Student Profile: Karis Koh


Karis is a honours psychology student with a piano minor. The end of this winter term marked the true beginning of the trek into the field of psychology expertise and the end of her formal piano studies.


What is Success?


Throughout my experience with academia, I have always been very studious; one could say “over-committed”. The never-ending game of GPA and marks has always taken over my life. While, striving to be at the top fueled my drive to continue, it has also put me in tears several times. I constantly compare myself to others, feeling like I never measured up. I have been so overwhelmed lately that it has made me reevaluate. What do I really want from my years at university? Luckily I was quick to come up with an answer: I want to emerge as a more successful person. But, what is success at its core?

As you can tell by my dramatic introduction, this post is not my usual photo write up. So feel free to stop reading at this point if you do not want to glimpse into the mess that is my brain. Prepare for a deep heart-to-heart. …which is more like a heart-to-screen since I am doing this to clear my head and to maybe put things in perspective for myself and others who may be feeling the same way.

Today, university and life-in-general slapped me in the face and I pondered what would happen if I decided to put my degree on hold–I don’t know, maybe say: take a year off, go abroad, discover myself, you know before dumping thousands and thousands of dollars into the ocean. My rational voice is reassuring me that would be the most idiotic thing I could possibly do. I worked so hard to get to where I am. I would disappoint so many people. I would let so many people down. But my instinctual voice is pleading me to take better care of myself, be happier and be more stress-free. There has to be a good way to find balance right? Balance either makes or breaks a photograph. How do I find a better perspective?

So, what is it that sparked this revelation you might ask? It was just one lab that I had today that left me genuinely unhappy. Study habits in university was definitely a hard adjustment and I still do not have it down. Since the “smart asian girl” is a dime a dozen, I beat myself up about doing something “extra”, going that extra mile. But doing things systematically is what everyone is doing–studying through the night, getting that exec position within a student club, volunteering at a hospital, working in your prof’s lab. At this rate, you can say goodbye to sleep, your social life, and your well-being. When I fail (like what happened in my lab today), is when I wonder if it it all worth it, what makes me different from the next student here? As I realized I can never match any of the students here, I started to think that all these qualifications are so objective. I believe creativity is what separates individuals. This reminds me of what one of my favourite professors said to me about writing essays. He said that “everyone has the same tools and resources, you just have to think outside the box.” When you process this in your own life, it becomes an inspiring statement. Needless to say he is my favourite professor I have had to this day. I guess I also always loved writing, but blogging is a new style of writing that I discovered I love.

Sometimes I daydream about my fairy-tale life, what it would be like to be able to do what I love while supporting myself and everyone I love…and to not be judged for not have a “real job”. I call this judging process the “you didn’t get into med school” phenomenon. People who are bombarded with this message might not be making a ton of money but the are 100%  happy with themselves and there lives despite the fact that they don’t have the credentials to prove it. I feel like this cruel pitfall is holding me and thousands of other people back because it is these objective qualifications that end up defining who we are to future employers. It should be our true self that is nurtured, persevered, and shown to the world. I am envious of the people who turned their creative passion into a successful career and continue to hold their head high. I know these people are not perfect, but we can all dream. Frankly, I don’t know what is it that truly makes me happy, but I do know being anxious 24/7 is not healthy. Turning your passion into your career is a tale as old as time, but the idea is very intriguing. Life is short, shouldn’t we be choosing cooperation over competition,  happiness over hate?

A good message I have come across says that to be confident you need to accept yourself for all that you are strengths, weakness, everything. This is hard because, conquering those demons that cause you to dwell on the negative things and compare myself to others in your mind is a daunting task.  They say, “a man’s worst enemy is himself”. My relationship with my own demons has been a constant roller coaster of ups and downs. Sometimes I fell feel super confident and able to bash away any negative thoughts, while other times I feel like a fish out of water. For now, I am just taking things one day at a time and making sure I have a little time for myself and to recharge. I truly believe that you have to take care of home before impressing the streets.

I don’t really know what the point of this post was really. I just wanted to clear my head. If you have made it this far, then well…cue the applause because this was a hella long blabber about my worries. Thank you taking the time to read this. I hope that this was insightful. : )


Bonnie x

Almost the End of the Semester?!

Things to finish:

  • post photos from field trip
  • last composite – human face + ??? in studio lighting
  • do menu commission work
  • put together exhibit: theme-light effects in photos (eg: bokeh, lens flares, star effect)

I want to get more pointers on night photography eventually. I would like to use the studio a few more times and to do macro again.


