Shooting Photos: Pie For Breakfast

Ever feel like you’re in a rut with photography?  Like every photo you take isn’t good?  Like you just can’t improve?  Like you don’t know what you’re doing?  Like, like, like….

Goodness, I get in a rut a lot.  Maybe it’s my mood, maybe it’s that I compare myself to others, maybe it’s that I had a bad day, maybe it’s that I didn’t have a piece of chocolate, maybe it’s that I just looked at a beautiful blog and feel like I can’t do it myself, maybe it’s the million other things for why I get in a rut.  It happens.  I know I’m not the only one, I hope I’m not the only one.

So how do you get out of a photography rut?  Shoot things.  You know, with your camera.  Not something else.  Photographing things, at least that’s how I start to get out of the rut.  One foot at a time.

So I’ve been feeling pretty blah about my photography lately.  I’ve gotten away from why I love photography so much.  I want to capture my family, capture the beauty, and share with others.  It boils down to love.  Love.  How come I feel the need to compare myself to others?  I’m me.  And unfortunately, I still haven’t found my style.  But I know what I love when I see it.

I love pie.  Kidding.  No, I’m not kidding.  I really enjoy pie, I love pie, but that’s not what I LOVE.

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Any hoo…the point of this meandering post is that I’ve got to get back to photographing my everyday to get out of this rut.  I talked about how I wanted to do that at least once a week.  This week I photographed pie.  Yummy cherry berry pie.  (Um, that kid has got some dirty fingernails.  I hope he didn’t touch my piece of pie.)

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I even attempted a homemade crust with butter.  Cause I don’t have shortening in my house.  I found this awesome recipe for a butter crust at Crazy for Crust.  She may just be my new blog love.  I have failed big time at pie crusts in the past, but this crust came out wonderfully.  I may not have made it look pretty, but it was easy and tasty.  I will be making all my pie crusts from scratch now with that recipe.

The kids shared the pie with grandparents while my husband and I were on a “date”.  We don’t get out much.  Our kind of dates usually involve an outdoor activity.  Thankfully the kids saved us some pie.  My husband and I chowed down on the pie after a tandem ride up the mountain.  Food tastes so much better after a hard workout.  My butt was so sore from that one.  Ow.  Then there was leftover pie the next morning.  Is pie really ever leftover or is it just waiting to be consumed?

The next morning I packed a piece of pie for my husband in his lunch.  The rest of the pie got dished out for breakfast.  The kids’ alarms went off at 7 and I still hadn’t dressed.  I quickly ran and got dressed and realized that if I wanted photos of pie, I needed to change the lens on my camera.  I quickly did that, all while being careful and cleaning things.  Then I put the leftover pie on the table and snapped some photos with my 35mm lens.  Isn’t it funny when the first photo you take is your favorite?  Or maybe it’s ironic?  Now I want more pie.

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Then I dished the pie up for the kids and I.  By 7:15 they were at the table and gushing, “Oh, thank you mama!”  “We love you mama.”  I told them I hoped they didn’t love me just because I was serving pie for breakfast.  They assured me that wasn’t the case.  Though I’m pretty sure I scored some major mama loving points with that pie for breakfast.

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Here’s a little pullback of where I was taking pie photos.  I think I was making up some scrambled eggs while I took this.  I figured we needed some kind of breakfast food that would fill us up until lunch.  I didn’t think the pie would do that alone.

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I enjoyed every bite of that pie for breakfast.  And taking photos of it.  I had some coffee with whip cream and coconut oil in it also.  Take that, photography rut. (Yes, I did cut myself the biggest piece.  Thank you for noticing.)

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But it’s my little ones that I love.  I love taking photos of them.  I love being in the moment with them.  I love eating pie with them.  I don’t particularly enjoy when one of them is whining about not having looked at their spelling words long enough and they’re going to fail their practice test and the other is in tears because they wrote a simple sentence instead of a compound sentence.  Pie….pie will fix that.  At least temporarily.

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What’s one of your favorite flavors of pie?

