August 31, 2015

HOW TO SET THE STAGE FOR MOOD LIGHTING

Do you want to know a secret? Do you want to know one of the ways I study photography? This might sounds rather simple, but I study photos that I like. If I see a photo that I like I'll study the reason why I like it. How the light is coming into the photo, how the photo is staged, and what is it about the photo that works. I spend a lot of time studing the light in the photo, the better I am able to understand the light in the photo, the better chances I have of being able to do the same. That is what inspired this particular photo shoot. I saw a photo that I liked, it was a rather moody photo, so I spent time studying the light.

UNDERSTANDING THE LIGHT
In this particular photo I have two main light sources. One from the window and one from a skylight. The light from the skylight isn't as prominent, but I wanted to address it, so we know exactly where all the light is coming in. The light from the main window is the main light source and when creating mood light that is what you want to focus on. You also want to choose backdrops that won't reflect the light. You want it to be moody and dark so choose dark objects.

SETTING THE STAGE
Let's break down the stage. As mentioned above, you want dark backgrounds. I used a black foam board and a blue foam board. Using two black foam boards would have been ideal, but I had black and blue, so that's want I went with. The problem with colored foam boards is that they will reflect the color that they are. For this particular shoot I didn't run into that problem too much because the surface that my camera and books were on were also a dark color.

ADDING DEPTH
Once the stage was set for my photograph it was time to add depth and detail. I could have set my camera down and called it good but the image would have looked flat and uninteresting. It was important to me to add depth. The books were added to give the camera a stage. The camera is the subject and adding the books provide an opportunity for the camera to be "on display." I then added the books behind the camera to add depth and interest.
PERFECTING THE LIGHT
When I first started shooting, light was coming in from the whole window. If you look in the photo above (to the left) you can see where the light is bouncing off the black foam board. I felt like this light reflection took away from the photo so I added two black object to block and better direct the light I wanted. The above photo (to the right) is the result of making the changes. You can see below the black objects I added to block and direct the light.
GO ONE STEP FURTHER 
So, we've taken time to understand our light, we've set the stage, and we've added depth. We even took the time to perfect the light, but let's go one step further.  The great thing about photography is that we can keep going, we can keep experimenting and we can keep trying until we get to the photo we want. Before I finished this shoot I went one step further. I had been wanting to shoot some fruit. It may sound random, but I thought that  this particular shoot would be perfect to give it a try. I added apples as a final touch to my photo and for me it made me love the photo even more, adding a touch of color.

*TIP : I took these apples straight from the fridge when I did this shoot. Instead of wiping them off I left them as is, giving them a beautiful chilled look.

EXAMPLES: Nikon D300s + 35L
Each image was shot with an ISO of 400, F-stop 2.5, and shutter speed 1/40. A tripod was used to ensure the best lighting.  
There is something that I think is so beautiful about mood lighting. It's beautiful and draws you in. I hope today helped you better understand the steps it takes to create mood lighting. And I hope it has given you lots of confidence moving forward!

Have you ever set the stage for mood lighting? What are some of your tips and tricks? 

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August 27, 2015

THE ART OF MAKING CHOICES

We all have choices and we make plenty of choices every day about our lives. When I quit my day job that was a choice. It was a hard and scary choice. When I quite I didn't think I would be out of the typical workforce for so long, I quit March of 2013, it's been over two years. That is a really scary thought sometimes. Though I quit my day job when I did, I still looked for work. Yes, I had plans to open an Etsy shop and build a lifestyle blog, but I also knew that if I was able to find work, even something part time it would be good for our finances.

When I quit my day job, financially on paper we couldn't afford it. On paper we didn't make enough money. But we made a choice to trust in Jesus and because of that choice Jesus provided for us in huge amazing ways.
TRUST YOURSELF
I remember looking for jobs weekly and applying to lots of different jobs and out of every single job I applied to I didn't hear back, not even for an interview. I did that for a whole summer. Because of all the job searching and coming up empty, I was trusting that Jesus had me right where he wanted me so I took a break from job searching.

ADJUSTS TO THE CHANGES
I went through Fall and Christmas and the beginning of 2014 and remained focus on my shop and blog. I had even started working as the assistant manager of our apartment complex. Then the summer rolled around and I thought it would be a good time to look for work again, this was the summer of 2014. I spent a few months looking, applied to a few different things and again heard nothing. Hearing nothing back was a first time for me. Of course, I didn't always hear back from every job, but I always heard back from a few. I spent one afternoon writing in my prayer journal. And I heard Jesus clearly when He told me to wait and stop looking for a job.

