Friday, March 30, 2012

Photography 101 | ISO


Just joining in? Here's what you've missed:
Photography 101 | Coming Soon!
Photography 101 | Aperture
Photography 101 | Shutter Speed

Welcome back to my Photography 101 series! Are you ready to learn all about ISO (International Standards Organization)?

Depending on how old you are, you may remember the days of pre-digital photography when you had to purchase rolls of film. You may even remember that the film came in different speeds (100, 200, 400, 800, etc). Basically, film speed is a measure of how sensitive the film is to light. The lower the number the less sensitive to light the film; therefore, you have to have a lot more light or the photos will be too dark. The higher the number the more sensitive to light the film; therefore, you don't need as much light to expose your photos.

The ISO setting on your digital camera controls the camera's sensitivity to light, and it works exactly the same way as film speeds do.  The lower the ISO setting, the less sensitive your camera will be and the more light you will need to take photos.  The higher the ISO setting, the more sensitive your camera will be and the less light you will need to take your photos.

To demonstrate this, I took a few photos of Zoe laying on the couch in our living room. For each image, I had my aperture set at f/1.2 and my shutter speed set at 1/640.  I picked these setting simply because they would allow me to demonstrate the change to the exposure as I changed the ISO settings. The ISO settings from top to bottom are 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, and 6400, which are options available on my camera.  Yours may be different.


By now, I'm guessing that you've probably realized that the series of photos I took while changing the aperture, while changing the shutter speed, and while changing the ISO, all look about the same. As I went through the range of options available, the resulting images went through a range from light to dark. This means that there are multiple combinations of settings that will allow enough light to enter the camera to properly expose each photograph, and it's going to be your job as the photographer to decide which combination you are going to use. We will be talking about this in depth in future posts, but first we need to learn how to know if our photo is going to be properly exposed or not.

This week, I encourage you to experiment with your camera's ISO settings and become familiar with the effect of changing ISO on your photos.  Now that you know a little bit about aperture and shutter speed, you can experiment with different combinations and see what happens to the photos.

Then join me back next week, to learn about using your camera's exposure meter!

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Elle's Sneak Peek {Part 2}

Before we get started... if you missed Part 1 of Elle's Sneak Peek, you can find it here.

I wanted to do something different for the second half of Elle's session, so I contacted the manager of a mansion here in Phoenix to find out if they allowed photos to be taken there.  I was expecting him to tell me no, but was stunned to learn that they do allow photos as long as it doesn't interrupt their business.  So we scheduled the session on a day they are closed to the public, and the manager opened the mansion for two hours and allowed us to wander through it and take photos!

If you've been a reader for a while, then I'm sure you've realized by now that I always take my photos outside.  I do this because I prefer natural light photography, meaning I do not use a flash.  So, the light in my photos comes from the environment I am shooting in.  Outside the light is "predictable" meaning, I know what to expect.  However, shooting inside is an entirely different story!  So, I was excited but nervous to try my hand at some inside shots, using my new lens.  I really wanted to give it a good test to see how it did, and overall I was pleasantly surprised.

Since this session was full of firsts for me, starting with the fact that I've never photographed a two part session, and cruising right on through to the inside photos that I rarely take.  I decided to keep with the theme, and post Elle's entire Sneak Peek in black and white.  So many of these images were just crying out to be in black and white, and I couldn't resist.  Normally I would never do this since I know clients want to see color photos, too! But since Elle already saw lots of color photos from the first half, and since she already got a peek at a few of these in color on facebook, I decided to indulge myself a little.

So, I once again give to you the stunning, Elle...

I am seriously IN LOVE with these first two photos!...



Elle bought this hat with our session in mind and I couldn't be more thrilled with how much it added to the photos. Such a great idea!...


Adorable...


I heart Elle's expression here.  She looks like she's got a really good secret, doesn't she?...


This is another of my favs...


So many of these photos of her in the grass turned out amazing, and I couldn't pick just one to post...



Again, I couldn't pick a favorite and had to post both of these, too...



Elle was an absolute dream to work with! Not only did she agree to model for me, she agreed to everything I wanted to do for both parts of our session.

Elle, I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to take your photos. It's a good thing you're moving soon or I'd have you in front of my camera every other week. :) Good luck with your new job, and I hope the future brings you a lifetime of wonderful things!

