Posted on

Beginner Photography: Night

Oh man, I probably should have tried to do something more technically interesting, like astro photography. But I’m lazy! And I don’t like to go out at night! So I stayed in my regular wheelhouse (and literal house) and tried some spooky selfies in the back yard.

Here’s a page of great info on night photography:

And you can see my first attempt at night photography here.

So I set up my camera on a tripod and used the app OI.Share for Olympus to remotely control my camera from my phone. I wanted to be holding a light source, so I took a wrought iron owl candle holder. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a candle to stay lit in it, so I borrowed my husband’s phone and used a flashlight app. It was brighter than I wanted, but seemingly still not bright enough to keep my shutter speed up! I shot in shutter priority and got the shutter as fast as I could to capture the image but not so slow that I was moving much. It was not easy.

One thing I didn’t anticipate was how odd the color would be. I had a light on in the yard which was yellow, and the light from the phone was more blue. It wound up doing some strange things to my skin color, but I think it may have added to the weirdness. Also, it’s almost impossible to focus the camera at night. I couldn’t see my face in the monitor, and therefore had to essentially guess where to focus the shot. Anyone have tips on how to work around that? 


f/3.5, 0.6 sec, ISO 1600


f/3.5, 0.6 sec, ISO 1600


f/3.5, 0.6 sec, ISO 1600


f/5, 4 sec, ISO 1600


So, the ISO is high, the shots are crazy noisy, and my face is for sure not in focus. The last one was intentionally that way, and it wound up being the one I like the most. I think I should have gone more surrealist with it. 

Are any of these successful despite their technical shortfalls? I don’t think I can objectively judge my shots anymore. 


Posted on

Live Show Recap: Self-Portraits

Self portraits! We love seeing your faces. Next week’s subject is night photography. If you want to vote on our live theme each week, donate to our Patreon! You get to see videos early, vote on our live show topics, and more.

First up, photo news:

  • don’t be a thief, you turkey. Especially from an incredibly famous photographer. Souvid Datta, you’re on blast.
  • B&H is still being shady as hell, they settled their latest lawsuit and moved their warehouse

Let’s look at some of your photos:

Over to me for your questions:

  • Bev Miller is the VIP of the night
  • as people are getting used to smart phone focal length, should you use it for wedding photography or avoid it? It’s not that flattering for portraits and the style won’t be timeless. Avoid the common.
  • Chelsea is the selfie master of the two
  • any tips to avoid distortion from the atmosphere when shooting over long distances? Dehaze. Shorter exposures and timing.
  • best way to take self portraits? Use a stand in to focus, use a timer or remote trigger with the intervelometer. Use the wi-fi app for your camera and use the remote app on your phone!  And use a higher f-stop.

Time for a portfolio. The Light Majestic, Natasha Haggard. Stunning landscapes, great light and color. Add a photo of yourself to your about me page! You have a few duplicates you could take out, but otherwise you are killing it.

Time for chit-chat, where you say things and we judge you:

  • Tony was genetically engineered to be a medical ad
  • this photo always shows up in ads for boner pills
  • staged fake lighting, shills
  • fafin’ about
  • but we’re also Sony bashers
  • sorry, our stream died for a few minutes while Chelsea ranted about ISO
  • the cure for G.A.S. is F.A.R.T

Back to photos:

And that’s our show! Join us next week for night photography.

Posted on

Beginner Photography: Self-Portraits

Man, what is more intimidating that taking self-portraits? I love a good selfie, but it really is a delicate balance between narcissism and self-esteem crushing reality. You want to look good, but you also don’t want to look like you know you look good, but then you have to look at a million pictures of yourself vamping and think “I look like an idiot and also I have terrible skin.” Or is that just me?

T&C have a bunch of free portrait tutorials here that are super helpful. Especially this one on using natural light:

Being aware of your light source is probably the most important part of self-portraits. Face the light, understand how it casts shadows.

Anyway, here’s what I did. Put on basic makeup and a black dress, the simpler styling the better. I decided to take my shots in my bedroom as it has good natural light and simple decor. I tried a few different spots in the room and so many different moods. 

