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

Beginner Photography: Abandoned

Hey folks! We’re back! The theme for the show this week is “abandoned” which is a pretty interesting subject. I love these more abstract topics and seeing the creativity they inspire.

If you want to vote on the live show topic each week, among other perks, please consider donating to our Patreon page at

I knew exactly where I wanted to shoot this week. Philadelphia has no shortage of abandoned buildings, but there’s one in particular that I love and is near my neighborhood. What I wasn’t sure of at first was what I wanted my subject to be. But if you’ve been following my photography journey so far, you’d know that my most successful projects have been creepy and featured my daughter, Eloise. So my idea was to place her in the midst of these ruins, and I’d already made her up to look like a ghost child before, so this time I went with more of an ominous, shrouded figure.

I dressed her in a black lace dress of mine and fastened it at the back, then used a sheer black shirt of mine over her face as a shroud. My husband chauffeured us there and we sprayed our legs with bug spray before venturing into the overgrown space (I grew up in Connecticut, my tick fear is justified.)

I used my borrowed Olympus E-M10 with a Lumix 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 as always. I had my camera on aperture priority at a low f/stop and everything else on auto. I placed Eloise throughout the space in doorways and on a staircase. I wanted her to just be a small part of the space, not necessarily a prominent focal point. 

I converted all the shots to black and white in post. The greenery and the graffiti were too distracting and took away from the eerie quality I wanted in the shots. I adjusted the exposure on them all for the white and black points:

And then used a radial filter to lighten up Eloise in some of the shots where she was a bit lost in the frame. It also gave her a bit of a glow around her. I also added some post-crop vignetting to make the shots look darker even though we were shooting in the daytime. Here’s what I came up with:

f/4, 1/250th, ISO 200


f/4, 1/200th, ISO 200


f/4, 1/250th, ISO 200


f/4, 1/200th, ISO 200


f/3.5, 1/320th, ISO 200


I really enjoyed this shoot. I wish I’d directed Eloise to do some more with her body language, it wasn’t until the end of the shoot that she pointed at something and I realized how good of a creepy pose that was. I’d love to shoot in this space again at the golden hour or the blue hour, but I didn’t want Eloise to have to be out there that late.

How’d I do? What would you have done differently? I can’t wait to see your shots this week.

Posted on

Beginner Photography: Best of 2016

Happy holidays! This post is going to be a look back on my photography journey so far this year, as we’ll be reviewing your best of 2016 photos for the live show this week. 

So, this might not be much of a dramatic transformation as I only started this series 4 months ago, but I can certainly say I’ve tackled new projects and stretched myself. I mean, I was second shooter on a wedding! That’s crazy. I found out which genres I’m not great at (landscapes, still life) and some that I was surprisingly good at (spooky, wedding, street). I started shooting with a borrowed Olympus E-M10 with a Lumix 14-42mm lens, which felt like a revelation after using my Samsung smart phone for so long, but now I am feeling limited by my gear again.

I found that I need to work on mastering my camera settings. I still rely on automatic mode a bit too much, I don’t nail focus as often as I’d like. I’m better at finding my shots rather than creating them, I could use to plan more.

So I’m going to post my favorite images from these past few months below, in chronological order:


This shot was taken with my phone, so the settings were out of my control. But the sun was high, so the shutter speed was fast and the ISO was low. I love the mood, the action, and the colors. I feel I successfully captured the joy of children in summer. 



Another phone shot! I could not have planned something like this. Just a beautiful moment I happened upon in the Muir Woods. The light filtering through the trees, the backlighting of that lone stump.


I loved this bright turquoise wall, and I only had to sit for a few minutes to catch someone walking by it. I shot at 1/400th of a second at f/8 and ISO 200.



This is one of my most successful shoots to date, and one that I actually planned out instead of winging. I dressed up my daughter in a vintage dress and applied some makeup to appear dead. I shot behind an old school and an abandoned church at sundown for the mood. The leading lines bring you to her and then off into the darkness. 1/60th, f/4, ISO 800.



This shot is one of my favorites, and it may only be because I know the people in it. I cut off feet, but I love the mixed eye contact, the anxious energy and mood. I was second shooter for a friend who lent me her Canon 5D Mark III and 24-70 f/2.8. It was shot at 1/1000th, f/2.8, and ISO 1250 which is insane. I could have certainly shot at a lower ISO and shutter speed.



Another example of the right gear making the shot. I was shooting with the D500 and a 200-500 f/5.6. This was shot at 1/800th, f/5.6 and ISO 100.



My first attempt at night photography was my most successful. Shot with the Olympus at a 6 second exposure, f/5 and ISO 200.


So those are my favorite shots I took this year. I got to play with cameras I will never own and shoot with really talented photographers. I got to do some travelling and force my family into modeling. I got to practice making art in a way I haven’t in years. I am really enjoying this, and I hope you are having fun watching me try and fail and try and sometimes succeed. You can see all my past posts here.

What do you think I could use to work on this year? What would you like to see me try? What have you learned shooting this year?

Posted on

Live Show Recap: Spooky Shots


OoOooh, we reviewed your Spoooky photos this week and it was a blast. We’re so glad to be back at our regular drinking time.


*Attention!* Next week the time may be an hour off for you, as we have daylight savings time this weekend. So make sure to check for the countdown next week. That show will be on “candid family” photos, street photography tips apply.


Shout out for my photo blog! I had a great spooky model this week and got a few killer shots.


Chit-Chat! Our favorite segment where you say dumb stuff and we respond:

  • “Have fun on snapchat and instagram you wrong-headed buffoon”

  • Responses to Chelsea’s boudoir video were… mixed

  • An Arnold Schwarzenegger!

