Archive for the ‘Photo tips’ Category

February 1st

Then & Now

What can you learn in a year of taking pictures??  Let’s see….

It was right around a year ago that I did my first (and sadly only) Then & Now post.  After looking through some photos I found an old not-so favorite anymore and wanted to see if I could improve it.

See the results of my Then & Now picture of Itty Bitty here.

I thought I’d try it again with a photo of Glamor Girl.



The first photo is at least a year old.

I tried to set up the second photo just like the original.  Both pictures are taken around the same time of day (early afternoon) at the exact same window.

In the first one I had her facing *away* from the light worried about creating light and dark areas on her face.  This actually caused more shadows (making the circles under her eyes stand out).  Also she didn’t get any pretty catchlights in her eyes so they look dull and flat instead of sparkly.  I also didn’t know how to change the metering mode in my camera to expose for her face and not the bright window causing the picture to be underexposed and dark.

To fix the problem I turned her around and let the diffused light from the window highlight her face and fill her eyes with gorgeous catchlights.  It turned her skin from shadowy to creamy (which I capitol-L-Love!).

I also changed my camera settings…

Shutter speed stayed the same – 1/100.  She wasn’t a moving subject so 1/100 was plenty fast for me to hand hold my camera and get tack sharp focus.

My aperture changed A LOT!  From f/5.6 to f/2.5.  The background in the first photo was distracting to my eye and the window trim seemed to be growing out of her head!  By setting a wider aperture I got a creamy bokeh background putting all the focus on my sweet girl.

The wider aperture let more light into the camera so I could lower my ISO from 800 to 320.  The difference isn’t huge until you zoom in (where you can see the noise in the shadows) but it also helped keep the details nice and clean.

Obviously I changed my white balance.  My baby girl really isn’t a smurf 😉

As for posing, I just let her do what was comfortable for her in both photos.  I’m not a posing snob or anything, I really just don’t know how.  Maybe that will be something I work on this year.

One last thing… I cropped the new photo a bit.  It’s still a head and shoulders shot, but I felt that having too much of the window in the picture was distracting.  In the first pic I thought it was “neat” that I had captured her reflection, but now I like the focus on only Glamor Girl.

Is my second photo technically perfect?  Absolutely not!  However it is way WAY better than the first.  I still have a long road ahead of me and oodles to learn!

What do you think?

A sweet pic of Glamor Girl but she looks a bit too much like a smurf!

A sweet pic of Glamor Girl but she looks a bit too much like a smurf!




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January 5th

Abstract Macro

It’s so easy for me to grab my camera and head outside looking for a bug or bloom to photograph.  Now that it’s winter it’s getting harder to find a subject but once I do, it’s become almost routine how I set up and take my shots.

Not that it isn’t fun… I *love* it!  It’s just not challenging my creativity.

Which leads me to today’s photos.

I decided to try some abstract macro – taking common objects and by taking macro photos of them, showing the world their beauty.

My first attempt was of drops of oil in water.  I’ve seen several tutorials on this, and it looked like fun!Jan5d Jan5b Jan5c Jan5

While I’m loving these, I can already see things I can improve.

First, while I was in good light, my shutter speed was very slow – around 1/50 of a second.  A tripod helped, but a faster shutter speed would have been better.

Second, my ISO should have been lower.  You can’t see the grain until you zoom in {which I did to spotlight the bubbles in the pictures.}

Not everyone dislikes grain, but it’s my archenemy.

Armed with this knowledge, I tried again.



WordPress always does funky things to my pictures so I’m not sure if you can spot the difference.

On my computer the last image is much crisper and the grain is minimal.  I dropped my ISO to 125 and upped my shutter speed to 1/125.

Oh!  Wanna see a pullback from image #4?

Don’t laugh at the elmo paper 😉



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Slowly Learning Macro

It’s been a little over three weeks since my early birthday macro present came.

After much practice, and oodles of reading photography books, magazines and websites on macro I’m finally getting the hang of it!  Even I can see improvement from my pictures three weeks ago!

