Thursday, September 16, 2010

Whats in the bag?

I must preface this post saying I in NO WAY think I am a fabulous, trailblazing photographer. I think I do just fine and have fun editing my personal pictures in fun funky ways but I don't want people to think I am little miss know it all or anything. I just thought I would share how I sometimes do things since I have received several emails and post comments about it and I don't want to be rude and ignore them. I honestly believe the best way to improve your photography is to find a photographer you LOVE and attend one of their workshops. Ones I might recommend, but is NOT limited to (their names are hyper links to their sites):
Nicole Van in UT
Amelia Lyon in CA
Nicole Hill Gerulat travels around with Art Weekend
The Image is Found California (If there is anyone who wants to go halfsies and do a day together next summer while I am on Vaca in the states let me know!)
Simply Bloom Photography (South USA)
If Angie from Simplicity Photography ever does ANYTHING like that I would go in a heartbeat.
If you are like me and in a remote location the best option may be Nicole Van's Workshop in a box which has received rave reviews OR you can take great online courses at MCP Actions. I am trying to figure out how to take Jodi's Curves class with my unreliable internet... should have done it while in Italy. Literally JUST thought of that while typing it.. ughh. These ladies (and one gentleman) are fantastic and totally have the background to teach, this is just my tiny tiny half a cent, take it with as much weight ha! If you would like to see my photography you can check out my website HERE or at (yes I had to pay fees for the songs, that is another subject ha!) my favorites are infants so be sure to check that out under children :) I really need to update it there are so many great sessions I haven't put on... darn you slow internet!
Okay, so what is in my bag. When I graduated highschool my parents knew I was really getting into photography so they bought me a Canon Rebel film. This was great because I actually had to learn how to take good pictures in only 24 shots. I couldn't shoot a hundred and know at least one would turn out. It was way to expensive for film and processing to do that. A few years later I moved up to a Sony DSLR they are a fairly cheap entry level DSLR and my hubby said before we "bought the farm" he wanted to make sure I would "really use it". It was WELL used. Then came the decision whether to go Nikon or Canon. To be honest I went with a Canon simply because I was familiar with it. I have no passionate feelings either way. Two of my other photographer friends use Nikons and love them so really you will have to research that on your own. The thing is, once you have decided you need to stick with it. Once you start having a few lenses it is way to expensive to switch. Now came the next decision, whether to spend more money on the body and go with the 5D Mark III and only have 1 lens or go less expensive body, the 50 D and buy more lenses. I decided the later. I now shoot pretty much exclusively with my
canon 50D

I think it is a great camera. I have zero complaints. The kit lens that came with it has never even been put on the camera. Instead my main "walk around lens" is my L series 24-105mm f/4.0.

If I could do it over again I would 100% get the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. You loose some mm but gains soooo many f stops (what make your depth of field shallow aka background blurry). That is totally just my opinion. The reviews on both lenses are stellar and mine works fantastically, I just wish it stopped down further. Now, if I am shooting a child and have tons of room (which I usually do because I am a natural light photographer and shoot 75% of the time outside, with the exception being newborns) then I will put on my most favoritist lens ever my 85mm f/1.2 prime lens.

I won't lie, this lens is EXPENSIVE. But, you get what you pay for. Prime Lenses have a fixed focal length (meaning YOU have to move if you want to be closer or farther away from your subject) This means super high quality glass and amazingly clear pictures. I LOVE this lens. You have to have major space to use it otherwise you will be up your subjects nose ha! If I don't have the space but REALLY need the lower F-Stops I will snap on my 50 mm f/1.8 prime lens.

I would HIGHLY recommended this lens to ANYONE because it is so affordable and just fabulous. You can purchase it from B&H Camera (an excellent online photography store) for less then 100 bucks! It takes gorgeous portrait pictures (again prime lens) but gives you more distance then the 85. It is super light and fun to play with.
On occasion, if I am shooting from a helicopter or doing a sports event for the embassy I will cart along the mammoth, but wonderful, 70-200mm f/2.8. This thing is amazing but so stinkin' heavy. I would never use it for any sort of portraiture... maybe at a wedding if I wanted to keep my distance?
Other "stuff"
Aside from the camera and lenses I will usually also have the following in my bag on a paid shoot:
My 3 in 1 reflector with the stand (this is awesome for those of us who are not big time enough to have assistants but still really love the magic reflectors can make)
My external Flash: 430 EX II Speedlite TTL, which I have used once but cart around because I am paranoid (also have the diffuser). I rarely shoot at night and despise it when I do. I am not good at it. Someone needs to have a workshop on THAT.
An extra battery fully charged
Tripod (never use it)
Lens cleaning kit
Trash bag to slide over camera in case of inclement weather

