Thinking Out and Improving Your Photos, Plus a $450 Clickin Moms Giveaway!

I get questions every now and then about what settings I use to take my pictures and how I make them look a certain way (bright, colorful, etc.).

The truth is, I very rarely get exactly what I want straight out of camera the first click. I’m just not quite there yet, though that’s my ultimate photography goal. The good news is, in this age of digital cameras, an extra click (or 10) is not going to cost you anything in terms of film, so you can switch up your settings and keep tweaking until you get what you like.

Now, these aren’t the best pictures I’ve ever taken, just some snaps at the kitchen table, but I thought they’d make great examples to show you my thought process before I deleted them from my card.

The first 4 pics I’m going to show you, my settings were 1/160 SS, F 2.5, ISO 800. These images are all SOOC (straight out of camera).

This was the first pic I got of the series. The composition sucked, Kendall’s smack in the middle of the frame, and the box, a big part of the story I’m wanting to tell, is cut off. There’s way too much visual clutter in the background (i.e. my messy house).  Also, that large window above his head is really distracting. I knew I needed a different angle.

I got lower, focused on the box, which made Kendall blurry since my F stop was pretty wide open. I liked the effect, but there was still a lot of distracting stuff behind him.

So I stood on a chair to get a different perspective that would decrease the clutter in the background. I also felt like I could get more elements of the story in the shot with this angle. I was not happy with my exposure at this point, though. I’d finally tweaked what angle I wanted to shoot at, and had to rethink my settings. Again, I was shooting at 1/160 shutter speed, and f stop of 2.5, and an 800 ISO.

I could do 3 things to brighten up my picture (increase my exposure). I could decrease the shutter speed, open up the aperture/f stop (by making the number smaller- so confusing, I know), or increase my ISO.

I didn’t want to decrease my SS much because Kendall was in a state of motion painting, and I didn’t want his hands to appear blurry. I didn’t want to open up much wider because I was shooting very close to my subject, and the wider I opened my aperture, the more of the picture would be blurry.

So I had to increase my ISO to 1600.

Ahhh… that was better. Not so dark-cave-like. You’ll notice Kendall’s face is a little soft and his hands on the box are in focus since I was shooting at 2.5 and I focused on his hands.

Then I took it too Lightroom and did some basic edits, starting with cropping closer.

I also did a quick white balance tweak, decreased some of the noise or grain (caused by shooting with a high ISO), and ran the Clickin Moms Paparazzi Daily Edition preset on it. I love that preset for pictures that I want vibrant colors in.

Like I said, not an example of award-winning photography, just some every day snaps.  I could have used a variety of settings to achieve a similar exposure, but the results would have all been different. I was happy with this final product.

A year ago, I had no thought process when it came to taking pictures. It was all spray and pray. Every now and then, I wound up with something great, but I missed out on a lot of good shots because I just had no idea how to improve upon what I was taking.

Clickin Moms, my official Blogher 2012 Sponsor (yay!!!) made this amazing image for me, and I’m so excited to share it with you all. I never realized how far I’ve come in a year until I saw all this, side by side.

When people ask me if Clickin Moms is really worth it, I have to tell them it totally is. Yes I know, I have a business relationship with them. But, that relationship didn’t even come about until I completely fell in love with their forums, saw my photography starting to transform, and then professed my love to them. I WANT to be a part of that awesome, and I am HONORED to be working with them. It’s really a dream collaboration.

To celebrate our partnership and them sending me to Blogher this year, I am STOKED to be hosting this HUGE $450 giveaway, including:

One full participation seat in Clickin Moms’ Shooting 101: The Best Darn Beginner Course Ever, taught by the fabulously talented Lyne Rigby (Course starts Sept. 10, 2012, $300 value)
One year membership to Clickin Moms ($50 value)
$100 Gift Credit to the Clickin Moms Store

Anyone can enter to win, even if you’re not going to Blogher this year! CLICK HERE TO ENTER

I’ll be giving away some small prizes during Blogher, so keep an eye on my Twitter and Facebook pages for more details on how to win those August 1st through the 5th.

50 Things to Do Before You Deliver: The First Time Moms Pregnancy Guide
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  1. You’re quite the sales lady – You’ve got ME wanting Clickin’ Moms and I don’t even have a nice camera! I wonder what it could do for my iPhone 4 photos… Hhhhmmmm…..

    (quietly coveting the “After” in your “Before and After” shots.”

  2. You really have come so far. I keep forgetting that I even have a Clickin’ Moms membership! I’d like to think that my photography has gotten a lot better. It definitely has with the help of lightroom and presets!

  3. can i please please please win. i have a membership but i want to take some classes SOOO bad… i just can’t afford them right now 🙁

  4. Your pictures are lovely!! How do you decrease the grain? I’m always afraid to increase my ISO because of graininess. Also, do you shoot in raw?

    • Thanks, Erica! Yes, I shoot in RAW. In Lightroom, in the Develop module, there are a set of sliders under Noise Reduction that I use to help get rid of grain. I normal move the luminance slider over to between 20-40.

      • Oh, boo! I will have to look and see if there’s an equivalent in Photoshop. Is Lightroom part of the Creative Suite? Hmm, maybe I already have it!

  5. Lindsay Locke on

    I needed this! My pictures are not good at all, and I have two adorable twin boys that I take way too many bad pictures of. I always have the same thought about all of the “crap” in the background. Maybe I should change my angle….

  6. Excellent tips. I’m forever playing with my settings in our not so well lit house, and I get frustrated by the noise created by the higher ISO. I’ll have to try reducing it in the editing process. Thanks!

  7. I have a CM membership but I’m just not sure where to start! I always say I’m going to go over there and check out some of the forums and stuff but I never find the time. UGH!

    But you’re right, you can really see the change in your photos. And you have such a great eye!

    Looking forward to meeting you on Thursday at the Adorama photography event. 🙂

  8. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run
    into any web browser compatibility issues? A couple of my blog audience have complained about my site not working correctly
    in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any recommendations to help fix
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