Wednesday, April 21, 2010


My new site is finally ready. It is a combination of an instructional blog (like this one) and a photo editing service. For all of you loyal readers who have been following photomom101, there's a special deal. If you want to use the photo editing service, enter the coupon code "photomom" to get buy one get one free! This will be good for a week (through 4/28/10.) Check out the new site, Online Photo Resource.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Site Update

Ok everybody, I'm getting close to having the new site ready. It's been more work than I thought, but I'm almost there. One thing I've found out, though, is that I'm pretty much going to have to start over from the beginning. This is good news and bad news. The bad news is more work for me - the good news is a better blog for all of you. Since I've learned a lot about blogging over the past eight months, I'll be able to skip some of the mistakes I made. Plus, knowing more now combined with using a better platform (wordpress) will allow me to present everything in a more organized and usable way.

For those of you who haven't been following the blog long, this will be a great way to catch up. I'll be starting off with a series called "30 Days With a DSLR," in which I hope take you from opening the box of a DSLR for the first time to using it with confidence and competence in 30 days (30 days sounds good for now, but that's not firm yet. I'm still whittling it down to the most crucial lessons.) Anyway, I hope you all are excited!

Monday, March 15, 2010


So after a lot of thought and resisting the idea, I've finally decided to move my blog to wordpress. There are just too many reasons to do it that I can't put it off any more. I'll be working on this over the next week or so and will let you know when it's all set.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Photo Enhancement

So, it's been a while (obviously.) I've been working on another project that many of you may be interested in. I'm building a website to start a photo enhancement business. It's still in process, but you can take a sneak peek here
One thing I need for that site is examples. So if you've got some pictures that need a little help, send them to me and I'll touch them up for free as long as you don't mind me using them as an example on my site. Just email me using the contact link over on the right. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Video Instructions

I've had some requests recently to explain how to make a video like the one above. This isn't a normal photomom101 topic, but I am happy to share how I did it. The only thing is, you'll have to own and have some knowledge of a video editing program to do it like I did.

First I took a bunch of pictures (obviously.) The only trick there is too take them continuously and make sure your settings aren't changing around too much on each shot. You may want to use manual mode, and will probably need to turn off auto ISO if you typically have it on.

Once I have the pictures, I import them into my video software (Final Cut Pro, for me,) and I set the import settings to create stills that are three frames long. So I end up with a bunch of pictures that become video clips all 1/10 of a second long.

Then I drop all these pictures into the timeline, add a title and some music and it's done. So if you've got video software, take a few thousand pictures and give it a try. Then load it on youtube and let us all know so we can watch it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Capturing Emotion

One of the biggest keys to capturing emotion in an image is getting it sharp - especially the eyes. When an emotional face is sharp in an image, it draws us in and helps us to "feel" along with the subject. So when your kids are laughing, crying, or whatever, make sure you get focused right on their eyes to capture the moment. Consider a couple more examples and ask yourself how these pictures make you feel:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Post Update

In response to a request, I added the shooting data to the pictures in the post below.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Day

I know that snow is not a big deal for many parts of the country, but here in South Carolina it's huge. We got a couple inches of real snow (not just ice like we got a few weeks ago) and it was great. Here are a few shots from today:

  • Shutter Speed: 1/1600
  • Aperture: f4
  • ISO: 200
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Focal Length: 55mm
  • Exposure Comp: +.7

  • Shutter Speed: 1/1250
  • Aperture: f4.2
  • ISO: 200
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Focal Length: 68mm
  • Exposure Comp: +.7

  • Shutter Speed: 1/1250
  • Aperture: f4
  • ISO: 200
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Focal Length: 55mm
  • Exposure Comp: +.7

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Capturing the Non-Event

Most of us think about taking pictures at birthday parties and holidays. And whenever something "super-cute" is happening, we are sure to race for the camera, hoping to get it in time. But what about everything else in between? I've noticed that some of my favorite pictures are of everyday things, not necessarily special occasions. Our pictures of "the ordinary" remind me of what was really happening and what life was actually like. So here's a challenge for all of you:

Come up with a list of 10 (or more) normal things that your kids do right now. Then, over the next week, try to get good pictures of those things. If you do this consistently you'll end up with a "photo journal" documenting your family's life. Here are a few regular days of ours from the past few weeks:

Monday, February 1, 2010

Beautiful Baby

Anybody heard of the beautiful baby competition on Live with Regis and Kelley? Well we tried to enter it, but couldn't. Probably because the last two days to enter (which were when we were trying) thousands of other procrastinators were clogging their server. Anyway, here are the images we would have entered (at least we can show them off here):

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wide Angle Distortion

I explained last time how focal length changes the perspective of our images. Here are a couple of examples of how a really wide angle lens can expand the scene. Candy Land seems smaller than I remember it from childhood, but it was never this big…

In the second image, notice how much longer the right arm seems compared to the left because of the wide angle stretching effect. If that were a nose, it would look huge. That's why you have to be careful if you ever use wide angle lenses for portraits.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Composition: Zoom and Perspective

Often when we zoom in or out all we are thinking about is how much of a scene we are capturing - or how "close" our shot is going to be. But zooming has another, very important, effect on our images. Zooming can greatly alter the perspective of an image by compressing or expanding a scene. As we zoom in, the distance between objects in our picture seems less and less. Conversely, as we zoom out, the distance between objects in our picture seems greater and greater. Consider the following two images:

Notice the tree in the foreground (red arrow) is basically the same size. However, the tree marked with the blue arrow seems much farther away in the second image than it does in the first. You can see that all the elements in the two pictures are affected in a similar manner. The fist image was taken at 180mm and the second at 17mm. I ended up with two substantially different images because of the focal length.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Picture of the Week

