Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Changing Your Shutter Speed Will Change Your Life!

Back in the olden days when I knew nothing about, a few months ago, I used to think that shutter speed was only important when shooting things like sports or at night.  But I'm here to tell ya, I was wrong.

Shutter Speed is just as crucial to great exposure as Aperture and ISO.
My very basic definition of Shutter Speed is how long your shutter is open, which determines how much light is let into your photo.
The longer it's open, the more light that comes in, the lighter your photograph.
The shorter it's open, the less light that comes in, the darker your photograph.

The number values with shutter speed are the amounts per second your shutter is open...250th of a second...800th of a second...and so on.  When I'm trying to decide if I want to let in a little light or a lot of light I get confused sometimes when I'm thinking in numbers.  But I never get confused when I'm thinking of food so I do this little trick...I ask myself
"Do I want a piece of a pie that's cut into 250 pieces or a piece of a pie that's cut into 800 pieces?"  Obviously the pieces of a pie cut into 250 pieces are going to be larger than if it's been cut into 800 pieces...get it?
So if I want a lot of light I choose 250...if I want a little light I choose 800...

That's way too much math for me so here's a few photos to show how changing your shutter speed, and nothing else, can dramatically alter your portraits.

The glamourous shooting location for this little lesson is the shed in my backyard!
The sun was way too bright to shoot in so the shed was providing a great spot of open shade.
I shot with my back to the sun so my model could face the light source, which gives great catchlights
in the eyes, but still be evenly lit without harsh shadows.  

If you look at the pavers you can see very clearly the line of shade and sun.  There wasn't a ton of room but I just needed some close ups so it was perfect.

My model for all of 10 minutes was my Wild Child.  Ain't he pretty??

I set my camera to Manual mode.  My aperture was set at 2.5 and my ISO was 250.  I didn't change those settings for any of these photographs.  All I did was change my shutter speed...I started out at 640 and worked my way down to 200 which is the lowest standard shutter speed my Nikon d300s will go to.  
These photos are SOOC...not been touched at all.

You should be able to see pretty obviously the difference in the amount of light coming in from 640 shutter speed to 400 shutter speed.

Here's a few more...

I could have achieved the same results in coloring by changing my aperture but I wanted to maintain
a 2.5 aperture so I could blur out my background.  So by changing my shutter speed I didn't have to lose any creative aspect.  I love that!

So get out and experiment with your Shutter Speeds...ya never know what you might create!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Makin' It Work ~ Shooting In Tight Spaces

Are you ready for the next fab post in my series about Makin' It Work?
Of course you are!

Head on over to Texas Chicks Blogs and Pics and I'll tell you all about the shooting situation that absolutely gives me nightmares and how I've just had to Make It Work and ended up with some beautiful this lovely portrait...

And in case you missed the first posts you can find them here...

Makin' It Work ~ Using 1 Studio Light

Makin' It Work ~ Using Window Light


Monday, July 18, 2011

Anatomy of....Dreamy Senior Girl

I've had so much fun this summer getting to photograph lots of High School Seniors!
I like to get all the fun poses with my Seniors but it's great to get a little bit Glam too with the girls!

Here's a portrait from a recent session that I just thought was lovely and it was very easy to edit.

First, I opened up my image in my brand new Lightroom 3!!  I've just started working with this program and it's quickly becoming part of my regular workflow.  The white balance adjustment is wonderful but so far my absolute favorite tool is the CROP tool!  It Rocks! know I love me some good cropping ~

I would never have been able to figure out this program though near as quickly if I hadn't taken Erin's online LR classes...they were incredible!  I learned in 2 nights what I'm sure it would have taken me months to figure out.  Run quickly and sign up for those classes!

I adjusted the white balance in LR on my original photo...

