Photoshop fun

As I mentioned, I’ve really been enjoying the act of photography lately. More particularly, I’ve rekindled my romance with Photoshop, a program I’d left more or less alone since I discovered Lightroom about this time last year. (Cuz, yanno, I have so many spare hours in my day for idle noodling on the computer. Sleep? Who needs sleep? And interacting with your children is overrated anyway…)

During my first 365 project, I used Photoshop mostly for adjustments and actions. In particular, I am a huge fan of the Pioneer Woman’s actions, which I use in both PS and PS elements. Recently, though, I’ve taken to doing all my image adjustments in Lightroom, and have been having fun using Photoshop to create storyboards and playing with frame effects.

I started out with some I downloaded from Rita’s amazing collection on The Coffee Shop Blog (I like Rita’s stuff so much that I actually made an online donation, something that I rarely do for websites) and now I’ve started to use Lightroom to create my own.

I’ve also been using Photoshop to create a banner for my Mothership Photography site. I’m on my third version now, and I think I’ve finally got it right. In fact, I am so pleased with myself I wanted to show it off. I was searching for a PS tutorial on how to make photo borders and stumbled across a tutorial for this clothesline effect and immediately fell in love. It was a little more advanced than what I’m used to, but luckily I had PS expert Beloved on hand to walk me through the tricky bits.

Ta da! What do you think?

If you click on the image, you can see it in action on my portfolio site. Fun, eh? It only took me an hour (okay, two hours) to do, and I think I’d like to make up a few different versions so they refresh every time you change the page, much like the banners on this blog do. In truth, the hardest part of the whole process was choosing which photos to use!!

I’m finally happy with the look of the photography site, after picking at it in fits and starts for the last couple of months. I’ve got a couple of shoots lined up for this summer, but now that I’m almost in vacation mode, I’ve got a lot more free time on my hands and quite frankly, my kids are desperate for me to find someone else to point my lens at for a change!! I’d love to capture some beautiful memories for you and your family – drop me a line and we can set something up!

Photo credit!

Photo credit! by Dani_Girl
Photo credit!, a photo by Dani_Girl on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
My first print photo credit appeared this week in our community newspaper, the Manotick Messenger! I was expecting a quarter-page ad, and was delighted to see the ad was a half-page, so my collage took up a whole quarter of the page. ๐Ÿ™‚

(I’m particularly tickled that the story that runs above my photograph is that of poor Ann Currie, the ghost of Watson’s Mill — I told that story in a blog post just a few months ago!)

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend and live in the Ottawa area, Manotick’s Dickinson Days promises to be some great family fun with a parade, midway rides, tours of the Mill, a pancake breakfast, a crafter’s market, kids’ fishing derby and more. See you there!

Mothership Photography and Manotick’s Dickinson Days

It has been a very exciting couple of days for Mothership Photography!

Remember the I Heart Faces photo challenge I entered? My picture of Lucas jumping into a puddle came in second out of nearly 450 entries! How cool is that?

And!! As if that weren’t exciting enough, I got a note from the office of our city councillor Scott Moffatt, asking if they could use one of my pictures in an ad for Dickinson Days, Manotick’s annual summer festival. The ad will run in this week’s Manotick Messenger – my first print photo credit! Wanna see a sneak peek?

Manotick Messenger Ad featuring Mothership Photography

Isn’t that fun? I took the pictures last Saturday, a perfect and highly photogenic early-summer morning in Manotick. I liked how the collage came together so much that I’ve ordered myself a wall print, even before the councillor’s office asked to use it in the ad.

Here’s the original. (This is the leftover from my weekly Project 365 post, the one that I said needed a post of its own!)

149:365 One morning in Manotick

And speaking of Dickinson Days, the party starts on Friday with a parade, a midway, and fireworks. Through the weekend, there’s all sorts of family fun to be had, including a kids’ fishing derby, a craft market, tours of Watson’s Mill and Dickinson House, live entertainment, and on Saturday afternoon Manotick Main Street is closed to traffic so the local merchants can step out and feature some of their best stuff. I’ve been looking forward to this all winter!

If you’re looking for a family-friendly celebration of summertime fun, Manotick is the place to be next weekend! (Please let the rain abate by then!!)

