Monday, March 9

Q&A Part I

Prepare yourself for my endless babbling... the flood gates have opened... :)
If you have NO IDEA what is going on here, be sure to read this post, all about the Q&A going on this week, and the super sweet GIVEAWAY! You won't want to miss it. :)

Part I

Rebecca H asked "How do you get such vivid crisp colors in your photos AND what is your favorite lens to use?"
Crisp colors start with proper exposure, some basic post processing, and good glass. It's pretty tough to get vivid colors out of a poorly exposed photo. In Photoshop I like to add a curves adjustment layer and create a very slight S curve by pulling the middle-lower point down a bit and raising the middle-upper point a bit, and leaving the center point in the center. That really helps bring out the colors. I also use a Soft Light adjustment layer a lot, too.
I also use Totally Rad Actions and would basically be lost without the action called "Oh Snap!"- I usually run "Oh Snap!" and bring the opacity down quite a bit, but man do I love that action.
About good glass... My favorite lens is also the one I use pretty much all the time- the Nikkor 50mm 1.8 prime. It has a lot to do with my crisp, vivid shots. It's a great, fast little lens and I can tell a huge difference when using that piece of glass versus something like the 18-200mm 3.5, as far as my color vividness and crispness goes. It's a great little lens, perfect for low light situations and for following fast kids around. It's pretty cheap too.
And really quickly, while I'm on my favorite-lens soapbox, this lens has seriously pushed me as a photographer. It's a prime lens, so it doesn't zoom at all- it's pushed me to learn to "zoom on my feet" and to really learn what it takes to frame a great shot, get close to the subject, and it has taught me a TON about depth-of-field. I really can't say enough about my little buddy, the 50mm! :)

The Dansies asked, "Do you have any recommendations as far as the best camera/lens for someone just starting out?"
This is a tough question for me to answer because I've only owned 2 digital SLR cameras. I started with the Nikon D40 and now use the D300. I think the D40 was a great, super basic starter but after a couple of months I had outgrown it. If you're hoping to progress beyond the amateur/basic hobbyist, I'd really suggest investing in something like the D90. Although I've never owned it, the reviews are awesome and I have several friends shooting with it, beginners and more advanced photographers too!
Chances are whichever camera you buy will come with a kit lens- something Nikon throws in to create a "package deal". Like I said, I'm no expert, but I don't know what I'd do without the 50mm 1.8 I talked about earlier, and I think it'd be a great lens for you-- like I said earlier I have learned so much from that little lens, I wish I'd gotten it sooner!

Arly asked, "Besides Stella, what is your favorite subject to shoot? And what subject do you think you are the best at?"
For those of you who don't know, Stella is my little angel-face-pudding-pie 16 month old girl. :) And she IS my favorite subject to shoot. But beside her... Hm... Well, I really really enjoy doing engaged couples. Because I love love. And although I haven't done a TON of it, I feel like I'm pretty good at the editorial/music/fashion photography. I'd really like to do more of that style, like Zack Arias... he's the man. Or street photography, like Dave Beckerman. I don't think I'm BEST at that stuff, but I'd love to be best at it. :)

Rachel H asked, "How did you really get comfortable using all manual settings?"
Comfortable? Who said I was comfortable? :) Well, truthfully I am finally getting to the point where I don't fumble over all the manual controls. I relied on Aperture mode for quite a while. And actually, that was pretty good for me, it helped me to understand the relationship between ISO, aperture & shutter speed more, so when I went to Manual mode full-time I was more aware of what I was even adjusting and why. Just reading from a book how ISO, aperture & shutter speed work together doesn't make you a pro on exposure- at least it didn't for me. Actually putting it into practice and understanding that relationship has made a HUGE difference.
So I guess, first, learn what you are adjusting and why. Then, experiment the crap out of it until you've got it. Soon it does come naturally, and using the manual mode has made a HUGE difference in getting the exposure right- using A or S or other "auto" modes work just sometimes. Shooting manually has made my exposure more accurate most, if not all, of the time. And I always start every shoot with a couple test shots to make sure I've got the exposure right, and every time we change location I do the same thing. Or if the sun goes behind the clouds, or other changes in light happen, I take the time to do some test shots and make sure I'm spot-on with the exposure. Exposure is everything.

The Nelsons asked, "What suggestions do you have for taking photos of babies 0-12 months?"
The best suggestion I have for doing photos of babies under a year old is to A) use natural light and B) use a natural circumstance and surrounding. Natural light is great for babies. A flash will scare the crap out of them, and potentially blind them (okay I made up that last part, but seriously, don't use a flash.) So set them up on a familiar couch, chair, or bed in front of the window (North facing windows are best, btw). Try to get the light in their eyes. And then, get on their level. Kneel, crouch, lay if you have to. Being on their level makes a HUGE difference. Let them do their thing and don't try to force them to do anything they aren't cool with. My most favorite shots I have of Stella and other babies are the ones that were completely opposite of what I had planned on happening.

