Photography tutorials…Day One

Okay, lovelies…got a couple of simple tips today.

Whatever you do…

Wherever you are with that camera…

Whatever you’re photographing…


(and yes, I’m yelling).

Please sign this below…

I ________________________, promise to turn off my on-camera flash forever, amen.

Okay, now that we’ve got that covered….oh, lovely with your head cocked to one side…how, do you ask, does one take photos in low light?

There are two options here.

One: photograph in good natural light. “Good”, by my standards, is northern window light, open shade (like under a tree at the edge of where the light is coming in), under an overhang (like a garage…seriously..some of my best work—right under those darn garage doors! I swear!) or in room filled with window light with a higher ISO (we’ll go into this too more in depth).

Elida at our “Ignite the Heart” retreat in open shade under a tree (with a little cheating here…I used an oval disk to reflect some sunlight in her mug).

Two: Have an off-camera flash unit on a stand. If this sounds completely normal for you, then this post is a bit elementary…if this gives you that same cocked-head-thing, have no fear, lovely…we will cover this later.

Okay, now I’m going to ask you to do something challenging (it is for me, anyway) :

1) find your camera manual

2) look up how to set you camera on Aperture Priority (usually “A” on the turn dial thingy).

Some technical stuff: In photography, the aperture defines the size of the opening in the lens, which can be adjusted to control the amount of light reaching the digital sensor. A lower f-stop number means a bigger opening which allows more light to reach the sensor. A typical standard lens will have an f-stop range from f/16 (small aperture) to f/2 (large aperture). 

Bottom line: When I shoot more than one person I try to keep my f-stop at no less than f/8 and when I’m working with one person, I focus on those eyes and use between f/2.8 and  f/4.

Putting your camera on “A”, for Aperture Priority, means that you, my friend, get to pick the f-stop. A fabulous thing!

WARNING: when you shoot on “P” (and it’s not for “perfect”, I’ll tell you that) or automatic, your camera is taking everthing into account in the scene…the sun, the window light, the person’s face, the dark floor….every-thing. yuck. It’s not good friends…really not good and you can probably look back (like I did) at those birthday party shots in front of those kitchen nook windows and just cry because your baby is in the dark…the dark, friends. Not where we want to be!

So..come out of the dark and into the light with “A” and choose the f/stop (again..small number small amount of people…big number larger amounts of people..or if it’s not people…bigger number for more things in the image to be in clear focus). A beautiful thing about this “A” thing is that when you choose this, your camera will automatically select a shutter speed (how fast the camera shutter fires) for that particular f-stop. Brilliant!

Example: I love a shallow depth of field when shooting single objects…people or whatever. This flower is so much prettier with everything out of focus behind it. I used a 2.8 f-stop and got right on top of it..probably scared the little guy…

Those of you working with point-n-shoots—have no fear!!! Most good digital pns’s have an aperture priority. Your SLR’s have all the goods and more.

Next up…when you get more comfortable with “A”..we’re gonna bump you up to “M” (Manual everything)…that’s where I live all the time and it is fabulous…and not hard…I promise!

In the comments, ask questions, get details or request clarification…others might benefit from your questions. If you’re shy, email me:

For those of you finding this pretty basic…hold on this week…we’ll be getting into some heavier stuff!


In honor of my first tutorial week, I’m offering a sale of two of my fall prints in the shop…free shipping too :)


Happy Monday, lovelies!


This entry was posted in IGNITE THE ARTIST, My photography world, Photography tutorials. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Photography tutorials…Day One

  1. Kath says:

    Thanks for the tips….have to run and get my camera!!! xox

  2. Glenda says:

    I found it, I found it, the”A” thingy on my camera. Now to go look for my manual. Thank you so much for this info. I’m so excited to learn, but always afraid to ask.

  3. Ok, I’ve got that cocked~head~thing going on! Thank you for expanding my view. I have camera in hand ~ head hanging ~ manual~ hmmmm, where is that manual?!

  4. Becky says:

    I have a Canon SX10IS My camera has a non removable wide angle lens,
    Zoom lens 20xIS 5.0-100.0mm 1:2.8-5.7USM
    I have been told that this is the wrong kind of lens except for landscapes.
    I also have a point and shoot Canon A75 is this better choice? Thanks Becky

  5. Julie Parmer Hosley says:

    Lara! LOVED this…

    (again..small number small amount of people…big number larger amounts of people..or if it’s not people…bigger number for more things in the image to be in clear focus).

    Soooooo easy to remember now…I always forget how the numbers work…even called my husband from China one time…and didn’t even think about the time difference. I was just so excited to capture a street full of chinese lanterns! Needless to say he was sound asleep!

    This is going to be a great week!

    Thanks sweet friend. xoxo

  6. Brenda says:

    Hi I just wanted to thank you very much for your tutorial. I just bought my first dslr camera so this will help me a lot.
    Thanks Again

  7. jeanne says:

    SOOOO glad you are doing this. I know that so many people will love this.

  8. Good morning dear,

    I am so happy, what a opportunity for me! Thank you so much…..Looks like I will be dropping out of that dumb collage class- and telling the girl friends all about this!
    You and my morning coffee every day for class. I am taking notes and loving you all at the same time. Thanks for your generosity of heart…Now I must go get my camera. Thanking you again for all your hard work.


