So You Want To Learn Shoot in Manual: The Exposure Triangle Part 2, The Basics of Shutter Speed

As an owner of a great DSLR camera I’m sure your goal is to take that thing out of auto and into manual mode so that you can have complete control over every photo you create.  Yesterday I brought you one step toward that goal when I introduced you to the exposure triangle and one corner of it known as aperture.  Today we will take a look at another component of the exposure triangle called shutter speed.

To read the rest of my post head on over to  Grace Tells Another Story where I am guest blogging yet again and teaching everyone how to get their DSLR into manual mode through an understanding of the three parts of the exposure triangle.  Today we are talking Shutter Speed!  See you there!


So You Want To Learn Shoot in Manual: The Exposure Triangle Part 1, The Basics of Aperture

When you buy a great camera it is with the intent of taking great photos right?  Why else spend the money? Now a days you could just simply use your camera phone for adequate everyday shots that document your memories.  The fact that you own a great camera tells me that you want better photos than what your phone can provide.  I’m here to do my best to teach you 3 fairly basic concepts that help you really put that camera  to the edge so that you can create amazing photographs.  The 3 concepts make up what is called the exposure triangle and they include Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.

But if you want to read the rest of my post you’ll have to hop on over to Grace Tells Another Story where I am guest blogging and teaching everyone how to get their DSLR into manual mode through an understanding of the three parts of the exposure triangle.  My first post is all about Aperture!  See you there!



Easy Black & White Photos In Lightroom!


I love creating black and white photos!  I just do!  I think they tend to draw your eye to what’s important in a photo, the emotions, the eyes, the STORY!  Sometimes though, it isn’t so easy to make them turn out the best!  When cruising the internet I tend to see some pretty drab, gray, and dreary black and whites.  Nothing kills me more than to see a child, especially a new born, with such gray skin that they look more deceased than sleeping.  I know! Morbid! But it does happen!  Let me walk you through how I changed this photo.


This is my photo straight out of the camera.  Not so bad, a little on the dark side maybe but nothing too far from normal.  I wanted the viewer to really pay attention to their interaction.  Their gaze with one another.  Let me tell you how I dressed it up to make that happen!


First I started by hitting the Black & White button in the Basic menu under the develop tab!  YUCK!  THIS is a GREAT example of a BAD black & white in my opinion.  It’s dark, grey, dull, and the girls look sick and ashey!  BLAH!

So I set out to change  a a few things.  I like my black & whites to be bright, with strong blacks and pretty good contrast.  So those are the sliders I tackled first.  I increased the exposure to 1.89… that’s quite a bit! I added a touch of fill light at 8 and I upped the blacks a tad to 9.  Then I attacked the brightness and bumped that right up to 68!  I told you like things bright!  Unfortunately this make their white shirts a bit too neon… if white can be neon!  So I slid the recovery slider to 34.  That helped a lot!  Contrast was next on my list and I slid that to 62.  Here… you can see my settings yourself!


There was still ONE thing that bothered me though.  The beautiful girl on the right… her face as still just a bit too dark for me.  Take a look!


I took my brush and selected the built in brightness brush and light went over her face!  I liked the result much better! Take a look!


Every photo is of course slightly different.  While I love presets I usually have tweak everything no matter what.  The settings I shared with you are typical of the settings I usually adjust when creating black and white photos.  Play around with yours to see what impact they have on your photos!

A Is For Aperture!

I’ve joined a little bloggy challenge and link up!  I’ll be joining other bloggers of the internet as we create blog posts related to letters of the alphabet. It’ll challenge me to bring you even better and more creative content.  For the letter A I thought I’d give a bit of photography tutorial… A is for Aperature!

Aperture, also known as F-Stop! It is a common photography term.  One you should know if you will get the most use out of even many point and shoot cameras.

Wikipedia defines aperture as a hole or an opening through which light travels.  It also says… a wide aperture results in an image that is sharp around what the lens is focusing on and blurred otherwise.

Essentially a wide aperture makes a very large hole through which light can travel into your camera.  A very narrow aperture does not let much light in at all.

So what does that mean?  It means that if you set your camera to a wide aperature (a low F/stop like 1.4 or 2.8) then the only thing that will be in focus in your photo will be in focus.  Everything else will be blurry.  As a side… the camera will let in the most light.  Wide apertures are GREAT for low light situations.  I use wide apertures a lot in portrait photography or anytime I don’t really want to see much of the background in my photos.

On the other hand… narrow apertures (or high F/stops like 10 or 12 or 16) will produce a photo where EVERYTHING is in focus.  The camera actually let’s in very little light so this is not ideal for low light situations at all.  It is great for landscape photography however.

