Weekly Challenges


 If you are not yet part of my Facebook group, and you enjoy taking photos as a hobby but would love to learn more, than I encourage you to join my Facebook group here.   With this group, I hope to offer you a space and place to learn, grown, and inspire each other to take meaningful snapshots while capturing all the moments in-between.

Here you will find weekly challenges to motivate you, as well as tips and tricks on taking the best shots you can at home. The challenges and weekly tips will be geared toward those with DSLR cameras, looking to dive into manual mode and make the most of their equipment!

Week 1: Favorite Thing

For this challenge, I wanted you all to simply dig out your cameras, forget about technique, and just familiarize yourself with your equipment again!

Week 2: Portrait

Portrait week followed a weekly tip on manual mode. In the group I provided some tips/info on ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed.

Week 3: Green

This week's theme is Green!! I encourage you to think about your settings and work with something easy to shoot so you can truly practice your manual mode settings.

Photo submissions are posted under the current post for "Green" in the Facebook group

Week 4: Birds Eye View

This week's theme is Birds Eye View! This week, keep one thing in mind. If you don't like the way something looks, change your perspective! 

Week 5: Ten Shots

Shoot 10 shots of the same subject. Each shot should be from a different angle, distance, and focal length. Share your favorite image from the set or post all 10 image on the page wall!

Week 6: Emotion

Let's see your best shots capturing emotion! Interpret as you wish and have fun!


 Post by the end of the day on Tuesday, March 14th

Let's get outside and have some fun! I am making this a 2 week challenge so we all have the opportunity to get out when the weather allows!


 Post by the end of the day on Tuesday, March 22nd

The best moments and memories are sometimes disguised as chaos! Show off your best memories in messes!


 Post by the end of the day on Tuesday, March 28th
The forecast looks awful grey and yucky this week! Let's think spring and sunshine and find something yellow to brighten up your day! Try out a macro setting on your camera to get a close up shot, play with light and shadows, and try photographing it at different angles. Don't just find something yellow and take a quick shot! Think about how you can make it stand out!! Pull together the tips from the past 8 weeks and have fun!






Weekly Tip

Week of February 28th: OUTDOOR IMAGES

Outdoor photos can be a challenge, especially with moving subjects, going from shade to full sun, and dealing with different lighting conditions throughout the day.

Until you are able to get a good handle on Manual Mode and know it by heart well enough to switch settings as fast as conditions change, I am going to recommend you find the Aperture Priority Modes on your cameras and give it a try!

Look for the "A" or "Av" symbol on your camera's dial. (Example photo below)

When you are in this mode, you can pick the Aperture you want your camera set at, and then your camera will automatically determine the shutter speed and ISO for you based on the lighting conditions. 

There is also Shutter Speed priority Mode. Look for the symbol on your camera's dial that is "Tv" or "S".
In this mode, you can pick the shutter speed, and your camera will decide the Aperture and the ISO based on the lighting conditions.

These settings are great for outdoor photos because you can pick what you prefer to focus on, and let your camera help decide what the other two settings should be as the lighting changes.

If you love a soft blurry background, and want all your images to stay at a wide open aperture of around 2.0, or 3.0...then use Aperture Priority mode, set your aperture where you want it, and let your camera help decide the rest.

If you don't care so much about the background, and you have a running toddler and want a fast shutter speed so your shots aren't motion blurred, choose Shutter Speed Priority Mode. Set your camera at a shutter speed of around 250 and let your camera help decide the rest.

This is a great start and will help you get more successful shots when outside. Play around with these modes for now, and I will be posting my own sample shots in the group soon!

Keep in mind, this is like a "semi auto" mode. So sometimes, your camera may make a poor decision due to poor lighting. Just practice for now, get use to how these two modes work, and when you get a shot you love and that looks great, don't forget to take a quick peek at what the settings were...maybe even write them down, or switch to manual mode and put those settings in and tweak it as needed!






Week of February 16-22nd:

Emotion can be a very hard thing to capture! There are a few tricks you can keep up your sleeves to help you, and you'll find those tips below! Assuming you are working with your children on this project, here is some of my best advice to capture some genuine emotion!!

- Take some warm up shots! Don't expect to capture their emotion on the first couple of camera clicks. They will need to warm up to the camera and forget you are taking their photo.

- Give them something to do. Play a game, do an art project, have a race, wrap an object from around the house and have them try to guess what it is before opening it up....do anything that will evoke a reaction! My favorite with Raelynn is to bake and let her make a mess. It's always worth it!