  9. Sylvi says:

    Thank you so much, Lara!
    I will find my camera’s manual (IF I can find it & I HATE reading manuals, but for this I WILL)!
    I just knew you would have a solution :o)
    Here we’re all (looks like anyway) carrying these rather expensive cameras around, but only a few can show to really, really good photos.
    Now, I have observed Robin (Tweet) in auction & it amazes me how she does lots of “fixing” right on the spot with her camera (I know hers is a long upgrade from mine). It’s interesting, because I have to go home & continue with Photoshop & still doesn’t get it right!!!
    I have observed yours & Kim’s (Mimi Charmante) photos: Yours have a “tint” that most of us “fiddlers” can’t apply!
    Get me? I need this tutorial so bad….as long as you keep it short & in an understandable language :o)
    You invest lots of time in this, I know <3
    Hugs for that ,
    from Sylvi

  10. Ajae McCain says:

    Wow… I LOVE how you break it down in easy speak. For me this is so tecnical, but you make it so easy by using the words like “thingy” and the such.
    Thank you so much for sharing, from a VERY amature photographer!
    ajae mccain

  11. kolleen says:

    i LOVE this!!!!

    so happy you are doing it… you know how much i was struggling with my camera, etc…. at BGC.

    this is SO wonderful and giving of you!!!!
    THANK YOU!!!!

    love you beautiful!


  12. Deana Wolfe says:

    “Oh” Lara, you are theeeeee sweetest gal in the whole wide world.. I could just give you a huge hug!! Did you see me out buying that Visual Photography book at Barnes & Noble? This is very exciting and I will be a really good student! Is my Pink Mixer still in Camas?

  13. Deana Wolfe says:

    One more thing, when is our next class? I don’t want to be late! Since I live pretty darn close I could be your camera caddy! lol Thank you so much again! Have a wondeful day! My first try will be, before loading my new pictures on my blog I am going to retake them this way.

  14. kelly lish says:

    Lara, I’m so excited because you’re photos are the best I’ve ever seen! My camera is just a little Nikon Coolpix, but I’m following along and messing with the menu where I think these tips apply-I’m so excited to take some cool shots! Thank you for this opportunity-it is really generous of you-love you!

  15. Jo Nelson says:

    I love this!!! I love that you speak our language. It’s not technical but you get the point across. When I get home I’m finding my manual and practicing what you said. This is just great. I’m taking photoshop classes, but maybe i’ll get so good at taking pictures I won’t have to edit them! :) Thanks somuch. I’m so glad I found you, Lara.

  16. i love this!! I love love love it! thank you so much for doing this!

  17. Kim says:

    You are so fabulous – you have such a way of explaining things to make it accessible. Can’t wait for the “lighting” tutorial… :)

  18. chrissy says:

    this is WONDERFUL lovely lara.
    i have never dared stray from my automatic setting on my camera,,,,and i LOVE photography, but the F-stop thingies always scare me.
    i am going to get BRAVE and trust my beautiful photographer brave girl..
    wheee! here we go!

  19. Lynda says:

    LOVE it Laura…thank you for speaking in plain languat and taking me along for the ride as I learn more about my camera!!!! LOVE the sample photos…looking forward to my next lesson!!!

  20. tara says:

    Lara,thanks for sending me your link..My son will appreciate your tips..xx

  21. lissa says:

    lara~ thank you for doing this! I however didn’t know that if I adjust my aperature that my shutter speed would change automatically. Did I understand that correctly?

  22. Vicki says:

    why is it when you explain things it is so much more clear than when my husband does it???? That made total sense….at least while I’m sitting in the living room with the computer on my lap and not the camera in my hand! My husband loves photography, has a fancy, shmancy camera (Nikon something or other) and is great with it. Me…..just a few happy accidents once in a while with it. The funny part is I am usually the one lugging it around because I want the pictures of the kiddos, now if I could just figure out how to use the thing….. love this tutorial you are doing….I’m following along…

  23. JoAnna says:

    Love this – and you’re making it sound so simple, not frightening at all (not yet). Thanks so much for sharing your talent – it’s such a nice thing to do!

  24. Laurie says:

    Thank you, thank you ,thank you! This is a much needed tutorial. Robin tried to teach me some of the basics when I first got my camera. It was so helpful but also like trying to learn a new language. I retained maybe two important things (maybe) and not much more! Now if only I can locate that manual :)

  25. Finding Home says:

    I used to use the manual settings all the time and then I lost confidence and forgot it all, thanks for bringing it back! I can’t wait to see more!


  26. Felicity says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you !!! (jumping for joy). I have my training wheels on in blogland and found this tutorial absolutely fantastic. Can’t WAIT for the next instalment. Kind regards … Felicity

  27. Tricia says:

    Oh my gosh…I am so happy you have put up this tutorial. I just did a post today about photography and wanting to take better photos. Just curious, what kind of camera do you use? Best wishes!

  28. Julia says:

    I am so excited about this! I just bought my first SLR, so you are helping me immensely. Thanks so much for putting so much time into this…you are truly a sweetheart:)!!


  29. I’m hunkering down tonight to see what I’ve missed.

    You’re a rock-star.

  30. Joy says:

    So fun seeing you yesterday at the Barn. I’m behind in everything, but was so looking forward to checking out the tutorial. Naturally I was delighted with your teaching! Thanks so much, can’t wait to try out the tips.
    P.S. Hope you are enjoying your sign.

  31. Jan says:

    Oh – where was I last week? Just found this and am going to play catch-up. I need this. Thank you so much for sharing!


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  33. Love love love this. I just got a DSLR a few months ago and even with taking a class and reading the manual, I’m still SUPER overwhelmed with all the features! Your tips are SO fantastic!

  34. Angie says:

    I just found your blog and love your tutorials. They are very helpful. I do have a question. I am currently looking to purchase a good Digital SLR camera. I am getting married on the Oregon Coast this summer and we plan on taking our own pictures. I was wondering if you could recommend a few of your favorite cameras. I took 2 quarters of photography classes at a community college in Spokane so I’m familiar with f stops and shutter speeds. Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

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