Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Becoming a Mom with a Camera - Volume 3 - DSLR Cheat Sheet

I started writing this post on February 15.  I have wrote it, erased, tried again, changed my mind, edited, and started all over again SEVERAL times.  It has made me come to one conclusion, there is no cheat sheet for photography.  Photography is not an a+b=c formula.  You can't just give a checklist and "poof" a perfect photo.  Even opening this post and reading it, I have pretty much changed and improved on every rule I followed three months ago.  I can only hope that three months from now, I will be completely different.  I never want to stay stagnant and I always want to keep learning and improving.  

Now there are basic principles, straight forward do's and don'ts, to photography.  I will share those with you and share a few things that go through my mind during my sessions.  

The one ABOSLUTE best piece of advice I can give you is to find your own style!  You will never truly be happy and always feel defeated trying to be someone else or copy their artistic style.  Use others for inspiration but then find who you are in photography.

You will not become an amazing photographer overnight so do not give up.  Keep going, keep practicing, and find what makes your heart sing.  When you find what that one thing is whether it be landscapes, children, flowers, food, etc., keep shooting that!  Don't ever feel that you have to follow the crowd, pave your own way and you will be thankful that you did!  With that being said...

Never compare yourself to others.  This is one of those "duh" statements but so much easier said than done.  Everyone has their own journey and yours is special and unique.  You can offer something no one else can!  (That whole paragraph sounded just like  a typical mom.  I have become my mother...)

Never say never!  When I started falling in love with photography I said, "I would never have the courage to shoot others, just my own family." Then once I became more confident and loved photographing friends I said, " I will never be able to do this as a business." Then suddenly before I could blink an eye, I started Amanda Lassiter Photography.  And most recently, I said I would never mentally be able to do weddings, and I am so excited to say I have booked two weddings for the fall and am second shooting a wedding in Kansas with my best friend from my childhood that I haven't seen in over 15 years!  Don't set limitations on yourself.  Keep an open mind!  You never know what God has in store for you and how he is going to use you.  

Never stop learning.  I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of exposure but I just purchased Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure" and I can't wait to dive in!  Follow and read lots of other photography blogs and Facebook pages.  I have learned so much along the way from others who have shared their mistakes and triumphs!  

I decided to keep the old post below.  I am going to make additional comments in red.  It really is crazy to read how much I have changed in just three months.  


Before I was a stay at home mom, I was a teacher.  It is in my human nature to want to teach others (and be bossy, but that's mostly to my hubby).  I wasn't a HS Physics or AP Calculus teacher, but a 1st grade teacher.  I can break any subject down to first grade lingo :) 

I have written down every bit of advice from every Momtog, Photog, Mamarazzi, and Professional that I came across on the blogosphere.  I then tried everything for myself, and narrowed it down to what works for me. 

From all of my notes, I compiled my very own cheat sheet.  

My version of Cliff's Notes.  

It's the nitty gritty without all the fluff.  

This is assuming you are shooting on Manual and that you know what basic photography terms mean such as Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture, etc.  If you don't read my post here :)

AF-S = When subject is still (I have yet to set my camera to this. Maybe someday Bella will stay in one place :)
AF-C = When subject is moving (I always use this when shooting my continuously moving 9 month old).

Big White Triangle Mode - Just about everything.
Crosshair Mode - For Sports. 
I now pretty much use dynamic area AF that allows me to toggle my focus point.  This gives me more control over what I have in focus.

Shutter Speed
1/60 is the lowest you can go without a tripod.

I never go lower than 1/125 with a squirming child.  1/250th is even better. (I pretty much don't ever go under 1/250th now because most of the subjects I shoot are very active. Unless I am shooting food or flowers.) 

Easy rule of thumb: Double the focal length of the lens for the lowest possible shutter speed.  If you are shooting with a 50mm try to go no lower than 1/100, etc. 

