Archive | photography

the number one way to make your photos better

Note: It feels strange and kinda bossy to tell you how to take good pictures coming from a girl who doesn’t even know how to shoot manually. My camera is old-ish and I only have the one lens it came with, but after four years of playing and learning and trying, my photographs have vastly improved (just look at some of the early blog posts – like this one - and you’ll notice a big difference in the quality of images). So I’m not coming to you as an photography expert, but rather someone who hacks her way through to deliver the best quality I can. Creating an attractive blog depends greatly on good images, so I do the best I can with the tools and knowledge and skills I have …

and I always follow this very important tip:


It seems so counter-intuitive -  you’d think you need as much light as possible to get a bright photo and turning on the lights makes more sense. But when taking indoor photos, the opposite is true.

When my office was photographed last year for Better Homes & Gardens, they shot in the middle of winter, with gray skies and very little natural light. And still, they turned off the lights. Every single one in the house.


(BHG stylist & photographers working with only natural light – december 2012)

I learned a lot watching the professionals work their magic and have since adopted the turn off the lights strategy for blog photos. It has made such a difference in the quality of images I post.

Here’s an example from yesterday. The sun was not out and it was actually quite dark and dreary outside:


The photo on the left was taken with overhead and task lights on. The photo on the right was taken with all lights off.

The photo with only natural light looks brighter and clearer and the colors are truer to real life. It’s still a little bit dark so that is where just a few simple photoshop edits come in.  For all of my blog post photos I use Pioneer Woman’s free photoshop actions. First I run slight lighten and then define and sharpen, adjusting the opacity as needed. Then, the photo is ready for posting:


You would never know from the photo that it was actually a gray, dark day.

Here’s another example:


This one is in our kitchen – on the left with overhead lights and lamps on, on the right with only the window as a source of light.

Again, I run the photo through the same actions and the photo turns out crisp and bright:


I’m so glad for simple tips and free tools to help us non-professionals!

A few things I’ve learned about taking photos in natural light:

:: turn off all adjacent lights

If you are taking a photo in the living room, make sure the lights are off in the entry and hallway, too (or any other adjacent rooms). It keeps the lighting consistent.

:: open curtains and blinds to allow maximum light

When I take product or tutorial photos, I sit right below a window in my office for the best light and pull the blinds all the way up.

:: take photos when your home is the brightest, with filtered indirect light

Our house gets the best light before noon and I really can’t get a good photo after 4pm. Our winters are dark and gray so there are days that taking photos is just not going to work.  Take advantage of light when you have it!

:: use a tripod

With limited light, your camera’s shutter speed will be slow and any slight movement will cause photos to be blurry. A tripod will stabilize your camera and even with a super slow shutter speed, you’ll get a clear photo.  Most of the time I do not use a tripod, but it definitely does make a difference when I do.

:: play with your camera settings

I use a canon DSLR and shoot in the AV setting. It is probably not the right way to take photos, but it is what I know and I’ve figured out the settings that work for the look I’m going for.  Someday I’ll learn how to photograph manually, but for now I just play around with the ISO and aperture numbers.

It’s pretty fun playing stylist and photographer – I hope these tips are helpful to you, too!

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enjoying the lovliness of nature

It’s instafriday on Life Rearranged and so I thought I’d link up once again.

I have had my iphone for just about two months now and I’m pretty much in love. Mostly because the camera is so. darn. good. And super easy.  It is fun to snap photos in an instant of things that catch my eye.

What catches my eye the most lately is the amazing show that the springtime in the pacific northwest is putting on for us.  I suppose this happens every year, but as I get older, I appreciate the beauty of nature so much more.

Here are some of my favorites taken this week:

{amazingly ruffled tulip}

{euphorbia – one of my favorite perenials}

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family photos {before & after}

One of the things I love best about christmastime {other than the pretty decorations, the family memories, the holiday treats} is receiving christmas cards from our friends and family.  The card designs are fun to enjoy, but the best part is always the family photos.  We put them up on our fridge for the season and we all enjoy seeing the faces of our favorite people each day.

And so, of course, I wanted to have a new family photo taken for our christmas card this year.  My new dad is a great photographer, so he agreed to take ours. Let me just break to say that I don’t really like the term new dad. But I like step dad and my mom’s husband even less. My personal favorite is sugar daddy – which is what I call the wonderful and amazing Walt in real life, but I don’t know how appropriate it would to say “my sugar daddy took our family photos”. Do you see my dilema?!

Anyway … moving on … my mom and Walt met up with us after church at the University of Washington on a surprisingly beautiful fall day and we did a whirlwind of photo taking. The kids did as well as can be expected {although it was still quite challenging to get them all looking at the camera at the same time, let alone smiling}.

The photos in their raw state are pretty good, but don’t you know I love an artistically edited photo! I did this post on using actions to edit your photos with a few helpful resources and I have another for you today.

Maria from Bloom & Grow photography has developed a set of actions for editing photos beautifully and simply using photoshop or photoshop elements.

Using the Bloom & Grow Basics set, here are a few before and afters from our family photo shoot.

Kind of amazing difference, right?

The next photo cracks me up. It was such a great concept, but look at poor Audrey-girl. She wanted nothing to do with this.

And this next one is okay – but has way too many shadows. It reminds me of just a regular snapshot you can get of your family. Without editing, it is fine, but with some editing, it turned out great.

I love how easy it is to turn your own photo into a much better photo with just a few clicks in photoshop.

If you would like to win a free set of Bloom & Grow actions, please leave a comment below.

I will select a random winner and will post it on the JDC Facebook page on tuesday. Good luck!


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