get going with lr4: part 2

Once you’ve purchased Lightroom or installed a trial, there are several things you can set once & forget about them.  Well, not really forget-forget, but things you won’t have to go back and tell it to do each time.  For this setup process, you use the right panel to do things like:

*tell Lightroom to stamp Copyright information on each picture.  You customize the information in terms of name, website, location, etc.  This is important for the protection of your images regardless of your level of skill or professional status.  I don’t include location information but I do have my website & name.

*tell Lightroom where you want your pictures stored when it imports them from your camera card.  Do you want to copy from card & then delete or just copy?  Do you want them stored by date?  Do you want to rename them?  I have mine set to copy from the card and save by date.

*add keywords each time you import for easy searching later.  I put the names of the family members, sometimes the location & any other specifics I might want to search for later, ie “birthday”, “balloon”, etc.

*tell Lightroom how to handle the previews of your images.  I have mine set to “embedded & sidecar” so that it has quick little thumbnails associated with the big image file for easy browsing.

*apply a preset to each image upon import.  Presets are collections of editing settings that you can apply with just one click.  I tell Lightroom to apply the default sharpening preset upon importing.

Lightroom catalogs the images you import into it.  This means it stores little thumbnails (teeny little image files) for the images you’ve imported into your catalog.  You can have as many different catalogs as you’d like, but Lightroom has to restart each time you change catalogs.  You might have images on your computer that aren’t in your catalog because you haven’t told Lightroom to import them.  The images you have imported into the catalog you’re currently using will be listed on the left panel when you’re in Library mode (top bar, right side).

Once you’re ready to play around with the pictures you’ve imported, you can set a few preferences first.  When you switch to the Develop mode (top bar, right side), the left panel will be a list of presets and the history of what you’ve done to the image selected.  The right panel will be your developing options.  You can control how many of these panels are active and you can also switch to Solo Mode to tell Lightroom to close one panel when you open a new one.  Do this Solo Mode thing, it’ll save you a ton of scrolling!


The last item you’ll want to set before you start working your magic on your amazing images is setting the Loupe info (a Loupe is a device film photographers used to view negatives & slides).  You’ll do this by selecting “View” on the top menu & choosing “Loupe Info”.  It’s extremely helpful to have the settings used to capture an image visible when you’re processing your photos, especially when you’re learning.  If you see a blurry image and wonder why, just consult that info & decide what you can do to improve next time.  Was your ISO set to 100 indoors?  Next time, increase it!

Do you feel closer to ready to jump in?  This kid is:

Please ask questions in the comments below or on Facebook!

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Get Going With LR4: part 1

Once you’re rocking your DLSR, the next step is quality post-processing.  When asked, I usually recommend Lightroom.  I’m happy to offer a  few posts to get you going with Lightroom 4 but the absolute best way to learn it from start to finish is Scott Kelby’s LR4 book.  I read it (a few versions ago) on a road trip.  It was a guaranteed nap every 8 or 9 pages but had solid information written in a clear & understandable way.  Then I breezed back over it when I sat down at the computer.  So I’m not offering a comprehensive tutorial on LR but rather just a few tips to get you going.  Adobe also has good tutorials on Adobe TV.

I edit primarily in Lightroom.  It’s been key in organizing my images; both personal and professional. Once imported into the catalog, you can do global changes to the image, apply presets (a one-click combination of lots of editing settings), do spot adjustments and then export for web sharing or print.  You can also pop a photo into photoshop or photoshop elements, edit and then save back into LR.  Lightroom uses sliders to adjust things like white balance, exposure, saturation and lots of other more complicated settings.  It is not photoshop.  You can’t swap heads or do any fancy photoshop trickery or super-precise adjustments with Lightroom.

The newest version of Lightoom, LR4, is dramatically less expensive than previous versions, making it a very affordable way to access professional photo software.  You can find Lightroom4 on for $119.00 right now.  There is a student & teacher edition that you might also qualify for.  Check it.

