Summer Photo Bucket List to Soak in the Fun

Summer is here and school is out. It’s time to do all of those summer activities you’ve been waiting to do.

Summer is a time to get out outside, enjoy nature, spend time with family and friends and be active.

I love summer photography, because of all the reasons above. Here are some tips for beautiful summer photography —> 7 Simple Tips for Striking Summer Photography.

So today, I want to give you a bucket list of summer photos that will help you freeze these fun summer moments and keep them forever.

This list isn’t the end all, be all. It is just a few fun ideas I came up with the celebrate the season with photography.

If you like this list, you can get a free download in checklist form by filling out the box below.

Summer Photo Bucket List

Here is the list I have come up with to give you ideas of what your family can do to get amazing summer photographs. These activities can also bring your family together. Since not everyone lives in the big city, these are things you can take pictures of no matter where you live.

  • Go camping
  • Fireworks
  • Sunflower fields
  • Carnival
  • Go to a baseball game
  • Go on a hike
  • Capture Fourth of July activities
  • Watch a movie outside
  • Have a BBQ/Cookout
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Go to the lake
  • Spend time at the pool
  • Stargazing
  • Work in your garden
  • Fly a kite
  • Go on a bike ride
  • Watch the sunset
  • Go to the farmers market
  • Capture fire flies
  • Visit a U-pick orchard
  • Go to the park
  • Create art with sidewalk chalk
  • Go to the beach
  • Family road trip
  • Corn hole tournament
  • Go fishing

I can’t wait to get out and snap some pictures! I am going to try to capture everything on this list!

I hope this list helps you capture all of the summer feelings and activities going on in your life. It really is a great time of year!

What is your favorite part about summer photography? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

5 Things You Can Do To Increase Photography Skills During Quarantine

woman holding camera

So we have been in “quarantine” or staying home “voluntarily” for a couple of weeks now. As an introvert, I don’t mind it. My teenage kids, not so much.

But time at home doesn’t have to be all bad. If you can ignore the anxiety inducing media and take a few steps back from the situation, you might see this time as a blessing.

If you aren’t an essential worker or sick, this time to stay at home may give you the clear schedule you need to get some goals checked off your list.

So today, I want to talk about photography and things you can do to improve your photography skills while in quarantine.

man with mask out a window

5 Things You Can Do To Increase Photography Skills During Quarantine

1. Personal Project

Personal projects are something you can choose to take on any time of year.

I chose to do a 365 project this year, and I am so glad I did. It has helped me document what is going on in our lives and I will be making a book out of the photos at the end of the year.

There are many types of personal projects you can do. I wrote a post about this topic at the beginning of the year. You can check it out here —> 6 Photography Projects to Increase Your Creativity and Get You Out Of A Rut.

Look thru these suggestions and see if you can find something to occupy your mind during the quarantine. You might even increase your portfolio as well.

2. Learn How To Shoot In Manual Mode

Shooting in manual mode with your DSLR will increase your photography skills exponentially.

By shooting in manual mode, you will be able to pick the settings that will bring your photographic vision to life.

But it isn’t an easy thing to learn. It takes time and practice.

Well, guess what? You now have time to practice and maybe some (not so) willing subjects to practice on.

If you would like to emerge from the quarantine cocoon as a manual mode shooting butterfly (just in time for summer), this is your chance.

Click here to find out more about my ebook that will help you thru this process quickly and seamlessly —> Mastering Manual Mode for Beginners.

You can take photos of your kids, pets or anything around your house or yard to practice manual mode. You don’t need to travel to exotic destinations to get this right.

woman with mask on laptop

3. Take Online Classes

KelbyOne– This is a membership site, where you pay a monthly fee to watch as many videos about photography as you want.

They have tons of different topics on photography, editing, lighting and so much more.

CreativeLive– This site covers lots of creative genres, not just photography. You can watch weekly classes for free or buy the class for instant access anytime.

They cover photo, video, music, art, design and so much more. Click the link above and see what you can learn this month for free!

ClickinMoms– This site has online courses in many different types of photography. There are quick, breakout courses and more in-depth full online courses there.

You can also get a membership to the site for a great forum resource of amazing female photographers.

Use this “extra time” to learn something new and apply it in your photography right now.

4. Record What’s Going On For History

This quarantine and coronavirus madness (hopefully) only happens every 100 years. That means we are living in an unprecedented time in history.

Use your photography skills to record what’s going on with the pandemic in your area. People will want to look back on this time and learn more for future events.

Here are a few ideas to photograph to record the pandemic:

  • show how your community is joining together
  • how has everyday life changed?
  • what things is your family doing to pass time?
  • school closed? off work? record these changes
  • record activities you are doing you wouldn’t have had time for before
  • take pictures of people in face masks (if appropriate)
  • has anyone in your home been sick? record their daily actions

These are just a few things you might want to record. There are so many more.

Just look around you and think “what will my grandchildren or great grandchildren want to know about this moment in history?” Then snap away.

food photography

5. Try Something New

Is there a type of photography you have been wanting to try but just haven’t had the time to dig in and learn it? Now is the time.

Maybe you want to start cooking more and learning food photography.

Maybe you want to buy a macro lens and learn macro photography. You don’t need a big setting to learn macro photography. You can shoot everyday objects or bugs in your backyard and make them look amazing.

