Q & A – photography tips/background

Hi everyone!  It’s Q & A time.  :)  
Could you tell us more about your photography?  What camera you use?  How you got started?

Can you share some photography tips?  
Your camera work is great.  Can you tell us more about it?  Did you take a class or read a book or just read the instruction manual that came with your camera?  ;) 

I’ve had multiple questions about photography lately and I have to say that I don’t feel worthy to answer them!  My photography skills are a work in progress and far from fabulous, but they are better than what they used to be so I’m happy to share how I got where I am.  I bought my first SLR in March of 2009 and I’m still using that same camera.  It’s the Canon Rebel XSI and by now there are similar cameras with much cooler features and upgrades I’m sure.  I did take a class when I first got my camera because I had no clue how to use it.  BUT.  I felt like I learned NOTHING in that class.  Most of the people in it were used to using SLR’s and everything was way over my head.  I guess I needed an even more beginners beginner class.  :)  So after the class I read a few on-line tips (no books…and do people ever read those boring instruction manuals?) and then I did what I’ve been doing ever since.  I take a lot of pictures.  I take pictures every single day.  And when you take pictures every single day you start to learn a thing or two about your camera.  Without really trying to, you learn about photography.  That is my best advice I would give to anyone starting out.  Forget the classes and the manuals and just take TONS of pictures.  Play around with your camera.  Try out different settings in different lighting and see what you get.  Keep your camera out all the time so you can easily grab it and snap away whenever you get a minute.  Practice, practice, practice.  That’s how I’ve learned everything I know.

Another important tip I’ve learned from taking so many pictures is to pay attention to what’s in the background of your photo.

Quick example:

Here’s a picture I took for a Fashion Friday post of a couple of my necklaces.  I took this in my bathroom and I could tell the lighting and the blah tile background weren’t ideal.  
So I took a picture of the same necklaces on my living room coffee table with natural light coming through the window.  HUGE difference.  The necklaces look like they are supposed to.  Everyone knows that natural light is better for photography, but it’s important to also remember what a huge difference background makes.  I always try to clear the background of any clutter that might take away from my picture and if it’s a staged picture like the one above for my blog, I look for a background that will make my object stand out.  If I’m taking close-ups of the kids and don’t have time to clear the background (you have to catch those moments so fast!) I usually blur the background like in this photo:
This is so easy to do with a good lens which is my next tip.  Invest in a good lens!  It makes all the difference.  I have two fixed lenses (Christmas gifts from Kenny) which means they don’t zoom at all. They take beautiful pictures.  One of them is the Canon 28mm (my every day lens) and the other is the Canon 50mm (I use this once in a while for pics of the kids).  With both of these lenses I am able to get a lower aperture setting which allows more light in my photos and makes it so I can blur the background.  
My next photography tip when taking pics of your kiddos (or any people) is to take less of the “say cheese” photos and try to catch them interacting with each other.  I have learned through taking tons of pictures that my favorites are always when I catch my kids just being themselves.  
Quick example:

This picture cracks me up!  It was Valentines day and I was trying so hard to get a good picture of the kids.  Trying to get all three of them to look and smile at the same time, AND get them all in focus with Kole whipping all over the place was NOT happening. After taking about 15 pics that looked just like the one above I finally decided to stop taking pictures for a minute and to just let the kids interact with each other.

Then after a few minutes, without them even paying attention, I stood on my coffee table and took this picture from above.  I love this picture.

There are so many camera tips I could bore you with.  They are technical things that you can learn about on any photography website or in any camera manual.  But honestly, these are the things that have improved my photos the most:
-Take LOTS of pictures (keep your camera close by!)
– Pay attention to the background
– Invest in a good lens
– Catch kiddos in their natural state 

I talked about this in my “photography – lesson learned” post but honestly, when it comes to taking pictures, capturing moments like these:

far outweigh getting a technically perfect picture any day.  So while the technical stuff helps, it’s what is going on in the photos that make the best pictures.

My last piece of advice is to focus on that.  