-Never ask them to say cheese or perform the emotion..it will never be genuine.

-Be silly!! I like to play, make jokes, and say things like "Whatever you do, DO NOT SMILE!...are you smiling at me? you better not be!" ...works every time ;)

-Be patient. This will probably take a few minutes of your time to get that perfect beautiful emotion out of them. Soak up the time spent doing it and remember the importance of last week challenge...if it's not working, change your perspective.

Have fun!!!

Week of January 30th: PERSPECTIVE
All too often when I am photographing, I find that I have the perfect light, my settings are great, my subject is what I want it to be, but I'm still not loving the way the final images are looking.

So what's up with that? 

Perspective!! If you don't like the way something looks, change your perspective. 
Try shooting low, try shooting through a door, or get up high! Move around at different angles and see how your images change their looks and how they feel. 

Rae was sitting at the table painting, and I wanted to capture a couple moments of it. I tried shooting straight on while standing in front of her, but had kitchen clutter in the background. I then tried shooting through the chairs, didn't love it for what I wanted to capture. I tried shooting down low from the side, but the frames on the wall and the corner of our dog food container were distracting.

So, I told Rae not ever to copy me....and I stood on the table!  ;) 

Whole new world!! I captured her tiny hands painting, the beautiful colors of her paint scattered on the wooden surface... and her eyelashes popped! 

So this week, as you work on the weekly theme of "Birds Eye View," don't forget to throw in some other attempts at neat perspectives too!

My settings: No Edits, 50mm, 1/250, f/2.2,  ISO 1250- Sitting in front of windows at the kitchen table. Cloud cover day.


Week of January 23rd: A few of you have asked about the best way to get that soft background blur in your images. So I thought it would be a great idea to discuss aperture a little further. All of my weekly tips and discussions will be explained in layman's terms as much as possible. Anything I feel needs further explanation I will be sure to link sources for further reading!

First of all, that soft, blurry background is best achieved by two things.

1.)  having the right lens for your camera.
To pick the best lens you need to look at it's aperture and how "wide open" it can go.
Now, when you buy your first DSLR, it will usually come with a lens. This is referred to as the "kit lens."
These lenses usually average around 18-55mm for focal length, and have its widest aperture of 3.5, read as f/3.5. If you are truly looking for that blurry background, you want to shoot as wide open as possible, which means for a lens that starts at 3.5, you would want to shoot at 3.5.
Lenses that go as low as 1.2 or 1.4 are ideal will give you the absolute best results for this look. I have posted sample photos below showing the differences in various apertures.

2.) The distance between your subject and your background. With the right amount of distance, you can get that nice blurry background without investing a ton of money into a lens with a really wide aperture.

Also, it's imortant to remember that shooting wide open will often yield "softer images". If you notice shooting wide open doesn't make your images as sharp, that is why. A tripod helps, and obviously a good lens helps. All lenses have their sweet spots too. We can get more into that later.



Take a look at my images below to see the difference it makes just moving your subject away from the background. Without changing my aperture or any other settings, and just moving Olaf away from his background, it made a huge difference. Shooting at 2.8 aperture verses a 5.6 also helped a lot! I didn't move Olaf in his last photo, I just changed my aperture to 5.6 and you can see it brought back in to focus a lot of the background instead of focusing just on Olaf.  

 We show the same effect with Cinderella below! Simply moving her away from the background helps so much!

With her forest animals, you can see how moving the subjects away from the background, as well as shooting with a larger, wide open, aperture of 2.2 makes a soft blurred background and your subject stand out nice and sharp.


It's also super important to remember that when you are photographing a group of people, for example if you have 3 children and you want to photograph them, and you are working with a wide open aperture, you need to keep them all at the same plane of focus. If one person is further ahead or behind the person you are focused on when taking the photo, it will blur them out and cause them to be out of focus.

Take this information, grab whatever you have to work with (Toys are fun!) and experiment with what I've shown you!

Don't forget, as you change your aperture, you will also have to adjust your shutter speed and ISO to get a good exposure. Aperture affects how much light is captured as well. Large apertures of 2.0 or 3.0 will let in a lot more light than an aperture of 8.0 will, so you need to adjust your settings accordingly!!

Be sure to post the results of your experiments with aperture and have fun!! I can't wait to see what you come up with! I'll draw a winner next week to receive a $5.00 gift card to Dunkin Donuts! :)