Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Giveaway & Review: ThisLife by Shutterfly

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

This post is sponsored by Shutterfly, Inc. in partnership with Resourceful Mom Media.

I have been working a long time on my storytelling through photos.  It has been an evolution as I master my camera and work on capturing more authentic moments in our life.  I go through stages where I rely completely on my DSLR and then periods in our life where I want the swiftness of a quicker capture with my photos. I am a fantastic giver of moments on Facebook and Instagram. What I am terrible at though is organizing, sorting, and actually printing our precious moments.

I got the opportunity to test drive an amazing photo service called ThisLife by Shutterfly that I know you all are going to be nuts about it because it helps us be a better family historian gathering all of your life moments, organizing, and sorting them all into one spot. I want to share my experience with you and how I brought our Grand Rapids holiday to life.

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

Our family took an amazing holiday trip this year to Grand Rapids to celebrate Christmas and my daughter’s 8th birthday. These are two special holidays that are a mere five days apart. We ditched the presents to each other (a bold move when you are a kid) and rented a beautiful home in Grand Rapids, Michigan and visited every attraction we could squeeze in together.

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

It was in the midst of an ice storm that we happened to make our trip out there.  It was an ice rink outside as we had to gingerly take a step with our arms linked tightly together, just to try to get down the steps of our lake cottage. My husband had an iron grip on the wheel, color drained from his face,  as we made it out in the treacherous conditions to give our kids the best little holiday ever.

And it was.

You can see & just feel the joy in these moments.

I set my phone aside and really dove in on this trip with my camera. I was so proud of these pictures.

I have all of these beautiful and amazing moments and guess what I did with them?

Nothing.

I am a great storyteller of moments in Facebook, I might be able to grab your eye on Instagram with pictures, but I don’t do anything with these for myself. Instead of sitting on a couch flipping through these moments with my grandkids someday, I will be pulling them over to my computer and trying to search through my folders and feeds to show them what their mom and dad used to look like. It isn’t the picturesque family moment that I want to share with them. That is where ThisLife by Shutterfly comes into play. I am going to show you how this can help you be a better historian no matter what device or sharing platform you use and how I finally took these images off my computer and brought them to life for our family.

ThisLife App Tutorial

As storytellers of our family, we now use multiple platforms to share our stories. These moments can quickly become jumbled or lost and it is difficult to remember where and how we have shared our images. ThisLife is an amazing subscription-based service that can quickly organize and sort your moments by date, making it quick and easy to share your family’s stories. Not only does it gather the images from your computer, but it gathers them from the places you are socially sharing in the same dated format. Do you share on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Shutterfly, or SmugMug? Link your account and it will grab and sort all of your images in one location. Half the battle is in the sorting and, let’s face it, very few moms I know have time to gather and incorporate all their moments on all the places they are sharing socially. This grabs them and sorts them with ease.

ThisLife App Tutorial

Once the images are all sorted, it makes it so much easier to begin sharing your family’s story. You can actually create a Story from the images and then share it with your family and friends through email or by sharing a link to your story like this one I created of our family vacation. This is so great for grandparents or for anyone who doesn’t want to share their images publicly. You simply select the images (that have already been sorted for you) and then click Stories and add a New Story to create a format for sharing groups of moments with your family and friends.

ThisLife App Tutorial

A search under people sorts all of the people in your life alphabetically and tells you how many pictures you have of them. Want to make a photo album for a friend that’s moving away of all your years together? No problem! Want to put together an album of just one child? Easy peasy. Want to see how much better you look as you age and wow yourself? I totally did that.

ThisLife App Tutorial

Do you travel to exotic locations (more exotic than, say, Grand Rapids?)? Do you vacation every summer in Nantucket? I will be a good friend and tell you that you can sort your images by places and make albums of all of these fun things that you are doing that I am not doing.

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ThisLife offers several  different membership plans, with additional options for larger collections.

ThisLife App Tutorial

Of course, the beauty in this for this amazing storyteller who doesn’t share her stories, is that you can print these photos out in a book and actually have something to show your grandkids someday. Select all your images that you want (all perfectly grouped) and then click Create to transfer them over to Shutterfly to make an album. Add captions so you don’t forget the treacherous ice storm you weathered for the perfect family holiday or that root beer tasting that you did with your kids that they couldn’t stop talking about. Get it all in an album and ship it right to your door to remember those moments forever. You can check out the album I made below using their Modern template.

 

Click here to view this photo book larger

Now that I have shown you how wonderful this service is, I am excited to be giving away one (1) standard subscription to ThisLife so you can be the ultimate storyteller of moments in your family. You can enter this giveaway by following the instructions below in the Rafflecopter widget!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Check out some other fun ways you can use ThisLife for your photos from a few of my favorite blogging friends! 

This post is sponsored by Shutterfly, Inc. in partnership with Resourceful Mom Media. I have received compensation for my time and a membership to ThisLife to share my honest thoughts and opinions on their service.

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Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business)

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business) from MomAdvice.com.

Today I am so excited to share with you some easy tips to improve your phone photos. Phone photography has been a fun hobby of mine ever since I got my iPhone. There is so much that you can do with your phone photos to capture the beauty and moments in your life on-the-go. I wanted to share with you a list of my favorite apps, some easy tips for taking better images, and show you how to grow your business with phone photography and Instagram. Our food photography article has been one of our most popular articles on our site so I thought I would apply the same in-depth info to this one and focus on phone photography. The SAME PRINCIPLES that I share in that food photography post apply here so please read it even if you aren’t a food photographer.

I do own this iPhone so some of these apps may not apply for your device, but many do so I am sharing only what I have found to be worth the money or worth the time using.

MomAdvice on Instagram

Before we get started, I would love for you to follow me on Instagram. You can find me over here: MomAdvice on Instagram!  I really, really want to connect with you and this is one of the most personal ways I have found to connect with my readers. As you can see, my profile name is easy to remember- “momadvice.” I really want to be your friend!

Let’s go ahead and go through a few frequently asked questions about phone photography! 

Afterlight

What App Do You Use the Most For Photo Editing?

This question should be, “What App Do You Use the Most THIS WEEK for editing? Honestly, I am always open to trying new apps and I am constantly looking for new ways to manipulate my photos into a work of art. I would say that the app though that I have been relying the most on this year is an app called, Afterlight. This app only costs $.99 and is what I use most frequently for taking phone photos.

There are a couple of reason I really like this app. One, it offers really great and easy to use tools for making tweaks to your photo. Basically, everything I am now doing in Lightroom with my digital images, I am able to do through my phone. I use it to add in color, to increase brightness, to crop images, to add contrast, and to adjust exposure. The toolbar is very user-friendly so you can make gradual or dramatic tweaks.

I find this app to be killer in the black-and-white image category. Every picture I take with it and transfer into black-and-white is absolutely fantastic. I am also a fan of their Dreamy effect (which adds pretty pink tones to your photos) and their Brightfire effect for a burst of brightness.

Let me show what a typical photo editing session looks like for me.

Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business) from MomAdvice.com.

You never want your flash on, if at all possible, so for most of my images, I am doing my best to bring the brightness and color back into my images.  You will look at the bottom of your toolbar and the second icon with the lines is where you click to begin making your adjustments.  Click on each icon to get familiar with what tweaks are offered. If at any time you get nervous and want to start over, the first icon that looks like a circle…that takes you right back to where you started. Phew!

The tweaks I am making are not large (as you can see in the slider scale above), but they add a little pop to the image.  I usually am bumping up Brightness, Contrast, Exposure, Saturation, and then many times I am cropping the image to cut out anything that might have gotten in the shot (in this case the corner of my dress) that I don’t want in there.  You can also adjust your white balance using the temperature dial if you are not in ideally lighting (another feature I rely upon). You can add filters if you want,  but for the most part I prefer my images unfiltered or just very slightly filtered. The slider scale is your best friend and know that whatever filter you add, it will be on full blast. Typically, you want to slide that way down to get a natural image with a little bit of tone in it.

before-after

As you can see, this is not a dramatic difference, but it definitely showcases the power of small tweaks to your photos. This should only take a few moments to achieve and the more beautiful the photos…the more followers to gain and share with!

Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business) from MomAdvice.com.

What Other Apps Do You Recommend?

The apps I am listing are the ones that I use and have had the most success with. I actually have a lot of apps that I am not going to mention because they aren’t worth your time or money. Here are the ones that are frequently used by me and what I use them for!

Fuzel

 

Fuzel (FREE)

I apologize that my screenshot is showing the old Fuzel icon- I think I have two versions on my phone.  I use this one for collaging a group of photos because I think it offers the most flexibility with framing and it’s very easy to use. If we go to the blueberry patch, for example, and I have sixteen photos of my kids picking berries, it’s best to select a few and use a collage app of these photos in one photo for your followers.  It has cute borders and multiple framing options. It also offers a few text options for captions which can be handy too. I don’t do a ton of text on my photos, but I love that you can add caption on this app.

The best part is that they now offered animated slide shows where you can add music from your phone or use one of their pieces of music to animate your photos using your collaged photos. How fun is that?

saugatuck_review_3

PicTapGo ($1.99)

I love, love, love PicTapGo for editing, but I love it even more because you can share a full-frame image in Instagram using this app. If you have a beautiful story to tell and don’t want to crop it down to the standard Instagram size, once you are done utilizing all the fun editing tools on it, just click GO and you can instagram your image full size or float the image for a landscape portrait. I’m telling you, it is a fantastic thing to know when you have taken too close of an image or you need all of the image to add to the drama of your photo.

This one has great filters on it too and utilizes terminology that makes editing simple. Instead of Exposure, for example, it says, “Lights On.” Instead of a temperature dial, it says “Warm It Up,” or “Cool It Down.” Seriously, this couldn’t be more user-friendly.

It has great black-and-white options and I’m a big fan of their “Air” filter.

Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business) from MomAdvice.com.

Camera+ ($1.99)

This app can do a lot, but I need to be honest with you, I really use this app only for one thing. It’s the self-timer feature. If  you are at home by yourself and want to be in a shot (couple shots with your spouse, fashion pictures, or in-action foodie shots, etc…) this app has a self-timer option on it that you can set for 15 seconds to jump and pose into a shot without needing an extra set of hands to shoot it. I balance it on countertops, we have shot from the dashboard of my car with my purse holding it up, and every other kind of weird shooting scenario.

This shot I am sharing here was actually taken using the self-timer. I had my phone on the ground, flipped my phone upside down, and shot it from there.  The quality of the image will be better if you don’t shoot it with the front camera (what you might be using for selfies)  so do your best to figure it out like someone else is shooting it, fire the self-timer off once you get your placement, and shoot it the other direction.

That selfie camera usually has around 1.2 megapixels versus 8 megapixels from the rear camera. That’s a big difference in what you can achieve with photo quality, especially if you want to print something.

The timer is available through the icon next to your center shooting button.  It also has a stabilizer (perfect for shaky hands like me) and you can shoot it in burst modes if you need to fire off a lot of shots.

Rhonna Designs ($1.99)

If you like to add text to your photos, catchy phrases, or doodles… I have the app for you. This app is my go-to app  because the fonts are beautiful and you can do so much with it. For my blogging friends, you can use this to create beautiful banners for your blogs! You know our, “It’s the 3 Little Things,” feature? That banner was made all with the Rhonna Designs app.

I find that my scrapbooking friends are big fans of this app. You could spend all day on it and never get tired of it. Bundles of seasonal additions are also offered so once you get tired with what is provided in the app, you can build upon it.

Flipagram (FREE)

If you don’t want to collage your photos and just want to set them to a slideshow with music, I adore Flipagram. I actually have utilized this one in sharing on my blog too. This video I had created out of images for a project for Walmart.  The challenge was a fun winter activity and we decided finding a pen pal would be a great one. The supplies were purchased from the store and then we shared all about our experience doing that.  This was a great way to put all of that together into a fun concept for our readers and IG followers without it being spammy.

If you don’t have the songs stored on your phone, sometimes you can get the thirty second preview for free (which is usually an option) or you can purchase the song for your project.

This app also has an adorable Photo Booth option and Stop Motion option that you could play around with!

Snapseed

Snapseed (FREE)

I learned about this app while I was at the SNAP! Conference and was so impressed at what you can do with it. If I am being honest though, I really use it for the HDR Scape for taking landscape photos that really bring out the clouds and sky particularly with sunrises, sunsets, and on stormy days.  Touch the image and go back and forth to increase or decrease filter strength.

There are a lot of advanced tools on this one that I haven’t really delved into except for the practice session at the conference that can add even lighting to your photos. It was really cool, but I will be honest and say it isn’t really something I have used regularly!

Picfx ($1.99)

I recommend this one simply for light leaks and bokeh. They have a few fun filters, but I wouldn’t say this is my go-to filter spot. If you want a rocking heart bokeh though, this is the app for you. They have simply the sweetest bokeh effects and the light leaks are more natural and fun to play with then some of the other apps.

Now I am going to share two apps that are for my bizness people that I love!

Latergramme (FREE)

Do you want to schedule your photos like everything else in your social media life? It is actually possible. Download this app and set up your contest, photo, or whatever you need to do  in your Instagram feed. Set the day and time that you would like it to air. When it is time to post your photo, it will send a notification on your homescreen of your phone. Open it and then submit to have your photo go live.  It helps so much when you have a contest to have it all ready to go.

TagsForLikes

I am not a big hashtag fan because I am not always sure that this is the best way to grow an audience. That being said, hashtags can be a great way to get more likes to your images and potentially more followers. This app provides popular tags for popular categories. I tested it with a cup of coffee with their default tags  yesterday and got twenty new followers from the provided tags.

My one caveat with this is that if you tag vegan, for example, and your next picture is a delicious pulled pork sandwich, you are likely going to lose your vegan follower. I wouldn’t say it is the most consistent tool for growth, but you can create your own custom tags in the app to attract who you want to pull into your feed.

For consistent growth of an IG following, I have found to share beautiful images, not to overshare too many images (2-3 per day is typically my maximum), interacting with others and commenting on photos, and not spamming my readers with only blog promotion is a great way to begin building a great following.

 

Now please, please, follow me- I’d love some new friends! xo

*This post contains affiliate links- I only link to what I love!

 

Talk to me! What’s your best phone photography tip? Feel free to leave a link to your Instagram profile so I can find you!

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What Do You Do All Day? The Real Story Behind My Niche Blog!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

One of the biggest questions that I get asked is, “What exactly is your job?” It is one of those things that people are often curious about, and admittedly are confused about,  since my job is so difficult to explain. Today I wanted to offer a behind-the-scenes look at what it is like to run a niche blog.

I have been blogging for 9 1/2 years now which makes me a dinosaur in this business! The blog that you see today is very different than the blog I started out with. The site has grown a lot over the years and many  of you have been through all of its growing pains. For those of you that have been following our journey, I wanted to share with you what my business has evolved into.

What is a Typical Day Like For You?

I am a busy mom of two kiddos so my day-to-life is probably a lot like yours. I handle the day-to-day routines and schedules of my kids. I take my kids to their extra curricular activities, I volunteer weekly at my kid’s school helping with kids that are struggling with reading, we go to worship once a week, and I do my best to workout at the gym three days a week.

Every pocket of time that I have beyond that though is spent working on projects for one of the many freelance clients I write for. I am either shopping for my clients, creating tutorials for craft/diy/food, photographing projects, or writing for them. Since many of my clients are running on magazine calendar deadlines, you will often find me shopping for Easter supplies in the dead of winter or working on Christmas crafts in the Fall.

