Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

Helllooooo???  Anyone still here?  Lol!  I know it's been a lonnnng time since I updated this blog.  I apologize.  Things just got really crazy with the holidays, starting before Thanksgiving and right up until today.  But have no fear!  I'm still here!  I hope you are too!

If you've been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you know what I've been up to.  If not, you've missed out on a lot!  So go now and get up to date by clicking on the Twitter and Facebook icons at the bottom of each page of my website.  :)

Now, for me, it's time to play "catch-up-on-everything-I've-neglected-for-two-months".  I'll be updating my website, adding new photos, updating the Events page, posting more Photography Tips and Photoshop Tips, and coming up with some new specials for 2011!  It's going to be an exciting year!!

Last, but not least, I hope you all enjoyed the holidays!  I know I had a very Merry Christmas!  I want to thank each and every one of you for everything you've done for me and I hope you know how much I appreciate it!  Here's to a Happy, Prosperous, and Fulfilling New Year!  

~Kara Stewart

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Learning Photoshop...A Must for any Photographer

I've been meaning to do this for awhile now, but just haven't had the chance.  Well, I have a few minutes to spare tonight, so I thought I'd start out doing some tips on Photoshop.  These tips will be short and sweet and definitely for anyone just getting to know how to use this awesome software.

I myself put off using any editing software for a long time.  To me, it seemed like cheating.  Any good photographer shouldn't have to use this stuff, right?  Wrong.  Think of it this way...Photoshop is just a digital darkroom.  You can still do the things you used to do with 35 mm film in a darkroom, you're just doing on the computer now.  Dodging, burning, it's all there.  And I'm so glad I've learned how to use it.  Using Photoshop these days can itself be an art (in my eyes anyway).  There are just so many things you can do with it!

To start off, we'll go over some basics and then move into the harder stuff as we get further down the road.

Here we go.  

Tip #1.  Always duplicate your original photo in a duplicate layer.  This gives you the opportunity to edit your photo in any way you want, without actually destroying or altering your original.

To do this, open Photoshop.  Click on "File", then "Open".  Choose the photograph you would like to edit.  This will import your photo into Photoshop.  You will notice to the right of your screen, a column that most likely has 3 tabs that say "Layers", "Channels", and "Paths".  Make sure you are on the "Layers" tab.  Here you will see a miniature version of your photo.  Make sure it is selected (highlighted in blue).

You can duplicate your photo in several different ways.  There are 2 ways that I use, depending on what mood I'm in.  The first is to right click on the blue area and then click on "Duplicate Layer".  The second is to press the Control/Command key and the "J" key at the same time.  

Either of these actions will duplicate your photo and give you a copy to work on without making irreversible changes to your original.  (Just make sure you actually do your work on the copy.  Your original photo will be named "Background" and your copy will come up with a name like "Layer 1".  You can always double click on your copy layer and rename it to something else.)

That's it for tonight, but I promise to keep posting these tips!  I hope these tips will help you in your quest to learn Photoshop!

~ Kara Stewart

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I know, I've been slacking...

Hey there everyone!  I know I've been slacking on this blog and I sincerely apologize!  I've been busy, though, so that's a good thing.  Pet portraits, On Location sessions, booking more sessions, printing and matting, editing photos, updating the website content, updating my Facebook business page, Twitter, etc etc...being a photographer is definitely a full time job...and I love it! 

In case you're wondering what I'll be up to in the next few weeks, I've made a new page on my website for events.  It's here.  :)

Also, I'm offering custom Christmas cards this year!  If you're interested in having one of your existing photos, or one from an upcoming photography session, made into your cards for this Christmas, email me at or message me on Facebook (link is at the bottom of my homepage).  Deadline for submitting photos is December 1.

Here's a sample!

(Hint:  Watermarks are only for copyright protection on online photos.  No watermark is ever on any purchased photo or merchandise.)

~Kara Stewart

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

50 things I've learned about Photography...

50 things I've learned about Photography...I recently saw a list like this by several other photographers and decided I'd do one myself.  We'll see if I can make it to the end of the list!

