Flash dance

In my last photo tips post, I told you to use your flash ALWAYS when taking pictures of your children, and that, "in just about every situation, having the flash on makes for a better shot."

But Robin asked:

What if you find the flash (indoors, at night) is washing your subject out? I've tried it without a flash but then the exposure is too long to be practical and things come out all blurry. With the flash I'm taking pictures of pasty white ghosts. Help please!

Ahhh, yes...flash wash-out is the risk you run when using the flash all the time. However, it can often be avoidable...the key is you don't want your flash to be the MAIN source of light. When shooting outdoors during daylight hours, the sun is obviously the main source of light. The flash then serves to even out shadows; photographers call a similar technique "fill flash" because you are filling in those dark spaces with light.

But what if you're shooting indoors? Open up the blinds if it is during the day, turn on all the lights. Do whatever you can to get as much light on your subject so that your flash isn't the main source of light. If that isn't sufficient to reduce the wash-out, try taking a step or two back so that the light from the flash isn't as concentrated. I know, is is in direct opposition to my first photo tip which was to compose your image and then take one pace forward. However, if you find you have to take a step backwards to reduce flash wash-out, you can compensate for that by using your zoom feature to get that composition back where it had been. I wish there were a specific formula I could give you, but we are all shooting here with different camera styles and brands here; individual flashes may be calibrated differently, depending upon the manufacturers' anticipated use/target audience for that particular unit. Play around with the technique, see what works and what doesn't. And feel free to send me some of the results if you'd like me to help troubleshoot with you.

Ultimately, the sad fact is, sometimes your photos will have that washed out effect, because sometimes there just isn't enough light other than the flash. When that happens to me I shrug my shoulders and acknowledge that even the most fabulous professional fashion photographers take "snapshots."


In the Fast Lane kindly shared with me a couple of photos of her gorgeous family. I've picked one of the incredible Violet...here is the original:It is a beautiful shot as is, lovely subject, setting, and overall very evocative....but I do think we could make it a bit better. Here's the image after doing my best to Photoshop taking a step forward and adding a fill flash: Now we can see Violet's pretty face, and some of the extraneous stuff that isn't really part of the subject matter is eliminated. I really like it like this. I luuuuuuuuuuuurve window seats and keeping that context visible makes it a really sweet, cozy scene. It tells a story.

However, I am not one known for leaving well enough alone, so I went ahead and "took" the picture vertically:
It's got a totally different feel, doesn't it? I had to essentially take another step forward for this one, just because I was working in the digital world not the real world. I like this version as well; while it doesn't tell the story because all background is gone, it is a lovely photograph of a beautiful girl. We focus now more on her face, her gestures, her body language.

Send me your pictures, and happy shooting!


Repeat after me: I promise to be different! I promise to be unique! I promise not to repeat things other people say!

(Please tell me you know from whom I stole that quote.)

In a flash of individuality, I decided to copy Mrs. Flinger copying Mrs. Fussypants (geeze, a lot of Missuses there, huh?) and create my OWN FancyThongs (Loralee suggested this nickname for me) Caption Contest.

I took this photo a couple of years ago...it is my cat Ruby, the youngest and normally most docile one of our Pride of Three, teaching a certain stuffed animal that mammals RULE over stuffies.

The fun part...what will you win by participating? A bunch of belly laughs (which you know translates to rock-hard abs) as you read what I am hoping sure will be many HI-larious entries! What other Caption Contest lies promises a beach body just from entering (and/or reading)?


Not your average tutorial

Tutorial can be a daunting word; I am striving to change that image.

Have you read my first two photography posts? They are guidelines to help the everyday photographer take photographs like a professional. I may be writing myself out of a job here, but taking a quality photograph is achievable by anyone. My tutorials explain, in non-tech language, basic guidelines that will help you elevate your snaphots to photographic art.

Today I am breaking my trend and sharing not one but three tips that you can easily incorporate in your photo-taking. Combine them with my first two and you just might not need to ever pay studio prices again.

First...don't ask your kids to, "Say Cheeeeeese!" I can't tell you how many perfect images I had in my viewfinder before some well-meaning parent instructed their child to SMILE! It might sound like a good idea at the time (and believe me, when I am taking snapshots of my kids I sometimes find myself fighting the urge), but I promise you...your favorite pictures of your children won't be those with the plastered-on grins. Your favorites will be the ones that capture their real spirit and personality, which is only visible when they are unselfconscious. That cheesy grin is a mask over their real selves...and nothing is more precious than that.

