Photography MrsLimestone style

Thanks to Michael aka Captain Obvious for the following questions:

"Where did you learn your photography skills? Do I photoshop them? Can I convince you to do photography and photoshop lessons via your blog ala Pioneer Woman?"

First off, I had no idea who Pioneer Woman was until this mention. What a cool site! How have I not seen this one before?? Thanks.

Second, my photography skills are just meh. I'm just tricky enough to post mostly my better photos. Trust me, I have a lot of clunkers. But I'm happy to share my tips with you if you would like to give them a try.

I'll put your fears to rest now that I won't be giving any technical photo mumbo jumbo. I've read a lot of photography books and they all seem to explain the bits and bobins that go into great photos but I dont remember 99% of it. And while I'm sure if I ever could remember these things, my photos would drastically improve, I seem to have a mental block about it. If you are into all of that, I highly recommend reading Understanding Exposure as it quite useful.

Ok, on to the tips. Do you have your pencils sharpened? Note pads ready? Sitting on the edge of your seat??

If my sarcasm isn't already obvious, I'm joking. None of my tips are earth shattering or even something you haven't heard before. But these are the things I think about when camera in hand. Hope you find them helpful.

1. Look with a critical eye
You are standing in front of something that you want to capture. Now take a look at it. A really critical look. Is this REALLY a good photo? Sure there might be the most beautiful thing in front of you but is there also a dirty vagrant, a hot dog cart and another ugly building in the shot? Imagine the printed photo of what you see in front of you. Is that really the best way to portray your subject? (For illustration purposes, I'm going to use some poor saps photo I found on the internet. No disrespect dude...I hope you never see this)

This isn't a terrible photo per se but it could be so much better. All you have to do to make it better is to see what is ruining the shot and take it out of your photo. So you may not be able to make the vagrant step aside or the hot dog business to close up shop but you can can make them disappear in other ways like shooting the building closer up.

2. Think of the light!
Without going into the specifics (that I really don't understand), the difference between good and bad photos is most often the differences in light. You want enough light so that the image is clear but not so much that its all blown out. Keep in mind a camera needs more light to make something look clear than your eye does. So that fruit bowl in your kitchen may look totally fine to your eye but comes out like complete crap in your photo. Generally speaking, you always need more light when you are shooting inside. So open the shades all the way, bring your subject to a sunny window, turn on all the lights. Do whatever you need to do to get some light up in here. Which brings me to my next tip...

3. Flush the Flash
This may seem counter intuitive after I just told you to add light. But you want to have natural light falling on your subject...not a harsh bright light washing out all the details in your photos. PLEASE, for the love of all that is holy - just permanently shut down your flash. There really is never a good time to use it unless you are documenting a crime scene or some other need where pretty photos aren't really a priority. If you like the look of my photos, you can just forget about ever using it because I don't. Really, never. Well, maybe by accident but that's it!

4. Use your camera's settings
I don't care what kind of camera you have. Chances are, you have more than one setting or doo-hicky knob to turn. Try it out. What could you lose? Those settings are there for a reason. A proper photographer would tell you to shut all those pre-settings off and play with the manual settings. Sure, I've done that. Its not all its cracked up to be. I'm sure the manual settings are the way to go if you really know what you are doing. But if you are like me and only have a few seconds to capture something that is happening, you don't have the time to remember all the science. So I use my pre-settings all the time (after I turn off the flash, of course). I also play around with the manual settings occasionally too but only when the pressure is off.

5. Take lots of photos
Again, this probably seems counter intuitive to #1. I just told you to really pay attention and not to take a bunch of photos that aren't worth their digital card space. Well, that still hold true. What I'm saying is once you have done steps 1-4 above, then take 2 or 3 or 10 of the photo you want to capture. Take it with different settings and in different angles. Take one standing up and one laying on the ground. One close up and one far away. If you have the time, snap away. After a while, all of these photos of the same thing will teach you a few things. One it will teach you what sort of photos you prefer so you'll naturally progress in your skills. It will also teach you a little bit about how to get the best shots in various circumstances and you'll use that info again later.