Then I added a Jessica Drossin texture at about 65% to add some dimension to the background.  But I didn't want it on my girl at all so I lassoed around her entire body and chose Filter - Blur - Gaussian Blur to keep the coloring but blur the texture on her skin.  The coloring was a little too much still so I erased lightly part of the texture off completely...that's what the gray part is on the layer mask:

Next I wanted to add some contrast so I ran a new *fab* action by Patti Brown...Oil Painting.  It's thebomb for portraits!  I reduced the opacity of the Oil Painting layer to 25% and erased even more off the eyes so they stayed somewhat sharp...

Finally for just that extra pop I ran the Coffeeshop Vivid 2 action and chose the Soft layer for a little extra brightness...

And here's my final ~ lovliness ~

Honestly every image of Kayla was pure perfection with or without any editing I may have done...she's just such an incredible girl and WOW! what a fantastic model!  
You can check out below her cool little video I made that shows more of her lovliness:)  Enjoy!

Warning: the music on this one will stay in your head ALL DAY!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Got Lightroom? Here's Some Help!

So after 2 years of debating and agonizing and fretting I finally got some new editing software, Adobe Lightroom 3.  

Actually, it really wasn't that hard of a decision.   My oldie but goodie Photoshop Elements 6 is still doing a fabulous job but I was wanting something with more of an organizer.  And I wanted a little more control over the basic editing processes like white balance, clarity, and all the other practical stuff.  Plus after seeing that a whole slew of photographers I admire use LR3 as their beginning editor it was a no-brainer to go ahead and upgrade from Elements. 

I actually got a *fantastic* deal on the upgrade from!
If you have any Adobe products make sure you register them and you will get discount offers all the time from Amazon and Adobe to upgrade!  

So a few days after I got the disc I installed all the software, opened it up and was ready to Jump....Right...In!  
Within seconds I realized that unlike Photoshop and Elements, which have the same interface, Lightroom and Photoshop look nothing alike.  Yikes.  Which is exactly why I headed over to Texas Chicks Blogs & Pics and signed up for her Lightroom online classes.  

If you're new to Lightroom or just want to utilize every little feature, you need to check out these classes.  Erin knows all the ins and outs of Lightroom and Elements and she generously shares awesome tips every week on her blog.  What I enjoy most about Erin's teaching style is that she breaks down every step and really gives details.  She often includes helpful screen shots in her posts like this one...

I can't wait to actually do a live online class with her!  I'm doing both the beginning and advanced classes and they're coming up THIS WEEK so check them out and sign up now!

CLICK HERE to link to all the info about her classes and see what we'll be learning at each one.  
They last about 1.5 hours each and they're cheap!  Be sure to tell her wayoutnumbered sent you!

...and if you've got any fab Lightroom tips I'd love to hear them....share your wisdom and Wish Me Luck in my new venture ~  We'll see if this old dog can learn new software!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Selective Focus Will Rock Your World

Did you notice those pretty little eyelashes?
Of course you did!

See these adorable newborn wrinkles on her tiny little hand?

Of course you do!

It's because I used my selective focus option that you can clearly see what I want you to focus on, and everything else is blurred.  

Selective Focus has rocked my world, and it'll rock yours too when you start using it.  I'm amazed at how many of my friends have these great cameras but have no idea this feature exists.  

Here's my very non-technical, easy explainable definition of Selective Focus:
Selective Focus lets you pinpoint the exact spot you want the focus of your photo to be, anywhere in the frame.  

Most digital cameras (not point & shoots, just ones with interchangeable lenses) have an area on the back
of the camera that lets you choose where to put the focus of your camera.  You can usually choose between Center Focus, Area Focus and Single Point Focus.  The default is usually Center Focus and most people never move that dial because they don't know what the other options do.  That's ok if you're one of those people, I was too, not too long ago!  But after I read my manual {hint hint hint}  I realized I had so many more creative options open to me by using the Single Point Focus.  Who Knew????

