Monday, May 18, 2009

Q&A part 1 photography...

here i go again... i just worked on this post for about 4 hours and pressed the publish button and lost 90% of it. i maybe cried for a second and then maybe walked away and said i wasn't going to do it, but here i am at midnight starting over... i am trying to answer the same but i am a bit grouchy so please excuse! :)

okay, so again, thanks for all of the great questions. i decided to break them down into 3 different groups, photography, home and me.

i am going to start with photography so check back tomorrow or the next if you didn't ask a question pertaining to photography.

here we go...

I have a question - what got you into photography? How long have you been doing it? Any any formal training?
i took my first photography class my senior year in high school... it was a really laid back class, that's why i initially took it but i had an instant love for taking photos and especially loved the darkroom. when i moved to utah for school i literally took every photography class UVSC offered at the time, which was not many. i loved the darkroom and always dreamed of having one in my home (still do)

anyway, after i had taken all of the classes at UVSC i pretty much didn't pick up a camera again until i had estee (about 5 years later) and that's when i got serious about it.

Do you have any advice on what to do first, when you are a beginner (which camera to buy, take a class or learn from books, etc.)
Advice for beginners in the world of photography? Cameras? Books?
Can you give me any info on how to start taking some photography classes and buying cameras...just getting the ball rolling?
i would just say go to a camera store nearby and look and and hold the cameras you are deciding between, perhaps one will feel better than the other to you. also, once you get your equipment try and get your camera out and shoot every day. just like anything else the more you do it the better you will be. i would also suggest looking into a community class to learn the basic technical stuff. also, there is a wealth of knowledge online so many people want to learn how to take better pictures and everyone is learning from everyone else... sites like and have extensive message boards and also allow people to post photos they have taken and have them critiqued. (its been a long time so hopefully those are still around!) i have really loved all of the canon cameras i have owned, but i have never shot nikon so it's difficult for me to compare. when i was first getting started i knew that nikons were much noisier (more grain at high ISOs) so that was one swaying factor for me.

I am wondering if there is something specific that you did to take the leap from an amateur to a professional? Was it a lens upgrade? Photoshop? You can see how your work gets consistently better and better and I've sort of hit a wall, so I'm just curious. Thanks for doing this!
really i never make the decision to go "pro" i just had people ask me to take photos... at first i didn't charge anything and then after a while i decided i should probably start charging, so i set my price really low thinking no one would pay me to take their pictures! i did a lot of shoots when my price was so low that i actually got burned out a bit. i had to ask myself what it was worth to me, because even though i enjoyed it i still saw it as time away from my family, so i set my price at what i felt it was worth to me to be away from family while i did the shoot and edited the photos.

Do you still work professionally photographing other people?
no, i don't. i just realized it wasn't for me. i got to a point where i dreaded shoots, dreaded proofing and never took photos for me. i was taking photos of the girls one day and i was just capturing them playing in their dress ups, being little girls and it struck me that this is what i want to be doing with my talent. i have completely changed my style of photography since that day. i have no desire to stick my girls in front of some colored wall and have them smile at the camera (like i always did), i want to capture them as they are every day doing what they do, being who they are. i have found my biggest challenge in photography is to take photos like those that have something extra special that evoke emotion and set them apart from just an everyday snap shot. i am shooting everyday again and have a new found love for the hobby.

Favorite lenses. What's your very, very favorite? And do you use filters or hoods?
If you could only use one lens from now on to take pictures of your girls, which lens would it be?
What are your top 3 lenses and why?
What is your favorite lens to shoot your girls with?
How do you like your 16-35 lens?

my very favorite all around lens is my 24-70L 2.8, it is tack sharp at all focal lengths and the color is dreamy. i have this lens on my camera 75% of the time.
my next favorite is the 16-36L II 2.8 i just love the different perspectives you can achieve with such a wide angle, it is a fun one to play around with and great for shots of my house:) but be careful, at 16mm it does distort quite a bit around the edges.i have that one on my camera about 20% of the time
and the other 5% is my 50mm 1.4 i put this on when i need the larger aperture in low light situations. it's a great lens too.
i sold my 85mm, it was a good lens but i had no use because of the three above.
i don't use any filters and once in a while a hood but usually just use my hand :)

Do you feel your photography was brought to a new level when you bought your 5d or do you think you took just as good pictures with your old camera?
not really my photography but my quality of photos, i think. i love my 5d and love having the full frame sensor. i am pretty sure that my photos are sharper now than they were with my 30d.

