For Photographers

My favorite lighting: backlighting

Today I am going to revist and update a topic I've covered in the past on my blog: backlighting. Backlighting is my favorite, favorite kind of light. I more often than not choose my shooting locations based on light and I'm always on the look-out for opportunities for backlighting. The above image is a great example of backlighting along with this next image.

I didn't get to set up this shot - the couple was just walking down the aisle - but I did make sure I shot it from the right side of the aisle to make the most of the effect.

What I do to find locations that work well for backlighting is to look for the end of a shady area -- where the shade ends and light begins and where the sun is partially diffused, making it less harsh. Trees and buildings work well for this. Trees are excellent because they can be used to block part of the sun but still let some of it through. I place my subjects' backs to the sun in the spot where the sun is still hitting their heads but the bulk of the background is shaded (this is KEY!). This means that the exposure will be the same on their faces as it is in the background. But instead of it being a flat photo -- like photos that are in full shade -- this scenario creates some nice hair light that separates the subjects from the background and often gives a nice glow to the photo. Check out this super artistic visual I came up with in photoshop that depicts this scenario:

I usually over-expose these types of shots by 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop. I care more about getting the subjects' faces properly exposed and I don't care so much about whether or not the hair light is blown out.

Here is another great example of backlighting:

There was nothing about this background that made this location particularly inviting to shoot in, but the light was perfect for backlighting. You can see how the shade transitions to sun at the subjects' feet -- that's what I'm looking for -- as well as a mostly-shaded background.

Depending on how much light is coming through and where you position yourself you can get some flare or haze in these types of shots. You have to experiment with your positioning while shooting (moving around your subject 90 degrees to the left or 90 degrees to the right) to get different effects. If the sun is nearly directly behind the subject, you may get a hazy effect over their faces.

I made sure not to fully edit these next two images to show you how your positioning can control this haze. In this shot you can see how there is a haze over Aaron and Sarah's faces:

It's still not a bad photo and I can correct for the haze in Photoshop (I use Kevin Kubota's smokeless burn tool to selectively burn in the areas effected). But as I was shooting it, I realized I didn't want that effect in this shot, so I simply moved around them to my left to get this:

- and their faces became much clearer while retaining the effect of the backlighting. So you can see how simply moving your position in relation to the sun can change the amount of haze and flare in the image. At times I WANT a little haze -- it can give a great effect to the image -- just not usually over a subject's face.

Happy shooting everyone! Have fun playing with backlighting!

If you found this tip helpful, click here to find out about other resources I offer photographers!

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Autism Awareness: Vaccines & Pediatricians

The last couple weeks in my weekly autism-related post I've been sharing information about the vaccine debate that surrounds autism. I'm well aware that this is a controversial topic and opinions have been abundant in the comments. I appreciate everyone who contributes to the discussion. There are so many questions surrounding autism and so much more research to be done. I just want to keep this topic in front of us and keep pushing ahead in the direction of hope and change.

Today I'm going to talk a little about communicating with your pediatrician about any vaccine concerns you may have. The information for this post comes from the Ask Dr. Sears website. Dr. Sears is a pediatrician who has practiced for over 30 years and he is the leading voice in alternative vaccine schedules.

The official position of the medical community is that the current vaccine schedule is perfectly safe. So if you interact with your doctor you will be told this and in many cases, be made to feel irresponsible and ignorant for thinking differently. Most doctors feel that the standard vaccine schedule is so important that they are unwilling to work with parents who are interested in alternative options. But there is good news. Times are changing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that doctors work with parents who have questions and concerns and want to do things a little differently. The new AAP guidelines are listed in the 2006 Red Book of Infectious Diseases -- a manual that almost every pediatrician owns. In the Book, the AAP suggests:

-A non-judgmental approach is best. Listen carefully and respectfully to the parent's concerns.

-Inform the parents of the risks and benefits of each vaccine as well as the risks of each disease.

-For parents who are concerned about multiple vaccines at one visit, develop a schedule that spreads the vaccines out.

-Continued refusal to vaccinate after adequate discussion should be respected (unless the child is at significant risk of serious harm during an epidemic).

-In general, pediatricians should avoid dismissing patients from their practice solely because of refusal to vaccinate.