TRUST IN JESUS
Stepping back from looking for work was tough to hear because I thought I was ready, but I trusted that Jesus had something in store, so I stop looking. Fast forward and here we are. Another summer, but a new place. We are living right smack dab in the middle of what Jesus had told me to wait for. Everything leading up to these moments were all comprised of choices. Choices to step out in faith and trust Jesus.  We all have the opportunity to make choices, to do things differently, to do that which is going to be best for us, to do that which Jesus has laid before us.  

The art of making choices lies with trust. Trusting in Jesus and letting go of trying to control things yourself.
We can all make choices to change something in our life. It may be scary and it may seem impossible, but it's a choice and we can make it. I made a choice this summer to look for work again, and it's been hard and has caused me lots of tears. I have had many days were I haven't felt like I'm enough and days were I want to give up. But those are choices too. It's tough, but one choice I know I can make without a doubt is trusting Jesus. I know that no matter what, Jesus is in control and has a plan laid out for me.

What choices are you wanting to make in your life? What is holding you back?

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August 26, 2015

ACHIEVING BETTER WHITE BALANCE

How many times do you look through your lens, see something beautiful, press your shutter, and then pull the camera away from your face, and see something completely different? This has happened to me far more times then I can count. When I look through the view finder of my camera I want to capture what I see and it's up to me to make the camera see what I see.

I've spent a lot of years shooting at sunset where the light is warm and lovely. I became accustomed to this warm light, so much so that a lot of my photos were coming out warmer then I wanted them to be and this was all do to my white balance. I've always been one to set my white balance. I want to do everything I can to create the best picture I can in camera. I've recently been experimenting with different white balance settings, working towards a greater understanding of which white balance settings will bring me closest to my desired look.

CHOOSING A CUSTOM WHITE BALANCE 
I'm used to flipping through the custom white balance settings; auto, incandescent, fluorescent, direct sun, flash, cloudy, and shade. But over time I learned that even though I was choosing a setting for the circumstantial light I was shooting in, I still came away occasionally unhappy with the balance in my photos.  The custom settings are pretty self explanatory. If you don't want to have to think about setting your white balance, set it on auto and your camera will decide for you. If you're shooting inside with incandescent or fluorescent lighting, choose either of those settings. If your shooting outside choose direct sun, cloudy, or shading. And last, if your shooting with a flash choose the flash setting.

EXAMPLES : D300S + 35L
Each of these images are sooc (straight out of camera). I wanted you to be able to view each straight from the camera without any editing. I also shot JPEG since I didn't plan on doing any editing. Each image was shot with an ISO of 400, F-stop 2.5, and shutter speed 1/20. A tripod was used to ensure the best lighting.
You can see from the examples above the difference in each custom settings. The auto setting starts out somewhere in the middle, but then things move from cool to warm. Your camera manual will actually break down each of these settings. Often times shooting with the auto white balance is a pretty safe bet. For the most part you'll come out with a pretty even temperature and you can always adjust in post.

SHOOTING IN KELVIN, CHOOSING YOUR OWN TEMPERATURE
But what happens if you want even greater control over you white balance? That is where the Kelvin setting comes in. The Kelvin setting actually lets you choose the exact "temperature" at which you would like to shoot at. Shooting in Kelvin can actually be a little overwhelming at first, because all you have to scroll through is a bunch of numbers. Unless you know the range of numbers and at which temperature they fall you may seem like you are stumbling around in the dark.

But that's why we are here today so we can chat about those Kelvin settings and you can give them ago with a little more confidence. Your Kelvin settings are going to range between 2,500 and 10,000. With 2,500 being very cool and 10,000 being very warm. Often times when I get started I set my white balance at 5,000. That gives me a jumping off point since 5,000 usually falls close to the middle. If I feel like my photo is too warm or too cool, I'll decrease or increase my number ever so slightly.
You can see the photos above are relativity cool and the photos below are relativity warm. Based on the temperature of the photos and the coordinating number we can adjust to our preference. 

The more you shoot in Kelvin the more comfortable you will become and the better you will become at reading the light that you are shooting in. If you want to give shooting in Kelvin a go, try shooting the same object at different Kelvin settings like the examples above. This will give you really clear examples of the differences and hopefully give you confidence moving forward.

Let me know if you give Kelvin a try and hashtag (#ElahTreePhotoTips) your work  so I can check it out!

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August 25, 2015

HOW TO TELL A STORY IN YOUR STYLE POSTS

The last few style shoots Tyler and I have done I have thought a lot about story. I've been thinking a lot about what story I want to tell through the images we capture. Style shoots are specific, so the story has to be specific as well. In this shoot I knew what story I wanted to tell. I knew I wanted to tell a story of having you over, of inviting you in and sharing our space with you.

