Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Questions Answered..

Hi all! Thanks to everyone for responding to my little Q & A forum. I figured it’s always nice to know there are people out there with similar questions and to know you’re not the only soul on earth who doesn’t understand their camera or photoshop. While I’m not a seasoned veteran, I hope that some of the information shared will be helpful and useful. I was, and am, always grateful to photographers who pay it forward. It’s a huge help to me and I am a continual work in progress, like I said.

So here we go! Let’s start with some camera basics...

What is ISO??

ISO and exposure are essentially the same thing. This is the way it was explained to me that made me understand...

Your camera has a digital sensor inside of it right? That sensor records information or light onto it and determines the amount of light that is recorded over a specific amount of time. So the higher the ISO, the more sensitive the image sensor and therefore the possibility to take pictures in low-light situations. The lower the ISO, the less sensitive the image sensor and the darker the image.

What is aperture?

Your aperture, much like the iris in your eyes, opens up to let more light in or closes down to let in less. Your aperture controls the depth of field in a photo. This corresponds with your FSTOP. The smaller the number, the larger the hole therefore more light is let in to be recorded by your digital sensor (ISO)

What is shutter speed?

Shutter speed controls the ability to demonstrate or stop motion. It is the moment that light is exposed (or recorded) on your digital sensor AND the length of exposure. I.E. > the amount of time your shutter stays open with you click the button. The longer your shutter stays open, the more motion you will have in your photo, and the shorter time it stays open, the more motion it will be able to freeze.

When I first started getting into photography, I would look online ALL day and just study up what things meant. I kept a journal that I call “the photography diaries” of things that I felt were really important. The most beneficial site (in my opinion) was Digital Photography School. One of the authors (natalie link norton who is a professional photographer) breaks it down like no ones business. I love the way she explained things and the notes above are basically taken directly from that website as I had them written down in my journal.

My Equipment

What type of camera/lenses do you use?

Right now I use a Nikon D700, which has been the greatest blessing to my life aside from my husband and children. It seriously is THE BOMB! It’s got something like 52 points of focus or something crazy like that, basically making it impossible to take an out of focus picture (HA! which I still do). It’s also got an ISO sensitivity of up to 6400 and super low noise in low light situations as well. I’m obsessed. You should all go and get yourselves one!

Lenses I currently own are the 50 1.4 and 85 1.8, both of which I love and adore. Some people find it crazy that I spent my money on two fixed lenses but I really love the bokeh (blurred edges) it gives and the softness to my photos. They are both also extremely sharp as well when I shoot wide open. Whenever I shoot zoom, I typically rent the 24-70 mm or 28-70. Both wide angle lenses that are really great to work with. Heavy, but great ;-). One day I hop

e to own an amazing zoom-but those cost almost as much as my camera ;-)

How do I keep my images from being blurry/photograph a moving subject?

Not always, but often I put my camera into shutter priority for moving photographs. For example, when I am shooting in a completely wild and crazy setting where I know there will be non-stop motion (surfers, dancing, jumping, running) I’ll put my camera in Shutter Priority. What shutter priority does is you choose a desired shutter speed, and the camera will select the appropriate aperture for the lighting conditions you are in. A general rule of thumb is you should maintain a shutter speed that corresponds with the focal length of the lens. For example- with a 50 mm lens, you should be at 1/60th or faster and so on (200 mm lens would be 1/250 or higher etc.) Trying to shoot a moving subject in manual mode is really tough. What is cool about shutter priority too is if you focus on an immoveable subject, like the background of your photo, and try to photograph someone walking by with a longer shutter speed (say 5 seconds for example) you’ll get crazy motion blur which looks really awesome.

Or the other way around, focus on your still subjects (like a kissing couple) with a train racing by in the background. Because a train is already so fast, you really won’t have to have your shutter speed be quite as slow. It makes for some awesome pics.

Someone said: “Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems like you shoot a lot of shots outdoors in the sunlight and I wondering how you get that perfect exposure? I never see shadows or dark faces with blown out backgrounds just perfect all around brightness. Do you shoot using fill flash and if so do you use it on or off camera with or without and umbrella?”

I do shoot most of my photos outside. There is something so beautiful about natural light that I really don’t feel that flash can compensate for. That being said, I never use fill flash. The ONLY time I use my flash is in extremely dimly lit situations (inside, dark outside, receptions etc) Using a flash really takes away those “creamy skin tones” you’re looking for. Using correct exposure really makes all the difference. Typically, I shoot around dusk and keep my ISO around 250 or so. For example...

This photo from my last beach session was taken with my 85 mm lens at f/2.0 ISO 200 at 1/1000. There is a tendency with backlighting for your subjects to be dark or have shadows. I think the best thing to do, if you are shooting in manual which I am assuming you are, is to just keep checking your exposure. It may be frustrating, or take a long time, but it’s worth it so you know you got a good photo with what you wanted and no ones face is missing. I am continually checking, and re-adjusting my metering and exposure to how I like it in a photo session. After a while it becomes second nature and you’ll get used to it, but just practice a bunch!

