In Defense of the 365 Project


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 

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!

UnderwaterB&E (2 of 2)UnderwaterB&E (1 of 2)

UnderwaterB&A (2 of 2)UnderwaterB&A (1 of 2)


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!


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.

MerryGoRound-Spin-Blur (1 of 1)

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

Spin-ContactSheet (1 of 1)

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!

Giselle Scooter (1 of 1)

How to use your garage to make a classic portrait

When it comes to photography gear, I consider myself a minimalist.  I love the idea of having a full studio setup, but I don’t have the storage space or the motivation to pull out tons of equiptment when I want to do a shoot. I actually used a dark grey backdrop (purchased from Amazon) for this shoot, but the same effect can be achieved without it.  That’s why I like using my garage to make a clean and classic portrait.

Have your subject stand just outside the garage (or any doorway, tunnel, etc) and watch how the light is hitting their face and eyes.  Ideally, you want some nice catchlights (the reflection of light) in the eyes and soft light on the face.   Then, you can under expose your image just a little and watch the light behind your subject fall off quickly, creating a dark backdrop.   Finally, in post processing (Lightroom, Photoshop or a mobile editor like Snapseed) bring up the contrast a little until you’re satisfied!

The first image is a pullback of my setup.  As you can see, I only added the backdrop.  The following two images are a couple of the results from this setup.





Garage Portraits (1 of 3)Garage Portraits (2 of 3)Garage Portraits (3 of 3)