Let me show you what you mean.  I took a series of photos of my son’s Empire State Building Model.  Hopefully this will help you visualize what I am trying to describe.


This photo was taken with an f/stop of 1.4.  You can see that the ONLY thing in focus in this photo is the model.  Everything else is blurry.  This can really help draw the eye to just what you want your viewer to see.


This photo was taken with an f/stop of 3.2.  That is still a pretty wide aperture and most things are still blurry, but not quite so much.  This time you can probably make out the numbers on the side of the box on the little table to the left.storyboard-861

This photo was taken with an f/stop of 5.6  We are starting to close down the aperture now.  A lot more is in focus in this photo though not everything.  My son, in the background, is still a bit blurry. I typically us a 5.6 when photographing groups of people.  If I use an aperture that is too narrow I risk having some people in the shot come out blurry.  That is never a good thing.  storyboard-862

This photo was taken at an f/stop of 16.  We have really closed down the aperture now.  Everything is in a pretty good focus.  Even my son in the background can be clearly seen though he is still dark.  Remember, an aperature like this let’s in little light.  I was using my speed light just bouncing it from the ceiling.  The light from that really isn’t reaching that far back into the photo.

So there you have it!  A is for aperture… now… what will I do for B?

Blogging Through the Alphabet

A Little Christmas Magic

You know what is the coolest thing about Christmas… at least from a photographer’s point of view?  LIGHTS!  Lots of pretty dazzling lights every where you look!  I thought I would try to make a bit of a starburst effect with our Christmas tree.  This was the result.  Oh, and that ornament?  Handmade by my son!  Isn’t it just the cutest?


Merry Christmas!

Tips & Tricks: More ways to improve your photos… FLASH!

In last week’s blog post Tips & Tricks! Catching the light! How to improve your photographs with better lighting! We discussed the drawbacks of flash photography and how to find great light in order to create great photos.  But I know there are times when a flash is just absolutely necessary.  Not all of life takes place near a fine source of natural light.  So let’s talk about how to get the best out of what we have.

Take note of where you are standing!

If you must use a flash make sure you are not too close or too far from your subject.  When a flash fires rather with minimal distance between it and the person you are photographing then you are likely to end up with a very very WHITE washed out photo like the one I took of my puppy back in 2003.  Not so great right?  It certainly would have worked better if I had just taken a step back!  Of course you don’t want to get too far away.  The flash will diminish before it reaches your subject and be of little help.

Soften the Flash!

The drawback to flash photography is that often times, even if you do step back, the light is just too harsh.  The shadows are too hard.  The look is just unflattering.  However, if you can simply turn your flash down you can greatly improve the overall look of your photo.  There are a few ways you can do this.

First, read your users manual and determine if you camera has something call exposure compensation.  It might be called flash compensation or even light compensation. I’ve seen it abbreviated to just EV.  I’m sure there are cameras out there that have yet another name for this so look carefully.   On my Nikon point and shoot there is a little symbol that looks like this…

On other cameras you might see a meter that looks more like this..

That meter might run vertically instead of horizontially. MOST of today’s point and shoot cameras have this feature.  If you take a photo and the flash is too harsh or too bright, bring up this feature and turn the flash down (or toward the -2).  And conversely if the flash is not enough turn the flash up!

These two photos of me and my daughter were taken by my husband using an on camera flash.  Between the two shots he simply turned the flash down.  This made a pretty significant difference in the outcome of the photo.

What if you don’t have Exposure Compensation?

A few weeks ago I spoke very briefly on this topic at a workshop and just after I finished someone  handed me a camera and asked me to find that feature.  I could not.  I do not believe this camera, only a year old I was told, had exposure compensation though I’d really want to check the manual to be sure.  So what do you do now?  Is all hope lost?

No, there are some very hand little tricks that can really help.

Diffuse the Flash

If you can’t turn the flash down in camera, find an external way.  You can take a little tissue paper and hang it over the flash or use a bit of semi-transparent tape.

Bounce the Flash

Like I’ve said before, the flash is so harsh because it is such a small light source.  You can soften the light by making the light source bigger.  How do you do that with a tiny on board flash?  Take a white business card and hold it just in front of the flash at an angle so the light will be directed toward a nearby wall or even the ceiling.  That will make your light source the size of the entire wall as it reflects back on your subject.  The larger the light source, the softer the light.

Experiment with different modes!

Many cameras have a variety of different modes.  See if portrait mode or even night mode will give you more pleasing results.


No matter what camera you have, you’ll never truly know the potential if you do not spend a great deal of time practicing.  Then when you’ll know just what to do with your camera when the moment is important and you’ll never have to miss an important shot or have it ruined by the terrible antics of your camera.

