Russian Mother Takes Magical Portraits of Her Two Boys and their Animal Friends


Russian photographer Elena Shumilova only got into photography in early 2012, when she acquired her first camera. But if you were to look through her Flickr and 500px profiles, you would swear she had been doing it for much, much longer.

Her stunning photography revolves almost exclusively around photographs of her children and their animal friends on the family’s farm. Adorable children, animals and surroundings that already offer so much beauty to Shumilova’s lens combine into an enchanted world that is equal parts cozy and magical.

Speaking with Bored Panda, she explains that her photos are part intuition, part inspiration:

I largely trust my intuition and inspiration when I compose photos. I get inspired mainly by my desire to express something I feel, though I usually cannot tell exactly what that is.

Here’s a selection of Shumilova’s photography:

























Shumilova told Bored Panda that she shoots the images during the day, so as to not miss out on time she could be spending with her children, and then edits the images at night. She also says that she prefers natural light, but loves “all sorts of light conditions – street lights, candle light, fog, smoke, rain and snow,” basically anything “that gives visual and emotional depth to the image.”

In order for the images to fit on the blog, we had to scale them down significantly, so if you like what you see be sure to head over to Shumilova’s Flickr and 500px profiles and browse to your heart’s content. Just make sure you have a warm blanket and some hot cider handy… these photos are likely to lull you into an extreme sense of coziness.

(via Bored Panda)

Image credits: Photographs by Elena Shumilova and used with permission.

  • Praverb

    Awesome exposure here. I love the way Elena sees light. Wow!

  • LaraH2

    they are beautiful images. but if you read her profile on flickr and elsewhere she talks about “mostly” using natural light etc. i have no problem with photoshop – ansel adams would have loved photoshop – but she downplays the photoshopping and makes it sound as if this is what she sees on her little farm in russia. the little housewife out photographing the kids and the animals.

    so it isn’t the quality of the work, it isn’t that it is almost illustrative, it is the hypocrisy of the way the work is presented. the fantasy of her life is what she is selling and that is what the magazines — digital and otherwise are buying. the fantasy that these photos are real.

    less-than-seasoned photographers will look at her photos and not question how they were created. they will be deceived.

    my ¢2

  • shrikant1384

    Absolutely brilliant photos !!!

  • Dover

    This is not a straw man argument. I called you on suggesting the artist was dishonest here: “Unless you can prove someone is being dishonest, it makes more sense to keep your opinion to yourself.”

    Because I found you suggesting the artist was dishonest here: “are we truly to believe that she acquired her first camera (Canon 20d)
    in early 2012 and was already shooting with intermediate to advanced
    techniques and using special lenses with a 5d Mark II by mid summer of
    that same year, just 3 months after she posted her first picture?”

    Maybe you should learn the definition of a straw man argument before whipping out your retort and making a fool of yourself? Too late.

    Lesson: My reading comprehension is easily proven by using your and my recorded comments, maybe you should brush up on your own. You can make a fool of yourself as many times as you want, there is no limit, as you will most likely prove. Proceed……….

  • Dover

    Allow me to remind you of one of your other posts on this forum:

    “These are great photos, but are we truly to believe that she acquired
    her first camera (Canon 20d) in early 2012 and was already shooting with
    intermediate to advanced techniques and using special lenses with a 5d
    Mark II by mid summer of that same year, just 3 months after she posted
    her first picture?”

  • analogworm

    Well, it seems she doesnt mention photoshop anywhere. A part from saying she post processes at night. Perhaps you could indeed state she downplays the role of photoshop in her work.

    But I have to disagree that she makes it sounds as if this is what she she’s on her little farm in russia. She mostly speaks of being driven by her feelings and such.
    And of course if you were to disregard absolute reality and define reality as not only what you see but also as what you feel/think and experience in this world, the pictures do represent what she sees on het little farm in russia. Just like Ansel Adams captured mountains the way he experienced them, not as they were in absolute reality.

