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Making the Most of Your Space

Well, I promised this post earlier in the week, and I THINK I will finally get it done before the week is over!  {thank you, napping baby!}

I don't know about you, but my home is not always in pristine condition for photographing my children.  I much prefer out of doors because, let's be honest, Mother Nature is a much better housekeeper than I am!

With the weather being what it is right now, and little ones getting cold and needing naps, sometimes our only option is a quick 15 minutes indoors.  This post will quickly show you one way that I created a clean, non-distracting space to grab a few shots of my littlest using just what I had and NATURAL light.

The first thing you do, if you don't want to use a flash, is find the space in your house that gets the most natural light during the day and use that area.  For me, it is the front rooms of my home - our bedroom, the kitchen, and the front entryway.  I chose the front entryway in this instance because: 1. I am only working with one child,  2.  The light through my front storm door is great, and 3. It's the easiest to quickly de-clutter.

As you can see from my iPhone shots, this space isn't wonderfully decorated, but that doesn't matter.  You won't even see it once I set up my "stuff."  And by stuff, I mean:  a dining room chair and a roll of kraft paper that we purchased to wrap presents throughout the year.  That's it!

Now if you are working with more than one child, or one that can't sit, or one that runs away, this might be more difficult for you to use.  This is just to give you an idea of using what you have for a quick few photos.  

I rolled the paper over the chair and out long enough to touch my knees as I took her photo.  I gave her some crackers (mistake!), and a few little things to keep her hands busy.  Then I made sure she was facing the light and I was off to the side a little so as not to block my light source.  And that's pretty much it!  

If you are shooting with your iPhone, you can choose the "edit" tab while looking at the photo and crop out the extra unwanted space as shown below. (make sure you choose the little boxes to the right of the "reset" words so you can choose "original" to keep the aspect ratio the same.  If you crop without choosing "original" you will run into problems when you try to print your photo - and you WILL print your photo!)

If you have a photo editing software, you can crop inside of that.  Just do what I say and not what I do - don't give the kid a messy snack like I did!  It's harder to edit out.  

I hope that helps a little.  You CAN do it!  Go take a photo of your kid that is  just a little more thought out than the occasional snap with your phone.  It will be a little cleaner looking, their nose will be wiped, their outfit will be clean, and you'll be happy you did it.  

Snow Photos: A Few Tips

Taking photographs in the snow can be quite challenging, especially if you are trying to capture some of your children.  The above photo was taken this morning with my three girls in our first snow of the season.  {Yes, technically they should be at school, but after over 130 accidents in our area, the husband and I made the decision to keep them home.}

Snow photos have lots of things to's cold, it's wet, and your camera sometimes makes your subjects too dark.

Here are a few tips I've got to help with those things

1. Cold - set realistic expectations.  The younger your kids, the less they will enjoy the cold.  And while there are exceptions to the norm, plan on about 5-10 minutes max to grab what you can. As you can see, my 9-year old smiled, my 7-month old looks confused, and my 7-year old is busy making a snowball.  BUT...they are all there, in the snow, and that's all I really hoped for.  Score!

2.  Wet - cameras and water don't really go well together, so plan accordingly.  On a day like today, the snow was still falling as I took this photo.  We were on a time crunch to get the baby in a photo before she melted down needing a nap.  As with the previous tip, plan on being out only about 5-10 minutes.  And if you happen to have an extra pair of hands, have them hold an umbrella over your head.  OR...simply wait until it's not actively snowing to take your camera outside.  

3.  Dark faces - this is the tricky one.  Snow is white, and bright.  So naturally, if you have your camera on auto, it will automatically think there is enough light based on the bright, white snow it sees.  Thus, making your kids' faces darker than you wanted.  If you know how to, overexpose your image.  If you don't know what that means, then follow along....

On an iPhone, once you press your finger to the screen to show it your focus area, a little box pops up with a cute sun.  That sun can let you raise or lower the exposure on your phone.  You want to touch & drag your finger up.  

Photo from Apple's website:

Photo from Apple's website:

If you are using a DSLR camera, it's time to take it off of that green box Auto Mode, and move into one of the more creative modes!  YOU. CAN. DO. IT.

Turn your camera dial to P - or Program Mode.  In this mode, your camera sets the shutter speed & aperture to suit your subject's brightness.  Once you press your shutter button down halfway to focus, you can then adjust your exposure (either up or down) with that big rollie wheel, or the big "quick control dial" on a Canon camera. {see the image below}  You roll it one direction to let in more light, and the other direction to let in less - the actual direction will depend on your camera.  As a general rule, if your indicator inside the camera is moving TOWARD the + symbol, you are making the image brighter.  

Image  source:

Image  source:

What this is doing is adjusting your exposure compensation.  You are telling the camera, "Okay, I want my image THIS bright."  And your camera is adjusting its settings to get you where you want to be.  On Program Mode, it will adjust the shutter speed and/or the aperture.  Sometimes, depending on the lens you are using, your camera will only be able to do so much.  Thankfully, since we are talking about shooting in a bright, snowy setting, you can most likely achieve what you're looking for.  

And apologies to anyone who read this yesterday when I told you to use Shutter Priority mode (Tv). The whole point of Shutter Priority is to get your exposure dead center, or a "proper" exposure.  Not what we are trying to do!  That's what I get for trying to blog with little sleep, a migraine, and holding an active 7-month old.  My bad!  

So, get your snow suit on, bundle your kids up, and give it a try!  {and be sure to share what you got - I love to see everyone's snow photos!}

Mikaila | Personal Project

Mikaila is one of our neighbors, and even more importantly, one of the babysitters our girls love!  She's completely sweet, awesome, and an overall just great girl (good job, Mom & Dad).  We really appreciate all that she does for us & our girls, so when her mom told me about their plans to surprise her with an early graduation present, I HAD to be there to witness it.

Mikaila's parents got her a new {to her} car as an early graduation present.  They told us they planned on taking her out to a family dinner, and then have another neighbor move her car in to their numbered space.  So when they arrived back home, they would think some stranger parked in their spot.  

They arrived home & all of this happened perfectly.  They had Mikaila get out of the car to see if she could see any signs of who it belonged to so they could ask the person to move it.  When she got out & looked in the window, the following is what happened...

Ethiopia...One Year Ago | Medical Relief Photographer

Talking about my experiences in Ethiopia is always hard.  I am never sorry I went, never regret the three trips that I've taken there, but my heart is always torn when I think of my brothers & sisters across the ocean.  I long to be here with my family, and I long to be there with them.  I know God has not called me to go this year, but that doesn't mean I still don't think about them, miss them, & pray for them.

Going with Doctors Giving Back to Ethiopia was probably one of the top ten things I could have done.  You always go to these things thinking how much YOU will help THEM, save them, care for them, and it's always just the opposite.  THEY are the ones helping YOU, changing you, opening your eyes to a world outside of the small bubble you've always lived in.  

I am always honored to be able to go & photograph the amazing things that DGB is doing in Ethiopia - and now especially since they will be in their 3rd year of water filtration with the AMAZING Sawyer Filters.  I literally got goosebumps when I saw how these tiny little pieces of technology worked to filter almost a million gallons of water & in turn, save millions of lives from simple illnesses.  

The first half of the photos below shows some of my favorite images from our trips to the villages on the outskirts of Assosa.  The second half, starting with the large red bucket, is a very quick glimpse of the water filtration systems we were able to help set up.  

Enjoy...and be changed...