Friday, May 15, 2009


Hi, all, and happy, HAPPY FRIDAY!

Today I wanted to talk just a bit about my camera. Lately I've gotten quite a few emails asking about my photographs and what kind of camera I have/ camera recommendations/ my Photoshop Actions and so on so I wanted to get it all down here for easy reference and to perhaps answer any other questions you might have for me.

But first let me add this disclaimer - I AM NOT A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER so please don't take the things I say as gospel. It's just a compilation of what I have used and what has worked/not worked for me. It's not intended to influence you one way or another. Amen.

With that out of the way let's get to the most FAQ's:

1. My Camera - I have a Canon Digital Rebel XT.

It's the older model (I think now two models back?) but it has really served me well. I've been incredibly happy with it and have had no issues with it's functioning other than what my boys have done to it (don't ask!). I purchased it with a kit lens (the 18-55mm) which I will talk about more later. It was reasonable in cost when I got it as far as DSLR cameras go but if I'm not mistaken you can get the newer models for a reasonable price as well. I am a loyal Canon girl as my first "good camera" was the film version of the same camera and I absolutely LOVED it. LOVED.

2. My lenses

I currently have three (though I want more - badly!). I have the 18-55mm kit lens I mentioned before, the 75-300mm zoom lens I got soon after, and my newest, the 50mm f1.8. There are distinct advantages/disadvantages to each of them and I'll try and list them here along with some examples.

18-55mm - this is a great general purpose lens. It came with the camera when I bought it an was wonderful for everyday, outdoor shots - from close up to mid-range. It's downside lies in the fact that it's not very good in low light situations and I have found it lags just a little with quick motion. It doesn't give the greatest depth of field (you have to work to get it) but it has beautiful crisp focus. I've turned out some of my favorite shots with this lens like these:


75-300mm - This is my zoom lens and my go-to lens for most any event, especially sporting ones when I'm on the sidelines or in the stands. I love that it gets so close and the huge focal distance give great depth of field. It is sadly slower than my kit lens for focusing so sometimes I miss the shot I was really trying to get, but when I get it? It's so worth it! I love love love this lens. The biggest drawback to it for me is it's size and that if I ever *do* want or need to get closer to a subject, I have to stand waaaaaaaaay back or change lenses! It was interesting to get shots of my kids at the zoo but fab for the animal shots below. Here are a few fave shots taken with my zoom...


and finally my newest lens..

50mm f1.8 - I am just now beginning to get comfortable with this lens and see what it can do/can't do, but let me tell you why I got it. I wanted a lens that had clear, super-sharp focus and great depth of field to get portrait shots. I was frustrated that a lot of my portraits seemed much "flatter" than I wanted. This lens is a very inexpensive lens as far as lenses go (around $95-105ish) and had the most amazing field depth. I can take a photo of a subject and things just a few inches from that subject will be blurred just the way I like. It's absolutely incredible, even in low light situations. I see a love affair coming on for sure, but the thing I'm having the hardest time getting used to is the fixed focus. A fixed focus lens means the lens doesn't adjust for me, *I* have to back up or zoom in to get the distance that I want. And you can't get any closer than the 50mm where as when the 18-55mm, I could get very close. I haven't had much time to play with it, but what I have used it for, I've loved. Here are a couple shots. Check out the bokeh (the light "dots") on the Iris image! Love that!


3. My Photo Editing - I use Adobe Photoshop 6.0 and sadly do it on a PC. I used to do some photo editing for a portait studio and had a Mac that I loved but still used 6.0 on that as well (thought they have since upgraded to CS and beyond! Darn it!) I also know that I can have a tendency to "over process" my photos (I'm actually working on getting better with that!) but what I do like that I always want to keep is popping the color of my images in photoshop. I love getting a real vibrancy with an image - if that image calls for it (and with three boys, I have a lot of images that call for it)! For those of you that like the "popped" color like I do, there are a few easy steps that you can do. I got some of this from trial and error, some from Amy Howe, and still others from other photographers I've worked with. For quick editing, here is what I do:

Color "Popping:
- You can either adjust your image for contrast in curves or levels (or both) or you can take the easy way out and "auto contrast." (Auto contrast might not always give you what you're looking for but 8 times out of 10 it does a pretty good job for those "quickie" edits.
- Then I always add a layer in PS and then use "Screen" to brighten up my image if it's too dark. (If not, then I skip this step.) Once I have the desired brightness that I change using a percentage of opacity, I flatten the image again and add one more layer.
- With this new layer, I use "Soft Light". Soft Light enhances the over all color and makes it more dramatic. The colors glow more and becomes more vibrant. I usually only put this no more than a 40% opacity or else I find it getting a bit too "overdone".
- My final step is an unsharp mask. I do it to the entire image first and then if the image is a portrait (any picture of a person), I'll do the mask again to just the eyes to make them sparkle.

So there you have it! I hope I've answered some of the basics but if there's anything more specific you want to know, feel free to ask. I'll try and answer any others within the comment section as they are asked!

Have a wonderful Friday!


Andi (RrlScrapGal) said...

Thanks Kelly! I'm saving this post for when I graduate from my little point and shoot number! Lots of great helpful info...

Jocelyn said...

THank you Kelly.....I just adore all your shots and so wanted to know what kind of camera you have!!! I have a Nikon D50 with just about the same lens as you have, but my pics don't look like yours!!!! Have a great weekend. I have to go and play with my camera and see what I come up with!

Carina said...

Hey Kelly,

Thanks for sharing your secrets. I've always been amazed by your photos. Now to try your tricks...

Barb said...

I love your photos, Kelly. I have the same 50 mm lens, and it was the best $100 I've ever spent. :)

Scrappycath said...

Love your photos, love your tips! Thanks so much for taking the time to share.

Jeanne Ann said...

Thanks so much for the lens info. I have the same camera and currently only have the lens kit that came with it. I have been looking into getting a new lens but wasn't sure what to look for. I now think that the 70-300mm lens may just be the one for me as I love taking nature shots and can never seem to get close enough.

Love the pictures, love you blog!

Melissa said...

What a treat to find your blog and discover that you have the exact same camera I do! AND I even had the same film model before I switched to digital. Yes, it's an "older" model, but I love my Canon so much. I have the same (first two) lenses as well. Will you please share where you purchased your newest 50mm lense? I want one immediately!!! Sounds like you got a great price. Will you share? Thanks!

Michelle said...

I have a Nikon D50 and love it. I have the 18-55mm and the 55-200mm. Tho, I would like something with more of a zoom. Sometimes, this doesn't reach far enough. I think it takes alittle practice, and taking a TON of pictures. I have gotten some pretty good ones, but still need more practice. It's fun playing tho!! You should check out my blog.. I have a pic at our little zoo of a tiger "smiling".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips, I wrote some down :) Your photos are amazing, you definitely have a knack for taking great photos :)

Karen M

Cassie said...

I have a Rebel xti and only have the kit lens. Thanks for posting this information, it's been very helpful. I was wondering if you stayed with the Canon brand for those other lenses.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I found your blog today! I have been searching for a review and sample photos for the Canon Rebel XT---I just found one on sale and bought it just because it was a great price and I had been searching for a new camera. I love all your photos and appreciate your candidness. Your layouts are great as well. I have put you in my favorites and will check back often. I can take the camera out of the box and start using it!

my paper love studio said...

thanks so much for sharing this... just got my camera a few months ago and still trying to figure out the basic details... and also thanks for the review on the 50mm f/1.8 - was thinking about getting it but wasn't too sure back then, but now - will definitely have to get one. thanks again :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for your info...

I didn't realize the Canon 50mm f/1.8 was really that reasonable!