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What the heck? Some of my favorite tips - shared

Happy Friday all!!

So have you been shooting? I hope you’re taking time to practice, practice, and practice!!! Recently, I went to an all day workshop that was sponsored by our local PPA organization. For $35 they provided us with three seasoned photographer, gorgeous grounds, models AND delicious food! I actually swapped a work day so that I could attend. It was a GREAT experience and what I walked away with was definitely more than the fee I paid!

There were some GREAT tips that I learned, some that I knew and others that truly OPENED my eyes... so that is what I am going to share with you all today...

My favorite tips that I have picked up along my journey in photography!!

-GET DOWN LOW -If you are doing portraits of kids my number one suggestion is to GET DOWN LOW. If you go through my photos, I am pretty much always on my belly, or on the ground when taking photos of kids. You want to be eye level with them; direct eye contact helps you engage the viewer. Make sure the portrait has sharp eyes, the eyes don't have to be looking straight at you of the picture, but you need to make sure they are sharp. Blurred eyes can be disturbing to others viewing the portrait.

-Never, EVER say cheese. (I AM SSOOOOOO GUILTY OF THIS) If you are working with kids, say something silly like “oh look at the bug on top of my camera” or (and this is my favorite that I learned from Sandy Puc) Do you like candy? (she calls these bounce words) Or oh, my camera has a boo boo..(she calls those shut down words) Working with kids is difficult..Especially if you are trying to shoot your own children. Try and make taking pictures fun for them, almost like you are not taking pictures. Tell them “I bet you can spin around and stop right here” or “I don’t think you can jump that high, really? Show me” Telling the kid they can't do something is a sure way to make them do it. :)

Or say you are working with adults, telling them to cheese is just, well cheesy.. You want their natural expression or smile. Say something witty or corny. At the photo workshop one of the photographers told the model that he bet money that he couldn’t smile, and something as silly as that WORKED.. because you know what, the model smiled. What I took away from that part of the workshop was engage the subjects.. talk to them. Get them comfortable and to STOP. SAYING. CHEESE.

- WATCH OUT FOR THE TREE GROWING OUT OF YOUR HEAD – (yep I am guilty of this as well.. ) I never really paid attention to how distracting a background can be, especially if you have your mommy or daddy glasses on (every picture of your kids is perfect, even if it is out of focus, underexposed, etc). I like to shoot outdoors so a plain background is just not an option for me. I have to make sure when I am framing the shot that the person I am shooting (I still laugh every time I say that) does not have a tree growing from their head, or a pole, or garbage tied to a basketball hoop.
See my examples:

-RULE of 3RD(s)- I am just putting this in here because, well, if you are going to try to shoot better you need to start to understand composing in the Rule of Thirds. Some cameras actually have the Tic-Tac-Toe grid when you look through your view finder (or on the back of the camera – like you have Frank!)
Follow this link for a great explanation of Rule of Thirds.

-The Cue Ball or Shiny white bulb/ball trick- This was possibly the BEST trick I have picked up in regards to helping me understand where light is coming from. I don’t own the expensive light meters. I would rather keep investing in good glass (or getting awesome presents from my hubby). I am sure there will be a time that I will need a light meter, BUT, for now this little trick really helps. The photographer that taught me this trick owns the fancy light meter, and he does not use it! He uses the ball on top to show him the light!

Have you ever taken a picture and the eyes are flat? No life to them? Or you got a really dark shadow on one side of the face and then the other side is overexposed?

Yeah, well I do too. This little trick can help you start to see why that is happening!!

Take the ball and hold it out in front of you and just start moving it around, you will start to see where the light is falling. How the light falls on the ball will can help you start to see how it will fall on your subjects face. I wish I had a little video of this trick, but trust me, it works. You will get fabulous catch lights in your subject’s eyes, or really moody lighting, all depending on where you put your subject.

The photographer from Camelot Studio’s was nice enough to share this awesome trick. I hope that it helps some of you start understanding where light comes from and how it is falling on your subject is very important with how a picture turns out.

Well that is it for this week.. next week I will be moving back into the technical stuff with the camera. I am going to try to explain White Balance and how very, very important it is for your photos.. But until then – HAPPY SHOOTING!!


