Friday Loves! And of course… the NOT so loves!

Friday again!  How did that happen?  The weeks just fly by don’t they?  The busier you are the faster it all seems to race away.  I really am trying to find the time to stop and smell the proverbial roses as they say.  I think I’ll try to choose one activity each week that makes me SSSLLLLOOOWWW DOWN!  This week I took the time to do something I have been MEANING to do for a couple of months.  Photograph MY OWN CHILDREN!

You know the saying, the cobbler’s children have no shoes?  The photographer’s children have no photos!  I’m always so busy photographing everyone and everything else that my own kid’s get a little lost in the shuffle.  Joyanna is ALREADY 10 months old!  I’ve got to do this while I still can.

Oh, and Mom.. don’t look… these are your mother’s day presents! (You all KNOW she’s going to look right?)  Oh it doesn’t matter anyway, I’m just sharing ONE today!  I’ll share another next week when I post about improving your photos using great light.

So let’s start with some NOT SO LOVES!  Get them out of the way so we can end on a high note.

  • I still can’t get the check from our home owners insurance cashed.  It needs to be Fed Exed across the country.  But FIRST we need to have a notary stamp it.  Ugh!  Like I have time for this nonsense!
  • Repairmen who act like they can’t be bothered.  Look buddy, if this job is too much of a pain for you I can always take my work and my money someplace else!
  • When I go to two grocery stores looking for something simple and neither have what I want.
  • Gas prices… have you SEEN THE PRICE OF GAS LATELY?
  • Diaper rash, ok yes I wrote this one last week.  It’s here again because our problem has not been solved.

Ok, now on the wonderful things!  LOVES!

  • I love love LOVE my new iPhone!  This thing rocks!  I can text like every other person in the world now.  I can answer client emails and Facebook posts on the fly.
  • I LOVE Instagram  It’s this fun way to share snapshots from your iPhone.  I’m having a blast with it and probably getting a little carried away!
  • I LOVE the sessions I’ve booked this week.  Yeah me!  Still crossing my fingers on that wedding I wrote about last week though.
  • I LOVE the photos I captured of my baby girl this week.  Ok so I’m biased.  But I just think she is the most beautiful child!
  • I LOVE my son Noah who completed the entire first level in his math program this week.  Go Noah!
  • I LOVE the couple whose wedding I am photographing tomorrow.  Jeremy and Jen are the coolest.   I consider it a true honor that they asked ME to document their big day.  (A not so love would be the butterflies in my tummy.  It is my FIRST wedding of the season.  It is also the first wedding I will ever shoot where I know MANY of the guests.  Please pray I don’t trip and fall and make a fool of myself.  I’ll never live it down if I do!)
  • Oh! Almost forgot another LOVE!  I LOVE the 50mm 1.4 lens I’ve been renting this week.  I used it to take the photo of my daughter below.  This is on my must buy soon list!  It is just DELICIOUS!  I’m going to rock it out at the wedding tomorrow!

Have a great weekend everyone!  But before I go, here is a quick collage of some of my loves this week!  You’ll see my bride and groom, my baby girl, and my iPhone with an instagram photo.  Take care!



Tips & Tricks: How to make your photos look better! Backgrounds!

So how did I start out in photography?  It’s a rather long story.  The short of it goes like this.  I didn’t come from a family that took many photos.  The few photos that we did take we rarely saw as we usually never got around to developing the film.  Rolls would sit gathering dust forever.  There aren’t many photos of me growing up displaying and documenting the things I did.  Then I grew up and sadly people I loved or would have wanted my children to know started to pass away.  My husband and I lost 2 grandparents, an aunt, and a father is the space of just a couple of years.  I mourned the fact that my yet to be born children would never get the chance to know these people and that I had nothing of them to share.

That’s when scrapbooking came into my life.  Up until then, even if I had taken the photos and went so far as to have them developed or printed what exactly was I ever going to do with them?  Now I had a plan, and a creative outlet to boot!  Loved it!  STILL do!  As time went on I began to realize that my FAVORITE pages were often those with the most beautiful photos.  So I wanted to get MORE beautiful photos, with purpose.  I didn’t want to rely on luck any longer.  I wanted to learn how to make it happen.  So I learned, I practiced, I studied, I practiced, I took courses online, I practiced, I took a distance course through the New York Institute of Photography, I practiced, I went to workshops, I practiced.  Ok… so you get the point.  I am certainly not done learning or practicing for that matter.

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to share a series of posts aimed to help budding photographer’s get better pictures.  They were the suggestions that got me started!  I shared these suggestions recently at a workshop scrapbookers.  I hope you enjoy them and if you have any questions be sure to ask!


TIP ONE!  Making Backgrounds Just Right!

