For BAIS Photography Class…Working with Levels

The Levels tool in Photoshop adjusts the brightness of an image at three points: black, white, and midtones. It is great for brightening up dull images.

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This example image is dark and lifeless. We will use the levels tool to brighten it up.

1. Make sure your layers palette is in view. Go to Window > Layers (or press F7).

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2. Open your image. You layers palette should should one layer (your photo).

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3. Click on the adjustment layer icon (the black and white circle) and choose LEVELS.

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4. A Levels dialogue box will appear that looks like this

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5. Don’t be intimidated by the box…the levels represent the color points in your image. The goal of a photo is to have the “curve” of colors extend all the to the blacks (the left) and all the way to the whites (right) with a peak in the center (midtones). That would create a photo with the full color range. However, if your photo doesn’t do that you can “help” it.

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Our example photo is missing colors in the white (light) areas.

6. In order to fix that, we are going to drag the white slider to the point that it meets the “black mountain.”

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7. In one quick and easy step your photo will improve dramatically.

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I ♥ Faces

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This is just one of those sites that I HAVE to share! So, so, SO cool!

IheartFaces is an awesome photography site. The site was born out of a love for people photos. Each week, they have a theme and there is a challenge to take a picture (or show an older one) that fits the weeks theme. You blog it, flickr it, etc. and you post your link. Then, the photos are judges, winners are chosen, and they highlight some of the best photos for the week. Here are just a few of the things that make challenge rock:

  1. I love all the different themes…so cool to see SO MANY people tackle the same subject, but with totally different results
  2. I love that the challenges force you to think about themes in new ways — to stretch yourself, try something new, and forge a new trail
  3. I love that they allow beginners, amateurs, and professionals to participate
  4. They have some really cool themes! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the feet week they just had! Check out what is coming up:

  • Week 30 – Aug 3rd – “My Story In Photos: Summer Edition”
  • Week 31 – Aug 10th – Crazy, Silly, Funny Face
  • (There will be a special “Pets” category during Week 31)
  • Week 32 – Aug 17th – Bubbles
  • Week 33 – Aug 24th – Nostalgia
  • Week 34 – “Before & After”
  • (This will be a non-competition week)
  • Week 35 – Sept 7th – Contemplative
  • (There will be a special “Pets” category during Week 35)
  • Week 36 – Sept 14th – Completely Candid
  • Week 37 – Sept 21st – Blue
  • Week 38 – Sept 28th – Excited!

In addition, the site has some cool things like Fix It Friday (where you can edit a photo and show the results — woo hoo!) and some great giveaways and tutorials.

I’m so stoked about this place…I LOVE a good challenge! Hope you check it out!

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Working With White Balance

photographyclass_450*Today’s post is a guest post by THE DAILY DIGI artist team member, Ana.

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How to get better colors in your photos

It’s a family gathering and you want to take a group picture. You get everyone together, set the timer on your camera and snap that perfect family picture that will sure end up in a beautiful scrapbook page. Just then, you realize people in the photo looked like they came from another planet, with a bluish tone to their skins.

Okay, there’s Photoshop. For us, digiscrappers, it’s somewhat easy to just fix the photo. But I’m sure you agree with me it would be useful to learn how to set your camera so that it cuts photo editing time. And that’s where white balance comes along.

White Balance is a special setting that adjusts the colors of the image as accurate as possible. Our eyes don’t notice the different shades of colors, so the white we see indoors is the “same” white we see outdoors. Our brains just say “Yep, that’s white” and that’s it. The camera is not so smart though, hence the yellowish, bluish tones that we get sometimes. Actually, the real explanation to why this happens goes back to physics, color temperatures, light and so on. We’ll not go there.

In your camera you will notice a button WB. This stands for White Balance. It comes with some presets: Auto White Balance (AWB), Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash and Custom. Some cameras also have Kelvin preset, mine (Canon Xti) doesn’t. The auto preset is fairly good, but when you start playing with white balance you notice that there is a big difference when you choose the right preset.

See my example below:

The first 2 images don’t have much difference in color. The doll was placed by the window, no lights were on in the room.

The shade preset makes the image warmer. The cloudy preset is slightly cooler than the shade one, still warmer than the first two presets.

The big difference is on the last two images. Those are totally wrong for the light available, making the white bluish. If I had the lights on, and had placed the doll somewhere else (not by the window), the tungsten preset would be the best. In this case, the natural light ones (daylight, shade, cloudy) would turn the image yellowish.

Now it’s time for you to play with your camera. If you have it on the auto mode, you won’t be able to change white balance presets. Get Out of Auto and see how you can enhance your images by learning how to operate your camera better.

