Sunday, June 14, 2009

Heidi's Photography Low-Down

NOTE 8/28/11: I am no longer scheduling photo sessions for this year. I may possibly resume next spring 2012. Sorry for the inconvenience!

I'm hoping to answer all photography-related questions here in this post, so that the information is all in one spot. Please let me know if I've missed anything, and I will add the answer (if I have one!).

My Photo Tips for Beginners and Beyond (click on link)

My Favorite Photography Book:

Expressions: Your Behind the Camera Guide to Taking Extraordinary Photos of Ordinary Life is my top choice because of the emphasis on creativity and capturing universal emotion in photography. This book is perfect for the beginner, providing excellent inspiration and guidance in a gorgeous format, but also gently takes the reader (when ready) into the arena of technical information (ISO, aperture, shutter speed, studio lighting, and more). (I should mention here that the book deals exclusively with 'people' photography.)

If you want to tell a story with your photography, while gradually increasing your technical knowledge, this is the book for you.

My Equipment:

I have recently upgraded my camera to a Nikon D90. I am currently using only the kit lens, a VR (love!) AF-S 18-105mm (love!) 1:3.5-5.6 G. While I may have additional lenses in my arsenal in the future, this is plenty for me to play around with (and learn how to use!) for the time being. (I'll update this post to reflect equipment changes and additions.)

Why did I choose the Nikon D90? It is the camera my hubby handed me. Ask him. Grin.

I'll be using my Nikon D50 for back-up.

Shooting in Manual vs Auto Mode:

All my photography up to this point has been done in auto mode. Taking pictures of little boys who never stand still makes it difficult to experiment with manual mode. I most often use the 'running man' setting and set my own focus point. That is about to change, however. I am diving head-long into manual mode experimentation. Pray for me.

Shooting in JPEG vs RAW:

I shoot exclusively in high resolution JPEG. Questions? Read here.

Editing Programs:

Almost every photo I post has been edited in Photoshop CS2. I exclusively use Photoshop actions. These include Pioneer Woman's free ps actions (both sets), Totally Rad Actions (both sets), and just recently began adding action sets from MCP. I often use multiple actions on one photo, experimenting with combinations and various opacities. You will see these combinations referred to as 'recipes.' I have only scratched the surface of what these actions are capable of. I hope to increase my abilities by leaps and bounds in this department over the next year or two.

Once I've finished applying Photoshop actions to a photo, I use the free online photo editing program Picnik. (I've upgraded to the $24.95 premium version, which is a steal in my humble opinion.) Occasionally I'll apply effects, but more often remove blemishes, clone out things I don't want in the photo, adjust curves, crop, resize, sharpen, add frames and text, and other sundry things. This program is outrageously simple to use. (And did I mention FREE?!) ETA: All of my collages are composed in Picnik, as well.

I save a photo directly from Picnik to Flickr. There I grab the code and use it to post photos on my blog. Speaking of posting photos on my blog...

Posting Larger Photos on a Blog:

I have had many people ask me how I post the larger photos on my blog. My friend Jodi sent me this link a while back, which explains the process. If that link doesn't answer your question, I probably can't either. Grin.

I also have had a few people comment that the right side of my larger photos are cut off on their screen. This is because their screen resolution is set too, uh, something. (Low, I think.) My husband will be doing a guest post about that shortly.

My Photo Inspiration:

I spend a great deal of time visiting blogs and sites of other photographers, increasing my knowledge and creativity. I have listed links (and will be adding more) on my side bar (scroll down) for your browsing pleasure. I'll send a shout-out to my friend Susan at Short on Words, my favorite inspiration.

Professional Photo Session Availability and Cost:

NOTE 8/29/11: I am no longer scheduling photo sessions for this year. I may possibly resume next spring 2012. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Yes, I am available for photo sessions in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. These are limited, however, so please contact me ( if you are interested in scheduling.

Current investment (subject to change):

(All sessions include travel time within 20-30 minutes of the Albany area. Please contact me for price quotes on extended locations. All sessions include a CD of fully edited images for your unlimited use, available within 2-3 weeks of your session. Fees are due at the beginning of each session.)

Individual Portrait Session: 30+ minutes on location (1 adult or child), roughly 10 fully edited images on CD. $75

Newborn Portrait Session: Undetermined, as of yet.

Senior Portrait Session: Undetermined, as of yet.

Deluxe Portrait Session: 45+ minutes on location for 2-3 people (couple, children, siblings, friends...), roughly 15 fully edited images on CD. $100

Family Session: 1.5+ hours on location for a single family (up to 6 members), various casual and posed shots as well as photos of individual children, roughly 30 fully edited images on CD. $200

(Please contact me if you have specific photo session needs not addressed in these categories.)

Is this going to turn into a photography-only blog?

