Category Archives: tips

Today’s tip is going to be a quick lesson on a very helpful camera setting.  So a very long time ago, I posted a {Tip} on Tuesday that gave little explanations for different camera modes.  And I also said AGAIN…READ YOUR MANUAL.  You’ve had plenty of time to do that, right?  Hehe!  You can read the tip here if ya want: Camera Modes.

So today let’s talk about Aperture Priority today – on your camera dial it’s Av {most of the time}top-of-camera


So first of all what is APERTURE?  Basically, the aperture is the size of the lens opening and controls how much light is allowed to come into the lens.  When you talk about aperture, you might hear the term “f/stops” – for example… f/2.8, f/5.6, f/16, etc.  The numbers indicate your lens opening.  This is where it can get a bit confusing.  The smaller the f/stop number, the larger the opening on your lens.  When your lens is “wide open” (at it’s largest lens opening), it will have a smaller f/stop number.  So when your aperture is set to f/5.6, the lens opening will be larger than an aperture set to f/22.  When you have a smaller f/stop number, your lens can allow more light to pass to the sensor (or film).  A larger f/stop number allows less light.  That’s important to remember!!!  So if you’re outside on a bright day what do you think your aperture should be set at?  A smaller f/stop number will allow A LOT of light which may overexpose your image, but a larger f/stop number (let’s say f/16) will let LESS light in.    Controlling the amount of light is ONE reason to think about your aperture.

The next reason is controlling the depth of field.  In layman terms, depth of field means how much of the image is in focus.  If you are photographing a flower, you may not want everything in the image to be in focus so you would want to create a small depth of field.  The opposite is true for a landscape image, here you may want the entire scene in focus so you’d want a large depth of field.  Your aperture can control your depth of field.  The smaller the f/stop number (or the larger the lens opening), the smaller your depth of field {less of the image will be in focus}.  And vice versa for a larger f/stop number or a small lens opening {more of the image will be in focus}.  So think about the flower you want to focus on.  What would your aperture be if you wanted to focus just on the flower and have everything else blurred out?   If you said a smaller aperture number (f/stop), you are correct.  Now think about a landscape image or a large group of people where you want everyone to be in focus.  What would you set your aperture too?  A larger f/stop number!!!

Now that you know what the aperture does, next week I’ll talk more about using the aperture priority mode on your camera.  Until then, keep practicing:)



Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – he was referring of course to hockey, but this true for photography too.  You never know what you can capture with your camera until you use it.  Basically, the more you practice,  the more you learn.

I just recently finished teaching a class for the Lone Star College Life-Long Learner Department and came to realize that photography is really not meant to be taught in a traditional classroom setting.  Sure it can be – but it’s kind of like trying to teach science from a textbook only.  Sure you can memorize all the terms, but where you really learn & begin to understand science is in a lab or out in the field.  Same for photography – just imagine your learning lab is the whole entire world!!!  But YES, you still need to read your camera manual (I wonder how many times I’ll say that :).

Learning to photograph anything is just best learned with a “hands-on approach”.  But don’t just take your camera out in the world and just randomly click the shutter button. Instead shoot with a purpose – try to challenge yourself to see things in a different way and try to photograph the ordinary, everyday life things with a different perspective.  Your challenge is to turn something “boring” into some interesting by conjuring up your artistic side.

Ask yourself a few questions:  How could I make this interesting?  How should I crop the scene?  Do the colors and the lighting really set the mood of the image?  What’s the best angle?  Take your time, think about the best composition of the image you want to create, and then click!  (SIDE NOTE:  These rules don’t apply to walking or running babies or animals lol – in that case, just shoot, shoot, shoot!  I’m kind of kidding – only a little:).

So today, I’ll give you one composition tip to get started:

The Rule of Thirds! 

The rule of thirds is an artistic principle that goes back as far as the ancient Greeks and this is BIG DADDY of all composition rules (and usually the first taught in an art class)!  Imagine the object and/or scene has a “tic-tac-toe” grid around it.  The intersecting points (called saddle points) is where you really want to place the main subject of your image to make it more interesting and more pleasing to your eye.  Take a look at the Mona Lisa and ask yourself where her face is???  If you look carefully you’ll notice that it’s in the top third of the image.  I’m pretty sure this was no accident and Da Vinci did this on purpose.

Although these are no “Mona Lisa(s)”, here are a few images I’ve taken that demonstrate the rule of thirds.


Tip…Most camera phones and some traditional cameras have a grid you can turn on to help you “see” the rule of thirds better.  READ YOUR MANUAL to find out how to turn it on:)

Until next time…

So you got a new fancy camera for Christmas — that’s great!  Or maybe you’ve had your camera for some time and just never took the time to learn to use it.  Have no fear…I’m going to help.  Awhile back I started posting “Tips on Tuesday” and tried to give a few helpful tips along the way (I think the bulk of the originals are gone due to the gremlins who ate my website a couple of years ago though).  I’ve also taught a few “Basics for Beginners” photography classes here and there & I get asked questions about cameras (how to use it, the best one to get, etc., etc.) ALL THE TIME!  So I’m starting over here with “Tips on Tuesday” and my goal is to help you learn to WORK YOUR CAMERA.

