Twelve Weeks to Better Photos: Week Four, Flash

Well, it was finally warm enough (a nice balmy 48 degrees) to take a couple outdoor photos.  This week’s lesson on flash can be found here.

We’ve been learning about aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, but sometimes you still need to use your flash.  This week’s lesson not only focuses on using your flash indoors  but outside as well.

Tips for using flash

– Make sure your subject is between 6-12 feet away from you. A flash only works so far away (so don’t bother using a flash for things that are off in the distance) and by moving your subject away from you it will make the light less harsh so the people you’re taking pictures of won’t look washed out.
– Move your subject as far away from the wall behind them as possible (that will prevent harsh/giant shadows in the background).
– Turn the flash down. Many cameras will let you reduce the intensity of the flash so it’s not at full force all the time. Try taking it down a few notches.
– To avoid red-eye, have your subject look over your shoulder. It will still appear that they are looking right at the camera, but it will prevent the flash light from bouncing off their retinas and creating red-eye (this really does work!).
– If you’re using an external flash, bounce the light off of the ceiling or a wall instead of pointing the light directly at your subject.
– If you’re using the built-in camera flash, consider investing in (or inventing) something that will redirect or diffuse the light. You can buy something (like a lightscoop or diffuser) or DIY something.  I personally love my lightscoop for indoor shooting.

The Assignment

This week I’m inviting everyone to do TWO challenges: the one found on thsi week’s pdf and a second one I whipped up myself.

Challenge One (from pdf):

1. Use fill flash to “pop” colors on a gray day.

2. Use fill flash to eliminate dark shadows on the face on a bright day.

3. Use fill flash to combat backlighting on a shadowed subject.

Here’s my number 1, starring Mr. Carrot.  All pictures are SOOC.

Gray Day No Flash

Gray Day Fill Flash

I didn’t play with these in photoshop, but just looking at them, I kind of like the first picture (sans flash).  Go figure.

Now, it wasn’t overly sunny out and there were minimal shadows, but I did try again in sort of different lighting…

Shadow No Flash

Shadow Fill Flash

You can definitely see that Mr. Carrot’s left eye is better lit with the fill flash in the second picture.

Challenge Two (from me):

Take your flash indoors and see what happens.  For this challenge I shot with my pop up flash, no flash, my lightscoop, and a DIY index card contraption.  Do you have a favorite of the four?

Flash versus no flash


White Index Card2

Now these are SOOC with no editing.  That being said, I kind of love the picture with the index card best.  Go figure.

I hope you enjoy these challenges and I’ll see you all next week for Lesson 7: Shoot Outdoors… again.



Twelve Weeks to Better Photos: Week Six, Shooting Indoors

Well, we’ve made it to week 6 and are halfway done our 12 week course.  This week we will be focusing on shooting indoors while utilizing natural light.  You can find week 6’s pdf here.
Parallel to window Shooting indoors can mean a shortage of light.  With less light, you will have to find a comprise with your ISO, shutter speed, and depth of field.  However, today we’re going to learn how to utilize our windows as a natural light source.  Shooting near windows and open doors is a great way to capture light into your pictures, especially during these cold winter months.

When shooting near windows it is important to remember to meter on your subject.  This just means having your camera settings (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) based on the object/person you’re shooting, and not the giant light source behind/beside them.  For this week’s pictures I made sure my focus was on the darkest part of the picture (read: my son’s shirt)!

The Assignment

This week’s assignment is to use your windows and doors to create natural light.  You want to try to take pictures of your subject both back lit and in direct light.  Also, try to capture your subject parallel to your light source.


{back lit}


{direct light}

Parallel to window

{side lit}

What I Learned

This week’s lesson has been really helpful for me.  I ALWAYS use my flash when shooting Dax, so it was cool taking pictures of my son without it.  This lesson also forced me to pay attention to my metering, which was great!  I will say that I don’t love the back lit pictures I took, but those side lit pictures are just adorbs.

Thanks for playing along this week!  I’ll see you all in seven days for Week 7, Shooting outdoors.


12 Weeks to Better Photos: Week Five, Composition

Welcome to Week 5 of our 12 Weeks to Better Photos course.  What’s that you say?  Week 5?!  What happened to Week 4.  Welllllllll… Week  4 involves going outside and right now it is COLDDDD out there.  If you happen to live in a warmer climate, please feel free to check out Week 4, Flash here.  If not, don’t worry too much.  I plan to work on this one sometime soon and you can just take care of this lesson when the weather permits.