If you want to learn more about White Balance, check out these articles:

Understanding White Balance, Cambridge in Colour

Pro Tip: White Balance 101, Webshots Blog

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Getting Out of Auto

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The sun is out, the temperatures have warmed up, and the kids are playing outside. For many of us, this is the time we want to start pulling out our cameras more and trying to capture the fun of summer through our lenses.  And the more we play with our cameras, the more we want to learn.  Maybe this is the time you have decided to get out of auto mode.  However, there is one little problem.  You don’t know what any of those other little pictures mean!  That little green camera image has been your friend for so long…you just don’t know if you can leave it.  Well, I am here to tell you that you CAN.  You can do it!  You can explore the world of little men who look like they are running and that cute little tulip picture.  Come on, you know you want to try.

I remember the first time I turned that little dial away from green. I was sitting on the beach with my family and decided to give portrait mode a try.  I read that it helped keep your foreground in focus and your background blurry, and that is totally what I wanted.  For a LONG time I thought this was the coolest shot ever. Three years later I shoot in full manual mode but it took me a while to get there.

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Most camera dials look somewhat similar — many of the icons are the same regardless of the kind of camera you have.  Let me briefly explain the three types of shooting modes and then I am going to send you to a great article that explains each of the choices within each mode.

1. Fully Automatic:  This is that little green square/camera that you love so much.  The camera chooses everything for you.  It chooses your focus, white balance, ISO, and more by taking in the information it gets from your viewfinder and doing its best to take the picture that it thinks you want.  Sometimes it works great, and sometimes it makes you want to cry.  At least there were no decisions involved (well, except where to point the camera — it can’t do everything for you!)  Within this mode are the choices of portrait, landscape, night, macro, sports, and sometimes even ones like beach and fireworks.

2. Semi-Automatic: These choices include Aperture-Priority Mode, Shutter-Priority Mode, and sometimes Program Mode.  With each of these options the camera allows you to choose one dynamic of the photo (shutter speed or aperture) and then the camera chooses everything else in order to get a correct exposure.

3. Fully Manual: This options is just what is says — fully manual.  You, the photographer, choose everything. You decide on your ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, and focus.  This is a powerful mode that allows you to get the exact shot you want — assuming, of course, that you know what all these things mean and you know how to make them work together.

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For a great (and simple) article on learning what each of the individual dial choices mean, check out THIS tutorial at Digital Photography School.  The author does a great job and explaining each of the options.  My hope is that those of you who want to learn more about their camera and want to try something out of auto will feel like they learned enough to give it a shot (pun fully intended).

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What’s Your Angle?

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Do you ever wonder why two people can take a picture of the same thing and they can look totally different?  Two people see a gorgeous monument and both take pictures…one is just a picture of a monument and one is a work of art in and of itself.   Or, two people take pictures of their kids playing in the yard and one looks like a bunch of weeds with a kid in it and the other looks like it belongs on the living room wall.  Why is this?

Well, much of photography is not about what we take pictures of (subject) or what we take pictures with (our camera). In addition to those things, the WAY we take pictures drastically changes the final outcome. The way we approach our subjects can take a photo from snapshot to art.  Let me show you…

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A few weeks ago we had an Easter Egg hunt at our friends house.  They have some beautiful new flowers popping up in their yard and I loved them. They were just a beautiful bright spot in my day — making be catch my breath in wonder of the beauty of nature.  It also made me feel like it was spring after all (in a place where really it is an eternal summer).  I wanted to capture it.  But to do that, I had to think, to explore different angles, to try different ways to capture in my camera what I felt in my heart.

The above photo is what most people do…they see something pretty and they take a picture.  Yes, it captured the image in the literal sense but in the artistic and emotional sense, the photo did nothing. It is a few flowers in a patch of dirt.  Nothing more.

But then I took my camera and explored some different angles. I tried to see the flowers in all their beauty.  Here are the results…

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First I got down to ground level and took a photo with my eye at the level of the top of the flowers. I set my camera to a large aperature (2.8) and got in close which allowed me to focus on specific flowers.  This creates a blurry foreground and background and adds more visual interest to the flowers.  My eye knows where to look.  If you don’t have a camera with manual controls, look for the macro setting (usually a flower symbol) or the portrait setting (usually a profile image) on your point and shoot.

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Next I turned my camera from a horizontal angle to a vertical angle.  Still at ground level, I took the photo framing the flowers in top third of the frame.  By having the stems take up the bottom two thirds, I was able to emphasize the ideas of growth and newness.

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Finally, I stood above the flowers, focusing on the beautiful inner workings of the flower.  In post processing, in order to keep the emphasis totally on the flowers, I duplicated the layer and changed the top layer to multiply mode.  This darkened the dark pixels but left the gorgeous colors of the flower. I also cloned out the distracting “extra” flower. The above photo is the original photo and the bottom one is the final result.

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Angle means so much.  I encourage you to try this process.

