Saturday, January 30, 2010

13 Ways to Better Photos...DAY 8 {camera talk}

Gratitude makes the heart grow fonder: it’s NOT about your camera

Before you even read what I’m going to say today, take a moment & read this article. I promise you won’t regret it.


I’ve gotten quite a few emails & inquiries about camera recommendations from friends & family & blogland. And I’m honored that people would even ask in the first place. But I’ll be honest: I don’t research cameras. All that camera-ese that is thrown around between photographers is literally like Greek to me.

And it is all on purpose.

mirror, out of focus

You see, at this point in our lives, photography is a hobby for us. And my hope is that our hobby will continue to evolve, our photography will continue to improve, & our resources will continue to grow. But for now? For now I avoid looking, drooling, & researching new, better gear.

Because the article has become my mantra: I don’t NEED a better camera because IT ISN’T ABOUT MY CAMERA. It is about me. It is about Jon. It is about capturing our lives as they happen, focusing on the details, creating fun & natural photos that others can treasure. And if we happen to have fun in the process, all-the-better!

I’ve seen far too many people spend thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line cameras without a clue how to use them. And the truth is that yes, the megapixels might be higher, the ISO might be greater, the abilities of the camera might have been beamed down from the future…but YOU are the photographer & YOU make the photos.

THAT is why all those basics we’ve been talking about are so important to grasp: they are literally the foundation of your photos. You can take amazing pictures with iphones, with old film cameras, even with polaroids. No one says you have to spend $2500 to get great photos.

Almost 5 years ago, my parents bought me my first dSLR. We spent $900 at the time. And guess what? It is my current dSLR. Someday we’ll have the extra pocket change to buy fancy equipment, external flashes, extra batteries, giant memory cards, & an array of other fancy gear. But more than once, I’ve reminded myself that for me, this is about the pictures.

Our very basic no-longer-in-production Canon Digital Rebel has served us well. We have one extra 50mm lens. And I learned through these tutorials how to use the manual settings. I am certainly ready for an upgrade. But our bank account isn’t. And you know what? THAT IS AWESOME. Because in the meantime, I get to continue mastering my basic skills. I get to shoot awesome families & get creative behind the lens. I get to treasure the photos that I am able to take just because I DO have a camera.

So my one piece of advice to you is to learn to use your camera, whatever it may be, before you purchase a new one. Having a new camera will NOT guarantee better photos…learning the basic foundation of photography will.

Let me know if you are interested in the {very basic} knowledge that I pass along to those who inquire.

this amazing photographer's camera suggestions
TIPA awards
a Q&A with one of my favorites

This post is part of a photography series...
Day 1 {angle}
Day 2 {the golden rule}
Day 3 {composition}
Day 4 {lighting}
Day 5 {perspective}
Day 6 {details}
Day 7 {focus}

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

13 Ways to Better Photos...DAY 7 {focus}


I think every “photographer” (hey! That includes you!!) has to decide where their niche lies. I had a Biology professor in college who loved birds. He cried tears of joy (not. even. kidding.) one day in class when a rare, presumed-extinct type of Woodpecker was found. Me? I could care less (no offense, bird lovers).

I know plenty of photographers who prefer to take photos of scenery—people just aren’t their thing. Others tend to snap photos of life in action, taking on a more ‘photojournalist’ approach to pictures. And then there are those who want the photos to be perfect & genuinely prefer posed pictures where necks are straight & chins are poised.

And honestly? I’m not sure what category I fall into. I tend to think of myself as an “all around” photographer. But the truth is that I just like to hear the snap of the shutter. If a pretty sunset falls into my viewfinder, I’ll gladly take a picture. I notice details--& don’t have a problem snapping away. People are my favorite, but I tend to be better at photo shoots instead of the hilarities of the everyday.

We ALL have a LOT of room to improve. And part of that improvement is finding where your niche lies. In a sense, we all need to write our own “Photography Mission Statement”. As ridiculous as it sounds, having a solid idea of where you need & want to improve will help you mentally hone your skills & improve in the areas that need it the most.

