Monday, April 30, 2012

6 tips for budding photographers

Boy oh boy, do I have a special treat for you!  Kyna is here to share some fantastic tips for beginning photographers!  She has an amazing eye for photography and takes the BEST pictures of her little girl.  Needless to say, I've been dying to pick her brain for tips for some time now.  Lucky for me {and you!} she has graciously agreed to share some of her secrets with us today:


Hello all you lovely apartment 46 readers! I'm Kyna from great expectations and I'm excited to be here today! Thank you so much Christine, for asking me to guest post!

(Image credit Nina S)
I was seriously blown away and honored when Christine asked me to share some of my photography tips with you guys....truth be told, I am nowhere near a professional in the photography department. Far, far from it actually! But I truly have a passion for photography, so that alone has inspired me to learn as much as I could in the past year and a half since getting my first DSLR. I have always been interested in photography, but after having my daughter in 2009, I was more determined than ever to learn all I could about photography so I can capture each moment. To me, capturing a moment in a picture is like telling a story, and I strive to capture that story as clearly and vibrantly as I can. This is what pushes me to perfect my photography, so that I can tell the best story possible through my pictures.

Although I am a 100% self taught photographer, I have had (and still have) some awesome mentors that have given me so many tips along the way. I would love to share some of these tips with you guys!

Tip #1-
Learn to shoot in manual mode (if you have a DLSR)...

I know, I know, everyone says this right? Not the most original tip I could have started with. But it's so true...that's why everyone is constantly saying this! Without learning the basics of shooting in manual (including learning about The Exposure Triangle ), you aren't truly learning about the meat and bones of photography. Photography is all about light, and you need to learn about it, before you can truly understand how to take better pictures.

When I first got my camera, I forced myself to shoot in manual mode only after having the camera for about a month. Did I miss a lot of shots? Of course! Did my pictures look absolutely horrible in the beginning? Yup! But with practice, did I get better at shooting on manual? You bet! I challenged one of my blogger friends, Andrea ,to only shoot in manual mode for one full month, when she reached out to me looking for photography help, and you wouldn't believe at how incredible her pictures got once she started shooting in manual (not that they were bad before...they were great before! But now, they are amazing!)

And even if you don't have a DSLR and you don't have a manual mode, it is still really helpful to learn about The Exposure Triangle so you can understand what your camera is doing in the semi-automatic modes that you can choose.

Tip #2-
Get creative with your composition... 

I'm not going to lie, this one can be hard for me sometimes when I am shooting my 2 year old toddler who won't sit still for pictures. Sometimes the last thing I can think about is my composition, and things like the Rule of Thirds. But photography is all about creativity, and you would be amazed at how much better your picture can look if you get a little creative with your composition. Whether you set up your shot following the ever so famous Rule of Thirds, or even if you just take the picture from a different angle to get a different perspective, being creative with your composition can really make the difference between an "just okay" picture and an amazing picture.

If you want to meet someone with an outstanding eye for creative composition, check out some of Melanie's pictures! She gets so creative with her composition and it really makes her pictures stand out! I am always pushing myself to remember my composition when taking pictures. Like I mentioned, sometimes when you are just trying to catch a quick moment with your toddler, it may be impossible, but it is always something to have in the back of your head while shooting.

Tip #3-
Eliminate blur

Unwanted blur in a picture can be extremely distracting and isn't too pretty to look at either. I think the hardest part of photographing moving subjects (i.e, my 2 year old), is nailing my focus and capturing a non-blurred picture. The most important thing to remember if you don't want blur in your picture is to make sure your shutter speed is set appropriately. When photographing kids and/or pets you want your shutter speed to be at least 1/200 or faster. If your shutter speed is set to anything slower than that, you will start to notice blur in your pictures. If you are shooting in manual mode, you may have to compensate for a faster shutter speed by increasing your ISO, or adjusting your aperture. If you are shooting in a semi-automatic mode, make sure you are choosing the shutter priority which will allow you to set your shutter speed (and the camera will automatically adjust the other settings to compensate for the fast shutter speed). Make sure you are also placing your focus point on the area that you want the sharpest!

Tip #4
Learn how to use a photo editing program

It doesn't matter how good of a photographer you are, you will, at some point, need a photo editing program, even if it's just to crop your photos. But a good photo editing program can do so much more than that! You can save over/under exposed pictures, you can clone out unwanted background clutter from your picture, you can even get creative with your colors, hue, and saturation. The possibilities are endless! It's always a good idea to learn at least one editing program, and learn it well. Personally, I use both Lightroom and Photoshop and I love them both, for different reasons. But if you aren't ready for either of these programs, or you don't want to spend the money (they definitely aren't cheap!), try out one of the many free online editing programs that are available. I have personally tried PicMonkey and ipiccy and they are both great!