Check your background before hitting the shutter release!

It might be stating the obvious but even the most experienced pros forget this from time to time.  Look through your view find or at your LCD.  Is there anything that is distracting, ugly, out of place, etc?  Are there any funny objects (like a tree, a pole, a lamp shade, or something similar sticking out from your behind your subjects head?)  If so, what can you do about it?  Most of the time the fix will take five seconds, just do a quick sweep away for the clutter and then move on.  Other times you might have to be more creative.  You just aren’t going to be able to move that ridiculous cell phone tower over your friend’s shoulder.

Move your subject

Some backgrounds just aren’t going to work and you’ll need to move on.  But often times the fix is just a quick shimmy to the left or the right.

Place subjects in front of open spaces

Putting some distance between your subject and the clutter can often help tremendously.  The clutter becomes smaller in the frame and less obvious.

The bench I chose for these 3 cuties is in front of a busy road and some not so glamorous houses.  Luckily the bench is a good distance from those distractions and therefore they are not as noticeable.  I also squat down and changed my camera angle so that I could use the bench to block out some of the mess (more on that below).

Fill your frame with your subject

Get in close and fill in the camera frame with your subject.  If all we see is your subject then we won’t be able to see any of the yuckiness behind them.

Change your shooting angle

What if you scoot way down and point your camera up, can your camera still see the unsightliness you are trying to avoid?  What if you grab a chair or jump up on a nearby wall and point your camera down at your subject.  Does that make your background more pleasing?

Can you believe the photo on the right was taken just inches away from the two chairs on the left?  I just asked my couple to sit on the ground while I stood on a little box.  You’d never know they were in the middle of thrift shop.  I filled my frame with them AND I shot from a higher angle to cut out all the clutter.

Make your own background

Backgrounds can be easy to make.  A simple blanket close pinned between two chairs can work fabulously for a child.  Some shear fabric tacked artfully to the wall can be very pretty.  Get creative!

This photo was actually taken in a pretty tiny living room in a typical condo.  I simply tacked a large brown blanket behind her and I had an instant backdrop.

Post processing

You always want to strive to make the photo as great as it can be in camera.  Occasionally though, you’re just going to have to do the dirty work on the computer after the photo is taken.  There are many programs that have adequate clone tools that can quite efficiently erase away that thing you just wish would disappear.

Sometimes the computer can be your best friend.  After the fact I decided this gorgeous Momma to be looked far better without the bridge  behind her (or the strange stick sticking out of her head).  It took some time and effort but I was eventually able to remove everything.  Ah… much better!

A great background really truly can make or break what should be a great photo.  I hope you find this post helpful!  Sometime next week I’ll do another one on finding great light!

Enjoy your Thursday!

It Sure Is A Blessing to Give! Or, I’m as good as Jay Harris!

It was fall when I received a message from my friend Jen.  She was planning a human auction to raise money for the new building our church is renovating.  She was looking for talented people to volunteer their time and services.   I automatically assumed she was asking me to help her brainstorm a list of people who ask.  I think I read the message 4 times before I realized she was asking ME to donate my photography skills.  Wait me?  ME? I’m being included in a list of people skilled enough to donate something to auction?  It probably seems ridiculous to some but I couldn’t believe it!

Before you could say boo I started writing an email telling her how excited and honored I’d be to do it.  But then my fingers FROZE!  All the what ifs started flooding my mind.  What if my session went for some piddly amount?  Or worse!  What if no one bid on me?  I’d be hurt and embarrassed!  I had serious doubts about accepting.  But I did, thank goodness I did!

The night of the auction finally came.  I was NERVOUS!  I didn’t want to go.  I didn’t want to witness my own humiliation if I only brought in $10.  I mean, all of my friends were going to be there!  But at the same time, I couldn’t stay home either.  That auction began.  They started with some delicious pies and other baked goodies.  Someone donated dog training services and someone else donated some interior decorating services.  My husband bet on some help from a handyman to do some fix ups around our house.  One of the most exciting items of the evening was a golf game and tour of ESPN with Sports Center Anchor Jay Harris.  Some of the guys were furiously bidding and the excitement was high.  What fun!  Then came my part.  A Session with Crystal Starr Photography.  I told myself I’d be happy if I rounded out at around $75.  A $100 would be wonderful.  The bidding started.  First $25, then $50, and before I knew it we were at $75.  Phew!  I would be embarrassed after all!  But then it just kept going!  And going! And going!  My head was spinning!  How could this be?  People were excited!  A little war was going on between the Pastor of our church and a couple of others.  Can you believe my session went for just as much as the round of golf and a tour of ESPN with Jay Harris!?  I was beside myself!  Pastor Joe won.  He told me his daughter-in-law wanted it and he decided he was going to get it for her.  My heart sang!  Not only did I feel appreciated in my work, but I was able to do something I loved to bring a nice chunk of change to the church.

