Adjusting the Camera

Thanks for all of the great feedback on the last photography post. My goal with this post is to get you to the next level of being able to make adjustments on your DSLR. If you currently use Automatic modes, I want to give you the knowledge and the confidence to get you to use one of the priority modes, like Aperture or Shutter Speed priority. If you shoot in one of the priority modes already- that’s great- hopefully I can help you move to Manual. I shoot in Manual 90% of the time so I will cover each topic based on my workflow of how I prepare to take pictures. I first decide on the Aperture, then I adjust Shutter Speed based on the light, if my Shutter Speed is too slow, I will adjust my ISO. After I get my ideal exposure I will make the necessary White Balance adjustments.


Aperture has two main impacts on your pictures. It is responsible for the depth of focus which creates a blurry or in-focus background. Aperture also makes a significant impact on your lighting. A lot of blog photographers ask about how they can blur their backgrounds. Without having to understand the science behind it, the easiest way is to set your f-stop to the lowest number. If you are looking to add more blur, a great lens would be a prime lens (only 1 focal length) like a 50mm. Our 50mm was our second lens that we bought and has a minimum f-stop of f1.4. I think that f1.4 is a little overkill for fashion and beauty shots so we typically shoot at f1.8-f2.0. Prime lenses with wide apertures (Low f-stops) are great for shooting inside or other dark locations without using your flash.

It’s no wonder that people don’t really understand Aperture because when people refer to it, some of the elements seem contradictory. This table will compare two ends of the Aperture spectrum to help you understand.

f-stop f2 f16
Lens Speed Fast Slow
Opening Diameter Wide Open Very Narrow
Impact on Light Pictures will be much brighter Pictures will be much darker
Amount of Background Blur Lots of blur No blur
When to use Portrait and Food shots Landscape

FYI- If your DSLR came with a stock zoom lens, chances are that it has what they call a variable aperture. As you zoom in and out it will affect your minimum f-stop, your background blur and lighting.

Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed is the most common and easiest way to make minor adjustments in exposure. Once you have decided on your Aperture use adjustments in the Shutter Speed to get your desired exposure. Shutter speeds are measured by fractions of a second.

The faster the shutter speed, the less light it will take in and the slower the shutter speed, the more light in the picture. Based on my experience, shutter speed only becomes an issue when you shoot in low light situations. If you are hand holding your camera, you may notice that pictures get a little blurry if you slow down your shutter speed too much. For me I notice camera shake when I get down any slower than a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second.

Exposure Meter and Metering Mode-The exposure meter can be seen in the viewfinder of your camera. The exposure meter is great for adjusting your shutter speed quickly. If you have ever manually adjusted your shutter speed and you follow your exposure meter, you will know it is not 100% accurate. Part of the reason why there can be a discrepancy between the meter and the actual exposure in the photo is the nature of how the meter reads the light. The exposure meter measures the light that reflects back to the sensor from the scene. Sometimes there is a large difference between the light that is on the subject and the amount of light that is reflected back to the camera. To avoid problems and get better exposures, I recommend that you go into your Metering Mode settings and change to Spot Metering. Next, go to your Autofocus selections and choose a single point.

Autofocus on the object or the subjects eyes and then adjust exposure to the proper exposure. Now your exposure meter will be used to adjust the exposure on the single point you have selected.


ISO is how sensitive the light sensor is to light. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive that it is. Increasing the number also impacts the graininess of the picture. I set our ISO at 100 to ensure pictures that have high clarity. My rule is to shoot at a low enough ISO that allows me to shoot at a fast enough shutter speed so that you don’t get much camera shake. When shooting outside during the daytime I rarely have to switch away from a ISO of 100. I mostly make adjustments to ISO in very dark shade and when shooting indoors- The pictures above were shot indoors.

White Balance

I don’t want to confuse you too much with White Balance because I normally shoot in AWB (Automatic White Balance). I just wanted to introduce it to you as a way to further customize your pictures. White Balance adjustments impact how the camera measures the color or temperature of light. You may have noticed that daylight has a different color of light when compared to light from light bulbs or the color of light during sunrise and sunset. If you shoot in AWB the camera tries to compensate for the different temperature of light and adjust the photo to reflect what it should look like in Daylight. Sometimes, the AWB does not compensate exactly how you want; in this case I will turn to the preset or custom adjustments of the White Balance.