I set my Olympus E-M10 up on a tripod and used Olympus’ mobile app to control it from my phone, which is so incredibly useful. I shot in aperture priority with the lowest aperture to blur the background, but that made it pretty hard to nail focus on my eye. I also set my ISO to the lowest I could because my shots always end up noisy, but that wound up making my shutter speeds pretty slow which I didn’t realize until looking at them now. I really need to pay more attention to my settings.

f/4.2, 1/3 sec, ISO 100


f/3.5, 1/6th, ISO 100


Who would I be if I didn’t go spooky?

f/3.5, 1/6th, ISO 100


f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 100

Real talk: I did quite a bit of post-processing on these. My makeup was a mess and my skin was looking rough, so I did quite a bit of smoothing, you can probably tell. This page of Lightroom tutorials is integral. 

So I don’t know how “creative” these self-portraits are, but they’re mostly non-traditional. I think the last one with the backlighting is my favorite. Whattya think?

Posted on

Beginner Photography: Color

Color! The possibilities for this topic are endless. I had grand ideas of what I wanted to do, but limited resources. I had visions of bold lipstick, bold nails and a white background. Unfortunately I don’t have a studio to work with and I was my own model, so that limited my ideas a bit. But I was reminded of a shot I took for my food project of a clementine on a teal plate. 

I decided to work with the same color palette and more fruit. I painted my nails teal and found the most aesthetically pleasing clementine and lemon in our fruit bowl and took them into my back yard for the natural light. Harsh light is good for fruit because you want the specular highlights, not the flat light that you may want for portraits.

I shot in aperture priority with a low aperture to blur the background as well as I could, and took a bunch of shots of my hand holding the fruit. Some in front of the wood decking and some in front of the ivy. 

f/3.6, 1/3200th, ISO 200


f/3.6, 1/3200th, ISO 200


Next I wanted to shoot my lips in a bright color with the green background and teal nails. This was a bit more challenging, but I finally downloaded the Olympus app for my phone so that I could control my camera from in front of it. Compared to Canon and Nikon’s apps, this one is great. I was able to focus and shoot myself from my phone while my camera was on the tripod in front of me.

f/4.5, 1/800th, ISO 200


f/4.5, 1/640th, ISO 200


f/4.5, 1/800th, ISO 200


For all of these images I tweaked the colors so that they were more saturated and complementary to each other. I edit my skin a ton because it looked terrible, and lightened it a bit so the colors would pop more.

Chelsea has a great tutorial on changing colors in Photoshop here that might help you out, although I did all my edits in Lightroom:

Do these work for you to convey color? I think the fruit shots do for sure, but I’m not sure about the self portraits. This was a really fun project for me, and I’m feeling more inspired than I have in a while. 

Posted on

Beginner Photography: Fashion

I am SO NERVOUS about this post. This week’s topic was fashion, and I’m sorry to say, but it’s just not something you can shoot and be successful at without proper resources. But it was certainly good practice, and I would love to attempt it again.

In this case I was lacking: 

  • a studio
  • clothing worth modeling
  • lights
  • a model

But I had one day that it didn’t rain, an urban setting, my dumb face, and some old coats! If you want some great tips on shooting portraits, there’s a whole page of videos here, starting with this one on outdoor lighting:

And this great video on shooting fashion and glamour (watch Chelsea’s outtakes at the end!)

So here’s what I did:

  • set up my camera on a tripod, a bit below my eye level and as far away from the background as I could
  • I chose a rolling metal garage door as my backdrop, I wanted something gritty to match my styling
  • I chose two coats to model, as it was cold out. I wore jeans, a crop top and heeled boots, items which were neutral and wouldn’t overwhelm the item I was focusing on. I wore a hat because I was having a bad hair day, and red lipstick for some pop.
  • The day I shot was overcast, so the lighting was pretty even, but it was a bit dark. I shot in aperture priority with my aperture as wide as it would go, in this case f/4.4. This means the camera was choosing the shutter speed, which wound up being 1/200th to 1/250th, which is was faster than it needed to be. My ISO was at 200, but these pictures still wound up noisy.
  • I set my camera on a 5 second delay, shooting 5 images with 5 seconds in between so I had time to pose and change positions between each shot.
  • I chose a focusing point where I though my head would be, and then just crossed my fingers for facial recognition to take over. I don’t think it worked. This is where it would have helped to have a model, or at least a stand in for myself to focus.