Secondly, take it outside! As long as the weather won't destroy your camera, you can bet that going outside for a mini photo-session will usually help you capture your child at their most authentic. Let the kids play and just shoot...don't censor yourself or them. Go ahead and take a picture of them as they spin past you on the merry-go-round. You might get an amazing shot! Or, stand at the top of a slide and shoot as your child slides down...you'll be amazed at how much you love that shot later. Best yet, creep up on them as they are engaged in some quiet play time and catch them unawares.

Lastly, for today, I'd like to encourage you to use your flash ALL THE TIME. That's right, just override your camera's ability to decide for itself if it needs the extra lighting and use it ALWAYS. In a super sunny situation, the flash helps get rid of annoying facial shadows - which aren't flattering to anyone. In a back lit situation (that means, for example, your child is sitting in a window seat through which sun is streaming; it creates a silhouette), the flash makes sure the subject is lit. In just about every situation, having the flash on makes for a better shot.

The bottom line is, no-one will ever be able to take better photographs of your children than you. They will never comfortable with a strange photographer, so with you behind the camera, images of their true selves will be possible. What more does a parent want?

More next week!


One more time when I really, really had to pee

This is the final episode in a three-part series (OR IS IT???) detailing in mind-numbing depth three separate occasions where I, Christine, had to pee very, very badly and managed to inconvenience strangers and/or loved ones to accommodate my walnut-sized bladder. You've heard about trains and automobiles, so naturally we should talk about planes.

In the clouds somewhere; Winter 1995

So, I was twenty seven and newly in love with a guy I'd met some years prior and had been interested in, but for a variety of reasons things died before they ignited for us. I'd always wondered about him, and when the opportunity to reconnect presented itself (okay, I sought it out) I was thrilled. I (we) fell madly in love. The downside? We lived about 1,100 miles apart at that point...but my life was fairly malleable as I was a med student and could study there as easily as at home; he was working in the real world so he could afford to fly me out to him. I did so often.

On one bizarre flight, I boarded a puddle jumper as my final connection. Of course I had my ever-present water bottle in hand. Once we were in the air and we were given the go-ahead to undo our seatbelts, I popped mine open and headed towards the lavatories (if you read my train post, this next part will ring familiar.

Nothing. No bathrooms.

Oh, no. Not again!!!

I went back to my seat and looked at my watch. We had a good forty-five minutes left in the air. At least. Once again I squirmed in my seat, trying to figure out what the hell I would do. A flight attendant walked by and I waved her over, "Are there ANY bathrooms on this flight?" I asked.

"No, this is one of the few in our fleet that isn't equipped with a lavatory," she answered.

"Look, I really have to go. Is there one hidden somewhere here?"

Yes, I asked that. The plane probably sat like thirty people...the cabin was one big open area. What did I think she would say?

"Why yes, in this overhead storage compartment we keep one for emergencies!!!"

So I shifted. Did the sitting on my heal thing again. Looked out the window and wondered if there was an airport close by while simultaneously knowing no way was the pilot going to create a miracle for me like the Spanish conductor did.

Still, I had hope. Hope that the flight attendant was lying. Hope that the pilots would take huge mercy, or something. Finally, in desperation, I walked up to the cockpit doors and knocked. The co-pilot opened the door (I KNOW! Isn't that weird now?).

"I'm very sorry to disturb you, but I was wondering how long until we landed. I'm not feeling very well." It was true.

"It'll be another twenty minutes or so. Is there something we can do for you?"

"Um, no. I just don't feel well and I could really use a bathroom."

His face was totally sympathetic but I knew at that moment I was doomed. They didn't have a special cockpit potty. They weren't going to do an emergency landing for my bladder relief. I was screwed.

I shuffled back to my seat and strategized. I was already several minutes past the point of not knowing second to second how long I had until the dam burst. I knew my boyfriend was at the gate waiting for me (I KNOW! I miss people waiting at the gate.) and thus showing up with pee drenched pants was simply not an option. Because if I was meeting someone else it would have been totally fine, right?.

So I did what anyone else would do. I whipped off my scarf and shoved it down my pants and arranged it in my panties (I don't actually call them panties out loud), creating a makeshift Depends. I figured if I leaked it would at least absorb SOME of my urine.

Happily, it served the unexpected purpose of relieving my bladder of its feeling of urgency and allowed me to make it to the gate. Once there I hugged my boyfriend, told him I had to pee, and bolted to the closest bathroom. Later, I told my then-boyfriend the whole story, and as we laughed together I thought that meant I'd for sure found my soulmate...he loved me, almost-pee-drenched scarf and all.