1. Choose a subject

2. Take photos of the subject from different angles — in front, behind, above, below, up close, pulled back. Try both horizontal and vertical images.

3. Think about why you are taking the photo — is there something about the scene in front of you that you are trying to capture?  Think about how you can best do that.

4. Experiment in post processing (editing) of your photos. How can you make a good photo great? Can you get rid of something that is distracting?  Can you crop the photo in a way that places emphasis on something specific?

Here is another scene that I experimented with…my daughter on the beach.

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1.  A “typical” snapshot photo.  Parent standing above the kid, looking down. Subject centered

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2.  I got down to ground level. This helped show more of what she was doing and allowed me to get the water in the photo, further enhancing the story of her being at the beach.

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3. I zoomed in close so I could actually see what she was doing with her shells. I love that being in close shows details I otherwise might not have noticed — like how hard she is pushing those shells into the sand!

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4.  A quick picture of her looking up at me…making her “oh no, not another photo” face.

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So, what’s your angle?

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Photography Resources

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When people say that they are “self taught” in photography, it usually means that they have never taken a class or earned a degree in the field of photography. However, what they DON’T mean is that they just fiddled with their camera a lot and “POOF!” out came gorgeous photos. If you want to “teach yourself” to take better photos, you have to learn somewhere. Libraries, book stores, and the internet are all filled with many, many resources. So where do you begin?

In order to help you start (or continue on) your journey to better photos, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite photography resources. Most of them I have used/read. A few of them just come with amazing recommendations. For all of them, you are sure to be inspired and to learn a lot along the way.

BOOKS: One place you can try to learn about photography is books. Books are great for people who want to have something there in print, right in front of them, and be able to easily go back to parts for reference. Here are some great books to add to your reading list:

1. Your camera manual — This may seem odd, but really, it is the most important book you can read. With hundreds of different cameras on the market, all with different settings and quirks, it is important to know how YOUR camera works. If another book or website says, “Change your ISO to 1600” you need to know how to do that!

2. Undestanding Exposure — This book is the first one recommended for many people. Bryan Patterson works hard to explain how shutterspeed, aperture, and ISO all work together and how to get a creatively correct exposure. I may be in the minority, but I don’t think that this books is fantastic for beginners. I read it a few years ago and it made no sense to me whatsoever. He kept talking about “meter for this” and “meter for that.” At that point, I didn’t even know where my meter was and how to use it. I think this is an excellent book, but it really is a better resource once you have a basic understanding of manual controls and exposures.

3. The Digital Photography Book — Scott Kelby does an amazing job of making really complex stuff simple. He doesn’t try to explain the whys of photography, but rather, the hows. The book is in short and concise chapters and gives easy “this is how you do it” tips. Here is his explanation, “If you and I were out on a shoot, and you asked me, ‘Hey, how do I get this flower to be in focus, but I want the background out of focus?’ I wouldn’t stand there and give you a lecture about aperture, exposure, and depth of field. In real life, I’d just say, ‘Get out your telephoto lens, set your f/stop to f/2.8, focus on the flower, and fire away.’ You d say, ‘OK,’ and you’d get the shot. That’s what this book is all about. A book of you and I shooting, and I answer the questions, give you advice, and share the secrets I’ve learned just like I would with a friend, without all the technical explanations and without all the techno-photo-speak.” There is also a volume 2.

WEBSITES: Most of my learning about photography has come through reading on the internet. I love that so much information is available to me at any time of the day…and it’s free. It was HARD to narrow down, but here are some of my favorite photography sites:

I Love Photography: This site, by far, has taught me the most about photography. It is a message board geared towards professional children’s photographers and those who want to become that. I can’t tell you the wealth of information I have gleaned (and even more that I have bookmarked for “when I get to that point.”) In reading for almost a year now, I have learned so much about what makes a photo good technically and creatively. I have learned about editing, composition, and nailing exposure. It is a true feast of information. A word of caution though: this is a site for professionals and those who want to become professional. They aren’t into making people “feel good” or approving of people charging money for substandard photography. They are honest and careful in their critiques, but it isn’t for the faint hearted. They aren’t mean, they are just honest. They want to help those who want to be professionals to produce work like professionals.

ClickinMoms: Another great resource for learning more about photography in a little more gentle of a community. If you read our MWAC to Pro post, you will remember that Kellie Penn said this site has been most influential for her in her journey.

Digital Photography for Moms: This site is a new one in my regular reading, but already I have learned a lot. I like the blog set up of it and the information coming into my blog reader. They have great information, tutorials, and even some free actions. Add it to your reader!

Pioneer Woman: Pioneer Woman has a TON of information on her site — everything from cooking and living on a ranch to homeschooling and home & garden. She also has a great photography section with easy-to-understand information, great visual learning tools, and free actions.