I think I achieved the look I was going for, but my focusing is for sure off. This shoot made me want to start working on my Photoshop skills, because I would have loved to edit my skin, change the color of my hat, and maybe blur the background a bit. (All things I can learn from our Photoshop book!)

Without those skills, though, I simply used Lightroom to adjust the exposure, straighten, and crop the photos.


I could’ve used some fill flash for my face here


 Ahhh I just noticed the shoulder piece is not through the loop on the right side. Styling, people!


Hands up


So that’s what I got. I tried some more shots with a different background, against the green ivy on our back wall, but it didn’t work quite as well. I sure wish I’d noticed that shoulder bit before I posted these. 

So how’d I do? What could I have done better? This felt very much like a test shoot, so I’d love to find ways to improve on it. 

I think I’ll use this tutorial of Chelsea’s to tool around with the editing this week:


Posted on

Beginner Photography: Portraits

I feel like my photography is one step forward, two steps back. Once I feel the slightest bit confident, I have a shoot that I just cannot get right. This is one of those weeks. I’m starting to feel limited by my resources. I would have killed for an external flash for this week’s project. My Olympus does not seem to do well in low light, even though I didn’t feel like my setting was particularly dim!

So this week the subject is portraits, which we did a few months back (you can see my blog post on it here.) It is discouraging to see that my shots then were better than what I came up with this week, but the setting was certainly more conducive to shooting portraits.

So, since I took individual portraits last time, this week I decided to try and take some family shots of my husband Eric, my daughter Eloise and me. Here’s a super helpful video that Tony made on shooting groups:

Here are some tips from that video, some I followed, and some I didn’t:

  • Neutral clothing. You don’t want distracting logos or bright colors busying up the shot.
  • Clean background. If you don’t have a home studio, pick a clean background and get as much distance as you can between your subjects and the background so that you can get some background blur.
  • Use soft light. It’s very difficult to light everyone evenly, so if you can use a bounce flash or a softbox, do.
  • Shoot from the waist up. The face is the most important subject, you don’t need the whole body.
  • Camera Settings. Use a moderately fast shutter speed to freeze any movement, somewhere between 1/60th and 1/125th, depending on if children are involved. You’ll need a high f/stop as well to get multiple people in focus. Somewhere between f/8 up to f/16 depending on how many people you are shooting. Your ISO is going to have to go up accordingly.

So I wound up breaking a lot of these rules, and my shot suffered as a result. I don’t have a home studio, it was far too cold to shoot outside, so I though I’d try getting an environmental shoot of our family near the Christmas tree. That meant we were using indoor lighting, a mix of the tree lights, a regular lamp, and the small bit of outdoor light we had coming through. That made a pretty inhospitable environment. Here’s what I came up with:

 You can tell just by looking at it that my f/stop and shutter speed are too low (0.6 seconds? f/4.5?) I also didn’t realize I had my ISO set to 200 for the whole time. I’m not sure what’s in focus, but it’s not our faces.

And that was the best of those.


This is essentially a snapshot. Eloise wanted to pose with the cat, who is facing the opposite direction. 


So that night was a flop. The next night I thought I’d try shooting in another room that had slightly better light. But you’ll see the shadows cast by overhead lighting.

This actually came out a bit better. My ISO was jacked up this time, so it’s a bit noisy, but seem to have gotten more in focus.


My husband in the chair where he draws.


So these photos are fine. My mom will be glad to have them. But they are not good. Did I mention how hard it is to shoot a photo with yourself in it? Because oh man, what a focusing nightmare. 

Here’s a whole page of videos on how to shoot portraits. Seems I need to revisit them myself!

And just for fun, here’s an in-between shot, once our dog Hungry busted into the room:

Look at that guilty dog face.

Posted on

Self-Portraits: How a Selfie Can Improve Your Portraits


It’s always frustrating when you have an idea but either don’t have a handy subject, are too shy to ask, or are just really impatient and want to try it ASAP! This is why self-portraiture is such a great option. Another good reason would be If you are interested in trying a few new techniques but aren’t confident with how it may turn out.

Continue reading Self-Portraits: How a Selfie Can Improve Your Portraits