Other Camera Settings that we use:

Drive Mode- Low-Speed Continuous Shooting- Shooting in Low-Speed Continuous lets you snap off multiple pictures with a push of the shutter button. This really helps when taking a picture of someone that is modeling for you. It makes sure that you get your intended photo in between blinks and movements.

File format- RAW- We shoot in the highest quality RAW format. This makes photo editing more effective.

Our next blog photography post will be on editing your photos, so stay tuned! Be sure to check out our first post on picking the location here.

*First photo shot by Ashley Batz


When Julia asked me to write about the basics of blog photography she challenged me to cover it all in one post. Well, I failed at that. When I took out my whiteboard and started brainstorming about the topic I came up with three categories to cover in depth: Picking the Location, Adjusting the Camera, and Photo Editing. I could not cover all of this in one post so I decided to do one post per category. I hope that you enjoy the series and that you can pick up some of what we have been successful with to help you take better pictures. I’m by no means an expert and I’m 95% self taught so some of the terms I use might not be spot on. Please leave feedback or further questions in the comments section.

Lighting (see pictures above)

Aside from having good style, lighting is the single most important thing for great fashion and beauty shots. There are a variety of different methods for achieving good lighting in your pictures. Your choices on location, camera adjustments, and photo editing will all make significant changes. As we started learning photography we noticed that if you start by picking a location with better lighting everything will come easier. At first we tried two different methods for taking our pictures: Backlighting and Shooting in the Shade. With Backlighting the model stands with their back to the sun and the photographer positions themselves so that the sun is hidden behind the model’s head. When we Shoot in the Shade we will often find a tree or overhang that will decrease the strength of the sun. In this method the model will stand in the shade while facing the sun and the photographer. The last way that we take pictures is with Reflected light. When we first started taking pictures in San Francisco we noticed that some of our photos had amazing light, yet we didn’t know what caused it. After a couple weeks of pictures we finally diagnosed the cause. We figured out that when we faced white or light colored buildings, which were reflecting light, our pictures came out the best ever. We have now adopted this method for a majority of our photos. Sometimes it is hard to get good reflected light and find a nice background, especially in a city that doesn’t have taller buildings. We have never used light reflectors like these but I hear that they are effective if you have a third person or stand to hold it.

Choosing a Background

When the center of the story is all about the model you don’t think too much about what the background looks like. But look at any photo that gets shared like crazy on Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr and you can tell that the photographer put the extra effort in finding an amazing location. When looking for a background we always search for lighting first and then we look for background colors that add something extra to the pictures. We try to make sure that the outfit doesn’t blend in or clash with the background. Keep it simple so that it doesn’t take the attention away from you and what you are wearing. The background should complement the outfit by bringing context to why you are wearing the outfit. If you do not like the background colors, your best bet is to create distance between you and the background. This can be done by shooting down a street or sidewalk.

Time of Day

We quickly figured out that the time of day will drastically impact the lighting in the photography. We choose to do about 90% of our photos during the last couple hours of sunlight. The sunlight is not as intense during this time and since the sun is lower in the sky, there are fewer shadows on the model’s face. If you time the photos perfectly you can look directly into the sun and get fantastic light. During the “Golden Hour” light is softer and warmer in hue. There are a couple of online resources and apps that will show you when the “Golden Hour” for your location takes place.

Stay tuned for our next post on camera adjustments and learning how to work your DSLR!

*Written by Thomas (my wonderful husband)


October 11, 2012

3 Ways To Wear A Bow

1. Tied around your head. Pair with a t-shirt and jeans for a touch of girly-ness.

2. Tied around a low ponytail. Simple way to spruce up the everyday ponytail.

3. Tied around a high ponytail. Pair with a playful dress and blazer.

Sweater by Awear, Earrings Sorrelli

This is a simple and inexpensive way to change up your everyday hairstyle. I bought a spool of black satin ribbon and plan on using it not only in my hair, but in my wardrobe as well. More to come on that!