Thursday, December 13, 2007

Photography Q & A

You've been on pins and needles, I know.

I'm saving a few questions to do separate entries on later. I'm thinking Thursday is pretty much going to be photography day for a while. And, without further ado, your questions and my answers:

Where do you have your prints developed?
For my everyday pictures that will be put in scrapbooks (or more likely kept in boxes with the amount of scrapbooking I’ve not been doing lately), I use Winkflash. Their every day prices are pretty darn good, and I’m happy with the job that they do. I am not a fan of glossy pictures, so I make sure to choose the matte option. I’ve never been more unhappy than when I forgot to click matte on a huge order...okay, so maybe I have, but glossy pictures rank right up there with bad hair days. I also really love their Transporter, it is an easy way to upload your pictures to their site. You just drag them into the transporter and then click upload. I have had 200 pictures go in at once and it's nice because you can just let it do its thing all night and you're ready to place your order in the morning.

If I am planning on framing and want quality prints with professional finishes I use Mpix. I love how well they turn out, and the prices are decent. You can even get metallic paper which looks really beautiful on certain types of pictures.

How do you deal with low light situations when you don’t want to use a flash?
If you do not want the harsh shadows and washed out look of a flash, the most important thing to remember in a low light situation is that you cannot shoot in auto. Your camera will always insist on the flash and you will be stuck. Repeat after me: Do. Not. Shoot. In. Auto.

The second most important thing to remember is to choose a high ISO.

After that, shoot in aperture priority. Make sure your aperture is as wide open as it can possibly be. If you have a point and shoot, you’ll need to check your camera’s instruction manual to find out what that is and how to change it, but it will be the lowest number.

If you have a dSLR, choose a lens that has the widest aperture. I have 2 lenses (and one on the way!), one is an f/4-5.6 which is not so great for the low light, and the other is an f/1.8, which is extremely fast and wonderful for these low light situations..

I actually highly recommend the 50mm f/1.8. You can buy it for both Nikon and Canon and it is a very low cost lens (looking at the prices you may not believe me...but, believe me, this is a cheap lens) that will improve your pictures immensely.

Finally, set yourself up where there is a natural light source, if possible. I take a lot of my portraits right in my living room near the sliding glass door. Works great, even on rainy days.

How do you get it so your kids aren’t killing each other in the photo?
I haven’t figured this one out yet, so let me know when you do. There’s a reason I didn’t do a picture of the three rascals together for the Christmas card this year. Individual portraits make my life easier, thankyouverymuch.

Which program do you use to edit your photos?
I had grand ideas of getting everything perfect in camera when I first went digital, but I quickly learned that photo editing is a necessary evil. And, actually, with film, the lab doesn’t give you your prints straight out of camera. They do a fair amount of color adjusting and such on them before you see the final product. Think of your photo editing program as sort of your digital darkroom, and feel a bit better about using it. Of course, still strive to get everything as perfect as possible in camera and your editing will be so much easier!

At first, I used the software that came with my camera: Canon Digital Photo Professional. It does a pretty good job if you know what the heck to do with it. You can adjust curves, contrast, saturation and sharpen. You can also crop. All the basic things necessary for a photo editor. I still use it to go through my pictures as it is a much faster system than what I have now. I also like the automatic curves adjustments and will often do those there and then open them up in PSE.

Now I have upgraded to Photoshop Elements 5.0. (Adobe has since released a version 6.0.) Joel and I are pretty poor, so this was all I could afford for now. But it does a good job. I can use actions made for PSE in it, make headers, cards and other projects and do plenty of stuff to my photos to make them look awesome.

How do you get rid of the pet-eye in photos? The red eye reduction that is built into the camera doesn’t do it, and neither do the red eye fixes in the photo editors.
Okay, here’s where I got to learn a little something myself. I don’t really have pets, (unless you count my parents’ dog up there in the photo), so I don’t come upon this problem too often.

My first advice is to stay away from the flash in most of your photography. It turns out so much nicer. And, that’s really the only way you’ll completely avoid the red-eye/pet-eye problems. See my answer on low light to begin learning how to put your flash away.