Remember, that a photo editing program should never take the place of getting the picture technically correct straight out of the camera. With that said, there are always shots that you don't quite nail, or subjects that aren't the most cooperative (again, my 2 year old), and in these instances, a good photo editing program can salvage a picture for you, and can even make it look fantastic!

Tip #5
Take a lot of shots

This is a tip that I forget every once in awhile, mostly when I am getting too caught up with checking my settings in between each shot. I forget that with digital cameras, I can just keep shooting and shooting. Because sometimes, getting that perfect shot is just a game of numbers. The more pictures you continuously take, the more likely you are to nail a few of them and have some real keepers. And while you don't have to own a DSLR to produce fantastic pictures (some point and shoots out there fantastic these days), it certainly does help having a DSLR for this tip. DSLR cameras are known for their lack of shutter lag, which makes shooting multiple pictures within seconds of each other very easy.

Make sure you invest in one (or two) bigger SD cards so that you have the freedom to take a lot of shots without worrying about filling up your card too fast. And if you know you are going to be on vacation, or somewhere where you may be taking quite a few pictures, be sure you have all of your SD cards with you. That way, you won't ever be limited on the number of pictures you can take in any one moment to really get that "keeper".

Tip #6 
Practice, practice, practice

There are a million more tips I could give you, but ultimately, the one that is going to make the most difference is practice!

I love this excerpt from Malcom Gladwell's book, Outliers...
"The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours." (Gladwell)

Ten thousand hours?? Yes, that's a lot! (I don't think I have even put in a thousand hours to photography yet, let alone ten thousand!) The point is, you will never get better if you don't practice...and if you do, you will find that all the tips, classes, mentors in the world can't replace good 'ol fashion practice. Photography is an art that needs to be hands on. You have to be able to see the results of that setting you changed on your camera, or the result of that creative composition you tried out. The only way you can actually see these results is to get out there and start practicing.

 Challenge yourself to take at least one picture per day (if you pull your camera out for one, more than likely, you will end up taking more than that each day). I gave myself that challenge this year, and while it hasn't been the easiest thing for me to fit in with my busy schedule, I am so glad I have stuck with it. It has forced me to get creative with my shots, and also experiment with different camera settings and editing techniques. I post one picture a day on my other blog (God bless the moon) to give me accountability and to force me to take and edit at least one picture a day. Not every picture is a matter of fact, a lot of times when I am rushed, the picture isn't anywhere near technically correct. But the more pictures I take, the better I am getting. It's a work in progress for me. But, let me tell ya, when I get keepers like these that just tell a story and capture a moment in time, it makes all the practice worth it!


{p.s. You can go drool over more of her beautiful photographs here & here.}

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

bunny robots

If it was up to me, 7:30 a.m. on a day off would look a whole lot different.  But nobody asked me.  So a 7:30 a.m. sidewalk chalk art-fest it is.

"Draw a bunny mommy!"  So I draw a bunny head...
"Draw a bunny robot!"  So the bunny gets a robot body.
Sam's discerning eye determines the bunny needs some orange scribbles.
"Oh no! The bunny robot has a fire in his belly!  Draw a fireman!"

Bunny robot on fire with a fireman in his belly comin' right up.
We're practically picasso 'round here.

On a side note, things are getting pretty crazy around our house between finishing up school, working on job applications, and studying for my state board exam, so posts may be a bit sparse over the next month or so.  But in the meantime, you will always have this treasure upon which to rest your weary eyes.  'Bunny robots' is where it's at my friend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

this song

I know this is not a new song, but gosh darn, I love it.  Every time I hear it, I picture Jon and me cruising hand in hand down highway 101 in a 1950's era sky-blue convertible.  My cat eye sunglasses are gleaming in the sunlight, the wind is whipping at the scarf tied around my neck & he's sitting next to me in a white t-shirt with his arm resting coolly on the steering wheel, lookin' all James Dean-like.  Just the two of us, sailing down the coast line, sunshine beaming, watching the waves crash against the cliffs, laughing with not a care in the world.

I love this song.

Monday, April 16, 2012


shirt, sweater, belt: Target, pants: Ross, shoes: Banana Republic, scarf: vintage

Six years ago, I was preparing to graduate with my bachelors in psychology & I had plans for graduate school swirling through my head.  I wanted to get my PhD and work in clinical psychology.  Fast-foward six years, I'm about 1.5 months away from graduating, not with a PhD, but rather with a second bachelors degree in nursing.  That was not "the plan".  But I'm so glad my path took the twists & turns that have lead me to where I am now.

