Tutorial

How to Take Christmas Photos- Bokeh Tutorial

I love Christmas lights- they’re so pretty! And I also love taking photos with Christmas lights in the background when it creates beautiful bokeh (the circles that form behind the subject).

Here are some tips of how to take photos with gorgeous bokeh using Christmas lights!

1. Use a small aperture- to get really nice bokeh, you need a lens with an aperture (or f stop) that can go down to 1.8 or 2. For these photos I was using my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. The aperture of your lens is how big the opening is to let in light- so when you have a low aperture like 1.8, the opening is really large and lets in a lot of light, and your background gets blurry. Because your aperture is letting in a lot of light, your shutter speed will have to be higher to compensate.

bokeh web12. Put your subject several feet away from the lights. For these photos I used our Christmas tree and my dog was a good 8ish feet away from the tree. Varying the distance between your subject and the lights will give you different looks- the closer you are to the lights the smaller they will be. If you get really close, they will just look like lights, not circles. The farther away you are, the bigger the circles, but if you get too far away, all the circles will start blurring together.

bokeh web43. Put your camera close to the subject- My dog was far away from the tree, but I was close to him. That made the frame tighter and made for better bokeh.

bokeh web34. Adjust your ISO- My ISO was at 400 for these photos- that’s in the middle as far as ISO goes. ISO is how sensitive to light your camera is- if your ISO is low (100 or 200) your camera is not as sensitive to light meaning that your aperture and shutter speed have to be lower to let in enough light. Low ISO is good for when you’re shooting in bright light and gives you the highest quality photos. Middle ISO from 400-800 will make your camera more sensitive to light which is good for when you’re shooting in a well-let room inside. ISO in this range will allow your camera to take in more light and won’t take down the quality of your photos too much. High ISO (800+ depending on your camera) will allow you to shoot in low-light situations, but will also produce granier photos. I always try to shoot at as low an ISO as possible so my photos will be of better quality. Your ISO in these photos is going to depend on how dark your environment is- my living room has windows so it was letting in quite a bit of light.

bokeh web25. Have fun and don’t hesitate to ask me questions in the comment section! I know Christmas is over, but keep your lights up and experiment with some bokeh holiday photos :)

And for those of you who are curious, my settings for these photos were: ISO- 400, Shutter Speed- 1/100, Aperture- f/1.8

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Dorm Room Decorations

Hey everyone! Yeah remember that post where I was all like “I’m totally going to be posting more now!” and then didn’t? Yeah sorry about that…BUT I will be going home in a few weeks and will hopefully have time to blog some more :) Thank you all for your patience with me.

So for this post I will show you a really neat thing you can do to decorate your dorm room! I think it’s added a lot of flair to our otherwise sort of drab room.

Woah! Isn’t it cool?

So what I did was ask my mom and sister to go to Home Depot and pick out a bunch of paint samples in different colors. I then used tape to attach them to the wall. This project is great because it’s pretty much free (besides the cost of tape), it’s easy to do, and it looks super impressive. Right now I have Christmas lights all over the room and I love how the colored lights look against the paint samples.

Here’s idea number two- displaying photos.

I love this for displaying photos. All you do is buy some Jute string ($2-$4 at Home Depot), some clothes pins, and have your photos printed. I have two of these strands in my room and I love them! They’re easy to put up, cheap to make, and look super awesome. Since it’s Christmas season, I have added some green tinsel.

You can also see that I have a bunch of other things on my wall. I love my pink white board, black chalkboard, and little cork board. They’re great for notes, hanging cards, letters, and photos, and for Christmas countdowns!

Ahh Christmas countdowns…one is days until Christmas and one is days until Christmas break! Woohoo! You may also notice that I hung some pretty little snowflakes on the wall- $1 at the Dollar Tree. I love that store around Christmas time!

As you can tell, I am very excited about Christmas and got pretty into decorating my room. Here is a collage of my room decorations (I have actually added more since I took the photo ;). I actually just won a contest for best decorated dorm room!

I hope you got some fun ideas for decorating your room- whether it’s a dorm room or just in your house! Let me know if you have any questions or if you try any of these ideas!

 

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Strawberry Drop

This past weekend I tried some high-speed photography and was really happy with how it turned out! To set up this shot, I used a stained piece of wood for the background and the surface and placed the wood by a window so I could get enough natural lighting into the photograph. I filled the mason jar with water and had my dad drop the strawberry into the water while I took the photos.

For this shot, my aperture was 2.5 and my shutter speed was 1/100. If you want to try some photography like this (and I suggest you do!), make sure that your shutter speed is at least as fast as 1/100, preferably faster so that you can freeze the motion of the water droplets. Set your camera on continuous shooting and have someone else drop the object while you fire away!

Hopefully this summer I will have more time to experiment with my photography and try new things out like this :) Let me know if you get the chance to try high-speed water drops- I’d love to see your photos!

