June 28, 2012

Photography & Photo Styling at Haven

As part of my "Wish You Were Here!" series of posts about
some of the seminars I went to at the Haven Blog Coference,
 this post is about the "Basic Photography and
Photo Styling" seminar.
(Other blog post in the series are  Keynote Speakers At Haven,
 Furniture Painting with Miss Mustard Seed and Power Tools 101 )

One of the hard-working organizers of Haven, Kate of
 Centsational Girl, introduced the speakers which were
Kevin and Layla Palmer of The Lettered Cottage and
their friend and co-founder of Shoot Fly Shoot, Josh Moates.

The boys went first with their tips for taking better
photos with a DSRL camera.  The main point of the
whole talk was to learn how to put your camera in
the "manual" mode and off "automatic".  They
have given manual mode the name "Manuel"...many
of us are scared of Manuel and think he is a monster.
These photos aren't that good but I'm standing towards to back so I can take pictures to
share with you without blocking other's views....bad pictures from a photography seminar.

They told us ," You are smarter than your camera",
and that we know what kind of photo we want.
Don't let the automatic setting on your camera
dictate to you what your picture will look like.

To get us started on controlling our cameras, they
taught us three basic settings on the DSRL camera,
ISO, Aperature, and Shutter Speed.

ISO relates to exposure.  They said that "exposure
is everything". An underexposed photo is too
dark and an overexposed photo is too light.

The lower the number ISO, the higher the
 quality of the photograph. 

If you have good light, use a low number ISO.

Here is a blow-up of that screen showing the
difference in the ISO numbers between an outside
photo and a photo taken of a performer inside.
A higher number ISO will have a grainy quality.
(the arrows and black text is something I added for clarification...I hope I got that right)

Next, on to the aperature setting.
It is not actually IN your camera...it
is the opening in your lens.

Aperature controls the depth of field in your photo.
The lower number aperature yeilds a shallower
depth of field.  It is actually a bigger opening of the lens.

If you want a specific item in the foreground to be
in focus and the background to be fuzzy, chose a
low aperature number.  A setting of 2.8 is good,
Josh says that 1.2 is "crazy"...I think he meant "crazy"
as in a "crazy good" way. 

If you want your whole photo to be in focus,
use a higher aperature setting. For example, if you
are taking a photo of a whole room and you
want everything to be in focus, use a higher setting.
A higher aperature number is a smaller lens opening.
(This always confuses me.  Basically, low number aperature yeilds a fuzzy background.)

 Josh took these example photos of his fence. 
He said not to judge him...he knows he needs to paint it.

A lens (that usually does not come with your
camera if you buy it as a kit) that they suggest
purchasing is a 50mm 1:1.8 if you like fuzzy
 backgrounds.  It runs between $100 - $150.
Josh says that it is "plastic fantastic"...I think
this means that it gives great results with little
additional effort on your part.  It also gives you
good "Bokeh".  I have seen this word written but
really did not know what it is or how to say it.
Josh said that it is the blur background in shots and
they refer to it as "boca burgers" (like the
 vegetarian food product at the grocery store).

Finally, they covered Shutter Speed.  The shutter
in the camera is like a trap door. A fast shutter
speed will freeze action but not let in much light.

A slow shutter speed shows motion (which is
cool in some situations) and lets in more light.

For indoor photography of things that are not
going to move (furniture, etc.) you can get good
lighting by using slow shutter speed. However,
slow shutter speed means that any movement of
the camera while the shutter is open, will
result in a blurred photo.  The secret weapon
to combat this problem is A TRIPOD to hold
the camera still while the shutter is open.

Kevin (who takes product and room shots
professionally) says that to reduce movement
even more, he uses a remote shutter release and a timer. 
AND anyone in the room has to be motionless.

Rule of Thumb: if your shutter speed is going to be
less than 1/60 use a tripod to hold the camera.

To put it into an easy nutshell for us, the guys
developed a "Three Step System" :

1. Decide what ISO you need for your lighting
situation (bright outside? dark inside?), set
your camera according then forget about it.

2. Decide if you want only foreground in focus
  or whole picture in focus, set your aperature
accordingly, then forget about it.

3.  Shutter speed is where you will need to "play"
with the setting as needed. They suggest
taking a trial photo and then dialing in faster
or slower shutter speed on your camera to
adjust the amount of brightness/darkness.
You may need to take several trial photos
(looking at your camera screen each time)
to get the shutter speed where you want it.

For the Photo Styling part of the seminar,
Layla and Kevin were the speakers.

Layla told us that photo styling is subjective and
what looks good to one person might not to another
but here are her "Top Five Photo Styling Tips".
(these are paraphrased/condensed/what I wrote down...hope it is correct)

1. Think 3-D
When photographing interiors, think about perspective
and creating depth.  Use interesting objects in the
background to draw the eye into the photo. Create
a visual journey from the front of the photo to the
back.  Look for interesting angles to shoot from.
If a window is involved in the shot, try to have
the light from the outside to be about the same
level as the light inside.  You may have to wait
for a certain time of day for the best photograph.

2. Group In Odd Numbers
Use odd numbers (of items) to break up the evens.
You can use space to break up evens into
groups of odds.

3. Break Photo Into Thirds

For some reason, a photo is more pleasing to
the eye if the main object falls along the "lines"
that divide an image into thirds.

