Archive | photography

how I edit iphone photos for instagram

My iphone is like an extension of my arm – it’s by my side at nearly all times of day (and night). I love it for texting and checking the weather and asking siri important questions like ‘how many days until …?’ (asked by a certain second born who is slightly excited about his upcoming birthday) and watching cute youtube videos like this one and this.

Most of all, I love it for the camera.

Admittedly, an iphone does not take the same quality of photos as a real camera, but the fact that it is always with me, easy to use and quick to capture everyday moments works out just fine for me. It is fun to practice photography with my phone – looking for interesting angles or composition or finding the right light – and sharing those photos on instagram is a favorite, too.

I almost always do some editing before posting to instagram (I like a slightly dreamy, washed out look) and thought I’d show you what that looks like.


We’ll use this photo taken yesterday of a piece of my mom’s blackberry pie (yum).

Here it is straight from the camera: Continue Reading →

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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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editing photos {sort of} like a pro

If I could, I would have our family photos taken every few months. I absolutely adore having professional photos done. But, alas, photographers can be spendy and so I have to be realistic about the frequency of scheduling shoots.

My sweet girl turning 18 months did not quite merit a photo shoot. At least not by a professional.  Instead, I thought I’d pretend and do a photo session myself. So last week I grabbed a torn up chair {that I will someday recover}, headed out to the empty lots in our development and snapped away at my baby who is really not a baby anymore.

Once the photos were taken, I realized that good photos are great but what I really love about a professional photographer is his/her ability to edit. And so, I thought I’d give that a shot as well.  The gorgeous photos on Jennifer’s blog {dear lillie} and her helpful photoshop tutorial gave me the encouragement I needed.

What I learned was that ACTIONS make all the difference {at least for us photoshop beginners}. An action, in case you are new to the whole photoshop editing world, is a set of pre-designed  functions that automatically adjust your photo. All you have to do is press play. Seriously, it is super easy. From there, you can adjust the settings to make it just right for your liking.

I found a few great resources for actions – both free and paid – and have enjoyed playing around with the photos of Audrey. Here are my results:


{straight out of the camera – or SOOC, as the pros say}

side clean edit

{using Paint the Moon’s essentials and miracle makeover actions}

side sweet vintage copy

{adding Florabella’s sweet vintage action}



on the grass clean edit on the grass vintage summer II

{on the left: Paint the Moon’s essentials & miracle makeover actions and Pioneer Woman’s boost

on the right: added Florabella’s summer vintage II action}

The next photo was a little tricky for me because I think it was too washed out to begin with. I still have quite a bit of learning to do as far as basic camera operation goes!



 standing in chair boost standing in chair vintage summer

{on the left: a mix of Pioneer Woman’s actions and Paint the Moon’s essentials

on the right: added Florabella’s summer vintage}



vintage laying

{Florabella’s vintage action}



vintage hug

{Florabella’s vintage action}

And one more:



in yellow

{Paint the Moon’s essentials and miracle makeover actions}

bw beauty

{adding Pioneer Woman’s b&w beauty}

I know I have much more practicing to do, but I am really excited about the results.

zig zag

Here are some very helpful resources if you would like to give photo-editing a try.

The first is Paint the Moon – an amazingly helpful site where you can purchase actions, watch how-to videos and view lots of before & afters.


There are also a handful of freebies on Paint The Moon’s facebook page.

Paint the Moon Free Action Samplers {here}

 Paint the Moon Free Facebook Exclusive {here}

Next is the Flora Bella Collection. I love the dreamy, vintagy feel you get when you use these actions. There are many different sets to choose from {I bought vintage, but hope to add more over time} and they are very easy to use.

The lovely Shana has even offered a discount to JDC readers : just enter JONES10 to receive 10% off your order.


The Pioneer Woman has created a bunch of free actions which are also great {I especially like boost and bring on the eyes}


{download here}

zig zag

I know very little about photography, but I love taking pictures. I have a Canon Rebel XTi {similar to this one on amazon}. We bought ours a few years ago at Costco and have been very happy with the camera and lenses that came in the bundle.

Someday soon I am hoping to take Ashley Ann’s SnapShop course to learn how to shoot manually.  If you are a beginner photographer and want to improve, I’m pretty sure this online class would be amazing.


I know that was a very long-winded post, but I hope it inspires you to take a few extra photos and edit them like a pro. Sort of.

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