In Defense of the 365 Project

Cypress Texas Child and family photographer

 

For years I lived under the pretense that people are either creative or they are not.  And, (although I accepted it) that  never felt “right” to me.  For a longtime I felt like I was pretending to be creative.  I would look at drawing books and try to recreate them.  I would see craft projects and I’d try to put my own spin on it.  I was always looking outside of myself and therefore, thought I was a fraud.  I understood that to be creative you were constantly coming up with new ideas, breaking new barriers and always changing the molds!  But then one day I heard something that stopped me in my tracks.  “Creativity can be learned.”  What’s that now?!  “I’m sorry, could you speak into my good ear?!”  (Ace Ventura)   That’s right folks, creativity isn’t some elusive trait, it is a skill that can be learned!  And just like most skills, if we want to excel at it, we must practice!  If I wanted to be a professional synchronized swimmer, I’d need to practice every day.  If I planned to play professional piccolo… I’d need to learn what that was.  So, if I wanted to be any good at photography, I was going to have to buckle down and start learning, practicing, and shooting!  Enter the 365 project.  It’s pretty self explanatory, in that you shoot every day for 365 days.

So here are 4 reasons to get started on a 365 today!  (That’s right, you don’t have to wait until the beginning of the year.)

  1.  You will become one with your camera.  When you’re shooting every day, you will be more familiar with your cameras manual settings.  The more you use them, the more second nature they become.  If you are trying to learn to use your camera in manual mode, but you only pick it up when you go to an event or on vacation, you will, no doubt, revert to Auto mode and there is no growth in Auto mode!   So make that camera an extension of your hand every day!Cypress Texas Family photographer
  2. A 365 Forces you to think creatively.  Believe me, there will be times when you are bored and uninspired.  It’s raining or it’s cold.  Life is busy or the kids won’t cooperate.  There can be a hundred reasons not to pick up the camera, and that’s when you have to force it.  Look at inspiration from other photographers, painters, or from movies!  Try a new technique (Free-lensing? Brenizer method?  Double exposure?  Light Painting?)Cypress Texas Family Photographer
  3. You’ll have a collection of “mundane” moments.  This might sound like it should belong in the ‘cons’ section, but hear me out.  Normally, we pick up the camera when we’re on vacation, at a special event or a fun outing, but lots of our life happens between those moments.  When I look back at my year in photos I see when my daughters liked to play with barbies, when they would play under the cart in the grocery store, or how often we loved going to story time at the library.  These moments might not have been documented if I didn’t keep my camera handy at all times (yes, I do carry my big camera with me to the store!)Cypress Texas Family PhotographerCypress Texas Best Family Photographer
  4. Visible proof of your growth as an Artist.  I love looking back at all my images, but I really love seeing my own growth!  At the beginning of my first 365 I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing.  I knew how to shoot in manual, so I just needed some fine tuning, right?  Maybe.  But once I got shooting regularly, I started to really understand more than just my camera.  I started to see light in a new way. Composition and lines became more of a focus for me.  And at the moment, I’m trying to understand more about color theory.Cypress Texas best family and child photographerCypress Texas best family and child photographer

 

One thing to consider along with starting a 365 is accountability.  When we begin an exercise routine or a healthy living plan, we gather support and accountability from those around us, and this is no different.  For me, that looked like announcing on my social media that I was beginning my 365 and every day I would number my images (i.e. 1 of 365).  I was surprised at how often people I met would tell me that they looked forward to my daily images!  If you are looking for groups to help, there are plenty on Instagram and Facebook.  Some accounts or groups will support you by offering daily, weekly themes or monthly themes for you to join in and share to. For example,  look at these hubs on Instagram  here or here .  But however you decide to do it, just DO it!  You won’t regret it!

Aaand… if you have already started a 365 but need motivation to keep it going check out Kara Chappell’s helpful tips here:   Family Photography on Whidbey Island 

What Should I Wear to my Photoshoot?