The places where the lines intersect are called
"power points".  It is especially effective to place
a main object at one of these points in a photo.
You can use the cropping tool in your photo
editing software to achieve a photo that uses
the idea of thirds. The object of attention should
fall along the lines of thirds (as shown above).
Here is "The Rule of Thirds" from "A Nest For All Seasons" if you want more info on that concept.

4. Use Contrast & Color
Layer dark with light, shiny with matte,
smooth with rough.  Tell a story with color.
Pop an accent color from side to side and
top to bottom in a photo by repeating the color
in various forms and around the photo.

5. Add Life & Movement
A photo of a room should look lived in (a book still open,
slippers by the bed, coverlet turned back).
You can add life to a photo by including people,
pets, green plants, fresh flowers, ect.

Layla's Four S's
1. Skooch It
make the room look not too perfect
2.Scorch It
don't have an never-lit candle in a shot...
light it and then blow it out if necessary
3. Swap It
move things around to look more interesting
4. Stamp It
be sure to watermark your photos..
plan the photo with a space to include a watermark.

All three of the speakers live in a city about ten minutes away from mine. 
Layla and Kevin and their blog have been featured in the newspaper at
least a couple of times in the past few years. 
Last year I did a post about them called Local Celeb Bloggers.
So Layla and Kevin have had some local press but they are probably
better know for their huge prescence on the internet and in national magazines.

 You might not have heard of Josh Moates but he is a local celebrity too.
  He and his partner, Kim Box, have a super successful photography business
doing mostly people (wedding, babies, families) in a photojournalist style.
  I see his name credited all the time for his work in local magazines too.
I had seen his work and wanted him to photograph my daughter's wedding.
When I called his biz to check, he was booked up a solid over a year in advance!
I found this fun video on the internet if you would like to see it:
He is married to a lady was one of the pretty girls that was on
"Deal Or No Deal" show...she carried one of the briefcases down the steps.

Josh and Kevin played in band together.  Josh honed his photography skills
 taking pictures of their band too.  Now Kevin and Josh have started an internet
business called "Shoot Fly Shoot" together.  They have made videos that
teach folks even more about photography than they had time to present
 at Haven.  If you were there at their photography session at Haven, you know
what great personalities they have...I'm sure this comes across in their videos too.

I just bought the photography lessons today...they are offering a 30% discount
right now if you enter the code "Haven2012"...I don't know how long that lasts.
I have never met the speakers and they are not paying me to say anything about
their business...I just wanted to pass that info along if anyone else wants more
help in learning how to use their DSLR camera. 



  1. Gayle,
    We received the posters yesterday afternoon! Thank you so much! And I'll use all the Haven goodies, too, I appreciate that!

    I have had Shoot Fly Shoot bookmarked for a while. I just used the Haven coupon and bought the photography one! I'm so excited, thanks for sharing the coupon with us! I'm loving your Haven recaps!!

  2. Thanks for sharing some of your experience at Haven. Most people are just showing pictures of people they met but not really talking about what they learned. I'm interested in what people learned as I consider going next year (assuming there is a next year?) Really enjoying your series so far. :)

  3. Thanks for the recap - much appreciated!

  4. Thanks for sharing this important information! I will be coming back to read and re-read this one!

    Thank you so very much for participating in Potpourri Friday!

  5. OMG - you were that student who took THE best notes in class! Your details are amazing and incredibly informative. Thanks for the useful information. Bet you had a blast!

  6. WOW! I was in that class and I didn't get nearly the info you did. I thought I was good just understanding ISO. You did a great job of taking notes and reviewing what they said. Thank you.

  7. Thank you for this informative article ! :) I have a good camera and usually just leave it to automatic ...I KNOW that I have to stop being so lazy and get more serious about it and this is an incentive :)

  8. Thank You. I have gotten off manual and it is great fun.

  9. Gayle, I was in the same class and I'm so glad you took these great notes and shared them. Now if I could just get a DSLR camera, then I would be more than happy to switch it off of automatic!

  10. Wow this is a whole lot of info. I'm pinning it to refer to as I'm taking pictures. I am still using the auto setting on my camera so this is just what I needed! Great job and great post.

  11. What a great post!! I just read all the information you're giving us! I even took notes to keep inside my camera bag, that way I can go and check them each time I'm using it!!

    Thank you so much for sharing what you learned!!

  12. Thanks for the info Gayle. I have gotten off the auto setting and have been getting better outdoor pictures, but still have trouble with indoors. I don't understand all of it, but you post has helped. I'll be rereading it.

  13. Wow, what a lot of information, Gayle. Thank you so much! I am so happy that you took the time to write all of this down and post it here- xo Diana

  14. Thanks for such a thorough recap of what these great photographers shared at Haven. I love Kevin and Layla's site and all of their beautiful photos and projects.

  15. Thanks for this post - love it!!

  16. Such good information. I've got to remember the "rule of thirds!"

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this great information. It is very, very helpful.

  18. Wow, this post is brilliant! I will be bookmarking this and referring back to it again and again! Thanks for the excellent notes and ideas and of course, pictures!

    If you feel like linking up to another linky party I would be so thrilled if you could share this at my Say G'Day Saturday party which is on now.

    I've just given this post a +1 on Google too!

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

  19. Thanks so much for this post! I wasn't able to make this one, but really wanted to! I'm thinking the classes online would be great too!

  20. Thank you so much for this one! It was very informative!

  21. I enjoyed reading this post :)
    Thanks for sharing!


  22. Thanks so much! I really need to learn how to use my camera!


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