    All in all, before your comment i hadn’t looked into the way she presented or spoke of her work that much. But now that i have, i do see the point your making. Which is as i understand it correctly: photographs sell a fantasy, some picture makers are very clear about it being their interpretation of the world and others try to sell it as the absolute truth. you argue she’d be in the latter category. I’d argue that’s not so clear to me because of her strong emphasis on her feelings about the moments captured.

    Nevertheless your argument can of course be stretched to the whole of photography. I’d say anyone trying to sell a photograph as representing absolute truth would be decieving the viewer. Even truthfull genres like reportage. Why? Because we as photographers always make certain choices about equipment used and moments chosen to represent what we feel is important about the situation. Unfortunately the general public doesn’t realize this I suppose.

  • analogworm

    I feel you are missing the point I am trying to make. Of course we could dive into the deeper meaning of photographs by trying to decrypt the used symbolism. But i wasn’t talking about certain elements used and their specific meaning in the photograph. I was talking about the photographs as a whole.

    Lets dive into the sleeping picture. What do you see? What does it remind you of? What feelings/emotions do you have while watching this photograph?

    I agree the projections of emotions/feelings alone in a work are not art itself. It is a tad more than that. Of course the skill needed to represent those emotions and even then the viewer must be able to ‘feel’ the artwork by just seeing it. I wish I could find the definition of art I felt was most appropriate, but unfortunately I cant find the book, let alone the right pages it was on. How would you define art?

  • analogworm

    I feel like you’re overestimating the role of photoshop. For example have you ever tried photoshopping a rubbish photograph to make it look ‘good’? I mean, it just doesnt work that way, you can make it look acceptable at most but it misses what you call that moment of magic.
    I think we can all agree our best work comes when everything falls in place. Preperation, execution and post processing. Ergo i argue she doesn’t create the ‘magic moment’ in post, but she must have had a very good photograph to begin with and Photoshop has been used to exploit that.

  • analogworm

    It makes me a bit jealous, her having just two years of photography experience and already at this level. Whilst I’ve been working for about ten years to get to a similar level but not being able to put so much emotion in a photograph. So i get you questioning the timeline. (please dont misinterpret this as me accusing you of jealousy)
    However, she has had years of experience accumilating the feelings she has for her children, which are the basis for her photographs. And she already had years of experience as an architect and thus composition and such. Perhaps it was just a matter of everything falling in the right place for her?

  • Kaybee

    Totally ethereal! She has an eye for colour and editing! Love all of the them! Just the dodging and burning is prominent in the one with duckling but ALL of them are just so dreamy and beautiful! What a lucky child to have his mom capture him in the most beautiful way!

  • Ralph

    I agree with your general sentiment. And i do think she caught some great moments. But those moments are (for me personally) undermined by too much post processing. It’s distracting and overall gives a less genuine feel to the picture as a whole. (note: i’m not saying it’s less genuine, it just feels like that for me) It becomes so detached from reality that it doesn’t feel like a moment of magic caught, but a moment of magic created. And that’s a shame. I’d love to see the originals.

  • Nate Cochrane

    Has Petapixel paid Shumilova for the use of her images?

  • Frodo

    This probably won’t make you feel better, but I took a look at the timeline of her photos on 500px, and I would say that her photos probably took a turning point around the 6 month mark, if you just go by the dates on them, so it wasn’t 2 years, but a matter of months. I originally thought it was more like 3 months, which was the time she bought her 5d2 and 50mm 1.2.

  • Frodo

    Finding scepticism in a story is hardly an accusation of dishonestly directed at the person the story is about. I’m afraid the only thing you called out here is your remedial reading skills.

  • Omar Salgado

    The definition of art is not easy. My attempt would be that it is a form of knowledge through symbols.

    That’s why insist that emotions/feelings are not the main object of art.

    Of course, any bookish definition will be always incomplete at best.

  • hh77

    Did it ever occur to you that perhaps the artist simply likes the way she processed the photos? And that they’re not your photos and you don’t have to like them? She did not create these images for you but for herself. If you don’t like them, simply state why and leave it at that. You’re entitled to your opinion. No body else must agree with that opinion.

    So get over it.