 

Best Family photography Cypress TexasMartin Family (12 of 34)WernerEngagement (31 of 37)

 

 

Besides asking about pricing and whether or not I’ll edit out their double chin,  this is the most common question families ask about their upcoming photo shoots.  And it’s a very valid question too because these photos will (hopefully) be appreciated for a lifetime!   So, here is a little list of tips on how to dress for your photoshoot.

First, think about comfort!

This is especially true if you have little ones.  They will be much more cooperative if their comfortable.  I shoot a lot of outdoor portraits, so you can think of things like, the weather, (think sweaty pit stains)  sitting on the ground, (grass stains) playing with your kids (something you can move in) and what your surroundings look like.   That leads me to the next tip…

Next, Color!  

If you are outside in a mostly green space, you’ll want to wear something that stands out and makes sense.   For example, green is probably not the most ideal color, as you would blend in to the surroundings.  I would stay away from black also, as it can be too formal.   Think about what looks good on you and colors that are complimentary to your surroundings.   On the color wheel, colors that are across from each other are complimentary.  So, if your surroundings are very green, then you could consider reds, oranges, pinks, etc.   But that is not a rule, just a suggestion!

 

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Try to avoid too many patterns!

If everyone in your group shot is wearing a different pattern, it could be very distracting to the overall image.  So, as a general rule, try to minimize patterns.   This also goes for words, or characters on clothing.   They too can take away from the image (and cause it to be very dated!) because your eye goes directly to them.

 

Lastly, think Coordinate, not Match!

It is best to choose a color scheme for your family and try to work with that.  Pinterest has a plethora of great color schemes for you to look at and get inspiration from!  Gone are the days of everyone wearing the same white shirt and blue jeans.  Mix it up, have fun, and you’ll love the results!

 

As a final note, enjoy your photoshoot!  The more comfortable you are, the better your photos will be!  So, don’t stress about looking too perfect, just soak in the time with your loved ones and make some beautiful memories!

If you have any ideas that I may have overlooked, please let me know in the comments! 🙂

Working with underwater photos in Lightroom

Now that summer is here, we are spending a lot of time in the pool or in some kind of water.   The kids can spend hours swimming, but frankly, I get a little bored after about 20 minutes.   So, I decided to purchase an underwater housing bag for my DSLR to keep myself entertained.  I wasn’t ready to invest in legit housing so I opted for the Zonman DSLR Waterproof Pouch on Amazon.  It was a little complicated to work with, but it got the job done!  I was able to take lots of pictures of my kids in the pool and even swimming in the ocean, all while keeping my camera safe and dry.   This takes lots of shooting, so be prepared for a bunch of crazy throw away images and a few decent ones!

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Now comes the issue of editing underwater images.  When you photograph underwater everything tends to be very blue/green and a little hazy (depending on where you’re shooting)  There are lots of great options and methods of how to fix underwater images in Photoshop and in Lightroom, but I’m going to share how I edited these simply and  completely in Lightroom.

Here are a couple of before and afters.   You can see that the skin tones on the “before” are off and overall they need work!

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Below is a screen shot of the Lightroom Settings that I used.  First, I began by using the Color Temperature eye dropper tool on a neutral part of the image (both times I used parts of their clothes) to get a more accurate white balance reading, then I adjusted it based on my liking.  As you can see from the panel on the left, I worked a lot with the Color (HSL) Panel to correct the colors of the skin and the water.  Something that you cannot see from the panel is that I used the local adjustments brush on the “Color” setting and I painted a bit on the skin to add more orange and warmth.  Underwater images usually need more contrast to make the subjects pop and I always add extra clarity.  Any other adjustments beyond that are purely aesthetic. I removed the extra set of feet on the first and adjusted the crop, etc.

 

I am by no means and master of underwater editing, but I enjoy learning new tips and I thought I’d share the methods that I have learned.   I hope you enjoy and I’d love to see some of your underwater images as well!