I love that you use your photography not only to document the beauty
in the people you interact with, but also the beauty in all of the
things around you that often go unnoticed. I'd like to learn to be
better at this... I have a rebel xt, which I think is a decent camera
to start out with. How would you suggest that I get better? Practice?
Books? Classes?
first off, thanks so much! i know that i see the world completely differently than i did before i was taking photos everyday. i find the beauty in things that maybe aren't so beautiful, i always notice the way light is hitting something and it never fails that when i am out in the evening and the sun is low and that pretty golden color i long to be shooting. so all i can say is to try and see the world differently and maybe try different angles than you normally would (like laying down or getting high) you will find if done right it will make for a much more interesting photograph. also, try and find your style, what you love to shoot and ways to shoot that make you extra excited.

oh and practice, practice, practice!

do you ever use skin softening software? or do you soften skin by hand? and if so, what/or how.
do you ever use photoshop actions? and if so, what are your favorites?
do you have any other favorite photoshop tips and tricks?
What are some of your favorite Photoshop tips? Any special little must have tweaks you love to use?
How do you get the eyes and the skin to look so perfect?
How are your pictures so crystal clear???
My question is what is your workflow like. You unload your images and then what?

let me start this answer by saying i have a real love/hate relationship with photoshop. i look at my older photos and i just laugh at how over saturated, over everything they are. i am at the opposite end of the spectrum now. i do use photoshop but never to really fix anything just to give a little boost or tweak.

let me walk you through a typical photo, in fact i just opened this one at random!

so, i shoot RAW exclusively so the first thing that opens is the RAW dialog box. here is what the photo looks like straight out of my camera (just re sized for web)

so in the RAW dialog box there are temp. and tone sliders, i thought this looked a little warm so i made it just a tad cooler and then opened it in PS.
in PS i opened curves and bumped it just a bit (tiny tiny bit) then i dodged the color part of the eye at 3% and then saved. here is the after, not much different but just what it needed, in my opinion :)

that is a very typical work flow for a color photo. the trick to having great color is getting the exposure right (and a good lens doesn't hurt!)
when i shoot indoor under nasty light the work flow is the same except i have to tweak the tone and temp. a lot more to get the colors right.
as far as skin goes, i have never used any of those skin smoother or softeners, i just use the spot healing tool (proximity match) whenever i need it.
when i first started learning photoshop i bought a big set of actions (jinky's) and one was a sharpen for web and one a sharpen for print, those are the only actions i still use.

my question would be on your black and white process.
i've always loved your black and whites?
any tips/steps on your processing?

What is your favorite B & W conversion tool? I am in search of a great way to turn my photos into a nice, clean, crisp B & W. I also love the Br & W of your post 'I often go walking' That's a nice one. How did you do that?
i was shocked to see that many of you like my black and whites because there are SO many black and white conversions out there and i have such an easy work flow for them it is crazy... here is what i do.

i open the photo in PS (not doing anything in RAW) make sure your foreground and background colors are set to the default black and white, like this...

i use the gradient map so you go IMAGE>ADJUST>GRADIENT MAP, like this...

press okay and the open curves and adjust to your liking being very carful to not over do. this is what i did...

then i thought it needed a bit more contrast so i opened levels, adjusted a bit and here is the final... oh and once in a while i will add a slight tone using color balance.

so easy right? and totally adjustable to every photo that is properly exposed!
hope that helps.

How did you protect your blog so that others can't right click and steal your photos?
you have to add a code to the html of your blog template, i couldn't find the exact site i used but this one is the same thing.
find it here

What are some of your favorite places to shoot in the valley? I need some new backgrounds! :)
oh this is a tough one because i am a bit out of the loop this way, of course you know that in the heart of downtown salt lake there are a million great places but also, west valley has a lot of buildings with some crazy colors and textures.

how do you get your photos bigger on your blog?
my sister in law amy wrote a great tutorial on this and she does it the exact same way i do so click here to see it.

Do you have a good point and shoot camera that you would recommend? I already have a great SLR, but need one to carry around in my purse.
yes, we have had a canon powershot for about 2 years now and still love it.