For todays shoot I only had a vague  idea of the story I wanted too tell. I decided on my story on a whim. I knew I wanted it to be ethereal, but I also knew capturing the light I wanted would be tough too. Our house sits under a canape of trees and we are also in a bit of a valley, so we don't really get the perfect sun set light.

Initially I imaged a girl making her way through the woods, slow and peaceful. I then saw her enter into an open space, as if she found a secret place. That's as far as a got with my story but it was short, sweet, and to the point. With only a few pieces of my story in place we started shooting. It ended up being a little more difficult then I thought, but for good reason, I hadn't really thought about my idea. I also think there is a lot to think about when your telling a story and thinking about how you want to photograph an outfit.
... A FEW MISTAKES I MADE ... AND HOW YOU CAN DO IT DIFFERENT

THINK ABOUT THE STORY  YOU WANT TO TELL
I hadn't decided on a story until a minute before we started shooting and I hadn't planned how I wanted my images to look. We simply just starting shooting. This method is totally okay, but I didn't plan at all. I hadn't told Tyler what I was thinking until I was standing right in front of the camera. INSTEAD, think about your idea ahead of time and plan out your story. Think about the story you want to tell and the image you want to capture. Sketch out a few ideas about how you want each image to look and how those images make your story.

THINK ABOUT HOW YOUR LOCATION ADDS TO YOUR STORY
We do a lot of shoots at our house and this story could have worked if I was more prepared. However, if I would have thought more about location and what kind of story I wanted to tell, Tyler and I could  have brainstormed where we could tell the story and how it would make things better.
THINK ABOUT HOW YOUR OUTFIT ADDS TO YOUR STORY
When I decided on the story for these photos I was keeping my outfit in mind. I liked the idea of a walk through the woods in a delicate summer dress. That is how I saw the story play out in my head. Any outfit can work as long as it fits into your story. But my story would have played out differently in my head if I was in jeans and boots. If that was the case I may have been carry camp gear or hiking gear. 

THINK THROUGH THE ELEMENTS OF STORY TELLING IN PHOTOGRAPHY
In short you want to think about the mood, the idea, the emotion, and the message. I'll dive more into these elements in another post, but when we got started with our photo shoot, these are things I left out as well. I considered the mood, and the emotion of my story. I didn't consider what message I wanted to convey or what idea I wanted to leave you with. In some degree I was probably thinking about these things, but I hadn't thought them through in my photographs. 
Going through this process is one of my favorite things about photography. It's a process, it's a learning experience and it's something we can go through together. We can share what we're learning and ways we are trying to make ourselves better.

What have you been learning lately? What are some ways you have tried story telling in your photography?

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August 21, 2015

LIFE LATELY

I figured it was time for a little life lately, right? It's been a while and I'm trying to be more intentional about sharing more life snip-its with you guys. First, let's talk about last week. We'll get that one out of the way because... well... I cried a lot. Man, being a girl is hard, am I right?  I was emotional, a little discouraged, a little desperate, and a little lost. I'm officially blaming it on crazy brain. Please tell me you know what crazy brain is. After I moved past the crying I called my mom. Moms make everything better folks. We talked and I felt better in the end. I also did lots of praying and that helped too.

After I moved past the crying, things started to look up. We went to an outdoor movie last weekend, which was super fun. We watched Indian Jones in an outdoor amphitheater right along the Hudson River. It was a little humid, but not too bad and I totally got ice cream. We went with some friends of ours and it was a really nice evening. Now that I think about it last weekend was really busy. That same weekend we also went to the REI garage sale and had lunch with friends on Sunday. Being that busy on a weekend isn't super normal for us.
Apparently we weren't cut out for a crazy fun filled weekend because on Monday Tyler woke up sick and was home from work for two days. He headed in to work on Monday, but came home at lunch. So things were pretty quiet on Monday and Tuesday. Lots of Netflix was watched and lots of soup and crackers were ate. Tyler headed back to work on Wednesday and then guess who else got sick? That's right, I did. But only for Wednesday. We both woke up Thursday feeling pretty good.
So here we are. It's Friday and we're about to embark on a new weekend. Tyler is off today and I'm pretty jazzed about that. We had plans to go to the beach but we're expecting lots of rain today so we'll just see what this weekend has in store.