I was wrong. My true soulmate, my husband, laughs at this story along with me despite the fact that he wasn't the guy waiting at the gate. And he has brought me black coffee in bed every single morning since we've been together (but refuses to bring me water too late at night).

I am a lucky woman.


Things for which I'd like to get paid

1.) Voicing my unsolicited opinion, at any time. Like, maybe I'm walking Cutest Puppy Ever and I see someone who would look better if they were about seven to ten years younger. I could say, "Hi. You'd look better if you lost seven to ten years off of your age." Then I'd send them a bill for my consultation fee. Cha-Ching!

2.) I would also like to get paid for my opinion when it IS solicited; I would adjust my fee rates accordingly.

3.) I would like to get paid for my acting skills when I have to listen to someone else drone on endlessly about themselves without giving me a chance to talk about moi. I usually stifle my yawns and try not to allow my gaze to wander more than once every fifteen seconds (aka four times per minute). I've spent hours staring in the mirror perfecting this skill, and a little remunerating would be GREAT!

4.) Another thing I'd like to get paid for is my General Grooviness. I usually bring it with me wherever I go and frankly I am SICK of sharing it without compensation.

5.) I wish people would pony up when I admit my flaws in the ever most humble way I do.

6.) I'd also like it if people would pay me to have the fat on my torse lipo'd off. See, they wouldn't have to listen to me complain about it anymore so it's a win-win!

7.) Twittering.



Ten interesting things that happened to me at the grocery store yesterday, in no particular order:

1.) The check-out guy teased me for for buying a rag mag and pretended he was going to announce it over the store-wide intercom.

2.) In the parking lot, I saw a girl talking on one of those old cell phones with a curly cord that plugs into the lighter.

3.) I ran into an old neighbor who tried not to look sympathetic about the fact that we sold the dream home we built five years ago and are now renting. I didn't ask if they've met the new owners.

4.) I put Maybelline Great Lash in my cart, and then later put it back on it's hook. I figured I could pay less for it at the adjacent drugstore. I was right.

5.) I found out that Angelina and Brad were making out in a car.

6.) I ran into a Mary Kay rep who's been after me for over five years to let her do a facial for me. She didn't ask this time; I wondered why as I walked away. WHY NOT THIS TIME??? But don't get me wrong, I was relieved to not have to pretend I was interested.

7.) I hummed along to Private Eyes by Hall & Oats.

8.) My arm got sprayed by those unpredictable misters as I reached for some Romaine lettuce.

9.) I saw a sweet elderly couple debating cereal products. They made me happy.

10.) I forgot to buy toilet paper.


Target disses bloggers...or Tar-jay and va-jay-jays

We all love us our Tar-jay, right? Well, it seems Target isn't so fond of us bloggers, but it does lurve using our crotches as ad fodder (tip MY hat to Laurel).

I thought this ad was odd at first glance, but it didn't raise my hackles. A little bit of investigation finds that it was part of an winter ad campaign with models interacting with the Target logo in a variety of ways...this one is supposed to be making a snow angel. Okay, whatever. Hey, she's clothed, right? But at least one consumer advocate group was concerned enough to write Target. Here was their response:

“Good Morning Amy,

Thank you for contacting Target; unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.

Once again thank you for your interest, and have a nice day.”

Oh, no they di'in't!

The bitter taste of unrequited love. If I'm not Target's core guest, who the dilly-o is?


One day closer to AARP, except I have to really work to retire, right?

I can be such an old lady.

Earlier today, I was in Office Max checking the proof for some invitation I am having printed. I'd emailed the file to the store, and as it turns out, I'd sent the wrong version and there was one teeny bit of text that needed to be tweaked. I asked the young whippersnapper behind the counter if he could switch that out for me.

"I don't know, let's see," he said and then waved the cursor over the screen.

"Nope," he quickly answered.

"How about you...uuuuuummmmmm...click, errrrrrrrr..." I stammered as I pointed towards the monitor.

"Do what?" he asked politely.

"Well, click there. On the "T." To change the text"

He looked at me sympathetically. "I know how to use the program, ma'am. It's just that the document is embedded and thus not able to be changed."

I know that tone of voice. It's the same one I use when my four year-old does something that she thinks is ever so very grown-up, but really is simply adorable and only serves to underscore her sweet youth. The fact is, the guy was probably trying very hard not to laugh at me, the grannie who thought she knew more than the kid who's been using a computer his entire life. And gets paid to use the program about which I was explaining the basics.

I walked out of the store (uphill, in the snow, barefoot in a hairshirt and I was GRATEFUL!) shaking my head and muttering, "Click the T? Click the T? Click the T? Click the T? Click the T?"