Avoid high ISO.  Make it the last thing you adjust. 
The lower the better! 
Only bump up ISO if you have to. 
No higher than 800 if possible.
I don't know who made this rule but I 100% disagree now.  I bump my ISO up first before changing my aperture or shutter speed.  I decide what f/stop and shutter speed I want and then adjust my ISO for correct exposure.  Again, find your own style.  I like the grain/noise that high ISO gives to a portrait.  Yes your image will have better clarity and sharpness with a lower ISO, but don't be scared to bump it up.  Better to have a noisy photo than one that is out of focus!

I start my settings at:
Outdoors - 125
Indoors - 640
And then adjust it very last if I need to. 

High ISO = Noise (that grainy look in pictures) 

This all depends on the distance from you to your subject and if they are all on the same focal plane.  This can get really tricky really quickly. 

I shoot between 2.0-2.8 for portraits of a single person.  The wider you set your aperture (smaller number) the harder it is to get perfect focus.  For instance, if I am shooting a close up of Bella at 1.8, her eyes will be in focus but her ears won't.  I now shoot between 4.5 and 5.6 pretty much all the time.  It's just my preference.  If I am in a tricky low light situation I might open my aperture up a little more but I don't prefer to shoot wide open.  

Remember -  Smaller the number, less is in focus.  Larger the number, more is in focus.

Matrix Metering - Use exposure Compensation to lighten and or darken the pictures.  

Try to keep your in camera meter at zero and learn to read your histogram for correct exposure.  

I switch back and forth during a session between spot metering and matrix metering depending on the lighting and what kind of look I am going for.  

White Balance
Mom photographers say use auto white balance, professionals say to custom set it.  I am in the process of learning Kelvin.  I have definitely found that choosing the lighting (cloudy, incandescent, sunny, etc) is better than auto. You decide :)  Still trying to find the time to completely learn Kelvin! 

Things to thing about before you snap!
*Are there any distractions in the shot?  An out of place sign above your subjects head?  A piece of trash on the ground in your outdoor pictures? An odd tree limb hanging down?  Not that these can't be edited out in post processing.  It is just a pain.  DEFINITELY look for distractions first.  I can't tell you how many hours I have wasted cloning out distractions.  

*Where is the light?  Are there weird shadows on your subject?  If so move your subject.  Always try to have the light coming from behind you.  This will mean your subject is facing the light and will give your subject those very pretty catchlights in their eyes (this is unless you are trying to get a very cool "backlit"shot with the rays behind your subject and that becomes a little more tricky).  Don't be afraid of the light.  Embrace it.  Light is what adds interest to a photo!

*Make sure you are not cutting off any limbs.  The rule is: don't cut off at joints (elbows, knees, wrists, etc.)  If you happen to, try to crop the picture later on.  I am the worst at this.  I am always so focused on getting my subjects eyes in focus and having good exposure that sometimes I have completely chopped off their feet!  

*Change up your composition.  It is easy to get caught up in the moment and end up with 50 full body shots of your subject, square on. Get on the ground, shoot from above, from below, or at an angle.  Find a different perspective!

Take it or leave it, but hopefully this will get you started.  

Well there it is.  A post I started three months ago and one I have learned so many lessons from!  Good Luck! - A

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Happiness is Spring {I Heart Faces April Photo Challenge}

I love photo challenges.  They give you an opportunity to go back and examine your work and truly admire the faces that have left a lasting impression.  This little girl was amazing.  When I asked this fourth grader if she liked Justin Bieber, she replied,"No, I am an Adele fan."  She stole my heart from that point on!  She was willing and excited to do any pose I asked.  And even at such a young age, she had such an artistic vision and a style all her own.  

Happiness is Spring and a little girl 
with vision, promise, and a bright path ahead of her.  

I'm entering this post in
Photo Challenge Submission

Also linking up to Sweet Shot Tuesday!
Sweet Shot Day

Follow me on my new 
photography Facebook page here.

Happy Tuesday - A

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sweet Sweet Sisters {Photography}

I had to share this image of two sisters 
from a recent session!

A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.  ~Isadora James

Follow me here on my new Facebook page! 
- Amanda Lassiter Photography

Entering this in the March I clicked it up a Notch Contest!

