Tag Archives: Picture This

dianadresses

Hi there!  I’m back with more photography love as part of April: Picture This.  It seems that blogging 4 days a week is the best I can do right now.  When I try to get that 5th day, the rest of the world falls apart.  (Or someone has to bring in dinner.)

Today, I thought I would talk about editing your photos on the computer.  While I don’t spend a ton of time on this (and I’m by no means an expert), I do give all my pictures a little polish pass before posting them here.  I know a lot of people use Photoshop (or the budget-friendlier version Photoshop Elements) adjusting contrast and curves or maybe even adding a little bit of blur (like we did for the fake miniatures).

However, the program that I prefer is Photoshop Lightroom.  It’s priced somewhere between Photoshop and Elements, but it’s built specifically for photo editing and much more intuitive.  I think using regular Photoshop is great if you are going to use the program for other tasks (or if you’re a pro and like that level of control), but Lightroom offers you tons of pre-sets and easy sliders to adjust contrast, exposure, white balance, tint, highlight recovery, vibrance and more.  If you feel like your colors could be brighter and more saturated, then Lightroom’s “General Punch” setting could be your new best friend.

Here’s a little before and after that I put together in Lightroom.  I selected this photograph I took of some of Princess Diana’s dresses at Kensington Palace.  The light in the palace was very dim and made most of my photos turned out muddy and a little yellow.  Blah.

Before Picture:

dresses_prelightroom

In Lightroom, I added the “General-Punch” filter and then brought the white balance to “As Shot.”  I tried “Auto Tone” and then made adjustments to clarity, contrast, brightness, and vibrance until I was happy with the result.  Because I knew I was using this photo for the web, I pushed the photo’s brightness quite a bit.  It did get a little bit grainy at full resolution, but once I sized it down for the blog, it looks fairly clear and crisp.

After Photo:

dresses_afterlightroom

I like my photos on the cool side, but that’s personal preference.  I think this is where your photo style really comes into play.  Your camera + the lighting conditions you photograph in + how you make little adjustments to crop and color = your recipe for developing your own “look” to your photos.

How do you edit your photos?  Any actions fans out there?  It seems to me that using actions in Photoshop would be a lot like using presets in Lightroom.  (And if you’re curious, it does look like you can use your actions in Lightroom, too.)

5 Summer Photo Tips (for Friends/Family)

stripemania

Holly Becker of Decor 8 and her friend Igor are hosting a fun project called Stripe Mania! (See details here if you want to participate.  You have until June 12th to add a photo of you in stripes to the group.)  I was getting my photo ready to submit and started thinking about all of the pictures people will be snapping this summer.

I thought it might be helpful to post a few tips for taking photos of you and your friends and family outdoors.  As always, I must reiterate that I am not a professional photographer so these tips are designed to be beginner-friendly and simple.  Without further ado, here are 5 steps to taking FUN photos of your family and friends this summer:

1) Avoid heavy shadows and full sun. If you only read one tip, this is the one to take to heart.  Honestly, I take a LOT of photos and this one still gets me, too.  Sometimes you are outside and the sun is just not on your side.  However, as much as you can, be aware of where the shadows are falling.  A dark shadow on someone’s face can ruin a great photo.  Sometimes you can simply ask the person to take a few steps to one side to end up in a better spot.  Your goal is soft, diffused light.  If you are planning to take a bunch of family photos, try for early morning or late afternoon.  Cloudy days are best, but sometimes you can find a spot with flat, even shade on a sunny day as well.  Full sun (like in the middle of a grassy field) will just wash everything out and can tire out your subjects, too.  No one likes squinting in bright light only to have a bunch of so-so pictures!

2) Bring a remote + take a bunch. If you actually want to be IN your photo and not just behind the camera all the time, a remote can really help.  Yes, you can usually find a nice stranger to snap a photo for you, but even the most patient person is only going to take one or two shots at most and who knows what quality those pictures will be.  With the remote, you can snap a bunch of photos at a time.  My husband is great at finding a flat location to place the camera.  (Tripods are great for timer shots, but carrying the tripod is not.  Only bring it if you are really committed and photography is your primary purpose that day!)

3) PLAY. Loosen up.  Try something silly.  We always take a photo of us looking miserable wherever we go.  It immediately makes us laugh, and the next photo is usually a keeper.  Turns out, I happen to love the miserable shots, too.  Some of them are really funny.  Delete the ones that aren’t (like this gem I like to call “worst photo ever”) and move on.

Self-portrait

4) Go somewhere where you feel relaxed. Sometimes we expect the impossible.  We want the family to dress in uncomfortable clothing and hike to a remote location where we will not give them any food or water and then expect them to SMILE!  Do some of these turn out?  Sure.  However, if there is a wonderful, peaceful spot that you love and where you always feel happy — why not take some photos there?  What is your goal with these photos?  To remember how someone looks?  To document a time in your life?  Consider the memories of the day itself.  Some of my favorite photos are the natural ones where our hair is not perfect and we have a few bags under our eyes, but every memory of that day is filled with joy.