Here's what my Nikon camera looks like when I've selected the Single Focus option:

Now I can move my little red focus indicator around in my viewfinder to the exact place I want my focus to be.  I just use the little round dial on the back and with my thumb I move it up or down, side to side.  I think Canon's have a joystick?  Either way, it's very simple to move and after doing it a few times you won't even have to think about it, it will be second nature.

Take a look at these lovely ladies...they stayed in the same spot and I stayed in the same spot for both of these shots...all I did was move my focal point from one girl to the next.

See how easy that is?  I typically compose my shot first and then I'll  move my focal point to where I want it.  

Although I use Selective Focus for almost all my portraits, it's not a necessity for every photo.  When you're doing a large, serious group photo {hahaha} and you're wanting to make sure most of the scene is in focus, I usually use my Center Focus, like for this shot:

But if you're wanting to highlight something fabulous, like your daughter's pretty blue eyes....

...then dust off that camera manual and find out how you can start using Selective Focus to Rock Your World!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Editing Newborn Skin Using Textures

Photoshop Actions seem to get all the glory when it comes to editing skin and color correction.
But I'm here to show ya today that textures can be just as effective as actions and are so simple to use for so many things other than just the funky stuff.  

You may recall that a few weeks ago I did a photo session with newborn Baby Zara.   Before I even started shooting I had a vision for *dreamy* *creamy* photos showcasing that super sweet newborn skin.  
But if you've ever photographed newborns, you know that typically their skin is blotchy and usually have strong yellow or red undertones.  Here's how I edited this newborn skin to achieve a creamy, consistent look to it:

1. I opened my original photo in Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac. 

Honestly her skin looks pretty darned good for a newborn but I wanted a much creamier look.  I started by overexposing all the images just a tad in-camera which I prefer for making skin look better and hiding flaws.

Next I cropped the photo in just a little tighter.  And although I'm singing the praises of textures today, I did use one layer of an action on these images!  I run Coffeeshop Baby Powder Room on *almost* every portrait to soften the skin, but you can also use a Gaussian Blur filter to achieve the same results.  I ran the Smooth Skin layer at 14% for just the tiniest bit of softening.

Then I decided I want to get rid of that wrinkle in the background so I used the color picker to choose the pink color from the blanket to paint over the wrinkles.

Check out the left corner where I just started "painting" over the wrinkles with the solid color.

Next I selected a soft grungy texture {Favorite Apron from Coffeeshop} with a bit of a purple/pink tone to it and placed it over my photo.  I used the Overlay option at 40%.

Just by adding this soft texture it tremendously evened out the skin tones and added that dreamy look I was wanting to convey.  But I wasn't quite done.....the skin still had a little too much red in it so I duplicated the layer {after flattening} and went to Adjust Color - Adjust Hue/Saturation then chose the Reds channel and moved the slider to a +9.  This took down the red quite a bit and got the skin right where I wanted it.  

Here's my final:

And here's another B&A using these same steps:

It's So Easy!
So give your textures a try the next time you're in need of some color correction!  You don't always need an arsenal full of actions to get Fabulous images!

And I'd love to hear how you use textures for editing other than the usual stuff....Share Your Wisdom!
Leave Some Awesome Comments!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Art In Motion With Animoto

You may remember me expressing my love of Animoto before.  I love it.  
{Thank You Dr. Sheely for telling me about it 2 years ago!}

It's a quick and easy alternative to building your own videos.  I enjoy making videos in iMovie, which is fabulous, but I always struggle with adding the music.  I don't listen to music a lot and I don't have a library full of selections to add to my videos so that was the defining choice for me to choose Animoto.  They have a large library of music to choose from and if you have the Pro account the selection increases quite a bit.  No worries about violating copyright and all that legality stuff~

I have been wanting to incorporate video with my photo sessions for a while so I've been experimenting with Animoto again recently.  Here's a look at The Story of Zara that I created for my friend Sharon and her sweet baby girl.  I've titled my videos Art In Motion....because, that's exactly what it is!