So yeah.  Hi Week 5!  After weeks of technical talk, I’m pleased to announce that we will be working on something a lot more fun… Composition.  While it’s important to know the functions of your camera, it’s now time to focus on shooting images that are pleasing to the eye.  Check out Week 5’s pdf here.

Rules of ThirdsComposition can be defined as “the artistic arrangement of the parts of the picture.”  Obviously “good” composition can be highly subjective, but Two Peas in a Bucket has put together a list of suggestions to help you better compose your photos.  So without further ado, here are few simple suggestions to think about before you start snapping away.

Tip #1: Keep it Simple.

Learn to keep an eye on your surroundings.  Have a busy background?  Take a step closer to your subject to make him or her your focus.  Lots of toys and clutter on your floor?  Pick everything up before posing your subject.  When you eliminate the distractions  you are helping your viewer focus on the moment you are trying to capture.

Tip #2: Apply the Rule of Thirds.

Our eyes are naturally drawn to a point that is two-thirds up in a photo.  Instead of posing your subject in the middle of your frame, try moving them a bit off center.  You will be pleased with the results.  (The above photo is an example of how we can apply the Rule of Thirds to our pictures.)

Tip #3: Keep an Eye on the Horizon.

If you’re taking pictures outside, try to keep your horizon either a third of the way up or a third of the way down in your frame. (See the pdf for a great example.)

Tip #4: Frame Your Subject.

Use other elements to literally frame your subjects.  This can include windows, trees, fences… There are literally endless possibilities.

Tip #5: Fill the Frame.

The best way to reduce distractions is to get super close to your subject.  Fill that empty space to make your subject more prominent.

Tip #6: Try a New Perspective.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.  You don’t just have to stand there, holding your camera, shooting away.  Get on your belly.  Climb onto a chair.  You might be pleasantly surprised how much a change in perspective can alter the look of your photo.

The Assignment:

Use these tips and start taking pictures!  Please share as many photos as you want this week.  SHOW OFF!







Some Random Thoughts:

1. Don’t have a DSLR?  It doesn’t matter.  You can use your P&S or your camera phone this week.

2. Some people just have an eye for composition.  I am not one of those people.  I am constantly checking out other photographers to see what they are doing.  I stalk Pinterest.  I am also a fool with my camera.  I climb all over our furniture.  I crawl all over the ground.  I always wear crappy pants and sneakers on a photo shoot because I expect to get dirty.

Does it help to have an artistic eye in photography?  Heck yes!  Can you learn composition with little to no creative ability?  YES!  This process should be fun and the more willing you are to embrace the silly, the easier everything will become.  So on that note, enjoy this week and please SHOW OFF your hard work!


12 Weeks to Better Photos: Week Three, The Color of Light

Welcome to Week 3 and the Color of Light.  We have been learning about the importance of having enough light in our pictures during the Week 1 and Week 2 lessons.  Now we will be focusing on using the type of light that is available to us.  Check out the pdf of this week’s lesson here.

whitebalanceWhat is the Color of Light?

All light emits a certain color.  “Natural” sunlight will be different depending on the time of day or cloud coverage.  The light found inside will vary drastically depending on your light bulbs or even the color painted on your walls.  Your camera will pick up and enhance colors that your eye might not catch causing your pictures to have a much different look than what you had expected.  That is why we have white balance.

What is white balance?

White balance is setting the color temperature of your image.  When you set your white balance, you are showing your camera what is really white. There are two ways to set your white balance.  You are automatically defaulted to Auto (AWB), but your cameras should have other settings built in such as Tungsten, Daylight, and Cloudy.  Your second (and better) option is to manually set your white balance.  Each camera is different, but if you type into the YouTube search box your camera model with “manual white balance” you will find tutorials.  (Canon T3i users, check out this video tutorial.)  ***You will need a piece of white paper or cardstock to manually set your white balance.***

The Assignment: 

Photograph the same subject using various white balance settings (including a custom white balance) to see how your camera adjusts for different types of light.

AutoWhite Balance


I have to say that I love my Manual white balance.  It’s a little bit warmer than I thought it should be, but you can see every detail in the picture and it’s not blown out like in Auto.

All in all, this is a pretty easy feature to set up and I’m looking forward to playing around with it some more (especially indoors on my favorite subject… Dax!).

See you all next week for Lesson 4, Flash!


12 Weeks to Better Photos: Week Two, ISO & Shutter Speed

Welcome to Week 2 of the 12 Weeks to Better Photos.  Week 1 was all about aperture and this week we will cover the other two parts of the exposure triangle: ISO and Shutter Speed.  You can find the pdf here.

What is ISO?