5) And lastly, bring that person who makes you feel relaxed. If there is a person in your life who can coax out that great smile or who you completely trust to tell you if your hair has gone weird, bring them.  Try to put the most zen person in charge of arranging everyone and helping them feel at ease.  (Clue: this is usually NOT me, Mrs. Bossypants.)  Have you been in one of those comical situations where several people are shouting out different instructions to a group of people — usually children — who are having their photo taken?  I am slowly learning to step back from this situation and let whoever the child whisperer is do his/her work.

Any other tricks and tips you would add to the mix? If you’re looking for more beginner-friendly photo tips, I did a series of posts called Picture This! about choosing a lens (part 1 and part 2), getting to know your camera, and other fancy tricks.  We have such great tools available to us these days!  I hope you get the same enjoyment out of photo taking as we do.

Filed under Friends & Family, Photography. Tagged with , , .

Picture This: Lenses (Part 2)

unknownanimal

Hi there! I’m back with Lenses: Part 2 (check out Part 1 here) as part of April: Picture This. We’re wrapping up today, and just about finished with all this photography talk.

Today, we’re looking at zoom lenses. I was a little surprised to learn that we own two different zoom lenses. I didn’t even know this, but it’s because one of them never gets used.  I’ll explain more in a bit.

First Up: Zoom Lens

tiger

  • Canon 55-250mm IS: Super Zoom: This is a super zoom lens with built in image stabilization.  This is a great lens for taking pictures at a zoo or wild animal park or anywhere where your subject is going to be very far away.  The tiger in this shot was probably 30+ feet away — across a moat and up a hill.  If the zoo isn’t your thing, then you might also consider this lens if you are going to be taking pictures of your children in a play or at a graduation ceremony.  (I imagine it would also be good for sporting events.)  You will make instant friends with anyone sitting nearby who realizes that you’re getting all the good shots.  However, even with the built in IS, you still need good light to get the best images.  The further zoomed in you are, the more small movements matter.  I will confess:  I do not have steady hands and we don’t take a tripod out with us, so my zoom photos are just not that great.  My husband seems to have mastered the art of holding the camera still, and I am always impressed with the shots he gets.  He gets credit for all the images in this post.
  • What it’s good for:  the zoo, sporting events, school plays, good light
  • Also worth noting: As I mentioned in this post, you can get bokeh shots from a zoom lens if your lens is fully extended and you switch your aperture to the lowest possible setting.  (Example below.)

bokehbird

  • Just one more example: Check out this bird below.  This one was at the zoo up a very, very tall tree. I did not know what this bird looked like until we got home and looked at this picture.  Crazy.

highbird

Last One:  The Super Zoom

  • Canon EF 75-300mm: This lens is also a super zoom that can go a little bit further than the lens above.  However, it does not have built in Image Stabilization so you need really bright light to get good photographs with it.  For this reason, we’ve never used it.  It’s just not practical in most situations.

Well, that wraps up our look at lenses.  If you’re thinking about branching out from your stock lens, I think a nice prime (50mm) is a good, relatively inexpensive place to start.  And depending on your weekend habits, a zoom lens can be a fun way to explore new territory.

If you have any camera or lens advice you’d like to share, please feel free to chime in!

Filed under Photography. Tagged with , , .

Picture This: Lenses! (Part 1)

pagoda_atnight


I have been putting off writing this post for a little while, because it just sounds kind of… boring.  However, the more time I spent organizing everything, the more I realized just how cool this stuff can be.  So if you own an SLR, and haven’t gotten very far into the world of lenses – this one’s for you.  I was thinking this morning that lenses are kind of like shoes and pairing the right lens with the right activity can make a world of difference. You could go hiking in your stilettos, but the experience might not be quite what you had hoped for.


So here we go. In our amateur world of photography, we own four lenses and I’d say we like three of them.  I’ll let you know up front that I’m biased towards getting a good value.  There are some incredible lenses in the $1000+ range, but we’re just not that committed. In fact, my favorite lens is around $100.

First up: The Prime Lens (bokeh, flowers, and more, oh my)

petesdragon

  • Canon EF 50mm Prime Lens: This one is hands-down my favorite. It has a low f-stop, which means you’re getting a very narrow depth of field (and lots of bokeh). If you’re hoping to get a little more artistry out of your photos, I think a prime lens is a perfect place to start experimenting.  Almost every picture on the blog of a flower or scrap of fabric is taken with this lens.

    • What it’s perfect for: portraits of people, bokeh, lower light scenarios

    • You can also use this lens for night photography if you you switch to the lowest aperture setting and don’t use the flash. The electrical light parade photo above is an example my husband took. (You’ll need steady hands.)

    • Other examples of this lens from the blog: here, here, and here (also the bio pic in the sidebar)

Next: General Purpose

toweroflondon

  • Canon EFS 18-55mm IS Lens: This is the stock lens that came with our camera kit. The IS means that it has built in image stabilization (always a good thing, although it adds to the cost). It’s a good, general purpose lens with a wide field of view. It’s actually a wider angle than the human eye, so it’s great for landscapes or very tall buildings like the Tower of London above.  For close up shots, you can end up with some (minor) distortion. This is a great lens, but it doesn’t have the same flexibility as even some point and shoot cameras, so I think it would be disappointing to get an SLR and stop here.