If you're thinking of adding video to your photography business or just want a great program to make videos for fun, Animoto is the perfect place.  Check it out!  And be sure to share a link with me if you make your own videos...I want to see them!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Behind The Scenes Newborn Baby Zara

So I had the Ultimate Extreme Pleasure of being with my *bff* last week during the birth of her second child ~ Zara.  Isn't that the coolest name!

And even though I was super excited for Sharon, I have to be honest, I was more excited for me that I had a newborn to photograph!  I've never done an "official" newborn session before but I've been blog stalking some sites lately and studying posing and props so I've been waiting for this gal for a while so I could try out all my newfound knowledge.  Well let me warn you....IT'S HARD!  

Yes, babies are bendable and are supposed to sleep thru anything during those first days of life but my experience wasn't all smooth sailing~  No matter how hard I tried she kept curling her fingers and I couldn't get those knees to bend for anything!  But in between the feedings and cranky faces she posed like a dream  and now I'm positively in love with newborn photography.  And with Zara.  

Here's some lovliness...just 6 days new~

And for all you Behind the Scenes junkies, here's my humble set-up in my living room...

I feel compelled to tell you that I only used that little stool for a few body part shots while mom was safely holding baby...the rest of the time I used a mega huge ottoman to lay the baby on.  It just looks so tiny from this photograph!  

And for you hardcore Behind The Scenes junkies I made a video!  Yeahh!  
Here's a quick peek with me basically showing you the scene above while trying to keep a hungry newborn from screaming in my arms.  Ohh these models....quite the Divas!!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Makin' It Work ~ Using 1 Studio Light

While Erin over at Texas Chicks Blogs & Pics is away partying with the Royals this week, I've been featured as a guest writer again on her site.

If you're like me and sometimes you find yourself in less-than-ideal shooting situations, you may be able to relate to my Makin' It Work series.  In case you missed the first post,  Makin' It Work ~ Using Window Light can be read HERE.  

Today's post ventures into the fascinating world of studio lighting where I tell all about my first attempt at using a softbox.  You'll see exactly how I created this image...

So don't waste another second and head over to Texas Chicks Blogs & Pics for my ramblings on

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Anatomy Lesson....Veiled Princess

I mentioned in an earlier post that studio lighting terrifies & intimidates me.  That pretty much says it all~
But I've come to realize that if I actually want to create all these dramatic, awesome portrait ideas that I have spinning around in my brain, I'm going to have to learn to be in control of the light.  

So a few months ago I bought an inexpensive light set with 2 softboxes and a kicker light.  {I love saying "kicker light" it just sounds fun!}  
I've been experimenting with them occasionally but decided to do an "official, for real" photo shoot with Princess.  I had a specific look in mind for these portraits and my goal was to actually create the images I had in my brain.  

I'll be sharing more about my set-up on the Texas Chicks blog soon, but today I wanted to share a quick Anatomy Lesson on one of my favorite edits from the session.

I opened my original image in Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac...

I loved the soft yet intense expression on Princess but I was really back & forth on how to edit and crop it.
The composition just wasn't doing it for me but I couldn't decide what to keep and what to trash~  I liked the black space on the right....I liked the curve and the bokeh of the chair at the top and I liked the mix of the cream/white/black colors.  Ultimately, I decided that the focus should be on her and I didn't want the chair distracting from that so I cropped in real usual!

Her skin looked great {6 year old skin is always great!} but the corner of her left eye and the corner of her mouth was too dark so I wanted to lighten those.  I used the Clone Tool with the mode set to Lighten at 23%.

*Sidenote ~ I just started using the Pencil Tool and I love it!  I totally stink at it but it's so fun!  I used it to circle the Mode & Opacity at the top~

Next I softened the skin just a tiny bit with Baby Powder Room then I was ready to decide on the final processing.  And guess what....I couldn't decide!  So I tried 2 different versions...

For the first one, I really wanted to keep that great mix of color tones so I simply ran the Velvet Truffle action from Coffeeshop and adjusted the Color Fill 2 layer to 25% instead of the default 75% opacity.