Most of the tips can be applied to any “advanced point and shoot” or DSLR camera.  But a lot will apply to any camera whether it be an iPhone camera or a “simple point and shoot”. By the way…if you happen to be in the market for a good camera don’t fall into the trap that the most expensive is the best.  An expensive DSLR is no better than a mid-range Point & Camera unless you really have the time to understand and learn to work it.  And by the way…here’s a link to my camera of choice for personal uses – Canon G series.  I currently have an older version (G12), but looking to upgrade very, very soon (I’m leaning towards the G16).  I once wrote a very lengthy blog post on why this type of camera for my personal use (and why I recommend this camera to most people who want a “better” camera), but I just checked and it’s gone from the blog (darn gremlins).  I’ll add that to my list to rewrite it soon, but in short this camera can do everything most people really want and need for personal uses.  And it’s small enough that you WILL actually carry it along with you.

One important thing to remember is that a better camera will not make your photos better. Good photography comes from what’s in between your ears rather this what you hold in your hand. So start with the camera you have right now!!!

“A good photo is knowing where to stand.” ~Ansel Adams

My first piece of advice to anyone who “wants to take better pictures” is to understand how your camera works. READ THE MANUAL!  I know it’s boring, but how else will you ever learn all your camera functions???  Not all cameras are created equally.  For the first of this tutorial, I’m going to briefly explain what all the little icons mean on the camera dial.  My goal is to get you off the “green box”!!!  If you have a camera that cost more than a few hundred dollars and are using the “green box” mode (aka automatic)… You have wasted your money!  REALLY! Your iPhone can do just as a good job.  Again these will be very short descriptions.  To learn more about each…READ THE MANUAL:)

1  Automatic – the green box (or some an oval).  Basically you point the camera, click the shutter button, and BAM you’re done.  No thinking required – the camera does all the thinking for you.  Great for snapshots and candids of this and that.  Do I ever use green mode?  Yes, but only on my point and shoot.  And only when I really don’t want to think about my settings or don’t have the time (sometimes you just have to capture the moment).  Never, ever on my DSLR, NEVER!  One thing about shooting on automatic is that sometimes your camera can get it right and sometimes NOT.  But you get the point…all you do is point on the green mode.  Nothing else to say on this.

2. Program mode – I’m not going to spend much time here because basically it’s not much different than automatic mode.  While you do have a little more control (very little), the camera really controls everything for the most part.  There are a few tricks to learn for program mode that I’ll get to later, but I promise you have other options for a lot more control.   I never use this mode (goes for both the point & shoot and my professional camera).  And by the way…program mode is sometimes called “P-mode” — P-mode DOES NOT stand for “Professional Mode”.:)

3.  Shutter Priority (shortened to Tv on your camera dial) – in short, you set the shutter speed of your choice and the camera sets the aperture.  What’s shutter speed and aperture?  Read your manual he-he:)  Kidding, but not kidding really – you need to know these terms.  But I will cover them as we go.  Rarely do I use this mode – probably more so on my point & shoot.

4.  Aperture – This is one of my favorite modes to use when I work outdoors – using this mode helps me to achieve a certain look I want.  Basically it does the opposite of shutter priority.  In this mode, you set the aperture (the opening of your lens) and the camera sets the shutter speed.  We’ll get to the reasons why you’d want to control your aperture and/or shutter speed later.

5. Manual – My absolute favorite!  More thinking is involved here, but this mode really lets you be in complete control and be creative on your terms.  I use this mode 100% of the time in the studio and about 95% of the time when working with flash outside (the other 5% is in aperture mode using natural light only for the most part).

6. Bulb and scene modes – just for now I’m going to skip over these.  Most point and shoot cameras have special scene modes and some consumer DSLRs (have both).  But I’ll get to them later down the road.

So your homework for now is to READ THE MANUAL!  At the very least, read your manual to find out what camera modes and/or scenes your camera has.  And then practice photographing one object on the different modes.  Try to see if you can make a decent image on each mode (you’ll probably have to read that manual if you don’t know how to change your settings:).  But just try – don’t get discouraged.  In the next week or two, I’ll go into more detail on aperture and shutter speed.