YUUUUMMMMMM!!!...ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter "Y"

Guinness. For strength!

I took this photo on a trip to Ireland a few years ago; I did a whole series of pub fronts; I loved this one for its ancient Guinness ad, and for the beautiful blue of the facade.

Here's another:

There is something about Ireland that is magical, whether you are in a city or the countryside. I've often said it's no wonder it's the land in which leprechauns live...if I were a magical being, I'd pick Ireland as my home as well.


Flip it. Flip it, good!

Thanks for all of the wonderful feedback on my Photo Tips last week...if you sent me photos or questions, I promise I'll get back to you all!

So last week I advised you to take a step forward when taking pictures...eliminating extraneous background information in a photograph is really a fabulous way to up the quality of your photographs. Today I'm going to build upon that and add another photo fundamental.

Look at this adorable photograph the Fabulous Mrs. Fussypants sent to me of a couple of her monkeys (note the laptop...gee, look familiar?):

Look how cute they are! Dang, how can I improve upon the adorableness?

FLIP IT! One thing we all tend to do is take our photographs horizontally. Turn that camera 90 degrees and take that photograph vertically...portrait style, baby!

See how that automatically crops out a lot of extra background stuff and focuses on the adorable monkeys, the subject of the photo? Let's add last week's tip and take a step forward:

Awwww...look at that. See how your eye is drawn to the sweet tangle of brotherly hands, the protective embrace, the trust and snuggliness evident in their body language? The love oozes out of the photo. It was always there, but NOW we are focussed on it!

These are really simple things that can make a huge difference in your everyday family photos. Take a step forward to eliminate visual distractions from your subject...and don't forget to FLIP your camera vertically. It will help you further focus on your subject and create the lasting memory you desire.

Professional photographers take the majority of their portraits vertically, so remember...shoot like a pro and flip it!


Bonus for Fussy...a little photoshopping thank you for sharing your photo:

If you'd like me to feature your photo in one of these tutorials, email me!


Pillow fight!

Teehee. Giggle. *Blush*. Giggle more.

I'm a stop on Bossy's most excellent road trip!

I am on BOSSY's excellent road trip.

Not that I'm excited or anything. I'm cool. Totally. Coooooooool as a cucumber. I'm pretty sure Bossy'll be calling me soonish to coordinate wardrobes and stuff like that. I dunno...maybe we'll do our nails, make some prank phone calls ("Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" CLASSIC!), stay up super late, talk about boys. Oh, shit...I should go find my curlers.


How cute is that puppy in the bloggy?

There's been lots of puppy talk on these interwebs recently. Lots of puppy talk.

Look, I'm not intimating that some of the big bloggers are worried about my little bloggy fabulousness, and thus have adopted pups in the hope of knocking the Cutest Puppy Ever title from my baby. It's just that seems some of them high-falutin' bloggers think they have the Cutest Puppy Ever. Impossible. Hello! I called it!

In case you need a reminder:

I'm just saying it is QUITE THE COINCIDENCE that within fourteen, maybe fifteen, months of me adopting a dog two bloggy hot doggers (no pun intended) did the same.



Look, I love Seinfeld, and I hated it when that Newman guy messed things up for Jerry.

But, the thing is...now, he's after ME. The lovely Mrs. Fussypants, in an homage to the beloved Jerry Seinfeld, posted about how much we all adore Jerry and how her hysterical blog is all about what makes us laugh.

Yet Newman just couldn't leave it alone. He had to grab the glory...but I shall snatch it back from him.

Geeze, like we couldn't tell he TOTALLY Photoshopped his head behind my BabyFace? Come on! How insulting.



You've been trying all month long just to talk to me

Dear Sallie Mae,

Yes, I know I owe you a crapload of money. Believe me, not a day goes by- hell, hardly an hour goes by- when I'm not hit with the realization that I owe you more than I owed on my first home. And yes, I do understand that the interest is accruing and compounding even while I'm in deferment or forbearance or sticking-my-head-in-the-sand-itis; the interest is now a large percentage of my overall principle.

I also realize that it isn't YOUR fault (nor the other lenders I relied on to pay my tuition) that I chose to go to medical school, even though I didn't have enough money to pay cash for it. I also sympathize that it isn't YOUR fault that I chose to be a stay at home mom after my son was born and thus don't have the physician's salary I thought I would when I took on this debt. I totally ooooooooooooown that.