  • Shutter Speed: 1/40
  • Aperture: f1.8
  • ISO: 800
  • White Balance: Sunlight
  • Focal Length: 35mm
  • Exposure Comp: 0

Friday, January 15, 2010

What's Wrong With This Picture? (3)

I took this picture a couple of weeks ago (while we still had our Christmas tree up) and it has a pretty glaring problem: it is overexposed. If you can't tell right away from looking at it, that's ok - you will learn with experience. The most obvious clue is the neon yellow in the cheek and nose. If that doesn't seem obvious, consider the histogram:

All of you faithful readers will immediately notice the spike on the right side of the red-channel graph. So the problem is that the colors in the skin look unnatural and uneven. One way to correct this problem is to adjust the exposure compensation, which I did, to -.7 (in this case.) Here are the results:

So I ended up with a better looking histogram. The image is better too, but now seems dark. That's ok though. It's more important to get a good exposure that doesn't fall out of the range of what your sensor can record. Because I captured all the information, a quick adjustment in photoshop produced this:

This was a quick fix, because the second exposure produced an image file with all the information intact. It would have been impossible to "fix" the first image because once you blow a channel(s) out, you can't get that information back.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Would You Be Interested in a Forum?

Photomoms, I'm thinking about starting a forum or group so that all of you could upload pictures, ask questions, give feedback, and (dare I say) show off some of your own images. I think this would be a great way to learn more about photography and help everybody get better no matter where you are now. Let me know in the poll in the sidebar if that sounds like something you would participate in.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pictures of the Week - Mr. Mom

This past weekend I was Mr. Mom while mommy was away. So that means extra time in PJs.

And when it is time to get dressed, my go-to outfit is overalls, or "oree-yalls" according to our eldest. And also, the girls get to pick any bow they want, whether it matches or not.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Histograms Part 6

Now that you are all experts on how to use histograms to evaluate exposure, here are instructions on how to access them on a Nikon D40 (I would guess that the D40x, D60, D3000 and maybe the D5000 are probably about the same.)

After you do this one time, the camera will remember your choices making it a lot easier every other time, so don't get overwhelmed. 
  1. Start with a picture displayed on the LCD and press "ok" in the center of the thumb pad. 
  2. Toggle down to "filter effects" and press "ok" again.
  3. Toggle to "color balance" and press ok
Now you are looking at the three histograms you need to evaluate your exposure. They are being displayed as part of a gimmick-tool used to change the color balance in your picture - which you don't want to use - so be careful that you don't make any changes to the color balance by accidentally moving things around. (If you make a mistake, just press the play button to cancel as it indicates.)

After you've done this once, you won't have to do any toggling on the menus because the camera will remember your previous choices. So all you have to do is press "ok" three times in a row and you're there.

If you have another Nikon camera, there is an easier way (typically) to access the histograms. When you are looking at a picture on your LCD, just press the directional thumb pad on whatever axis you don't use to switch to a different picture. In other words, if you navigate through your images using left and right, you will use up and down to scroll through a few information pages associated with the currently displayed picture. And if you navigate using up and down, you will use left and right to see the information. Just go through those information pages until you see the three colored graphs.

If you have another brand of camera, I'm sorry to say I can't tell you how to access the histograms. But most cameras have them in there somewhere, so dust of your manual to find out how to get to them. 

Using histograms to evaluate exposure is a lot more useful on your camera when you can make an adjustment and take another shot than it would be later on your computer. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Histograms Part 5

So now we get to it. It may seem obvious at this point what you can do with histograms (if so, great,) but just in case, I'm going to try to explain exactly how to use them.

When you look at a histogram (hopefully a three-color histogram,) you are looking for mountains of data spreading across the graph that don't bump up against the edges of the graph. If you do have a peak or a spike against an edge of the graph, you will be losing information in your file and consequently, texture and contrast in your image. Additionally, you don't want a large space between your data-graph and an edge (the right edge especially.) So here are some examples…

In one of my very first posts on exposure, I gave same ideas to help judge exposure based on what you can see on your camera's LCD. Those judgements are be based on visual cues which lead to an evaluation that is ultimately subjective. I'm going to use those same images, but this time evaluate them objectively using histograms. Here are the images with their corresponding histograms following each:

The above image is underexposed. Even though the graphs are not bumping up against the left edge very much, the fact that there is no information in the right quarter of any of the graphs tells us that this image is underexposed. Very badly underexposed images may have graphs that are more extreme than this, but those will be more obvious without a graph. This type of underexposure is where histograms are really valuable. If you see a graph like this, use exposure compensation to adjust your exposure.

This image is overexposed. You can see in the red channel, that the graph is running into the right edge - this is often the case in overexposed images of people since most skin (black, white or in between) will show up in the red channel. The overexposure of the red channel causes the neon look in the skin (notice the nose in particular.) If you see a graph like this, use exposure compensation to adjust your exposure.

This is properly exposed image. The graphs come right up to the right edge with out running into it. These are the types of graphs you should look for. Here are some other good looking histograms following their corresponding images:

This last one is a curveball - and an important lesson. The histograms are running into the right edge indicating that there is some overexposure. However, this is a properly exposed image of my daughter. What is overexposed is the snow. That is why there are patches of pure white in the snow where you can't see any texture. The only way to save the detail in the snow would be to underexpose my daughter. I didn't do that since, obviously, she is the most important part of the picture.

In many images, there will be decisions like this you will have to make. So don't just depend on histograms without thinking. If you can identify why your graphs are hitting the edges, and your ok with losing that information (like the snow,) then don't worry about it.

Read Part 6 next.