First Day of School Photos

After the first day of school last year (2013), I had good intentions of getting a post ready in advance of the first day of school 2104.  One with photos and links for first day of school photo ideas.  One with tips for first day of school photos.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.  Our first day of school has come and gone.  How about yours?

So rather than a post of ideas for first day of school photos or tips for first day of school photos, I’ve just got first day of school photos.  Call it busy mom syndrome.  I think many moms deal with it.  I have a full blown case of it.  I didn’t even take our first day of school photos until we were actually done with school.  I told myself it was because the light was better.  Yep.  So we have “End of the First Day of School” photos.  Maybe I’ll make that a tradition.  Honestly, I didn’t want to post these originally because they’re not spectacular photos.  Nothing fancy, nothing original, nothing artsy.  But I took photos and they’re of my kids.  And that’s what a big part of this photography journal is about.  So let’s get on with the first day.

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Nothing fancy.  This took 2 minutes.  I’ve got the chalkboard thing going on and I think I’ll keep it going.

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I try to place the kids in the corner of our concrete pad.  It was a little difficult to find it this year.  The monsoon rains had washed our dirt driveway on to it.  The tractor is not working at the moment, so we haven’t tractored the dirt off.  The shovel isn’t working either, it’s on strike.  I tractor off track so quickly, back to photos.  I take a vertical orientation photo and a horizontal one.  Just because I can and I always have.  Hmm,  I must have done something different with my settings to get my exposure on the top photo of my boy (below) to be so much darker.  Oh well. Or maybe that’s when a cloud came over us.  I’ll go with that.

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I have another photo I’ve done the last 2 years, but I’m not going to show it to you.  How is that for teasing?  It’s because my kids’ names are on them and I try not to put their real names here.  I got a Photoshop template from Squijoo and I use that on a photo.  I have my kids hold a white painted board.  One of our chalkboards has a white back, so they hold that.  I just layer over the template and enter the information (name, year, grade, school, and such).  Easy and cute.  But the chalkboard is even easier.  I don’t even have to Photoshop those photos if I don’t want to.  I didn’t even watermark these photos.  Busy mom.

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Quick trip down memory lane. Cue the sniffling and sobs.  I sent these collages to the grandparents.  Seriously, why do they keep growing up so fast?!

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How about some first day action?  I got a few photos of our first day while we were doing it.

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And here’s me teaching English.  Okay.  Moving on.

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Because I can share photos.  Here’s our school room this year.  This would be before we messed it up.  Perhaps I should practice styling and home photographing.  And then again, maybe not.  Busy mom.

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Have you had a first day of school yet?  Or is it still coming up?  Or have you had a first day of something else?  Photographic evidence?

Portrait Preview: Sweet Baby Girl

I was so excited to have a little girl come in for photos!  It had been nearly a year since I photographed a baby girl and I had baby girl stuff piling up.  I’ve had lots of baby boys, but I don’t think they’d want to see photos of themselves years down the road in frilly girly things.  I know, some of you like the gender neutral stuff.  Me, too.  But I also adore boy things and girl things.  And oh, there are so many pretty girl things to put on pretty baby girls.

So I had a pretty baby girl come visit me.  She had a beautiful momma, an equally adorable big brother, and a lovely grandma come with her.  Pink, pink, and pink.  Plus some neutrals and blue is what I tried on this wee adorable girl.  I couldn’t get over her sweet squishy lips.  I may have raved about them a little too much.  I tend to get excited over the newborns and chirp out baby talk, quietly squeal in excitement over the cuteness, blab on about the baby’s beauty, and obsess over the tiny baby details.  I love newborns.  And I love being able to capture that short window of time when they are new.  This adorable girl came to me at 3 weeks old and I loved every minute of it.  She could have been done in 90 minutes, she was that good.  But I tried to get another 30 minutes out of her.  She was done then.  But I had plenty of photos to pick from, probably too many.  Take a peek at a few:

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Thanks to her momma for bringing her sweet kids in!  I enjoyed it so much!  It is truly an honor to be able to bless a MOPS momma from my former group with some photos.  Enjoy those pretty babies of yours…because as everyone always says…they grow up so fast.

