Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Annie 69/365

Lucy 69/365

Today I am thankful for my sister, Holly. It is her birthday today, so Happy Birthday Holly Dolly! I hope your day was fabulous!! Did you like the message from Lucy? I know that I can count on you for absolutely anything, anytime. You have always been a great big sister to all of us. We are lucky to have you!!!! You are getting a little old though. :)

Justin is still really sick. The flu has officially kicked his butt. I hope my honey feels better soon. Not much to report from today. I did get my business bank account opened and a few other business things done today. I am getting my hair cut and highlighted tomorrow and I seriously cannot wait. It has been so long. Things like this just get put on the back burner with 2 babies now. I always feel so much better after a hair appointment. Maybe I will post a picture tomorrow.

So here goes on a few of the photography questions. Please remember, I am far from an expert on any of this. I am 100% self taught. I have read a few books and taken a Lightroom 2.0 class but other than that, I have learned everything I know about my camera by getting it out over and over again and taking pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. I have spent endless hours in Lightroom and Photoshop figuring out exactly what I like or don't like in pictures. This is always changing and evolving. There are some helpful websites out there that I like to get tips and ideas from - The Pioneer Woman Photography site and the I Heart Faces blog has some really great tutorials for beginners. My biggest piece of advice is to just start practicing. We all want our pictures to instantly improve and be professional looking, but it just doesn't happen that way. It takes time. It takes a while to figure out what style of picture is most pleasing to you. And again, if you are like me, this will constantly be changing.

My first tip is to start shooting in RAW. I was resistant to this for a long time. I didn't know what it meant, I didn't like the size of the files, etc. But it has 100% changed my photos. Basically, shooting in RAW is like having a digital negative of your picture. If you over/under exposed your picture, it can be easily fixed without losing data. You can adjust the white balance quickly. Things like this that can be done with a jpeg, but not done in the same high quality. The problem with RAW files is that they are enormous. I HIGHLY recommend putting your files straight onto an external hard drive if you are going to shoot in RAW. I do not suggest storing them on your actual computer because they will fill your memory in no time at all. Not good. So, go buy yourself a portable external drive with lots of memory space on it, change your camera to shoot in RAW, and start putting your pictures straight on the hard drive and not on your computer. This is smart anyway in case your computer crashes.

A lot of people complain that shooting in RAW slows down their workflow too much. Understandable, unless you have Lightroom, which is perfect for processing RAW files. If you are using Photoshop for all of your edits, you have to first edit the pictures in Adobe Camera Raw and then process them after they are made into jpeg files. It is an extra step and one that can add a lot of time to your workflow, but again, this is why I love Lightroom so much. You just dump all of the RAW files in Lightroom, make your edits, and it turns them into jpegs when you export them.

I do the vast majority of all of my edits in LR. I can fix the exposure, white balance, brightness, contrast, blacks, etc with a few slides of the sliders. It is so fast and easy. In LR, you don't have actions like you do in PS, you have presets. I LOVE presets. The program comes with a few already loaded but I am really not a fan of those at all. Like all good things, you have to pay for the good presets. I am not going to tell all of my favorite presets because honestly, I don't want everyone's pictures to start looking like mine. Sorry, I have to keep a few things secret since I am trying to earn money with this now! :) I have to tweak every preset I apply, just like I would actions in PS.

For black and whites in LR, I go down and click the grayscale button first. This turns your picture into a horrific looking black and white photo. I go up and increase the exposure as needed, increase the brightness some, definitely increase the blacks to darken the blacks of the photo, and make adjustments on the tone curve. I DO NOT like a gray face on a black and white photo. I like a bright, crisp face. I am able to achieve this by playing with the tone curve sliders. I like my blacks to be stark and the contrast to be high. For me, a picture either right off the bat says black and white or color. I never toy with whether or not a photo should be color or not. If I am not feeling it, that means it should be in color. I equally love color and bw photos. They both have the potential to be amazing. But for me, a poorly converted bw is the worst. I hate it. So my advice is to play with the tone curve after you have converted.

I am pretty lazy when it comes to editing. I either want presets or actions to do the work for me. The Pioneer Woman - linked above - has some awesome free actions. She has two sets available and they really are fantastic. You can achieve the vintage look with the Seventies action of hers. I always have to reduce the opacity down to a level I am more comfortable with, but I love this action. I also love Slightly Lighten, Slightly Sharpen, and Boost. Unfortunately, Photoshop Elements will not support actions that I know of. That is the only downfall between the big PS and Elements. Elements is an awesome program and will do plenty of things to make your pictures look spectacular. Don't feel like you have to run out a pay a fortune for the big PS. You just can't use a lot of actions in Elements.

If you are new to taking pics with a dSLR, don't feel bad at all about shooting in Auto, No Flash, or Aperture priority mode. Take the time to get comfortable with your camera before you kill yourself trying to shoot in manual. I feel like I just figured it out a month ago and it took a friend's help to get me there. The reason I suggest learning how to shoot in manual is because you are in ultimate control, which I like. If you shoot in Auto, the camera gets to decide what it thinks is the best choice, and that is usually not what I think looks best. As I have said before, I like a bright picture, so when I am watching the meter inside of my camera, it is ALWAY a few stops on the overexposed side. I just like how the pictures look so much better. If the camera is in Aperture mode, this won't happen. It will be perfectly balanced according to the camera, and that is not what is pleasing to my eye. Don't try and learn how to shoot manually on pictures that are really important to you if you don't know what you are doing. Learn to do it in a nonstressful setting where it is okay if most of your pictures turn out crappy.