The {G} Fam asked, "How do I make my photos crisp? I shoot in manual mode, but I just can't seem to get the crispness that I want."
Hi {G} Fam! I checked out your blog and it is really cute! I wanted to get a better idea of what you were talking about as far as "crisp" goes, and I think you're doing a great job so far but I can see what you are saying. Using a better lens, like I talked about in my answer to Rebecca H. will make a huge difference. A nice shallow depth of field allows you to get much much sharper images. If you have a lens that goes down that low, start using the lower aperture end (1.4-2.2ish) A lens that goes down to 1.8 or 1.4 even is going to get razor sharp images compared to a lens that goes down to 3.5, for example. So invest in good glass! :) Also, expirement with your auto focus points- keep them on the subjects eyes and that should really help as far as crispness goes! :)

Jeanna asked, "How in the world do you get good pictures in a cultural hall? I have been asked several times to come take reception pictures and the lighting is so incredibly awful that my shutter delay is unworkable!"
Oh, the dreaded cultural hall and it's yellow yellow crappy light. First, you HAVE to shoot in manual. Don't let the shutter drop below 60, and keeping a nice shallow depth of field will help compensate- really really pay attention to your light meter and adjust the exposure up a stop or two (or three haha) if you have to. Secondly, and this is a "trick" that I only just recently learned from my genius photog friend Vanessa, with your white-balance shoot in KELVIN mode. Kelvin is the bomb-diggity. Experiment with it a bit, but it'll really help balance that flourescent or tungsten by manually adjusting the white balance. You'll be blown away once you really get that down- it has taken me several weeks to get comfortable with it but it's now an easy thing for me to adjust and I will never use an auto-white balance again, I don't know why I'd want to now that I know how to do it manually! :)

And lastly, a few questions from my friend Joy! "How did you get in the whole photography world? I know you are self-taught, so did you just practice a ton and take pictures of friends kids and then move up slowly? And one more thing, what editing program do you use?"
Getting into the whole photography world started when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My dad had done a lot with photography and I began reading all the books he had on it. It started at a REALLY young age for me (hey, I didn't have a ton of friends, all right?!) When I was 11 my parents bought me a really old 35mm SLR that I started messing around with, and then later (much later) after I got married and had my own kid I realized the crappy point-and-shoot digital camera I was using wasn't cutting the mustard, and the film was too expensive to use the 35mm (we were poor starving college students, mind you) and so we invested in a good digital SLR. Then I started offering to do shots for my friends and family, and before I knew it I was booked every weekend and doing a couple weddings, too. It just happened really naturally I guess! But yes, I am self-taught and I have practiced a TON. So keep practicing like crazy, read all you can about it, really immerse yourself in it. If it's something you want to be good at, whether it's photography or cooking or playing guitar or golf, you have to really commit yourself to it.
For post-processing I use Photoshop (as does the majority of the professional photography world) because it is the best there is. Want to learn the basics of photoshop? (and some cool tricks too?!) I really suggest the Pioneer Woman's tutorials for beginners. :)

I hope those answers help! If you need/want elaboration on anything don't hesitate to ask! If you find these answers helpful, drop a comment :) Keep the questions coming and look for Q&A Part II coming SOON!


Rachel Holloway March 9, 2009 at 11:58 AM  

Great info!! Thanks so much for sharing so openly!

Terese March 9, 2009 at 12:40 PM  

Thanks for your answers! I really enjoy your work. I have a question for you. What do you do for printing photos. How do you price your prints?

Mindy March 9, 2009 at 12:46 PM  

I LOVE this! I'm bookmarking your site to come back to.

I've been drooling over the 1.8 lens for awhile now... I'm going to get it soon. It's great to hear yet another lover of the lens! :)

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with all of us!

Mindy March 9, 2009 at 12:57 PM  

p.s. I was going to say that I have the D90, and I LOVE it, so good recommendation there.

Also, did you see my question in the comments on your "hero" and "fresh" post on m24?

Jen Olsen March 9, 2009 at 4:49 PM  

Awesome faq. post Carly :) I'd love to know more about shooting in K!

Meredith March 9, 2009 at 8:03 PM  

Thanks for all the info!! I had a question about locations... how do you find yours, are any on private property, do you ask permission to use certain locations?

Wii are the Nelsons March 9, 2009 at 10:19 PM  

Thanks for the help!

Jessica Kettle March 12, 2009 at 10:50 PM  

awesome answers carl carl!

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