Wordless AND Wordful Wednesday..I'm thinkin, I'm thinkin, I'm thinkin

This past weekend my mom and I took my boys to the New York City Museum of Natural History.  I had not been there since I was a teenager, and my oldest had just seen Night at the Museum and was dying to go find Larry (the security guard in the movie). 

We jumped on the train and made it to NYC by the time the museum opened. Here we are sitting on the steps waiting to get in (also, a very rare occasion that I made it in FRONT of the camera..(thanks Mom!))

My oldest was completely in awe of everything.  The baby sat in his stroller asking "what's that?" and "why?" which was hysterical.  My oldest got a little freaked out with the really big dinosaurs, he kept thinking they would come alive like in the movie (which was adorable)..

One of my favorite exhibits were the mini-scenes all over the museums.  Here are two of my favorite from the day:

And then my little guy was super happy to see Dum Dum Yum Yum in person!! (lighting was awful here..and I am so anti flash that I just told my mom to shoot...) Oh..and that look on his face is all "SERIOUSLY.. ANOTHER PICTURE!!" -He gets all anti-paparazzi on me now.

He was bummed we didn't run into Larry, or The Thinker (I'm thinkin, I'm thinkin, I'm thinkin- sorry, one of my favorite lines from the movie!)

We then headed over to the Central Park Zoo.. but that is like a WHOLE other post! 

For more Wordless Wednesday go to Wordless Wednesday, Five Minutes for Mom and Seven Clown Circus


Giving Back - Part Two

Last Monday I did a post telling you all about the Think Pink Photography network.  They help give back to fight the evil we know called Breast Cancer..

This week I want to share with you another really important photography network I belong too.  It is called The Single Parent Project - Turning lemons into lemonade.  I first heard about this network when they were just launching, on a photography board I belong too.  I literally jumped up and down to be apart of this network.

Quoted from the site:

"The Singe Parent Project - turning lemons into lemonade is a non-profit organization founded in February 2009.  This organization, while small right now, strives to become a huge nationwide group of photographers, that provide free or reduced rate custom photography to single parents around the world."

Growing up in a single parent household I saw how hard my mom struggled to give my sisters and I anything nice.  I don't care if it was a pair of socks, my mom struggled to make it the nicest pair of socks we ever wore. 

I watched all of my friends get awesome family portraits, or school photos while we passed because we needed food instead of photos.  I clearly remember the two times my Mom spent money on family portraits, once when I was about ten and then the other when I was about 19.

Those pictures still hang up on her wall.

Then there are my two baby sisters, both single parents.  They provide their kids with everything they could possibly need, but family portraits are not on their top priority because it is a luxury cost to them. 

With my family it is easy to give back.. I love to take pictures of my sisters and their boys.  And my sisters are MORE than willing to be my photo subjects.  (anyone meet my sister Jenny? she loves the camera)

In a nutshell, parenting is hard work.  It is hard when there are two parents in the home, let alone being a single parent.  In my own life I am trying to show my boys that giving back is super important in how the world works.  Giving back feels good.  It makes me truly appreciate all the wonderful blessing I have in my life.

The Singe Parent Project is just another small way I can give back.  If you know anyone that could benefit from their services, pass along their name.  (please remember I get nothing from mentioning them either, I am just getting their name out there!)

If you are a photographer and are interested in becoming apart of this network their application is HERE.

                                    photo of my baby sister and her two boys


Weekly Winners - A Cowgirl's Birthday

 Weekly Winners
I am excited to participate in the weekly meme called Weekly Winners hosted by the one and only Lotus.

My Godmother, who is a country die hard fan, celebrated her 60th Birthday last Sunday.. My Uncle surprised her with a huge party with all her family and friends.. It was wonderful to see her so happy!  My very awesome friend made the cowboy hat was a huge hit.. Here are some of my favorite shots of the day..(all images were shot with my 70-300 with my ISO at 1600-3200 NO FLASH- the country bar was super dark!!)


What the heck? Showing off your best online

What a crazy week this has been.. I cannot believe it is Friday already. But here we 4th What the heck? Friday addition..

I went back and forth all week on what I wanted to discuss for this post. There is so much I learned over the past two years and I want to just share it all at once. (This would make for an impossibly long boring post!!)

Well I decided this week that I would skip the camera talk (but keep reading that manual of yours!!) and share with you how to make your pictures look better online.