Even my free time is often accounted for because I share it with you. I try to read four books a month for our reviews and you will rarely find me sitting still when I am watching television because I am usually working on a craft project at the same time for the blog.

Much like you, I am sure, I am pretty beat at the end of the day! By the time the kids go to bed, I am ready for bed myself. I usually head to bed pretty early so I can start the whole routine again!

Who Works With You?

I think one of the things that people have found most surprising about our site is that I was the only writer & contributor on my site for over nine years alone. My husband did all of the coding and design of our site and I managed all the content.

When our site experienced a lot of growth from Pinterest, I realized that there was no way that I could manage all of this on my own. My email inbox had over 50,000 unopened emails, my taxes and paperwork for my business were a mess, and I had been treating my work like a hobby rather than a business.

This last month I hired a virtual assistant to help  me with some of the things my readers had come to expect here, but didn’t really showcase my personality- the weekly freebie list, our weekly notebook, and our giveaway link list. She got my inbox down to zero within two months and I finally felt like I could breathe a little bit. She is, in one word, amazing, and has brought back a quality of life that I felt like I had been lacking.

We also hired an accountant to handle our taxes this year, something that had burdened us greatly over the years, and I also started using FreshBooks (affiliate) to help me keep track of my accounting better (a recommendation made by my amazing friend over at Dine & Dish). Invoicing, following up on payments with clients, and paperwork for them takes up a good portion of my day so any people/products I can use to make my day go smoother really helps me.

embroidery thread egg for Kenmore

 

Why Do You Work For So Many Brands?

I write a lot of content for brands because, frankly, it helps pay the bills. I write professionally for five to six clients monthly and those projects help our family financially, but much of the earnings go towards keeping my site up and running.

When our site was smaller, we had an inexpensive web host and I was able to do everything on my own. Our site grew by 100,000 users this year alone, which is incredible and awesome, but our web host couldn’t handle the traffic! It was time to invest in the business and move to Liquid Web (affiliate), who can handle anything we throw at them. We currently spend about a thousand dollars a month to pay for web hosting, photography props/equipment, our accountant, and my assistant. Many of my projects that I write for just go towards keeping the business afloat and paying my self-employment taxes.

No, I Was Asking How Much You Make?

Yup, I get asked that all the time although I have NEVER asked anyone what their salary is. It is such a weird job that people are always dying to know how much you make. I make a full-time income thanks to the companies I work for as a content writer/creator, ambassador, and spokesperson for. If I was living on our ad revenue alone, we could pay for our web host and maybe a bill or two. In all honesty though,  my income fluctuates a lot because it depends on what jobs come through for me for the year. This past year all my time was devoted towards my book which was a rewarding experience, but also prevented me from taking on a lot of paying jobs.

How Do You Do It All?

I don’t think I do more than many of the other working parents that I know, but people constantly ask me this. I think the main reason is because when people do these types of projects around their house they aren’t pointing a bunch of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram traffic over to it like,

“LOOK AT ME! I MAKE THINGS! LOOK HOW AWESOME I AM!”

Here is an example of a typical month of projects  for my clients.

I knitted a scarf for a new yarn line that Walmart was carrying.

I painted vases with my kids for Kenmore.

I took my kids over to the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit at Brookfield Zoo to write a review for a local magazine I write for.

I gathered up ideas for things to do with old books for Goodwill.

I made homemade laundry detergent for Walmart.

I made a cookbook with my kids for Kenmore (post coming soon!)

I made whole wheat toasted tarts with Walmart.

There are several other projects, but this gives you an idea of what I am up to. If I look at it as a whole, I am completely overwhelmed. On any given week I could have anywhere between two to four projects for clients. Since I do all of  the shopping, crafting/cooking and then my own writing & photography for these projects, each project is very time-consuming.

I also am maintaining the writing that I do here on  my blog like sharing yummy recipes for pecan-crusted chicken fingers, whipping up Peep-tinis, & sharing all those fun book reviews and making sure we have plenty of content for the rest of the week. All of that, and I haven’t even touched on the social media side of things which is just as consuming now that my readers can connect with me through every available social media channel!

Usually the most surprising amount of time I spend is on the shopping and the staging for photos. I will get a brilliant idea for a client and then get to the store and find out that the items I need aren’t sold there or that I have to completely rethink a project. What’s worse is if I spend a whole day on a recipe and it flops.

Although it appears I take every opportunity given to me, I take about half or less of the projects offered. If you look at the projects above, you might be surprised they were even for companies because they are just the types of projects I would want to share with you anyway. Since the companies supply a budget for supplies, it helps to offset some of the costs to crank out this many projects monthly.

Time management is a tricky terrain with a juggle like this. I have learned that is better to tackle a few recipes in one day and then edit & write the content the other days. Many days it looks like a bomb exploded in my house because I am in some stage of creation for someone. It doesn’t make my Type-A heart very happy, but it is one of those things that comes with the job. I try to look at it the way I see my kids LEGO’s all over the floor or all their art supplies out, I am just proud they are creative and they are making something. I want to always be surrounded by creativity.

Basically, I take it all day by day.

How Does Your Job Impact Your Family Life?

I am so thankful for my job because it usually has a positive impact on our family life. My kids and I see these projects as opportunities to spend time together and the recipes that I create in our kitchen are enjoyed by all at our family dinners. How many people get to craft all day long and call it work? Not many! It almost sounds too good to be true sometimes.

I have gotten to travel to places that I thought I would only read about in books, I got to fulfill a life goal to write a book, my kids have gotten to go to places we couldn’t have afforded, and I’ve met a lot of truly amazing men & women who blog that my life would have never crossed paths with.

rainbow_cake_in_a_jar

Let me be honest though, there are positive and negative aspects about my work. For example, since our holiday content is written months in advance, I am usually not sitting around making rainbow cakes with my kids on St. Patrick’s Day or being a super creative parent like I want to be. By the time the holidays roll around, they are usually lucky if I dye their milk green because we have already done those projects together ages ago and I am on to the next holiday.

Traveling can be hard especially when my jobs end up interfering with family events. One year I had to travel on my daughter’s birthday and I cried a lot over that. It didn’t matter that I had thrown three parties for her, I was not there on the actual day. Inevitably, some kid gets sick or they have a fancy holiday show and I am off promoting the latest product for a company or have a speaking engagement for my work that has been planned months in advance. I am thankful for Skype on days like those so that I can see their faces and feel like I am there. I am sure every working parent feels that way sometimes.

Operating at a frantic pace each week can also have negative impacts on me and my health. I was two years overdue for a lot of routine check-ups for myself this year, my stomach issues have increased, and there are times where I feel completely overwhelmed or just don’t want to do all of this. It is hard to escape your work when it is always there!

We are not celebrities by any stretch of the imagination, but our family does not have an anonymous life. Some of us thrive better than others with this and there are days where we miss that.

There are times where I want to be political or snarky, but I worry how that might reflect to my readers so it definitely censors me in my social media life.I am sure this is a good thing in the long run.

All in all, the positives have outweighed the negatives though. If it starts to turn the other direction, we will have to make a decision to continue or not as a family. We operate under the, “All for one, one for all,” family motto. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have a question for me? Feel free to ask it!

 

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Food Photography 101

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Food Photography 101

I have been getting a lot of emails and comments lately requesting that I share a little bit about my experience with food photography. In full discretion, I am not a food stylist or food photographer at all. In fact, I know nothing about photography except what I have learned through my own trial and error and the tips from friends and books that I have read.

Let’s start with what my food photography looked like when I started blogging.

First, I started my blog with no photography.

Or paragraphs.

Or spacing between sentences.

Basically, it was one giant wall of text about food that we ate.

Then I decided to venture into taking photos of the food we ate. Let me tell you, if you made my recipes when my food looked like this, then you must have had a lot of faith in what that recipe would actually yield.