Learning something new takes time and time is what you have now. So make the most of it.

After all, it is your choice how you spend your time in quarantine. Some days you may not feel like doing much of anything, and that’s okay.

But for those days that you want to take out your camera, I hope these ideas help you know what to do with it.

Take advantage of the time you’ve been given to slow down and take it all in. And record these things for posterity.

Good luck to you and I hope you and your family stay well.

What photography activities have you already done during the quarantine? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

Spring Photo Bucket List to Capture New Memories This Year

Spring will be here soon in Colorado. For many of you, it’s already here.

Spring is a time for renewal, getting outside and enjoying nature. Maybe even doing yard work or starting a garden.

I love spring photography, because of all the reasons above. Here are some tips for beautiful spring photography —> 6 Spring Photography Tips for Stunning Images.

So today, I want to give you a bucket list of spring photos that will help you capture fun moments and get some great images this spring.

This list isn’t the end all, be all. It is just a few fun ideas I came up with the celebrate the season with photography.

If you like this list, you can get a free download in checklist form by filling out the box below.

Spring Photo Bucket List

Here is the list I have come up with to give you ideas of what your family can do to get amazing spring photographs. These activities can also bring your family together.

  • Start a vegetable garden
  • Plant flowers
  • Visit a farm (see the baby animals)
  • Spring cleaning
  • Go to a baseball game
  • Go on a hike
  • Capture Easter activities
  • Play with baby chicks
  • Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
  • Enjoy Spring Break
  • Go to a graduation
  • Make something for Mother’s Day
  • Spring home decor
  • Have a picnic
  • Fly a kite
  • Go on a bike ride
  • Play in the rain
  • Go to the zoo
  • Capture the tree blossoms
  • Visit a plant nursery
  • Go to the park
  • Create art with sidewalk chalk
  • Feed the ducks
  • Watch the sunset
  • Play golf
  • Go fishing

I can’t wait for spring this year! I am going to try to capture everything on this list!

I hope this list helps you capture all of the springtime feelings and activities going on in your life. It really is a great time of year!

What is your favorite part about spring photography? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

10 Photography Rules That Should Be Broken for Eye Catching Photos

young woman taking another woman's picture

Welcome my rule breaking readers! I’m so glad you’re here.

When you first learn about photography, you learn the rules and what to do to take a good picture.

There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, you need to know what the rules are so you know how it feels when you break them.

If you are saying to yourself, “what rules?”, then here are a few common ones —> 13 Composition Rules To Take Your Photography From Boring to Striking.

So now that we know what some of the rules are, let’s talk about how and when we should break them for even better photos.

10 Photography Rules That Should Be Broken

1. Rule of Thirds

This is the most popular composition rule in photography. Basically, you divide your viewfinder into 9 equal squares. Then you put the most important part of your image in the intersection of those lines. This keeps the subject out of the middle of the photo and makes it more visually appealing for the eye.

Here is an example:

rule of thirds grid

The rule of thirds is important to learn when you are just starting. Otherwise, you would do what most people do with their iPhone and put their subject in the middle of the shot every time.

So why would we want to break this rule? Variety in our photos.

Here are some examples of people breaking the rule of thirds for great photos.

So pick your subject carefully and if you feel the photo is stronger with your subject in the middle, go ahead and put it there. It’s your photo!

If not, stick to the rule of thirds 90% of the time for a more compelling composition.

2. Odd Numbers

If you are grouping items in your photo by number, an odd number is usually more visually interesting then an even number. That’s pretty common knowledge.

People also use the rule of odds in home decor, design and other artistic areas.

But does that mean if you are photographing a couple, you are out of luck? Of course not. There are plenty of interesting photos with even numbers in them.

So if you have an even subject that you love, keep it. Here are some great examples:

If you aren’t sure what to photograph or you can control the numbers in your shot, then stick with the odd number rule. It’s a winner.

3. Horizon In The Middle

The commonly accepted rule in photography is that if you are shooting a landscape photo, you should have your horizon at the top or bottom according to the rule of thirds.

And as a rule, I agree.

But what if you are taking an amazing reflection photo of mountains in a lake? You want to see just as much of the scenery above the horizon as below. So you want your horizon in the middle.

Here are some great examples of breaking this rule, in action:

So in general, if there is a symmetrical reflection in your landscape shot, put the horizon in the middle. If not, put it at the top or bottom according to the rule of thirds lines.

4. Fill the Frame/Get Closer

I love this rule when it comes to portraits or taking pictures of my kids.

I mean, after all, you don’t want people to see the background when your house full of toys and mess.

Filling the frame and getting closer to your subject takes all that other stuff away and let’s you see how beautiful they are (even if they have ice cream on their face).

But what if the background is important to the story? Like the subject only makes sense when the background is included?

Then break this rule and let the background help tell the story.

Here are a few examples:

So basically, if the background helps tell the story, leave it. If not, get in closer to your subject to cut down on the distractions. It really depends on the vision of the photo.

5. Shallow Depth of Field

Shallow depth of field is all the rage right now. Especially in portrait and lifestyle photography.

And I can see why. I love that creamy bokeh too. It makes you feel like a professional photographer, even if you don’t know what the heck you’re doing.

If you want to know more about depth of field, check out this post –> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Aperture Basics.

But kinda like #4, sometimes you want to see the background of your subject. Using a shallow depth of field for every photo is really keeping your photos very narrow.