  • hh77

    That sounds silly to me. First of all, the supermodel airbrush thing messes with teenage girl’s heads. Firtsly, we are not teenage girls: we are photographers. Second, this is art. Obviously, this lady is not shooting for a medical journal. She is shooting for personal expression (art).

    Those who fear being “left behind” are insecure. They were “always” behind the game due to this insecurity. They only notice today because the entire globe has become transparent: before, they shot nice little portraits in their hometowns, never seeing what the folks in Cali were doing for high school senior shots (besides the few featured in monthly publications that came in by mail) let alone what pro photogs were doing in Japan.

    Point is, now yo ucan see it. You can see how creative other humans are. And it makes you upset that you’re not. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to do all this post work, either. If you like presenting your pics in a very natural, SOOC way, great. There are obviously quite few folks who feel the same.

    But there are also those of us who find it awesome to see someone’s creative vision come to fruition and we also find it equally horrifying to watch another cynical, jealous human being tear that apart simply because they cannot replicate the results.

    If you wish to learn, the internet is filled with THOUSANDS of free tutorials to get you started and there are HUNDREDS of training programs you can pay for form pro photogs to learn this artistic processing/editing stuff.

    Maybe it;s not your cup of tea and that is okay. I love it. I also am going to start shooting film along with my digital work so I will be with the best of both worlds. But guess what: I will developing my own negatives digitally and artistically processing my film shots, as well.

    This might make folks mad: I am trying to make my film work look more digital and I process my digital work to look more film like. Why? Because I like it.

    Get over yourselves. Instead of whining about others accomplishments, go make some of your own. Tell us why you prefer your results over their’s and share some links. We’d love to take a look.

  • hh77

    so totally agree with that.

    What happens is this: YOU, the photog, have to MAKE the magic happen. And you have to capture it in-camera, no questions asked. Hands down.

    Only then can you enhance and make it prettier or dreamlike in an image editor. If it is not there to start with, then no-go.

    Now, there are things like compositing where you piece a picture together from photos and graphics. Joel Grimes has a video where he shows how to paint in actual rays of light that did not exist in the original image. Some folks feel that photogs should have to add a disclaimer to their work when they make artificial effects in post. I think this may be a good idea in photo journalism or advertising, when it could be detrimental to have folks believing a girl really looks like an alien being but with art like this? C/mon.

  • hh77

    Ralph, I think that is what makes you more of a tech than an artist: of course these images are detached from reality since they stem from a vision in the soul, the mind.

    One can document exact reality in stark and crisp, cool detail. Obviously, that was not the artist’s intent here. If you thought that it was, you are terribly mistaking and not very good when evaluating art. Evaluating art is a 2 step process:

    What does the piece mean to you? This you have already decided. To you, this work represents some sort of trickery, a grand illusion that somehow cheapens a process which you hold dear. The work holds nothing more for you than apearing ‘pretty’ but lacks anything else due to its dishonesty.

    Second question: what does the piece mean to its creator? Is this a piece that was designed to fool you into liking it with trickery so that you would elevate the creator to a god-like status and make her go ‘viral’? Or was this a woman who wanted to create some beautiful images that could be straight out of a dream?

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If all your eye can behold is ugliness, that is all you will find, my friend. And the ugliness you see with your eye is merely a reflection of the inner workings of your soul which you are too frightened and inexperienced to examine.

    Hence, why you attack someone else’s work instead of yourself.

  • hh77

    LOL If a photographer (or any human being with EYES) looked on these images and truly believed that that is what the creator had in front of her when she pushed the button, then those people would be the damned biggest fools on the face of the planet and, quite frankly, I don’t believe those people exist. The only ones who might believe it are children who view the images. And that is fine in my book, as well.

    I think your little comment is the most repugnant, trite, and jealous sounding little comment to date on this thread.

    And what you suggest in it sounds down right stupid.

  • hh77

    My images = my art.

    If you like them, that’s great.

    If not, that’s fine. Don’t look at them.

    If they look fake to you, then they must be fake.

    If they look real to you, then they must be real.