But I am saying it must be nice to be a Congressionally chartered and subsidized yet still private corporation who receives tons of our taxpayer's dollars to out price competition and make your shareholders wallets thick without financial risk. It must be nice to have such a special, intimate relationship with the government where, for example, I am not allowed to take MY debt to a different lender, one who would agree to an interest rate lower than 8%. When I consolidated all of my student loan debt in order to make monthly payments manageable, I HAD to bring loans from other lenders to YOU, because that's part of the deal you worked out with our government. I'm just saying.

So I'm stuck with you...and yeah, I'll pay you back. Oh, and sorry about those weeks there when our phone number was messed up and you were trying to get in contact with me (because I'm behind in my payments). Talk to Comcast about that. You're hard to get a hold of, too...well, at least it's hard to talk with someone there, too.

LoveYours, Christine

P.S.: Not that we've even considered bankruptcy, that's not even an option for us but it must be nice for you to know that you, and you alone, are exempt from having your loans discharged in a bankruptcy case. Even family members would have to be paid back in court, but not you, our a Congressionally chartered and subsidized yet still private corporation. Just saying, it must be flipping NICE to be you.


X-tremely steep steps...ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter "X"

Okay, "X" was hard! Forgive the stretch!

I took this photo years ago at Kirk In the Hills, a Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield Hills, MI...it is a favorite shooting spot for area photographers as it is a beautiful old building with gorgeous grounds. Here are a couple other shots from that day (Blogger FINALLY cooperating):


First steps first

I've given much thought on this first "Photography Tutorial." Its hard to determine what is THE foundation of a good photograph.

Many things crossed my mind, but today, I have to reach back and remember what my mentors taught me...what their best advice was.

Take a step forward.

That's it. Compose your photograph, no matter what it is, and then walk one pace forward. For now, everything else can remain the same. Just keep your subject in the viewfinder and walk towards it. THEN snap the picture.

I can't tell you how many times this simple advice has, for me, elevated a fine picture into a great one. It sounds too easy and simple to be true, but yet it is the best advice I've ever been given. Too often we include what we think is important background information in our photographs. You DON'T need it. What's important is your subjects...they tell the story of your photograph, not their surroundings. Believe me, the backdrop will still be in the image, and will be all the stronger for not dominating the photograph.

So, easy enough. Tomorrow, pick up your camera and start to snap some shots of whatever inspires you. Just take one step forward...it's your first step into being the photographer you know is inside you.


Want some personal advice?
Send me a link to one of your photos...maybe I'll do a 'critique' of it here (I'll be kind, I promise), complete with an 'after' that is yours...a free Photoshop make-over! If you don't want your photograph featured here but still want some free advice, I'm happy to help.

In the words of my much beloved Perry Farrell, "Here we GO!"

Pssssssssssssssst...I have a secret

When I was in sixth grade, I was in the backseat of a friend's car and next to me were three huge boxes overflowing with a plethora of smaller green boxes. When I asked what they were, her dad responded, "Film. I work for Fuji." For some reason, this was as cool and astonishing to me as if he'd said he was a Famous Movie Star. I couldn't believe I was in the presence of someone who worked in the photography industry. The world of photography, for some reason, seemed so exotic and exciting and creative and FANCY (fancy being important when you're twelve).

Isn't that weird? Not only that I had that reaction, but that it is something that I remember so vividly?

Years later, when I was a senior in high school, my mom gave to me that Christmas a camera over which I'd pined for months. She couldn't afford it, but somehow she managed to get it for me...I remember the delight and surprise I felt when I opened that box. I used that camera for years; all through my college photography courses, and it served me well in my first photography free-lance years.

For some reason, photography is something to which I have always been drawn...and I can say it, something for which I have a gift. Sometimes I think it's odd that I was drawn to it for years before I'd even clicked a shutter, and other times I think that makes perfect sense.

The thing is, cameras with their little digital minds are now so amazing that they take away any need to have the technical know-how. And you know what? Much of good composition, the foundation of successful picture-taking, is actually easily learned. You don't need to be born with "the eye." You can learn it, and I'm thrilled to be starting a series to help you do just that.

I know, I know...there are a 17,643,912 websites out there dedicated to photography tips. My series will be different in a variety of ways, but mostly in that I'm not going to try and teach you how to become a professional photographer. I want you to be able to take amazing, fabulous photographs of your family and friends. You don't need to hire a professional photographer (but don't tell my clients that, teehee); you can do it yourself. Not only can you do it, you can do it better than a professional...better, and of course, at a fraction of the cost to you.

I'm also not going to get all technical on your ass...this is just the fundamentals of composition which, when broken down and then reassembled, add up to wonderful photographs. Each tip will be helpful on its own, but the more you implement in each photograph, the better that picture will be!

Look for the first secret tomorrow!