Category Archives: photography

Making it our own

Making it our own

Atlanta Artist Melissa Payne BakerI posted last week a piece of art work that my friend Lindsey gave me [the winner for that was chosen btw, thank you for all those who entered]. My love for art is nothing new but I will admit. I feel spoiled knowing such awesome artist personally.

I thought id share another piece in our home.

This one is by Melissa Payne Baker. She was named Atlantas top artist a few years in a row recently by a very popular magazine. She is very talented. I met her our 1st year here after she hired me to photograph her maternity portraits/birth of her son/newborn portraits and since then birthday parties and so forth. I feel honored to be her photographer and you cant help but fall in love with her family.

She painted this particular piece from inspiration of our journey over the years and my childhood memories of a creek growing up.

Her work is abstract and so beautiful. Her use of colors is perfect. I have 3 of her pieces now and love every single one. Each one special in its own way.

So thank you Melissa for this beautiful piece. I LOVE IT.

I do hope when we move and really settle in some place, that I can display it even better.


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and for those curious how we are liking our Casper Bed. WE LOVE IT still! I look forward to sharing my thoughts more on this great bed soon. I wanted to give it a few weeks before doing my complete write up. If you missed our unboxing video you can see that HERE. :)

So you got an SLR? Now what?

So you got an SLR? Now what?

How many of you got new camera for Christmas?

I know of a few friends who did. In fact a few people actually wrote me pre-Christmas with camera questions. I’m always flattered when people ask me those btw. :)

A few years ago a friend of mine helped me put together a little course to teach locals about their camera’s. It taught people the basics of shooting with an SLR (manual) style camera… and through our class we not only “taught” people this but showed them hands on. It was a lot of fun to teach and I actually hope we can do it again… but the last year or so things have been so busy with home schooling the boys… job changes… life in general… that I just haven’t had the time to organize that again and teach another class.

_CMS0319So! I thought it be fun to do a quick blog post teaching some basics… that will either confuse you or my hope, help you.

So lets start with covering some basics.

1. Just because you get a good camera, does not mean you are now a professional photographer. Give credit when due :) – professional photographers work long and hard to get their businesses established… it not only takes a bucket load of money to buy up gear but also countless hours and practice to get there. I started my business in 2007 after purchasing my first SLR camera, a Canon Rebel… and while I thought I was all high and mighty then, I truly don’t feel I was a “professional” until about 2010. While I stayed very busy my first few years as a “photographer” – I didn’t feel like I found my nitch or who I was until closer to 2010. In fact the last few years I really feel I have come more into my own, even more so. I think that is just something as photographers grow and experience, they only get better. So I hope :)

2. Not all lenses are created equally. Most of your cameras you got for Christmas will come with what they call a KIT LENS. This isn’t necessarily a “bad” lens… it however is not a professional lens. If you thought camera bodies were expensive, wait until you begin looking at lenses.

3. Go ahead an invest in an editing software. My favorite is Lightroom 4 for Mac. Great great great program. Another great starter out program to use would be Photoshop Elements 9 and up. Check ebay, you can find it so cheap… its a great program and has lots of great features that even I as a professional still use some times.

4. Using the GREEN AUTO box at the top is the enemy :) – learn to hateavoid it.. I have not used the “auto” setting on my camera since 2007 when I started my business. If you intend to start a photography business, you have got to learn how to control your light and use your camera… relying on an auto setting is just not going to cut it. If you are a busy mom with lots of crazy kiddos, go ahead and leave it on auto ;-) – but let me encourage you, even the mom with 4 boys like myself, has time to shoot in manual ;-) – even with the fastest of kids. All it takes is a little practice and I promise, its worth it.


Here come’s the confusing part….

The Exposure Triangle:

Below is a simple diagram that will hopefully help explain how all this “Manual” stuff works.