Food Photography 101

These examples really showcase where my first pictures of food started from. I had no clue about how to set the white balance on my camera, I thought all photos should be staged on top of my oven, and there was little thought to plating or creating a mood with my photography. Unless that mood was orange. Which, mind you, I fully succeeded at.

At the same time, I also know I am a very busy mom with very hungry children to feed. I spend my days running errands, activities, and volunteering. The idea of staging an entire photo session in my kitchen in the middle of the day still seems pretty impossible to me at this stage in our lives. My approach towards food photography is that it has to fit with my lifestyle and our family.  The tips I am offering are hopefully approachable and can help you in whatever stage of photography you are in.

 

Set Your White Balance

 

No matter what type of camera that you own, setting your white balance is something that can help you achieve better pictures from the start. You can set your white balance with the preset balance options in your Camera Menu or you can customize the white balance on your camera by simply taking a picture of a white sheet of paper.

The Auto White Balance (AWB) option isn’t always the best option for your food photography. If the day is cloudy or if you have lights on where you taking your photography, you will need to take in account what types of bulbs or lighting situations you are dealing with. For a more in-depth look at setting the White Balance, be sure to read this post on Figuring Out Your White Balance.

Use Natural Light When Possible

 

Food Photography 101

Natural light is always the best option for beautiful food photography. Turn off all of the lights in your house and take pictures in a well-lit room for the best naturally lit photos.

I noticed a huge difference when I simply turned off the lights in my kitchen since the light bulbs really added a lot of orange and yellow hues into my photography, making my food less appetizing.

If you find that there are shadows in your pictures, it can help to use a foam board to bounce the light from your kitchen windows to create even natural lighting.

Whatever you do, keep the flash off on your camera. This may require a bit of reading in your camera manual, but your pictures will be a thousand times better if you can turn the flash on your camera off.  Flash photography in food photos will, guaranteed, not create the beauty and the look that you are going for with your photography.

Practice taking pictures in different areas of your home to find the one spot in your house where the lighting is the best. I have found that I have great lighting in my kitchen during the daytime, but my front room also provides beautiful lighting when I move my console table out of the direct sunlight.

Stock Up on Thrifty Props

 

Food Photography 101

Creating beautiful scenes with food does not have to be an expensive endeavor at all. I love to visit thrift stores for unique tableware, glassware, and for fabric to use for my food photos. The best part about food props is that you can often take advantage of clearance items or patterns you might not use in your everyday life.

When I first started out I just used white plates for my food photos. These are simple, classic, and truly let the food take center stage. They also show every little spill and splatter so messier food can be trickier to photograph on them.

I started visiting the clearance section of the housewares and realized that I could inexpensively create unique displays for my food without a huge expense. My favorite plates so far are inexpensive salad and appetizer plates that look like real plates,but are just plastic tableware. My trick is always to look for small plates and bowls for my food photos. Using these smaller plates helps the plates look fuller than what they are.

 

Food Photography 101This bowl of Roasted Brussels Sprouts, for example,  looks like a normal size bowl of Brussels Sprouts. This is actually one of our little applesauce bowls set on top of a plastic appetizer plate I found on clearance at Target.

The big joke around our house is that these tiny plates are how I stay so thin. These pretty plates are usually how I eat my dinner after I photograph them while the rest of my family eats on regular plates. My daughter is always irritated that my food is prettier than her food. I am sure this will lead to weird sessions in a counselor’s office one day.

Get a Weathered Table…Or Not.

Food Photography 101

The other question I always had when I looked at other people’s photos is where they got all these beautiful ancient weathered tables?  Most bloggers actually don’t have a bunch of varieties of weathered tables in their home. I know…that kind of shocked me too.

I discovered you could buy weathered wood wallpaper fairly inexpensively on eBay. I also found this weathered wood paper, pictured above, that is just paper from a teacher’s supplies store that has worked really well for creating the wood look.

Food Photography 101

Don’t think of your faux wooden backdrops as being only used in one way, like a tabletop.  Here is an example of how if you have a large enough backdrop, you can actually use it to cover both the back of the photo as well as covering the tabletop. I found some wipeable  backdrops that were for sale on a deal-for-a-day site and bought several different varieties. Just to prove that you don’t have to have a fancy set-up, this is actually taped with electrical tape to my kitchen pantry door and is actually on the floor in the corner of my kitchen, right next to the window.

Rethink Your Backgrounds

Wooden cutting boards provide richness to food photos, place mats and fabric napkins can add more color and dimension to your food photography, and even the rusty bottoms of cookie sheets, inverted,  can create uniqueness to your food photos (as learned through a fabulous BlogHer Food session).

Food Photography 101

Food Photography 101

I have found tile can be an inexpensive purchase at our local Habitat for Humanity, at just fifty cents per tile at our store. This is four pieces of tile (two upright and two flat) to create this surface for my Quinoa Berry Bowls.  Did I mention I also found swoon-worthy antique spoons at that store? I love when I happen upon a place like that for the unexpected prop!

Food Photography 101

An inexpensive way to shoot a photo and still capture the beauty of your dishes is simply using foam board from your local hardware store. In this shot of my Snickerdoodle Cupcakes, the background and the base of this shot are two pieces of foam board. You can’t get any more inexpensive than that and this simple background lends itself well to creating a pretty title to your photos.

Create Your Own Mini Photo Studio

 

Indiana winters are a struggle for me because I have a limited window of truly great natural light in my kitchen. After battling with bad lighting for many years, I finally decided to create my own mini photo studio to help. While this lighting isn’t as lovely as the natural lighting in the morning in my home, it has provided consistent results for creating the types of pictures that I want when I am dealing with low-light situations.

I purchased this Lowell EGO Light set with backdrops and bounce board (currently priced at $214.99 total) for my food photography. These lights are set up on a small cabinet in my office in our sub-basement. There are no other lights on when I take my food photos and these two lights provide optimal light for my food photography.

The lights come with Daylight bulbs in them. I simply switch my White Balance to shoot in the Daylight setting (the setting with the Sun icon) to begin shooting.

Here is the shot that I took in my basement with all of the lights off and using my two Lowell EGO lights. It still shocks me that this was taken at 8PM, in the dead of winter, and in my sub-basement of my home. I do think that the lighting is a little flatter than the natural light, but it is so much better than I could achieve with those scenarios going on any other time. (Picture of my Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo Pasta)

homemade_tomato_soup Here is the very first shot that I took with my Lowell EGO lights. I angled one of those lights so it appeared that this Homemade Tomato Soup was being shined upon by sunlight. Little does anyone know that this was all after we ate our dinner and shot in the dark depths of my basement. Since this is the first shot I took, you can see that even though I had no real clue what I was doing that I was able to achieve wonderful results with very little effort.

food_photography_101_7 Here is another shot of my set-up. I have my tripod in front of my little mini-studio. Below the lights are my plates, back drops, cups, fabric, napkins, etc.. in the two lower shelves so I can grab what I need and switch out colors and accessories as I need to.

Were the lights a big expense? Yes! Have they been worth it? Worth absolutely every penny for this busy mom and novice food photographer.


Get Familiar With Your Camera

 

I am definitely no expert when it comes to shooting in Manual mode, although I do shoot in this mode sometimes, but I love shooting in Aperture Priority (Av) for most of my food photography. Aperture Priority means that you set the camera’s Aperture and then the camera automatically figures out the shutter speed that you need to achieve the best photos. You can consult your camera manual to find out how to switch your own camera to Aperture Priority.

I had my lens cap on when I took this photo (thus the ISO displayed), but I wanted to show you that even while shooting in Aperture Priority, you can still adjust the settings for your situation.