Flower Splash

This was apparently a long-awaited-for post. I was deciding whether or not to upload this composite. I was not completely happy with the “green version” of this because the water drops did not blend that well with the shapes in the background photo. I decided to put it on a black background to see the effect it would have; I like the simplicity of it. To give it more dimension, I added a glow from the bottom left corner and a neon line. It took a lot of blocks and layers in Photoshop. Through this process, I became more comfortable with managing layers. Next time, I think a little more planning beforehand would have been better and would have made for a much less painful process. I really liked how the wave at the bottom turned out. the shape was able to fit the way I wanted it to fit into the photo.


Bottle Splash

Recently I have been working on producing composite images. I just completed my second Photoshop composite of the semester. Here are the photos it consists of.

BotleSplashFinal-2     IMG_8865-Edit

Post Production:

White background added.

Layer masking after selections to get the separate parts.

Displacement mapping was used to create the blur of the bottom of the bottle as the eye would see it through the water.

There were two layers of the splash itself; one above and one under the bottle layer. The opacity of the one on the top was lessened in order to let the bottle show through a little more. (in a gradient manner, less opaque near base) The splash was also warped and transformed to shape to better work with the shape of the bottle. The opacity of the reflection was also brought down.

Level adjustments were added to blend the lighting further.















I like the detailed sharpness of this photo and the fresh blue/green tones. Something I noticed that could be improved is that the edges of the bottle are not very distinct because it is too “blown out”.

Composites in Post Production: Trial 1

This week I focused on building my techniques and workflow for creating composite photographs. To begin, I figured I would combine a studio lit photo of Erica and a background with interesting texture and colour to begin constructing a basic composite in Photoshop. One of the most important things I learned was how to adjust and correct the lights and darks by utilizing a black and white layer; also adjusting and correcting the colours by using levels and/or hue and saturation layers in Photoshop. Clipping masks were used to only apply the layer effect on select layers. Global adjustments were used to further blend the hues and tones of the two photos together. I also learned more advanced techniques for refined edges of my selections, which is very important in fine tuning and details of the photo.


I was going for a edgy textured background with cooler colours to complement Erica’s blue hoodie in the first photo. I also wanted to create a higher contrast  overall to go with the edgy theme as some of the colour and tone blending using levels flattened the photo a bit.


In this photo, I leaned more towards the warmer, pink tones. Her face is still a bit brighter compared to the background. This should be further adjusted in Photoshop. A soft lightening of the background behind my subject was added to separate her from the background more.

Low/High Key Photographs

The below photo was shot in a studio setup. It was intentional to shoot on a white background and overexpose slightly to minimize contrast and lighten shadows. It was difficult to not overexpose too much and lose the detail in the glass topper. I had to balance that issue with the slightly grey background as it was hard to fully blow out the background to completely white without the photo looking off, even with the adjustment brush. As high key is the opposite of low key, its key tones are high. I used a fair amount quantity flat lighting of the studio lights to help reduce contrast and shadows and so I could precisely control the dark tones. High key photos usually have subjects that are feminine in nature, such as the perfume bottle with the pearls that I choose.



Low key photography makes use of dark tones and colours; the main feature of a low key photograph is the depth created by the shadows. Low photography means the image’s key tones are low. This particular photo has most of its keys tones on the left side of the histogram. The intention is to direct the viewers’ attention directly to the illuminated subject, by keeping everything else in the shadows. High key images feel airy, light and rich, while low key images feel dramatic and full of mystery.

The lights are reflected on the glass from the window light; there is also some pink form the curtains. The shadows in the upper right side of the perfume bottle hide that part of the subject, like it is disappearing into the shadows as its tone is deepened gradually. The form of the bottle is emphasized here by highlighting all the edges that the natural light hit.

In the below low key photo, solely natural lighting was used. I made sure the subject received more light than its background which was already fairly dark. I tried to keep the side away furthest from the window relatively darker. (It was a dark grey wall) Exposure was further changed with the adjustment brush in Lightroom. By controlling the light I feel I made a fairly boring glass object more mysterious.

IMG_0170     IMG_0170         Before and after post-production adjustments in Lightroom.


I really like the simplicity of low key photographs by emphasizing the subject with light and contrast.  High key photography also fits with my photographic style as it is effective for product and upscale photography and I like the clean, high quality look it conveys.