I love readers and adore those who comment.  Please let me know if these posts have helped you and be sure to leave any of your questions.  Perhaps you can inspire a future blog post!  Until then… thanks for reading!

Tips & Tricks! Catching the light! How to improve your photographs with better lighting!

I don’t believe there is anything more important in a photograph than the light that was used to create it.  I’ll say it again…. there is nothing more important than light when creating a wonderful photograph.  Stop and think… you can have a fabulous moment that is destroyed because the photo was too dark, too bright, or too streaky.  If you cannot see those fabulous expressions, or you are distracted by strange shadows, what exactly is the point in creating that photograph?  Light can make the difference between a FABULOUS photograph and one the is just… ho hum.  In this blog post I plan to show you the difference and give you pointers for finding fabulous light.

My Number 1 tip for creating fabulous photographs is this…. TURN OFF THE FLASH!

The flash of a camera can make subjects look strangely ghost like.  It can make the person you are photographing bright white and the background almost pitch black. Camera flash can also create strange and unnatural shadows in your photograph. It can make people blink, give them red eye, and distract them from the moment you wanted to capture.  Seriously, who LIKES having a flash poofed in their face over and over?  Why do camera flashes create such results?  Because the are very small and pretty strong sources of light.  Here is something to remember.  The smaller the light source, the more harsh it’ll be and it will result in strong, unnatural, and unflattering shadows.

Let me show you an example.  This is a photo of my son I took back in 2006 when he was just 4 months old.  I took it with a standard point and shoot camera with your typical built in flash.  Do you see how bright he is compared to the background?  Do you see that odd shadow behind his head?  This just isn’t the best representation of real life.  While I love this photo because it is my memory of my baby boy is who now a whopping 5 years old.  Any photo is better than no photo but there are things I could have done to make it even better.

Catch the Light!

If you are not going to use flash for a light source you are going to have to find another source of light.  My ultimate favorite choice is natural outdoor light.  Given the chance I’ll photograph outdoors every time.  Outdoor light can be absolutely gorgeous.  But let’s think about this for a moment.  Yes, outdoor light can be gorgeous, but outdoor sunlight might not give you any truly different results.  Why?  Because the sun is also a very small source of light that will also create harsh unflattering shadows and squinty eyes.  Let me show you!

This is a photo from a wedding I was in back in 2006.  It was a very sunny day and the wedding was midday.  Notice the harsh shadows under eyes and in our faces.  Not the prettiest of photos is it?

What do you do?  The flash stinks, bright sunlight stinks, what’s left?  PLENTY! My tricks for catching great natural light are the same for both indoors and outdoors.  FIRST, turn your subject toward the light.  If the light is coming from a window or one portion of the sky have them face in that direction.  It’ll create very pretty light in their eyes and illuminate their faces in a very pleasing way.

If you are indoors, bring your subject close to a window that does not have sun directly pouring into it.  If it is a decently bright day, the light pouring is will be gorgeous!  Here is an example.

This is a photo I took of my husband in my hospital room the day we brought our daughter home.  I LOVE this photo!  Why?  Well first it sure is a special moment I will treasure forever.  But look at the light on his face and in his eyes!  I simply had him turn toward the big window.  It was a sunny day, sunlight was hitting the bright roof and building just outside the window and reflecting back into our room.  PERFECT.  BEAUTIFUL!  I could set up a studio in that room!

And I can’t resist sharing this one too.  I took this photo in my living room!  It was early morning and the sun was pouring through one window.  The direct sunlight would have been too harsh so I closed the blinds to soften the light perfectly.  There was a bit more light coming in through a window on the right that just filled any possible shadows.  I hung a white sheet behind her and poof.  I had the perfect setup in just moments.  You can actually see the beautiful light shining in her eyes.  I did have to clone some wrinkles out of the sheet after the fact in photoshop.  But that was easy!

Great!  You can get great light indoors.  What if I’m outdoors? How do I avoid those harsh shadows?  Pretty much the same way.  Find a shaded area to put your subject in.  The light will reflect off of the ground and objects around the shaded area right onto your subject and light them beautifully.

Take a look at this photo of a beautiful bride I had the opportunity to photograph just this week.  She was sitting on a park bench in front of a hotel on a very sunny day.  I had her under the overhang of the hotel so she was shaded.  Sunlight was hitting the sidewalk just in front of her and reflecting right back at her.  She was perfectly lit and I was jumping for joy inside. No harsh shadows, not squinting, just perfection.

Now I know there are times when the use of flash is just unavoidable.  Trust me, I find myself in dark places all of the time.  Next week I will talk about how to make the best use of your flash and what to do to turn down some of the harshness.

Thanks for reading!  I hope you all are having a fantastic week!

ps.  Feel free to leave questions in the comment box and I’ll be sure to answer them!


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!