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Self-Portrait | March 2012

I live in one of the top ten largest cities in the country, yet I only have to travel a few short miles and it feels like I am in the middle of nowhere.  This came in quite handy, as March's self-portrait was taken with me standing in the middle of an intersection.  I wanted to find a time where there would be as little traffic as possible to take this photo, so I got up at 5:45 AM on a Sunday morning to do it, which either makes me dedicated or nuts!

Remember back in January, when I talked about the rough road I have been on?  And how I'd finally realized that the time had come to make some major life changes?  Well, it took a while to set the wheels in motion, but the time has finally come for those changes to happen.  I couldn't be more ready to embrace the new things that life has in store for me and start traveling down a new path.  So, here I am standing at the crossroads of my life, with my arms up in victory for everything I have struggled through and in excitement for where I am headed.


I started taking my self-portraits because I felt like it was something that I should do.  I thought it would be good for me, and that I could learn a lot from it.  You know - one of those tough love kinda things, where I was going to force myself to do something I really didn't want to do for my own good. However, as the months go by I find myself enjoying taking them more and more.  If you are a photographer, I would encourage you to consider doing a self-portrait project for yourself!  I think you might be surprised at how much you can learn and grow from it.

Did you miss some of my past self-portraits?  Clicking here will take you to all of my self-portrait blog posts. Clicking here will take you to my self-portrait Facebook album.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Photography 101 | Shutter Speed


Just joining in? Here is what you've missed:
Photography 101 | Coming Soon!
Photography 101 | Aperture

Welcome back to my Photography 101 series! I'm so happy that you've decided to join me.

I would once again like to begin by asking you to do a little experiment. For this one you will need two large containers that are the same size, a stop watch, and a sink. Place one of your containers under the faucet, turn it on all the way, and allow the water to run for 5 seconds. Set the container aside, and repeat with the second container, allowing the water to run for 10 seconds.  Now compare the amount of water in the two containers. If you were accurate with your timing, you should have approximately double the amount of water in the second container as you do in the first container. Why? Because the longer you leave the faucet running, the more water you allow to pass through it into your containers.

Applying this same idea to photography, we need a certain amount of light to enter the camera to create a photograph.  One way that we can control the amount of light that enters the camera is by altering the shutter speed of the camera. The shutter speed is the setting that regulates the amount of time that the aperture is left open. The longer it is open, the more light you allow to enter the camera, and the shorter it is open, the less light you allow to enter the camera.

To demonstrate this, I once again took a series of photographs of a single subject. All of these images were taken with my EF-S 18-55mm IS Zoom Lens, with my aperture set to to f/8 and my ISO set to 200. (I chose this lens because it is the stock lens that came with my camera, and is probably similar to the lens that most of you are using. Don't worry too much about the aperture and ISO settings for now.  We will cover how to choose these settings in future posts.) For each consecutive photo, I then changed my shutter speed by one step to show the effect on the image. The first shot was taken with a shutter speed of 1/50 and the last image was taken with an aperture of 1/2500. (I picked this range of settings because I felt like it was a good range to demonstrate the effect of changing shutter speed on an image.)


Just like with aperture settings, shutter speed is measured in FRACTIONS of a second.  So, again, you have to keep in mind how fractions work when you are making adjustments to the shutter speed setting on your camera.  A shutter speed setting of 1/50 of a second is a much slower setting (resulting in the aperture being left open for a much longer time period which will allow more light to enter the camera) than 1/2500 of a second (resulting in the aperture being left open for a much shorter time period which will allow less light to enter the camera).

If you look at the above series of photos, you can see that the first photo was taken with a shutter speed of 1/50 and allows too much light to enter the camera, resulting in a photo that looks a bit "washed out." The last photo was taken with a shutter speed of 1/2500 and doesn't allow enough light to enter, resulting in a photo that is much too dark.

I encourage you to experiment with your camera's shutter speed settings this week and become familiar with how changing it affects your images. To do this, set your camera on manual mode, pick an aperture setting, and set your ISO setting to 200. (Again, there is no particular reason for this setting. It is basically just a "middle of the road" settings that should work for this experiment.) Then take a series of images like the ones I took above, changing the shutter speed setting one step between each exposure. I suggest experimenting with different aperture settings, and taking a series of photos for each one to begin to get a feel for how the two work together to create an exposure. I also suggest taking a series of photos for several different subjects in different environments to see what results you get.

Then join me back here next Friday and get ready to learn all about ISO!

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Elle's Sneak Peek {Part 1}

I first met Elle last fall at the birthday party of a mutual friend. From the moment I saw her, I wanted to photograph her. I knew she would be amazing in front of the camera! But I figured she'd think I was a crazy person if I just walked up to her 5 minutes after meeting her and asked her if she would model for me some time.

