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    A little pretty press for photography, everyday life by the beach, style, and Patch.

Embracing (and Controlling) Sun Haze in Your Photographs

Have you ever had one of those photo session when you are over the moon excited to download and behold the beauty that will surely be your images only to have a WTFFFFFFFF!!!!! moment?  Yeah, me neither.  Oh, wait, that totally happened to me a few months ago when I photographed my friend’s family.  Yeah, I had called Alli up and offered to photograph the Bee again.  Yeah, I was free.  But, they still had set aside an afternoon for me, dressed up oh so very cute, and Alli’s husband may have bit his tongue more than once when I broke off a couple of the lower branches on their tree, because, you know, they were getting in my shot!  I was pretty thrilled with what I had captured…and then I downloaded my images that night.

I had expected super crisp images.  Instead, they were blurry?  No.  Out of focus?  No.  It took my me a minute and then I realized they was heavy sun haze in almost all of my images.  Sure, it would have been easier to just photograph them in the shade.  Luckily, I had done that at the end of the session.  (Thanks for being so patient, Louis! ;)  However, I was really stoked about the backyard images, because they were backlit.  Seriously, who doesn’t love a backlit photo?  Plus, all my “keepers” were exposed well.  In my book, there’s no reason to waste a good photograph with proper exposure.  So, after a deep breath, I began to process them one by one.

I had two options:  1.  Hate on the sun flare by adding contrast and luminance.  However, I just felt that the photographs felt phony.  2.  Embrace the sun haze.  Although far from what I had intended, I ended up loving the feel of these photographs.  They are warm and evoked the love of this new, little Encinitas family.

*All photographs were edited in Lightroom 4.

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Would I take photos this way again? Yes and no. I think that there is a particular mood that sun haze enhances in your photographs. For example, while I loved the sun haze in the first photo of Maya, I would have preferred to have taken a more crisp image of Maya and Louis (similar to that of Alli with Maya sitting down).

Here are three easy ways to limit the effect of sun haze in your photographs. You don’t need anything fancy!

1. Use your lens hood. If you don’t have one, get one from your local camera shop, Amazon, or B&H Photography. The $5 one works just fine.

2. Use a reflector. All it really takes is a white foam board available at your local Staples or paper store. You can spray paint one side gold and the other side silver, if you want to get real fancy. Okay, if you are photographing professionally, get the real deal. However, the foam board is great for mommytographers and I can guarantee that you won’t feel bad if your kids get it dirty!

3. Move around your subject so that they block the sun. Go ahead and review your images in the LCD screen. If your kid’s head is a big ball of light, take a big step to one side so that the sun is even more behind her.

Make it easy on yourself and shoot during the Golden Hour. Right now in CA, this is about 6:45 – an hour before sunset. Since you are probably up early, the hour after sunrise works well, too :)

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10 Mother’s Day Gifts for the Mommytographer

12 days until Mother’s Day!  If your husband is anything like mine, he doesn’t even know it’s just around the corner.  In that case, read through my wonderful suggestions and send him this link!  I’ve tried out and can verify the quality of items 1-6.  Items 7-10 are what I would like for Mother’s Day.  I bet you would, too!  Prices range from FREE to $229.  Most are under $100.  They are all meant to make taking photos of your kiddos (and you WITH your little ones) more enjoyable!

Mother’s Day 2012, oh how long ago you seem:

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1. Lynda.com: Lynda.com is my absolute favorite online learning center for everything photography. At only $25 a month, it’s like a gym membership that you will actually use! The teachers are all top-notch (think Brooks Institute) and distill an incredible amount of information into easy-to-understand video chapters. These are very professional videos that you can review as many times as you like. I highly recommend Bill Long’s camera technique classes (My favorite is Understanding Exposure) and Chris Orwig’s photo editing classes.

$25/month.

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2. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson: In my opinion, exposure is the most important component in your photos. It also allows for a lot of creativity and room to challenge yourself as a photographer. Peterson is great at explaining the basics and complex alike. Even after reading it twice, I tend to pick it up every now and again to read a couple chapters for a little inspiration.