The session was fantastic.  Jay and Sheena had just had a little baby a few months back.  They wanted photos of her and their nearly two year old Rylin.  Baby Riese was so sweet and tolerated my fussing and my camera like a champ.  Rylin was a doll.  So full of energy and just as curious as any little girl should be.  She kept me on my toes but listened so very well.  Mom and Dad were super.  They kept a very positive attitude and gave me the space to help their children be successful.

I was so blessed with this session.  I hope to have the opportunity to donate my photography to another great cause some day.  I’m not sure I really want to do another auction!  As fun as it was, it was a bit much on my heart!  Thank you Jen for asking me.  Thank to all of those who bid on me.  And thank you to the Jakum family for such a wonderful session!

A Family Portrait Session at Hubbard Park

It was a wet fall day.  Silly me, you’d think I’d check the weather forecast when I have an outdoor shoot scheduled.  That was a bone headed move!  I had no idea it was going to rain.  Driving down the highway I eyed the ever graying clouds with a scornful eye.  And then the rain drops started to pelt the windshield.  Darn it!  I should have called this poor family ahead of time and rescheduled.

I called my husband and asked him to check the radar for me.  I love my husband.  He is always there for me at times like this.  My acting meteorologist informed me that there was a window in the rain headed straight for the park.  I had a chance to get it in.  Phew!

I climbed out of the car and was met with a warm welcome by my friend Caryn.  She and her husband Mike eyed the sky and asked me if I really thought this was going to work out.  “Well, we are here! Let’s see what we can get.  If we have to I’d be happy to reschedule.”  She agreed and opened her van doors to let her little crew scamper out.  To my delight, the children were thrilled and full of smiles.  They didn’t seem to notice the weather.  The air quickly filled with squeals and laughter.  I eased.  I knew we could make something out of this.

I suggested we take a walk down a nearby set of stairs into a lower part of the park where the light still seemed pretty well.  As we descended some I felt my head get pelted with little drops of rain.  The children didn’t seem to mind!  If anything, they seemed to enjoy it!.  My first mission was to try and get the ever elusive sibling shot.  You know, the one with all three, smiling, LOOKING AT THE CAMERA!  Sarah, Elizabeth, and Joshua range in age from not quite two all the way to 6.  What a challenge.  But they made it easy!  They were delightful and eager to do as I asked.  So mission 1, accomplished.


And then the rain began to really fall!  Oh dear! With squeals and laughter, we ran to take shelter under a nearby overhang.  I snapped a few more as we waited to see what the weather held for us next.  I am forever grateful to Caryn and Mike.  Their easy going, laid back attitude completely rubbed off on the children.  They decided to have fun with it and the children took that cue and they had fun too.  That attitude created an atmosphere of big grins and giggles that are a breeze to photograph.  All of this despite the rain.  And wouldn’t you know it?  The rain let up just enough for us to continue with our mission.

First up was funny man Joshua!  This little boy’s expressions were absolutely darling!  I wonder if he had half as much fun with me as I did with him.  A total doll.  A complete gentleman.



Then we had sweet Sarah.  Shy and giggling.  I could tell she was a bit nervous.  But she was a total shining star.  I was totally impressed with her through and through.



And finally, we cannot forget Elizabeth!  She is the big sister and she shines in her role.  On this day she was sporting a new gappy grin and a bit of concern about a little bandage on her finger.  I had so fun much chatting with her.  What a little lady.



Would you believe we completed this session in about 45 minutes?  That has to be a record!  3 small children in 45 minutes!  With more than a couple of breaks to dodge the rain drops to boot!  WOW!  That’s just a testament to what a family they are.


Thank you so much Elizabeth, Sarah, and Joshua!  You three make an awesome team! Thank you for making ME look so good!  I truly look forward to next time!



It’s Here A New Website! A New Blog! All New Digs for Crystal Starr Photography!

Happy Wednesday!

Today calls for a celebration!  It is time to FINALLY unveil my very first dedicated website for Crystal Starr Photography!  Up until now I have relied on a piddly blogsite to serve both purposes.  And while it worked, it wasn’t ME.  It didn’t fit who I am and what I want my business to be.  And as a result, I did NOT use it as much as I should have.  It just was NOT working for me!  So instead of bashing my head against the wall trying to update that mess I decided it was time to start fresh.

Would you like a little peak?  Well just click on the photo and you’ll be whisked away to enjoy it’s full beauty!  Ok, cheesy… but fun right? Oh wait! Don’t go yet, there is a little fun just for you at the bottom of this post!  You won’t want to miss it!