– Light enters your camera and lens in 3 ways:

– Aperture
– Shutter Speed


Lets start with what the Aperture is:

– The best way to think about it…. is to think about your eye. The pupil of the eye, opens and closes depending on how much light is in the room, right? If it is really bright out our eye pupil gets smaller. If it is darker out, it opens up and gets wide. The same goes with a lens. If you are in a darker room, your lens has got to be WIDE OPEN, in order to let in “more light.”

Here’s a photo to help you visualize better….


This is where having a “better” lens comes into play. Remember that KIT lens I mentioned above? Most KIT lenses aperture will only allow you to shoot at maybe a 4.5 Aperture or higher. Its so confusing btw… because the LARGER the number (higher), the SMALLER your aperture.

Being able to adjust the aperture will affect your shutter speed as well. It also will affect your depth of field.

I’m confusing myself as I type this out. Feel my pain as I fail try to sum this up in a written post. It be so much easier to just show everyone hands on :) – Can you tell I am more of a hands on type of person? I should have just video’d this. Wait, I hate videos… Youtube “how to shoot manual” if this is completely confusing you at the moment haha, or continue on as I process more for you.

So the KIT Lense… If your goal is to get that “dreamy” look to your photos, I suggest you look into a simple prime lens.

A great one to start with is the Canon (or nikon) 50mm 1.8 – Amazon has this for about $100 bucks. THIS IS CHEAP for a prime lens. However, bit of warning. This lens feels cheap and looks cheap. Some people call it the “fantastic plastic” – It is nothing fancy to hold in your hand but it gives a beautiful photograph. Also if you do buy that lens, be careful you don’t hit it on anything. Its easily broken. I’ve broken 2 :-\ – if you would like a heavier duty lens with the same focal length, invest in a 50mm 1.4 instead. Its a much better quality and will last you much longer. I have had mine for about 5 years now and it doesn’t skip a beat. Its a great lens. I probably use that lens 85% of the time when I do portraits.

Before moving onto what is next.

I will list out what gear I am using…

Camera body: Canon 5D Mark III – Before anyone clicks over to that and see’s the price tag. Let me start off by saying I didn’t start with this camera :) – My first camera was around $500.00 – a Canon Rebel.. I then upgraded not long after to a Canon 30D (used on ebay for $500) – I then upgraded from that to a Canon 5D Classic. I used my 5D classic up until I got my Mark III. Going from the 5D (that I also got used), to the Mark III was a huge jump for me… but needed to be done. I paid cash for it and got it direct from canon as a refurb. I love it and have had no issues with it the last 2 years. I highly recommend it. Its amazing.

Lenses: 50mm 1.4 Canon, 28mm 1.8 Canon and 85mm 1.8 Canon. I use those 3 lenses and that is it. When I photograph wedding’s I do try to borrow or rent the Canon 70-200 2.8 L Lens. Its an amazing lens and I love it. I just cant justify buying it right now since I shoot primarily small events and portraits. You can view all those lenses over here.

Camera Bag: This sorta thing does not matter really. Find a bag you like and go with it. There are tons out there. Currently I am using an Epiphanie Bag and a homemade Tracy Joy Bag (she no longer makes them but its similar to a shoot sac). Another great site for fashionable camera bags at a good price would be Jo Totes. Beautiful bags!

External Flash: I use a Canon 580EX II Speedlite. Ive had it for years and paid about $350.00 – ugh. Told you, camera gear is no joke. That flash sells for over $700.00 now… not sure why though. There are other cheaper alternatives out there, but I do love my speedlite. Its fast and gets the job done.

Whatever gear you go with, I strong encourage paying cash and saving for what you want. Do not go in debt to buy a camera….



– ISO is the noise or grain in your image. Adjusting this will give you the ability to shoot in lower light settings, when teamed with a WIDER Aperture. (remember wider aperture means smaller number…)

– So lets say you are in a very dark room…. and you have your LENS set to a 1.8 Aperture. Yet, you still cannot seem to get a proper exposure because it is so dark. At this point you would UP your ISO.