Also, Adobe offers 30-day free trials of most of their software.  No, you don’t have to provide a credit card number or anything, just create an account and install the trial.  It will stop working after 30 days unless you purchase and then you’ll just be prompted to enter the serial number instead of having to re-install.

In the next post, I’ll give a basic rundown of initial setup.  Please feel free to ask questions if you’re considering giving Lightroom or another post-processing program a try.  Post-processing isn’t meant to fix an image.  It’s meant to enhance it.  If you’re fixing, you’re  doing it wrong.

Speaking of doing it wrong, here’s a lucky shot I caught of my kids getting on the bus on the first day of school.  Ellie asked me to “keep taking pictures until we’re all the way on” so I was shooting blind into the sun, but it was worth it:



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everyday glimpse: at the table with sweet ellie

As mamarazzi, it’s our job to document.  Document the big events, document the milestones, document the everyday.  We have the opportunity now to capture those chubby baby knuckle dimples, the dirty fingernails, the have-to-wear-it-every-single-day bumble bee costume, the happy faces, the sleepyheads, the messes…all of it…before they’re grown, or even before they’re stinky, hormonal teenagers.  I hope you’ve all read the “Don’t Carpe Diem” post on  That’s good stuff.  It’s whack to expect us to all relish every moment.  Please.  It’s hard to be photographically inspired  when you’re trudging through the mundane everydayness.  But almost every time I bring my camera out to catch a kid contentedly engaged in something he or she does a lot at that particular stage of their little life, I’m glad that I have the resulting images.

Bradyn’s been participating in a running club at school two days a week.  So I get one hour on each of those days to spend with just Ellie (while the littlest one naps, God willing).  Sometimes we hit the books hard.  Sometimes we read together.  Sometimes we watch TV.  I shot these for a project I do on my business blog.  On this day, she was working on a reading worksheet.  I’d been wanting to play around with the video mode on my camera, especially the manual focus & exposure.  So while she drew every animal she could think of, I was snapping away.  Playing with settings and experimenting with the video.  The result?  Fanstastically lovely.


(made you grin!)

The video effort resulted in the most ordinary, everyday, reach-out-and-touch-it, to the moon and back, awwww-inspiring, okay fine I’ll say it, masterpiece ever.

I showed it to her before school the next day.  Then after school she asked to see it again.  I told her I’d watched it like ten times & would love to watch it again with her.  We did and afterwards she said, “Are you actually so proud of me?”  Melt my heart.

There are plenty of times I don’t want to or am just not inspired to get my camera out and shoot the every day.  But those times can offer great technical practice, especially when a kid is happily engaged in something…and in good light.  I’ll always be glad I have these images and that video…from the way she says, “Uh…a house.” to seeing her squishy little fingers reaching for the markers.  Sometimes photography lets use remember chronos as kairos & that’s pretty cool if you ask me.

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Here, use my crutch: Aperture Priority mode

I shoot in Av mode a lot.  Av mode (or A mode for Nikon users) is Aperture Priority mode.  In Av mode, you set the camera’s ISO & aperture and the camera picks the shutter speed.  Once you have an understanding of how the exposure triangle works, Av mode starts to make sense & becomes another tool to use in addition to Manual mode.


  • I almost always shoot with as wide an aperture as possible; not going above 2.8 unless absolutely necessary.  So that third of the triangle is set.
  • A shutter speed of 125 is the absolute lowest I’ll consider with a kid; 200 is much safer as a minimum.  So there’s the second third of the triangle & where my adjusting starts.
  • If my camera wants to shoot a super-slow shutter speed (& I’m already at as low of a number as possible on my aperture) I increase the ISO.  The ISO needs to be high enough to allow the camera to choose a shutter speed of 125-20 or higher.

This is not Auto.  This is not a fool-proof, thoughtless way of shooting.  If you’re not getting the results you want, you might have to stop shooting, look back through your shots, check your exposure & settings and switch to manual.  You’ll learn to gauge a situation & decide if it’s best to shoot in manual without even trying Av.

