My Photography FAQs

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Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails and comments lately from people asking what kind of camera I have, what lens I use, and what editing software I like so I thought I’d break it down and share my “secrets.”

#1. Get a cute baby. Don’t have one? Steal one. It’s easy! This one below actually came from me, but any baby or dog, or subject will do.

#2. Turn off the flash! I used to love the flash. Now I hate it. Unless you have an expensive flash for your camera, don’t use it. Pictures are much prettier without it, I promise!

#3. Use sunlight, but not too much. Sit in the shade if you’re photographing outside, overcast days are best!

#4. Buy photoshop. This isn’t a requirement, but it really helped my photos.

#5. Hunt for photoshop actions. Photoshop was useless to me before I discovered premade actions for it, but that could be cause I’m an idiot… Dunno.

So, I’m not a professional photographer by any means, and I just enjoy taking photos of my daughter, but all of my holiday money has gone to editing stuff lately and I must say they’ve improved my photos a lot!

I like taking pictures and I always try to use natural light when possible. But sometimes there just isn’t light available, so I have to get creative, or tweak things in afterward. I’m also more of a computer person anyway, and don’t know much about changing the settings on my camera (yet) so I enjoy sprucing up a photo in after effects.

My friend Danielle has been my personal shopper when it comes to camera stuff. She buys it and tries it, and I copy her and get the same thing. We’re both learning photographers (though she’s learning faster and actually good, and I’m just a fanatic mom obsessed with photographing my daughter).

What do I have? I use a Canon Rebel XSi, which I got for Christmas/Birthday/ My Anniversary two years ago. Then as my push present I got a 50mm portrait lens, which made my pictures 100Xs better (though you can’t be super close when you take the photo). I also take about 60% of my photos of her on my iPhone, which my new one actually takes pretty good pictures! I use FX PhotoStudio, and ArtStuido apps to edit some of my 365 love letters photos.

The next lens I’m thinking of getting (or I should say renting first) is the 85mm.
Recently, my friend told me about Paint the Moon Photography, and photoshop actions and when I saw what actions are I was like “What the–Holy heck, are you serious?!”

I had photoshop for years. I went in on CS3 with my sister in law and recently upgraded to CS4 when my computer freaked out. But I haven’t known how to use it. I mean sure, I can add text to a photo, and rotate it, but that was about it. My expensive program was collecting dust.

With actions you basically press the “play” button and watch the magic happen. Then tweak the photos to your liking when it’s done. (But again, remember I’m not professional, just taking these pictures to save and share with my family, so take that into account when you consider my use of the words “easy” and “awesome”).

I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing before going crazy and buying all of the action sets so I just bought the essentials for $35 to try it out. Here’s some of the differences I noticed.

Then for Christmas I went crazy and bought more… The Picture Perfect Mega set, Coffee House, Miracle Makeover, and Texture Collection Two. It was a lot of money, but it was a Christmas gift for Heaven’s sake!

I’ve even been able to fix up a lot of the photos I’ve taken on my iPhone. (These are some of the ones I’ve been sharing on her facebook page, so don’t mind all of my extra text and descriptions on them.)

My next buys may be the Coffee House Bonus set, and probably Wonderland or Fresh.

People have also been telling me you can find free actions some places, so I’ve been on the hunt for those too, (and if you know of any, let me know!)

If you haven’t a clue what you’re doing you can check out her video tutorials on her blog, they’re helpful.

So this mama (Annie–the owner who created these actions) has helped me discover a new hobby of mine and I’m having so much fun with it! I even snapped a few pictures for my friend who’s having a baby in a few weeks so I could try it out on a new subject, and I’ve been excited about the results. I think I have enough jobs already and will leave the photography business to Tara, but this was fun!

And really, I’m not trying to sound like that OxiClean guy (RIP) in this post, I’m just loving these, and thinking another mama who likes to photograph her child can find some of the same joy I do in making them even prettier.