    I really could care less. My art is about what you experience when viewing my work. If you can find time to be asking yourself “Is this fake trickery from Photoshop?!” then you were never meant to view my images in the first place and I please ask that you stop immediately.

    Some of my work is heavily processed and some is not. Have fun figuring out which is which. While you waste precious brain power on that, many others will be simply enjoying the emotions and sensations they experience while viewing my art.

    In the end, it is you, the nagging nancy’s of the world, who will miss out on absorbing some great art. Hence, your shallow depth of soul.

  • hh77

    Ehr, I thought some might get confused as my comment reads as if I made the images.

    I did not, I am a photog from the States, simply sharing my thoughts.

  • LaraH2

    wow, why don’t you just say it like you feel it. the MOST trite and repugnant? ok, whatever.

    the man who resorts to insults has nothing valid to say.

  • LaraH2

    maybe one doesn’t have to “find time” to be asking if your pictures are trickery or not. maybe it doesn’t take any time at all to have that impression.

  • hh77

    Wow, you put that rather well! =)

    I was so excited to find this persons work as I am whenever I find something worth while. On my site, I am adding a section of links to all my favorite photogs simply because I enjoy their work! I’m not worried about sending folks to their stuff 1) cuz I think mine hold it’s own against theirs and they are extremely different to start with and 2) because I also want to heighten the clients senses of what great photography is!

    If I lose business with this model, then I am not pushing myself enough as an artist. But it should bring business, especially when those other photogs can link back to me as well.

    But like Fred said: where is the human spirit of kindness and just being happy for another individual who has achieved something great? This work inspires me and gives me ideas of shoots and lighting setups, locations and subjects I want to shoot. This stuff gets me hyped to get to work and make some art of my own.

    How can this stuff make you angry and mad?

  • hh77

    Perhaps not.

    And that is your initial experiencing while viewing that type of work, you can be sure that you are NOT the intended audience of such work. Because why would the artist WANT to make their viewer feel tricked? Cuz that’s really what I think when I spend five days post-editing a landscape: “Oh yea, those morons will be SO tricked by this, I wish I could see the LOOKS on their faces!!”

    No, my thoughts are, “Wow, that really adds a degree of seperation and gives a great deal more perception of space which my simple camera cannot obtain in a 2d image.”

    Again, like you said, if it takes you no time at all to gain that impression, LaraH2, then you can be most sure that the image(s) you are viewing were never meant for you and you can go quietly on with your life. ;)

  • LaraH2

    you make a lot of sense. but when …She says, “When shooting I prefer to use natural light – both inside and outside. I love all sorts of light conditions – street lights, candle light, fog, smoke, rain and snow – everything that gives visual and emotional depth to the image.”

    and then uses added light and photoshop to accomplish her effects then that is what i meant by deceptive. if she talked too much about what she actually did to get the image the way she wanted it, it wouldn’t play as well to the public. it is better to just talk about emotions and she knows that will sell the whole concept.

    in her interviews she implies a level of simplicity that isn’t there. that’s the part i find unpalatable.

    do whatever you want or need to do to make a statement. i respect that. but don’t tell me you shot a photo with a 50mm lens when it is obvious it was made with something like a 300mm!

    it isn’t how good anyone is, it is how honest.

  • LaraH2

    exactly. no one is hating. no one is saying they are angry. it does no harm to question.

  • hh77

    Are your feelings truly that insecure that when someone insults a COMMENT you made (granted, not you yourself, but a comment) you cannot bear it?

    I am sorry for your insecurity (perhaps photography is not for you because it requires a GREAT deal of thick skin) but I cannot apologize for my analysis of your comment. I felt your comment was not fair to the creator and held no subjective, logical grounds whatsoever. It would be different if the creator had said “Look, NO post processing at all!” Which was not the case.

    Sorry if you did not expect such bluntness but I find those types of statements quite rude and reckless and call them out when I see them (simply a pet peeve, nothing personal.)

  • LaraH2

    you make my point exactly! i don’t think the housewife sits down to trick people. i think she is not honest about what she does to create the pictures. that’s all. besides, i did say they were pretty.

    go on quietly with my life – not bloody likely. :-)

  • LaraH2

    like i said above “whatever.” you are simply blowing hot air dearie. you don’t know me and can’t know me from what two comments? don’t presume to. this has gotten really amusing. please continue.