What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files

I’m out of ideas for a title for this post.  I have no idea how to convey what I want to talk about.  Any ideas? I’m going to show and tell what digital files I shoot in, what types of files I edit, and then how I save those files.  Make sense?  No?  I don’t get it either. Now, I’m going to show what I do now.  This has changed from what I did not too long ago.  And it could change in the future.  I’m not the expert.  I know I still have things to learn.  I kinda fluster my way around Photoshop Elements and every once in a while I have an “aha” moment.  Or more like a “duh, I should have known that” moment. First off…the camera.  With my Nikon D3100 I typically shoot other’s photo sessions in RAW and JPEG.  I’m not going to get into the whole RAW vs. JPEG thing here.  There are plenty of other places that do and someone always has a different opinion.  Do what works for you.  I shoot in both.  Just in case.  I like having the RAW files to work with, but I like having JPEG files, just in case something happens.  Plus, being a hobby photographer….I don’t have enough storage space to keep all those RAW files.  They are flippity big.  For my personal photos…I only shoot in the highest quality JPEG that I can.  And I hope my exposure is good. I’m going to go through a newborn session that I did recently and show what I do with the files.  I shot the session in RAW and JPEG.  Cause I’m crazy/anal/something like that.  In the screen shot below you can see my JPEG files and RAW files.  Am I suppose to be capitalizing those file types?  See, I don’t know everything.  I try to tell my kids that.  For now they don’t believe me, but the day is coming.  The JPEG shows the photo image and the RAW files shows that flower. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography Then I have to cull the photos.  Meaning, go through them and pick out my favorites.  I try to pick out ones that I think the family will like. This is stressful. Hard.  Pull my hair out inducing.  I tend to pick too many.  Especially ones that look so similar to each other.  Culling photos is a weakness of mine.  But I’ll save that topic for another time. I open up PSE (Photoshop Elements) and then I open up what files I have chosen to work on.  I work in batches.  I’ll usually pick some photos from the same backdrop or that have similar looks.  I choose the RAW files and they open up. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography The RAW files first open up in Camera Raw.  Previously, I used Nikon’s ViewNX 2 to mess around with my RAW files and then I converted them to JPEG’s and brought them into PSE to finish editing.  What was I thinking?!  Just using Photoshop is way easier.  Easy peasy.  Seriously, I’m not quick with some things and then I want to smack myself in the forehead for missing something so easy.  Story of my life.  So, I mess around with the RAW files in Camera Raw on PSE.  This is why I love RAW files.  If I happened to not change my settings when I moved to different lighting or I captured something quickly or bunches of other reasons for not having the right setting…RAW is amazing to bring back what I want.  If I used my ExpoDisc for white balance, I don’t have to do anything to my white balance setting.  If I forgot to use it…I mess with white balance.  Sometimes I mess with the exposure, highlights, and shadows.  Then I select ALL the photos and open the images.  I cannot tell you how many times I have forgot to select ALL the images and had to start again to open them in PSE.  Bummer. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography So after working on the five files in Camera Raw, I opened them all and they pop up in my editing screen of PSE.  I then proceed to edit the RAW file.  I won’t show you how I do that to save time and space.  I’ve done that in enough other blog posts.  I then watermark my photo with a special brush I’ve created.  That lovely copyright Chrissy Martin Photography thing with my website. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography I then use MCP Crystal Clear Web Resizing Action (free!).  It downsizes and sharpens my photo for web display.  Why that one?  Cause I love it, I’ve always used it, and I’m a creature of habit. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography After running the action and flattening it, I go to FILE, SAVE FOR WEB.  (I use the keyboard shortcuts, but I’m showing the mouse way). What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography This box pops up and I hit save (screen shot below).  If you try to Save for Web with a huge file, it won’t let you.  Running the MCP Action will always let me save for Web.  I could probably just do a SAVE AS, but as I said….I’m a creature of habit and do the SAVE FOR WEB.  This will save your photo as a JPEG.  Conversion done.  So I hit save and label my file.  I usually put a “tuweb” after the file name/number.  That means “touched up for web” to me.  Name files whatever works for you.  This works for me. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography Now to get back to a full-sized file that you can save.  There are two ways, maybe more.  Undo all the MCP action or before you run the MCP action, you can duplicate the background to have one file to make small and one to keep big.  Confusing?  Yep, that’s why I just undo the MCP action.  A few clicks of the undo button and my RAW file is back to it’s big size. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography Then I run a sharpening action.  Usually MCP High Definition Sharpening (free!) and I lower the opacity a bit.  Then I go to FILE, SAVE AS. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography I save my photo at the highest quality JPEG I can.  I label the file with a “tu” that follows the original file name.  That way I’m keeping my original file intact, just as I shot it.  It saves as a JPEG file, no longer a RAW file. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography I then do a black and white conversion.  Then I go to FILE, SAVE AS (I use the keyboard shortcuts).  I save the file with an added “tubw” after the file/number.  Again, this is saved as a JPEG file. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography Now here’s what my folder is starting to look like after I touch up some stuff.  The DSC (number) with the photo above it is my original JPEG.  The DSC (number) with the flower above it is my RAW file.  The paper looking image with the .xmp is the information from Camera RAW.  If I go back to that RAW file, the xmp is the information that I changed in that file.  Or something like that, that’s what I understand.  Following the paper file are my touches up files.  They’re in the middle row on that screen shot below. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography The screen shot below doesn’t show up so well, sorry about that.  It’s just showing what I do with my files when I’m all done editing.  I highlight all the colored touch up files and rename them “color.”  Then the black and whites get named “black & white.”  The web sized ones get named “web sized.”  Brilliant naming, don’t you think?  The lovely people I photograph get color, black and white, and web-sized of their images.  For myself I back up the original JPEGs, the unused JPEGs, and the edited files.  I put them on a CD.  I’m pretty sure they backup on my external hard drive too, that’s probably why it’s getting full.  I don’t keep other’s photos on my computer hard drive.  And I don’t keep the RAW files when I’m done with them, they take up way too much room.  If you’re a professional, you might want to keep those.  As I always say….”I’m just a hobby photographer.”  I’m pretty sure that’s getting old and people who stop by here frequently already know that. What Digital File Types? Shooting Files, Editing Files, and Saving Files | Chrissy Martin Photography Oh, I’m done. I guess I was expecting another photo for my fingers to ramble over the keyboard and write about. Perhaps this was a long enough post.  What did I talk about?  Files?  I wonder what I’ll be doing different in 6 months.  Can I make it to 1500 words typed?  Nope.  Not tonight.  I write at night and have these publish in the morning.  Too much information.  I really should go to bed. What about you?  What keeps you up at night?  Or what do you do with your files?  If those questions don’t interest you, I have a better one…..what’s your favorite cookie right now?  I say “right now” cause I know it could be different tomorrow.  For me…good ol’ chocolate chip right now.  I think I’ll make some tomorrow (your today). Yum.