That's the wonderful thing about actions....most of them are adjustable so you can really make them fit to your style.  Don't be afraid to play with opacities, turning off layers, and combining one action over another.  You never know what you'll end up loving~

So here's my final in version #1...

*I just love her*

And here's my final in version #2.  This is a vintage treatment that I used on several of the other shots from this session...

I'd love to know which version you prefer!  
I'm going to be ordering some large samples for my home and I'm leaning towards a 24x24 of version #1 in a metal print~  Suggestions??

I'll be posting lots more from this session since I learned a ton about studio lighting, but if you just can't wait and want to see more of these shots you can check them out on my Facebook fan page.  


Monday, March 28, 2011

Behind The Scenes Photo Shoot With My Girlfriends!

So here's the scoop....I invited my girlfriends over last week to be my models so I could practice working with some softbox lighting.  Studio lighting terrifies and intimidates me but I know I MUST learn it if I want more control over my portraits.  So I've been using everyone I can to practice on before I actually have a real client that expects me to create something marvelous~

Back to my story....Raindog and Queenie come over and we all have different agendas...
Raindog is currently studying to be a professional make-up artist so she was happy to have some models to practice on too. {and I totally stink at eyeliner so I was thrilled not to have to do my own makeup!}
Queenie was in need of some new headshots for her Image Consulting business and is always a willing volunteer when free photos are included.

We spent the morning as all professional, serious models do ~ we played!  My house was a mess of make-up, hot rollers, and a tiny dog desperately wanting to be included in the photo shoot.  And just for the record, my experience with the hot rollers was not pretty!  I ended up with poufy princess hair that Raindog immediately sprayed with concrete so I couldn't change it.  Friends do not let friends pose with princess hair but I was outvoted~

Here's how my lighting was set-up...I had 1 softbox aimed at the left side of the models for side lighting and a reflector in front of it to soften the light a little bit more.  My room is huge and I had other lighting coming in from all different areas so it was really really hard for me to get the lighting just right.

I was hoping to get a really dramatic, intimate portrait of the 3 of us together {inspired by the awesome Sue Bryce} but after about 53 attempts of me setting the self timer....then running to pose....then running back to check it....then realizing we're way too dorky to model dramatically...then trying again....I gave up!

But, the day wasn't an entire waste.  After all, when you spend a day with great friends, laughing loudly and playing with make-up, we ended up with memories that are priceless~  And I learned that lighting 3 people is a skill that I just haven't mastered yet.  But it's coming....

Here's a few shots from the day...

And here's an awesome little video that Raindog whipped up from our memorable afternoon:)

This video contains Princess Hair, Backfat and Women Over 40 Dancing.
View at your own risk:

And just for the other record - I AIN'T 40!!!  ....yet

Friday, March 25, 2011

Get Connected! Save $$ at Clickin Moms!

Wanna stay in the loop?  Then get connected!

One of the awesome things that I've learned the past year is how valuable it is to connect with other photographers.  My cyberspace photog friend Amy invited me to be part of a photographers forum and I can't express how much I've learned by participating in conversations with other photogs all over the country...and the world!  

It's comforting to see that other photographers have the same questions, fears and hang-ups that I've dealt with in this crazy adventure of the photography business.  Plus I've gotten awesome inspiration for marketing ideas.  This online group was my first endeavor into a forum and I've loved it so much that I joined another one today...because who really needs clean laundry and home-cooked meals???

Today I joined Clickin Moms and I can't wait to see what all is going on over there!  I saw a discount code posted on The Photographers Wall Display Guide {super awesome product!} and you know I love discounts so I jumped at the chance to save 25% off the membership.  I think the code is only good til midnight so join now and then find me on there and say hello!!   

Here's the code: FBFAN
and here's the link ~
clickin' Moms


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Makin' It Work ~ Using Window Light

Quick, where do you think these shots were taken?

I bet you'll never guess.....