If you do this for every photo, you might be missing a better story.

Here are some examples of using medium or deep depth of field in portrait photography:

So choose your depth of field for the story you are telling. Don’t just shoot wide open because everyone else is doing it. Mix it up a bit too.

6. Don’t Chimp

When I first started getting serious about photography, I hopped on several online forums where photographers would hang out.

One of the things I kept hearing was “Don’t chimp!”

What do I mean by chimp? Chimping means looking at the back of your camera at the LCD screen after each photo you take.

I always thought that was odd rule, and this is one I think you should ALWAYS break. Maybe not every shot, but you should check your camera after you get in a new setting to make sure your camera settings are correct.

If it is too bright or dark outside to tell, read your histogram on the back of your camera to make sure you photo is properly exposed.

Why was this advice given in the first place? I don’t really know.

I think it was when we were transitioning from film to digital and people thought they were cheating by looking at the back of the camera.

Spoiler alert: it’s not cheating. It’s getting it right in camera so you don’t get home and realize your settings never changed when your environment did.

Believe me, I’ve been there. It sucks. Just sayin’.

7. Don’t Shoot Portraits in the Sun

If we had our choice, we would probably shoot every photo in beautiful, golden light that only comes at the beginning and end of each day.

Most photographers are told not to shoot in mid day or when the sun is bright. This is good advice, if you have control over your shoot time.

  • What if you are shooting a wedding mid day?
  • What if your kid has a baseball game in the sun that you want to shoot?
  • What if you are on vacation and the only time you can get tickets to see the Statue of Liberty is in the middle of the day?

What do you do then? Take the shots.

Here are some examples of photographers that are killing it, even in mid day sun:

Shooting in the sun can be tricky. I’m not gonna lie. But don’t put your camera down just because it’s sunny outside.

Here are some tips to help you if you need to shoot in the sun: 15 Sunny Day Landscape Photography Tips to Maximize Shooting Time.

8. Don’t Create Blurry Photos

A good photo has a clear, in focus subject and good lighting.

That is the basis of all photography. You definitely want to have in focus, non blurry photos 99% of the time.

I discuss getting the clear shot in this post —> 8 Ways to Turn Blurry Photos into Tack Sharp Images.

But what about the other 1%? Experiment a little.

Try an out of focus shot and see what you get. Here are some examples to give you an idea of what I mean:

Blurry shots can show motion, can give an artsy feel and portray a mood that in focus shots just can’t.

So if you are feeling adventurous, get your camera out and experiment. You may love the results!

9. Use Higher ISO

When learning to shoot in manual mode, one of the first things you learn is the exposure triangle and how to adjust the three settings of aperture, shutter speed and ISO to get a properly exposed image.

When discussing ISO, everyone says to keep the number low. After all, the higher the ISO number the more noise you may potentially add to your image.

But what if you have to bump it up? What if you have maxed out the other 2 settings and the only way to get a proper exposure is to raise the ISO?

Then do it. Because getting it right in camera will introduce less noise than trying to raise the exposure in post processing.

Most newer dSLR cameras have pretty good ISO capabilities. Many are good at 1600 and some are good at much more before noise is introduced.

So try to keep that number as low as possible, but don’t be afraid to raise it when needed. It’s a balancing act and you want to get it right in camera if possible.

10. Don’t Blow the Highlights/Clip Shadows

It is common knowledge that when taking a photo, you want to get as much information in tonal range as possible.

That is why we shoot in RAW and watch our histogram to see if we have cut off the darks or highlights.

For the most part, the goal is to have an evenly lit photo that has equal parts of lights, mid tones and darks.

But is that always the case? No.

Sometimes your photos will have blown out highlights (when there is no detail in the brightest areas) or clipped shadows (where there is no detail in the darkest areas).

Why would we want to break this rule? When you are taking a really light or really dark photo, on purpose.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

These photos would not be nearly as dramatic or eye catching if they had even tones throughout. This is defiantly a rule that needs to be broken when you want a super bright or super dark feel to your photo.

How do I know when to break the rules in photography?

In my photography, I follow the rules about 80% of the time. After all, the rules were made because they created better imagery.

But the other 20%, I do my own thing and don’t worry about it. If the photo looks more compelling when you break the rules, then do it!

I hope this lesson has helped you identify 10 common photography rules and given you examples of how to break them the correct way.

Be a rebel. March to the beat of your own drum.

After all, it’s digital photography. You can experiment forever and see what works best for you.

You got this!

photography rules to break pin

How do you like to break the rules with your photography? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

20 Examples of Using Different Angles to Find a New Perspective in Your Photography

girl on computer looking up

Are you tired of the same old boring, shooting what’s right in front of your face, photography?

Maybe you want to do more than just hop out of the car, take a picture of the first thing you see, and move on.

We can do better than that, right?

Today, I want to show you how using different angles when shooting can help you get a new perspective in your photography.

This is a key part of photography composition that isn’t always discussed.

20 Examples of Using Different Angles in Your Photography

I’m not saying you can’t take the obvious shot. Go ahead and take it!

But then think to yourself, what else do I see? If I get down low or high, does the view look different?

That’s where the magic comes in. That’s what will distinguish your work from everyone else’s and make your stuff stand out.

To find out more about composition in photography, check out this post —> 13 Composition Rules To Take Your From Boring to Striking.