Food Photography 101

Exposure and Aperture are usually the two settings that I play with most on my camera for my food photography. I really like light-filled photos and tend to go for a brighter photo than what it automatically chooses for me. The box that is highlighted above determines your Exposure of your photos. Basically, the exposure simply determines if the picture is too bright or too dark. Usually when it’s set to 0, or right in the middle of that green box shown above, it is just the right setting for exposure. In Aperture Priority mode, it will always stay at 0 unless you specifically tell it to move. If you decide that you want more light in your photos, like me, you can bump this to the right. If you want your photos to be darker, you can bump your Exposure composition the left, to create a food with less light. Sometimes I will bump it lower especially when I am dealing with dark plates (like red, black, or blue)  since it tends to overexpose the rest of the shot.

(Pictured Above: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad)

Food Photography 101

Getting that blurred background is probably the coolest thing about getting your first DSLR. Of course, you want to be sure that you are telling the whole story about your food photos and aren’t always shooting with this large of an Aperture. I usually like my Aperture around F5.6 unless I am really trying to blur something out behind the food, like the spoon in the picture above.

If you are looking for more information on understanding Exposure and Aperture, I really love this down-to-basics guide to understanding Aperture on i heart nap time.  For understanding Exposure and Exposure Compensation, I really, really loved this series, “31 Days to a Better Photo,” on my 3 boybarians. You can also visit my Pinterest Photography Fun Board for lots of other links to great tutorials on the blogs.

Edit, But Edit Wisely

 

Food Photography 101

If you take really great food photos, you will not need to make a lot of edits to them. My editing is usually just saturating my color (just a touch), sometimes adjusting the exposure, and cropping my photos.

I had been using PicMonkey to edit my food photos although my goal this year is to switch my editing process over to LightRoom. I just recommend concentrating your efforts on taking a great photo and use a program to help add a little saturation or adjust your exposure. Just remember that sometimes one can get carried away with the editing and you have pictures with all sorts of crazy fluorescent food. It is disappointing for your readers when they are unable to achieve what you have photographed at home. I always try to keep things as natural as possible so my readers know that the dishes can be created just as they have seen on the blog.

(Pictured Above: Homemade Whole Wheat Toasted Tarts)

Sometimes It Just Ain’t Pretty

 

Food Photography 101

Food Photography 101

No matter how you look at it, sometimes it can be impossible getting a pretty picture of food. Chicken and Dumplings are absolutely delicious, but they don’t yield gorgeous and rich food photos without a lot of work. A green smoothie might be a great energy-booster, but the pictures of it weren’t among my favorites.

I find that in situations like this that I try to rely on richer content in these cases and hope that the readers will look past the unappetizing photos and read about how delicious the food is.

Here are the most FAQ questions that people have asked me about taking food photography…

Food Photography 101

What equipment do you recommend and what do you have?

A:  I am not an expert on buying camera equipment, but I can tell you what I do know about it. I have always heard that it is much wiser to spend your money on your lens than the body of your camera. That is not to say to totally skimp on the body, but the body of cameras is constantly changing and being improved upon. I started out with the Canon Rebel T1i and, if you can believe it,  they already have many more versions of my camera since I got this and they cost quite a bit more than my already antique and outdated camera! The truth is, I will never stay current with the body of my camera because within a few months, a new one will already be replacing my ancient equipment.

If you are on a budget and are looking for a great point-and-shoot camera that has the same functionality as the DSLR, but you don’t have to buy lenses and make a huge investment, I loved my Canon PowerShot (the link takes you to the current model). I am a Canon girl and was really happy with this point-and-shoot camera. It is the camera that I recommend to my friends and I have always heard how happy my girlfriends are with their Canon PowerShots. Agonizing amounts of research were done before I selected that camera and I was very happy with it!

If you are still on a budget, but want to make a long-term investment in your food photography, I can share with you the lens and camera that I have. As an aside, we found our lens on eBay from a photographer who was upgrading his equipment, but I am linking through Amazon for convenience sake. I now own the Canon 7D and we bought the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm lens.  They have kit lenses that are around $100 or more each and I have seen people take great pictures with these, but we made the investment in one really good lens that would do just about everything for me for the rest of my life and until I die amen. This lens is all I really need in most situations.

Food Photography 101

What Other Photography Equipment Is Useful For Food Photography?

Other very useful tools for food photography include a good beginner tripod, a tabletop tripod,  and a remote for your camera so you don’t have to lug around your camera while taking shots while in food preparation mode. A reflector can also be a smart inexpensive investment to help bring more even lighting into your photos or create moodiness in your pictures.

If you are low on funds, I recommend asking for these great gadgets and more food props for holiday & birthday gifts. I have been accumulating my collection over the last three years since I really started getting excited about food photography.

The most important thing to buy though is a lens filter to protect your lens. If for some reason you scratch your lens or something happens to the outside of it, this $10-$20 filter will protect the lens and be what breaks instead of your $100-$1,000 investment. Trust me, you will thank me later if you have this!

Food Photography 101

Do you have any good books or websites to visit that can help me learn more about photography?

My absolute favorite book on food photography is, “From Plate to Pixel.” It is the one resource I would really recommend investing in to help with your food photos.

I am also a HUGE fan of Scott Kelby and his Digital Photography Books 1, 2, & 3. See if your library has these and check them out for smartly written, witty, and down-to-earth tutorials on how to use your camera. I love that he says, “If you want a good portrait, turn you dial to this,” instead of high-brow photography terms that, as a mom,  I just don’t understand.  I just want someone to tell me what to do, not make me feel stupid!

For websites, every single day I am inspired by food bloggers and their photography. Some of my favorite sites to visit for inspiration are GoodLife Eats, Picky Palate, Two Peas & Their Pod, Steamy Kitchen, Dine & Dish,  and Food Gawker.

(Pictured Above: Baked Strawberry Doughnuts)

Food Photography 101
I hope that these tips will help inspire you and your own food photography. I am really proud of the progress I have made over the last few years to achieve food photos that I hope inspire you to create new dishes in your kitchen.

If I could have given myself advice when I first started out, I would have told myself all these tips that I have shared with you. I also would have told you that adding more color into your food photos is always a great idea, to strive to incorporate bits of the preparation into your food photos,  to use natural ingredients for props, and to not be afraid to experiment with my camera more. We all have to start somewhere and I hope this encourages you, from one novice to another! (Pictured above: Red, White, & Blueberry Trifle)

blueberry_sangria_lemonade_3

Do you have any tips that have helped you with your food photography? If you take food photos what is the one tip you wish someone told you when you first started out? Let’s chat it up!!

 

 

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate your camera equipment and tools easily. Feel free to order through our site, but we always encourage shopping around for the best bang for your buck! Happy picture-taking!

 

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Capturing Your Children Through Photography

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

One thing that people have been asking me to share about is how to get fantastic pictures of your little ones. It was a request that I felt weird about accepting. I am just a mom who loves to take pictures. I have no formal training, no accolades, no studio, no professionalism at all…  In all seriousness, it feels strange to speak with authority on the subject.

Here is what I want you to know though! In this day and age, anyone can be a great photographer. We have more equipment, more free tools, more books, and more resources than ever before.  Unfortunately, the key to becoming great at something is good old-fashioned practice, reading, hard work, and more practice. It is not necessarily spending more money and buying more equipment. It means, simply, getting familiar with what you already have at your disposal and being the best that you can be with what you have already in your hands.

That being said, my Mother’s Day gift last year was the Canon Rebel T1i, which has been a fantastic entry-level camera into the world of DSLR cameras. It was such an incredibly big deal to me to have something so glamorous and so fancy. It is something that I would never have bought myself because I can not bear to part with money. I am sure if you read me regularly, you are nodding your head at this statement.

Even if you do not have an DSLR camera, there are so many things you can do to make your photos just as spectacular with just a few tricks up your sleeve.

Shift Your Focus- So many times it is easy to plop everything dead into the center of a picture. It feels natural to do it that way, doesn’t it?  This has been a really bad habit of mine that I have been working really hard to break. Shift your camera a little to the right, shift it a little to the left and see if you can tell a better story without having everything dead on in the center. Technically speaking, I learned the rule of thirds in a fantastic tutorial hosted by Sony and from the very famous photographer Me Ra Koh. The beauty of this simple trick is that anyone can do it with any type of equipment that you might have. Try thinking of your photos differently and shifting your perspective to tell the story!