Everyone who comments on this post before January 31st will be entered to win a $35 gift card for Paint the Moon actions (enough for a set or two). You can get an extra entry if you “like” Paint the Moon’s Facebook Page, be nice and thank her for this giveaway while you’re there! If you’re a blog follower of mine you can get an extra entry too. I’ll announce the winner on my facebook page.

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  1. Yes I have heard great things about paint the moon. I use Lightroom mostly though but there are tons of awesome presets for that too. Yes the post editing takes it to the next step but you had to get a cute picture in the first place, so give yourself credit,

  2. Girl, you are professional compared to me! They look great!

    I have photoshop also, but never knew about these actions, cool beans I would love to win this.

  3. Thank you SOOO MUCH! I Love your photos and am always wondering how the heck you make them look so beautiful! I’m so excited to start trying out your tips!

  4. That is awesome! I really want to make pictures that I have taken look better. And I have been really jealous of all the beautiful pictures you have of your daughter! I had no idea about any of this so thank you for sharing!!

  5. Great advice!

    I’m a pro and starting to put together a workshop for mamas because I’ve met so many who are wanting to get better pics of their kids.

    Playdates with my almost two year old son often turn into impromptu lessons! LOL.

    Hadn’t heard of Paint the Moon but they seem cool and I’m loving their actions as you’ve used them. Love the images of your little, she’s beautiful but I think you’ve got a good eye as well.

    Just liked PTM and of course, I’m also a follower of your blog!

  6. You might not be a professional photographer but your skills are getting there!! It’s nice to have a hobby that can potentially turn into a cash flow on the side for a rainy day.

  7. We are saving for a DSLR before the baby comes in May. Right now I’m looking at the t1i or t2i from Canon. I’m such a newbie. I would love to learn how to use photoshop and make my photos better.

  8. It is not often you will meet a mom, who is so good in photography and actually has time to share her experience. Had a pleasure reading your post this morning and happy that you are using FX Photo Studio for iPhone. I happen to be one of the developers and such posts really inspire us to make the app better and better. Hope to see your shots, created with FX Photo Studio sometime:)

  9. I concur wholeheartedly that natural light is the best! But sometimes a flash is required. One thing that has helped me has been the Gary Fong puffer pop-up flash diffuser. (Not trying to promote products here!) It doesn’t ae your camera’s pop-up flash work as great as a professional flash, but it does help lessen that deer-in-the-headlights look.

  10. Thanks so much for this post! I received a Nikon D5000 DSLR for my birthday last your and its taking some time to learn but even after mastering the camera, there’s always room for awesome editing and I would have never discovered paint the moon if it weren’t for your blog. Also thanks for sharing your pics of lil J. I’m really enjoying the 365 love letters!

  11. I didn’t realize we had the same dslr. I loooove mine. I have the kit lens and a zoom lens. I want to either get the 50mm lens or a 35mm lens next. I’m kinda leaning towards the 35mm because you can take more upclose photos.

    I use Photoshop actions all the time, but I only have free ones. I almost excusively use a combination of Pioneer Woman’s actions on my photos.

  12. I hope I didn’t post my last comment 3 times…if I did, please delete the extra ones. Something funky happened. Anyway, I’m following your blog!

  13. I am so excited about this post. It has reignited my love of photography (I had given up on ever being able to take decent photos and avoided my camera like the plague!). I also have not figured out all of the ins and outs of my camera, but hope to over the next several months.

    Oh, and I am now officially following your blog, instead of silently ‘stalking’ it! LOL 🙂

  14. Not posting to enter the contest (although I believe the deadline has passed anyway), but only to say thank you for posting this link!

    I had no idea that Photoshop shortcuts like this even existed! I’m planning to upgrade my camera in the next year or so, but to make sure it isn’t a way of a LOT of money, I’ve been learning all I can about how my current camera works. My next plan was to start relearning photoshop (haven’t had to use since I graduated college a few years back, and I’m definitely rusty), but with these Photoshop actions, I might not need to! 😀

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