$18
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3. Vellow Freewave Wireless Remote Shutter Release: One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to Get Into the Photo! One of my mom’s regrets is always being behind the lens for family snap shots. I think this is true for a lot of moms. I’m not going to worry about my hair and if I am wearing yoga pants AGAIN; my goal is to take simple snapshots of me and Avery in little moments throughout our day. Of course, I’ve been totally lame about getting this project started. Typical!

$37.50
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4. Canon 50mm 1.8: This is always the first lens I recommend to friends who ask what they should buy for their DSLR cameras. Okay, it feels cheap; however, this image creates great images – promise! The low f-stop allows for you to take photos in low-light situations (i.e. indoors) and at around $100, you won’t be too heartbroken if your little one throws it in the toilet. (It will be a great excuse to say you’ve earned a 50mm 1.4 :)

$94
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5. Bloom Theory Camera Straps: I ordered one of these for our friend who was kind enough to take Avery’s newborn photos. I loved it so much, that I decided to get me one, too! There are A LOT of camera straps out there. I’m going to confess right here and now that I was completely focused on aesthetics when I bought this strap. The pleather lining feels a little cheap, however, it wears nicely and, mostly importantly, looks great!

Prices start at $100.  I love my Super Girl strap – $100.  The strap picture below is $110. Look in the 2012 Collection for more affordable prices.
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6. Shootsac Tote and Shoot: My tote and shoot was a surprise Christmas gift a couple of years ago. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, However, it’s by far the best made “bag” I’ve found. Plus, it also double as a diaper bag.  I find that the camera-plus-lens front pocket comes in especially handy for Mommyphotog outings.  Since it doesn’t scream, “I’M HOLDING A LOT OF AWESOME CAMERA GEAR,” I’m not worried about someone stealing my bag when I get preoccupied with Avery. My one lament is that my version doesn’t have the medal loops for a shoulder strap/stroller clips. Ugh, if only I could attach mine to my BOB! They’ve since added this essential feature, so lucky you will get an even better bag than me – Yes, I’m jealous!

$229
ts v2 set red 10 Mothers Day Gifts for the Mommytographer

I found items 7 and 8 at Photojojo.com. I don’t have them myself, so I can’t personally vouch for them; but, if *someone* is reading their wife’s blog, I’d be ever to happy for any of these cool little items:

7. Canon Camera Lens Mugs:  How cute are these mugs! The white mug holds 16oz. and the black mug (my favorite, honey!), holds 11oz.  There are also Nikon options!

$30

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 $24

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8. The iFlash Drive:  I can’t be the only mom who lets over 1,000 photos collect and sit on their iPhone!  I’m not going to own up to the number of videos of Avery.  This iFlash drive looks like such an easy way to clear off your phone so that you can download your photos onto your computer without having to put in the time it takes to sync your iPhone.  If you’re a bit neurotic like me, you take the time to organize your photos into folders as they download before backing them up on an external hard drive.  This would really simplify things (or allow you to just fill up your drive; BUT, we won’t do that, right?! ;)

$99

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9.  Photo Book:  If you’ve invested in a professional photography session and purchased the digital images, here is your chance to get your full money’s worth!  Just download all of your photos to the online printing center of your choice to create a beautiful book.  No worries if you don’t have professional shots; just choose your favorite snap shots to create a book of memories that moms love!  I’m in the middle of collecting my photos and going to use Adorama’s Mother’s Day 50% discount to create an 8×8 book.

Prices vary

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10.  Mommy In-Front of the Camera Day:  Pick a special outing and give all camera duties over to dad (or grandma, grandpa, auntie, or uncle) for the day.  It can be as simple as the local park or as exciting as Disneyland.  Make sure you like how you look.  I mean, hand the kids over so you can blow-dry your hair and choose an outfit that doesn’t have stains on it.  Then enjoy the day while your personal photographer takes candid and posed photos.  iPhone photos totally count!