But when approaching your pediatrician, you will have more success if you keep a few things in mind. It takes a good 15 to 30 minutes to discuss vaccine concerns and options in detail. Doctors don't allocate time for in depth discussions like this in a regular check-up appointment. You should schedule a separate appointment, preferable well before your baby's first shots are due. That way you and your doctor have a nice chunk of time directly devoted to discussing vaccines, without having to go over all the other questions and concerns of a normal checkup.

But what if your doctor won't work with you? Many doctors still kick patients out of their practice for asking too many questions or for not being willing to follow the recommended vaccine schedule. Find another doctor. You are responsible for making decisions regarding your health and the health of your child.

Dr. Sears has compiled a list of "vaccine-friendly" pediatricians - doctors who are willing to work with patients who are interested in delaying or declining vaccines. You can find a vaccine-friendly pediatrician near you by clicking here.

Edited to add: Comments will only be approved if they use appropriate language and are not anonymous (valid email address provided).

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For Photographers

question for photographers

I have a question for you professional photographer types out there. If you could hear me speak for one hour at a conference, which topic would you most want to hear me speak about?

Would love to hear your answers in the comments!

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Anthony & Chrissy's Engagement Shoot

Oh. My. Goodness. This weekend I had the MOST FUN shooting Anthony and Chrissy's engagement shoot!! These two are getting married next Spring and they are a self-professed awkward and goofy couple. I beg to differ on the awkward part but they ARE goofy. That combined with their enjoyment of ATTEMPTING to cook combined for a dream shoot.

Anthony and Chrissy don't profess to be good cooks but they do enjoy taking cooking classes together and that gave me an idea to do their engagement shoot in a kitchen. Anthony just so happened to have generous friends with an AMAZING kitchen that they allowed us to shoot in. I was in heaven:

How fun are these colorful aprons that Anthony and Chrissy brought along?

These two were so much fun to shoot:

In addition to being cute, Anthony and Chrissy made cookies!

Once the cookies were in the oven we goofed around a bit:


I'm thinking all engagement shoots should wrap with these:

SO FUN!! Thanks for being up for something unique and creative Anthony and Chrissy! Can't wait for the wedding!

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blog reader survey results part 2

I'm back to share the second part of the results of my blog reader survey. If you missed the first part of the results click here to catch up.

I write about a variety of topics on my blog and I was interested to find out which types of posts are your favorite. Interestingly, most people had a hard time picking just one (as evidenced by the fact that the percentages add up to 237%). Looks like the photo tips & tricks won out but all in all it was a pretty close race:

I was super-interested to find out what you thought about posting frequency. I speak on blogging and I know that one of the most important things you can do to grow and retain blog readership is to post consistently. I work super-hard at it (with a goal to blog at least 4 times a week) to the point where I would say blogging is the work task I devote the most time to. I do this because I believe in the power of blogging and have seen first-hand what it has done for my business. This is what you thought:

I'm inclined to really listen to the 3 people who think I blog too much. I don't want to disappoint them so I'm thinking I might cut back and use the extra time to learn a foreign language, start a knitting club or get weekly spa treatments :). Ahhh....wouldn't that be nice.

Three of the questions on the survey were open-ended for you to write in your answers. I'm so glad I did this -- I LOVED reading through what you had to share and was so blessed by all of it. Being that I love charts and graphs and wanted to be able to tally even these results in some way, I used this notepad to group the responses into general categories. Ya, I know. I'm a nerd.

One of the open-ended questions asked what your favorite thing is about my blog. The answers varied but generally fell into the following categories:

The category "writing voice" overlaps a little with the "personality" comments I got but dealt with my writing style - using adjectives like genuine, relaxed, professional, positive, enthusiastic.

I want to talk about this question a little more and before I do, I want to say a few things. I was blown away by how nice you guys were to me in these comments. I guess I've realized even more through reading the responses to this survey how vulnerable you are when you write a blog. I do put my heart into it and every time I read a comment on my blog I brace myself a little because in putting myself out there, I am opening myself up to being rejected. And it has happened. Not very many, but some people write hateful things. Of course they never say who they are. I've learned to just delete them and move on with my life. I know this is a reality for all blog writers. In sharing ourselves and asking for comments and responses, we are opening ourselves up to this possibility. But in my experience the support and encouragement FAR outweighs the criticism. I have the best blog readers in the world I'm convinced. And it makes me believe in the kindness of people as a whole. So in reading through your responses to this survey I would have the same inward feeling of bracing myself before each comment. I do care what you think. And what you had to say was to my relief, overwhelmingly positive. I realize that most people who don't like my blog just don't read it. That's what I would do at least. I wouldn't be the one leaving mean anonymous comments. I just wouldn't come back. So I realize my survey results are flawed. They don't take into account the thoughts and feeling of all the people who have at one point in time read it and just never come back. And that's ok. I know I'm not for everyone. The people who like my blog and have chosen to stick around are the ones who answered the survey questions. It's with this understanding that I humbly read the responses and felt so much more humbled and oftentimes unworthy of them.