No. For those of you who come here more in the mood for life, lovely, homeschooling, Project Heidi, or other fare, I promise there will be more to come. As our life ebbs and flows, this blog shall also ebb and flow. Sometimes I'm in the middle of planning our next year of lessons and thoughts of grammar, Latin, educational philosophies, and our daily rhythms fill the space in my head. Sometimes I've been reading like crazy and want to tell you about books I've loved. Sometimes our family has been on one adventure after another, and we have stories to share. I also have a new series coming up very shortly, in which I would love some outside participation!!

I will continue to post favorite images here and there from photography sessions, but eventually I'll be doing some refurbishing over at my (sadly neglected) photography blog and posting most of the photos there.

Any other questions?


Anonymous said...

This is great! My hubby's been asking me what kind of software you use and stuff, but i'm pretty clueless in that area, so I'm happy you posted all this in one place! He will enjoy reading this after he finishes weeding the yard :)

Unknown said...

Heidi, have you ever tried using Windows Live Writer to compose your posts? You would then be able to upload multiple pictures QUICKLY and size them by just typing in the three digit width or height measurement you desire. I would think it would be much simpler than how are you currently doing it. I do this all the time, but I have a narrower blog column format, so my pictures are not huge, but they are much larger than what Blogger would give me. You could set yours to take up the whole width of your blog column if you so desired and it would just be a one step edit. Actually I know there is even a way to change the default "large" setting to that of your own choosing, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet.

Skeller said...

Wow, thanks for the shout-out! :-)

I think the Willamette Valley is awfully lucky to have you to create lovely portraits!!!

Blessings, My Friend...

Jennifer said...

Heidi...Thanks for this post!! I am so determined to improve my photography this year. I took two years of photography classes in college, but seem to have forgotten everything I ever knew (and of course, that was long before digital!) How neat to come home from a week away and find this photog post as I was catching up on blogs this morning! Can't wait to delve into it more deeply...:)

Gen said...

I've got one. I'm looking at a Nikon D40 because of the affordabililty factor. Any thoughts? BTW, I'm not looking at going pro like you. :) Just need to capture these fleeting days of childhood.

Thanks for the great post. I've been referring my photo-happy friends to your site.

Christina said...

Hi Heidi-
I really enjoy your blog- I think I originally got here somehow through one of your home design posts but I stuck around :) I too am an aspiring photographer so it's been fun to see your photos. You have a great eye. I HIGHLY reccomend the forums at they have been so helpful to me in my journey. I learn something new there everyday and they have a "prePro" group by application that provides lots of support and top notch guidance for how to really get going with your business. I have to be honest and say however that people on that forum won't applaud you that you are charging at this time while still shooting primarily in auto and relying on actions...they have pretty defined criteria for labeling onself as a photographer who gets money for shots. I'm of the mindset that people will do what is best for them and their families- but just thought I'd give you a heads up on that. But do check it out- it's a wealth of information. My photography has improved by leaps and bounds since I've been reading there and people are very helpful with photoshop issues, posing dilemmas, etc, etc. Good luck- look forward to seeing more of your work!

Heidi said...

Prairie Chick~ I've never tried that before. I'll have to look into it. Thanks for the suggestion!

Gen~ I wouldn't be the one to ask, but my hubby might have a good answer for you. Maybe he'll chime in here...

Christina~ I'll check out that forum, though it might not be the right place for me. Sounds as if I might have a different perspective on photography than what is there. I do want to increase my technical knowledge (and have been working toward that), but I place a greater emphasis on the emotional, story-telling aspect of the art. I'm straightforward here on my blog about what I do and don't know technically (obviously not a lot), and my work/vision is entirely on display. I'm assuming that someone would choose me as a photographer because they specifically are drawn to my photography, not because I present myself as an expert on photography equipment, technical aspects of taking a photo, or editing programs. I choose to charge for my sessions because I place an even greater emphasis on my family, and I have to be honest about what my time is worth. If a potential client doesn't think my product is worth the cost, they are certainly not obligated to hire me. :) (When I do feel I have a reasonable grasp of the technical skills to enhance my emotional side, my fees will reflect that. :))

Heasleye said...

Nicely done, Heidi! I predict you will get comfortable with manual quickly. Nearly two years ago, I was shooting aperture priority all the time, and I challenged myself to only shoot manually for an entire week...and I never went back! Well, this season shooting baseball, I occasionally went back to aperture priority when the field was half in sun and half in shade and I didn't want to be shifting my settings. Anyway...good for you! I liked your book recommendation...I will look for that one. I highly recommend Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. It's a must-have, in my opinion.
I found it interesting to come upon your post at a season in my life where I'm thinking of withdrawing from the "business" side of photography. Not that I have much of one, but that part is definitely not my favorite. More thinking to do...
God bless!

Anonymous said...

FYI: it looks like you haven't checked your facebook. I sent you a message about this week. Call if you need! ~Tera

Anonymous said...

Ahhh... the magical question: "Why did you choose That camera"..