Do you ever use flash? Indoor or outdoor?
no, never. if i ever need a flash like at night outside or something, we use the point and shoot. it just requires a skill i don't have and really have no desire to learn. natural light is a huge reason why i love photography.

whew! i think that's it! hopefully some of these were helpful and please please forgive me for the millions of typos.

oh, and for sure let me know if i left out a question... it's late!


Auntie Ann said...

We are so lucky that we get to have you take misters photos when he gets here...only the best for my mister!!!

katherine said...

thanks for taking time to do this!! this was all so insightful and fun to read!!

Courtney and Nicholas said...

What great info! Thanks so much for all the helpful hints!

Jill said...

your advice is so good. i really love the exposure and natural light in your photography. never over done, and its good to see your process is so simple. thank you!

.caroline armelle. said...

wow! that was a lot of work. thanks for doing that.

and, i'm happy to see that your black and white process is almost exactly like mine, with a few minor differences.
and, i totally understand what you mean by getting burnt out doing photography for people. it can definitely take the fun out of it when you are cranking out pictures..

thanks again!

Allison said...

I like hearing your perspective..
I especially like how you just document your kids how they are...

Anonymous said...

I'm in shock that you did this rock.

melia l said...

Sorry you stayed up so late...but that was really helpful! Thanks!

Tamara said...

You probably don't know me but I'm a friend of Karyn and Terra. I love your photography and technique. Thanks for the tips. I'll have to try them out.

Erin Fonnesbeck said...

Thank you Amy! This is great!

Kristy said...

That was GREAT! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and for putting all the work into your answers.

becky said...

seriously...twice! that took a ton of time. you're a rock star!

Brooke said...

Thank you so much for doing this. I always wondered how you get the eyes so clear, who new it was so simple. I immediately clicked over to protect my images, thanks a million. Now I know what I need to do next to strengthen my photography. I was having a hard time deciding if I should go into debt to get a bunch of new equipment, but now I'm just going to go get the 24-70. Thanks again :)

Marie-Hélène said...

Thank you so much for taking all this time to answer the questions! I really feel like going out to buy a camera and start shooting right now... Thank you!

onehm said...

Thank you so much! LOVE the info you shared...I adore your photos and am so excited to try this new b&w conversion. :)

laceyJ. said...

Wow- you're such a champ for writing this up- it was awesome.

Love your work!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips!

sarah marie. said...

wow that was a lot of work! i loved reading it and i had no idea that's how you did your black and whites. i'll have to try it. thanks am!

twin2trip said...

You are very generous with this post. I'd be bitter if I lost my post and had to redo it.

Room design studio said...

thanks alot for sharing! this is really helpful!!

Rockin Rowe's said...

Amy, thanks for answering my question (and all the others). You are so nice. I know it was a lot of work (especially doing it twice). You are a great person.


Anonymous said...

this is amazing amy! thank you for making some space for us... you are very nice, and i've learned a lot. thank you, and have a great rest of the week... (:

marissa + michael said...

i cannot even believe i'm writing this, since i know know know it took you forever to answer ALL those questions (and you still have the "me" section to go...) but, one my of my questions fell through the crack. the crack being blogger who ate your post! : (

would you mind telling us where you like to order your prints from? do you order them from a website? i'd love to know where i could get really nice quality prints of my photos!

Ash Mazelan said...

Hey, may I know what type of photoshop are you using?

carin davis said...

Your photography is beautiful! I enjoyed reading your answers! THANK YOU for the "right click info!!"

Amberli said...

hey amy! thanks for all the info. it was fun to read. i have a follow up question about the photobucket process, if that's OK. i'm finding that when i shoot in RAW and fix the exposure or whatever in PS and then save it as JPEG then upload to photobucket to get the HTML code that the coloring of the photo becomes very dull in the uplaoded version, so it doesn't look the same as it did in PS or even picasa. does that make sense? i'm not sure what i'm doing wrong. do you find that photobucket changes the look of your photos at all? i ended up oversaturating some photos and then they looked normal in photobucket but i'm too low maintainance to do that everytime. thanks! i love your work!

Flashy Ashley said...

I have cs2, how do I open the RAW dialogue box you mentioned? is it possible?

Thanks for your sharing your knowledge!