Now of course my new site isn’t everything I want it to be.  I’m still learning and experimenting.  I want to add more of ME to the site.  But we’re off to a great start.  It features some of my favorite things.  Purple, lilacs, and my favorite clients from the past year or so.  Ok, so to be fair, I have more favorite clients than just those you see in the galleries.  I just couldn’t fit you all in!  I’m sorry!


By the way, thank you to each and every person who has supported me in the launch of my business.  It has been one heck of ride!  To say thank you, I would like to give fans of my  Facebook Page who book a session in 2011 a gift of a $25 print credit redeemable for any of my products.

Until tomorrow!


Time to Start Sharing! A Newborn Session

Ok Folks!

The holidays are over!  Many of my clients asked me not to share their photos until after the Christmas season as many of them wanted to gift their photos to friends and loved ones.  I didn’t want to spoil any surprises so I have not blogged many of my fall sessions.  Well it is time to start!

Today I bring to you the absolute sweetest family.  I was given the honor and privileged of being welcomed into their home when their newest arrival was just 5 days old!  What a doll!  And his big sister cracked me up the entire time.  Big sis is a typical spunky 2 year old with lots to say and lots of love for her baby brother.  We had a ball.

Adam and Lindsay thank you for a great session!

The Eyes Have It! A Family Session at Hubbard Park

Would you just look at these two adorable little boys?  Their eyes are just absolutely amazing!  They just sparkle and radiate!  What a fun session this was!  We arrived at Hubbard park on a clear crisp beautiful autumn day.  The trees were absolutely at their peak of color.  But these two little boys stole the show.  We ran and we laughed.  We climbed and yes, we even splashed in a few puddles.  All in the name of good fun!  It is sessions like these that make this job the best in world.  Thank you so much Kerri!  Your boys were just love and I was privileged to photograph them!

Feeling All Warm & Fuzzy Inside

My to do list these days is endless.  Crystal Starr Photography is absolutely exploding!  What a ride!  The blessings God is bringing me through my camera are exhilarating…. and exhausting!  It isn’t always easy keeping up with what is essentially a full-time business, a husband, and three children (two of whom I am homeschooling and the third of which I exclusively nurse).  I rise early and fall to my pillow late.

The most important business related item on my to-do list this evening was delivering a print order to a recent client.  I usually love delivering prints.  I love the ooohhhs, aaaahhhs, and smiles.  It is fun to bring a bit of happiness into people’s lives.  The conversation tonight over the open box of prints did not disappoint.  The family was happy with the final product.  Horray!  But then Mom held the 11×14 print of her gorgeous daughter near the spot on the wall it will soon grace.  Suddenly, for me at least, the photo came alive and took on new meaning for me.  It became not just something pretty on my computer screen (as I see my creations on the computer FAR more than any other place I have the opportunity to see them – it is the nature of the digital photographer).  But something precious for this family.

Jeanette is growing up. She’ll be off to college soon.  Her whole life awaits her.  I know it sounds corny and kooky and what have you, but I can sort of imagine Jeanette’s future children – and dare I say grandchildren – admiring these photos and gushing over how gorgeous she was when she was just a young lady ready to strike out into the world.  No they won’t think of me the photographer during those moments.  But something I created will be enjoyed and have precious meaning for a long time to come.  That just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I’m not sure I can look at this photo in just the same way ever again.  Thank you to Jeanette’s family for blessing me with so much with just this one photo shoot.

FAQ: What do your spiral bound photobooks look like?

In the past I offered something called a session album as part of a couple of my packages.  I found the description must not be very clear because most of my clients asked me what exactly that was.  So I’ve decided to rename the product. I think Spiral Bound Photobook is a bit more accurate.  It features front and back custom designed sturdy covers.  These books are absolutely adorable and perfect for toting around in your purse and sharing with others.  They make fantastic gifts as well! I feature the 5×7 version in my packages but they also come in 4×6, 5×5, and 8×10.

Since a picture is worth a 1,000 words I thought you’d appreciate a visual of exactly what I am talking about.  I created this album for one of my recent clients.  I was quite pleased with how it turned out.  Of course, I did have a gorgeous model gracing the pages.


What a stunning young lady!

I recently had the opportunity to photograph Jeanette.  What a privilege it was to have her stand before my camera.  Not only is she absolutely gorgeous!  But she is also a total sweetheart.  Of course we chatted it up during our session.  This young lady is absolutely full of grace and glass.  Jeanette is a stellar student and athlete.  She is captain of her math team for goodness sakes!  Jeanette, thank you for a fantastic session! Have fun with your senior year.  I’ll be looking forward to updates about you as you graduate high school and step out into the world.  I have no doubt you will go far!  I hope you enjoy Jeanette’s photos as much as I enjoyed creating them.