Okay now what about my "bag". At first I used a very stylish cute camera bag that looked a lot like a purse. But now that I am in Timor lugging my camera through mud and forests, my hubby bought me a Lowepro that I use pretty much exclusively. It fits all my lenses plus a bunch of snacks (crucial on an all day excursion) and it straps on nice and tight :) Add in the all weather cover you can pull up and over for the torrential rains we get in Timor and it is pretty much the perfect bag for me. Go Daddy! That is not to say I am not swooning over this camera bag by Emera:

and wishing it didn't cost almost as much as a lens ha!! Alright so I took all my stuff, took the pictures and sit down to post process. This can be a touchy subject so lets get it out there. I use Photoshop, I use photoshop actions, I make them myself and I purchase others. I do. I think it makes my life easier. If I were in the states and had good internet I would probably outsource all my color correcting as well ha! I have a very wonderful and busy life. Actions make it easier. If you dislike me for it I understand, but I feel to be competitive I need to use them sometimes. So that is that, on to post process. I always shoot in RAW. For those of you just starting out I will tell you what I wish someone told me, you can only process RAW if you have Photoshop. If you do not and you shoot in RAW mode, all those pictures will be lost, or you will need to take them to a Photoshop where they can batch them into JPEGS. Don't shoot in RAW unless you have access to Adobe Bridge (Photoshop). If you do have access never ever shoot in anything but RAW once you have learned how to use Photoshop. I am not going to even attempt to teach anything about Photoshop. I still need lots and lots of training and have thrown my Photoshop Bible against the wall on several occasions ha! So I thought I would walk you through what I would do on a picture. Keep in mind a few things
1. I rarely do this much work to a photo
2. I have a specific taste that even my hubby doesn't like sometimes
3. I use actions from several different photographers and will have hyper links to their sites.
4. This is just the way I do things. You may hate it and if so that's fine, don't do it my way :)
Below is a picture of Finn pouting on a bench in Via Bourgese park because I wouldn't pay 4 Euros to go on an extremely gross looking kiddie ride.
It is a bit dark and blue, I had just been shooting Evie in direct light eating rocks ha!
So in bridge I lightened it up and gave the contrast a boost, played with the curves a bit and then opened it up in photoshop looking like this:
Already it looks a little better and I might just leave it like this. But I went a head and took it a few more steps. Using actions from Totally Rad Actions (I just purchased these a few weeks ago and they are crazy!) I lightened up his face, boosted color saturation and retouched his face and eyes.
Now if I were doing this and planning on printing it for our house, I would stop here. My hubby doesn't like the desaturated look that I love so I try to think about that when I print pictures. But I am not printing it and am really into that faded look right now (again not for everyone) so I finished it off by using Lily Blue's Honey action and added one of Nicole Van's Vignettes (they are a lot more subtle then the standard photoshop vignette).
I use Totally Rad's sharpen for web action to get it ready to upload and badda bing I am done. For comparisons sake:
If this were for a paid client I would probably go back and make the edge of his check less "light" but it is for me and I think it is fine for what I need it for, memories ha! That is just one process I go through. The pictures of Evie above was only processed in bridge and the opened up and saved so it is not like I am doing that many actions on all my pictures, I don't have enough time in the day :). Now you...
Go out and have some fun with your camera! If you can, buy fun equipment, but keep in mind it is a waste if you don't learn how to use it. I justify that the pictures I take are more precious then any other hobby. They won't break, they won't devalue they will be precious forever, well that's the sales pitch I used when I needed to upgrade my camera... to bad it only worked once ha! Sorry this is a marathon post but I hope it helped a little and wasn't excessively boring. Is your head down on the desk drooling? I have to go grab our laundry off the line. I had forgotten how cute little clothes look hanging up to dry
Especially when your mother in law gives you the most adorable tiny clothes pins ha!
If you know how to make your clothes less crunchy off the line I would love to hear it. If it works I might use a line when we get back to Timor :)
Oh and on one final note, speaking of clothes. Styling your photo shoot is HUGE. I wish I could go with the families to buy the clothes for the shoot every time. It is so funny to me that parents will pay buckets for a photo session and then show up looking like they grabbed random items out of the closet. You are going to look at these pictures for a very long time. They will probably be framed and put in a place of honor in your home, so one word of advice, think long and hard about what you are going to wear. Do you want to be timeless and classic or fun and trendy? Talk to your photographer before you go to the shoot about what would look good in the location you are going to. When I am going to do family pictures these are my go to stores for the family:
Mom: Anthropologie, Zara, H&M
Dad: Lands End Canvas, JCrew, H&M
Kiddos: Zara Kids (Best EVER!), H&M, White Company (if you are in England),Target
Accessories: (one of kind super fun and cute items)
Okay, I am climbing down from my soap box ha!