It’s All in the Details of the Story- Look through your camera with an artist’s eye and start capturing those small and hidden details of a story. My friends refer to this (sometimes annoying) habit of mine  as my “artsy shots,” where I am taking shots of those often missed and hidden details that I want to remember about my children or about a particular place, event, or tradition that we have created together.

For example, baking a cake with your child and taking pictures of you making it together are wonderful and great. Imagine though if you took a picture of her hands stirring the batter for you, the feet that are pulled up on the stool, the snack that is shared while baking. Suddenly, you are telling a story of a family moment that will conjure up not only the special cake that you made together, but how small her hands were, that tradition of the chair pulled to the counter, the beauty of the batter that was poured, the picture of the anticipation as she peeked in the window of the oven for the cake to get done, the first slice, the crumbs left on an empty plate… Try becoming a storyteller and capturing the details that you *think* you will remember and that are sadly forgotten. These pictures are always my favorite and are my most-treasured photos in our family collection.

Sometimes It is About the Big Picture- Now that you are taking beautiful detailed shots of your children, it is also great to think about the BIG picture too.  Big shots can tell a great big story too and I love to zoom in on one picture and then zoom out (even on the same shot) and see if the bigger picture can tell a great story.

Vacation photos are a really great time to practice this. Often where you are at for a vacation is a beautiful place with much to see and much to photograph. Focus your camera on your child, but zoom it out to show how little they are as they are walking around a large museum instead of just a shot of your child in front of one small display. It helps to showcase the wonderment and the beauty of being small.

My favorite wide shot remains the one of my daughter pictured in her dance class. If I had zoomed in on her, you would have missed the irony of her movement. She was in her element, a free spirit and wildly dramatic. With the shot nice and wide, you can see that my daughter was doing her very own little routine while the other kids were following the instructor. That is what I love about my daughter and it is now perfectly captured for our family.

Turn Off the Flash- This may require a bit of reading in your camera manual, but your pictures will be a thousand times better if you can turn the flash on your camera off.  The only times that I do turn my flash on is when it is absolutely necessary (which is not often, if you can believe it) because in most situations going without the flash will create a much better picture.

Practice taking pictures in different areas of your home to find the one spot in your house where the lighting is the best and try to plant the kids there for portrait shots. Take your children outdoors (shaded spots work the best) and take photos outside instead of indoors, when visiting places (even if it is just a local restaurant) and snap pictures there. In most scenarios, you will find that taking a picture without the flash will make your pictures much more beautiful!

If I know that I am going to be in a low-light situation or I am looking for ways to get that perfect shot (capturing Christmas lights, fireworks, a child blowing out a candle, etc..) I will Google search for tips and practice with my camera before I go somewhere. Because I am Type-A like that.

Edit. But Edit Wisely.- Once I have taken my photos for the day, I put them in Picnik and spend time editing them. I did pay for a premium membership, but it has been worth every penny ($24.95 per year) for editing my photos. I don’t use anything more fancy than this although someday I hope to learn Photoshop or Lightroom. For now, it is just what I need to help give my pictures a little pop. Try saturating the color in your pictures, switching them to black-and-white, or adding a little bit of softening to them.

Truly though, it is fun to edit, but the real beauty is the picture that is taken before the editing. Concentrate your efforts on taking a great photo and use a program to help add a little razzle dazzle to the great picture that you already have. Just remember that sometimes one can get carried away with the editing and you have pictures with all sorts of crazy fluorescent people at a party or unnatural weirdness to your photos. I hope that wasn’t too technical for you all.

Here are the most FAQ questions that people have asked me about taking pictures…

Q: How do you get everything to blur in the background of your photos?

A: One of the most exciting things to me about getting a new camera was the capability that I had to get sharp focus with a blurred background in my pictures. The way to do this is to change the aperture (or f-stop) on your camera. Aperture is the size of the opening of the lens when a picture is taken. One thing that is often very confusing is  that large apertures (where lots of light gets through) are given f/stop smaller numbers and smaller apertures (where less light gets through) have larger f-stop numbers. So f/2.8 is in fact a much larger aperture than f/22.

To change your aperture, consult your camera manual to see what setting you will need to set your camera to. For my Canon camera, it means switching the dial to Av and then using the dial to turn it to the number that I wanted. I usually try to shoot in f/2.8 for most of my pictures, f/5.6 for much of my portrait photography, and f/22 for beautiful landscape shots with everything in sharp focus. For this shot of the flowers, I used f/2.8 to get just the front flowers in focus.

Q: How do you get the blurred edge on your photos?

A: The blurred edge is just something I add in Picnik. I just go under the Create tab and I select Vignette. Then I slide the slider down to almost nothing on the size of it. This adds just a tiny edge to the photo that is nice for online viewing, but not noticeable when printing them out or loading them on a digital frame. What can I say, it is my little signature move!  You can do that with a free membership to Picnik, you definitely do not have to pay anything for that one!

Q: What equipment do you recommend and what do you have?

A:  Again, I am not an expert on buying camera equipment, but I can tell you what I do know about it. I have always heard that it is much wiser to spend your money on your lens than the body of your camera. That is not to say to totally skimp on the body, but the body of cameras is constantly changing and being improved upon. I just got my camera this past summer and they have already come out with the Canon Rebel 2Ti, if you can believe it, and it costs quite a bit more than my already antique and outdated camera! The truth is, I will never stay current with the body of my camera because within a few months, a new one will already be replacing my ancient equipment.

If you are on a budget and are looking for a great point-and-shoot camera that has the same functionality as the DSLR, but you don’t have to buy lenses and make a huge investment, I loved my Canon PowerShot (the link takes you to the current model). I am a Canon girl and was really happy with this point-and-shoot camera. It is the camera that I recommend to my friends and I have always heard how happy my girlfriends are with their Canon PowerShots. Agonizing amounts of research were done before I selected that camera and I was very happy with it!

If you are still on a budget, but want to make a long-term investment and are just looking to shoot pictures of your family…then I will tell you what I have. As an aside, we found our lens on eBay from a photographer who was upgrading his equipment, but I am linking through Amazon for convenience sake. I have the Canon Rebel T1i and we bought the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm lens.  They have kit lenses that are around $100 or more each and I have seen people take great pictures with these, but we made the investment in one really good lens that would do just about everything for me for the rest of my life and until I die amen. This lens is all I really need in most situations.

I don’t use my flash often, but for  our recipe section and for some our evening events, I wanted to have an external flash. That was my anniversary/Mother’s Day/You Work Hard Sometimes gift and I got the Canon Speedlite 270EX Flash. If you don’t need something this fancy, I did really well with my Gary Fong Puffer Pop-Up Flash Diffuser (around $20) which really seemed to help my evening shots and didn’t take up a lot of room in my camera bag.

The most important thing to buy though is a lens filter to protect your lens. If for some reason you scratch your lens or something happens to the outside of it, this $10-$20 filter will protect the lens and be what breaks instead of your $100-$1,000 investment. Trust me, you will thank me later if you have this!

Q: Do you have any good books or websites to visit that can help me learn more about photography?

I am a HUGE fan of Scott Kelby and his Digital Photography Books 1, 2, & 3. See if your library has these and check them out for smartly written, witty, and down-to-earth tutorials on how to use your camera. I love that he says, “If you want a good portrait, turn you dial to this,” instead of high-brow photography terms that, as a mom,  I just don’t understand.  I just want someone to tell me what to do, not make me feel stupid!

For reading, I definitely recommend Digital Photography School for tutorials and Shutter Sisters for photography inspiration!  I also love to see what Secret Agent Mama, Mooshy in Indy, I Should be Folding Laundry, I Heart Faces, and Me Ra Koh are doing with their cameras. The best part about them…humbleness and willingness to share.