Photojojo: A great source of eclectic photography information and products

Photographer Blogs: This is a very general thing…but I have learned so much by reading blogs of great photographers. This isn’t so much for the information, but more for the experience of looking a great photography. The more you look at GOOD photos — and by good I mean technically and creativily — the better you will be able to judge your own work. If you feast on excellent photography you will see where yours falls short and it will inspire you to learn more and try new things. Some of my favorite feasting places are: Tara Whitney, Jessica Claire, Becky Earl (oh make me drool…), Andrea Joki, and The Image is Found.

ONLINE CLASSES: There are a number of places that you can take online photography classes. This is something I haven’t done yet but really, really want to do. There are many different kinds of classes with all different price tags. Here are some I have contemplated:

OH SHOOT! with Candice Stringham at JessicaSprague: ($98 — specific class dates) Here is part of the description: “Oh Shoot, is a beginning 6-week instructor-led photography online course just for beginning SLR users. In this course Candice Stringham will guide you to a greater knowledge of your camera and how it works. In just 42 days you will be well on your way to better understanding of your camera and it’s features. This class is PACKED with information, inspiration, and the benefit of a personal tutor as you begin your photography journey.”

PHOTO EDITING — Good to Great Workflow at JessicaSprague (regular price: $49, on sale through March 23 for $45 — start anytime). This is a class for beginners and intermediates and focuses on global editing (things you can do to an entire photo). Includes video lessons, assignments, and access to a message board.

BETTERPHOTO has a ton of classes that you can take — everything from how to use your camera to taking great pictures of people. The classes are pricey ($200- $300) but they are supposed to be fantastic.

MLK Studios offers an eight week online course that I have heard many raving reviews of. For $250 it may just be the best bang for your buck. He covers tons topics including exposure, flash control, RAW processing, and printing/publishing.

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Whether you have aspirations of going professional one day or if you just want to better capture the everyday moments in your life, there are many resources to help you in your journey. Whatever you do, don’t stop learning. Enjoy and learn from the experience and expertise of others. Strive to grow in the process and be proud of the photos you take.

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P.S. Scrap ‘N Fonts is having a HUGE sale on all their CK fonts (which will no longer be sold there). Fonts are just $1 and bundles are SUPER CHEAP. I am not a font junkie, but I did find a few I love!

Mom With a Camera to Pro — PART TWO

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On Wednesday we had the opportunity to learn a little more about Kellie Penn and her journey from MWAC to professional photographer. We learned about how she got started, what she has learned, and we were able to see some of her amazing images. Today we are going to take a look at her journey from enthusiast to opening her business, ACROSS THE MILES PHOTOGRAPHY. Before we do, though, I want to share with you something really special about the name of her business.

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Her business was named for her son Miles, who at the age of just three months passed away, leaving his twin brother Mason behind. Click on the picture above to go to her site and then click on OUR STORY to read more. Kellie’s strength in this tragedy and her dedication to keep his memory alive are inspiring.

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WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU WANTED TO GO PRO?

Last winter, my husband and I were traveling home from a trip and just talking about my photos. I told him how I’d really like to try to make a bit of money at it to get some extra income and money for new equipment. I wanted to see if he thought I was crazy or not! He said “Go for it!” I started researching it a bit, I bought my domain name, a website and just jumped in headfirst!

DID YOU ACT ON IT RIGHT AWAY?

It was a few months from that conversation until I launched my business.

WHAT DID YOU DO TO PREPARE YOURSELF FOR GOING INTO BUSINESS?

I did some portfolio building (and it helped that I had some cute kids that didn’t mind me taking pictures of them left and right) and I consulted with one of my best friends who had been in the photography business for about a year and a half at that time. She was a great resource for me and really helped get me going! I checked some books out at the library and I just scoured the internet for how to get started in a photography business. I had to learn how to get a business ID and how to start collecting sales tax, etc. It was way more involved than I first thought!

WHO WAS YOUR FIRST “FOR PAY” CLIENT AND HOW DID YOU FEEL BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER THE SHOOT?

A family from my church had followed my blog & had seen some of my work on my scrapbook pages. I had mentioned on my blog a couple of times about how I would love to take pictures for people. They asked me if I would take their family photos & I said yes…and was scared to death! I knew that there would be about 10 people in the group, so I started looking all over the internet for posing ideas so I would at least have a few ideas to use that evening! I was definitely nervous pulling into the driveway, but once we got started it went smoothly! I was relieved when it was over, and felt even better when I pulled the pictures up on the screen & liked what I saw!


WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN THOSE FIRST FEW SHOOTS THAT YOU WISHED YOU HAD KNOWN BEFORE YOU STARTED?

I think I learned that the whole process just takes so much longer than I thought! Shooting the photos is one thing, but trying to narrow down the photos, edit them, upload them to a gallery and wait for payment can take quite awhile!

HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT FINDING MORE CLIENTS?

I talked about my new business on my blog and then I really started working on my “Google Ranking.” Before long, I started getting e-mails from potential clients & it just started taking off after that! I also took an advertisement out in the phone book to help get my name out in the community. But, word of mouth has by far been the most effective for me! I love it when people enjoyed their photos that they tell their friends!

HOW LONG DOES A TYPICAL SHOOT TAKE?

It definitely depends on the type of shoot & how cooperative the subjects are acting! Location shoots take longer than studio sessions. I’d say the average shoot lasts between 1 to 2 hours.

WHAT KINDS OF SHOOTS ARE YOUR FAVORITE?

I love photographing seniors! They are so fun & full of energy, and willing to try just about anything! Plus, they sit still and you don’t have to chase them all around like you do when photographing children!

WHAT KINDS OF SHOOTS DO YOU DISLIKE?

The big group/family shots at weddings. I don’t “dislike” them, but they just take up so much time at weddings! Plus, it seems like a lot of people can get grumpy during the wedding group shots! If everyone would relax and smile, it would be so much easier!

HOW MUCH TIME DOES A TYPICAL CLIENT SESSION TAKE YOU? BREAK IT DOWN (communication with client, actual shoot, editing, choosing images, print orders, presentation, etc)

The whole process really takes quite a bit of time! There’s the initial phone calls/e-mails to set up the session. Then, there’s time involved in gathering up props, getting camera/equipment ready, and the drive to the location. There’s the actual shooting of the session, and then the time involved in editing around 5 photos for the blog sneak peek! I allow myself up to two weeks to get a session edited, but there are several hours involved in working with photos to make them look their best! I choose my favorite 20-25 photos to edit. After editing, it takes a little time to get them uploaded online and then to call the client with the password to their gallery so they can view their photos. Then, I wait 1-3 weeks for the client to place the order, and then I have to make any final adjustments to their order (ie, creating storyboards, resizing photos, etc). I then upload the photos to my online lab and wait a couple of days for the photos to arrive. I then have to spend a bit of time making sure everything looks correct and then package the photos for the client. Then, I call the client and wait for them to come and pick them up!

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO WAS INTERESTING IN GOING PROFESSIONAL?

Research, research, research! There is so much more involved in just taking photos! You have to be able to run the business side as well! Seek out advice from other professionals and ask lots of questions! Joining some online forums where you can get critique on your photos really help as well!


Also, I would tell someone to plan to not really make any money for quite awhile! There’s a lot of cost in equipment (cameras, lenses, studio equipment, accessories, advertising, website costs, props, software, actions, etc). It can get quite expensive! I would also recommend to not buy everything at once! I’ve really tried hard to stay within my means and when I’ve saved up a bit, I’ll order some new stuff!

WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT YOUR OWN JOURNEY?

I would have been better planned for the business side of it before starting! I would have consulted with an accountant and got all of my ducks in a row before I actually began. I never expected my business to take off so quickly! It took me a bit to get everything all figured out, and I’m so grateful for my online friends who helped me get everything in order!


WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

To keep plugging away and growing my business! I’d love to get to the point where I own my own studio location. It’s really tough running this out of my home! But, I am grateful it allows me to continue to be a stay at home mom! We will either look at renting a studio location in the future, or possibly moving to a new home that would allow me to have a better studio space! I’d also love to get to the point where I can hire someone to help edit my photos & upload orders to the lab!

DO YOU STILL TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR OWN KIDS?

I do, but not as much as I’d like! Sometimes I just want to go to an event and not drag around my “work” with me! I have to remember to make sure I am documenting my kids lives and not look at it as work! I have not been able to scrap near as much as I’d like since my business took off, though! I really need to be better at fitting that into my day! (Can someone please find a way to add more hours to a day?)

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Isn’t it so cool to hear about the journey. In the times I have thought about wanting to be a professional some day I certainly don’t think about all the business stuff. Taking pictures is fun but oh, the work involved! I hope that this interview was good for you — to hear that it can be done and what it involves. I hope it encourages someone to take the plunge they have been wanting to take and to encourage others that maybe this is not the road for them.

And no matter whether you want to be a professional or not, you can ALWAYS learn more about your camera, taking images, editing, and enjoying the process. Kellie mentioned that one of the places she has learned the most is an online photography forum called CLICKINMOMS. It has been a source of encouragement, critique, and inspiration for her as she continues on her journey.

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Well CLICKINMOMS has two great things just for THE DAILY DIGI readers! First, use the coupon code FRIEND and you will get 10% off your membership! Hurry, though, the code expires March 7. Secondly, they are giving away TWO FREE MEMBERSHIPS! Here’s how you can win: Just leave a comment here naming one thing/place/person that inspires you to grow in your photography skills. We want to hear what gets you excited to learn more. Leave a comment before Monday and we will randomly pick two people for a full year membership to CLICKINMOMS.


