Eat More Chocolate! (Intro: How To Get More From Your Camera)


Grab your favorite chocolate and your best Photo Friend and read this quick ‘How To’ series on how to get more from your camera! Glad you are here!


Two Goals.

A great photo story

A sharp image

You are a mom. You are really busy. You don’t have time to read a whole book on photography. The box cake mix instructions may be too much of a time commitment for you. You don’t even know where your camera manual is, and when you find it one day, you will have your husband read it. It may be where you left the video camera manual or the DVD manual – you haven’t read those either. Even if you knew where it was and did try to read it, you are convinced that you won’t understand it. And the cycle continues!

You want good pictures of your kids. You have this secret dream to get the most awesome magazine quality photos of your kids, but they are always just out of your grasp. You had your husband buy you a very expensive digital SLR for your birthday or Christmas because you thought that it would do all the work for you and finally give you the perfect photos you want. Well, sometimes it does pull through, but other times it doesn’t live up to your expectations at all. You even told your friend recently that you think something is wrong with your camera because the last shots you got at your daughter’s dance recital were blurry, dark and awful. All the dials make you dizzy, so you just keep it on the auto ‘green box’ button and use your flash most of the time. You have to go run carpool or make dinner every fifteen minutes so you don’t have time to deal with it!

There are a million photo tips out there….I know I have tried to read them all. And this is what I know about photo tips: they build on each other. They have to come to you in a certain order to make sense and there is a definite starting point. Not getting the first few things right can be like trying to put your cake in the oven before you mix the batter. I think that there are some basic steps to follow in order for you to have a higher chance of a successful outcome and getting it right. So read on. Don’t be discouraged and realize that what you learn bit by bit be so worth the effort. Please hang in with me and read this little mini- series written just for YOU and you’ll learn how to get your camera to do a better job for you!


I have outlined a few camera skills that will help you get the beautiful ‘magazine cover’ photos you are after, or at least ones good enough to go on your wall and in your albums. We will learn them a few at a time. But before we dive in, I suggest that you get a girlfriend to learn this with you so you can practice and share along the way. Women learn better when we can take a friend along the journey with us – I’m sure this is a scientific fact! So find someone who is as passionate as you are about your camera and make her (or him) your Photo Friend. You don’t have to have the same exact camera brand (even though that will help), you just have to have a spirit of learning and a desire to get better with your hobby and encourage each other along the way. This really works, trust me! Unless you are going to make your cold, boring camera manual your learning buddy, you need to start looking for a Photo Friend now; I will be your stand-in friend until you can find another!

Before we get to all the steps we have to agree on a goal.

You actually have two goals.

Goal #1: to get an awesome picture that tells a story and that brings up all kinds of good,tingly, emotions that may possibly bring a ‘happy’ tear to your eye….

Goal #2: to get a good exposure. Good exposure means good light and a focused picture. (When I got started I always wondered what that word meant, it is used all the time). It means a good looking photo….a beautiful presentation of the story you are trying to tell.

You must have both: good ‘storytelling’ subject matter and a technically good exposure. One without the other is not going to cut it.

Goal #1: The Storytelling Shot (Good Subject Matter)

The first part, the good subject, is easy. You have that coming out your ears….your family! These meaningful moments are all around you, the mom.  These spontaneous moments are not necessarily around the professional photographer…but they are your life. As the mom you also know what you want. You know your children and all of their wonderful ‘stories’, you know what makes a photo look magical to you …the thing that makes you say when you see the one shot out of ten of your sweet boy, “now that’s my Andrew!” .

Have you ever gone to a professional only to have a ton of technically good photos maybe all great for a magazine layout but not one that touches your heart? The pro looks at you like you are nuts when you don’t buy them. But you still love the maybe technically imperfect photo on your dresser better…the one that you took by luck or accident 5 years ago. You can’t explain exactly why it is your favorite but it is. You love it because you caught her personality. Maybe it is because you caught that grin that looks just like your dads smile or, maybe it is the cute little outfit that he is wearing that you remember so well and loved – yes, there is something about women and baby clothes! You know because you are the mom and you know what you like and you don’t care if it is perfect…but what if it could be?

The pros may know all the technical info and have all the expensive lights and equipment in their camera bags, but they are not in your kitchen when your sweet baby tries her first bite of ice cream and they are not there the moment he takes his first step or discovers his first ‘truck’ or frog. You are. Those are your moments that only you get to share with your child and wouldn’t it be great to capture them forever and get awesome photos of them? Are you really going to call the pro to meet you at the ball field and wait with you for an hour in the hot sun to get your 5 year old up to bat at his first t- ball game? Are they going to be there to catch the excitement in the dugout?


I think not. Where is the professional when your high school son is starting his first Varsity basketball game, after he has been on the bench all season? The pro is at your daughter’s gymnastic meets, but do you really want to pay $20 for a 5 x7 print that may or may not tell the story you are after? You would love to get them yourself.

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This is a snapshot of our day at the lake: it gives you some general information: friends, a dog, a ball, a cast, a boat, etc… not too much emotion except for the pre-teen look that says so much!


This, on the other hand, is a Photo that tells a story! It makes you smile and if you were sitting next to me I would love to share more about the dog and my daughter and the day – – this is a happy shot and it tells a fun story! It is a Storytelling shot!


Do you see the difference?

Looks like you, Mom, are in charge of getting the meaningful Photo Stories of your family!

Goal #2: The ‘Technically’ Good Photo (focused, sharp, well exposed)

You have a lot of awesome stories to tell and to put in your ‘photo-book of life’ and there is no reason why you can’t tell them with beautiful (as opposed to blurry, out of focus) photos. As I look though my photo albums I can see the evolution of my photography. Some of the progress is due to upgrading my camera as the years roll by, but most of it is due to becoming more familiar with the camera dials and settings necessary to get the best shots of the best stories.

I am going to take 2 minutes and pull some examples from my files, I have so many bad examples to choose from!

After tons of images like this, blurry with a weird color :


I finally realize how to do a few things to get this instead:


After using the flash all the time indoors:


I began to see how the natural window light is so much better and paying attention to the background made a huge difference:


Practicing is key and not giving up is paramount to becoming a better Camera Mom. I am by no means close to what maybe a pro would say is a good exposure but I am getting more of what I want these days as I continue to learn. Thank goodness, photography is an art form and there is room for making it fit your style!

So much of great photography is intuition and creative skill, knowing what to shoot (Goal One) but, without the knowledge of camera settings (yikes I said that scary word again!) and knowing how to get a good exposure (Goal Two), you won’t like the photos you take. There may be a random few blurry ones that you are willing to live with but for the most part, you want clear good looking photos. You may not even realize that you are taking blurry images; that will be something that you will be thrilled to learn about in the next section.

You have a lot of good stories to tell to be displayed in your book of life and there is no reason why you can’t tell them with beautiful photos. The next few parts of this series will help you get over some of the hurdles you are facing. I have broken down the settings and camera info that you have been avoiding all these years; it is time to understand ISO, F stop, and shutter speed and make them work for you. Learning to use your camera will require some reading and re-reading. Your first chocolate cake didn’t turn out perfect did it? Cooking and photography takes practice!!

I promise that in time it will all come together, and with practice, you will be a better Camera Mom. You will capture more creative and technically beautiful shots of your meaningful life. Have fun expressing your love for your family as you tell their stories using the wonderful, sacred, timeless treasure we call: The Family Photograph!



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