I read and took to heart each and every one of your responses but wanted to share just a small sampling here, in case you are interested:

"(My favorite thing is) your transparency- i really feel like you do such a great job of giving away the gifts God's given you- reinvesting them and caring about the success of others... and that is pretty much the point of this life!" (Thank you! I couldn't agree more about the point of life and feel touched that you see this in me!)

"I think you are awesome... fyi, I pray for you... kinda creepy? But I pray that God blesses you with a man who is perfect for you and all of your kindness that I can tell you possess! Best of luck to you..." (Thank you! Not creepy at all - I believe in the power of prayer and can definitely use all the prayer I can get - especially in that department :).)

"I am LOVING that you've been doing more personal posts lately. Granted, I realize it's because you have more YOU time to do that right now, but I think it's awesome - really gives readers (clients, photogs, random people alike) the feeling that you're not some awesome photographer up in your little tower of photography glory who does nothing but eat, sleep and breathe all things related to photography. From a client perspective, I think that it helps quell that "will we even like each other?" question (that every bride should be aware of) before they ever extend an opportunity to meet you." (I laughed out loud at the imagery of a photographer up in a "little tower of photography glory". Haha! So great. Glad I'm not up there - doesn't sound so fun.)

"Woah, picking just one... To say the truth I would say you. What I like the most about your blog even if it doesn't specifically speak about yourself is you. Your personality, how you write. You know, there's a ton of blogs on photography but I prefer yours because of you mainly. I'm not throwing flowers just for fun. It's what I think. You're a book reader, so you know, sometimes, you just like what an autor writes no matter how the story end. :P" (Love the book reader analogy in this one - made me understand what you said perfectly. You know how to speak my language! :))

"You CONNECT with your readers. You reply to comments. You speak TO us... not just about yourself." (SO cool! I want to do this even more!!)

There were SO many other nice comments so thank you to all of you who took the time to write and share from your heart! I seriously feel so blessed!

On to the next question. I was curious to know how many of you have your own blogs. I love that many of you are blogging yourself!!

It was also interesting to learn how many blogs you each follow regularly:

The final question was open-ended and asked what you would like to see changed. Many of you left this question blank. But fully 140 of you took the time to write something ELSE encouraging and to say that you wouldn't change a thing! Again - I realize that most of the people who would want to see something changed just don't read my blog - but I was blown away once again!!

I'll just share one of these comments that made me smile from Martin in Quebec who signed his name to it and apologized for his English (so cute!):

"Not really. In fact, I hope it doesn't change. You know sometimes people pass to video or flashy things or try to please and it's when things go down. Your receipe is perfect, no need to pour more sugar in that cake!" (ha! love it!)

A number of you did share specific things you would like to see changed:

And I also received around 20 ideas for content for future posts. Thanks for all the feed-back! I'm definitely going to take it all into consideration.

Whatever I do or don't do, the reality is that I can't please everyone. I have many friends who I adore who are people pleasers. And I find this quality very lovable. Who doesn't love someone who wants to please others? And while I do care what others think, this is a quality that God didn't bequeath to me. I think it's one of the reasons I'm able to open up and share personal things on my blog. I don't write a post and analyze what people will think of me when I write it. If I did that I'd go crazy!! I can only be myself and everyone can take it or leave it. It's the reality of life and it's the reality of the blog world.

For those of you who own a business or write a blog - regardless of whether or not you are a people pleaser - I would encourage you to do the same thing. Be yourself and take a stand for what you believe. As a business you won't succeed if you try to be everything to everyone. But if you present who you truly are, you will likely attract the right clients and a set of amazingly encouraging blog readers who like you for who you are.

Thanks again to all of you who participated in the survey! I now get to check off #62 on my 101 in 1001 list: Take a survey of blog readers to learn more about my reader demographics. Yay! Such a great one. I might have to do this every couple years just so I can have an excuse to use charts and graphs again :).

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