I shoot in Av if I know I’ll be moving vs. the subject moving.  If I want to turn as a kid moves around, especially indoors, I need to have a range of acceptable settings in mind & shoot accordingly.

It’s important to remember that when set to spot metering, your camera uses the whole inner circle to meter, paying the most attention to the center box.  So if 1/2 of the space filling that circle is super-bright and 1/2 of it is dark, your camera has to guess what the shutter speed should be.  It will likely choose a much faster shutter speed than you want.  Here’s an example:

1)  I decided as Ellie was running up to the house from the bus to take a quick shot.  I love seeing her dash off the bus with a huge smile, so happy to be home.  The backlight was so strong that she ended up way too dark (underexposed):


Settings:  1/1250 (super-fast/high, creating a dark image); f/2.8 (maxed out for the lens I have; as wide as possible), ISO 800 (set from whatever I was shooting beforehand)

2)  In an effort to correct my exposure, I got close in order to fill the frame with her skin/face & lock exposure so the next shot I took was better exposed:

Settings:  1/125 (uh oh, you can see blur in her backpack & coat; 1/125 is probably too slow here), f/2.8; ISO 800

3)  Once she threw her crap on the floor (as opposed to hanging it up), I asked her if she had gas & got a great smile.  By then, she was several feet away from the door & facing it, creating totally a different lighting situation from when she walked in.  So my center circle was almost completely filled by her face (with a good portion of her face being her gums here!) & my center box (center focal point) right at the inside corner of the eye on my right:

Settings:  1/320, f/2.8, ISO 800

Final product (edited in LR3):

This takes practice.  A lot of practice.  First practice on a cooperative subject (diet Coke cans & Barbies work well) & then try it on your kids.  Use the same lighting situation as you did when you were practicing.  Remember how much the lighting changed between these shots.  Just a slight turn or step away will create a change in light.  I’ve shot my kids a lot in front of this door.  And when I say “a lot”, I mean…a whole lot.  I’d guess that well over 1/2 of our pictures inside our home are in front of this door.  It’s a good, reliable spot.  Don’t underestimate a good, reliable spot when you’re learning!

And it’s no substitute for mastering manual shooting.  It’s a good tool to have.  I used the term “crutch” in the title & that’s what it is but let’s consider moving children to be the sprained ankle making the crutch necessary.  This wasn’t an instance in which I wanted to give direction or interrupt the “entry –> crap on floor –>  hey how was your day” process by asking her to stop while I adjust settings.

This is the method I teach once a camera owner learns which buttons & dials do what.

I’d love it if you stopped by the Michiana Mamarazzi forum & posted a few of your practice shots!


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Picture the Holidays | December 1: Hold on to Gratitude

So very excited to be starting this personal project for December and beyond thrilled at the number of local Mamarazzi that are playing along.  We’re doing the Picture The Holidays project from Paper Coterie.  If you’re like me, you’re wondering what the heck a coterie is and how the heck to say coterie.  Check it:  coterie on


If I tell you something, do you promise to keep it between us?  The first picture from our group I saw today was from my friend Corri and I may or may not have gotten a little lump in my throat when I saw it.  There were her three beautiful girls by their pond in a genuine happy moment.  I thoroughly enjoy getting together with friends for dinner, for drinks, for dancing, etc. but (since we’re speaking off the record) connecting with my local mamas like this is really going to be great.

My own personal rules for this project:

1)  Get prompt.

2)  Read prompt.

3)  Decide to shoot the first thing that pops into my mind.

4)  Do not overthink.

5)  Do not overshoot.

6)  Use lensbaby.

I feel like doing these things will help me stick to it and end up portraying our December 2011 way.  It’s not every December 1 that I’ll be able to say how grateful I am for green grass.  It’s chilly out but it’s still almost as if winter hasn’t started.  I find myself trying to memorize what my surroundings look like without the snow cover and worse, the cindery, gray slush.

But at the time of this writing, I find myself even more thankful for my circle of mama friends.  Just between us.

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