LET'S TALK PHOTO TIPS REALLY QUICK
So here's the thing, when your out having fun snapping photos, don't worry about getting perfect photos. Life isn't meant to be perfect and we're supposed to be capturing life through the lens, so it just makes sense that not every photo will be perfect either. Instead, think about the story your are trying to capture and focus on that. Tyler and I take our camera out with us all the time. But we're not thinking about capturing the perfect photo, we're thinking about capturing our story. And sometimes by surprise, we'll capture something really dreamy. In the end the story is what you want to remember anyways. :)

Until next time! 

August 19, 2015

WHAT I'VE LEARNED AFTER 6 YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Sometimes I forget how long I've been doing this photography thing. I forget how many years it's been, how things have changed, and what I have learned. Do you want to know a secret? Nothing about photography has ever felt easy to me. When I began I felt like I was stumbling around in the dark. It. was. hard. I looked around at others feeling like they were picking it up so much easier then I was... and maybe they were. I didn't know it then, but I've learned that if I want to do this photography thing, I'm going to have to fight for it.

I didn't go to school for photography. I've taken classes, but my degrees isn't in photography. My last semester of college I took my first class. The class was full and each of us were starting at different skill levels. Some were well versed in photography and others like myself were getting started. I appreciated my instructor because to him we were all the same and he was going to teach us all the same too. That class gave me a foundation to get off the round.
I actually sat last week talking with Tyler about where I was in my photography journey and that's when I started thinking about what I have learned and were I want to go.

GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
One thing that I have learned over everything else that I think is most important is to give yourself grace. The night that Tyler and I talked about my photography journey I wondered why I hadn't grown more and then I looked back on my journey. I forgot about how much my life changed through my journey. I started photography, but then I moved to Florida, where I lived for a year. Then I moved back to Missouri, where I lived for a year and a half, then I moved to California, where I lived for two and a half years. And now I'm in New York. Moving around a lot requires a lot from a person and learning photography wasn't always a priority. It was something I was always pursuing, but, gracious, I needed to give myself some grace. Even though I hadn't learned everything I had wanted to learn in my six years, I had been on lots of adventures. I had been through lots of struggles and I needed to remember that. Friends, give yourself lots of grace, we all need it. 

WITHOUT PRACTICE, THINGS GET RUSTY
In 2012 I did a anniversary shoot. For me, it was one of the best shoots I had ever done. I had grown a lot as a photographer and I was finally finding my groove. I was finally producing photos that I always had hoped for.  Right after that shoot, I hang up my camera and didn't pick it up for a year. Looking back on that moment I can't believe I did that. I can't believe I just hung up my camera. But the other thing that happened that year was that I got married and moved to California. Everything was new and I was doing everything I could to just figure out life. I didn't pick up my camera again until 2013, a year later, and boy was I rusty. I felt like I was starting all over again. It was hard and I was discouraged. I didn't understand why I couldn't pick up right were I left off. But photography like any other art form requires practice. When we put down our cameras it's just like putting down our paint brush. Things get rusty when we don't keep practicing them.  
YOU WILL HAVE TO FIGHT
Art and photography will always be changing. It's our job to keep educating ourselves, and friends, that is so hard sometimes. Technology will advance, styles will change, and imagery will continue to excel. We must continue to fight to master our craft as photographers. I know that if I want to get better as a photographer then I have to keep finding ways to educate myself. Whether that's taking a class, reading a book, practicing in the field, and getting a mentor. We must continue to educate ourselves. We must continue to be hungry to learn and to fight to be better.

FIND FRIENDS
During my first few years of photography I focused on shooting portraits. Nearly everyone that graced the front of my camera was a good friend of mine. I did couples shoots, I did family shoots, I did senior portraits, I did maternity shoots. I asked every single person I knew if I could take there picture.  Find friends that will allow you to take their picture. One of my closest friends used to go out on shoots with me all the time. I was always so grateful for those friends who let me take their picture. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't have had anyone to practice on and I wouldn't have made it as far as I did. Keep in mind that even after you feel like you have grown in your skill and are working steadily with clients, you will still always needs those friends to practice on. Friends are the ones who you can always ask to photograph for a crazy idea you may have.   

KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT
Your camera can do a lot. And really it's simply a tool for you to use. Your camera is your paintbrush and you are the artist. Friends, I secretly wish I could pick up my camera and instantly know everything about it. I wish I could know what every button does and I wish I knew exactly how to create the picture perfect image without blinking. But, that's just not the case. Don't let you camera hold you back, because I've been there, and it sucks so bad. Learn your camera and all the other gear you have. Don't miss out on pictures or opportunities simply because you didn't know something about your camera or because you weren't well versed in your other equipment. Read your camera manual, experiment with all the different settings on your camera, learn everything there is to know about your camera. 