So get out there and try something new today!

What is your favorite angle to shoot from? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

12 Tips for Shooting in Low Light Photography Situations

hawaii sunset

Light is essential in photography. If you don’t have light, you can’t take a picture.

But not all light is created equal. Some light can be harsh or dim, golden or blue.

Sometimes we can control the light by choosing the time of day to shoot or using artificial light. Sometimes we just have to go with the natural light we are given.

Today, we are going to talk about low light and how to manage shooting in low light photography situations.

3 Types of Low Light Situations

When we say low light, we often think of dim, indoor light. But there are actually 3 types of low light we are going to work with today.

Semi Light: during the day when you can see fine with the light available but the camera struggles because you are in the shade of a tree or a large object.

Low Light: near or after sunset when there is still a glow in the sky but it is getting dark or when you are shooting indoors with artificial light.

Night: After dark when the only light available is artificial light.

*As we discuss the tips below, I will mention what type of situation it will work best for. Hopefully this will help you get the best shot no matter the time of day or night.

12 Tips for Shooting In Low Light

1. Scout it out ahead of time

If you have a chance to see what you’ll be working with ahead of time, it will give you the opportunity for better planning during your photo shoot.

Now of course, if you are shooting your kids at someone else’s house, in more of a candid setting this might not be practical.

But if you have a scheduled photo shoot, whether it is a landscape shoot, real estate shoot, portrait shoot or anything else, preparing in advance for the light you will have can always help you streamline your process and get you prepared for what is to come.

*This is true for semi-light, low light or nighttime shoots.

2. Use a longer exposure

The longer your shutter is open, the more light you will let in the camera. So if you are in a situation where you need more light, you need to decrease the shutter speed for a longer exposure.

When you use a longer exposure, you will want to make sure your subject isn’t moving, otherwise your image will be blurry. You may also want to use a tripod, depending on your subject and surroundings.

To find out more about long exposure photography, check out this blog post —> 14 Best Uses for Long Exposure Photography.

*This is true for low light or nighttime shots.

boy with iPad

3. Shoot for black and white

When you shoot with low light or in very dark situations, your photos may be grainy (see #5) or your colors may be off because of overhead lights.

One way to fix this in your photo in post processing is to change the photo to black and white.

Black and white photos aren’t expected to look as sharp because they give an old time feel. Also, taking away color usually fixes the color issues you might have with artificial light.

*This is true for low light situations.

4. Shoot in manual mode

I believe very strongly that to get the most out of your camera and to stretch it’s abilities, you should be shooting in manual mode. No situation is more perfect for manual mode than low light situations.

Being about to change the exposure triangle (ISO, shutterspeed and aperture) can help you take a photo in even the darkest conditions.

They make an iPhone now that can take photos of stars, but I can’t imagine it would be anywhere close to the quality that you would get from your DSLR in the same conditions.

To find out more about the exposure triangle, read this post —> How to Use the Exposure Triangle to Improve Your Photography.

*This is true in all three types of low light.

5. Crank up the ISO

When you first learn how to shoot in manual mode, one of the main things that is taught is to keep your ISO as low as possible. And I don’t disagree!

But when you get into low light situations, cranking up your ISO may be the only play you have left. So if you have to choose between getting the shot or not, crank up the ISO!

It is better to use a higher ISO in camera than to try to bump up the exposure in post processing. You will introduce noise either way, but it will be worse after the fact.

To find out more about ISO, check out this post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: ISO Basics.

*This is mostly for low light or night photos.

hawaii sunset

6. Get closer to a light source

Light is key to any photography. Natural light is the best, but it can be finicky. Artificial light can work, but it may give you funny colors, depending on the light.

If you are in shade and you need more light, step closer to the sun (think more open shade).

If you are indoors, in a low light situation, try to find a window if it is light outside. If it isn’t light outside, find an artificial light source. This could be a lamp, tv/computer screen or any other light available.

If it is night, get close to a light source such as a street light, lights from a building or even car headlights. Whatever you have will work.

Light is key and it will make or break your photo, no matter what time of day it is.

*This is true in all three types of low light.

7. Use a flashlight to paint light

When taking photos outside, you may need to bring extra light with you to get the shot. This is when a flashlight might do the trick.

If you are taking a landscape photo of the stars, but you want to include an object in the foreground for scale, it will need light to be seen in the vastness of the photo.

Take a large flashlight and shine it on the object while taking the long exposure to get the stars correctly exposed. This can be a great shot that seems hard but isn’t really.

*This is mostly for night photography.

8. Open up your aperture

Changing your aperture can also effect the amount of light that your camera can use. The smaller the number, the more light is let in. The bigger the number, the less light is let in.

So if you need more light in your photo, you may want to decrease the aperture number. Just be aware that this will also limit the amount of your photo that is in focus.

How low you can decrease your aperture depends on your lens and it’s aperture setting. Typically the more expensive the lens, the lower the aperture, but not always.

To find out more about aperture, read this post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Aperture Basics.

*This is true in all three types of low light.

9. Use manual focus

When in extremely low light or shooting at night, your camera may have a hard time finding focus with auto focus.

This is because auto focus uses contrast to focus, and with less light there is less contrast.

If you are shooting the night sky or other night objects, it may be better to use manual focus to find your focus. This can take some practice getting used to, but it will keep the camera from constantly trying to focus or not taking the shot because it can’t focus.