– The thing to remember, esp if you are shooting with a Canon Rebel or more starter level SLR, is that the higher the ISO gets, the more grain you will have in your image. Grain isn’t always a bad thing, it can look very vintage and “photo appropriate” depending on what you are taking an image of… but with portraits you do like your image to be as detailed and crisp as possible… so a good rule of thumb on a basic SLR camera, don’t set your ISO any higher than 800.

– If you are shooting outdoors on a sunny day, your ISO can stay around a 100.
– Indoors with good window light 500.
– In a dark bar, 1600 or higher.

That is, IF you are shooting wide open (at a 1.8 aperture). Your ISO will change depending on the aperture and shutter speed you intend to use. I know… confusing :)

That brings us to…

Shutter Speed:

Both the ISO and the Aperture combined will affect your shutter. Or I guess you could say each of these 3 things affect each other.

The shutter speed is how fast your cameras lens opens and closes…. So if we think “eye ball” again – it is the “eye lid blinking.” :)

Click your shutter down and you will hear it open and close very fast. You can control how fast and how slow this part of your lens operates when shooting in manual. It gives you the ability to create a FREEZE (which is what most people want) or a blurred effect.

Whenever I shoot portraits I try to never allow my shutter speed to get below a 100. I have a pretty steady hand, so if you tend to be a bit shaky, let your “rule” be to never shoot under a shutter of 125. You also need to take into consideration what you are shooting. If your kid is running around like a hyper chipmunk, then you should probably make sure your shutter is no less than 150-200. If not higher.

Once your shutter gets below a 100, it will open and close slowly… so if you were to shake or the subject you are photographing move, the image would be blurry.

So how does this come into play with your Aperture and ISO.

Here’s a scenario:

Let’s say you are at your kids birthday party…. and its indoors… You start to set your camera and you set your Aperture to 1.8, because it is indoors and you realize you will need your lens as wide open as it can be, since there is not much light… You then set your ISO to 500. When you look into your camera to set your “shutter speed” however, you realize your shutter is around a 60…. way to slow. This is where your ISO comes into play. You would bump that ISO up until that 60 shutter, is at least a 125. Just remember. The Higher that ISO, the more grain.

So lets talk real quick about EXPOSURE, which has to do with the setting of your shutter speed:


With all this stuff combined. Your Aperture. Your ISO. Your Shutter Speed… you ultimately are in charge of your photographs exposure.

You could shoot your image to be BRIGHTER, or you could shoot a darker image, with more shadows, more contrast, etc..etc…

When you look inside your camera, or on top in some cases… here is what you will see:


The left number is your ISO – the Middle number is your SHUTTER and the f8 (far right) number is your Aperture. Also called an F-Stop.

The line thing with a bunch of numbers below it, that is your exposure meter.

It is pretty self explanatory…. When you adjust your exposure, the little DOT (line) that you are able to move with your exposure wheel on your camera, is your exposure. This small wheel btw is typically located at the top front of your camera. Some times depending on your camera it may be at the back…

So if you move that little line down where the numbers become negatives, that means your exposure is “underexposed” – the center is “supposedly a perfect exposure” – and then the plus side is “over exposing”.

The thing with exposure is that depending on the situation, you may not always want a PERFECT exposure.

When you shoot into a sunset, your exposure will not be “spot on” same goes if you are creating a silhouette like this….


It really is just something you learn over time, the more you shoot the more you will understand what situations call for. A good rule of thumb though is to start with the middle and work around that :) – to see what works.

There is more you can read up on in the realm of exposure.

Such as HISTOGRAMS… but for me when you start out, there’s no reason to really get into all that… in fact I never look at my histogram’s any more. Google “Explanation of Histograms” and you can enjoy the confusing discussion about that if you want :)

So IF you read ALL THE ABOVE, you are either super confused. Kinda sorta got it… stoked… or not sure what to think.
Hopefully some of it made sense :)

There are SO MANY amazing videos on youtube though that can help walk you through all of this.

