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Photography FAQ

Q: Did you go to school for photography?

A: No. It’s been a hobby for a long time, and there is still so much I want to learn. I am self-taught but am lucky to know a lot of great photographers including my incredibly talented father-in-law. Having a nice DSLR camera helps, but I still believe that a beautiful image comes far more from a photographer’s eye, passion, an interesting angle and a little bit of good light than formal training and technology. I do what works for me and have found that out by a little bit of reading, a little bit of Googling, but mostly from practicing a ton and playing with my camera.

Q: What kind of camera and lenses do you use?

A: I have a Canon 50D (and a back-up 20D) and use the following lenses (all Canon): 50 mm 1.4, 24-105 mm 4.0L, 16-35 mm 2.8L, 70-300mm 4.5-5.6. My favorite lens for my girls is my 50 mm, and I like to shoot anywhere between 2.8 and 1.4 for the sharpest image possible. I have recently graduated from shooting AP to manual and am loving the change. Sometimes I shoot in RAW, but most of the time, I’m too lazy. And when shooting people, I always focus on the eyes.

Q: What do you use for editing?

A: I primarily use Lightroom 2. I don’t go crazy editing my photos because it’s time consuming and I like a more organic look to them (although every once and awhile I’ll knock myself out with some crazy tweaks), but I have a few main adjustments I make to most of my published photos: exposure, clarity, contrast and sharpening. Sometimes, I use an adjustment brush to brighten/sharpen eyes or enhance single colors in a photo and then sometimes, when I’m really lucky, I leave my photos just the way they came off the camera.

Q: What do you use for lighting?

A: Natural light, baby. The more, the better. I don’t like flash pictures mainly because I haven’t practiced enough with a flash to get a natural look. I love good light and have learned all the places in my house that let in the best natural light and all the best times to get it. My favorite time to shoot outside is an hour before sunset (the golden light). Otherwise, we look for shady spots. If there’s not great light, we crank up our ISO and hope for the best.

Q: How did you do the “photo wall” in your home?

A: The wall photos: 16×20 prints framed in glass “frameless” clip frames. They are available at Ikea for $5 each or you can find them for around $15 at Michael’s or Joann’s.

Q: About those photo books…

A: I design my 12×12 scrapbook pages in an old program called Microsoft Digital Image Suite (version 11.) You can still get it on Ebay last I checked. The pages are easy and fast to make, and I make them gradually throughout the year (I try to have 25 pages done every three months for each kid) and save them in Shutterfly. I don’t use a lot of scrapbook crafty stuff because I like the look of clean pages with a little color and fun text, but there are some great free papers and download kits at Shabby Princess. I find lots of fun free fonts at Scrap Village. Otherwise, I just drop in color blocks and shapes into my pages and intersperse them with photos placed in a graphically pleasing way. I publish my books right before birthdays so one year of life is documented, and I use the 12×12 hardbound Shutterfly book which is amazing for the price. I save all my pages as jpegs and drop them into blank book pages in Shutterfly (I don’t use their layouts). What do these books mean to me? I look at them all the time. And so does everyone else that comes to our house. Best of all, Lainey loves them and will know just how much every moment with her was cherished when she’s all grown up (and Nella too!). And if a hurricane is brewin’ in the gulf, girlfriend’s gonna grab two things before running to take shelter: my babies in one arm and my Shutterfly books in the other.

Q: Are there any good photography resources you use?

A: I’m terrible at reading instruction books and definitely learn best by doing, but I have found any photography book by Scott Kelby to be fantastic. They are easy to follow, things are described in total layman’s terms, and Scott Kelby is kinda funny too. Try his Digital Photography books, volumes 1 and 2.

Q: What inspires your photography?

A: My girls. Feeling completely relaxed at Isle of Capri. Golden light. Color. Anthropologie catalogs. Mornings. Love. Vintage fashion. Small details that no one else notices. Feeling in the moment. Not caring too much. The gratification that comes from knowing the next photo could be the best one I’ve ever taken.

Q: Advice to anyone who wants to take good photos?

A: A good camera is the best investment you’ll ever make. (If you’re watching your money, start with a Canon Rebel, a 50 mm 1.4 and work up). Don’t care what other people think. Believe in yourself and let passion and what you love take over. Don’t try too hard and know that you will get better with practice. Trying to know everything right up front will only put pressure on you and take away your passion. Learn from others. Ask questions. Photograph what you love–whether it’s your kids, home decor, food, etc. and don’t forget the little details.

And the coolest inexpensive photos? Download the I-Phone’s Hipstamatic camera app. It takes super cool vintage photos. You can swap out lenses and films for different effects. Totally love this app.