Here are some suggestions:

Do you really want a photo of that statue? Decide WHAT your focus is—WHAT do you want your pictures to say? When you look back on photos from past events, what common theme runs through those you call your favorites? This doesn’t have to be a conscious thought process…you know which photos catch your eye & which ones you’d rather turn away. Once you find your focus, you’ll just get used to telling a “story” that reflects that.


day 7 people shadows

What do you want to remember? For most, the primary purpose of taking pictures is to capture memories. Case in point: the mom who finds herself drowning in 5000 pictures after a 4 day trip to Disney World. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of her photo folders contain photos from trips or birthdays or important events. We tend to overwhelm our families/friends with photos of trees or mountains or weird cars or good food from our vacations—but they are most interested in US! After all, they aren’t “friends” with our houses or our “stuff”—they are friends with PEOPLE! So focus on the PEOPLE, wherever you are!


What will you most likely forget? Remember those details…& get in on the angle! You’ll be able to get creative…here are some ideas:


Use reflective surfaces: this is a great way to get yourself in the photo while also capturing the hustle & bustle (or quiet solitude) of the city you are traveling to…it is also a great way for people to see what you do during the day!

day 7 people reflective surface & place

day 7 people refelective surfaces

day 7 people reflective surfaces to show WHERE

Use the timer on your camera…want to be in the photo too?

day 7 people self timer 1

day 7 people self timer 2

Use the light to your advantage.
Capture life in action.

…stay tuned for more…

Resources: read this

This post is part of a photography series...
Day 1 {angle}
Day 2 {the golden rule}
Day 3 {composition}
Day 4 {lighting}
Day 5 {perspective}

Day 6 {details}

Saturday, January 23, 2010

13 Ways to Better Photos...DAY 6 {details}

day 6 details celebration detail

So I’ve driven this point into the ground: let your photos tell a story.

What does this photo tell you?


It tells me enough that I can make up a story about it with the few details that I know. It tells me about the location, the era, the age of the person. But you know what else I’d love to see?

day 6 details now a cpt rank

I’d love to see a close-up of this uniform. I’d love to see what shoes he was wearing—how dirty they were. I’d love to see what his hands looked like…what car brought him to this location…what the bricks on that building looked like up close. Maybe I’m a bit over-the-top when it comes to details…but I’ve noticed something…

day 6 details now a cpt

I’ve noticed that when we take vacations, I DO tend to focus on the details. I take pictures that most people would think are quite weird. Like our shoes. And the sidewalk. And the food we eat. And the pillows on the hotel room bed. And even at home I take pictures of the toilet paper. And the dirt Jon tracks in the house on his boots.




our monthly stock of onions & potatoes

jon practicing guitar by computer-light

WHY? Because all of these things MEAN SOMETHING. they mean more than a picture of a skyscraper. They mean more than a photo of faces, sometimes too. That old saying “The beauty is in the details” is really true for photography. And focusing on them highlights the little wonders of the World…Wonders of YOUR World—the ones important in your life. And the ones that we tend to pass over every day without a second glance.

day 6 details celebration details focus on the THING instead of the person

For some reason, having that camera in hand makes all the difference.

On a trip? This is a PRIME opportunity to experiment taking photos of things you normally wouldn’t: the bed when you get up in the hotel each morning, the coffee you drank for breakfast, the fabulous cupcake you had for dessert, what you did in your spare time…

lombardi's pizza, NYC

day 6 details on a trip 3

day 6 details on a trip 2

day 6 details on a trip

day 6 details trip

day 6 details event-fishing

On a date? Use your self-timer! Find reflective surfaces to get both of you in the photo. Take pictures of you holding hands. Take pictures of your dinner, your shoes, of the restaurant.

day 6 details reflection 1

day 6 details place taking a break


On a walk? What a great opportunity to notice the little details within just blocks of your house! Take pictures of what you carried, the street you walked on, even the texture of the ground: dirt? Cement? Rocks?

day 6 details surface snow

day 6 details it was snowing

day 6 details surface & event

day 6 details surface & activity

At home? What little details of your house, corners of your home, or memory-provoking-items have you not photographed &/or written about?

day 6 details place i was sick

At a BBQ? The possibilities are endless…

day 6 details bbq people

day 6 details bbq drinks

day 6 details bbq grill

day 6 details bbq games

The concept of “Project 365” was not my idea. But I quickly jumped on the bandwagon when I knew that Jon & I would, literally, miss a YEAR of each other’s lives. I wanted him to see (via this blog) that I was okay. And I wanted to share in the somewhat mundane of my everyday with him—since he wouldn’t be here to experience it alongside me. Although the ‘work’ of remembering to take a photo everyday is much easier because I’m doing it for something (i.e., Jon!), it is the concept behind it that I fell in love with: documenting the everyday.