If you want to find out the answer then head on over to Texas Chicks Blogs & Pics where Erin
has been gracious enough to let me be her guest writer for the day~

See ya there!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sites Worth Stalking ~ All New!

So I was reviewing my blog last week and realized that time has passed quickly and I haven't updated
my Sites Worth Stalking in a while.  Sorry 'bout that!

But here's the good news....everyone on my Sites Worth Stalking page remains solid in their *fabulousness* standing!  And even better news, I've added some more absolutely incredible sites
that I firmly believe you all should be stalking each and every day.

For instance....Confessions of an Over 40 Makeup Junkie....the title alone tells ya it's gonna be good, I mean who doesn't love to hear confessions?  It has nothing to do with photography and everything to do with FUN!  Plus I hear she's got an awesome giveaway coming this week...Rainee Rae is what you call a hard-core shopper so I'm sure she's got something awesome for that....check it out:)

Plus she has pictures on her blog like this...
...that are actually relevant to her content!!

Another good one is Go 4 Pro...quite inspirational and full of ideas and encouragement if you' can I say it....."going for pro"!

These are just a few...check them all out and soak in the goodness of blog stalking.  And please....please...pretty please...share with me your favorite blogs to stalk!  I've got about 13 minutes
of my day where I have absolutely nothing at all to do!!!  I need more blogs to stalk!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Wonderful World of Apertures!

I was hanging with Princess today outside {finally some decent weather!} when I realized that she would be the perfect model for a quick show-and-tell about Aperture.

The question I get asked by my friends more than anything else is 
"How can I get those great blurry backgrounds?"
The key to blurry backgrounds is your Aperture.  Your aperture setting controls your background focus more than any other aspect on your camera.

I could seriously spend hours days talking about the different aspects of aperture and how it relates to your focus and lighting, but I'll try narrow it down to baby bites and just show one thing at a time.

Today, I'll show you how changing those little numbers by just the smallest amounts can make a big difference in your images.

Here's the info:  
My camera was set on the Aperture mode.  I did that just for these shots so I didn't have to change all my settings for each one.
Most dslr's have "modes" on a top dial button.  The aperture mode is usually listed as "AV"...

Setting your camera to aperture mode lets YOU choose the aperture and your camera chooses the shutter speed and ISO.  This is easiest way to start experimenting with aperture if you're not wanting to shoot in full manual mode. 

Apertures or F stops are those numbers listed on the side of your lens.  For example, you may see a lens described like this:
50mm F/1.4
70-300 F/4-5.6
24-70 F/2.8 

The F numbers list the smallest aperture that the lens will open up to at any given focal length.  Here's a very basic explanation:
The smaller the number, the fewer things are in focus, the blurrier the background.
The bigger the number, the more things are in focus, the sharper the background.

You will not find that definition in any camera manual, but it's helped me in sorting out all this camera stuff!

So here's some pics to help explain what the aperture actually does in your image.  
I took my first picture after I set my aperture to the smallest number it would go.  On my lens {50mm} 1.4 is the smallest.  Not all lenses will go this low, some start at 2.8 and others at 3.5 or 4.  Check the side of your lens to see what your smallest aperture is.  I've labeled the pics as I changed my aperture setting each time and went up in numbers.

Take notice of how the tree branches and the house behind her are almost completely blurred at the 1.4 setting but definitely recognizable by the time I get to 3.5.

Now take a look at the next 3 images, you'll really be able to tell a big difference in the background at these higher apertures.  Look at the details in the tree trunk from 4.5 to 9.  

Can you tell the difference?  
Because I just love making collages {and more because Princess wasn't done modeling} I've made one more set for you to take a look at.  Check out the tree in the background and the lines of the fence...

I hope this helps someone but of course the best way to figure it all out is just do it!  Get out there and start changing up those dials and see what happens.  The more you experiment with it the more it will "click" with ya~ 

By the there anything cuter than a little girl in piggy tails???
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