We got the D50 (6.1 megapixel) many, many years ago. It has worked well. It works with our older Nikon Len's.
Fast forward.
We would like some more advanced features. What camera to buy.
If we want to be able to use our existing lenses, then we can't get a D40 (6.1 mega pixel), D40X (10 mega pixel), or D60 (10 mega pixel), or even the new D5000 (12.3 mega pixel), since they all require the lens to have the focus motor built into the lens. Also, while those all have more current features than our D50 (better resolution, shooting speeds), they don't have enough new features to warrant the upgrade. (5 auto focus spots, vs 11, or more, in other bodies).
The D5000 is the newest Nikon, and if I didn't want to be able to buy older lenses, I would have gotten it, but instead, I got the D90 because the D5000 is basically based on it's feature set, but doesn't have all of it's abilities.(But that swiveling screen would have been cool!)
It (D90) does have 11 auto focus tracking points, 720p HD movie ability, a HUGE 3" super high resolution view screen, and .... lots more
It also looks like it will be at least another year before the D90 is upgraded with a new model. I was considering a D200 / D300, since the price is within a comfortable range of the D90 (body only though), but decided that 11 focus points would be find for a few years. We can look at 52 focus points and 6+ frames per second in the future.
There are lots of sites that show you feature comparisons, but I seem to keep going back to dpreview (
They have a review of the D90 here: and one of the D5000 here: adn the D40x (with difference between the 40x and 40) here:
It has reviews of other models and brands as well.


Unknown said...

love, love, love your blog and photography... such an inspiration! Do you use PICNIK just for editing and making collages of the pics that you'll use on your blog or do you print from there, too? Thanks so much for the great post!

Laurel said...

Heidi - I remember your first general "photography" post and the book rec then that I bought and loved! Thanks for answering the "big photo in post" question! One of the reason your work is inspiring is not just because it is beautiful but it shows others that full technical knowledge is not required to get started! Thanks for the continued encouragement - Laurel

Gen said...

Wow! Thanks, Russ. Great info.

Deidra said...

Oh so wonderful! I am extending my heartfelt thanks to you for this post! Thanks so much for passing on a bit of wisdom, experience, and insight! I consider this my gift for the day. I will return to it often, as it is now bookmarked!

Angela said...

Hi! I'm a Nikon gal as well. I love perusing homeschooling blogs that are also into photography. :)

I sometimes use Picnik, but my photos look their best when I edit them on my main computer using Photoshop. My favorite actions are TRA and Kubota.

kimber said...

Your blog is just awesome. I stumbled on it yesterday while surfing the boy photos from I heart faces and I can't leave! I've learned so much. Yesterday I signed up on Picnik, then I purchased the 24.55 premium version because your collages are just gorgeous and I was wondering how you did them! I created one last night and had so much fun. I dreamed about everything I learned from your blog all night long! I love your philosophies on photography and I agree 100%. You should not feel one bit bad about charging for auto mode photography. I'd pay big bucks to have you photo my family in auto mode!! Your skills behind the lens and in post production make technical knowledge unnecessary! (Though I can't wait to see your journey through the technical stuff too! and I hope to learn along with you!) Anyway, your blog is amazing. Thanks for teaching me so much! This blog is a gold mine to someone like me, with the desire to improve my photography skills! Thank you!

Carrie said...

Thanks for all the great tips!! Could you send me an invite to your photography blog? I love all your pics and your house is beautiful, too! Thanks so much for being willing to share your ideas and inspiration!

Unknown said...

I finally checked out Picnik and it is fabulous! I LOVE the collages you create with your photography. Thanks for the tip! Also looking forward to checking out the book you recommend, too.

Erin A said...

Thanks for posting!! I love when people share their little tips, it makes it feel like we're all just trying to figure this stuff out together, as we are!

I have been wondering about collages, and will be on picnic as soon as I'm finished with this comment. I also just changed my blog to accomodate bigger pictures based on your friend's link, so thanks a lot!! I'll be referring all of my friends here soon who will inevitably be asking how it's done.

Blessings :)

Susan said...

I have no idea how I missed this post. Anyhow, speaking from experience as one who has had photos taken by the lovely Heidi, I say "auto-manual, who cares". I love having photo of myself that make me see beautiful. Heidi, your eye for photography is what has inspired me to get more serious with it. I have had my slr for almost a year, and just recently have I decided make more of an effort to learn all I can. I feel like I am coming along and maybe someday someone will want me to take photos of them. I love your philosophy on photography. It is 100 % about the people. Forever I have taken crappy photos of my kids, and now I feel like I can start taking photos that tell our family story. thanks for the book recommendation. I have Brian Petersons two books and Scott Kelbys (which Costco carries) and I really like them. So last year you took my photos for my birthday, this year I am buying a new lens! PS-the blog writer program mentioned above does not work with a MAC. FYI.