Practice Photoshoot: The Sorte Family

You all know I enjoy taking pictures….of my kids. The other week I decided to take it to the next level and see what it would be like to photograph other people. Like I’ve said before, there’s no better way to learn than to just get your hands dirty and DO IT. Yikes! Scary. So I put out an offer on Facebook for free photoshoots so I could get some experience and practice. I got some responses and got to work! First up, the Sorte family.

At first, it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did. It was raining AND there was an event happening at the location we had decided on, so we quickly moved to another location and crossed our fingers that the rain would let up for a little while. I didn’t want to give up because 1) This was my first shoot! It would put a major wrench in my motivation if my FIRST SHOOT was a complete bust, and 2) They drove pretty far to meet me and even though the shoot was free, it still sucks to get all dressed up, get your kids all dressed up, drive for 45 minutes only to have to turn around and go back home. Talk about a waste of gas. We decided we’d just get together and do what we could. The boys were getting tired so we didn’t have much time, but lo and behold, it stopped raining for 40 minutes and it was nice and overcast. Yay! We spent that time walking around, wrangling kids, snapping photos and chatting.

I’m sure I looked like a complete rookie because I certainly felt like it. There’s a certain awkwardness that comes with taking pictures of people, even if they want you to take pictures of them. That’s something that I’ll have to learn to get over. I also need to work on giving direction. I like to keep it as un-posed as possible, so I struggled with manually focusing a constantly moving target and making sure my settings were correct, but I think we got some good shots.

My goal in taking pictures is to capture the love between family members, and then capture a family (especially a family with small children) as they are, right this second. They change so quickly. Things change so quickly. We forget so easily. As a parent we desperately want to remember those little things so we constantly snap pictures, but despite all our picture-snapping we don’t get to participate in the memory and we don’t get to be in the photo either. I hope I gave this family a chance to make some memories together that they’ll remember forever. Thanks Sorte family for being such troopers. What an adventure!

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Playing with Lightroom

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So far the photos I’ve taken with the DSLR have all been unedited, but that’s about to change because I discovered Lightroom! I had heard about it, but I always thought Photoshop was THE premier photo editing software and everything else was just Chef Boyardee in comparison. Fortunately, I stumbled across an article that explained a little more about the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop – the main difference being that Lightroom was design specifically for processing photos, and Photoshop is like a buffet of all things graphics/photography related – waaaay more bells and whistles than is necessary to edit a photo. I love how quick and easy it is to import, add metadata, edit, watermark and export photos. I watched the tutorials on Adobe and got hooked (and subsequently ruined my bedtime.)

I thought my photos were coming out fairly decent without editing, but when I look at the before and after, I’m kind of amazed at the difference. Sometimes the difference is really drastic, other times it’s slight, but editing can really take a photo up a few notches. My challenge has been to keep skin tones natural looking and not crossing over into “fake tan” territory, and I think I mostly succeeded.

Do you use photo editing software? What do you prefer? How do you know when a photo is “done” being edited?

Behind the Scenes: Product Photoshoot

Since I just re-vamped the listings at SoPupuka, I thought I’d share a little bit about the product photoshoot because my method changed quite drastically.

This time I tried something different. I used the wooden box and easel my Dad made for me as my backdrop. I love the wood grain for some interest while still keeping things clean and simple. The deep color also contrasts well with my products. Normally, product photoshoots (especially for notecards) involved me hunting for a cool background, putting the card on the background, standing above it and taking a picture from above. It worked fine, but there was really no depth of field and so images were a little flat. This time I decided to stand my cards up (stand everything up really) and place the camera in front of the items rather than photographing from above. This proved challenging, until I made this amazing discovery:

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One of the unexpected goodies that came with my camera was a Wu-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter (horrible name, I know) – a tiny device that plugs into the camera and creates a small wifi signal.  I downloaded the free companion app and made sure my phone was on that wifi signal. This allows the camera to communicate with my smartphone. When I open up the app, there are two options: view photos and take photos. At first, I had only been using the app to view and download the photos to my iPhone (I was plenty impressed with that, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.) When I started taking product photos, I decided to try using the “take photos” option. When I tapped that button, it took me to a window with a LIVE VIEW of the subject. I could place the object exactly where I wanted it to be by looking at my phone. Here’s a screenshot of what I see on my phone. As you can see, my hand is in there moving the card around. I see all that happening in real time.