Click It Up A Notch

Linking up to Sweet Shot Tuesdays
Sweet Shot Day

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Baby Kylann {Newborn Photography}

I couldn't love babies more.  All babies.  And this baby might have given me itty bitty baby fever :)

Ashley and Kyle Lincoln were beaming with happiness and love over this sweet girl.  

I enjoyed every second of capturing their new addition and the three of them together as a family of three.  

Congratulations Kyle and Ashley!  
Kylann is just perfect and you have much to be proud of! - A

Friday, March 9, 2012

DIY Earring Up-Cycle {Friday Fun}

I went through a phase a couple of years ago where I bought cheap, metal costume jewelry.

You know what I am talking about, $3.99 at Forever 21 or two for $8 at Charlotte Russe.

Thus I have quite a few pairs of earrings that are now tarnished and un-wearable.  

Last fall we had our family pictures taken by my fabulously talented friend Valerie Henderson (you can find her on fb here and see her website here.  She is an amazing photographer and has been a huge inspiration to me.  I will write more about that in another post).  I knew the importance of wearing bright colors and incorporating fun accessories to really make your portraits "pop".  

I started planning several weeks ahead what we were all going to wear.  I knew I wanted to wear a pink top and turquoise earrings (I love pink and turquoise together which is obvious by the colors I chose for my new photography logo).  Well living in Oklahoma, finding bright, vibrant colors in clothing and accessories is not always the easiest thing to do (especially on a SAHM budget).  

I searched and searched for turquoise "costume jewelry" style earrings.  I thought to myself, if I could just find a pair in my favorite spray paint color "lagoon".  Then a light bulb went off.  What do I do when I want something a certain color for my house?  I spray paint it.  So why not do that to a pair of my old earrings?

It's not rocket science but one of those "why didn't I think of this earlier" projects. 

They are now my very favorite pair of earrings.  I took something old (that I probably should have thrown away long ago) and made it new again.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Day to Remember {Faith and Family}

I don't know if March 8 will just ever come and go for me.  

Maybe someday down the road when I am chasing many children around and busy with the daily activities of life, it will just be a passing thought.

But not today.  I knew this date was creeping up.  

Two years later it still stings, still makes my heart ache, still makes me cry quietly to myself.

March 8, 2010 was a rainy day just like today.  

For four weeks I had counted down the minutes until we got to see the heartbeat of our little baby.  Time drug on so slowly.  I had felt the nausea, exhaustion, headaches, and the 5 lbs of weight gain that come with the first trimester of pregnancy. 

Zac and I had taken the day off from work.  We were going to celebrate after our appointment.  Go to lunch, Babies R Us, plan how we were going to tell our families, have one of those joyous days that truly make life grand.  

I remember studying the ultrasound technician's face as she gave me my 8 week ultrasound.  We made small talk but nothing else was said as she looked at the screen and measured and clicked, measured and clicked.  I waited for her to say "and here's the heartbeat".... nothing.  (Later I found out that legally the technician can not give you "bad" news.)  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Coming Soon... {Photography}

New Website, Facebook, and Blog Coming March 2012...
More details to come!

Little Emma {Photography}

Emma is turning 2!  Oh the fun, exciting, new independence of their own, two's!  Emma was such a sweetie.  I knew it was going to be a success when she walked in the door and immediately came over and gave me a hug.

I was so excited when Emma's mom contacted me about shooting Emma's two year pictures.  For one, she wanted to do them inside, which meant I got to put together a fun backdrop and props.  Secondly, I love the age Emma is at.  And finally, I couldn't wait to shoot pictures of her pretty red hair and ivory skin.   She is such a beauty.  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mexican Cornbread Casserole {Momma Joyce's Recipes)

This meal made my hubby pop the question... well sort of.  

I made cornbread casserole for him shortly after we had started dating.  He said when he took the first bite, he knew he had to marry me.  Now every time I ask him what he wants me to make for dinner he says "cornbread casserole".  