    >>>>>Are your feelings truly that insecure that when someone insults a COMMENT you made (granted, not you yourself, but a comment) you cannot bear it?<<<

    where are on earth are you coming up with this stuff?

  • hh77

    “go on quietly with my life – not bloody likely.”

    This is the bit that always gets me. Would you please explain why?

    First off, do you have any images in your portfolio that hold a magnitude of power such as these images? I know I do not (I have one that is close but not quite there)? If you do, then by all means, do share.

    If not, then that sort of casts your desparaging remarks in a different sort of light (and the tint of that light seems as if it might be green).

    But please, do expand on why, even though you agree you are not the intended audience of such images, you must expand all your energies in destroying or at least chipping away at the inteigrity of said images?

    If not out of envy, then why? Could not your energies be better spent working on the post work for your own images? Surely there is some type of work you could be pursuing to further your career in photography. Does railing against an individual’s success further yours (unless your a critic)?

    I highly doubt your sole purpose is to merely educate the naive masses.

    What is the true reason?

  • LaraH2

    what the heck are you talking about?

  • hh77

    What is the true reason you cannot simply go on with your own life?

    “go on quietly with my life – not bloody likely.”

  • hh77

    My verdict on the images: freaking fantastic. Added to my group of very much liked images and unfortunately, I do not come across many photogs whose work I enjoy. It really reminds me of Emily Soto, her work is magnificent and beautiful, as well.

    The post work is amazing for someone who has been shooting for such a short time, truly amazing. I would love to ask the creator if she picked up a training course on doing post processing and, if so, which one?!

    The art is great, the resonance of emotion and movement really brings you into the moment and into the scene: after viewing the gallery, you feel like you know these people and that is good.

    The post work gets better as the pictures progress ( I would love to see her go back and begin to rework some of the older shots from the 20D to give the work a more collective feel.)

    You can really see the progession of the editing as the pictures move through the timeline and her editing improves as she goes along, clearly edging out a look that suits her vision, and, apparently, with some ads running these images, becoming a successful vision, at that.

    I would like to see the post work a bit more professionally done but, granted at the range of time, she is doing quite well! The work makes me want to get to doing more artistic, dreamscape type stuff in my portraits, which I do not ( I tend to stay very natural). I am currently interested in getting a sort of analog distortion to my images, giving them a slight film warmth that isn’t really noticeable but gets away from the stark, cold reality of digital binary capture.

    I find her work captivating, moving and inspiring. A word for the haters of the post editing being done here: even with all the post work, the true aesthetics of these images truly lies in the beauty of her locales, the backdrops and settings of her compositions and the elements contained within them. Change any of those and these images will lose significant amounts of impact.

  • hh77

    +Ivor Still, it is awful sad that nowadays, one has to judge success by how much people attack what you create rather than praise it.

  • dslrcreations

    ive never read so much BS in all my life. these pictures are wonderful to look at and should be taken for what they are. instead we have a bunch of jealous web trolls who wouldnt know quality if it bit them on the arse. sad bunch of pathetic losers who couldnt take a picture for toffee. grow up and get a life you pathetic wasters .
    sickens me when people have nothing better to do than knock genuine talent. who cares if theres some photoshopping done.. every image today has some level of post processing. lighting and composition is excellent..

  • Asdas Dasda

    OWNED. And you didn’t even mention long exposure, where light can be absorved to slowly illuminate the scene and if something moved on that scene, it paints a trail in the picture.

    “Fake” is hardly the proper label, but if one is so inclined to use it, then YES, it fits to the whole of Photography.

    Wide aperture is a MEAN to aquire shallow DoF, just the same as post processing’s unfocus tools are. MEANS.

    Don’t call it other than Photography just because technology advanced. A blender is a blender and a car is a car.

  • Asdas Dasda

    Do you even know what an anamorphic lens is for? To brush the bokeh out. Se employs post processing means to aquire that same effect. You wouldn’t call it “brushed” if she would’ve used an anamorphic lens.