Mothership Photography is on Facebook (please like me!)

I‘ve mentioned before that although I’m an early-adapter on a lot of social media platforms, I’ve never really warmed up to Facebook. I signed up for an account when it was first opened up, but aside from an early addiction to Scrabble when I was pregnant with Lucas in 2007, I never really found a lot of reason to spend time on Facebook. I’d even set up a page for the blog back in 2009 or so, back in the rush when everyone was setting up fan pages for everything, but I never hit the publish button as I really couldn’t see the point of having the same content in two places, especially when I was already pushing my blog content through my personal FB account.

Even at work where I manage our Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube accounts, Facebook was always my problem child, the one I knew we had to deal with but just couldn’t warm up to. Until now, that is. Cuz apparently I need yet another place to spent time on the Internet.

Oh dear. I’ve discovered Facebook.

It started when our school council decided to try setting up a Facebook page to communicate with parents. (At first I was cool to this idea, thinking a FB page for an elementary school seemed somehow wrong, but it’s the school council’s page for communicating with parents, not the school’s page. And I found some really excellent examples out there, and almost no reasons why we shouldn’t go ahead.) I’d set us up a blog earlier this year, and we’re using Constant Contact for e-mail news distributing newsletters, but Facebook is such an easy way to deliver quick and concise messages to a wide audience.

As I was setting up the FB page for the school, an idea was percolating in my obsessive-compulsive brain. A Facebook page for a blog seems a little too meta for me, but a Facebook page for a photography business — now that makes more sense! And let me tell you, it was waaaaaay easier to set up a FB page than it was to set up my portfolio website.

Ta da!

One of my mantras in the presentations and courses I’ve given on social media is that you should match your social media tool to your goals and your audience. Facebook works really well for my intended purpose of sharing my obsessive quest for more! more! more! information about all things related to photography.

I see it as a place not just for potential and current photography clients, but as a hub to share quick photo tips, articles I find on the Internet, and other things that may be of interest to other photographers or just people who are interested in taking better pictures. I’ll still post longer articles here, but Facebook is perfect for quick shares and conversations about links and other treasures found online.

I put the page together over the course of a rainy weekend, and was instantly gratified to see a few “likes” piling up even before I’d told anyone I set up the page. (And let me tell you, for an approval-seeking ENFP, there is NOTHING more delicious than having overt confirmation that someone “likes” your project. You like me? You like me!)

I hope you will both like and “like” my Mothership Photography Facebook page, especially if you’re interested in taking, sharing or discussing how to take better pictures. I’ll try to keep the duplication of content to a minimum, and I’m even considering some Facebook-only promotions.

Do you have any experience (pro or con) in setting up a Facebook page? Any tips to share or pitfalls to avoid? Suggestions for me to keep my online empire from imploding? What say ye, bloggy peeps?

The case for and against digital negatives

My friend Sara wrote an interesting post the other day. Basically, she was lamenting the fact that she had a hard time finding a photographer who would provide the digital negatives when she had portraits of her two (gorgeous!) boys taken. In fact, this post is largely a paraphrasing of the comment I left on her blog.

I’m really struggling with the idea of providing digital negatives when I provide portrait services. On the one hand, I completely sympathize with the desire to have control over the negatives, digital or otherwise. When we had our wedding pix done waaaaay back in 1999, the number one thing I wanted was access to the *film* negs. (Of course the huge irony is that we never really made any prints. Sigh.)

I used to think that the main reason that photographers wanted to keep control of the negatives was to generate future sales. That may be true in some cases, but here’s the argument that’s making me lean toward offering only low-resolution digital images: control over the final product, and making sure that the prints are done properly.

First, there’s the issue of making sure the image is properly balanced in the frame. I didn’t really *get* the concept of how aspect ratios affected a print job until a couple of years ago, even though I’ve been into photography for a long time. Aspect ratios determine the shape of the box that is your print: an 8×10, for example, is cropped is differently than a 4×6 print. As a photographer, part of my “vision” includes how the image is balanced in the frame, and the crop you’d set would change quite a bit from one size of print to another. If the client brings that digital negative to the photo lab at Costco, the client may not know to compensate for the various crop sizes or might not balance the image — something that I can now do intuitively.