 

Vintage Picnic Themed Photoshoot

Texas has had a beautiful bluebonnet season this year and I wanted to celebrate that with a fun theme!   We thought it would be fun to try a different take on the usual “this is me with bluebonnets” theme.  The vintage theme was only enhanced by the bold contrast of yellows and reds to the blue flowers.  This is why I love Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

Texas bluebonnets and Photoshop

 

Spring is absolutely my favorite time of the year in Texas.  The temperature is nice, everything is in bloom, and I don’t suffer from a pollen allergy.  (sorry for my friends who do!) But the highlight of this time of year is all the wildflowers most notably, the bluebonnets!  We took a trip to Brenham about a week ago and had a little fun photographing the kids playing and attempting to get a family photo (fail, but that’s another story)

One picture, in particular, that I liked was this one. This is straight out of camera (SOOC)  I loved the way the wind was blowing her hair, the contrast of her white dress and, of course, the bluebonnets.  But I felt that this image could use a little “oomph!”  Enter Photoshop.  So, I’ll break down the steps I took in transforming this image. Eve-Bluebonnets-Balloons-Edit (2 of 2)

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The first thing I did was to do some basic edits in Lightroom.  I raised the shadows and the exposure just slightly, increased the contrast and reduced the highlights.  Then I added vibrance  and reduced the blacks.   At this point, I moved the image over to Photoshop.  Once in PS, I decided that I wanted her to be trying to catch something more interesting than her little toy dog, so I Googled “balloons png” and I found a few free images to use and settled on what you see.  Then, I added a new sky from my collection (I sometimes photograph pretty skies just for this purpose)  So, I dropped the sky in over my image and put a layer mask on it. I used the graduated filter to make it darker at the top and lighter towards the horizon (as skies are not generally the same intensity throughout)   Then I used my paintbrush to brush the sky off of my subject.  Next, I added the balloons.  At first the balloons were too different from the overall image and it wasn’t looking natural.  So I went to Image, Adjustments, Match Color then selected the sky as my source and the layer as my balloons.  I adjusted the Luminance, Color intensity and fade until I felt that the balloons were blending into the overall image a bit better.  Now, the issue of her dress.  It was too flat and still but I wanted it to help express the movement of the wind that day.  So, I opened another image of her dress blowing (see below) and I cut off the part that I wanted to use and added it to my final image.

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The final changes I made were to fill in the empty spaces with a few more bluebonnets.  I used the clone tool and took from areas within the same focal range and blended them into the empty spots in the field.  Then, I used the Liquify tool to make her hair a little more dramatic, Finally, I took the light poles and other small, distracting elements out of the image and Viola!  The final product!  It may seem like a lot of steps, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process and that, to me, is all part of the fun!  I hope this helps and that you get a chance to see the bluebonnets for yourself while they’re still here!

2 Ways to Add Motion Blur to your images

I really love the idea of showing movement in a still image! Sure, a frozen shot of my daughter on the merry go round  or a bike would have been fine, but I really wanted to show how fast she was spinning and how dizzy we (both) were getting!  (*Warning*, looking through the viewfinder at my subject while spinning on a merry go round got me a special kind of dizzy!)

So, in order to get this kind of image you need to adjust your camera settings in manual mode.

My settings were:

Shutter Speed 1/20 sec.  This is a SLOW speed that leaves your shutter open in order to get that blur.  So you have to be very steady and encourage your subject to try to be as still as possible.   It also lets in lots of light, so you’ll need to close your aperture (or F Stop) down to compensate.  Mine was set to F7.1   And, because this was taken during the day I was at ISO 100.

In this case, I was sitting on the opposite side of the merry go round as her.  At other times I’ll use these settings and just “follow” my subject (also called “Panning”) to keep them in focus and blur the background.

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As you can see from all of the images below, it may take a few tries to get it right.

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The second way to add motion blur is by panning.  The image below is an example of this.  This method is achieved my standing very stable and “following” your subject with the camera.  My settings were similar F5.6, SS 1/20.  I tried 1/15 but I couldn’t get a sharp subject and at 1/25 my background didn’t blur enough.  So I found 1/20 to be the sweet spot.  But try adjusting the SS to your liking and see how it effects the results.

I’d love to know if you have tried it and to see what your results were!

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