That's pretty much it. Nothing too exciting as you can tell. Sorry, I didn't have much in the way of illustrative shots. Pretty ironic to have a photography post with fewer photos than a post about a nightstand but hey, I'm not a very good teacher.

As for photoshop. Yes, I do use it to tweak certain things when I don't do the best job with the camera. I find the best photos don't need photoshopping. Or if they do, they need something really minor like a tiny crop or level adjustment. I don't really have any lessons or tips for that. Generally if I have to use photoshop, its probably not a great photo to begin with.

Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just ask.


  1. I definitely agree with your "flash" comment. I hate flashes. But I LOVE, LOVE to shoot in manual!

  2. I'm wondering, if you and Mr. are to have kids, which room is it going to be the nursery?

    I feel compelled to introduce myself a bit or it's just not fair. My husband and I are in our early 30's and we live in Austin,TX with our two beautiful children (3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son). As it's very common in Austin, we live in a 3000+ sq ft new house, and we both are computer engineers. Our jobs are basically to make chips that make the internet faster. Whenever I get a break during the day, I read your blog, and I just enjoy it so much! Thank you thank you thank you! Joyce (using DH Will's gmail account)

  3. Wow, thanks for all of the great tips. You know what I found most don't use all the fancy settings and such on your camera. I figured I was missing out on something great by not knowing how to properly use my camera to it's fullest potential.

    If I have questions, I'll be sure to ask.

    Glad I could introduce you to Pioneer Woman...her photography is great!

  4. Interesting that you mentioned Understanding Exposure. About a month ago a photographer recommended that book, I ran out and bought it...but haven't really had time to read it. *sigh* So I read all your recommendations, which so capture a lot of info in a nutshell. Thanks for taking the time to write about it.

  5. I am glad that they introduced you to The Pioneer Woman. Talk about being different from you. Brooklyn to Oklahoma:) She is so funny & has great recipes.

  6. i grabbed a copy of understanding exposure shortly after purchasing my first digital camera. i second all of you photography tips & use them when i shoot as well. :)

  7. Thanks Michael for asking this and thanks Mrs. L for being so honest and helpful!

    You're the best : )

  8. I enjoy checking on your updates. Great info on the camera. I'm still trying to learn. LOL...

  9. Thanks for the tips. I just love your photos. The one of the snow outside from the box room (19.01.09) is my absolute favourite (at the moment).

    You are very clever Mrs L.

  10. Well, no one takes worse photos than me! I hate my crappy camera (Sony cyber shot with zoom). I paid $400 for it, and in my little world, thought that would get me a good camera. Hah! Every blog I go to that has great photos, seems to have a Canon digital Rebel. Now I want one, but have the sinking feeling that I would still manage to screw up my essence, I lack talent. ~Sigh~

    What type of camera do you have (I think I missed that part)? Also, is Photo Shop hard to master? I have never used it before, but may consider spending the dough to get it, as the Rebel and the required lens is mucho dollars...

    Again, ~sigh~...

    By the way, great question, Micheal!!

  11. Restyled - While a better camera might make it easier, I don't think that makes that much of a difference. Most of my photos are taken with a Nikon D50. But occassionally you'll see a photo I take with my husbands point and shoot. Keep in mind that the camera doesn't do the work, you do.

    (A digital SLR makes a big difference when shooting people because the shutter lag is much less.)

  12. great, great, tips.

    one thing flash is useful for is to help freeze motion (in addition to you know...shutter speed and that stuff). in most cases flash is too harsh (like you said). and i totally agree with your recommendation of 'understanding exposure.' peterson's books are really great and the best i've read for photography. no jargon.

  13. ...and will you decorate my home. I know what I want with big items (couches,etc) and have them. ITs the wall color, paintings and accesories I have a problem with! ha ha..I'll fly u down. JK..kinda

  14. I just stumbled upon your blog a few hours ago to peruse your fun domestic projects... and now I am on a 3 hour photography detour!

    Do you use different lenses? Do you use a PS filter for the helga (dark corners) effect, or something else? What about Depth of Field?

    I would like to get some more use out of my D40x, and I just volunteered to take some engagement pics for friends! I'd love some tips!

    Love that I just found this, and can't wait to catch your pics and posts on my g.reader!


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