I’m also being won over by the idea of getting printing done by a professional print lab instead of the local photo lab. There *is* a difference in quality, something I wasn’t convinced of myself just a short while ago.

Worst case scenario, what happens if a client brings that digital negative to a local lab, and doesn’t notice that there’s a bit of a colour cast — maybe it’s subtle, but just enough to make the print less perfect than it could be?

It’s possible that the client ends up with a print that’s not what I had planned with regard to composition or colour. There’s two things wrong with that from my perspective: first, the print is less than perfect, and I want everything to be perfect for anyone who entrusts their portraits to me. Second, the client is still calling that my work when I’ve lost control of the end of the process. What if someone really mucks up the print? So when the client’s BFF comes over and sees it on the wall, she thinks, “Hmm, I thought Danielle was a professional photog, but look at that green cast and how poorly that image is balanced in the frame. I won’t be hiring her to take pictures of MY family!” An extreme case, maybe, but the argument does make sense to me.

I keep waffling on this. I’m thinking the middle road is to offer hi-res negatives but only on the images a client has already ordered for print through me.

What do you think? Would having the high-resolution files as a part of a package matter to you? Do you think a photographer is giving up the cow as well as the milk in providing high-res files? Would you be happy with just low-resolution files for online use?

Edited to add: Thank you so much for your interesting insights and opinions. You’ll see that I have now decided to offer both prints and digital negatives (and a growing line of other products) with my packages. You can see more about my packages and prices here.

Some random thoughts on going “pro”

I‘ve been really shy about unveiling my Motherhip Photography site, and even more shy about taking on the label of “pro” photographer. I’ve got a huge insecurity complex and am so grateful that if any of you snorted with surprise and derision at the idea of me going pro then at least you had the decency to keep it to yourself. (Yeesh, needy much?)

Some of the things that make me hesitate to assume the mantle of “pro” photographer (see, I can’t even discuss it without the air quotes around the word “pro”) include the fact that I don’t have a huge amount of expensive gear, have very little interest in doing studio work, and don’t have any real plans to drop my day job for a career as a photographer. For those reasons, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to lose the self-conscious shrug and apologetic quotes every time I call myself a “pro”.

Technically, though, since I’ve received commissions and compensation for my work, I suppose I should just get over myself and own the word “pro”. It’s just a word!

The main reason I decided to put up a website and make things more official is simply because I love — really and truly love — photography and the idea of finding reasons to do it more often simply makes my heart soar with excitement. I love the idea of meeting new people and having the honour of capturing the things they value in life, preserving moments in imagery that they will hopefully treasure for years to come. It’s a very romantic notion, I know. It’s a damn good thing I’m not in this for the money!

And so when some casual conversations turned into queries about rates and packages, it seemed like a good idea to get it all out there in the open. But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that there is so much more to a photography business than I ever imagined. Contracts, packages, insurance, overhead, marketing, accounting… yikes! On the weekend I read a really excellent article that talks about the money side of professional wedding and portrait photography. My jaw dropped when I realized that on a $200 session fee, a photographer is really only pocketing $60 after taxes, equipment, overhead and other costs. When you figure there’s an hour or two for a shoot, not to mention travel time, another four to six obsessive hours to select, edit and process images, and who knows how long in meeting with clients, prepping and processing print orders and other tasks, it all breaks down to less than $10 an hour. It was a real eye-opener, and confirmed for me that I really am doing this for love and not money!

I’m lucky enough that I don’t need to do this, I want to do this, and that’s making a huge difference in how I’m valuing myself and my work. I don’t want to be popular, I want to be good. I don’t want to be rich, I want to be happy. And so I’ve decided that if I am going to do this, I will do it right: professional printing and packages, professional rates, professional contracts, professional behaviour, professional expectations, professional results. And I’ll consider the whole thing a huge success if I can book five or ten sessions this year.

In a roundabout way, this venture has reminded me how lucky I am. I’ve always been selective and particular about how I market and monetize the blog, and I’m choosing to approach the photography business in the same way. I’m just so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to have so many things in my life that make me happy AND give me a few extra dollars for the boys’ future bail college funds on the side.


