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Lovelies: Photography Tips

Mother’s Day 2012

Many years ago, we had some fantastic family pictures taken. I loved them, and we ended up choosing a whole lot of them to have printed. When the total came, however, I turned to my husband and said,  “I could have bought a camera for that.” At the time I only owned a film camera with a basic zoom.

I knew then that I was done paying for family pictures, or for any pictures of the children.

My husband was telling my children jokes when he took this picture a few years ago (notice there are only 6 children in this picture), and my mom was making funny faces at the children as well.

It took a while before I was able to buy a camera, but eventually I was able to find a digital camera for close to the same amount I had spent for those Mother’s Day photos.

Everyone told me that the camera I was considering wasn’t good enough. They said I needed a better camera with better this and better that. I thought that the camera I was looking at was going to do what I wanted, and that I didn’t need a more expensive camera.

When the time came, my husband found an online Black Friday sale and ordered the camera for me. We also made sure to order a remote so that we could take family photos (my husband had an old tripod that worked with my camera).

Then I needed to know how to use the camera to achieve what I wanted. I started looking online. I started studying my favorite bloggers pictures like I had studied painting, looking to see what I liked and what “made” a shot.

Along the way, I found some great advice:

Shani’s simple tips for photographing have made me think differently about where I stand when I photograph, and it’s change the way I shoot. She also inspired me to take trampoline shots. My daughter’s pose in the shot above was inspired by her daughter’s trampoline poses.

Kristin Duke’s Photography Tips have given me so much to think about. I’ve incorporated several of her ideas when photographing my family.

Wondering how to use the manual settings on your camera? Simple and easy: Nailing the Exposure

Excellent tips on adjusting the white balance and more

My favorite food blogger introduced me to a food photography class taught by Penny de los Santos on Creative Live. I was thrilled to be learning for free. Since then, I’ve watched a lot of Creative Live classes for free, and each has taught me something different.  (Old classes can be purchased on their site). Tomorrow, Australian Creative Photographer of the Year Kelly Brown is teaching a free newborn photography class on Creative Live. It is three days long, from May 9-11. The class is free to watch while it is live; there is usually a replay right afterwards for those in different time zones. You can enroll here. (If you enroll they send you an email that links straight to the live feed, or you can just click over to Creative Live and watch on their live feed page). They also have an upcoming class on Fine Art Portraits.

For food photography, I studied my favorite bloggers like crazy.

I was thrilled when my other favorite food blogger did a basic explanation of food photography here. A few years later, she wrote a book about food photography entitled Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling. I checked the book out from the library, but by that point I was feeling like I had learned those things already from lots of study (especially of Helene’s shots from her blog) and practice. (If you are new to food photography, I highly recommend her book!)

Poppy from my garden two years ago. The poppies are just starting to bloom in my garden again this week!

I’m still learning and practicing. Like any art, it takes practice. I’m so grateful for a digital camera and the chance to take hundreds of pictures without the cost of developing film.

For those who are wondering what I’m using:

A Nikon D40. (There are newer cameras out there now with more features, like the Nikon D3100, which is what I would probably get if I were looking for a camera now, still on the “lower” end of a DSLR–and their regular price for that one at Amazon is what I spent for my D-40). I ordered mine with the kit lens, but eventually I was able to get a 50mm fixed lens (on sale, of course!) and I pretty much use that all of the time now.

I use a reflector that has been discontinued but is almost identical to this one.

One of the things I want to capture more is the everyday moments, like my oldest and my youngest reading a book together.

Happy Mother’s Day! I enjoyed this Mother’s Day video.

Take some family pictures this weekend, and/or ask your husband to take some pictures of you and your children. It’s a Mother’s Day tradition we’ve been doing for several years now, and I’m really glad we do it.

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22 Comments

  1. Oh, what a wonderful and helpful post, thank you for these great ideas! I do think every so year or so it is a good idea to have a wonderful photographer to some photos of the family. My daughter is a professional photographer,and she takes photos that truly are something to treasure for generations.

  2. Oh, thank you, thank you. I am off to visit my mom out-of-town, but I look forward to reading these links when I return. I too have the Nikon D40 and want to purchase the fixed lens. I have done so much reading (“Nikon for Dummies” book, online tutorials etc.) but have not made much progress. Your photos are so lovely, so I won’t give up yet!

  3. I have a Nikon D40 also and have really been studying to take better photos. I was reading your blog last week and thought you used a 50mm for some of your shots. I have yet to figure out the food photography so I may visit those blogs a bit later. Thanks for the information!

  4. Thank you for this post. I am looking at purchasing my first DSLR camera and I’ve been given lots of advise. I’m torn between the D3200 and the D5200 cameras. I haven’t owned a camera like this since my 35 mm Nikon I received in high school.

  5. Thank you for the links! I am not gong to be getting a DSLR any time soon, but I know I could do better with our point and shoot, so I will check the links so I can learn more and improve the photography on my blog. I know it could be better if I understood things better.