Also obviously, photoshop helps the post processing work and I’ll get more into that in a moment ;-) But something that is super beneficial is the recovery slider in Camera Raw OR magic recovery with MCP actions. They bring a lot of the blown out images back to the surface, so that helps too.

Another person asked: “Will a 50 mm lens really make my life so much better?”

The answer is, YES. I really could not survive without my 50. First of all the 1.4 is just out of this world for low light situations. It gives you the ability to shoot in situations you never thought possible AND creates the yummiest bokeh around. It’s a very intimate lens, so it keeps things close and I really love that about it. Every mother should invest in a 50 mm lens for photographing her children. It’s super fast, super sharp, super portable and not that expensive. Get a fiddy, nuff said.

Somebody also said “Where do you get a ruffle one piece outfit like the one Audra's girl is wearing?”

HAHA! I loved this. Those ruffle onesies are from ETSY!!!! THey are to die for aren’t they? I don’t have one yet, but I’ve stared at one several times online and coveted. They really aren’t that expensive. I think 20-30 dollars or so.


PHOTOSHOP Questions..there were a lot of these.

Right now I am using CS5 and yes, if you want to be a professional photographer you should most definitely invest in photoshop. Some people are really bringing the retro/vintage thing back which I absolutely love, but it creates a lot of negative tones in my opinion and I really don’t care for anything washed out. People are priding themselves in the lack of photoshop usage in photos etc. etc. While all of that is great and good and I can appreciate it, I most definitely don’t strive for washed out photos. They have a place, and a time, just not on my blog HA! SO in my opinion, PHOTOSHOP RULES! There is not ONE photo I have ever given to a client that has not been touched up. There, I said it.

SO with photoshop comes the infamous actions. My favorite actions so far have been MCP. I really like the bag of tricks set. It gives my photos that vibrance I am looking for without warming the skin tones too much. Here is what

you can do with this little set...

Here is a before picture of beautiful miss Sunshine. The photo has a lot of bright color that needs to be enhanced, in my opinion. So what I do is I start by opening my picture up in CAMERA RAW. I warm the photo up, sharpen it, reduce the noise, bring in the blacks a little and up the fill light a touch.

Already looking so much better. Now I open my photo in photoshop.

  • I use the clone tool to smooth out any roughness on her face and under her eyes.
  • I use the dodge tool to bring out her eyes a little
  • I use the Magical Color Finder around the green areas of the photo and on her tutu. I use a soft brush at 85% opacity, layer opacity set at 45%
  • Magical contrast at 45%
  • Pot of Gold at 12%
  • Magical Clarity at 18%
  • I use Magical Light at about 8% on her face and skin to keep her bright
  • I used Magic Dark around the edges of the photo for a slight vignette

VOILA! Flatten image and save

Those are all taken from the MCP Bag of Tricks set. There are many other actions from MCP you can use that I recommend. The eye doctor and skin retouching actions are awesome, complete work flow, quickie collection..everything they have really is great. I know A LOT of people who use the TRA’s. Those seem wonderful and I think I might invest in some of those soon. I’ve just been so happy with MCP I haven’t tried anything else yet!

There are several actions you can find for free online via Pioneer Woman Photography and Coffee Shop Photography, both of which I highly recommend. I still use some of their actions on a lot of my photos and they didn’t cost a thing!!

White balance on my camera...

It is always set to K for Kelvin. The only time I change it is when I’m using my flash, in which case I mess around with it a bit. But generally I always have it on K.

The nice natural skin tones will help if you keep your white balance in Kelvin, but also good exposure really helps with this. I use the clone tool to remove blemishes and several different photoshop actions can help smooth out skin. Like I mentioned above, MCP has a skin retouching action that works really well or I know that Coffee Shop also has a great skin retouching action that is FREEE!!

How long from shooting to packaging do you spend on an average family session timewise??

I give my clients 2-3 weeks until their high resolution disk is in the mail! Usually never later than 3 weeks unless their is an emergency.

How did you determine your pricing??

oooohhh boy this ones a doozie. I started off with $40 sessions :-). I really didn’t know what the heck I was doing, and I figured the only way to get better was to practice. So I advertised on Craigslist for a few months and got business that way. After a while I felt like I was getting better and I was spending more time on my photos so I think I raised my prices to $75 or something like that. The longer I did it the more I realized how much work really went into editing and the whole process and to make it worth while, I finally raised my prices to where they’re at now. As a mom doing photography, you really have to prioritize. If photo editing is taking you away from your babies and putting you in a grouchy mood because you’re lacking in every area imaginable, raise your prices. Being a mom is my first priority and when photography takes it’s place, I know I need to up my prices. I try to get as much done while my peanut is sleeping but sometimes I know that’s just not logical with the amount of work that needs to be done. Just make sure you are pricing your sessions at a rate that makes you happy. Don’t do it because you have to, do it because you want to-for sure. When it becomes a chore, you know it’s not worth it. So make it worth it!