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Pioneer Cinnamon Rolls {Updated}

A few of the things that have made me happy this week:

  1. There are 5 days until my 18th birthday!
  2. There 25 more school days until graduation…not that I’m counting…hem hem.
  3. I am officially photographing a wedding this summer! An exciting first :)

4. Instagram. Enough said :)
5. I’m going on a church retreat this weekend which will hopefully be tons of fun!
6. Planning birthday parties (both of my sisters have birthdays coming up soon, too).
7. Sunny weather.
8. We now have 2 working cars in our family!
9. Writing lists.
10. Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls!

Last Christmas I made Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls for the first time and knew that it would definitely not be the last. They are truly one of the tastiest things I have ever had! This Easter I made them again, but experimented with some different methods to see what works best for making these cinnamon rolls ahead of time. The second time around it was definitely easier to make them, and I’m sharing some tips I’ve learned that make these rolls easier to create. I definitely think you should make these very soon…they are sure to bring some happiness into your life :)

Heavenly Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Tips on preparing the dough:

The dough is very easy to make- don’t get freaked out just because you have to use yeast. My only advice for this part of the recipe is to make sure that you leave plenty of time (it takes about 2 hours for the dough to be ready from start to finish). Also, it is easier to work with the dough after it has been in the refrigerator for a while. I always make the dough the day before I need it and it works out great.

Tips on preparing the cinnamon rolls:

The first time I made these, I halved the recipe and got 14 cinnamon rolls. I knew mine must have been larger than Pioneer Woman’s because according to her, I should have been able to make 25. This past time I made them I realized that I hadn’t rolled the dough out long enough (I’d made it too wide). In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter how big these are (I kinda liked the really big ones :), but if you want smaller cinnamon rolls, you need to make sure you roll the dough out pretty long.

Once you have the dough rolled out (on a floured surface), you pour the melted butter on it. This is just going to be messy, but it’s worth it. Rolling up the dough with that much oozy melty butter is a little tricky, but just do your best.

Tips on making the cinnamon rolls ahead of time:

These cinnamon rolls take a while to make, even if you already have the dough ready, which can be tricky for holiday mornings when you need to get going. This past time I made them, I tried two different methods of preparing the rolls ahead of time, and both ways worked great.

  1. Baking them the night before: The day before you need the cinnamon rolls, take your prepared dough, make the rolls, and go ahead and bake them. The next morning, simply heat up the rolls (microwave works great) and make the maple frosting. These rolls actually re-heat really well and, as long as the cinnamon rolls are just from the night before, there’s not really any difference between the re-heated ones and freshly baked ones.
  2. Preparing them the day before: If you really want truly fresh-baked rolls, use your prepared dough to completely make the rolls, except for baking them. Cover the pans with a towel and put them in the fridge. The next morning, simply take the rolls out of the fridge (put them in a warm place to let them rise a bit more while the oven is preheating), and bake them. While they’re in the oven, prepare the frosting.

Both of these methods worked out great for me and allowed me to have these delicious cinnamon rolls ready for a stress-free Easter breakfast before we went to church :)

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Photoshop Tutorial- Editing in Camera Raw

Hey! I have been working on re-vamping my photography website, and so I decided to make a couple tutorials showing how I edit my images. Click here to check out what photography equipment I use :)

When I’m doing an photo session, I try really hard to get the lighting and everything correct in the camera, because that makes it much faster to edit later and improves my skills as a photographer. But sometimes I still mess up the exposure, and even when I get it correct, there are still edits that I do in Photoshop. Because of this, I shoot in RAW rather than JPEG because when you shoot in RAW, your memory card stores more information about the photo and so you can do better editing to it later. What is RAW? It is an image format that preserves most of the information of the captured image. The purpose of the RAW image format is to save the data obtained from your camera sensor when you took the image. RAW images are processed in Photoshop where adjustments can be made, and then the file is saved as a psd (photoshop file), TIFF, or JPEG so that you can store, print, and upload the photograph. Let me show you what I mean:

Here is the SOOC (straight out of camera) photograph of my lovely sister. This was the first time I used my new 5D classic camera, and I was still figuring out where all the buttons were :) Clearly this photograph is way too dark, and if I had shot it in JPEG, it might be totally unusable. But with raw, I can make major adjustment and fix the image.

When you open up a RAW file in Photoshop, this is what you will see:

On the right are a bunch of things you can adjust. Make sure you have the preview box checked in the top right so that when you make changes, you can see how they affect your photo.

The first thing I did was adjust the exposure, dragging the sliding bar to the right to lighten the image. Look how much better it looks already!

I then slightly adjusted the “blacks” and “brightness.” This increases the dark and light parts of the photo and gives it more contrast.

Then I adjusted the temperature by dragging the bar to the right. When you drag the bar to the right, you warm up your image. Trivia tidbit: temperature is measured in Kelvin.

Lastly, I increased Clarity and Vibrance a little bit, which makes the image a little sharper and brighter.

Now I’m ready to open the image up in Photoshop. The Open button is at the bottom right (you can’t see it on my screen). The photograph is so much better after the RAW edits!

Usually, my edits in RAW are a lot more subtle, but they still make a difference in the final image.

I will post another tutorial soon about how to make basic edits in Photoshop, what Photoshop actions are, and how to use important Photoshop tools.

Absolutely feel free to leave questions about this tutorial in the comment section. Also, if there’s anything else you’d like to learn about photography or Photoshop, let me know!

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