    • What it’s perfect for: landscapes, tall buildings, cityscapes, general purpose
    • This lens can be used at night if you have a steady hand and can adjust the shutter speed to match your movement level.  The Epcot image at the top of this post is an example.

Tomorrow: part two!

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Picture This: Heart Shaped Bokeh

Lovehearts

Whew!  Anyone else trying to battle your way through a Friday afternoon?  I am really feeling it this week.  I thought pulling out the Christmas lights and setting up for this post was going to send me over the edge, but I made it.  And I’m glad, because I think this is a cool photo trick and one you should have up your sleeve.  (I’m convinced everyone should take a picture of their Christmas tree this way each year — but it’s also fun with city lights, candles, or just because.)

For a long time, I would see those pictures with the little heart-shaped lights and think that there was some fancy equipment (or a strand of actual heart-shaped lights) involved.  However, all you need is a camera and some construction paper.  This trend has become so popular that there are a ton of tutorials out there on how to do this.  However, I’d never actually done it until this morning — and I figure there are at least some other people out there like me.  So if you’re one of those people, here’s the scoop.

Remember when we talked about bokeh? (Just a refresher: for bokeh shots, switch to aperture mode with the lowest possible aperture setting, lens fully zoomed in.)

Well, we’re going to do that but we’re going to make a little cover for our lens with a small shape cut out of it.  You don’t have to make this fancy — in fact, I think you can do this just holding up a piece of paper to your lens (as long as no light is getting through).  However, I saw this nice tutorial and thought I should make my construction paper cover look nice too.

The Set-Up

bokeh_setup

The green part is just construction paper and entirely too much scotch tape fitted around the lens.  (Don’t tell my husband about the tape.)  I cut a small heart and snowflake out of black paper and attached it to the green lens cover.  (If you have fancy hole punches, now’s the time to break them out.  You can do this with any shape– not just hearts.)

The picture set up is simple.  There is a strand of Christmas lights on the desk, and I set up some objects in front about a foot away.  The camera needs to focus on something in the foreground so that the lights become blurry bokeh circles.  Your picture won’t turn out if you are focusing on the lights themselves.

deerstars

Can you do this with a point-and-shoot? I’ve read that it is possible.  However, the shape that you cut out has to be teeny-tiny and I think you really have to practice how far away everything should be.  I tried several times without any luck — so I think you have to be patient.

I’m consulting with my tech help (husband) this weekend – so I’ll be back next week with a few more photography posts including those lens recommendations I promised.  Then we’ll be back to our usual faire.

Hope you have a great weekend!  And if you try this technique, let me know.  I’d love to see your photos.

Filed under Photography, Tutorials & Downloads. Tagged with , , , .

Picture This: How I Edit My Photos

dianadresses

Hi there!  I’m back with more photography love as part of April: Picture This.  It seems that blogging 4 days a week is the best I can do right now.  When I try to get that 5th day, the rest of the world falls apart.  (Or someone has to bring in dinner.)

Today, I thought I would talk about editing your photos on the computer.  While I don’t spend a ton of time on this (and I’m by no means an expert), I do give all my pictures a little polish pass before posting them here.  I know a lot of people use Photoshop (or the budget-friendlier version Photoshop Elements) adjusting contrast and curves or maybe even adding a little bit of blur (like we did for the fake miniatures).

However, the program that I prefer is Photoshop Lightroom.  It’s priced somewhere between Photoshop and Elements, but it’s built specifically for photo editing and much more intuitive.  I think using regular Photoshop is great if you are going to use the program for other tasks (or if you’re a pro and like that level of control), but Lightroom offers you tons of pre-sets and easy sliders to adjust contrast, exposure, white balance, tint, highlight recovery, vibrance and more.  If you feel like your colors could be brighter and more saturated, then Lightroom’s “General Punch” setting could be your new best friend.

Here’s a little before and after that I put together in Lightroom.  I selected this photograph I took of some of Princess Diana’s dresses at Kensington Palace.  The light in the palace was very dim and made most of my photos turned out muddy and a little yellow.  Blah.

Before Picture:

dresses_prelightroom

In Lightroom, I added the “General-Punch” filter and then brought the white balance to “As Shot.”  I tried “Auto Tone” and then made adjustments to clarity, contrast, brightness, and vibrance until I was happy with the result.  Because I knew I was using this photo for the web, I pushed the photo’s brightness quite a bit.  It did get a little bit grainy at full resolution, but once I sized it down for the blog, it looks fairly clear and crisp.

After Photo:

dresses_afterlightroom

I like my photos on the cool side, but that’s personal preference.  I think this is where your photo style really comes into play.  Your camera + the lighting conditions you photograph in + how you make little adjustments to crop and color = your recipe for developing your own “look” to your photos.

How do you edit your photos?  Any actions fans out there?  It seems to me that using actions in Photoshop would be a lot like using presets in Lightroom.  (And if you’re curious, it does look like you can use your actions in Lightroom, too.)

Filed under Photography. Tagged with , , .