  • TIMedWork

    “…touch is a “static and immediate form of sight”.
    And as such, I suspect that shade, light and shadow, DOF and color are somehow less appreciated when felt in braille, as opposed to 64 million colors/shades of ink, or pixels; Photoshopping, too, might be more likely missed in the cursory overview; yet a blind person might still be able to hear sound, reflected off that surface, better than I can.
    But, I was not suggesting that Boris is blind; just that he did not use his eyes when he viewed these images. And if he did use them, they were not opened when he did.
    And I have nothing against blind people. Last November, it appeared that at least 52% of the country was temporarily blinded; but that’s another story and verrrrrry off topic.

  • Ralph

    First of all, no, i’m not a tech at all. I actually dislike technical perfection because often it sucks the emotion out of it. Second of all, i’m not attacking anything or anyone. I’m not attacking her or anybody who likes her work, i am merely trying to express my own opinion :)

    And there is a lot of room between stark, crisp and cool and the pictures put in the post. I dislike a lot of new lenses because they are too crisp, too sharp, too good (not a tech :P)

    I find your counter argument quite black and white and faulty. Like there is nothing between the cold hard reality and photoshopped dream imagery.

    For your first question; i didn’t decide anything, deciding is not
    very useful with art. I saw the pictures, and i felt something. It just happened to be something else than what you felt.

    “of course these images are detached from reality since they stem from a vision in the soul, the mind”. That is like saying i don’t find the story a scifi film credible, or logical. “Of course you don’t think it’s credible, it’s a science fiction film”. I know that, and i’m very willing to accept that and go with it. But if the story isn’t properly told, the illusion crumbles and i’m taken out of the story. My suspension of disbelief breaks. And that’s basically happened for me in a lot of these pictures.

    I have no problem with enhanced atmosphere, or dreamlike imagery, as long as my suspension of disbelief isn’t broken. But it did. It didn’t feel otherworldly to me, or magical, or whatever. It felt wrong, it felt off.

    And I admit, you could say it’s for technical reasons. But the tools an artist uses is a major part of the end result, so also a part of the artists vision. They choose how they’ll use their tools, how they are going to tell the story, and this particular use didn’t work for me.

    But as you said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But if I see less beauty than you, it doesn’t mean all my eye beholds is ugliness. We just differ from taste and opinion. That’s what makes art (and discussion of) so interesting.

  • Ralph

    Hmm, is it just me or is the backlash against people who aren’t that much into these pics a bit harsh? It almost like some of the people who like the pictures feel personally attacked when someone says they don’t like it as much. (i’m not talking about comments as “this fkn sucks!”)

    Lot’s of black and white comparisons and bs arguments. For instance, “show us your pictures!”, you don’t need to be anything to give your opinion of someone’s work. If i’m not a painter, am i not allowed to find a painting bad? If i’m not a director, am i not allowed to think a movie is bad? Except if the poster said “i can do it way better than this”, demanding someone to show their work is complete bs.

    All pictures ever made are a personal perspective on the world/a subject. The decision to make a photograph or not is already an artistic choice. But there is A LOT of room between someone framing and taking a shot and presenting as is and someone taking a shot and use loads of post-processing on it, changing a lot of how the picture was originally. I’m NOT saying the latter is wrong. However, it is wrong to counter someone who thinks pictures are too ‘fake’, ‘artificial’ ‘too processed’ etc., with saying ‘only forensic pictures are real’. The world, and especially art, is not that black and white.

    I love discussion, especially of art. It can make you realise and see things you haven’t seen before, it gives you insight of how other perceive art compared to you, it can help you understand certain art and it can make you understand why people do or don’t like a piece of art. However, it’s not a battle of deciding who is right or wrong. By definition, there is no right and wrong to opinions about art. So relax, and discus, just keep the bullcrap out of it. :)

  • Julie

    It’s a fake. Just Photomontage. And a BAD photomontage. Burk

  • CJ

    What kinda dog is that in the picture?

  • Zoe Illingworth

    these are beautiful!