Photography – lesson learned

I’ve learned a lot about photography in the last few years.  Well.  Not a lot meaning I’m a great photographer (hardly!), but a lot meaning I’ve learned so much more than I knew before I started using my first SLR.  I love taking pictures and playing around with my camera and I enjoy trying out different settings, different lenses, and different lighting to achieve the look I want for certain pictures.  A lot of the time when I’m taking pictures of my house or projects for the blog I pay close attention to lighting, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, backgrounds, etc.  I take my time.  And I don’t use the flash because heaven forbid – I’ve read enough camera tips to know that if I did the walls would come caving in around me and life as I know it would never be the same!  ;)  

Taking pictures of my kids is a different story.  
Sometimes I see something ordinary that happens often in our day to day life that I want to capture and remember.  Like the other day when I glanced out the back door and saw Ellie flinging Kole around like a rag doll.  My usual response is “ELLIE PUT HIM DOWN I CANNOT DEAL WITH A TRIP TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM TONIGHT!”  But Kole was laughing hysterically – I mean really laughing – so I grabbed my camera instead.  

I didn’t worry about lighting.  I didn’t worry about aperture, I didn’t worry about backgrounds and shutter speeds and ISO.  And this one time, I didn’t worry about the possibility of an emergency room trip.

 I just snapped pictures not really worrying about anything at all.  
The lighting isn’t great and the pictures are blurry (I was really laughing too).  

And they are some of my favorite pictures to date.  
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned about photography over the years is that while the technical camera stuff is cool to learn, it really doesn’t matter much.  Capturing a moment like this one that I will now have to cherish and remember forever outweighs a “perfectly planned” picture any day.  
Even if the moment captured was taken with the flash.  
(which these pictures weren’t because my walls are intact and I’m still here)  

2010 Family Pictures

Just sitting here on my couch organizing some pictures (Kenny found Star Wars on TV so to say I’m bored is an understatement).  I just realized I never posted our 2010 family pictures and I want them on my blog for the someday when I get around to printing my blog into books.  I know you’ve seen these pictures before from my fall header and our 2010 Christmas card so sorry about the repeat!  Feel free to click on the next blog on your list or start your Monday to-do list.  Laundry?  Dishes?  Work?  Yeah…on second thought you may want to stick around and procrastinate a little longer…   :)

(Ellie age 6)
(Addison age 4)
(Kole age 5 months)
(Kenny and Erin ages 24 and 22…approximately…)

We spent way too much money and ordered really big prints of all of these and had them framed, but we haven’t hung them yet because we keep thinking we’ll just wait and hang them when we find a new house. Thinking I need to just hang them in our current house or Kole will be 5 years old by the time we get around to it.

p.s.  Unlike our 2009 photo shoot, I made sure not to post any photos that would elicit “ghetto booty” comments.  ;)

Have a great Monday everyone!  Vader has just saved Luke from the Emperor and is taking off his mask.  I’m off to get Kenny a tissue…

Highlight 5 & 6


So another major highlight of my trip (yes – I’m still posting highlights. Hang in there with me…this will be the end of it!) was a morning spent with one of my mom’s (and now my) favorite people. Rex is an amazing photographer and when my mom mentioned to him that I was attempting to learn more about photography he offered to take me out for a little 1 on 1 instruction time. {I know – these shoes do NOT go with my shorts, but pants weren’t an option since it was over 100 degrees and we were doing some serious hiking – so – all fashion was set aside} Despite the hiking, and the heat, and the not so cute shoes, I had the most amazing time with Rex! He was incredibly fun and cool to hang out with and he taught me more in four hours then I learned during a two month photography class. I have had so much fun playing around with all the tips and tricks he taught me. We’re planning another little photography lesson for October to get some pictures of the fall leaves. Can’t wait. Thanks again Rex!

This little guy cooperated and held so still for me. If only my girls would do the same!


Yes. Mowing my parents’ lawn was a highlight of my trip. My dad watched my girls for me during my photography lesson so I told him I’d mow his lawn to pay him back. What he and I both know is that doing this was more for me than for him. I have always loved mowing lawns! When I grew up it was my Saturday job (kept me dressed in the latest Girbaud jeans) and I grew to love it. I love being outside early in the morning. I love the smell of freshly cut grass. I love the sound of the mower. I love the perfectly cut straight lines. I love zoning out and letting my mind wander while I mow. I love that mowing lawns makes it really feel like summer.
My parents now have a big, beautiful back yard and I love mowing their lawn. Funny thing is that Kenny and I don’t even own a mower. Our backyard is a typical So. Cal. yard which means it’s non existent. We have a patch of lawn about the size of a table – not much fun to mow. So we do the typical So. Cal. solution – hire a landscaper. But in my next house. Someday. I will have a BIG lawn to mow. And I will mow perfect, long straight lines in my grass. And then I will pay a landscaper to do everything else. :)

(In a serious discussion about how to best avoid sprinkler heads. Lawn mowing sparks a lot of serious discussions.)

(my biggest helpers)