*This is mostly for night photography.

Texas state capitol ceiling

10. Shoot in RAW

I almost always shoot in RAW and this is one of the reasons why.

If I am shooting with limited light, I may have to do some post processing after the shot to get things the way I want them.

By shooting in RAW, you have more information in the image to work with in Lightroom or Photoshop. You can adjust many things in the image that you won’t have if you shoot jpeg.

To find out more about shooting in RAW, check out this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: RAW vs. Jpeg.

*This is true in all three types of low light.

11. Use bracketing

If you aren’t sure if you are getting the proper exposure, or you want a more dynamic range in your photo, then you might want to use bracketing to get the shot.

Bracketing allows your camera to take the shot with 3 different exposures (or more), one right after the other. That way you have an underexposed, properly exposed and over exposed photo with each scene.

Then when you get to your editing software (I prefer Lightroom), you can either choose the one you like best or merge them together for an HDR (high dynamic range) composite shot.

To find out more about bracketing, check out this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Bracketing Basics.

*This is true in all three types of low light.

cliff dwellings at night

12. Use the histogram

My last tip is here to help you evaluate your photo after you take it, in camera.

Many of us are accustomed to looking at the back of our camera at the LCD screen to see if we got the shot (this is called chimping). That is a fine practice and can be helpful in regular light situations.

But in low light, your screen may look brighter than usual because of the low light around it. So your photo may appear brighter than it actually is as well.

To help you determine if you got the shot, switch your LCD screen to the histogram setting. Then you can tell by the histogram if you got the proper exposure and won’t have to just go by what your eyes are seeing.

To learn how to read a histogram properly, check out this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Histogram Basics.

Examples of Low Light Photography Done Right

I have some low light photos, but I would also like to share with you other people online that are rocking the low light photography. So here are some examples from Pinterest. If you want to know more about the photographer, just click on the pin.

Semi Light

Low Light


Hopefully these examples will give you some ideas for what you can do with your photography in low light situations.

Low light can be challenging, but who doesn’t like a challenge? Use these tips above to get great photos in any light.

You can do this!

What is your favorite low light situation to photograph? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

6 Photography Projects to Increase Your Creativity & Get You Out Of A Rut

scrapbooks on a black table

Photography is a creative release for me. I love being out in nature, taking landscape and wildlife photos.

But I can’t always get out of the daily grind and take time for photography. And when I do, I don’t always know what I should be taking pictures of.

If you are feeling like you are on photography burn out or lack creative drive, this post is for you.

As we start a new year, we want to elevate our photography to the next level. Photography projects are a great way to do that.

As the title suggest, photography projects can increase your creativity and get you out of your rut. They might even help you find a new genre of photography that you didn’t know you would love!

Here are a few photography projects that might spur your creativity to take on something new in the New Year!

scrapbooks on a black table

6 Photography Projects to Increase Your Creativity & Get You Out Of A Rut

1. Project 365

Project 365 is just like it sounds: you take one picture a day for a year.

It sounds simple and it is. I have done this project several times and I am always pleased with the results.

What do you take pictures of? That’s up to you. There are several bloggers that have come up with lists of ideas for you take pictures of, if that helps you not get stuck.

Here is a great list by The Purple Pumpkin Blog —> 365 Ideas and Tips for Project 365.

Taking photos of holidays and vacations is a breeze, but what about the days in between?

My favorite photos in my 365 collections are photos around the house and of the kids in their own environment. Those are the things we will look back on and remember fondly: a certain toy or favorite cup that we normally wouldn’t have taken a picture of if we weren’t doing this project.

2. Project 52

Project 52 is similar to Project 365, just fewer pictures. So you take one photo a week that captures something in your life you want to remember.

You can do your own thing or follow weekly themes, like this one from Everyday Eyecandy —> The Eyecandy Project 52.

3. Themed projects

Personal photography projects can be on any theme and should stretch your creativity.

If you are doing a themed project, there are no rules on how many photos to take or time constraints. Just enjoy the world around you and shoot according to the theme you choose. You will know when you are done with the project and ready to display your work.

Here are some ideas for themes projects, some of which I have done myself in the past:

  • faceless photos of your family
  • black and white photography
  • shooting with film
  • National parks, ballparks, or historical landmarks
  • macro photography
  • a day in the life
  • use only one lens
  • reflections
  • leading lines
  • cityscapes
  • one color
  • panoramas
  • one location at different times of year
  • family history
  • your garden from seed to table

I hope these ideas give you a jumping off for your project. There are so many other things you can choose, but these are a start.

4. Become a “tourist” in your town

Do you live near monuments or locations that other people travel thousands of miles to see on vacation? Most likely you do.

The best way to experience these things is to be a tourist in your own town.

Since you live close by, you can see these things (and take pictures) during different seasons and weather situations.

I live about 10 miles away from Mesa Verde National Park in the Four Corners area of SW Colorado. Every time we go up there for a school field trip or when family come to visit, I hear different languages being spoken.

That tells me that people are coming from all around the world to visit something that is practically in my own backyard. And I take it for granted.

So get out there and take pictures of where you live. Google your town online and see what a tourist would see if they were researching your town or area.

Have you been to all of those places close by? If not, you need to get out there and see what they are seeing.