Jeff and Meghan’s Wedding

On 21 July, a perfectly blue and clear Saturday afternoon, Meghan and Jeff got married in a charming ceremony at the Rockcliffe Park gazebo. I couldn’t have asked for a more joyful, sweet and (phew!) photogenic couple for my first wedding shoot!

After a sweltering week, we were blessed with a breezy and relatively cool day for the wedding, but that didn’t stop me from sweating through the day. Weddings? Are a LOT of work. And also? A LOT of fun to photograph. Especially when you have an adorable couple who never stop smiling, laughing and looking at each other with obvious love throughout the day.


Meghan and Jeff's Wedding 16

I’m slowly learning to love taking pictures of people as much as I love taking pictures of stuff, but I have to admit that I could have played with endless permutations and combinations of the rings and the bouquet and the shoes and the delicious little details of her dress like this for hours — if we didn’t have that whole pesky wedding thing to get to!

Meghan and Jeff's Wedding 2

The bride and her bridesmaids had an 18th floor suite at the Delta to get ready, but I was so busy taking pictures that it wasn’t until the very last minute that I noticed this spectacular view. (And isn’t it the perfect backdrop for such a gorgeous bride?)

Meghan and Jeff's Wedding 7

This is one of my favourite shots of the day. A girl and her daddy, both in the moment and loving it.

Meghan and Jeff's Wedding 13

These two monkeys, on the other hand, were behaving just long enough for me to capture this classic shot — before they found more mischief to get into. Adorable, no?

Meghan and Jeff's Wedding 19

Everything about the afternoon was delightful, and Meghan and Jeff never stopped smiling for a moment, right up until the car drove away with them still grinning.

Meghan and Jeff's Wedding 30

Here’s a few more of my favourite shots of the day, or you can see the full set on Flickr.

Meghan and Jeff's Wedding mosaic

Well, not quite the full set. I gave the bride and groom a set of 200 images, of which I posted 30 to Flickr. In total, I almost completely filled an 8 GB memory card with 1224 images of the day! Eep!! I think I just about wore out the shutter on my poor old Nikon. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks, Meghan and Jeff, for allowing me to be part of your amazing day. I hope each day of your lives together is filled with the sweet bliss that was the essence of your wedding day.

Finola’s family photo shoot, and a few lessons learned

When Finola contacted me out of the blue one day last month and asked if I’d be interested in taking some portraits for her to use for an online avatar, I was absolutely delighted — and absolutely terrified. It’s one thing to take pictures of your own kids, and the kids of family and friends, which gives you the ability to shrug it off any awkward shots and delete the lot of them (the pictures, not the kids) if they don’t turn out like you expected. (Tangent: that’s something that might be worth looking into, now that I mention it, the ability to delete kids that don’t turn out like you expected.) Ahem, anyway, as I was saying… It’s an entirely different ballgame to commit to professional portraits of a complete stranger, no matter how sweet they seem to be from your online encounters, and the idea left me breathless with anxiety.

But you know what? Taking pictures of an exceptionally photogenic adult is WAY easier than taking pictures of an admittedly adorable but restless toddler and his two accomplices. For one thing, Finola actually sits still when you take her picture. What a novel experience! And she doesn’t glare at me like the other adults in my life seem to do when I point my lens at them. In fact, she has a lovely smile that she unleashes in a blink, as opposed to the puckered squints that my boys seem to think passes for a smile. See?

Brick background

We agreed that we both love natural-light photographs, so we made arrangements to meet at Britannia Beach. I knew there’d be a good variety of backgrounds, and plenty of open shade. (Tip: when you’re doing portraits, the blazing mid-day sun is your enemy. It makes raccoon-like shadows around the eyes, and people can’t help but squint. Plus, it’s a harsh and rarely-flattering light. A nice area of open shade, on the other hand, can be very flattering.) And, wouldn’t you know it, all week long the Saturday forecast called for rain. I drove through two separate downpours on the way to the beach. And then, miraculously, the skies cleared and the sun came out just as I pulled into the parking lot.

We tried a handful of different backgrounds — bricks and beach and even the yellow door to the washroom. And, by the way? Finola? Is an extremely good sport, and not once did she look at me like I was a crazy person for chattering in an endless and almost nonsensical stream, nor for making suggestions like, “Go stand in front of the bathroom door.” I was, how shall I put this, positively manic with nerves a little bit nervous.