Here is a quick example of one object taken at the 5 different modes I went over above:

Automatic Mode

Automatic Mode

Program Mode

Program Mode

Shutter Priority (Tv) Mode

Shutter Priority (Tv) Mode

Aperture Priority (Av)

Aperture Priority (Av)

Manual Mode

Manual Mode

With Springtime on it’s way, a lot of you are planning for photo sessions (high school seniors, family spring portraits, spring portraits for the kids, etc.) this time of year.  You have a lot of time and money invested into your session, and you want to make sure it’s worth it.   Here’s some quick advice to help you have the best photoshoot experience:
  1. Don’t be late – A photographer (especially when using natural light) plans for just enough time to have enough light during your shoot. The later you are, the less time you will have to get good quality pictures in the best circumstance.
  2. RELAX – Try your hardest not to be tense or stressed out.   Your photographer will be able to direct you in a way that will make you look great if you are willing to try everything, and trust their experience. The more tense and nervous you are, the more uncomfortable you will look, and the harder it will be to get ideas flowing and you looking natural.  And if you’re not in the picture but your kids are, the same is true.  Kids can sense when the parents are stressed and it shows in their photos.  Also, threats during a session aren’t a good idea usually (bribes yes, but threats usually tend to backfire).
  3. Go with the flow & trust the photographer –  If your photographer puts you in a specific pose, and you feel weird just trust that you look good.  I always try to show the pose and explain why.  Sometimes you feel weird while doing it, but it actually looks for good for the camera.  Just have fun, ask questions as to why if you want, and just try the pose.  If it’s too uncomfortable or you just aren’t “cool” with it – ask to try something else.  And if you have a concern (tummy area, arms, or whatever), make sure you tell your photographer!  They should be able to pose you in way that will minimize your worry areas.
  4. Don’t be last minute with your planning!  Plan out your outfit, hair, and makeup far in advance so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute. Those things make a WORLD of difference in pictures, so start researching, shopping, and getting your look together so you can feel confident instead of frustrated when you show up to your shoot.  Bring your outfits, accessories, and props to the session in an organized way.  I always suggest you put your accessories in a plastic zipper bag and slip it on the hanger of the matching outfit.
  5. And the last tip – make sure your clothes are ironed and pressed!!!  Wrinkles on clothes will SHOW & no, they can’t be “retouched” in photoshop:)
  6. Just one more tip…HAVE FUN!

It’s time to start thinking about Fall Family Sessions!!!

One of the most asked questions I get is “What Do We Wear?”.  Well, I’m definitely no fashion expert myself.  My favorite outfit is a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops:)  But I can give you ideas on what looks best for family portraits…hey, it’s what I do!

Here are a few tips to think about when planning your outfits:

  1.  Wear colors that compliment the season.  Browns, blues, grays, yellows, and oranges are good colors to think about.  You can always add a pop of color as an accessory (a scarf, chunky necklace, etc.).
  2. Coordinate everyone’s outfit.  This doesn’t mean that everyone has to be in the exact same color.  Just make sure your colors all look great together.
  3. Think about where you want to display your family images.  So you want a nice size canvas on your mantle or wall showcasing what’s most precious to you – YOUR FAMILY.  Make sure your clothes you’ve picked out for your family session compliment the colors in the area of your home where you’ll display your family pictures.  Again, doesn’t have to match exactly – just be sure that your family photos don’t clash with the rest of your décor.
  4. Stick with solid colors.  Solid colors look the best in photographs.  Distracting prints on clothing will take away from the real subject.  If you must have prints in clothing, think about this…kids can get away with wearing prints more than adults.  Kids wearing prints is also a good way to break up solid colors worn by the adults and add a pop of color to the image.
  5. Textures are good!  Sweaters, jackets, scarves, and even belts are a great way to add texture to an image.
  6. Accessories are good!  Don’t forget this step when planning for you fall family photos.  It’s the little things that make the photo.
  7. Don’t advertise for a clothing company.  Well, unless you’re a Gap model – then it’s okay if you wear a shirt displaying their logo.  But for everyone else…clothes with logos and text are very distracting and take away from the subject of the photo.
  8. Add layers.  Layers can accessorize your outfit and add texture.  It’s also a great way to mix and match between neutrals and colors that can make a photo pop.  Layers also allow for quick outfit changes without actually changing clothes completely.
  9. Don’t forget your shoes!  Yes, it’s happened more than once.  A family shows up with the cutest outfits, but dad has left his shoes picked out for the session at home (shame on him lol)!!!  The tennis shoes or flip flops he’s wearing just don’t do the outfits justice.  Or someone spends so much time coordinating the clothes that they completely forget about the shoes or boots or whatever footwear looks best and they just grab tennis shoes for little Johnny right before they leave the house (grungy tennis shoes…no no no).  So when planning you’re outfits, don’t forget to plan what your going to put on your feet.  Not all of your family images may show your shoes, but some do and there’s nothing worse than when the shoes ruin the perfect family photo.
  10. Have fun & don’t stress!!!  This is probably the most important one of all.  Even if you clothes aren’t perfect or dad left his shoes at home…just shake it off and go with the flow.  My job as a photographer is to make you look your best.  If everyone’s scared of you (lol – mommys gonna snap) and you’re completely stressed out…IT WILL SHOW!  Take it easy and trust your photographer.

Well, I hope that helps a little when you start planning your fall family session outfits.  You can also check out my pinterest board for a few visual ideas

Follow Sheila’s board 2015 – What to Wear for Families on Pinterest.

Also, my favorite place to shop!!!  Fall clothes are out and great sales going on at Target!  Click here to go shopping at Target!

The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

F a c e b o o k
T w i t t e r