Can you believe that just uploading your pictures SOOC (Straight Out of Camera) to the computer is NOT the way to showcase your work?

Yeah, I know. I had no idea either. And then I read a fellow photographer’s blog last year and she walked me through the process. Now, when I first read that great tutorial I had no idea how to use Photoshop. I had no idea what a curve was, or a color pop, etc. But what I was able to take absorb from the post started to change how my pictures looked on the web and that alone has improved my clarity in photos.

Fast forward to present day and I currently save three (yep, three) copies of my photos that I edit. I save the original PSD file (Photoshop file) in case I ever want to go back and make edits to my edits, one for print and one for online (the blog, Flickr, Facebook, etc).

I want to show you a picture of SOOC - there is a slight blur/softness to the photo:

And now one sharpened for web with a minor curve adjustment prior to sharpening - see how the eyes are sharp and there is more detail to the photo (I do not use an eye pop on my photos):

HOLY cow right? It totally makes a difference.

This next part is where I share with you the magic of getting clear photos uploaded online. This is not my print workflow (that is slightly different)

So what did I do? Well I use Photoshop CS4 (HUGE thank you to my BIL for that-thank you MP)

First I make all my adjustments to my picture. I typically play with curves and then fix color (I will share my workflow on another What the Heck? Addition)
When I have my PSD saved (as mentioned above) I then flatten the image I am going to use for print/online. Please remember that when you flatten, that it is forever, which is why I always keep the original edited PSD file in case I screw something up.

Then I resize my photo for the web. I go into Image/Adjust/Image Size to resize my picture. Tell it to resample and constrain proportions. I resize to 600. That is my “style” for my blog.

**Edited to say, I shoot my files are large. Make sure if you are shooting in jpeg that you are shooting at the largest option available to your camera. This will leave you with higher resolution pictures allowing for larger prints. You never want to take a small resolution picture and try to make it bigger..that just makes for a very pixilated mess of a photo.

After I resize I sharpen my photos. This is where the magic happens for me. I go into Filter/Sharpen/Unsharp Mask.  I start with the standard 20/60/0 settings and then adjust to my liking.  You never want to over sharpen photos.  Well, I shouldn't say that. It is all about personal preference.  But I will warn you that over-sharpened photos will cause white halos around every edge and very fake looking eyes. 

For example, over-sharpened photos on a portrait will make the hair look like straw)
See below:

    Then I save my newly resized and sharpened file for the web. Save for web is under File/Save for Web & Devices. I always save my pictures as High Quality JPGs. I have yet to really mess around with any of the other “controls” because I already know I like my files at a 600 x (whatever) pixel size.

Again, none of this is the "rule". This is just how I handle my photos for online. As I mentioned online photos are much different than my print work.

I also wanted to share one of my favorite sites to go to for actions for Photoshop. Jodi at MCP Actions/Blog is wonderful.  I have personally taken three of her online workshops and it has helped me in "seeing" color issues in my photos.  I still have a long way to go, but she has helped my work tremendously. 

Jodi at MCP offers a FREE.. see that FREE action for Photoshop. The action resizes and sharpens for web.  If you have Photoshop 7 or higher these free actions will work.  They won't work for Elements. (sorry Frank).  **again, I am not getting paid from her at all.. just found that when I use actions -I like her actions and Pioneer Women's Actions the best.

If I have lost you, or you have any questions, or a better way of saving photos for viewing on the web.  Please share or email me at kim (at) kimpacephotographyblog (dot)com.

Now go out and shoot..


Wordless Wednesday - Looks & Talent

For more Wordless Wednesday go to Wordless Wednesday, Five Minutes for Mom and Seven Clown Circus


Giving Back - Part One

I am going to be doing a two part series of how I am trying to give back in forms of charity .. the next installment will be next Monday..
                                                      My Mom.

There are no words to truly describe how much I love and adore her. She is the strongest most amazing woman I know. I am blessed to have a mom to love me for me, not matter what and no matter what cost.

She has supported and cheered every dream and held my hand on every failure.

I would be lost without her.

For those of you that do not know, my Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer earlier this year. This is her third battle with the disease.

When we (my family) found out that the evil disease came back we were all devastated. We still are, but my mom has the ability to keep us laughing and not focus on her sickness.

I have been trying to find ways to give back. To try to help find a cure for this evil disease. Recently I found a photography network called Think Pink Photography.

