the shot) is king and the goal is to have the best digital negatives. To accomplish this, it’s best to shoot RAW and capture an accurate exposure—the hallmark of a good photograph. Post-processing enhances—it’s the icing on the cake.

That said, “icing” can make the “cake” more delicious. In post-processing I focus my attention on skin tone. Some people prefer warm tones and others prefer cool—I have a really good example of these tones in my eBook, Photographing Children Naturally.

In my RAW workflow (ACR and LR), I go easy on clarity and sharpening. In Adobe Photoshop, I retouch by fixing blemishes, softening wrinkles, sliming down—just a tad. It’s important that there’s not an obvious software connection.

FB: How do you stay up-to-date in an ever-changing digital world?

I am curious and open to new people (influencers in many fields including technology, art, literature, film, music, photography) and products (Adobe, OnOne, Nik, Picture Code). I enroll in Massive Open Online Courses, listen to podcasts (TWIP, ASMP, iTunes University, Social Media Examiner), join webinars (Bowens, xRite,) and Google Hangouts. It is easy to say, “My photographs are great, why do I need to learn something new?” But, in this digital renaissance, it’s important to stay current. If you push forward and embrace new technology, your photography will improve. I engage with multiple social media channels (Google +, FB, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, WordPress). In fact, I found out about Flatbooks from reading one of Trey’s posts a few years back on G+.

I stay up-to-date by reading newspapers (New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, NPR, Photo District News), books (literary fiction, biographies, science, color theory, photo books), and magazines (The New Yorker, The Handmade Photograph, The Atlantic, The Economist). I look—I visit galleries and museums as much as I can and when I travel, I include museums and galleries in my plans. Art and photography is also readily available through online galleries.

FB: Can you give us some great tips on how to prepare for a children portrait session?

Know the children before the shoot. What interests them? Understand the family dynamics; learn about sibling rivalry and parent participation.

For location portraiture, visit the site a day or two before the shoot, at the same hour you will be photographing. Become familiar with the direction of the light, find the optimal background, and create a list of possible unknowns. Have remedies for excessive wind and sun, bring a large diffuser and a hairbrush. In summertime, bring bug spray. For beach shoots, have parents bring a change of clothes (in case the kids get wet).

Photographing Children Naturally has a couple of great photo shoot checklists. I print them out and review before every photo session. Just the other day, I was really glad that I followed this ritual or I would have forgotten my radio transmitter.

Also posted in Books, Children Photography, Education, Inspiration, Photography, Reading Corner Tagged , , |

Express Yourself with a Photo Border

Photography provides a vehicle to communicate what we see and feel. And so the essential question is, “What are you trying to say?”

How do you find your photographic voice? 

Be curious. Visit museums, and go to the library and look through photography and art books. Browse online galleries and collections. Study. Formulate opinions on style, form, technique, and message. Notice the artists and photographers’ prevalent themes. Decide what moves you. Make a list and then ask yourself, “How can I incorporate these components into my work?”

I spent years searching for inspiration and expression. Personally passionate about music and color, in time, I discovered the Russian artist Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) who transformed hues into lyrical forces of spectral and musical equivalents. One of his most important paintings, Painting with White Borders, is the inspiration for the border tutorial I will share with you shortly. Kandinsky struggled with this painting, reworking it fifteen times until he arrived at the solution — a white border. His response to “Why white?” — “White expresses a harmony of silence, pregnant with possibilities.”  (

I also pay homage to Vincent Van Gogh (in the following video tutorial) who walked excessively through all types of weather, searching for his voice (and peace of mind). “Wheat Field in Rain” — one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings — creates a profound and tactile immediacy.

A Photo Border adds voice

“Sunflower Field in Rain”

About my photo

One rainy summer afternoon, while driving along Montauk Highway, I saw a field of sunflowers and a old truck with an American Flag. I had to stop and so I drove my car alongside the field, opened the car window and photographed. But I felt removed and couldn’t compose good enough from the car. Recalling Van Gogh’s painting “Wheat Field In Rain” and his habit of walking in inclement weather, I went out into the field, protecting my camera from the pouring rain with an umbrella hooked over my shoulder.

Later, I uploaded the images, selected my favorite, and adjusted the RAW file in ACR. After running through some basic adjustment layers in Adobe Photoshop, the photograph just didn’t feel complete. It was missing something, or, said another way, the photo wasn’t saying enough. Using Kandinsky’s Painting with White Borders as inspiration, I too created a border. Mine was yellow. Why yellow? “In addition to selecting a coordinating color, yellow embraces both Kandinsky and Van Gogh. In color geometry, (Kandinsky) the triangle is yellow and Van Gogh is synonymous with yellow sunflowers). Curious about the color yellow? Click here to read a blog post I wrote celebrating yellow.

The following is a video tutorial detailing how to create an artistic border. I am using Adobe Photoshop CC 2014, but this lesson works on all Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Elements versions.


Would love to hear from you.

All my best,


Check out my new eBook: Photographing Children Naturally

Also posted in Art Exhibits, Art History, Color, handpainting, History of Photography, Inspiration, Photography, Photoshop tutorials Tagged , , , , |