Mom with a Camera to Pro

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I think at some point for most of us, we have at least a passing thought of, “I would LOVE to do photography professionally.” I know I have had the thought from time to time. But there is a big difference between someone who “enjoys” photography and being ready to go pro. I have seen a number of website of “professional” photographers who have a lot to learn. I have told myself that if I EVER tried to go professional I would be sure that I had the technical know how and the creative ideas to KNOW that I could “get the shot.” Being lucky once in a while isn’t enough. You need to know that in any and every situation you can figure out how to capture the moment. I’m not there yet, but I can dream.

Since so many of us have thought about going pro at some point, I wanted to share a really cool intereview with you. Here is one woman — a MWAC (Mom with a Camera) gone pro. We will hear about her journey in photography and launching a business. And best thing of all, she is a scrapper like us 🙂

I want to introduce you to fab scrapper, sweet friend, HILARIOUS person to be around, and MWAC gone pro…KELLIE PENN. She is the owner of ACROSS THE MILES photography and she is ready to share her story with all of us!

The interview was so good, and so cool, that we will split it up over two days. Today we will share her photography journey and on Saturday we will learn about the launch of her business and what she has learned. So go grab a second cup of coffee and sit back and relax. This is a good one!

WHAT IS IN YOU CAMERA BAG?

Camera: Canon 40d But, I just ordered the Canon 5d Mark II that should be here any day! I’m so excited!

Lenses: 24-70L 2.8
70-200L 2.8
50mm 1.8
85mm 1.8
Flash: 580 ex II
Accessories: Fong Lightsphere Diffuser, Photojojo white balance lens cap, Sekonic Light Meter, several batteries & lens cleaners!

In the Studio: I’m currently using an alienbee 800 w/large octabox as my main light, and an alienbee 400 w/ umbrella as my fill light. (My alienbees are pink…I’m such a girly girl!) I also use a 5 in 1 reflector as well! My backdrops are from B & H photo & they are the Savage paper seamless ones that they offer. I have several colors in the 53 inch (which work great for one kid) and a few in the 107 (which work great for families, etc!) I also have the wireless trigger from alienbees as well! Plus, I’ve been buying lots of props (pettiskirts, baskets, cocoons, hats, blankets, etc) wherever I can find them! It’s quite addicting!

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY?

I’ve always had a love for pictures and grew up with a father that always had an SLR with us wherever we went! In high school, I took some photography courses and loved taking photos during college. After my children were born, I really started getting interested in photography and capturing their little moments…they just grow up way too quick! Digital scrapbooking taught me so much about color, composition, and studying other people’s photos on their scrapbook pages really made me focus more on my own photography!

DID YOU TAKE CLASSES OR ARE YOU SELF TAUGHT?

I am pretty much self taught. I took a class in high school, and I’ve taken a couple of courses online. I’m definitely planning on taking more and more courses online to keep pushing myself to learn something new! In trying to teach myself, I read Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson…it really helps you understand your camera & how to get out of auto mode! Hands down, Clickinmoms has made a HUGE difference in my photography. It’s a great forum with a wonderful community. I have learned so much for the ladies over there!

DID YOU HAVE AN “AH HA!” MOMENT WHEN EVERYTHING JUST SEEMED TO “CLICK”

I think my Ah ha moment came with learning that actions aren’t perfect fixes for photos! They need tweaked & customized for the photos you are working with!

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR PHOTOS?

I really strive to capture “moments.” I love it when I have a photo of my children interacting with each other and you can just “feel” the emotions they are feeling when you look at the photo. I like pictures of my kids when they are looking at the camera and smiling, but my favorites are the ones that really capture them in their element!

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO IMPROVE ON?

My workflow! It can take me so long to edit some photos! I need to simplify my process & really learn how to batch edit photos better.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOS THAT YOU HAVE TAKEN!

photofavs

WHAT PROGRAM DO YOU USE FOR EDITING?

Adobe Photoshop CS & Adobe Lightroom

HOW MUCH DO YOU EDIT YOUR PHOTOS?

Quite a bit, actually! I just love the final product so much better than the SOOC photos! But, I need to not get hung up on feeling like all of my personal family photos need edited. I often don’t share my personal photos with others because they aren’t edited yet…I really need to get over it!

WHAT NORMAL EDITING STEPS DO YOU TAKE?

This is my typical start to finish on a photo— First, I defog my photo. Then, I typically adjust brightness/contrast/levels as needed. (Often, I will use a color pop action or something similar just to make my photo look richer in color!) I will run noiseware if needed and sharpen the photo afterwards.

DO YOU USE ANY ACTIONS? AND IF SO, WHICH ONES?

