Merry Christmas 2013

May you have a lovely Christmas Day!

You in the Picture

in November, I did a guest post for shutter sisters and I wanted to put a copy of the text here for posterity.

In the last three years, I’ve taken over 200,000 photos. Most of these are pictures of my family. My kids, my husband, parents, etc. I just went back and looked at all of them. Guess how many of these photos have me in them?


I am not making this up. Out of the hundreds of thousands of photos we have of our family from the last three years, my face is in eleven of them. Eleven.

I hate having my picture taken. Since I am the official family photographer, I rarely ever face having to be in the pictures myself. On the rare occasions when someone asks me to get in the photo, I always respectfully refuse to do it. I am quiet about it but also firm. This is how I’ve successfully managed to avoid being in most of them.

I’ve learned that many photographers are like me; they prefer to stay behind the camera. For me, the biggest reason is that I have a hard time seeing myself in a picture. When I look at a photo, all I can see is the bulges of fat or the imperfections in my features. I see the blemishes on my face. My too-big nose. My belly. My sunken eyes. Bushy eyebrows. I can go on and on. I don’t see the happy mom or the loving wife, I just see a flawed human being.

I don’t know how much of this is common across all people and how much of it my low self-esteem but here’s what I do know: I need to get over it.

I need to get into the picture more often.

There are many reasons why it’s important to take the time and effort to be in more of our photographs. This list might be different for each person but here are some of my reasons:

I lost my grandmother last February. One of the first things I did after she passed away was collect all the photos of her I could find. I wanted pictures from all throughout her life from childhood to old age. Those photos were the faces of all my memories of her. They are what brought my thoughts to life and I held them close for a long time. They allowed me to mourn and remember all at the same time. I don’t think it’s fair to deny that to my children or loved ones. I can’t imagine a world where I didn’t have any photos of my grandmother. Photos are one of the most significant ways we’re remembered. People don’t look at how big your nose was,; they’re just so happy to have anything of you left to them. So I remind myself that even if I don’t want to do it for myself, I owe it to my kids, to my husband, and other people who love me.

While it has tangible benefits to others, I think having my picture taken more often is also going to be beneficial to me. Repetition has numbing power. If I just get in the photos all the time no matter how dressed up I might or might not be, I think I will stop seeing all the details of myself in each photo. It will just become the norm that I am in pictures and I will start looking at it the way I look at the other people in the picture. Seeing myself again and again, hugging the people I love, smiling, and being happy is bound to have a positive effect on me eventually. And even if it doesn’t, it means I will have hundreds of proofs of my joyful life.

Because I get my photo taken so rarely, I have never experimented with different angles or looks. I don’t know if I have a good side. I don’t know if it’s better for me to lean on one foot or lean forward. I don’t know if I should smile with an open mouth or a closed one. Many of these things might seem silly to think about but a lot of being photogenic is about knowing the small details about yourself. Even the most beautiful person can look terrible if the picture is taken from the wrong point of view. So having more photos of myself will give me exposure and opportunity to learn.

I take pictures of people all the time. I do professional shoots of families. I take photos of my kids, my husband, my parents and even strangers. I guarantee you that most of these people feel the discomfort of being in front of the lens. As a photographer who never has her own picture taken, it’s easy for me to forget how uncomfortable it feels to be in front of the camera. And since I do this as a profession, I think it’s important for me to remember that delicate feeling. It will make me a better photographer.

Because of these reasons, and more, I decided that 2011 will be the year when I get in the picture more often. I will create opportunities to make sure it happens. Each month, I will set up our tripod so we can get a full-family shot. I will hand over the camera to my husband. I will learn the intricacies of the self timer and find the best spots to use it in my house. I will experiment with angles and creative shots. I will take enough photos of myself that I can see myself as just another person in the photo. I will do this for myself and for my children. And I won’t wait until January.

The holidays are the best time to start such a project because there’s a lot of joy and festivity. Also because most people have visitors during the holidays so there are more people to hand over the camera to and more reasons to capture each moment. So, if any of you are like me and tend to avoid being in the picture, I challenge you to get in the photo more this holiday season. Just let go of your worries and embrace the opportunity. Hand over that camera and hug your loved ones. Put on a big smile and say cheese. I am confident you will not regret it.

In the meantime, I would love for you to share the last time you were in front of the lens. If you can’t find one, how about you take a photo right now and share it with us?

The Daily Practice

Back in October, I did a guest post for shutter sisters and I wanted to put a copy of the text here for posterity.

I’ve had a lot of cameras in my life but most of them were point-and-shoot. Right before my son was born, I decided I wanted the new Canon digital SLR. It was really expensive and I had no photography training at all. I loved taking photos but I didn’t know anything about aperture, lenses, or even the settings on an SLR. After months of pondering, I decided I was going to get it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I knew that was a sign.

Right before I bought the camera, my husband and I went to Venice Beach with his 35mm and he taught me the basics: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. I am a computer programmer, so understanding the technical bits wasn’t too hard for me. What I needed to work on is what I call the magic of photography: seeing the light and developing my eye. Over the years, I realized that I was improving but I wasn’t consistent and I couldn’t tell if my better photos were due to luck or because I was getting better at photography.

This is when I started the daily practice.

For the last three years, I’ve been taking photos every single day. Every day. Bar none. Some days it’s photos of my children or backyard and other days it’s more interesting things like views of San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge or the redwood trees. I’ll admit that most days it’s flowers. I’ve taken hundreds of photos of flowers. And tens of thousands of photos of my kids. And while the subject matter might be boring to others (and sometimes even for me) it’s done much to improve my photography.

