Colleen painted this Possum Magic artwork, shot this image separately and edited them together.
Colleen painted this Possum Magic artwork, shot this image separately and edited them together. Charlee Photography - Colleen Ha

Hand-painted images win photographer high accolade

AFTER waiting 12 months to earn one point, Rockhampton photographer Colleen Harris of Charlee Photography, has been accredited a Master of Photography.

As a member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP), Mrs Harris has been entering the prestigious annual Australian Professional Photography Awards for five years.

The first year she entered was 2014 and she claimed the highest accolade, a gold with distinction, and three silvers for her works.

At each subsequent year she has won more awards and each award gains her a point, which eventually accumulate to earn Master status.

Last year, she finished one point shy of the honour and had to wait until the 2018 awards to collect the necessary point.

 

Colleen and her husband, Scott, at the AIPP awards where she was awarded three silvers and a Master of Photography.
Colleen and her husband, Scott, at the AIPP awards where she was awarded three silvers and a Master of Photography. Contributed

At the awards ceremony held in Melbourne earlier in this month, Mrs Harris won three silvers for some very special images.

Mrs Harris was inspired by her love of children's books and wanted to create and share her own story using images of her clients.

She entered three book-themed images - Snoopy, Possum Magic and The Hungry Caterpillar.

But she didn't just take the photographs, she also hand-painted the backdrops.

 

The Hungry Caterpillar themed image that won Colleen a silver award.
The Hungry Caterpillar themed image that won Colleen a silver award. Charlee Photography - Colleen Ha

The paintings were done on a 2D board, the photos were captured in her studio and then Mrs Harris combined the two together through many hours of editing.

She said she spent at least 10 to 12 hours editing each image.

"The judges are looking for the best of the best, they are looking for life, story, everything is matching in, they aren't just looking for the standard, they are looking for the above and beyond," she said.

 

This image reflects the beloved dog character, Snoopy.
This image reflects the beloved dog character, Snoopy. Charlee Photography - Colleen Ha

Mrs Harris said entering the awards each year is a way to push her creativity.

"It makes me go one step forward, to impress my peers, to test my skills, to see what else I can play around with around realms of my client work," she said.

Now with her Master of Photography, she is able to serve as a judge in the awards process.

Last year she served as a judge at the 2017 Queensland State Photography Awards.

"To be able to judge an image not only helps you search for different stuff in your own work, it helps you assist others when they are looking for critique," Mrs Harris said.

"It's knowledge and skill you can adapt for in your own work."

Mrs Harris said she looks for a story when judging an image.

"Something that will grab me emotionally, some sort of feeling, the right composition, something that makes me go 'wow' and makes me want to touch it," she said.

Mrs Harris said being on stage at the Melbourne awards ceremony to receive her Masters was a precious moment.

 

"It's always fantastic to be down in Melbourne, we get to catch up with a lot of photographers," she said.

"To go up on stage and get the ribbon is very special and it was very special to have my husband Scott there."

Mrs Harris said Central Queensland is home to a large contingent of photographers.

"Its brilliant to be a part of a local group of photographers, it's really rewarding," she said.

"I've had local photographers cover me for sessions when I have been sick, knowing everyone is there to help you."

A professional photographer now for 10 years, Mrs Harris is constantly evolving her business.

"It is the requirement for any creative (business), it is such a creative market and you have trends coming in that can influence photography in every way," she said.

"The way clients want things, you always have new businesses who are starting.

"If you aren't going to be keeping up to date, you are going to be left behind."

 

A few of Colleen's favourite images she has taken over the years.
A few of Colleen's favourite images she has taken over the years. Charlee Photography - Colleen Ha

One aspect of her business which Mrs Harris is particularly proud of and has produced many fond memories is her work as a Heartfelt Photographer.

She takes photos of babies who were born prematurely or had medical issues and have unfortunately passed away.

That work has given rise to Mrs Harris offering 'rainbow sessions' for those parents who have gone on to have another baby after losing one.

"Quite a few of those can be quite touchy," she said.

"Those are the ones who mean the most.

"A couple I met, I did a Heartfelt session and when they were pregnant again and they had reached out again I was there again for them.

"To be able to plan something for them for their session was truly remarkable."

 

A few of Colleen's favourite images she has taken over the years.
A few of Colleen's favourite images she has taken over the years. Charlee Photography - Colleen Ha

Mrs Harris said she wanted to get involved in Heartfelt as she is the mother of two, a 10-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl, and has been blessed not to have been touched by miscarriage or loss.

"So many of my friends had been touched by stillbirth and miscarriages and I was ridiculously lucky, I have the ability to do that and it is something I wanted to do to give back," she said.

"I hug my family a bit tighter when I can and thank my lucky stars."

Following on from her latest achievements, Mrs Harris would like to mentor others and teach within the AIPP.

And for those wishing to pursue a career in photography or just as a hobby, Mrs Harris's advice is the same her dad gave her: "practise, practise, practise".

"The only way you are going to ever learn is to test it out in different lighting conditions," she said.

"People can tell you what settings to put your camera on but without playing for yourself, you will never get a full grasp at it."



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