FREE

I looked for an example and, besides the photo for Mother’s Day, this was all I could find on my IG feed.  I’m not sure it even counts!  But, hey, my hair looks great and my 4-legged baby is in the photo.  Seth loves taking photos, so we will have to make this a project this month.  (Don’t worry, honey, I won’t make you go to Disneyland, even though IT’S THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH!)

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Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!

xoxo,

Aimee

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May 1, 2013

Claire - Come to Disneyland with us!!!!

Maternity Photography: Sarah

Sarah was one of my pregnant friends with whom my first pregnancy coincided.  She gave birth to Cora the November before Avery was born.  In short, it was a long delivery.  Very long.  “I’m gonna get real with you,” she told me as she revealed the realities of childbirth and post-partum recovery.  However, the personality trait that I love best about Sarah is that she’s the antonym of a “Debbie Downer” and shared her story with a lot of laughter.

Getting pregnant when Cora was only 9 months was a surprise.  Sarah kidded me that I should go ahead and get pregnant, too, because her new baby also needed friends.  As luck or fate would have it, I ended up being a rather loyal friend and was pregnant again before Sarah was in her third trimester.  For those of you doing the math, Avery and Baby #2 will be 21 months close.

I hope I look as great as Sarah has with her second pregnancy.  She’s one of those women who are all belly.  However, there’s no easy way to be 6 months pregnant and run after a 15-month-old.  A few months ago, Avery and I were at Sarah’s and Cora’s home for a play date.  After lunch, we all huddled up in Cora’s room for a little kiddie music and play time in a contained area.  Sarah carefully balanced herself to sit down on the floor; but, it wasn’t long before we were both up attending to the girls.  Sarah settled on the floor again, this time with Cora in her lap.  Always honest, she looked straight at me and confessed that most days were hard.  Very hard.  Then, she burst out laughing:  “I’m just happy I’m almost done.  You still have a long way to go!”  I started laughing, too.  If you ever find that friend that can laugh with you when life throws you a curve ball, hold onto her!  She is a rare gem.

Also rare is a friend who is so comfortable in-front of the camera.  I asked Sarah if she’d be up for an impromptu photo shoot.  I wanted to hit the beach at low tide, so the sun was a bit too high.  However, when you have a patient friend who looks great on the other side of the lens, you end up with some pretty wonderful images.  Without further ado, here is Sarah - 9 months pregnant with little Ivy:

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UPDATE:  Ivy was born on her due date, April 19th. It was quicker delivery.  It was also easier.  Much easier.  Mommy and baby are doing very well.

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Good Reads: I Love Warwick’s and Me Before You

One of the many reasons I love independent book stores is that you don’t have to go by gold stars to guide your purchase.  Instead, you get to talk to real people at Warwick’s; people who can give you their personal opinion as to what they loved reading and suggest a list of books that align with your tastes.  Plus, you get to actually meet some of the authors at their monthly events!  Unfortunately, your advisors aren’t always right.  However, you do get the pleasure of indulging yourself by holding a real book in your hands, smelling the newly printed pages, and making notes in the margin to your heart’s content!  Yes, I was a literature major and just can’t help myself.  Here are my latest reads from Warwick’s:

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes:  I was mad when I finished this book.  If I were a more empathetic person, I would have been happy for Louisa and Will.  I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that it is a happy ending.  It just depends what you mean by “happy.”  In short, this novel is a love story between two people who couldn’t be more different.  Will, once the dare-devil and man-about-town, is now confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.  However, it’s not simply a wheelchair; it’s a quality of life that of which is quickly deteriorating.  Louisa, on the other hand, couldn’t be more ordinary.  Of course, it’s rare that anyone goes through life without their own defining moments and Louise hides her scars under shockingly eccentric clothing.  When Louisa is hired as Will’s caretaker, she sets out to show him how fulfilling life can still be for this man who can no longer bathe, wipe, or feed himself.  Will, on the other hand, sets out to help Louisa realize her own talents and potential.  It’s a novel that shows how love can change a person and, at the same time, must allow a person to make their own path in life and in death.  Ah, and there’s the rub.  This book won’t leave you unchanged.