  6. My wedding photographer had us change the angle of our glasses on our face, or change the tip of our head. I can’t see the glare when I’m using the remote, like in the picture above of the whole family, but when I’m taking the pictures, I can see it and have the people make the adjustments.

  7. your photos are beautiful and give a proper feel good factor to the day. The tip about looking at professional photographers photos is great and can be applied to other areas of our lives. I did this with dress making way back in the 1960’s when I was a teenager and ‘home-spun Harriet’ was not a good look. I really looked at the way commercially produced clothing was made and copied it or did it better. At the risk of sounding incredibly smug most of the clothing I have produced has been mistaken for store bought, even jeans and I only have a normal domestic machine. Anona

  8. thanks so much!I have a cannon and I’m trying to “play” with it and get better at taking photos – I was just wondering where one would find all this info so perfect timing.Your family is gorgeous and these photos are amazing!

  9. My skill at photography is no where near yours but I too came to the realization that “professional photos” are outrageously priced and most of the “affordable” places are now out of business which means you have to now go to a private studio for portraits. My daughter in law wanted maternity pictures done but could not afford them so I offered to try my hand at taking some. We used her Canon digital camera to take some shots which I then downloaded to my MacBook Pro which has enhancement features built in so I played around with those to get some variety such as black and white, softened edges, etc. She liked them so much that I actually used one of them for her baby shower invitation. I made those by uploading to a free website call PicMonkey which allows you to make collages, invitations, etc. out of your own digital pictures. After that, I simply uploaded the finished invite to Wal mart’s online photo center, got 25 free pictures for opening an account, and printed out her invites at a fraction of what it would cost me elsewhere. A good camera, a little practice, and being willing to learn can save a lot of money in pictures.

  10. Thank you for putting up the resources as well as your recommendation on the camera to get should that be the dilemma. My husband and I have a basic digital camera and though I have maxed on learning its limits, and also we have used it quite a lot since our son was born 5 years ago I know we did love to get a new one to do more with it. This is def. a good start with the numerous resources…

  11. I would defiantly get the d5200 if you have the extra money. I have the d5100 and I love it. When I got mine at Sam’s club they had the best price plus if came with a dvd, 2 lenses, and a bag. What sold me from the 3100 to the 5100 was how many pics per second it takes and the screen moves on the 5100 and 5200. The d3200 is highest of the non professional cameras and the d5200 is the lowest professional grade. If you have children who move a lot go with the 5200. You won’t regret it.

  12. Great resources! Thanks so much for posting this Brandy! That Creative Live link gave me an idea for you. For those of us who live far, far away and could not come to your garden tour…would you consider doing some sort of web-based seminar on edible landscaping? Maybe a combination of videos of your garden, and a short talk, Q&A, etc.? I am willing to bet there is an audience who would even pay a small fee for this valuable info (me included!). Your garden is just so beautiful! When you are starting from scratch like me, it can be overwhelming to wonder where to start. My backyard is pretty much a blank slate…but I just get overwhelmed thinking about how/where to start. Just an idea. Happy early Mothers’ Day!

  13. Your family is as beautiful as your blog! You are really inspiring me to try gardening. So far I’ve just got a few fruit trees (that we love) but I think it would be wonderful to harvest our own vegetables and herbs as well.Cannot wait to dig into your blog more.-Karin Katherine

  14. You can always save old frames, take out the lenses, then use those frames for the photos. No glare!I love the picture of your oldest & youngest reading together.

  15. This post made so much sense to me! We have been setting money aside for a nice camera since reading this. As much as I hate to spend the money, I think we will soon. Would you still suggest the Nikon D3100? We are trying to decide between that and the Canon T3. I want to take great pics of my kids, their class performances, band concerts etc. Suggestions?

  16. You may want that one or one that can go to an even higher ISO (though 3200 is pretty great!) Some cameras have an ISO up to 6400, which would be awesome in low-light shots like indoor band performances. I’ve been learning more about ISO lately and I think, now, that I would look for one that can go to 6400 if I were to upgrade, but even the 3200 that that Nikon does is pretty awesome.Read reviews and see if it has what you want. There are a lot of choices out there.I have not regretted spending the money on the camera. I just took new pictures of the children and had them printed in 8 x 10s at Sam’s Club for a total of $11.56 for seven 8 x 10s and one 5 x 7. That sure beats having pictures taken! At this point, too (and it’s taken a few years and lots of practice) I think my shots are much better than the ones I purchased years ago.

  17. I did it! I was scared to spend the money, but I just ordered the Nikon d3200. Thanks for your help! I am excited to start learning to take better pictures! Your suggestions here will help me with that too!

  18. Any suggestions on what to use for an inexpensive backdrop? I’ve tried looking at fabric, flat sheets, etc., and can’t come up with the right thing (and/ or right cost). Being that it’s already 15 degrees here our next pictures will need to be indoors. Thanks!

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