I ran into Elle again a few weeks ago at another party hosted by our mutual friend. We got to talking, and I asked her how she felt about having her photo taken. She told me that she loved modeling and that she recently competed to be Miss Kansas! At that point, how could I resist? I asked her if she would be interested in modeling for me and she agreed!

We decided on a two part shoot, and the first part was last night. The second half is scheduled for next week, but I just couldn't wait until then to post photos of the stunning Elle.

We started our shoot by meeting at Elle's apartment, where she gave me free rein to ransack her closet and help her pick out her outfits.  That was the first opportunity I've ever had to dress someone for photos, and I have to admit that I LOVED it!  The second I saw the vest and boots in the first half of these photos, I knew we had to use them!

Once we had picked out her clothes, we headed out and spent our shoot just wandering around taking photos near her apartment.

I told you the smile would be worth the wait, didn't I?!...


Elle was so amazing to photograph because she was up for anything. This shot was taken with her laying on a picnic table in front of a restaurant with diners all around her. When I asked her if she'd be up for climbing up there, she didn't even bat an eye!...


We came upon this building, and I loved the white background and fun windows in these next two photos...



I keep trying to find the right words to describe why I love this photo, but it's just not happening.  I just really like the feel of it....


This next set of photos was taken in front of a store, and the white metal thing you can see is actually a bed frame.  While we were shooting, a guy rode by on his bike and said something like, "Now that's how you sell a bed frame."  It was great!  And I'm sure he's right - a few photos of Elle modeling with the bed frame, and I'm sure the store would have it sold in no time!...



One of the best things about Elle is that she can very easily pull off different looks. She can go from cute girl next door...


to serious and sexy, and completely pull off both looks.  Take it from me, not a lot of people can do that very easily!...


I am IN LOVE with this photo of Elle.  It's definitely one of my favs!...


Seriously. Could she be any more stunning?...


Elle was a-maz-ing during the session from start to finish! It is insanely exhausting posing for the camera, and she did everything I asked her to do without hesitation. And I know that some of the positions I had her pose in were tough to keep for as long as she did.


Elle, thank you, thank you, thank you, for agreeing to model for me and for being so accommodating to all of my requests! I can't wait for the second half of our session!

Stay tuned for more photos of Elle coming up soon.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Photography 101 | Aperture


Just joining in? Here is what you've missed:
Photography 101 | Coming Soon!

Welcome to my Photography 101 series!  I am so happy that you have decided to join me to learn how to use your DSLR camera in manual mode.

Before we get started I want to mention a few things.  These posts are intended to help you learn how to use your camera in manual mode, using natural light in the environment you are shooting in, meaning that you are not using the flash on your camera.  I will be writing these posts assuming that you have a basic knowledge of how your camera works, how to properly hold it, focus it, etc.  However, if you aren't sure about something, ASK!  I'm happy to answer questions, so please do not hesitate to contact me if you need help.

My intent for this series is to help beginning photographers learn to use their cameras in manual mode.  In order to do that, I think it is important to understand the function of each of the settings, and how they interact together to create a photograph.  So, I will do my best to provide simple explanations and examples along the way to help you understand the concepts.  In an attempt to prevent your eyes from glazing over, I'm going to try to avoid getting too technical or using too much complicated terminology.  However, if you desire a more in depth explanation of something, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to provide more information.

Let's get started, shall we?

I would like to begin by asking you to do a little experiment. Please take a flashlight and a mirror with you into a dimly lit room. Look into the mirror, aim the flashlight at your face, and watch what happens to your pupils as you turn the flashlight on and off. You should notice that when you turn the light on, your pupil gets smaller, and when you turn the light off, your pupil gets larger. Why? Because in order to see properly, we need a certain amount of light inside of our eyes. Too much or too little makes it hard for us to see.  So, we have a built in regulator to adjust the amount of light that gets into our eyes.

Applying this same idea to photography, we need a certain amount of light to enter the camera to create a photograph.  One of the ways that we can regulate the amount of light entering the camera is by adjusting the aperture of the camera.  The aperture of a camera is simply an opening that allows light to pass through it.  If the aperture is made larger, more light will enter the camera.  If the aperture is made smaller, less light will enter the camera.