  1. Kelly,

    Thank you for your kind mention of B&H Photo. On behalf of all of us at B&H Photo, please accept our warm thanks and deep gratitude for your patronage. We look forward to earning your trust and continued business for many years to come. I invite you and your readers to check out our new informative and entertaining blog at

    Hershel K. Waldner
    Online Marketing Department
    B&H Photo-Video-Audio
    212-239-7500 ext. 2893

  2. WOW! Okay so my hubby took pictures of our little lady on her birthday and his dad kept saying "I will lighten them up" HAD no idea what he meant, THANK YOU... I am going over there tonight so I don't have to just smile and nod... lol!! have a great day

  3. wow, you weren't kidding- marathon post!
    really like it though, since i'm a girl who uses photography as a way to multi-task creativity, memories and learning new things. gotta squish all of those things into one hobby when you're a busy mom!

  4. ps: just went to your site-- i love the postal service! (and the photos too, of course)

  5. Thanks for the tips. :) I love photography, but haven't actually studied it yet. Probably should since I'm working on the kids' yearbook this year.... ugh
    About the clothes thing - try putting the clothes into the dryer with a fabric softener for about 5 minutes at the highest setting the fabric will allow. Then it will hang nicely on the line and not end up all stiff. I do this with fabrics I know will end up with super-static if it's in the dryer too long and it works out great. Great for jeans, too, if you don't want the length to shrink. Just give each leg a pull after the dryer/before the line and it'll work great. :)
    You could also use a liquid fabric softener in your washer. I've never actually tried it, but I hear from others it works well, depending on the brand. Good luck! :)

  6. Thank you for sharing your photography wisdom! Especially about editing! I am trying to get into photography and have been playing around with photoshop. Your tips helped me tremendously! Thank you! =>

  7. Precious little ones...heading over to check out these photography classes :)

  8. Ah this makes me want to buy a camera so bad! I've been on a Sony DSLR for a few years and I yearn for beautiful photos like your little girl!

  9. I LOVE this Kelly, thank you! I have often admired photos like that and wondered how they're done! I was recently spoiled by my hubby with a new Nikon but I am still learning how to use it. oh, and for the clothes off the line, I throw them in the dryer on low for 5-10 minutes to "fluff" them and then they're not stiff at all!

  10. Thank you so much for discussing this! I have done quite a bit of research on cameras and it's good to hear reviews from people I know (this blog world is so funny, but I feel like I know you just from reading your lovely blog!) Can you tell me more about your Sony? Which lenses did you use? I would love to have a DSLR but probably couldn't convince my husband to go for the higher-end models. Haha

  11. Thanks for this great post. I have been in love with your photography style for some time now.

  12. kelly, i LOVED this post. I swear I just learned so much! I'm so glad I have your blog now :). I'm loving it. I wish I lived closer to you

  13. Very helpful :) As for your clothes, use vinegar in the place of liquid fabric softener. Just pour in the same amount of vinegar that your fabric softener cup calls for and wash as normal. The vinegar smell goes away once the clothes are dry and they will be much softer. HTH!

  14. This is so helpful, actually. I have been using photoshop for a while (terribly, just basic stuff) and I have never heard of actions. I'll check it out, immediately.

    OH, and when you stop hanging your clothes on the line you'll miss the crunchy clothes feeling. It's funny that way.

  15. This was wonderful, thank you! And I second what Donna said about vinegar. 1/4-1/3 C of white vinegar will not only help soften your clothes, but it will eliminate the musty smell that towels sometimes get after even one use. I'm assuming Timor is close to Okinawa (where I am) for humidity levels, and the vinegar was AMAZING to learn about, as I stopped having to launder them after only 1-2 uses. Just don't add fabric softener to towels! It makes them less absorbent.

  16. Thanks for your post about photography, I was wondering which lenses were best for what!

    Also, about your laundry, iron them with the steam on. I had to do this while I lived in Austria as a nanny. It's an extra step and more time, so I only did it on the items I was picky about being softer. :)

  17. I want your 85mm!!! This is a great post...thanks!! AND I've been to both Nichole Van and Amelia Lyon's workshops!! SO GOOD. Seriously, I learned more going to a workshop than I could have in a year trying to figure things out by myself. One of the years we'll go to a workshop together.

  18. You had me at hello! (LOL)


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