Six years in and I still feel like I have a long journey of learning ahead of me. But that's what we should be hoping for right? Hoping for something that will continue to challenge and stretch us. Something that will push us to do that which we can not do.

How has your photography journey been progressing? What have you learned so far?

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August 17, 2015

HEALTHY BANANA OATMEAL DOUGHNUTS

I made doughnuts and they are the best doughnuts I have ever made. I initially wanted to make oatmeal muffins, but why make muffins when you can make doughnuts, am I right? :) I had really been wanting to make something healthy I could eat for breakfast and I also really wanted to find something that would include Greek Yogurt. I'm trying to put Greek yogurt in everything these days, ha! I have also been looking for ways where I could decrease my intake of refined flour. You know, I'm trying to be healthy.
I had been looking through different recipes when I found this one. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I knew I could make alternations to meet all me needs. 

HEALTHY BANANA OATMEAL DOUGHNUTS - adabted from here

INGREDIENTS :
2 Bananas
2 Eggs
1/3 Cup Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Honey
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Cups Quick Oats
1/2 Cup Toasted Coconut

METHOD :
Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Mash both bananas in a bowl. Wisk together eggs and mix into bananas. Stir in Greek Yogurt, Cococut oil, brown sugar, honey, and vanilla. Mix together until creamy. Next, add baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, oats and coconut. Mix well. Spray doughnut pan with non-stick spray. Spoon mixture into doughnut molds about 3/4 full. Cook doughnuts for 15 minutes and cool on rack for 5 minutes before removing from pan.
So, seriously guys, these are the best doughnuts I've ever made. I may be partial but I think they are so good. The oats and the coconut give the doughnuts great texture and they are perfectly moist. They are also light and filling at the same time if that make sense. I ate one every morning last week with a hard boiled egg and fruit and it was the best. I mean really, these doughnuts, basically mean you can eat a doughnut every day guilt free. Also, if you are wanting to cut sugar you could probably substitute more honey for the brown sugar and I bet they would be great. Have you made any healthy doughnuts lately? I would love to give them a try! xoxo. Samantha

August 13, 2015

CREATING BETTER TIME MANAGEMENT HABITS

I've been trying to get back into a routine and it has been tough. When we lived in corporate housing it was easy to let time get away from me, but now that we're in our own space I'm more inspired and driven to get back on track and create better time management habits. I don't want to fritter my time away doing things that don't bring me closer to my goals and dreams. But I also don't won't to end each day feeling crushed and overwhelmed. I want to find a good balance of accomplishing my goals, taking care of our home and doing life.

I've always been a routine type of person, but I've also learned that structure is suffocating. Balance has become essential in finding what works best for me. Over the years I've tried and experimented with different techniques to help me with better time management. I've used digital planners and paper planners. I've woken up early to get things done and I've stayed up late to get things done. I've blocked out time for projects and I've created outlines. Now, I'm currently in a season where I want to figure which of these different things I've tried work the best.

WRITE IT DOWN 
Getting back on track with my time management started with my new Day Designer planner. I've used digital planners, where I block out time for certain projects, but I still always had a running to do list and blocking out time was to constrictive. My Day Designer allows me to maintain weekly to do list while adding things to each day that I want to accomplish. This allows me to get things done without over structuring my day hour by hour. My days are based on small accomplishments, not hour by hour projects.

CUT SOCIAL MEDIA
Okay, not all together, but I try to cut back on my time spent on social media. Unless I'm doing research or something specif to a goal, I don't spend to much time on social media and I try not to multitask with social media. I set specific times that I'm going to check on those things so I can be all there and then move on so I can focus on other things.

EMAILS IN THE MORNING
 Or at the end of your day. Constantly checking my email through out the day is distracting and doesn't allow me to completely focus on my daily tasks. I either check my email at the beginning of my day or at the end of my day.

TAKE A BREAK 
Breaks are so important for me. I'm not able to create my best work if I don't allow myself to take a break. Taking breaks allows me to relieve stress and keeps my work from consuming me. If everything doesn't get done it's okay, there are other days and others hours.

SET DEADLINES 
Deadlines help me to stay on track and help me to accomplish my goals in timely manner. I actually don't always like to set deadlines, but if I don't set them things just pass me by. Deadlines provide an opportunity to reach my goals.
All of us have different ways to manage time and get things done. I've been trying to get to a place where things are more organized and I don't feel like everything is spinning above my head. Creating better time management habits will help me to reach my goals, purge things in my life that aren't working, and continue to grow and make changes.

What are things you do better manage your time? What are your favorite resources to keep you on track? 

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