If you DO NOT know how to ADJUST these settings – read your manual! I read mine like 5 times when I got my first camera :) – OR check out videos explaining how to change settings on whatever model camera you have. I was going to explain that in this post too… but the way I adjust my Mark III would not be the same as you would adjust your camera… they are all a little different…

Shooting manual for me was something I thankfully learned when I was a teenager. I took a very basic photography class in high school… where we used real film cameras… so at a young age I became familiar with how to use all the settings I mentioned above… I think learning it young without a doubt helped me retain it faster as an adult.

It was something I literally had to FORCE myself to do though, regardless.

Esp. when it came to photographing my kids playing.

I would get frustrated when I couldn’t capture the moment because my aperture was set wrong or my exposure was way to dark or to bright. It was so worth forcing myself to stick with it.

While I am far from the “best” photographer out there. I “oohh and ahhh” over many photographer’s to this day. I compare myself often and don’t feel I measure up. I think we are always our worst critic. I however have gained confidence in this business because of amazing clients who value me and encouragement from other photographers.

I am thankful a friend back in 07′ encouraged me to start my business…. a friend who btw was a stranger I met before boarding a plane back when we lived in Ohio :) – who if she is reading knows exactly who she is ;-) – a friend who told me one day “you take really good photos… I think you’d be great at it.” That simple encouragement from her gave me that push to go for it…. and having young kids who I dreaded putting in front of a white backdrop in the mall at the Picture People or Sears Studio… was enough for me.

I love what I do.
… and I especially love encouraging those who read my blog to learn how to take better pictures. Even if they have no intention of ever being a professional (trust me, its not for everyone)… I can however encourage and teach you all to use what you got to its full potential.

So put that camera to “M” (manual) next time and have some fun adjusting all the above settings :)

I promise. You’ll be glad you did.

—- If you enjoyed this post do share it on facebook or pin it. I would love to get my blog out there more… I love meeting new readers, so share away. You all make my blog special and I’m thankful for those who share it.

—- Feel free to check out my photography at – My work is also featured all over – the above title image came from a recent shoot for Boba. I look forward to sharing some of those photos soon ;-)

—- Comment too if you get a sec, letting me know if you like this type of post :) – or fill out this survey. Im trying to gauge what you all enjoy reading and the more I hear from you, the better I can make my blog. Thanks again everyone!

Behind the Scene Boba

Behind the Scene Boba

A few weeks ago right before Christmas I did some more photos for Boba. :) Love working for them and all the amazing moms/dads/babies. Really, a lot of fun. My dear friend Charlene assisted me the two days I shot for Boba. Helping to carry boba carriers, paper work, help with client’s kids, etc… could not have done it without her. She even snagged some behind the scene photos! So I thought for fun, Id share a few snippets she got. You will be able to see my photos taken soon over on the Boba website :) – as well as other photos I have done for them already up.





Can I add it was like 34F out during the 1st day of shooting. It was so cold!! Thankful for fingerless gloves, ugg boots and coats :) – big props to the moms who nursed in this cold for the sake of boba photos hehe. Brave moms.



boba carrierPopping in to say hello and to also say, bye haha, for a week or so. I have family coming into town Monday… so inbetween attempting to make my home some what presentable… (its not always put together, promise). I also took on another job for Boba. Yesterday I braved the cold, as well as all the awesome models and my friend Charlene, to photograph from 11am-5pm. The 1st few sessions by far were the coldest. I think the temp. on my phone said 34F? Brrr. So chilly. My hands were so numb I had trouble buckling the carriers on the models.

To add to the task of a busy week, Reed came down with a bug. We have thankfully avoided most colds floating around right now. Many of my friends kids have had the flu and nasty stomach bugs. We have had zero colds… until Yesterday haha. Of course, on a day I had to be gone ALL day and a day my husband worked, we had a sick kid. Reed had a fairly high fever…. no other symptoms but very cranky. So Travis had to use a sick day… which was fine (He hasn’t used any in like 2 years). Reed seems better today, fever has broke, but he woke up covered in poo. TMI. So gross. He has been extremely fussy and very easily annoyed :) – he also is cutting two year molars right now. Which may explain the bug? who knows.