If you can’t possibly photograph your dog or your cat without the flash, and you keep getting the green demon eyed look, then you can download Pet-eye pilot, which is a quick fix for the pet eye issue. Looks like it costs about 30 dollars, which is a kind of pricey investment if you don’t take a million pictures of your pet, so you might want to try looking at this tutorial to learn how to fix it in another program.

Oh, and the picture of Bria and Daisy up there? It was taken in the late afternoon next to a big window in my mom’s house. No flash, aperture priority mode. Aperture set at 2.8.

What do you recommend learning first to a person just starting out in photography?
First and foremost, learn how to use your camera to its fullest capacity! Read your manual a lot. Every day. I’m not joking. It takes a while for the information to really sink in because it does get pretty technical. And it’s digital, so get yourself out of the auto mode and start experimenting! And yes, they do have books that expound upon your manual. Here is one for my camera, and here and here are some for the Canon Powershot (because several of you mentioned this is the camera you have). These types of guides are available for just about every camera out there...the Powershot had a lot of results when I searched in Amazon because there are so many models of it.

Second, learn how to improve your composition. I will do another post all about that soon. Just figuring out how to take a picture from a better angle, how to frame your subject and all that jazz will change your photos drastically for the better.

Third, start to learn the exposure triangle. ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Once you have that all figured out, the stuff in your manual will begin to make sense and you can start making awesome creative choices with your camera. One of the best books I have ever read is “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson. He has a way of talking about exposure that is pretty easy to understand.

Phewsh! That's all for now...have fun with those cameras!
Lara Neves
Lara Neves

Lara is mom to three daughters—two teens and a tween. She loves to share her parenting and homemaking triumphs and failures here at Overstuffed! She was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015 and has been fighting it ever since. When she isn't working on her mother of the year award, you can find her reading, singing, or taking photos.


  1. I think you would've lost most of my friends after "take it off auto" -- like 4 of them have the rebel and I don't think any of them shoot in anything besides auto.
    It's a scary step, but an exciting one. :)

  2. That is my daughter, once she sets her mind to learning something, look out, she has always been a very patient learner! She is in it for the journey! Fantastic help you've given everyone!

  3. Okay, so at first I didn't think this entry was going to be for me because I don't own a fancy camera, but it actually was all really interesting to me. I also think it's incredibly thoughtful of you to take the time to help other people improve. You're such a sweet person!

  4. Like Audrey, I don't have a fancy camera. But this post was still helpful for me and my little "point and shoot" camera. The part about reading and rereading your manual really rang true for me. I have read my manual, but only once, I should do it again and again like you said. Although I don't think any amount of reading can make my pictures look the way I want them too. I just need a good camera. But thanks for the inspiration for those of us who don't have a good one...yet.

  5. OK-You've totally motivated me to find my camera box & manual in an unpacked box in our dark and dreary basement.

    I always shoot in Auto...sigh...

    What I hate about digital cameras (until I get a fancy one), is the delay. Everytime I get the boys set up for a cute shot, by the time the stupid thing goes off, they are looking at the floor, picking their nose or raising their hand in front of their face. THAT is my #1 issue!

  6. So the answer to the pet eye question would have been helpful if I didn't already have costco print up 75 pictures for me!! I just red eye reducted Ginger's eyes like crazy and since she isn't really looking at the camera I wasn't too worried..But that program might pay for itself in the future! Thanks for the tip!

  7. These are great-and especially about reading your manual. Isn't that the truth? So many things are easier if you just read the manual. I have yet to read mine all the way and little things like setting ISO are so important.

  8. So you should have let me know that you were going to do this before my class!! :) Just kidding. This is all good review for me. I haven't taken any pictures in the last two months. I am going to have to start back at the begining. Amazing how quickly you forget :)

    Thanks for the tips!

  9. Love the tips! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!

    I definitely use "auto" a lot. But now that I know some new tricks... well, I might have to be brave a little bit more often.

  10. I love this! Thank you! Will you now do a post on your opinion about music /theory/when to start and what type of lessons you feel are really appropriate for your 4, 2 and 1 year old? I've been meaning to ask. PS, mainly for piano and violin.