I’m kind of an action addict…and a collector of them! I typically use the same ones over and over, but I love trying new ones out! I love Totally Rad actions, Brenda Acuncias actions, Nichole Van Actions, and Leah Profancik’s actions!
There are some great free ones that I love, too! My hands down favorite B&W action is Aly’s B&W. Also, Pioneer Woman has some amazing actions on her blog, too!

CAN WE SOME SOOC (straight out of the camera) SHOTS AND THEN THE EDITED VERSION?

before-and-after-copy1

WHOSE WORK INSPIRES YOU?

Oh man, where do I begin? There are soooo many amazing photographers out there and I’m always stumbling upon new photogs whose work I just admire! Ones I turn to over and over are:


Tara Whitney
Melissa Koehler
Becker
Angela Crutcher
Clary Pfeiffer
And THIS BLOG is WONERFUL for spotlighting amazing photographers

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO LEARN TO TAKE BETTER PHOTOS?

Practice, practice, practice. Read, read, read…and then practice, practice, practice, and repeat! Also, get involved in some type of online photography forum and have others critique your work. It’s amazing what different people will see in your photos that you totally missed!

TO BE CONTINUED… Make sure to check back Saturday when Kellie tells us how she got her business up and running. PLUS, there will be a chance for TWO PEOPLE to win a FREE MEMBERSHIP to Clickin Moms!

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P.S. I wanted to point out a great product for a great cause! Scrapbook Graphics has put together a great collab collection for Anna Benjamin, one of the Studio Girls. Anna was recently diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment. The designers at SBG have put together a grab bag with all proceeds (after paypal fees) going to Anna and her family for meals, house cleaning, or whatever else they feel they need during this very difficult time. The grab bag is avaliable HERE where you can see ALL the contents in the detailed images. Pick up over 700mb of product from the Studio Girls for just $5.00.

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Sometimes You Can

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I hadn’t planned on another photography post so soon — but as I was getting some photos ready for my personal blog, I came across a photo that was priceless to me. My son’s expression is exactly what I see in my head when I think of him, but the photo was BAD. I mean really, really bad. But it captured the essence of who he is and so I rescued it. And as I did it, I wrote this post so you can see that SOMETIMES YOU CAN save a really bad photo.

There is a difference between portraiture and getting some great pictures of your kids. As I have advanced (little by little) in my photography skills and knowledge I have a tendency to want every shot to be a “perfect” shot. I can spend too much time messing with my settings, getting the kids eyes faced the right direction, and making sure there are no boogies present that I miss the moment. I think most professional photographers will say that the one thing they struggle with after going pro is continuing to take photos of their own kids and/or the desire for every shot to be good enough to blow up on 30×40 gallery wrapped canvas. But there is definitely a time and place for “snapshots” that will fill our photo albums and scrapbook pages. Not every picture has to be perfect.

I am usually a proponent of “don’t fix the photo, take a better one.” I don’t advocate trying to salvage tons of really bad photos. The many hours spent editing bad photos could be put to better use in learning to take better photos. But you know what, we all have our days or moments and we get great photo that’s bad. And sometimes, you CAN save a bad photo.

The other day my sweet Levi was running around like a crazy boy. He saw my camera was out so he ran back and forth through the living room and out the front door while I pretended to “get” him with the camera. Ever changing lighting conditions and a fast little kid resulted in this awful photo.

before

The picture quality is horrid but the expression was priceless. It is just so “him” and I knew it was worth saving. And the end result was much better than anticipated. Here is what I did.

1. Duplicate layer and change the blending mode to the duplicated layer to SCREEN.

screen

2. Duplicate the SCREEN layer until the lighting in the photo is more “normal”. In my example, I ended up duplicating six times for a total of 7 layers.

duplicatescreenlayers

This was the result of the screened layers. The picture is definitely better and I could stop here, but my perfectionistic tendencies wouldn’t allow for it.

afterscreen

3. Add a brightness/constrast adjustment layer and adjust to taste. Due to the repetitive screening, some of the photo (especially his face) is washed out. I added a brightness/contrast adjustment layer to fix that.

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picture-36

edit1

At this point, I could stop. The photo is perfectly good for a photo album, my scrapbook, or for sending to grandmas. But since I like my photos to look I took a great picture straight out of the camera, I was bothered by something: The noise in the photo. Noise in photos is caused by two things:

1. A high ISO (used when there isn’t enough natural light)

2. When a picture is underexposed.

In my photo, the ISO was set to 400. On my camera that level of ISO does not usually present noise. However, it obvious that my photo was severely underexposed. And therefore, I got lots of noise. Here is a 100% crop of part of the photo and you can see what I am talking about.

noise2

So, how do you fix it? Photoshop has some native noise reduction filters but I much prefer a program called Noiseware. Noiseware is a Photoshop plugin or standalone program that greatly aids in noise reduction. There is even a free standalone version for people using Windows (scroll down to the bottom where it says Noiseware Community Edition Standalone). Sorry, but us Mac girls have to buy it. But it was totally worth it!