So between the craziness of work, the boys, some home school (we’ve been slack), cleaning… sickness and my lower back giving me a fit… the realm of blogging is going to take a hit.

All in all though, can I just say how thankful I am for work? It is hard to balance motherhood with work…. and yes it was cold yesterday, but I am thankful for the ability to do what I do. It really is fun and I do enjoy it. Minus the cold :-D

Thankful for my husband SGT being flexible as well and allowing Travis to stay home with his kids. Was a help for sure.



Just a few details around the house within minutes of each other. Im kinda getting in the mood of capturing my kiddos more. I have gotten kinda slack with that…. may start posting more photos of just life, rather than talking so much :)


Lunch clean up… We all ship in to help, usually :)



lil’ vampire teeth Reed watching the cleaning.



Brother’s with stinky lil feet playing ball :)

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and a cute Toby locked out on the back deck waiting for his turn to play.


Weekend Wedding

Weekend Wedding

This weekend was packed full. No time to blog right now but wanted to pop in and say hellooooo :) – here are a few photos from the wedding. Feel free to view the full preview over on my PHOTO BLOG.







For those interested in photo gear stuff:
Photographs were taken with a Canon 5D Mark III
Lenses used at the wedding:

50mm 1.4 Canon Lens
28mm 1.8 Canon Lens
70-200 2.8 L Series Canon Lens

and thats about it! :)

This and That

This and That

It has been a busy week!

Ive had a bit of writers block.
Not sure why… but my mind has been consumed for some reason and any time I sit to write – theres nothing.

So thought id just post a bunch of randomness here today…

First up, check out my cuties doing some Tae Kwon Do recently. They are die hards and do such ah good job. The place we found is so affordable and the Master is very involved with the kids. He also teaches some great life lessons and practical self defense.





Once you get a good collection of oils going you can begin to make your own blends! I'm making up a batch of immune strength essentially :) - may share some with a friend. It's fun to make... And change it up a bit depending on your needs and personal pre New #essentialoils came today!! New coupon on the blog btw :) link in profile.

I ordered up a few more oils this month. I wanted to add some new ones to my collection for the winter months. With weather changing I know the bugs are going to begin to creep out… I have heard so many people on facebook mention stomach flus… sinus infections… and between them and the EBOLA paranoia, I am all for stocking up on some ways to fight the bugs off. (Not saying EO will cure ebola btw, in case anyone assumes that is what I meant.) I added Clove Bud, Cinnamon Bark, Ginger, Red Mandarin. Cedarwood, Eucalyptus citriodora, Love (this is a new fav of mine), Bergamot and Palmarosa. I still want to add a few more to my collection… but bit by bit im gathering quiet a stock up of amazing oils. Cannot speak highly enough on Rocky Mountain Oils! Do check them out if you have not yet… and if you haven’t shopped there yet, use the coupon code “15loveoils” at checkout to save 15% off your ENTIRE order! — ALSO to those curious: My above order was for their 5ml bottles. A lot of people don’t realize you can order a small amt. So if you are like me and on a limited budget. Buy smaller bottles to try more oils and trust me, a little goes a long way! Once you dilute your oils with a carrier oil, these oils will still last you a very long time, even with the 5ml bottle size.

I had a shoot this weekend. With a very loyal client of mine and friend.


I had to photograph for our church today. Two of my boys tagged along for that adventure. Was actually a lot of fun having them with me. They got spoiled by the workers… who gave them donuts, chocolate and water bottles. One lady even made them cute little angels out of a blanket. Was so sweet.








This weekend family will be in town… to help baby sit and visit. Travis and I have an art Gala tomorrow for my friend Lindsey’s art show…. and then Saturday I have to shoot at wedding in the Mtns of Georgia! Cannot wait for that, I love shooting weddings.

So between all of that, I will prob be away til next week some time. We also hope to officially celebrate Reed turning 2 with my parents…

Hope you all have a great weekend :)