The daily practice means that I can notice subtle changes in light better. I take many of my photos in the same area: my house and its vicinity. So, I am quite familiar with it and I can now notice the slight changes in light due to weather, time of day, or other factors. This has helped me figure out how to pay attention to the light. What different types of light does to the photo. It’s also meant that I can experiment with different shots at the same light and see what happens.

The daily practice means I can focus on the photography more. I am not just grabbing my camera when I am trying to capture an important moment. When you’re trying to “catch” a moment, you don’t always have time to play with the settings in your camera. You are focusing on getting the picture, not optimizing the quality of the photo. Whereas, on many days, I am taking my photos during a perfectly ordinary moment. There’s no butterfly that’s about to fly away. I can slow down and adjust my settings. I can play with the aperture and see the effects of depth of field. I can focus on the photography and not on getting the shot.

The daily practice means I can develop my personal style. I take a lot of photos of my kids. Every night I download these photos and go through them. I notice which shots are technically better than others. But I also notice which shots are more interesting to me. What photo stirs emotions and why. For example, through taking these shots I’ve discovered that I favor closeups. I like photos where my kids are looking down and there’s a hint of a smile or acknowledgment of the photographer but it’s not posed. I favor the right over the left. Small, subtle differences that make my photos mine. Seeing the pictures night after night helps me notice patterns. Notice changes. Improvements.

I know that the idea of taking photos every day might seem overwhelming and too time-consuming but, like most things, the biggest part is showing up. Just getting up and doing it. Starting the habit of carrying your camera around with you. Choosing a special time in the day to snap the photo. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. You can do more focused efforts like choosing a month to specifically address aperture and another month to do portraits only, etc. Or you can just snap something everyday and look and learn from what you get each night. The most important part is to just do it. Grab that camera and take photographs. Again and again and again.

Until it becomes a daily practice.

On a much more personal and practical note, the daily practice has also meant that I’ve captured thousands of our ordinary moments. What makes us who we are and the reality of our daily life. I know that regardless of how great I get at photography, I will cherish this more than all else.

Please share with us one of those ordinary day captures from your own life as we celebrate the daily practice. And if you have any tips, tricks, or insights on keeping up with your own photography practice, let’s hear them!

Weekly Gratitude – Favorite Photos

In honor of my tradition of daily photography and a guest post at shutter sisters today, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite daily photos since I’ve started They’re not in any kind of order.

They are over the years so they are taken with different cameras and have different amounts of post-processing.

First time doing lowlight photography.


One of my all-time favorite shots of David.

Skyline Boulevard.

Another macro-ish shot in San Diego.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

Hillside, Fethiye, Turkey.

Recent Nathaniel photo that Jake likes.

California Academy of Sciences.


La Jolla at sunset.

And of course the butterfly in the banner.

I am so grateful for my tradition of daily photography and how much it allowed me to capture my life over the years.

Photography Tips – Lenses – My Favorite Lens

It’s been a while since I posted one of these, I know but this was the last one I recorded a long time ago so I wanted to make sure to post it.

I was just talking about this lens to my friend Manu last night. This really is the greatest lens. It takes beautiful photos in low light and it’s the perfect focal length and most significantly it’s really affordable. The thing with having expensive photography equipment is that it makes you worry about it constantly which might make you reluctant to use it and you should never be worried enough about your camera/lens that you don’t take the photos to document your moments. In my opinion, of course.

Here’s the little movie.

Photography Tips – Lenses – Telephoto

Apologies for the delay in this. Today’s video is on telephoto . If you hear some background noise, that’s the fan of my laptop, apologies.

Next week is lenses too. My favorite lens.

Photography Tips is a weekly feature and is posted every Friday. You can find all of them here.

Photography Tips – Lenses – Macro

Today’s video is a continuation in the lenses series. We cover macros today. Lenses used to take photos of teeny tiny things.

Next week, more lenses. Feel free to let me know if anything is unclear or if you have questions.

Photography Tips is a weekly feature and is posted every Friday. You can find all of them here.

Photography Tips – Lenses – Wide Angle

This week’s video is on wide angle lenses. Next week, more lenses.

Feel free to let me know if anything is unclear or if you have questions.

Photography Tips is a weekly feature and is posted every Friday. You can find all of them here.

Photography Tips – Lenses – Zoom vs Fixed

Today’s video starts our several-week-long lens videos. We start with the discussion on zoom lenses vs fixed lenses. Hope you like it.

Feel free to let me know if anything is unclear or if you have questions. Next week is more lenses.

Photography Tips is a weekly feature and is posted every Friday. You can find all of them here.

Photography Tips – Flash

Today’s video is about flash. And how you should never use it.

Feel free to let me know if anything is unclear or if you have questions. Next week is lenses.

Photography Tips is a weekly feature and is posted every Friday. You can find all of them here.

Photography Tips – Tripods

Today’s video talks about tripods. Let me know if you need me to put photos that show examples.

Feel free to let me know if anything is unclear or if you have questions. Next week is on flash.

Photography Tips is a weekly feature and is posted every Friday. You can find all of them here.

Photoshop Videos – Text on a Circle

Today’s video shows you how to put text along a circle.

Photoshop videos are weekly videos that show you how to create digital elements and photography tips on Photoshop. They are posted every Monday. Click here for all of the archives.

If you have questions/feedback click on the “share” link on the bottom right of this post. Thanks!

If you have ideas/requests, please let me know, I am out of ideas.