Just open your photo, go to Filter >Imagenomic and a noiseware window will pop up. I have not even attempted to play with the settings because the default ones that come up are so good.

noisewarescreen

Just click okay and your noise is gone! See the difference?

noisebeforePHOTO BEFORE with noise

noiseafterPHOTO after running NOISEWARE

See! Sometimes you CAN save a really bad photo. I will cherish this photo for a long time. His personality, his smile, his dimple, his blankie…it all just shines through…thanks to Photoshop.

beforeandafter

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O-R-E-O

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I love Oreos.

So do my kids.

In the afternoons I can often be found sneaking into the pantry to grab a pack of yummy Double Stuffed.  But then, almost without fail, after getting a few cookies in my mouth my two boys see me and they want some too.  What’s a mom to do?

Since I have a magical sickness ability to equate almost anything I do with photography and/or scrapbooking, I started thinking about how this Oreo dilemma is a lot like exposure on a camera.  Come on, stick with me a minute before you think I am totally crazy.

oreos-1

Our packs of Double Stuffs come with 12 cookies.  However, in my package there are only 10 cookies left (since I managed to stuff two in my mouth before I was caught by the cookie police). There are three of us who want cookies.  They have to be split somehow. Three piles for three people.

I could split them the way I really want to (one for them and the rest for me).

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I could split them the “fair” way and give them each four and me two (since I already had two!)

oreos3

I could give them three each, feel like I was sharing well, and still get four more for myself (after all, they don’t know I’ve already eaten two!)

oreos2

I could also give them each one or two and put the rest away but since I am trying to realistic right now and that never happens, we’ll just skip that option. It doesn’t fit in my illustration anyway.

So, no matter how I split them up, I still get to the total of 10.  It doesn’t matter if I give

5 to me + 3 to Caleb + 2 to Levi or

6 to Levi +1 to Caleb +3 to me or

4 to Caleb + 2 to Levi + 4 to me

It all still adds up to 10.  Now this is how it is like exposure. Exposure on a camera is dependent on three things:

  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO

They can be put together in different ways and still all add up to a correct exposure.

exposureillustrated

Look at these three pictures.  They were all taken with different settings (all in manual mode) and yet all achieved a good, basic exposure. That’s because these three things (aperature, shutter speed, and ISO) all work together and add up to a good exposure.  Just like it didn’t matter how I split the cookies up, it doesn’t matter how these three things are combined, they all still add up to a good exposure.   Add more to one area and you have to adjust the others. Take some away from one and the others have to be changed to make the the final outcome “add up to the total.”

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So, now you may be wondering why it matters?  If it all adds up to the same thing, what does it matter what settings are what?

Well, let’s go back to my Oreos for a moment (please forgive me, my mind is on Oreos and my little photo shoot is still sitting next to me and I can’t tell you how tempted I am to throw all principles out the window and give all ten cookies to myself!)

I said it doesn’t matter how I split the cookies up.  And that is true.  No matter what I do the total will be the same.  However, the effect of the outcome would be different.  If I give 10 to me and none to them, my wasteline will not be pleased.  If I give 4 to each of the boys and 2 to me, my waistline might be saved but the boys dinner will be ruined.  The total amount of cookies consumed would be the same, but the effects of those cookies would have on the people who consumed them would be very different.

And so it is with exposure.  Exposure, the combination of aperature, shutterspeed, and ISO is all about LIGHT and how that LIGHT affects your photos.  Aperature affects how MUCH light comes into your photo, shutter speed affects how LONG that light comes into your photo, and the ISO affects how how well your photo soaks up the light. You can mix and match these magic three ingredients in lots of ways to get a correct exposure, but the effect of the way you mix them up with drastically change your photos.

Now, I promise you a few things:

  1. We will talk about how ISO, aperture, and shutter speed affect your photos in future posts
  2. I am not a professional photographer
  3. I do not claim to know a whole lot about photography
  4. There are LOTS of professional photographers out there who try to explain this concept.
  5. I always read their descriptions and wonder why they didn’t just write in English.  Even Bryan Peterson’s “worker bees” illustration in Understanding Exposure left me scratching my head  and headed back to Auto mode.
  6. I will try very hard to explain these things in simple ways and in digestible amounts.
  7. If I find that someone has already explained it very well I will link you to their post rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
  8. I am open to correction and further explanation from those who know more than I do.
  9. Once you start shooting in manual mode you will almost never want to go back.  I say  almost, because I think there are some situations where auto or semi-auto modes are better or more practical.  We will get to those.
  10. I only had nine promises and the list felt incomplete.  So I added a number 10.

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