ISO is the film speed and the setting that determines how quickly your camera will capture an image.  The lower the ISO, the longer it takes for the image to be captured and the more light you will need. When the ISO is higher, you need less light to capture an image quickly. The drawback to a high ISO is noise. When your ISO is higher, you get a grainier photo.

What is Shutter Speed?

Your shutter speed is how quickly the shutter, or the little door that opens in front of your  film or image sensor, operates. It can range from several seconds to 1/1600 of a second or faster. It might help to visualize your shutter literally as a door, with your shutter speed controlling how fast or how slow the door opens and closes.  A faster shutter speed lets in less light and “freezes” action. A slower shutter speed lets in more light and shows motion (or blur). Subjects that move quickly (like kids and pets) will need a faster shutter speed if you want to avoid blur.

The Assignment:

This week’s assignment is to put the camera in Shutter Priority mode (S or Tv) and take pictures of running water in your sink at various shutter speeds.

Okay.  I have HORRIBLE light in my kitchen so I just bumped the ISO right on up to 6400 on my camera.  There’s definitely lots of grain in these pictures, but that’s alright.  You can still see at what point my camera started to “freeze” the water.

Here’s my first picture with the slowest shutter speed:

1/60 sec{1/60 sec, 6400 ISO}

1000{1/1000 sec, 6400 ISO}

1/2000 sec{1/2000 sec, 6400 ISO}

How cool is that third picture?  Not only can you actually see the drops of water splashing off the bowl, but the water coming out of the faucet looks amazeballs!

What I’ve Learned:

1. You can’t do this assignment with your flash.  It took me a minute to figure out that if I wanted super fast shutter speeds I had to ditch the flash.

2. The faster the shutter speed the darker the picture… and hot damn that blows in a condo with crappy lighting.  I have a few more pictures I want to try to take now that I’m learning how to really utilize my shutter speed, but I’m going to have to wait for a super sunny day.

3. Once you’re done this assignment, check out Lesson 2 Part 2 and prepare to have your mind BLOWN!  I love to shoot in Manual, but I always panic when I get outside.  Well HOLY DSLR CAMERA, it all finally CLICKED!  Between my better understanding of the exposure triangle and the nifty little trick with the exposure meter, I can suddenly shoot in Manual outside!  Check me out…

This was what *used* to happen when I took my pictures in Manual outside:


{I kid you not.  Every.Single.Time}

And look at me now…


I’m not over exposed!  OMG!!! 🙂  I have a lot more to learn and lots of practicing in my future, but I am so unbelievably happy right now and can’t wait til it gets a little warmer so I can take the Lil Dude out for a fauxtoshoot.

Good luck with Week 2 everyone.  I can’t wait to see your results!  Next week: The Color of Light.



FREE: Father’s Day Card Template. Thank you i {heart} faces!

You will have to work quick, but i {heart} faces currently has awesome (FREE!) templates on their website for Father’s Day cards.  WOOT!

I just finished personalizing Dax’s card to his daddy for this Father’s Day and sending it off to be printed.  Thank you, Shutterfly.  They always make the best cards.

Seriously though!  How cute is this?


5×7 Folded Card
View the entire collection of cards.

I hope you all have a fabulous Father’s Day!


Pinterest Inspired Me!

I love photography!  It took me 26 years to realize it, but it’s true.  Ever since Dave put that DSLR in my hands, I’ve been hooked.  Now, I get super excited whenever I see photography pins on Pinterest because I can’t wait to try them out.   I took the above picture earlier today.  I wanted something cute to show off my bump… but not the rest of me because I’m getting HUGE! 🙂  This picture came about because of several different pins.

First, I love the picture found in this Pin:

(I’m sad to say that when you click on this Pin it just takes you right back to the picture and not to the photographer’s website.  I would have loved to give this photographer the credit that s/he deserves.)

Next, who doesn’t love  I know I’m obsessed with my app!  Well, thanks to this fantabulous Pin I was able to find free actions for Photoshop!  WOOHOO!!!

(Thank you A is for Ampersand for sharing these filters!)

Lastly, I came across this great Pin of a photo wall yesterday and knew that not only would I one day be rocking a very similar wall, but I had to have that square framed TTV look on a photo asap!

(Thank you to Just Be Blogged for the inspiration and for posting instructions on how you got this look!)

By combining Christmas tree lights, the Earlybird filter, and a TTV frame I was able to create the perfect holiday maternity/bump photo!  Thank you to all of those awesome bloggers, designers, and pinners out there who help inspire me every. single. day.

Happy Holidays!

~Christen, Dave, and The Bump~