This is a great personal project because it not only allows you to appreciate where you live and what is unique about it, but you can also take pictures you might be able to sell in the future.

You might think they are boring or you’ve been there too many times as a kid. But someone else might think they are really interesting because it is different from the way they live.

scrapbooks on a black table

5. Capture the beauty of your state

Take #4 and broaden it to your state or country. Broaden your travels to your entire state or country (if it’s small). In this case, the United States is probably too large for one project.

I live in the Four Corners Area of the United States. That means that I have 4 states that are fairly close (Phoenix is closer than Denver, which is crazy!).

In those 4 states (Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico), there are at least 12 National Parks. As a landscape photographer, I should have many pictures of each of those parks, especially the ones within a days drive.

Like I said above, people come from all over the world to see these places and they are just a few hours away. That includes Moab (Arches NP, Canyonlands NP), Grand Canyon NP, Zion and Bryce Canyon NP, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP and so many more.

My personal project for 2020 is to get to as many of these places as possible (I’ve been to most of them already in years past) and get pictures in different seasons.

Wherever you live, there are things to take pictures of. So pick a place and get snapping for your personal photography project.

6. 25 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge

This is a great project for the Christmas holidays. Basically you just take photos of all the activities you are doing for Christmas and compile them into a photo book or scrapbook.

Sometimes we get so busy during the holidays, we don’t slow down to catch the details of some of our favorite holiday traditions. This project allows you to record things like: your favorite ornaments on the tree, favorite holiday treats, school plays and parties, etc.

Here are some ideas for your photo challenge —> 25 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge to Preserve Your Holiday Memories This Year.

How long should the project last?

That’s up to you. Project 365 or 52 seem to have end dates, but I have known people that do them several years in a row.

Maybe your project only lasts for a month or the duration of a family vacation. The length doesn’t really matter.

It doesn’t have to be year long to be worthwhile. It just needs to take you out of your comfort zone and help you see your world with new eyes.

What do I do when I’m done?

When you’re done, compile the photos into a collection so you can refer to them again and also show them to your friends and family. Here are some ideas for displaying your project:

  • Print and hang them on the wall in a collection.
  • Make a scrapbook or photo book.
  • Get a digital frame and have it scroll thru the photos.
  • Share them online on a special Instagram or 500 px profile.

I am a scrapbooker at heart, so that is usually the medium I choose to share. I recently have started loving Chatbooks to make quick books of pictures that are much simpler than digital scrapbooking.

I hope whichever project you choose to do, that it elevates your photography and makes you see the world around you differently. After all, that is what being a photographer is all about!

What photography project have you done in the past that you loved? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

10 Things to Check When Setting Up Your New DSLR Camera

woman using a dslr camera

Nothing beats the feeling of getting a new camera. Everything is so fresh, clean and new!

I wrote a blog post a few months ago when I was trying to decide if I needed a new DSLR, after having the same camera for many years.

I ended up buying a Nikon d750 and I love it! Best purchase ever.

Read that post with all the questions I asked myself before I bought here —> 7 Questions to Consider When Buying A New Camera.

But let’s say you’re past the point of wondering what to buy and you’ve already made the purchase. How do you make sure your new camera is set up to take the amazing photos you’ve been dreaming about?

10 Things to Check When Setting Up Your New DSLR Camera

1. Charge batteries

The batteries for your new camera probably won’t be charged when they come in the box, so plug them in first thing! You can’t do much of anything else until this step is complete.

2. Format memory card

Formatting your memory card clears it off, erases the previous data and makes your card ready to be used in this computer. You should do this every time you go out for a photo shoot.

Disclaimer: Make sure you have all the pictures downloaded somewhere else first (computer hard drive, backup hard drive, etc), because the formatting of a card is irreversible.

To find out more about memory cards, check out this blog post by Tbexcon —> Memory Card Best Practices: 15 Things You Should Already Be Doing.

3. Attach camera strap

Whether you use the camera strap that came with the camera, or a more comfortable one you already own, go ahead and attach that strap to the camera while you are waiting for the battery to charge. Instructions vary for each strap, but should he fairly easy to follow.

Nikon d750

4. Adjust diopter

Diopter? What the heck is that? Refer to the image above.

Diopter adjusts the viewfinder to your eye so that you can see better out of it, and therefore make clearer images. Everyone’s eyes see a little differently, so it is important to make this small adjustment.

5. Choose image size and quality

Image size and quality are important to getting the best quality photo out of your camera.

In my Nikon, you can pick from small, medium and large image size. I always choose large to get the most bang for my buck!

And of course, for quality I always choose RAW. The only time I would change to jpeg is if I was shooting pictures from someone else and they wanted them unedited, but that would be a VERY rare occasion.

If you aren’t familiar with shooting in RAW, read this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: RAW vs. Jpeg.

6. Add your name & copyright info, date and time

Adding your name and copyright info is a personal preference, but it will help when you go to include meta data in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Entering the date and time lets you keep photos in order when uploading. It also helps keep your photos chronological when combining with other photographers on a project.

What do I mean by this? I was in charge of photography for a church youth group trip that spanned several days. Several other photographers took pictures too, and it was my job to put all of the pictures together as a slideshow when the trip was over.

We synchronized the date and time on our cameras so that when I uploaded the photos to iMovie to make the slideshow, they all fell in place. With over 4000 photos to work with, I would have pulled out my hair if we hadn’t done this one little step!!!