Through their photography network, photographers are helping breast cancer survivors and their supporters to celebrate life with charitable photography sessions. Sessions are available to document the fight before or during treatment or to celebrate the victory when treatment is completed.

I knew I had to apply, so I did and I am now an approved photographer of the Think Pink Photography Network.

If you would like more information I am creating a brand new link on my right nav bar with all the information about the organization (or you can click here).

Now, I would like to also share with you a wonderful gift my friend Heather is doing to help find a cure for Breast Cancer. She is participating in a Weekend to End Breast Cancer in September. Heather contacted me to see if it was okay to walk for my Mom. I was in awe. I have never met Heather, but here she was asking me to help fight for my Mom's health. I was honored.

If you go here you can visit Heather's page. $1.00 can make a difference - or leave comment love for her just thanking her for walking to help find a cure for Breast Cancer.

                                                  My Mom & Me..
               I love you Ma..You mean the world to me..even if you don't make me my chicken..hahaha


Weekly Winners - Birthday Weekend

I am excited to participate in the weekly meme called Weekly Winners hosted by the one and only Lotus.

The Birthday Boy..

The Ice Cream Cup Cakes

Window Art from my oldest..


What the heck? - ISO is your friend

First I want to Congrats Miss over at Just Miss for winning the Understanding Exposure book. I used to pick my winner and it picked comment number 5!! Woo hoo.. Congrats Miss!!


ISO is the measurement of how sensitive a digital camera's sensor is to light. The speed or light-sensitivity of a digital camera's sensor is rated in ISO numbers -- the lower the number, the slower the response to light. (I took this definition from CNET)

***Shutter Speed will be SS

My personal photography tastes are all about natural light. I am not a fan of using my camera’s flash. I will do whatever I can to avoid using artificial or flash lighting. Now in the winter months this proves to be very difficult as we are stuck in the house because of the weather… is now Spring.. (insert doing my stir the pot dance)

Sooo pick up your camera and go outside. Go out at dusk, go out at dawn, just get out and shoot!!
Seriously though, my biggest piece of advice when learning your camera is to practice. You can read every book under the sun, but until you are out there, shooting often, checking the photo data, checking the settings it won’t click. Experiment..and make sure you have fun!

I digress..

Okay, so I want to talk about ISO.

ISO stands for International Standards Organisation and it refers to the industry norm for sensitivity of emulsion based film.

BORING right?

I expected something so flashy for that acronym. Alas, no.

When I talk ISO I always say I am giving the camera a push. When in all reality ISO is amplifying the light that reaches the sensor. It took me forever to really understand the relationship ISO plays in Aperture and SS settings.

Basically by increasing your ISO to a higher number, you can shoot at a SS that wont cause motion blur. For example, if you try to shoot an image with poor light and you do not adjust the ISO, the image will look dark and underexposed. But by increasing the ISO, the light that is available in the will be more apparent in your photos because of the camera's increased sensitivity to light.

When you bumped the ISO in your camera, you’re not actually adding additional light; you are only boosting what it already has. The only way to control real light is to open the aperture or lower the SS. But, what is you run out of options and you still want to try to capture the shot in low light settings? ISO will lend you that extra hand.

Let’s say you are in a room that looks like it has enough light and you are at an f/stop of 4.5 in Aperture priority (your lens is wide open) but your shutter speed selected is too slow to hand hold such as 1/30 or 1/15, try bumping up your ISO.

Using a higher ISO will let you take the shot without using a tripod or adding artificial light (flash). HOWEVER..There is a price to pay with bumping ISO. A high ISO’s give grainier, lesser quality images (also known as noise). Low ISO’s will produce the highest quality, grain free images.

With my old camera body (SONY A100) I could not go above an ISO of 400. My camera would produce extreme grain and ruin the quality of the picture for my personal style. Sometimes grain works, but I usually prefer my images grain free. Now I shoot with the Sony A700 (which I love..cue angels singing.. thank you hubby), and I can push my camera to an ISO of 1600.

Quick recap.. so in addition to playing with the SS and Aperture priority settings, play with the ISO settings.