1.  Never do photography for anyone but yourself.  It's only worth it if YOU think it's worth it.
2.  You can never have enough charged batteries.
3.  Arrive early for your shoot, no matter where it is.  Rushing to set up equipment and shots always ends in disaster.
4.  Know the area you're shooting.  We've all seen youtube videos of the photographer who is shooting a wedding and stumbles into the fountain that he didn't see behind him.  Don't let this happen to you!
5.  Get a good camera strap and wear your camera around your neck at all times.
6.  Always shoot in RAW.
7.  Get good photo-editing software.
8.  Get an external hard drive.  If you are going to be taking lots of photos, you don't want to chance losing a memory card and/or you don't want all of those photos taking up all the memory on your computer.
9.  Don't berate yourself over your photography.  If you think you aren't good enough, don't give up...keep practicing!
10.  Even if you think you are good enough, you can always get better...keep practicing!
11.  Follow other photographers and their work, you just might learn something...
12.  But don't emulate another photographer's work...find your own style.
13.  Keep hand towels with you.  You don't want to touch that bulb in your light stand that's been burning for hours with your bare hands.  And you never know when you might get dirty.
14.  Sometimes your subject is not going to pose for you the way you want...and sometimes those non-posed photos are the best.
15.  If you need to practice setting up lighting or using your camera's different settings and don't have a willing subject, use whatever's handy.  I've gotten some great flower-in-a-vase photos this way.
16.  Never trust what you see on your camera's LCD screen.  Bracket, bracket, bracket.
17.  Using a flash is not always a good thing.
18.  Sometimes a flash is necessary.
19.  Always check the details of the scene in your viewfinder.  You can't always re-take a photo.
20.  Play around with the settings on your camera that you don't ever use...some of them might come in handy one day.
21.  Never leave the house without a tripod.
22.  Use a lens hood.
23.  If you are shooting below 1/60, use a tripod and a cable release.  You'll thank me later.
24.  Sunny F16, Moony F11.  One of the first rules I learned in a basic photography class...
25.  That means...when shooting in direct sun, use F16...when shooting the moon, use F11.
26.  Moon photos will turn out better when underexposed.
27.  Use the rule of thirds.  It really works.
28.  Don't always follow the rules of photography.  Experiment.
29.  Enter photo contests.
30.  You can't go anywhere in photography if you don't let other people see your work.
31.  Other people won't always like your work, but don't let that stop you from getting it out there!
32.  Know your style.
33.  Just when you think you've taken enough photos, take more.
34.  Sometimes no photo is better than a bad photo.
35.  What you think is a bad photo, may be a great photo to someone else.
36.  Shoot out of your comfort zone every once in awhile.
37.  If you think something won't work, shoot it anyway.  You never know...
38.  Learn from your mistakes.
39.  When shooting with a film camera, ALWAYS check that you have film loaded before you start shooting.
40.  Every once in awhile, go through your old photo files and negatives, there might be something good there that you missed.
41.  Keep your equipment clean and in good condition.
42.  You can always get good shots with the equipment you have on hand.  You just need to know how to use it.
43.  Remember why you got into photography in the first place.  It's not always easy, but it's usually worth it.
44.  If you've taken photography classes, go through your old materials...a refresher course in the basics never hurts.
45.  Keep your files and negatives organized!  If you're busy, you don't want to waste time searching for a photo or file.
46.  Always keep a camera with you, in your car, wherever.  You never know when you'll stumble upon an awesome shot...and it stinks when you can't capture it. 
47.  Even if you are only doing photography as a hobby, get business cards made.
48.  If you want to do photography as a professional, get a website, Facebook page, anything to help market yourself.
49.  Practice, practice, practice....
50.  Practice, practice, practice!

~ Kara Stewart

***Disclaimer (Just to be on the safe side.  Lol!)--I came up with the idea to do this from seeing other photographers do it...BUT these are things I have learned.  I'm sure some of the ideas are the same and/or similar to things on other peoples' lists, however it is NOT my intention to take any credit for things other people post.  The things that are the same and/or similar are generally things that ANY photographer would learn from experience.  Thank you.  :)

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Photography Tips: Shutter Lag

Ever go to take a picture of something with your digital camera and realize that it took a second (or two) for the shutter to open and close after you pushed the button?  Did it take too long and the moment passed without capturing the scene you wanted?  This annoying little delay is known as shutter lag.