In the Steuernagel house we had a tradition called "The Last Supper".  It was the last dinner each one of us "Steuernagel Children" had at home before we left for college.  We could pick whatever we wanted for our last supper and my mom would make it.  Of all the things my brother could have chosen for my mom to make, he chose cornbread casserole.  He now lives halfway across the country in Portland, Oregon.  When he came home for Christmas what was the first thing he wanted my mom to make him? cornbread casserole.

You can see a pattern.  Men LOVE it.

I find it delicious because I am a huge fan of contrasting flavors and temperatures in food.  The spiciness of the taco meat with the sweetness of the cornbread and a dollop of cold sour cream on top, makes my taste buds do cartwheels!

Plus this meal is easy and inexpensive to make!  I pair it with black beans and salsa.

(I forgot to add to the picture the milk and eggs you will need to make the cornbread)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Grammy's Quilt {Family}

My mom is one talented lady.  She has always been an amazing seamstress.  She sewed our childhood Easter dresses, summer shorts, and prom and Homecoming dresses.  

She has now taken it to the next level and has begun quilting.

Now these are not "your grandmother's quilts".  She picks modern fabrics and more contemporary quilt designs.  

She made my Bella the most beautiful baby quilt.  She used the Mckinley quilt pattern from the blog, OCD: Obsessive Craft Disorder (you can find the pattern here).  The fabric she used was the Westminster House Collection Charm Pack.  

The thing I love about quilts, is that they last forever.  Each stitch takes, time, patience and love, adding to its durability and sentimental value.  She will always have "Grammy's Quilt".  

We have had unseasonably warm weather in Oklahoma.  I took advantage of it and took some pictures of Bella on her quilt.  I love how beautiful the quilt photographs.  It is the perfect color pallet for baby portraits!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cream Cheese Lasagna Rolls {Momma Joyce's Recipes}

My mom is famous for her cooking.  She has a collection of some pretty amazing recipes.  98% of them contain cream cheese.  Enough said.

One of my favorites (as well as everyone else who knows her) are her lasagna rolls.  They are so simple to make and so incredibly yummy.  Comfort food at its finest. 

It is one of those "go to" recipes for large groups and to take to friends who have had babies :)

(I just realized you can see Blue's Clues on in the background.  Thank you Steve for entertaining my daughter while I attempt to cook dinner)

Cream Cheese Lasagna Rolls
(This recipe yields approximately 30 rolls.  You will need a 9x13 pan and a 9x9 pan)
Prep Time: Approximately 30 min. Cook Time: 30 min.
1 box of lasagna noodles
1 jar of marinara sauce
2 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese
1 lb of regular sausage
1 bag of Mozzarella Cheese (2-4 cups based on your desired cheeziness)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The White Room Spa Party {Photography}

I was thrilled when I was hired by the The White Room Salon and Boutique (located on 101st and Sheridan in Tulsa, OK) to shoot a birthday party they were hosting at their salon.   

Brittney Jackson, owner of The White Room Salon and Boutique, has put together a Spa Birthday Party package.  It includes a party hair style of the their choice, make-up, and a photo shoot.  I thought of it as the 2012 much more glamorized version of Glamour Shots (since these girls will never get to experience that in their generation :) 

It was so fun listening to "girl chatter" and to see their excitement to get their hair "Adeled" (yes the birthday girl wanted big Adele hair... I loved it) and their make-up done.  The White Room also provided fun photo shoot accessories from their Boutique. Such a unique idea for a birthday party these young girls will never forget.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Cutie: Gracie {Photography}

This was my second session with little Gracie.  Even in just six weeks time, she has changed so much!  She was infatuated with my camera, so I had no problem capturing those pretty eyes.  She is just gorgeous in red.  Bella just loves her and I have to hold her back from just clobbering Gracie with hugs and kisses (or grabs and slaps). She has a hard time understanding that Gracie is so much younger than her!  I have loved every second of snapping pictures of this beautiful girl and I am looking forward to watching this sweet girl grow!

This picture was my favorite.  I snapped it while Stacey and I were talking after the session was over.  I loved the way Gracie was holding on to her mom and cuddled up on her lap.  Nothing better than our little girls.  

Happy Valentine's Day! - A

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