Ask yourself before taking the shot- 1- Is there enough light? 2- What is the lowest Aperture setting I can push my camera to before my SS goes to slow? 3- Do I want the grain? 4- Do you have a tripod handy? (having a tripod is a great solution to reduce any chance of camera shake which can be helpful if you are looking to achieve a low light shot)

Like I mentioned, if there is enough light, I never want grain. But if the light is limited and I do not have my tripod (it is rare that I have my tripod with me- need to work on that) I will push my ISO as far as I can before I introduce artificial light.

So now, let’s say your child in at his/her school concert** – take your ISO off of auto - this is a GREAT time to play with your ISO skillzzz. Push your Aperture to as low as it will go, (keep it on Aperture priority for now- we will move into Manual shooting shortly) push your ISO up.

First try 200, then 400, then 800 (see how it always doubles). You will see that you can now capture your little one singing without being that parent using a flash. It may work, it may not work with your camera. Like I said, my Sony A100 was terrible past ISO 400, but my A700 handles 1600 like a champ so it opens up more photo opportunities.

<-- This photo was taken in manual with a f/stop of 5.6 (lowest my Aperture would go at a 135mm focal length) and my SS was at a pitful .08 and my ISO was at 100.

The room had poor Tungeton lighting and I cannot hold a camera steady below 1/40 which is why this shot has camera shake.

But notice noise. (click here of the photo to enlarge)

<--This photo was taken in manual with a f/stop of 5.6 (lowest my Aperture would go at a 135mm focal length) and my SS was at 1/40 and my ISO was at 3200.

I went extremely high on my ISO to show you what Noise looks like.  You can see the grain of the shot.  But by bumping the ISO I was able to get a proper exposure for the shot. (click here or the photo to enlarge)


**I do want to mention here that if your are shooting wide open there is a big risk of missing focus if you do not know your camera's plane of field. This means that if everyone in the about said concert are not sitting or standing in the same plane, some will be sharp and others, well, not so sharp. But we will discuss shooting wide open in another What the Heck? addition.

So, what did we learn today?

I hope something.. I do, because if I confused you, ask away. Or if you know better .. tell me.. All I know is that ISO is a really important aspect of photography. You really need to have a strong understanding of the relationship it plays with Aperture and Shutter Speed if you want to gain more control of your digital camera.



Q & A - Why are my photos blurry?

I recently started What the heck? Friday... Go here for a quick explanation of what it is.. After my first topic of No More Auto, Ever last Friday I got a couple of questions that I wanted to address before the next installment tomorrow.

Brandy asked: "if not on Auto – what’s the best ISO to have the camera on for outside sunny lighting?"

Well Brandy.. :) Tomorrow's entire What the heck? Friday is about ISO so make you stop by. :)  But for a really quick answer, in full sun your ISO should always be at 100.  You don't need the additional light if you there is plenty available.

Frank asked: "I have been practicing shooting in Aperture priority like you told me to do but all my shots are blurry?"

Okay, so without looking at your photo there are two things that come to mind quickly.

1-Your shutter speed (SS) is most likely to slow (check your photo data-it will most likely show a SS less than 80)
2- Using a wide open fast lens and not understanding how narrow the focal plane is on that lens.

If you have blurry or soft pictures that don't have sharp focus, look at the settings first - if you shutter speed is under 80 or your aperture is under 3, it is most likely the cause of the blur.

Basically, my rule of thumb when shooting my kids (who are always on the go) is to make sure my SS is over 1/125.

Try putting your camera in Shutter priority mode. Leave the ISO on auto again and try different settings. I will advise you to shoot outside with lots of available light. The reason why is that I want you to try different settings without really worrying about your pictures being to dark.

Lets say your kids are playing soccer. Put your camera on a SS of 1/125 or 1/250. Take the shot. And then put the SS on 1/60 and take the same shot. You will see the first setting will “freeze” the action, while the second setting will cause a “blur”.

Here are two examples of how SS effects pictures:

This was taken in Manual with a SS of 1/15 - notice the blur

This photo was taken with a SS of 1/200 (also shot in manual) - notice the freeze affect

I hope that helps explain how SS is important to understand.  As I mentioned, tomorrow we will be discussing ISO which will fill in the missing piece to the triangle on how to exposure your pictures correctly.

But play with Shutter priority. Take another five photos in Shutter priority, all at different settings (the aperture setting will be chosen for you by the camera).  Review the photo data.  Notice what each setting was and how it plays into the final photo.

Hope this helps!!

See you on What the heck? Friday!