Really though, the best thing you can do for yourself is to read your manual. Discover. Play with your settings. Practice. Read the manual again. Try new things. Be unafraid to fail. Become a human sponge and learn. Display those pictures creatively. Be the treasure keeper. Live your life fully, which will in turn,  will create natural and picture-worthy moments. Love.

Questions and comments are welcomed and appreciated!

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate your camera equipment and tools easily. Feel free to order through our site, but we always encourage shopping around for the best bang for your buck! Happy picture-taking!

Taking Great Pictures: Figuring Out Your White Balance

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Hi! I’m Katie from goodLife {eats} and I’m guest posting today for Amy. I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I use photography a lot for my blog. With each recipe I post, I include at least 1 photo. Sometimes upwards of 4 or 5. I hope I can share a few tips with you that I’ve learned a long the way that will help improve your photography skills – even if you use a Point-and-Shoot!

Not long ago I had absolutely no idea what terms like shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and white balance meant. I was stuck on “auto” and I spent a significant amount of time post processing my photos until they were to my liking. Surprisingly, (after reading my camera manual – something I should have done in the beginning – and exploring my camera’s menu) I found that I was actually able to adjust a couple of these settings on my basic point-and-shoot to further improve my photos.

I found that while I was using my point-and-shoot camera, the one of the things that made the biggest difference in my photos was moving away from “manual” white balance settings.

Are you confused yet? Are you asking any of the following questions? Read on and I’ll explain!

  • What is White Balance?
  • How do I adjust my white balance?
  • Is this complicated?

What is White Balance?

Simply stated, the colors in the photo will look correct. The image will look how you viewed it with your own eyes (our amazing brain processes and adjusts the color for us), rather than the camera’s guess at what the color temperature is. Color temperature is the comparative warmth or coolness of the white light.

Can you see the difference below? Which one looks more natural to you?

The first photo has that terrible blue cast. It doesn’t make for a very attractive photo. I’m not in love with the shoot either, so it isn’t a big loss. The second photo is a beautiful shot of my daughter. I love the twinkle in her eye and the way she’s not looking straight at the camera, but it’s all yellow. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the white balance custom set for that photo. So that is a disappointment. The third photo was taken with the white balance set to custom (see below for details on how to do that). Combination of great shoot with a cute grin in her lips and natural looking color.

When set to Auto White Balance, the camera just guesses at the color temperature. Sometimes it guesses correctly and other times it doesn’t. An incorrect white balance will leave you with an unnatural color cast, often times yellow or blue, and disappointing pictures – especially if you are photographing people or food.

A blue plate of fettuccini alfredo? Not thanks. I want to see the creamy white sauce. The same holds true for portrait photography as well. I want to capture exactly what my daughter looks like at age 2, because some day I might not be able to remember that anymore.

Is this Complicated

Setting the White Balance might feel clumsy at first. It is definitely an extra few steps that you’ll have to add in your picture taking routine, but I will tell you that it gets easier and becomes routine quickly. Especially, when you see the difference these few steps can make in your photography.

How do I set my White Balance?

Go into your camera’s menu.

Scroll through to find the white balance menu.

Scroll through the different preset options listed in white balance:

  • Auto
  • Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Shade
  • Tungsten
  • Fluorescent (my point and shoot doesn’t have this one)
  • Custom
  • If one of those looks like it will work, based on the lighting I have available, I go ahead and select it. On my point-and-shoot I can look at the screen and see how the image will look with the selection I’ve made. On my DSLR, I have to take a test photo first.

    If I want to custom set my white balance, I select that option. And then proceed with a few more steps. The steps may vary slightly according to your camera, so I recommend looking at your user manual for instructions tailored to you, but this should give you a general idea of how simply it is.

    Take a photo of a plain white sheet of paper. The paper should fill the entire frame of the photo so that only white is showing.

      1. Take a photo of a plain white sheet of paper. The paper should fill the entire frame of the photo so that only white is showing.
      2. Select the white photo as the camera’s reference point.
      3. Begin shooting.
      4. Take a couple of test shots and check them out to see if the colors look right to you. If not, try again

      I hope that makes sense! Give it a go and if it doesn’t make sense or you have a question, let me know and I’ll answer it as best as I can! I hope to see you around at goodLife {eats}, where I share what I find good in the kitchen and in life.

      We would like to thank Katie for sharing her fantastic photography advice with our readers as we finish our last week of home renovations. We encourage you to visit Katie’s beautiful and thoughtful site and are so thankful that she was able to help us with the blog this week!

      Simply Capturing Great Photos Resource List

      Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

      Another big round of thanks to Mishelle Lane for sharing her invaluable advice on photography and choosing the right photography equipment with our listeners. It was an exciting and information-filled half hour so I hope you can listen to this at your leisure, if you didn’t get a chance to catch it live!

      Here is our list of resources that were highlighted in today’s episode:

      Mishelle Lane- Mishelle is very connected in the photo world and you can find her at Secret Agent Mama, Mishelle Lane Photography, Flickr, or connect with her through Twitter (@secretagentmama)

      Photography Sites to Visit: Mishelle recommends visiting Photo Bliss, Shutter Sisters, & Pioneer Woman to help breathe some life into your photography. All sites offer great advice on photography and can give you some new ideas for picture-taking.

      Picknik- This is the photo editing site that Mishelle mentioned as a great and inexpensive photo editing tool for moms. They offer free & a premium membership for $24.95. This is a great beginner programmer to use, but still offers some great features that watermarks for your pictures.

      Canon Cameras-Mishelle recommends this site for checking out great cameras when upgrading your equipment.

      Opteka- Find great budget-friendly accessories for your camera on this great website!


      On next week’s show…

      Tara, from Deal Seeking Mom, will be joining us to give us a glimpse into how to effectively save the most money using coupons. We will learn simple strategies for organizing our coupons, how we can apply our coupons for the maximum savings, and what online resources will give us the best bang for our buck.

      Related Links:

      5 Tips for Great Photography Straight From A Pro

      Take Your Own Pictures to Save Money

      MomAdvice Simplified: Simply Capturing Great Photos

      Thursday, April 2nd, 2009


      This week on MomAdvice Simplified, my podcast for moms, I am so excited to be joined by photographer extraordinaire, Mishelle Lane. Mishelle blogs at Secret Agent Mama and I had the great pleasure of meeting Mishelle at Blissdom ’09. I couldn’t wait to have her on our show as a guest to share her photography tips with us.

      Mishelle will be sharing her tips for purchasing the right photography equipment, some ideas for capturing our busy children, and how to get out of the automatic modes on our cameras. Best of all, she shares her resources for budget-friendly camera equipment & photo editing tools. You don’t want to miss this one!

      This podcast will be airing today at 2PM EST so I hope you can join me for this exciting half hour!

      5 Tips for Great Photography Straight From A Pro

      Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

      I was excited to have found an old friend of mine from high school through Facebook. As I paged through my friend Daniel’s info and pictures, I couldn’t believe how incredible his photography was and had to find out what he was up to. It was no surprise, after seeing his amazing photography, that he was running his own business and doing quite well with it.

      I asked if I could interview him for our website so I could share tips for great photography with our moms and was so thrilled when he accepted. He was happy to share with our readers just a little glimpse into the world of great photography and I hope that this information will help you as you venture into taking pictures of your children.

      Best of all, he shares his secrets for getting that perfect family photo and just in time for those fun holiday pictures for those photo cards!

      Can you offer some insight on choosing the best photography equipment for a young family? What is one good investment that is totally worth the splurge?

      Sure! I can talk cameras and gear all day and night, but I’ll try to keep it brief. The main thing to keep in mind is that expensive gear doesn’t make great photographs. Expensive tools are nice, but more important is the knowledge of how and when to use the tools you’ve got. With that in mind, remember that digital photography equipment is very rapidly evolving. For example, the big camera manufacturers have a history of announcing new SLR camera bodies every 18 months or less! So the one solid investment to make in digital photography is in glass (lenses). Spend your money on the best glass you can afford, keep it forever, and then look for a camera body within your remaining budget.