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I could also change the zoom and the focus on the camera and see the result very clearly on my phone’s retina display. The app also has a remote trigger, and once the photo is taken it shows me a preview and downloads it to the phone which automatically gets sent to my computer via Photostream.

This made things SO MUCH EASIER. It meant I didn’t have to be behind the camera. The wooden box I was using wasn’t very tall. I had the camera on another box of similar size a few feet away so if I wanted to take pictures the old fashioned way, it meant I’d have to be lying on the ground. Could I have put everything on a table? Yes, but it was really humbug to break it out. Each time I wanted to photograph another product, I’d have to get up, walk over to the product, switch the product, walk back to the camera, lie down on the floor, try to get it into focus and take a picture, only to download it to my computer and realize that while it looked ok in the camera preview, it actually wasn’t that great. MAJOR HEADACHE.

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But with this magic little device, I could sit comfortably in between the camera and the subject, make sure it’s positioned perfectly and in focus by looking at my phone, making adjustments to the camera or the product simply by reaching over and moving it, and then take the picture without touching the camera. MAGIC.

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Needless to say, a part of my work that was kind of a pain is now a lot more fun. With better results. WIN!

Photoshoot at Kealia

One of our favorite hangouts on Maui is the Kealia Boardwalk. We just had to go back and check it out again, and I just had to break out the big camera for some fun photography practice. It’s getting easier for me to get shots I like, though sometimes I forget that what I see in the viewfinder isn’t always what ends up being captured. More than a few times I’ll be snapping away, completely forgetting to check the preview to make sure the settings are correct. Oh well. Doesn’t Keola look like an awesome single dad? Wish I wasn’t behind the camera in these pics.

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P.S. SoPupuka is back on Instagram!

I Got a Big Girl Camera!

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Photos on this blog are about to get a whole lot better (and posts will likely get a lot more photo heavy) because I just picked myself up my first DSLR!!! It’s a Nikon D3300. I snagged mine at Costco. It came with two lenses, a nice carrying case, neckstrap, a 16gb SD card and an instructional DVD. Getting all of that stuff at once sold me – especially the bag which I knew I would need it right away (being surrounded by cute but lively short people and all).

Obviously these cameras has a pretty steep learning curve. Just to give you an idea, I took 294 pictures on my first day alone – in less than an hour. Of those 294 pictures, I kept 19. Of those 19, 9 are making it into this post. I hope to improve that ratio.

Not all of the photos I deleted were bad. A lot of them were pictures of the same flower with different settings. I didn’t think you needed to see 75 versions of the same flower. You’re welcome.

Before I started shooting, I read this post called The Exposure Triangle and then these posts on ISO, aperture, and shutter speed and that gave me a GREAT foundation. Before buying this camera I did a lot of reading about these things but it was impossible to grasp without having a camera in my hand (especially ISO and aperture.). After reading these posts and learning how these three things affect the image, I started to be able to predict what certain settings would produce and even better, I was able to start adjusting the settings so I could get the picture I wanted. SO FREAKING COOL! I’m still getting used to the controls of course, and all that will come with practice, but I’m just so happy to have a camera that is so much better at capturing what I see. I love my iPhone, but a lot of the time it falls short my vision for the image.

So without further ado, here’s the best of what I captured in my first “photo shoot.” All photos were taken at the same time of day (except for the last one – I wanted to see if I could get a good low-light shot at night and I did!) and all are un-edited. My goal is to get the best possible shot without needing Photoshop (I guess that’s every photographers’ goal but I’m gonna try to be a real stickler about this for myself.) You can really see how different settings affect the photo. I played a lot with the different exposure settings and focus and I’m pretty happy with the way these turned out. Obviously, I have a lot to learn but I’m so glad I started.

This really taught me something – you can only learn so much by reading. Eventually, you just have to jump in with two feet and DO IT.

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