7. Find where the buttons are for favorite settings (use manual)

In this step, I want you to get to know your camera’s buttons that you will be using often when you are shooting in manual. You may need to use your camera manual to find them:

  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture
  • ISO
  • Focus
  • How to change shooting modes
  • Metering
  • Bracketing
  • White balance
  • Histogram
  • Switching from camera to video

These are just a few of the buttons and settings you might want to find on your new camera. Of course, these things take some time to get used to, but you want a basic lay of the land before you start shooting.

If you want to learn more about shooting in manual mode, check out this blog post —> 6 Reasons Why You Should Learn Manual Mode in Photography.

8. Set metering modes

Light metering helps you determine your settings in manual mode depending on how much light your camera is seeing. You can also manipulate this reading with exposure compensation to get you camera to work for your style of shooting.

You should be able to change your metering mode in the menu of your camera.

To find out more about light metering and what the different modes do, check out this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Light Metering Basics.

woman using a dslr camera

9. Set focus mode and back button focus

Focus modes help your camera focus the way you want it to. Auto, single, continuous and manual are the four popular focus modes.

To learn more about focus and which modes I suggest, read this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Focus Basics.

Back button focus is a way to set your camera to get the best focus (in my opinion) possible. It separates the focus from the shutter button, so the two act independently.

I suggest learning how to set up back button focus on your camera and learn how to use it. It’s a game changer!

To figure out how to set up back button focus on your camera, check out this post by Cole’s Classroom —> Back Button Focus Explained: What It Is and Why You Need It!

10. Set color space

Color space is the range of colors that are available to your camera.

RGB stands for the basic colors Red Green Blue. All colors in color space are derived from these three colors.

The default on your camera is probably sRGB. That is what I have mine set on and it works fine.

You can also choose Adobe RGB, which is a bigger color space created by Adobe, which works fine too (you may have to switch back to sRGB in post processing).

Confused yet? I’m not super technical when it comes to this stuff, so let me just say to pick one and move on. Don’t sweat it too much!

If you would like to know more about color space, check out this post at Digital Photography School —> Adobe RGB Versus sRGB Color Space: Which Should You Choose?

Need more help?

If you can’t find these settings in your camera manual, or you want more visual helps, I have a great resource for you!

Jared Polin @ Fro Knows Photo has a great YouTube channel where he does videos of camera reviews and set up for just about every major camera company you can think of. Just type in your camera make and model and you will find a video to help you.

Getting a new camera can be exciting and intimidating. You just have to jump in and get things set up so you can get out there and shoot.

Don’t let that think instruction manual stop you from getting your camera set up properly. Use the tips above and dive in!

What was the most frustrating thing about setting up your new camera? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

5 Tips to Capture Beautiful Christmas Tree Light Bokeh in Your Holiday Photos

cat in christmas photo

The holiday season is a magical time of year for our families and can be for our photography as well.

Many portrait photographers do mini Christmas sessions and people like to get their family photos taken this time of year.

To take better photos of the holidays in general, check out the tips in this blog post —> 10+ Ideas to Make Your Holiday Photos Rock This Year.

But one thing that really stands out about many holiday photos are the blurry lights in the background. They make the photo pop and feel festive.

These blurry backgrounds are achieved with bokeh, which we talk about in this blog post —> 5 Ways to Get A Blurry Background In Your Photos.

As a recap from that post, Nikon USA defines Bokeh as “the effect of a soft out-of-focus background that you get when shooting a subject, using a fast lens, at the widest aperture, such as f/2.8 or wider.”

Bokeh is the look you get with of out-of-focus blur in a photograph.

So today, we are going to talk about how to get Christmas tree light bokeh in your holiday photos and how you can maximize this effect in your photography.

christmas tree with lights

5 Tips to Capture Beautiful Christmas Tree Light Bokeh in Your Holiday Photos

1. Use a wide open aperture

In order to get bokeh, you need to have a blurry background. In order to achieve this look without blurring your subject, you need to shoot in manual mode with a low aperture number.

The best lens to use is the one that goes the lowest with aperture. Anywhere from f/2.8 or wider is preferable, but even f/4 can get you decent bokeh.

Focus on your subject, so it is clear, and use the lowest (or close to lowest) aperture you can. Then adjust your other settings to make sure you have proper exposure.

For more information on aperture, read this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Aperture Basics.

2. Create distance between your subject and the lights

Because of depth of field, the distance between your subject and the background will affect how blurry the background is.

So if you are using a wide open aperture (as suggested above) and you want a blurry background, you need to separate your subject from the background for best results.

Instead of standing your subject right in front of the tree or lights, have them take a step or two forward. This will give some distance between the two and increase the bokeh in your photo.

Here are two shots I took of a wooden nativity in front of our Christmas tree. One is closer to the tree than the other.

christmas tree with lights
nativity in front of christmas tree with lights
Settings: 50mm 1/160 ss, f/2, ISO 800

And this one is pulled further away from the tree:

christmas tree with lights
nativity in front of christmas tree with lights
Settings: 50mm 1/160 ss, f/2, ISO 800

I think the one further away looks creamier and lighter (higher ISO).

FYI: If I were going to use this photo for something else, I would have put a board under the nativity to make it look better.