Speaking of nerves, I completely forgot that I was going to ask her to do a few poses looking away from the camera and try a few profile shots, but at least I remembered to restrain myself from putting her dead in the centre of each frame. My favourite picture of Finola ended up being this one that I took while standing on a picnic table looking down at her!

I think this is my favourite!

Taking pictures of Finola’s daughters N and B wasn’t originally part of the plan, but they were at the park playing contentedly on the play structure while they waited for their mom, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take pictures of something other than boys. I mean, look — how could I possibly resist this kind of cuteness?

Miss B

That’s Miss B. And her sister, Miss H, has an eight-going-on-eighteen kind of serenity in her face that I find simply gorgeous.

Miss N

So here’s something else I learned yesterday: the old “don’t think of boogers” trick that never fails to get a smile from the boys doesn’t work quite so well on girls. It worked like a charm on Finola, though! ๐Ÿ™‚ Who knew — with girls, you just *ask* them to smile and they do!

476:1000 Finola's girls

Thank you, Finola, for the great honour of letting me take these pictures, but especially for being such a fun and easy-going and highly-photogenic subject. It was a delight to meet you and your girls! Oh, and the rest of my set of favourites from the afternoon are, of course, on Flickr.

So Finola, after all that — which one will you choose for new avatar?

Edited to add: Simon was looking over my shoulder as I scrolled through some of these images. “Is that the lady whose picture you took yesterday?” he asked. I told him yes, it was. “Wow,” he said, “she’s just as pretty as you.” I think we can both take that as a compliment, Finola! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Five lessons I learned during my first family portrait shoot

Look what I did this weekend!

Baby Everitt: 6 of 10

No, I didn’t go out and have another boy… but after spending a lovely morning taking pictures of Baby Everitt and his sweet parents, I sure was thinking about it!!

Everitt is the son of my friends Sheila and Rob, and this was my first ever not-my-family photo shoot! Exciting — and more than a little nerve-wracking!! It’s one thing to be taking pictures of your own kids, when you can boss them around or give up and try again later, but to take on the responsibility of capturing decent pictures of somebody else’s family was a lot more stressful than I expected!!

Everitt, who turned four weeks old the day these pictures were taken, was a dream baby. His bright blue eyes watched the crazy chattering lady with the clicky black camera with bright interest and infinite patience. His parents, bless them, were equally patient.

I had some ideas in my head going in of shots I could take like classic newborn poses, close-ups of fingers and toes, and other examples I’ve seen. Trouble is, even babies don’t sit still and they can be as wriggly and vexatious as toddlers! And I certainly didn’t want to stress out mom or baby when they’d been kind enough to invite me in. So I kind of went with the flow, and while I did a little “stand here, move the baby this way” kind of directing, mostly I moved around and tried not to be too intrusive.

Here’s five things I learned about taking pictures of newborn babies:

1. The macro filter works great on fingers and toes, but unless you capture the baby’s face straight on, one of the eyes will be out of the plane of focus. Applies equally to the nifty fifty wide open at f1.8.

Baby Everitt: 7 of 10

2. Shoot in RAW for extra exposure control, and what you can’t fix in RAW you can hide with B&W!

Baby Everitt: 3 of 10

3. Even when baby fusses a bit, snap a couple of frames.

Baby Everitt: 4 of 10

(And this one, too. It was almost a discard, but the more I looked at it the more I thought it captured something essential and lovely about those early, bleary days with a new baby in the family!!)

Baby Everitt: 10 of 10

4. Keep an eye on your LCD when the light is harsh or contrasty. I had to toss more than half the images because the baby’s face was overexposed beyond redemption in the bright light streaming in through the window. Next time, I’m bringing a muslin sheet to cover the windows — or at least draw the curtains a bit. I’m used to northern light — southern light is much harsher!

Baby Everitt: 5 of 10

5. It’s hard to go wrong when you start out with a really gorgeous family as your subject!

Baby Everitt: 2 of 10

Not bad for my first time out of the house! There’s a few more worth sharing on Flickr, should you be curious enough to see more. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much, Sheila and Rob and especially Everitt, for inviting me into your home and for being so darn photogenic!