Five & a half years ago, I got married.  My husband had a great job with no intention of ever going back to school.  Fast-forward one year, we were selling our home and packing our stuff so he could got back to school with dreams of becoming a doctor someday {hello minimum of a decade of schooling}.  Not in "the plan".  But I'm so glad we took the risk and he's now on his way to fulfilling his dreams.

Four years ago, I was working on my nursing prerequisites and beginning the process of applying for accelerated nursing/nurse practitioner programs.  Jon was working hard on his bachelors degree.  The plan was to finish school, then start thinking about a family.  Fast-forward three months, surprise! It's time to start preparing for our little family to grow.  Not in "the plan".  But waaay better and more awesome in every way than our original plan could have ever been.

Right now, I'm working on my resume and beginning to apply for nursing jobs.  But there aren't any.  Not in "the plan".  But you know what?  Looking back over the past six years I realize that if I've learned anything it's that plans change.  I will keep working my butt off and doing my part, but I also need to remember to keep an open mind because my plans tend to fail. a lot. and God just may have some other plans up his sleeve for me.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I wasn't feeling well the other day and Sam wanted to help.

mommy, you need some candy?
you need some coffee?
you need some chocolate?

This boy is going to make one lucky lady very happy someday... :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

a birthday miracle

We did it!  We finally did it!  We made it to Voodoo Doughnuts!  A true birthday miracle {or possibly just a Tuesday afternoon, but I'm going to stick with "miracle"}.  Anyway, it was delish.  Of course we had to try their famous "Voodoo Doll" doughnut {Sam called it the "doughnut man"}, we also got the "Portland Creme" {aka Boston creme--my longtime favorite), and the "Old Dirty Bastard" {oreos on a doughnut? Genius!}.

Three doughnuts, three people, equals one doughnut per person, right?
Wrong.  Apparently it equals 2.5 doughnuts for me.
But it was my birthday, so.....

Monday, April 9, 2012

this is jack

Sam came scooting into the kitchen on his new tricycle the other night, "this is Jack the bicycle."

Sam went on to tell me all the things that Jack likes and does.

Later, Jack was invited to sit by the fire with the family, taking up prime fire-heat real-estate and then hogged the throw blanket too.

Jack even needs to wear his own undies, don't you know.

Call me crazy, but something tells me our little man needs a buddy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

happy easter!!

And a big congrats to my beautiful sister-in-law & her new husband on tying the knot yesterday!
{Maryann, I can't wait to see the pictures & hear the play-by-play :). }

Thursday, April 5, 2012

million dollar conversation

 shirt: H&M, jacket: thrifted, maxi dress: TJ Maxx, shoes: JC Penney

With the mega-millions lottery being all over the news last week, Jon & I decided that we wanted in on all of the hullabaloo too and bought our first lotto ticket.  Big news: we didn't win.  But the conversations it sparked were well worth the buck.

We half-jokingly talked & daydreamed about what we would do "when" we won and how our lives would change.  Besides the obvious things like paying off our student loans {which rival the national debt}, and finally buying myself that new pair of running shoes I've been needing for the last four months, we couldn't think of many ways we would want our lives to change.  Would Jon want to continue in medical school?  Yeah.  Would I still apply for nursing jobs when I graduate?  Yep, {I've worked hard for this degree!  Plus, Jon's and my *big dream* is to do medical mission work someday, so I gotta keep up on my skillz} although probably minimal hours so that I could spend most of my time at home with Mr. Sam-a-ram.

And that made us happy; to know that we love what we're doing enough that we would continue doing it even if we didn't need to.

Then we got to talking about how having a ridonculous amount of money like that would improve our lives.  And we came to the conclusion that it wouldn't.  Sure, we'd never have to worry about making ends meet ever again, but I don't think it would make us happier or better people.   Everyone knows that money can't buy happiness, but at the same time I feel that most of us, at one point or another, forget that fact.

We don't have much, but we're happy.  And adding in designer clothes & handbags, a big house, fancy cars & expensive vacations, wouldn't actually make us any happier.
Better dressed? duh.
But happier? no. 

So thank you mega-millions for the simple reminder that the things that truly make life beautiful & meaningful and bring the most joy, don't cost a dime.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

happy happy birthday...

... to the guy who always knows how to make me laugh.
I love you! Happy birthday!!

p.s. thanks for bravely paving our way to old age each year {even if it is only by a whole 6 days}...

Monday, April 2, 2012

whale watching

Our last adventure of spring break included a little trip to the coast for some whale watching.

Sam needs this shirt.

such a sweetie...

...or not.