3. Use a higher ISO (if needed)

Since we are talking about Christmas lights, we are often going to be shooting in the dark outside or a dimly lit room inside.

To counteract the lack of light while shooting in manual, you will most likely need to increase your ISO. This will help get more light in the photo without using the flash (that’s a no-no!).

Normally, we use the lowest ISO possible to get the shot, so we don’t introduce noise into the image.

But it is better to get enough light to see your subject than to worry about the number. So bump that baby up until you have your desired exposure.

You can see in the two nativities above that the one with the higher ISO looks lighter and IMO better than the other.

For more information on ISO, read this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: ISO Basics.

4. Use manual focus

I would say 98% of the time, when I’m shooting I use auto focus on my camera.

Christmas lights are one of the few exceptions (so is astrophotography).

I love the look of out of focus Christmas lights in a photo. This would be a photo where there is no subject except the lights. It reminds me of the holidays and looks very dreamy.

In order to do this, stand in front of your Christmas tree. Get your settings right for the photo. Then turn your lens to manual focus and make the photo go out of focus.

It is fun to play with light photos in this manner, as it is a different kind of photography than most of us are used to: very abstract and surreal.

Here is a photo of my tree out of focus.

christmas tree with lights

FYI: I think it would look better if we didn’t have the burlap wrapped around the tree for this experiment. It seems to have blocked some of the lights.

5. Use a tripod

Anytime you are shooting in low light or dimly lit scenes, you will need a tripod to get clear, in focus photos in manual mode.

Shooting Christmas lights is no different. Use a tripod so that you can get your subject in focus and your background out of focus.

You don’t want blur or camera shake in your overall photo. Your subject should still be crisp and bright.

I hope these tips help you take amazing holiday photos this year with creamy, beautiful Christmas lights bokeh in the background.

These tricks might take a little while to master, but you will be so glad you took the time to test and practice. It’s worth the effort to get your holiday photos right for future viewers to enjoy.

You can do this!

What is your favorite tip given in this post? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

14 Best Uses for Long Exposure Photography

cars leave light trails in the city

Long exposure photography is a great way to use your camera in manual mode to get a photo that speaks to what you are really seeing with your own eyes.

What is long exposure photography? When you keep your shutter open on your camera for an extended amount of time (usually 30 seconds or longer).

When using long exposure, you want to use a tripod to make sure your photo isn’t completely out of focus.

Long exposure photography allows you to blur motion to get really cool effects, such as the ones below.

In this post, I’m not going to go into the details of how to take a long exposure. I will save that for a different post.

Today, I want to show you the things you can do if you play around with long exposures in camera.

14 Best Uses for Long Exposure Photography


Using sparklers to write words or shapes in the air is very popular, especially for wedding photography.

Here are some examples:


Not just for the 4th of July! Fireworks are so fun to capture, anytime of the year.

Here are some examples:

Smooth Landscape Reflections

Looking to make a mountain reflection in a smooth lake? Slow down your shutter speed to make the water calm and reflective.

For more ideas on reflections, check out this blog post —> 30 Reflection Photography Ideas and Inspiration for Creative Images.

Here are some examples:


While in the city at night, a great way to portray the speed and intensity of city life is to photograph cars whizzing by the big buildings or on the highway.

Here are some examples:


Capturing the stars at night is a whole type of photography all by itself: astrophotography. Use a 30 second shutter to catch the stars and even longer (hours) to catch the star trails.

Here are some examples:


Making water smooth and silky is a great way to make your photos captivating.

Here are some examples:


Lightning can bright up any stormy landscape photo. In order to capture the whole lightning bolt (or several together), use a longer shutter speed.

Here are some examples:


There are two ways to capture waterfalls: freezing choppy water or blurring motion to make the water smooth and silky. I prefer smooth water, but it just depends on the look you are going for.

To find out more about photographing water, check out this post –> 7 Clever Ways to Capture Water in Your Photography.

Here are some examples:


Capturing clouds can add dimension to your landscape photos. Using a long exposure on clouds can make them smooth out and almost streak across the sky, like in these photos.

Here are some examples:


Sunset is one of the most beautiful times of day to shoot. Using a long exposure can capture all of that beauty and golden light into your photo.

Here are some examples:


You wouldn’t normally think of using a long exposure on snow because it is so bright. But slowing down the shutter speed smooths out the snow (just like water) and makes for a beautiful image.

FYI: You will probably have to use a filter to darken your image in order to make this work.

Here are some examples:


Using a slow shutter speed when you don’t mean to can make for a blurry out of focus image. But if you do it with intention and artistry, you can make beautiful abstract images that are very creative.

Here are some examples:

Light Painting

Wikipedia defines light painting as: “photographic techniques of moving a light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or space, or to shine light at the camera to ‘draw’, or by moving the camera itself during exposure of light sources.”

This is similar to the sparklers mentioned in #1, but can also be done with flashlights, glow sticks or any other light source. This can also be know as steel wool photography.

Here are some examples:


Want to get the look that a ghost is in your photo? This can be done with long exposures as well. Give it a try and freak out your friends!

Here are some examples:

All of these ideas are making me want to grab my camera and tripod and create some new long exposure photos. How about you?

There is no end to the creativity you can accomplish with long exposure photography. These are just a few of the ideas you can try.

So get out there and shoot today!

What do you use long exposure photography for? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

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