Several people have asked about the pictures in the bathroom. I use an external flash for those. I have the Nikon SB600 and I love it. I always point it straight up at the ceiling so it bounces off of the ceiling and does not give the harsh, yucky flash look to the pictures. I only use my flash when it is night and we are indoors or if we are just in a dark place. I definitely prefer natural light but it is not always possible to rely solely on natural light. I really, really like having the option to use this flash when I need it. I am fascinated by people who are able to achieve amazing things with the use of small portable lights. In fact, I love it and wish I knew a lot more about it. But it is expensive to get into lighting and I would need some instruction. Some day I would love to have a studio space with awesome studio lighting, but again, that is in the FAR future.

That is enough for today. I will go more into my typical workflow tomorrow.

Here is something for my mom since she certainly doesn't care about the photog stuff. I can't believe I had the camera around to catch this. Nana and Grandy, she calls you too and I will work on catching that soon. I have to be sneaky with the camera and there was no way I was talking her into doing anything else.

This video is long, but still cute for the grandparents of how sweet and smiley Annie is. I am trying to catch her on video doing her booty scoot to move around. She does it at the very end and then my camera died. Typical.

That first picture of Annie above is one of my all time faves of her. It has been this perfect overcast weather the past few days that is awesome for taking pictures. I love how the light in these pictures turned out. Look at her putting that toy in her mouth! GO Annie!









One of the things I love about my new lens is the distortion you can get when it is at the widest setting. She looks a million miles long in these!



Kelli said...

Thanks for all of the photo tips! I can't wait to play around with settings and eventually buy an editing program. Hurry up tax refund. Love the videos and of course the pictures. The phone call is so cute and I love Annie's little booty scoot!

Anonymous said...

Photos today are to love those overcast days and the d700! Thanks for all the tips. I so want LR now...good news is with CS4 you can process RAW files throughout the program so that is nice...just convert to a jpeg when you are totally finished. It would be a pain to do it the other way.

PS. I got it!

jilljohnandhope said...

I can never decide between color and black and white. I think it is part of my indecisiveness. Or that my pictures stink. You have such a natural talent.

MKH said...

excellent tips today! thank you!! I really hope your husband is on the mend soon-Uggh-it's been a long time!

all of the pics are special today, but those first 2 are just amazing. Both girls have eyes like glass for sure.
Thanks again for taking the time to type all those tips!

Anonymous said...

LOVE IT ALL!!!!!!! THANKS SO MUCH, MADE MY DAY! Those girls are getting cuter by the minute. Can't wait to see them. And Lucy, I'm ready for you to come help me make the beds!! Love the scooting. Hugs and kisses to all, Lee Lee

life with the wisners said...

ok, just catching up with my pal.

so many things to comment on.

1) you sound so professional. because you ARE now. :) i love it. love it for you!

2) lucy's long legs? priceless.

3) the popsicle pictures? i can't tell you how much i LOVE popsicle pictures.

and to see lucy's hair back in pigtails? makes me all misty-eyed.

miss you, friend. you're kicking 365's TAIL. you are a rockstar!

Anonymous said...

so, I could put all my money on the fact that Lee Lee really was "making the bed" and "cleanin up." that TOTALLY cracked me up. She knows busybody Lee all too well. :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOLLY DOLLY!!!! :) we are ALL thankful for you today

Unknown said...

First of all, I love, love, LOVE the top picture!! It is beautiful! inspired me to enter the "i heart faces" contest...however, I was 18 minutes late with my entry :( I'll try again next week!

Thanks so much for all the helpful info in this post. I didn't quite understand everything, but hopefully will once I learn a little more.


Anonymous said...

As soon as your site loaded and I saw that first photo of Annie I thought, OH! That is probably my favorite shot of that baby! It's beautiful!

I noticed her bending her legs in the video too! GO ANNIE!!!

Shawna said...

Loved that phone call and I have to say I think it's hilarious that Lucy's enticing Annie with dog food to get her to come over. Hilarious.

Christina said...

I am grinning like a fool at sweet Annie! She is such a happy, smiley darling! Your face must be sore from grinning back at her. Love Lucy enticing her with dog food, too. LOL

Love all your photo tips! You rock, girl! I still haven't gotten comfortable in LR...need to work on that.

I hope Jason is better soon! And have fun getting your hair done today! I'm getting mine done Saturday, and I'm SO ready.

LauraPBS said...

Thank you thank you thank you! That must have taken forever to write - but you saved me years of reinventing the wheel!


mimi lam said...

Love, love Annie's giggles, and her scooting, Lucy is so cute with her phone conversation, she has such soft voice. Annie's eyes are so crystal clear, beautiful reflections through her eyes.

Denise said...

Beautiful pictures and beautiful girls! You make me want to run out and buy a new camera so I can try out some of your techniques. I treasure pictures of my girls but really need a new camera and more knowledge of how to use it.
You are such an inspiration to many! Keep up the great work with your girls. What an awesome Mommy you are!

Anonymous said...

those last few of lucy are amazing.

KrisJ said...

I could just die over those pics HOLY CRAP girl you got some serious skill!! And dang arent you the sweetest sharing all these tips while your starting your biz and super busy! Your the best!