I would recommend the eye doctor from MCP or the Eye bright action from Coffee Shop (if she still has it?) Coffee Shop of course is free, so try that first ;-) Other wise, Ashley Mcnamara of Orange County has a great tutorial on how to enhance eyes using a high pass filter. I’ve used that a lot. You can also use the dodge tool in photoshop. Go to the dodge tool, go up to drop down menu and select “highlights” This will bring out the natural light in the eyes

Someone said: “I would LOVE to hear about your post-processing workflow. For example....What is your typical process from after the shoot until the photos are delivered? How many images do you edit and then how many do you deliver to the client? What is your organizational process with all your files? How long do you spend on post-process for a typical shoot? What tips or ideas do you have for helping speed up post-process work? Do you do proofing for your clients and if so, what is your method?”

So I start by burning ALL the negative files onto disk initially. I am paranoid about losing photos because it happened once and I’ve been a nervous wreck ever since! Once I know I have all my negatives, I go through and delete the ones I know I won’t use and try to narrow it down as much as possible. From there I start by doing basic edits in Camera Raw. For weddings I try to batch a lot of my photos in camera raw as well to save time, which helps a lot. But after that I do all of my editing in photoshop and for family shoots, I generally end up with around 60 photos for my client. Newborn shoots a little bit less, but it really just depends. Sometimes more, sometimes less but not by much.

I don’t use any type of online proofing. Maybe one day I will, but because I don’t do prints-I just give my clients their photos on dvd, there’s no point really for me to use a proofing gallery, so I give the client all the touched up photos from the session I have done (50-60).

I have found over time that I work REALLY well under pressure..Procrastination really bodes well for me ha! I give myself a deadline (2-3 weeks) and sometimes I find myself getting and entire session done 2 days before I’m supposed to give it to the client, within a matter of hours. It’s ridiculous, I know, but it works sometimes. With the amount of shoots you are editing in between times, it evens out I guess but if I really devote my time to strictly editing, and not internet browsing or responding to emails, I can get through a shoot in 2 hours ish.

As far as organization goes, like I said I am anal and I keep both a negative copy and an edited copy of all my clients photos. I keep the files on my computer for 90 days and after that, they are just a file in my filing cabinet :-) More like dvd cabinet but whatever.


Okay so locations for Utah include....

Behind Osmond Designs in Lehi (that is where the Wunderli family is pictured) is just an awesome spot. I just fell upon it the last time I was there and loved it. You can look it up in google (OSMOND DESIGNS) and just park your little hiney behind that store and go to town.

Downtown Salt Lake...always unbelievable. Great architecture, old buildings, bright colors, city life etc.

Jessica Kettle gives some GREAT locations here


I also like Wheeler Farms, the old psych hospital in provo with the orchard, Gateway, memory grove...there are a million. (email me for details)

Locations for California include...

For best beaches, Montage Resort, Huntington, Laguna

The Old Mission in San Juan

The Train depot in San Juan

the giant field of flowers in March off of Junipero Scera, also in San Juan

Downtown Fullerton

Downtown Orange (my personal favorite)

Any college campus with cool architecture

Balboa Island

and a million more I can’t think of right now!

Okay I think I’ve covered all of it, for the most part. I mostly get asked about Photoshop actions and aside from the MCP’s I have a plethera of really random ones here and there that I use. I really like Brenda Acunius actions for my newborn shoots. I also have some Nicole Van actions, her sunflare and photo pop, PW actions, and CS actions, as I mentioned. There is so much to take advantage of in the Photoshop world. Don’t shy away from it! Just experiment as much as you can. I am completely self taught and have found that the more I mess around, the more I learn and grow. Life is all about challenging yourself. Just get to work! That’s all there is to it! And enjoy every minute!


Sarah Teeter said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this!! I appreciate it so much.

Janet said...

You rock Tiffany!! Youll be blessed 10X's for this!! hehe. Ive been following your blog for about a year now (i think) and your work just keeps getting better and better. Best of luck to you in your business. See you at the top :)

Nicole C Photography said...

Wow this was super helpful! I always wonder what the heck you do to your pictures to make the colors look so fantastic. Thank you!

Snapshots By Jolene said...

That was great, thanks for being so honest! It's hard to find friendly photogs around that aren't so competitive. Can't we all just be friends and help each other? ;) Anyway, I read that you don't do prints.... I just wanted to give you the link to who I use for prints and other products. They are WONDERFUL and have fabulous prices, you can set your own prices for your clients of course so what you actually pay to order products you can add however more you want to your client prices. They also have really great event sites, which basically is a private, customizable online gallery where your client can log in and see and order their prints from. You can go to my site and go to the "client log in" section and log in to pretty much any event with the password "22705" to see what it's like. www.collages.net check them out!!! :) P.S. sorry this got so long!

The Perry's said...

Thank you for taking your time to answer the questions. You are great.

Brandon . Ash . Bennnett said...

This is amazing, Tiffany. Thank you for taking the time to do this. :)

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