To demonstrate this, I took a series of photographs of a single subject.  All of these images were taken with my EF-S 18-55mm IS Zoom Lens, with my shutter speed set to 200 and my ISO set to 200.  (I chose this lens because it is the stock lens that came with my camera, and is probably similar to the lens that most of you are using. There are no particular reasons why I picked these shutter speed and ISO settings other than they would work well for this demonstration.  For now, don't worry about these settings.  I will cover each of them in coming posts.)  For each consecutive photo, I then changed my aperture setting by one stop to show the effect on the image.  The first shot was taken with an aperture of f/5.6 and the last image was taken with an aperture of f/29 (The reason I picked this range of aperture openings is because it is the range that this particular lens will allow.  Each lens is different, so your largest and smallest openings will probably be different than mine.)


OK, now for the complicated part, so please hang in there with me!  The hardest thing to understand about aperture is how the setting adjustments are named, and how to move properly between them.

Aperture is measured in "f-stops" and the common f-stops are f/1, f/1.2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, and f/32.  By adjusting between two consecutive settings you either double, or cut in half, the amount of light that you allow to enter your camera, depending on if you make the aperture larger or smaller. (Many lenses offer a wider range of options than the list of standard ones that I give here. In those instances, the amount of light difference between settings varies by a different amount.)

You may hear someone mention "stepping up or stepping down" the aperture, or they might say "stopping up or stopping down" the aperture.  Stepping (or stopping) up is referring to raising the f-stop by one step (i.e. f/8 to f/11), which decreases the aperture opening by half and decreases the amount of light entering the camera by half.  Stepping (or stopping) down is referring to lowering the f-stop by one step (i.e. f/8 to f/5.6), which doubles the aperture opening and doubles the amount of light entering the camera.

The thing you have to keep in mind is that these measurements are FRACTIONS.  Yep, we're digging deep here to remember elementary school math, my friends!   So, if you think back you may remember that 1/2 of something is a much larger portion of it than 1/32 of it. The same thing is true for your camera's aperture setting. A setting of f/2 is much larger (resulting in much more light entering the camera) than f/32 (resulting in much less light entering the camera). So, as you adjust the settings, you must remember this little fact to make sure you are making adjustments in the proper direction!

If you look at the above series of photos, you can see that the first photo was taken with the aperture set at the largest setting of f/5.6 and allows enough light to enter the camera to show the image. The last photo was taken with the aperture set at the smallest setting of f/29 and doesn't allow much light to enter, resulting in a photo that is much too dark.

I encourage you to experiment with your camera's aperture setting this week and become familiar with the available settings for your lens(es), and how changing it affects your images. To do this, set your camera on manual mode, and set your shutter speed to 200 and your ISO setting to 200. (Again, there is no particular reason for these numbers. They are basically just "middle of the road" settings that should work for this experiment.) Then take a series of images like the ones I took above, changing the aperture setting by one stop between each exposure. I suggest taking a series of photos for several different subjects in different environments to see what results you get.

Then join me back here next Friday and get ready to learn all about shutter speed!

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Artemis + Nero's Sneak Peek

More kitty cuteness on the blog! :) These two sweet cats belong to one of Kevin's law school buddies who was kind enough to allow me to photograph them recently.  It was great getting to take their photos and gain some practice with my new lens!

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Artemis.  She is definitely the friendlier of the two, and was fairly tolerant of me constantly sticking the camera in her face all afternoon...


She seems to like to lay with one of her paws extended, since the majority of the photos I took of her have her in some version of this pose...


And this big fluff ball is Nero. He was definitely a bit on the shy side while I was there, and only made a brief appearance when Alex bribed him to come out with some treats. Unfortunately, I only managed to capture a few quick shots of him before he ran off and hid again...


I couldn't resist this one of Artemis hoarding the little toy mice. Too cute!...


By the way, I didn't do a thing during editing to enhance those eyes. Aren't they gorgeous?...


Hanging under the table...


And another one of Nero. The photos of him just screamed out to be in black and white. I tried to find one to keep in color, but I just couldn't do it!...


Thank you, Alex, for allowing me to crash your Xbox party and photograph your cats! It was a pleasure meeting both of them and taking their pictures.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Photography 101 | Coming Soon!


I'm very excited to announce the start of a new series on my blog: Photography 101!  I've been wanting to write this set of blog posts for months, but I wasn't able to dedicate enough time to them until now.  I'm so thrilled to finally get started with this new endeavor.