  • Mona Lisa was shot on a film camera

  • Chelsea has a sharpened toothbrush


Kyle Wolfe! Our friend won an award in the USA Landscape Photographer of the Year contest for the youth category. He’s the best. But haters gonna hate.

And on that note: ignore the haters, y’all. They are a loud, cowardly minority.


Ok, let’s look at your photos:

  • Tragic teddy bear death

  • Ghost pumpkins

  • Mask

  • “This zombie has great bone structure”

  • “This guy is really committed to his Halloween costume.” “No, that’s his life, Tony.”

  • “You have tar in you?”

  • Jack Skellington

  • “It’s like the prostate exam from hell”

  • Blair Witch

  • “Beat it, dementor, I’m having a latte”



  • Adobe Photoshop update: finally a search bar

  • OM-D, more like OMG, it’s $2,000”

  • Nigel Barker’s show premiered, you can see it at

  • New FAA guidelines on travelling with batteries


Over to me for some viewer questions:

  • What would be your one vice if you could only choose one? Miami (vice). Alcohol, candy, sugar. Meth?

  • Any plans for the super, super moon on November 14th? Yes.

  • How long does it take you to become comfortable enough with a new camera to take it on a (paid, presumably) shoot? Depends on the shoot.

  • Favorite 4k camera? We use the A7Rii and the GH4.


Let’s look at some portfolios! Brittney Watson up first. Change your landing page, the Disney shots are nice, but not marketable. Your portraits are lovely! You could market yourself easily, so add a pricing page and more hiring info.


Next up, Martin Kynde. Delete the “Portfolio” header, just use your two sub-menus. Gorgeous landscapes. Bulk up your portrait page, separate any shots of repeated models. Great work!


Ok, back to your photos:

  • Condom head?

  • They had a fog plan

  • Not spooky owl

  • Black eyes, black water

  • Illuminati spot-colored cat

  • “It’s got a little crucifix. I bet this is called the Jesus spider. Oh, it’s a garden spider. I was spookily wrong.”

  • Headlights

  • “This breed is prone to hip dysplasia, that’s spooky”

  • Not today, zombie

  • “Old man in the sea, it’s a different kind of book.”

  • “This is like when I order chinese and I’m waiting

  • “You know what’s going to be spooky? Their lighting bill.”

  • Light play

  • Black Widow

  • “Is this Jamie’s picture? Because we had a guy named Jamie who had a lot of feelings about that photo shoot.”

  • Award-winning photographer Kyle Wolfe

  • Colored contacts are HELL on your eyes

  • Ghoooost

  • Low low, what the heck is that? Irish buttermilk.” “That’s what is bothering you?”

  • Nuh-uh, Pan

  • Great bike shot

  • Maya! Nice fish.

  • “She’s just like ‘what, this is what we do, it’s Wednesday!”

  • Horror at the Samsung store

  • Eyes wide shut

  • Black cats get a bad rap

  • Face paint

  • Creepy baby


I got fired while I was gone. Justin takes over.

Question from twitter: third-party batteries? Don’t do it!

Opinion on the new Macbook? Not really our thing.


Back to photos:

  • Shoutout to the few of you who sent in photos of angel statues a la the Dr. Who episode “Blink”

  • Free hugs!

  • “There’s me and you, still waiting for that delivery food.”

  • “That’s a lot of hands

  • Modern witch

  • “Sexy giant” “is that what you’re into?”

  • Shadow

  • “When you’re dead but you still gotta take care of your baby”

  • Donnie Darko

  • Axe man

  • “Oh, computer problems”

  • Vampyre

  • Speed round! There’s some gems in here.

  • Murder face

  • Bloody kid


And that’s our show! Tune in next week for candid family photos, and make sure to check the time because we have daylight savings.

Posted on

Beginner Photography: Spooky

Guys! This was a fun one. I paid my daughter, Eloise, in candy to come out with me and take some photos, because kids are creepy as heck. Styling, setting, and mood are very important for setting a spooky scene. I put her in a vintage dress and hair bow and put brown eye shadow around her eyes and on her cheek bones to make her look emaciated. I also put cover-up on her lips to make her look paler. She wound up looking quite ghostly.

I had a place in mind to shoot, a condemned church in our neighborhood that would fit the old-timey vibe of her costume. We went out around sunset so that it would be a bit darker out to suit the mood. I would have shot later, but I don’t have an external flash and my camera isn’t the best in low light situations. You’ll see that the images came out pretty noisy, luckily it didn’t much matter with the mood of the images. 

The one thing I regret is not putting her in different shoes. The shoes she wore are really modern and I had intended on having her take them off, but then didn’t want her standing in sticks with her bare feet. The styling is so important though! Something modern looking in a photo that is meant to look antique will take the viewer out of it. Pay attention to detail! Eloise is not great at smiling for the camera, so she was kind of perfect for this shoot. There are so many old buildings in the area that served for great settings. Here’s what I came up with:

I positioned her with the date of the building to add context. I also used a radial filter to blur the area around her for mood. I converted all the images to black and white and pulled down the reds and oranges to lighten her skin. The dress wound up far brighter than the rest of the scene, so I pulled down the highlights.


I loved the little chair sitting by the building, along with the slope of the ground. I positioned Eloise coming towards the camera and nearest the right of the frame to have her uncomfortably entering the viewers space.


I wanted a shot of her in front of the Danger sign, although it messes up the timelessness of the scene a bit, the signs are obviously current. But look at that vacant stare!


This is probably my favorite. The leading lines up to her, the darkness in the trees behind and her creepy stance.


How’d I do? Did I successfully creep you out?