      If the SLR world of bodies and interchangable lenses is entirely out of your budget from the start, then don’t forget that truly great photographs are made every single day with cameras in the Point & Shoot (P&S;) category. In general, P&S; cameras will range from being completely automatic to having the ability to shoot fully manual. An automatic camera can be convenient and may serve your purposes well. However, in my experience, most people taking photographs of their kids will eventually want at least some amount of manual control over their camera’s settings. The danger in letting an auto-camera do all the thinking for you is that there will be situations involving lighting, motion, white balance and selective focus that will require at least some amount of manual control to capture. I don’t want to get too much into recommending specific brands or models, but the P&S; camera I take with me when I scuba dive is a Canon G9, which can be as “auto” or as “manual” as I need it to be. I use 2 SLR bodies and a variety of lenses when shooting above the water!

      If readers would like more specific recommendations with regard to brand/model, they are more than welcome to contact me directly. I’m happy to help! So, quick re-cap: spend your money on good lenses first if going the SLR route or spend your money on getting some manual control if going with a P&S; camera.

      When trying to capture pictures of children, what are a few quick tips for good photography?

      First, remember that photography is about light and without good light on your children, their smiles, laughs and actions will likely go uncaptured! So, position yourself in relation to your children so that their faces are well lit and worry about lighting in other areas of the frame as secondary importance. With that in mind, harsh sunlight isn’t very flattering in most situations and finding some shade under an overhang or next to a building will generally improve the quality of your light. Think about light in at least two different ways; there is a quantity of light and also a quality of light, which are very different from one another. Try to avoid shooting under tree leaves as you’ll end up with “broken light” on your children from the sun shooting between the leaves of the tree. You’ll end up with bright spots and shadow areas right next to one another on their faces, creating a “giraffe skin effect” on your kiddos!

      Of course, with kids, the harder you try to pose them, the worse the situation becomes, and very quickly! Most parents with younger children would have no trouble agreeing with that! So, let children be children. Don’t impose too much, hang around close enough to capture your photographs, gently inserting mild directives when possible, but try not to intrude. If you do need to pose children in a more formal manner, do it quickly, with lots of praise and by showing them examples of what you want, etc. Get the shot immediately and then set them free to go play! In general, I try not to keep the little ones ‘posing’ for me any longer than 30 seconds to a minute before giving them a play break. Of course, during their play break, I’m still shooting from a distance!

      Young children are constantly in motion, what settings work best for energetic toddlers?

      Great question! I tend to think of child photography as being similar to sports photography in many ways. Two things have to happen; 1. your shutter speed has to be fast enough to ‘freeze’ the child’s motion and 2. your focus must be constantly adjusting as the child moves and the distance changes between the child and your camera. A slower shutter speed will let in more light of course, but motion will also be blurred (which can be a cool effect). However, I find that a sharp, crisp, and in-focus photo of a moving toddler will typically require a shutter speed of 1/80s or faster depending on how fast they are moving and depending on the lens you are using. A longer (telephoto) lens requires faster shutter speeds to avoid camera shake. Many cameras have several focusing modes. If your camera has a mode that allows you to track movement, sometimes called AI Servo or AI Focus among other names, this usually works better than pre-focusing and trying to anticipate a child’s movement. So, quick shutter and tracking focus for kids on the go!

      What editing software would you recommend for a mom who is just starting out with photo editing?

      Well, there are just so many good options for editing photos anymore, many of them free and I’d be happy to recommend a few of my favorites. However, I want to emphasize how important it is that good photographs be made in-camera, not ‘fixed’ in post processing. With tools like Photoshop we can do some really amazing things to a digital image, but it’s always obvious when a photograph has been ‘saved’ in photoshop. There’s a saying to this effect amongst many photographers, “garbage in, garbage out.” My point being that you should spend more of your time working on getting great photos with your camera than working on trying to edit them into great photos .

      However, in my opinion all digital photos do require at least a little post-processing in the way of white balance, saturation, curves and sharpness and one of my favorite tools for, say a mom jus
      t starting out, is
      Google’s Picasa. It’s free, has a very easy interface, offers many web and sharing options and likely isn’t going away any time soon! Honestly, my 6 year old uses Picasa with her digital photos. It’s very user-friendly. For those who may be ready to get into a little more serious editing, but want to maintain the ‘free’ aspect, I’d recommend the application, Gimp.

      There are also many free web-based applications for those times when you might not be at your own computer, but need to quickly upload and edit a handful of images: Picnik, Pixenate, Fotoflexer, LunaPic, flauntr, picture2life, phixr, and easyphotoresize. Personally, I do the majority of my editing for the weddings and portraits I that I shoot in Adobe Lightroom and a little bit still in Photoshop.

      When getting family portraits done, I am always stumped how to dress the family. Do you have any suggestions for getting that perfect family picture?

      Sure! In general, I like families to feel comfortable above all else. Good photographs are about capturing a family’s personality and it’s always very obvious when subjects are uncomfortable in their own clothing. Additionally, I tend to like solid colors on top and either jeans or khaki pants. In the Fall, I prefer solid black or white tops. In the Spring and Summer, I really like bright bold solid colors on top. Bright, bold colors in the snow for winter portraits can really be fun too! It’s usually best to avoid busy patterns, horizontal stripes, and clothes that have never been worn before. So, be comfy, be yourselves and do your best to NOT stress out about getting your family portraits done. One thing I can say for sure, is that stress always shows in photographs and stiff, posed portraits are just not my style at all. So, when considering getting your own family portraits done keep comfort and personality in mind. In general, you want your family to look like your family in your portraits, not a stiff, posed and stressed version of your family!

      I have to ask, what is your favorite photograph that you have ever taken and why is it special to you?

      Definitely the hardest question to answer, Amy! It’s so tough to say. On one hand, there are so many photographs that I am really pleased with and on the other hand, one is always very critical of his own work.

      One thing I do every year in December is put together a collection of what I feel are some of my best photographs for that calendar year and publish them as a free video podcast, which can be found in iTunes by doing a search for “dgmphotography” or “Daniel G. McNulty” in the iTunes store. Subscribing to this video podcast portfolio is free of course. I also regularly put many of my personal favorites on my blog in more of an informal format. That said, I think I’d have to choose a favorite in multiple categories (weddings, children, families, landscape, etc), but if I were forced to choose one photograph to keep for the rest of my life and never look at another, it would probably be this one, mostly because they are my daughters and loving the beach and loving each other as I do!


      General Info About Daniel G. McNulty Photography:
      Website: www.dgmphotography.net
      email: daniel@dgmphotography.net
      Blog: www.dgmphotography.blogspot.com/
      iTunes Link

      A big round of applause to Daniel for helping us with this piece. What is your biggest dilemma with capturing pictures and what would you like us to feature more of in this category?

      Please be sure to leave a comment and thank Daniel for his time in helping us supply these amazing tips!

      New Year’s Resolution: Better Pictures

      Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

      Along with my New Year’s Resolution to take a sewing class, I resolve to take better pictures. Confessions of a Pioneer Woman brings some inspiration on acquainting myself with my copy of Photoshop.

      Oh, and more photography inspiration…my camera arrived! Thank you all for your most excellent recommendations because this camera ROCKS! I am having a blast with it and can’t wait to share some photos taken with it. We are just getting acquainted, so please bear with me!

      Anybody have some hints for a beginner in Photoshop? I gave up on it the last time I tried the program and have been using Picasa since then.

      Note to Self: Do not measure flour and talk to husband and make lunches at the same time. We have to call out for pizza because I don’t believe dough is supposed to be a liquid consistency. Perhaps a cooking class might be a good investment?