I suppose perhaps I should start off by explaining why I decided to create this series.  During the time I have spent in the world of pro photographers, I have learned that there seems to be two schools of thought.  Some photogs are insanely friendly and will do anything and everything they can to help out a newbie.  Others, quite frankly, treat newbies like they are lower than the gum they scraped off the bottom of their shoe, forgetting that they were once newbies themselves.  I absolutely do NOT want to ever fall into that second category!  I wouldn't be where I am today without the help of others, and I want to "pay it forward" if and when I get the opportunity.

Learning to use the manual settings of a DSLR camera can be a challenge. I've had so many people tell me that they own a DSLR camera, but only shoot using the automatic settings.  They tell me that they want to learn how to shoot in manual mode, but have no idea where to start.  Are you one of these individuals, dreaming of learning manual mode, but wondering where to begin?

If so, I assure you that you are not alone!  I remember sitting in my Intro to Photography class on the first night, feeling completely overwhelmed and like I was NEVER going to figure out how to shoot in manual mode.  I remember asking my professor if there was some sort of thought process I should be going through to figure out what settings to use.

As time went by, I realized that I do in fact go through the same thought process every time I compose a shot, and I am going to share that thought process with you through a series of posts over the next few months.  My plan is to start off explaining each camera setting, what it does, and how the settings all work together to create an image.  Once I've covered the basics, I will detail the thought process that goes into how I select my camera settings for each photo I create.  From there, I will go into a few other topics that may be helpful to you as you learn manual mode.

I am by no means claiming that my way of shooting in the only way, the best way, or even the right way. What it is is MY way, and it works for me. I hope that you find some of the information I provide useful as you travel the path to figuring out how to best use manual mode to create your own beautiful photographs.

While I can provide you with tips and tricks, what I can't tell do is you how your individual camera controls work to change each of the settings.  So before we get started, I would recommend digging out your camera manual and reading up the following things:

1. How to adjust your aperture

2. How to adjust your shutter speed

3. How to adjust your ISO (International Standards Organization) settings

4. How to read your camera's exposure meter

Then join me next week and get ready to become a manual mode master!

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Punkin's Sneak Peek

Meet Punkin! I had the honor of photographing this sweet kitty over the weekend, and it was such a pleasure spending some time with her. She's two years old and was just recently adopted into a new family. She had only been in her new home for a few days, but she already looked settled in and comfortable.

This was my first opportunity to shoot a photo session of a cat, and it was really a lot of fun!  It was a nice change from photographing dogs, and made me really miss owning a cat.

Alright, alright, enough blabbing.  On to the photos!

I think this first one is probably my favorite of the bunch.  I'm always a sucker for a cute black and white pet photo!...


She's just the sweetest thing...



Punkin is a pretty laid back cat, but we did manage to get her playing a little bit with her toys. And boy oh boy does she have a ton of toys! Her collection puts my dogs' toy collection to shame, and those who know how spoiled my dogs are know that is a tough feat to accomplish!...


Did I mention how laid back Punkin is?! She is one mellow cat! Nothing seems to faze her...


It just wouldn't be a cat photo session without a photo of her staring intently out the window, now would it?...


Chillin' in her bed...


More cuteness...



And after all that, Punkin was tuckered out and needed a nap!...


Thanks, Charlene and Jeff, for allowing me to come into your home and photograph your sweet Punkin! I know that you will have many, many years of joy with Punkin in your home and in your lives. Congrats on the adoption of your fur baby.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ask and Receive

Yesterday the UPS man delivered this little beauty into my hot little hands...


And last night after I got it, I posted on facebook about firing off a few quick shots of my dogs with it in pretty dim lighting and how I was thrilled with the results.

I wasn't planning on posting the photos because seriously, how many more photos do you really need to see of Zoe & Lexi? But Talina of Talina Phillips Photography requested I post a few, and I aim to please. So, I did a quick edit on my two favs, and here they are...



I fully admit that I did brighten the photos up just a bit in photoshop, because I'm a fan of bright, bold photos.  But, I could have left the brightness unedited and it would have still been a-okay.

So, Talina, these are for you!

P.S.  If you aren't a fan of Talina, you're seriously missing out!  Not only is she a kick a$$ photographer, but she's about the nicest person you'll ever chat with.  She's my photog BFF, even though I've never meet her!  She's my go to girl when I need advice, ideas, suggestions, or have questions about all things photography related.  So, seriously, swing on over to her FB page, become a fan, and tell her I sent you!  The crazy thing is that she is married to the younger brother of someone that I do know.  I grew up with him, and we went to school together from kindergarten through high school.  Small world, huh?

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at michelewhitacrephotography.com. Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.
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