Most newer cameras have made a lot of progress in cutting down on shutter lag and it tends to be worse in the older ones.  The best way to avoid shutter lag is to pre-focus your shot.  Aim your camera to the scene you want and press the shutter button halfway down.  The camera will focus on the scene.  The key to pre-focusing is to continue to hold the shutter button halfway down until you are ready to snap the photo...then just continue pushing the button until it's all the way down.  Your photo should then be in focus and you'll notice the chance of shutter lag will be significantly lower.

This technique can also be effective if you can't get your camera to focus on the subject of your photo.  If you just can't get it to focus where you want it, find something else in your frame about the same distance from the camera lens.  Push the shutter button halfway down, keep holding it down, and then frame your shot the way you want.  The key to this is finding something equal distance to the camera lens as your subject...if you try it with something too close or too far away from the lens, your subject most likely won't be in focus.  Equal distance is the key! 

Another instance where pre-focusing can come in handy is if you don't give the camera enough time to focus on your subject.  If you tend to see something you want to photograph and instantly hold the camera up and try to snap the shot, it's going to seem like there is some lag while the camera tries to focus.  This will almost always end up in a disappointing photograph.  Pre-focusing will force you to slow down and give the camera time to focus...which will give you a much better photo.

~ Kara Stewart

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

So much going on, so little time!

So much going on, so little time!  Isn't that the way it always goes?  Oh well, make the most of the time you have, right?  :)

First, I wanted to let everyone know that I posted a new Fall Special for On Location photography sessions!  Just mention you heard I had a special going on and you'll get 25% off any session!  It's really a great deal!

Second, I'd still appreciate votes if you have the time!  Voting goes until the end of September and you can vote here.  Thank you in advance for taking the time to vote for me!  :)

Next, and maybe the most exciting, is that I'll be joining the wonderful people at Taddle Tails Grooming on Williamson Road on Saturday, October 30 for Pet Portraits!  The sitting fee is only $15 and includes a 4x6 glossy proof and instructions on how to order reprints and enlargements online.  Portraits are by appointment only, so call 540-345-3123 to make your appointment now!  

Finally, I recently started doing this awesome thing called Project 365.  The idea is to take one picture a day and post them to the Project 365 site.  You can then look back at your past year in photos!  Pretty cool, huh?  I think so too!  :)

I almost forgot...on Monday (Labor Day), I'll be posting a new Photo of the Month that will be available that day only for 25% off any size print.  Look for a reminder on Facebook this weekend...

I hope you are all doing well, and I promise to get things back to normal soon!  There have been some exciting things happening for me and this is the time when I have to do the hard stuff, so very soon, it'll all be set up and I can get back to the photography-and-travel based blogs.  I promise!  :)
Take care!

~ Kara Stewart

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Photography Tips: How to avoid Camera Shake

One common problem that every photographer has come across is called "camera shake".  This issue causes blurry photos (due to not holding the camera completely still) and often happens in situations where there isn't enough light.  Camera shake can happen with even the smallest amount of movement and can only truly be avoided by using a tripod, preferable with a cable release.

Camera shake happens more with digital cameras than film cameras, mostly due to holding the camera at arm's length to view the screen.  The fact is, the further away you hold the camera from your body, the more likely you are to experience camera shake.  Your body can often be used as a tripod itself, so holding the camera far from you--especially with one hand--will usually result in a less-than-sharp photo.

If you don't have a tripod, or are in a situation where you can't access your tripod, your body can be used as a stand-in.  Remember that two hands are better than one for holding the camera.  The right hand should be used to push the shutter button and grip the back of the camera.  The left hand should be used to support the weight of the camera (around the lens or underneath the camera).  The hands perform as two legs of a tripod and your body should be the third.  

If you are near a wall, lean against it.  If not, kneel down or sit indian-style and rest your elbows on your knees and/or thighs.  It may not always be convenient or comfortable, but it will almost always guarantee you a steadier shot.  If you can't lean, sit, or kneel, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the camera as close to your body as you can with your elbows tucked into your sides.  

I hope these tips about camera shake help with cutting down on blurry photos and improve your photo quality.  Go out and try it and let me know if it works!   :)

~Kara Stewart

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