There are five things that have made a HUGE difference in my macro photos:

  1. Using my tripod.  No matter how steady your hands are you’re going to get some camera shake unless you can shoot at a shutter speed of about 1/250 or faster.  Add in wind and/or a wiggly critter and you’ve got a recipe for a blurry photo.
  2. Using the self-timer on my camera.  Even with a tripod, there will be some camera shake just from pressing the shutter.  By using the self-timer you ensure that your camera will be completely still when the shutter releases.  Of course you can also use a remote shutter release if you have one!
  3. Live view shooting.  The depth of field in macro photography is tiny and my manual focusing skills through the viewfinder are horrible.  Using auto focus was better but I kept finding that the focus would fall just ahead or behind where I was aiming.  While playing with buttons on my camera I discovered something cool – you can ZOOM the live view up to 10x allowing you to pinpoint where you want to focus!  I’m now 100% in charge of what’s in focus.  *happy dance*
  4. Having enough light.  Man oh man, light is HUGE in macro photography!  Although my lens can have an aperture as wide as f/2.8 I rarely shoot that wide open.  If I did I would have only a fraction of a millimeter in focus!  For my macro photos I usually have my aperture set somewhere between f/5.0 and f/10.  This cuts down in the amount of light that enters the camera significantly.  Unless I’m shooting in bright sunlight I’ve had to bump up my ISO – often above 1000.  At first I was nervous of getting too much grain in my photos so I’d slow my shutter speed way down instead.  My photos were grain free, but full of lens blur.  I’ve learned to embrace the grain, and when it gets to be too much I can reduce it in post processing.
  5. PATIENCE!  It takes a steady hand and teeny tiny adjustments to get a macro shot.  You need a huge serving of patience if you’re shooting insects!  They are worse than children in front of a camera!  😉

I’ll leave you with a few shots from today.

“He’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!” {gotta love Despicable Me!}

This little booger was eating the leaves on my strawberry plant!

I heart fall!

The mushrooms are getting HUGE!

Another fluffy guy eating the leaves on my Dahlias.





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Dahlia lovin’!

ISO 640 ~ f/2.2 ~ 1/100

Taken as the sun was sinking behind the horizon so I raised my ISO to get more light in camera.  My shutter speed was already as low as I could go and still hand hold my camera.

A good rule of thumb is to take the focal length of your lens and double it to find out the slowest shutter speed you can safely hand hold your camera and still get tack sharp images.  I was using my 50mm so 1/100 is as slow as I dare go before I get too much motion blur.

Of course, when taking pics of the Littles I have to speed it up.  They’re fast little boogers!  😉

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Oodles of Insects!

When I went outside to take a peek at the flower garden today I found several bumble bees and butterflies all over my Purple Coneflowers.

At one point there were three bees and two butterflies on the *same* flower!


Of course I ran inside and snagged my camera 😉

Buzz Buzz Baby

ISO 100 ~ f/3.2 ~ 1/500

Fortunately it was bright enough out that I could have a fast shutter speed to freeze the moment!  I closed down my aperture a bit more than normal too so that both the flower and the bee were in focus.

{and now I find myself singing “Buzz Buzz Baby” to the tune of “Ice Ice Baby}


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ISO 100 ~ f/2.2 ~ 1/1000

The background for today’s pic was *very* bright so I had to increase my shutter speed to avoid blowing it out.

To increase the hazy feel to the photo I lowered the blacks in photoshop and tweaked the mid tones 🙂

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So Many Blooms, So Little Time!

Today as I was walking around the property with the Hubs scouting out the perfect trees to build the Little’s new tree house I found a cool spiderweb attached to an old tree stump.

The sun was shining on it making it appear to “glow.”

I had about 2.3 seconds to snap a pic before Itty Bitty swiped his stick through it {he’s on a mission to make all spiders leave, and thinks that if he ruins their webs they will move on.}

I wonder where the creepy crawly spider was?

ISO 100 ~ f/2.8 ~ 1/250

The next two pics are close ups of some flowers that caught my eye.  The Dahlia’s and Calla Lilies are really starting to bloom!

Loved how the lighter petals were creating a frame around the rest of the flower!

ISO 250 ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/100

To make sure that all the petals fell in the depth of field {the area of the picture that is in focus} I closed my aperture down to f/3.5.  To compensate for the loss of light I raised my ISO to 250.

The detail in the center of the flower makes me smile. It’s not uber close from a macro lens, but it still makes me smile!

ISO 250 ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/100

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