Newborn Photography Pullback: Setting Up Props

Two posts in a row.  I must be staying up late.  And not doing the other things I should be doing. Shhh.  Like prepping science for the next few weeks.  Or organizing my photos on my hard drive.  Instead I’m going to show you a pullback from my last newborn session.  A little girl!  *squeal*  I haven’t done a little girl in over a year, I’ve had a plethora of beautiful bouncing baby boys.  So I was thrilled to get to play dress up with a little girl.  And another one may be coming my way soon! *double squeal*

I’ve had lots of posts on how I set-up, what I do with my camera settings, and blah, blah, blah.  I’ll give you links at the end, if you’re interested, otherwise skip them.

Before the baby arrives, I set-up and pull out my props.  I have a “plan” in my head of how I think the session should go and what I want to use.  But planning with babies is pretty much a good way to know that your plan won’t work. I should say I have an “idea” of how I want things to look and what I want to use for a session.  I “plan” it out, but then the baby dictates how the session will go.  I pretty much go with the moment in deciding what to use.  I rarely follow my “plan.”  Maybe that’s part of my problem (a weakness?).

Any hoo…. Let’s go through some of these props that I “plan” out, shall we?  Can I stop using the quotation marks now?  “Maybe.”

I have a few too many plastic containers filled with hats, hairbands, tiebacks, and cute little baby things.  I pulled out one with girl hats, tie backs, and elastic bands.  I set stuff near the top that I “plan” to use, but I usually end up digging through and using something else.  Moms will even dig through my stuff and pick out things they like, I’m totally cool with that.  The pink flower fell off that cream colored hat, so I used it without the flower.  Note to self….must repair hat.  I used the purple hat.  Um, I used some tiebacks, but none of the ones I set on the top.  Am I getting you curious to see the photos of this baby?  Sorry, you’re going to have to wait.  I’m still working on them.  Maybe I’ll sneak one or two in at the end of this.

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I choose a few blankets to try as backdrops.  I have the hardest time choosing just a few.  This time I used the minky pink, a fuschia, and I don’t think I used the cream.  Maybe next time.  I just flip them off the back when I’m done with them.  I also have found lowering my backdrop stand helps.  I should really build one of those PVC newborn photo stands, but I don’t know where I’d put it.

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I pull out some swaddling blankets and wraps.  They’re residing on my cream flokati, which I use in nearly ever shoot because I love it so.  I need one nearly twice the size.  I used some of my dyed cheesecloth (regular and tea-dyed) this time.  Oh my, I need to clean my window sills.

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Here (photo below) I have a basket ready with a fluffy piece of fabric.  I did use this, but it was towards the end of the session when the wee one was ready to be done.  Not my best photos.  That pink faux fur was still in the box it came in and I was excited to try it out.  Yes, I now love it for little girls.  I think I talked about getting that faux fur in a double duty post.  That’s a pink stretch wrap laying on top.  I wish I had a ton of those things in every color possible.

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My dresser is a makeshift thing to hold photography stuff.  Plus, it’s still sporting canvases that we really need to get up on the wall.  There’s a basket with a hot pink scarf.  I did change that scarf out to a more neutral blanket.  But alas, I never did the baby in the basket thing with this one.  I always save those for the end and I really should get photos of the baby in it in the beginning.  Note to self….use harder props (meaning someone’s hand is on it constantly) when baby is asleep in the beginning, not the end.  There’s my camera cleaning stuff, my beloved expodisc, and puppets for the older sibling.

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Okay, this shot doesn’t really have any props.  But it’s got stuff I use.  Drinks and snacks for mom and the people she brings.  Baby stuff (wipes).  Hand gel (important).  Some burp clothes that I sewed and usually gift to the moms/babies. That girl in the canvas is now sporting a big space in her top teeth.  She’s lost both of her two center top teeth….just including that little tidbit cause it’s so important to my little girl.  Plus, I like to diverge when I’m typing about things.

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Here’s the whole shebang.  Well, most of it.  It’s a hot mess.  Hot, because of the heaters.

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Now, the sneak peek I promised you.  Isn’t she beautiful?  Her lips…oh my…I couldn’t get over them.  And that tongue sticking out…seriously….babies are the best.  How can so much sweetness be wrapped up in such a tiny package?

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The pink faux fur is from Fabric.com.  I crocheted the bonnet from a made up pattern in my head.  Not sure if I could repeat that.  I knitted the wrap with some huge knitting needles.  I think she looks like a little caterpillar getting ready to metamorphose into a butterfly.  She’s just a little beauty.

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This sweet girl was so fun to play dress up with.  I feel so blessed to be able to capture this tiny moment in time when babies are so…well, tiny.  I can hardly wait to photograph another little girl!  Oh my…I’ll stress out about what to use….again.  I think I need a photography stylist.  My little girl likes to assist me as one, when she can.

What about you?  Do you have any favorite photography props?  How do you set up for a shoot?  Or if you don’t do sessions….what would you dress a baby in?  Just curious.

Related Posts:

Pullback of a Newborn Session

How I Set Up for a Newborn Session

My Kids Photographing the Behind the Scenes of a Newborn Shoot

Camera Settings for Natural Light Newborn Photography

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