After hearing Jojo Moyes speak at Warwick’s, I became an even bigger fan of Me Before You.  Insightful and clever, it was incredibly interesting learning about how Moyes created such a believable cast of characters.  Plus, it was just plain fun to hear about how other characters (ahem, the annoying boyfriend) were inspired by people she’s met (ahem, perhaps a former annoying boyfriend).  Her background as a journalist proves to be an asset in presenting a contraversial topic in a compelling; yet, unbiased way.  I’ll definitely be reading her next novel!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: I loved this novel from the first sentence.  Such was the addiction that I gave true homage to the title be using all my free time in the evenings, and sacrificed many a night’s sleep, to immerse myself in Morgenstern’s fictional world.  This is also a love story, but a much different kind than that of Will and Louisa.  In TNC, Celia and Marco are recruited as children to train as magicians in order to and face-off in the most beautiful and imaginative venue – Le Cirque des Rêves.  Simplifying this novel to just that one sentence is trite; however, there’s no concise way to express the intricate plot.  I will instead clarify that this is not a battle between good and evil.  Rather, this is a battle of talent, ingenuity, and beauty…of which the end result is meant to be the death of one of the competitors.  Morgenstern moves this novel beyond simply a game to an illustration of the power of secrets, words, and stories.  That’s the real magic  Anyone who believes words matter will fall in-love with this story.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:  I hate to end this review on a bad note; however, I will summarize my feelings by quoting my notes from the top of chapter 37, “What has happened so far?”  Mind you, that was 261 pages into a 512 page book.  This novel promised to be The Novel of Our Generation!  It’s a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year!  Oh my, my hopes were high.  Wow, was I let down.  Indeed, it’s well-written; but, that’s the best I can say about Harbach’s effort.  The relationships are unrealistic, I didn’t care about the characters, and, for crying out loud, how does a novel pertend to be empathetic, supportive, you name it, of a homosexual relationship when it applies a lame stereotype to one partner and makes the other partner almost seem predatory?  Yes, I get that Harbach must be an expert on Moby Dick.  No, I haven’t read MD.  I thought about picking it up right after I finished TAOF, however, I needed to clear my head from this novel to give MD – a true classic and literary icon – its due.

Let me know what you thought about these novels (without giving away the endings!).  I’d also love to hear what you are reading!  To read a Book Club post, please click here.

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Children Portraits: The Whitaker Girls and Ellie

Okay, I need to balance out that last post with some photos! What better way to do that than with some portraits of the cutest blonds I’ve ever met. Please meet these cute little Whitaker sisters…and Hill cousin!

Anabelle:  Annabelle is the kid who held it together during the entire shoot.  She listens to her parents and always made sure to look at the camera.  I’m guessing she get’s straight A’s and colors within the lines.  Yeah, my kind of girl!

I think it’s always a debate for parents as to whether or their kids should wear their glasses in family photographs. When they are as cute as this purple pair, I say yes! However, it’s nice to be able to focus better in on those pretty eyes, too!

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Mary Jane: After a little TLC from daddy and mommy, Mary Jane made a full recovery from cutting her poor, little toe on the beach and gave us some smiles. I have to applaud Auntie Erika for getting these kids to laugh. Mary Jane is your sweetheart middle child and I think I might just steal her name for Sproul Baby #2.

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Whitney: Whitney Whitaker – With an awesome name like that, I think Whitney will end up as a news anchor on a major network. I used to be surprised that I always got my favorite portraits from the youngest child; however, they just end up giving me most of their attention and the most honest looks. I just love these!

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Ellie: It took Ellie almost the entire session to warm up to the camera, so I went a little heavy on the portraits. She’s the Whitaker’s cousin. My cousins are like sisters to me and it’s easy to see that Ellie feels the same way about her girls. What a treat to get to spend a week with them while they visited San Diego!

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This is what happens when parents tell their 2-year-old to do their “booty dance!” Cutest thing I’ve ever seen on a shoot! Yeah, I really got to know what kind of parents my friends are…the fun kind ;)  I love how Ellie really uses her arms to move her tush side-to-side!

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April 25, 2013

Erika Hill - such cute commentary Aimee :) great pics, great hard-working photographer too!

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