I would so treasure photos of what my great-Grandmother did everyday of her life. Did she quilt? Journal? What books did she read? What did her closet look like? Did she keep flowers in her house? And what did the inside of her home look like?

Long ago, I talked myself out of taking photos for future generations. I know many people do, but I don’t want to be so attached to the ‘responsibility’ of documenting my life for our future family members...not to mention the fact that I don't even know if they will care. So I promised myself that all this picture-taking would just be for US. that’s it! and I know that at the end of this year when I print a photobook of the 365 days that Jon & I were apart, I’ll rest well knowing that anytime he wants to, he can open the book & know what quirky things filled my days when he couldn’t share them with me.

Pictures have the incredible ability to evoke strong memories. Those “Kodak Moments” (& well, the Kodak commercials sometimes) have the ability to draw out emotion in a unique way. What better way to remember things than through photos. So don’t ignore the mundane. Don’t pass by the seemingly boring. Take the opportunity to look through that viewfinder…& soon enough you’ll be seeing life in a series of pictures. And when you decide to snap the shutter, remember that you are doing more than taking a photo—you are (as cliché as it sounds) freezing memories in time.

This post is part of a photography series...
Day 1 {angle}
Day 2 {the golden rule}
Day 3 {composition}
Day 4 {lighting}
Day 5 {perspective}

Thursday, January 21, 2010

blast from the past.

one of my new years resolutions this year is to go through photos. my photos. jon's photos. family photos. and although i fully realize this will likely be a lifelong project, i'm intrigued more than ever before about how life used to be. for me. for jon. for our parents & grandparents & great-grandparents.

which is why i had to chuckle when i found this photo of myself.

my grandparents bred & raised yorkie puppies. these were BRAND NEW puppies...that apparently i was quite confused about.

age 1- with baby terrier puppies at laurvicks house

{jlyn with mom. around 9 months.}

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

new camera strap!

inspired by this.

i decided to make this:


it slips off so i can wash it, should jon sweat on it when using the camera. ;)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

13 Ways to Better Photos...DAY 5 {perspective}

I’ll warn you that today is mostly a repeat of Day 1: ANGLE. BUT…the difference is that I want you to focus on telling a story through your photos. One thing that always amazes me about watching people take photos (especially those fanny-pack toting tourists) is that they just stand there and snap the pictures. Usually their hands are at the same level, their face is at the same angle…& their pictures are…well…BORING. What people tend to forget is that YOU HAVE ARMS. Arms that move! So MOVE THE CAMERA. This goes back to Day 1…YOU have the ability to move, but SO DOES THE CAMERA. Your eyeballs also have the ability to notice things…and those “things” can be translated through the viewfinder into VERY INTERESTING pictures! What a concept!

Don’t restrict yourself to one plane of view…try to look at things differently & TELL YOUR STORY. By “story” I don’t mean a chronological documentation of the goings-on of your day or trip or drive to the Coast; rather, I mean “story” to be what is left when you take away the “events”.

Emotion. Scenery. Detail. Love. Grace. Adoration. Beauty. Magnitude. Enormity.

I bet you’ll be surprised just how well you can capture emotion through the photos. Take a look at these pictures. They all follow the Rule of Thirds. They are all taken at different Angles. As you look at them (& trust me…I know they aren’t all fantastic…), try to answer the following questions…

Do they have a beginning, middle, & end?
Is the frame cropped appropriately?
What mood do you think best describes these pictures? Serene? Tranquil? Chaotic?
Was the sun out when these were taken? How can you tell?
What “story” do they tell when you look at them? Knowing nothing else about the subjects, the location, the events…what can you glean purely from the pixels?

day 5 spectacle look up sky reflection


day 5 spectacle get the whole scene

day 5 spectacle look up

day 5 spectacle take pictures of actions

day 5 spectacle tell the story--if i would have taken from below, would have shown 'overwhelmed'

day 5 spectacle GET down

day 5 spectacle look down

day 5 spectacle look down reflection


estate sale garage


feb. weekends: unmade bed


I’d challenge you to go through a folder of photos on your computer. Look at a handful of your favorite photos & try to figure out WHY they are your favorites. What stands out to you? If someone else was to look at those same photos, what would they notice?

This post is part of a photography series...
Day 1 {angle}
Day 2 {the golden rule}
Day 3 {composition}
Day 4 {lighting}

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