Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christmas Card Portraits

My studio has been like Santa's workshop in November...
I adore shooting Christmas portraits, so I collect lots of
Christmas clothing and props throughout the year from thrift stores.
I always shoot against a white background so I can add my own
bokeh, wallpaper or anything I want!
To read how to create a simple white board for shooting CLICK HERE.
I love to style the photos using my thrift store props.
The kids really enjoy it, too...especially when they go home with some goodies!
You can be extremely elaborate with your sets....or...
Keep it very simple.
I also love shooting in front of a white board because
it makes it very easy to extract my subject and...
Move them into an outdoor background!   I sell outdoor backgrounds in my
That's also what I did with this cute photo of 3-year-old Ila.
This background with the snow-laden trees is in my Etsy Shop .
Ila is getting a new baby sister in April.  Her parents wanted to
announce the impending arrival in their Christmas card!
I am having so much fun with the angel wings png I also sell in my Etsy Shop!
I also sell all the Christmas bokeh backgrounds you see in this blog post in my Etsy Shop.
Rita from CoffeeShop Blog made this fabulous digital paper
with the red cardinals.  I purposely styled these next two photos
to go with the paper!
Rita has made a ton of wonderful new papers, that will be
available for free all through the holidays, so check her blog often.
You can also pick up my Snow Overlay Set in my Etsy Shop.
This set of five exclusive snow overlays are all you will ever need!
Many times, the simple poses are the best for Christmas cards!
Whenever I photograph people in winter outerwear, I have them wear
gloves or mittens.   It really finishes the look.
I have been doing Christmas card portraits with Miss Emma since
she was born!  She has gotten so good at posing...such a natural.
Here is another one of Rita's pretty holiday papers!
I love hats and hair flowers!
To learn how to make them, watch my video tutorial.
I hope this gives you some ideas for your own Christmas card portraits!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Angel Wings

When a friend loaned me three vintage aluminum trees
I thought of a silver and gold theme for this Christmas portrait shoot
with two sisters Ella and Maddie.
It was a nice change from red and green for Christmas.
While editing, the photos looked so heavenly, I decided
I found the angel wings png on Pixabay and you can get them HERE.
I love them and really enjoyed adding the wings to both angels!
Then I made a set of angel wings myself for a wispy, feathery look.
You can purchase this Angel Wings PNG Overlay in my Etsy Shop.
My friend Rita of the Coffeeshop Blog did a tutorial
showing how to add the wings to your photo and how to do a creative
edit, so check that out HERE!
Add a bit of heavenly whimsy to your Christmas photos!
I am also selling my Aluminum Tree Background with a Snow Overlay in my Etsy Shop.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Star Trails

I have always admired the beautiful star trail photos, but they seemed a bit
daunting to tackle.  I knew you have to shoot multiple long-shutter photos
and I didn't really want to be out in the middle of the night doing it.
I finally decided to take the challenge and found out it isn't all that difficult!
The photo above is my favorite result after testing the technique
in various situations.   It was taken with my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens.
This next photo was taken that same night with my wide angle 20mm lens,
and as always with a wide angle lens, the trails look farther away and wispier.
You will need a DSLR camera
A tripod
A location with an open sky that faces NORTH
And preferably, something in the foreground
First, locate the North Star in the sky.  This star will become the
center of your star trail circle, so plan your composition accordingly.
  It's easy to locate the North Star if you can identify the Little Dipper. 
Thanks to SurvivalTopics. com for this diagram!
Scope out a location facing the North Star.  Look for an area that is not lit
up with street lights, etc....but I like something lit in the foreground to give
the photo perspective.  Or maybe include an interesting tree or structure in silhouette.
I started setting up at 7 pm (Sunset was 6:37).  It took awhile to find the best
composition with the house and aiming north.
Shoot on a tripod!
I tried various settings to get correct exposure.
Here's what worked with my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens.
ISO:  100
Aperture:  f2.0
Shutter: 30 seconds
You will have to play with your settings to capture the
correct exposure for your camera, lens and location, but keep the
aperture fairly wide open.   I had to change the settings as the sky got
darker, so constantly check your exposure throughout the session.
Lock your focus on infinity by switching to manual on your lens.
Or, if you have a foreground subject, focus on that and lock focus.
Once this is all determined, get comfy in a lawn chair by your camera.
I had my tripod lower so I could work the shutter while sitting down.
To avoid camera shake, I used a remote, but you can also set your camera to a 2 sec. delay.
Click your shutter and wait the LONG 30 seconds. 
When it finishes, just click the button again. 
Do this for at least 60 photos...the photo at top was 80 photos.
You can take as many photos as you wish for different effects.
I could barely see any stars in the sky when we shot this, but
they were there...just trust that you are capturing them.
This process takes between 30 and 60 minutes depending on how many photos you take.
You can also buy remote switches that will do all the clicking for you,
and you can go inside and watch TV!
It was so much fun, my photo pal Lucy and I tried it at a beautiful mosque
near us.  I thought the lighted dome would be lovely in the foreground.
Lucy took this photo with her 50mm lens.  She had to sit back farther
than me.  You can see the silhouette of me sitting on a lawn chair at the edge of the building.
But my location was obviously too brightly lit.
I over-exposed the mosque.  Correct exposure of the subject is extremely important!
I actually took 130 photos and this is the result...UGH! 
Was very bummed after all that effort.
Our photo club met in a beautiful Bavarian town near us called Frankenmuth
to try shooting star trails.
We wanted the exquisite covered bridge as our subject,
but you can see we were bombarded with surrounding lights!
It was also a bit cloudy...with wispy clouds in the sky.
That's when we learned...the sky must be totally clear!
Despite shooting 85 shots, the star trail had many breaks because of the clouds.
Note that the bridge and town are beautifully exposed.  DARN those clouds!
Next, I tried shooting right in my own backyard.
I started shooting at 10 pm and took only 60 photos because
I was freezing!  (Early November)

I tried it again the next night and this time, I had my neighbors
turn on lights in their house and I turned on some in mine.
Here it is with the 50mm 1.4 lens
Change your composition and try it again.
How great that the North Star was right over my neighbor's house!
After you have your photos, you can stack them in Photoshop
by watching this video tutorial.
I thought this process would be difficult, but it was a cinch and I had my
finished star trail photo within a few minutes.
If you don't have Photoshop, you can download a free stacking program called
Now you can edit your photo however you wish.
I hope you take the challenge and capture some beautiful star trails!
If you get a good one, send it to me and I will share it in the newsletter!

November Portraits

With the colorful Autumn leaves already raked,
November might seem like a boring month for portraits
with no color.
But, that's exactly what you can embrace at this muted time of year!
I photographed Susie for her November birthday in
a field of dried weeds.
She brought along some friends and fortunately, it was still
mild enough for them to be outdoors.
Hats give it a November feel.
The color comes with the clothing.
I found this vintage yellow dress at a thrift store!
Here's a color pop...confetti I found at the thrift store for 49-cents!
November is also dazzling during the golden hour
About 60 minutes before sunset when the sun is low in the sky.
Add a punch of color with the clothing,
and don't miss out on November portraits!