Hi! I'm Amy! I'm a both a homeschooling mom and a professional photographer in the Sacramento, CA area. Thank you for visiting my blog where I attempt to blend my two worlds and make sense of this whole wonderful thing called life!

Archive for 'Q & A'

Posted on Jan 15, 2011
Posted in Q & A

Every now and then I get an email full of questions about photography. What has happened in the past is that I would take the time to write it, be personal about it…and then the person who asked never writes back, *sigh*.  So here’s a Q&A post that more than just one person can benefit from. If you have any questions that you would like to see featured on the blog, shoot me an email at amy@amyschuffphotography.com or click the contact link above.

These are the top three questions I get asked…

1. What camera do you use and what lens do you prefer?

I use a Nikon d300s and I always, always have my Nikkor 50mm 1.8f on my camera. The 50mm is a wonderful lens, very affordable and every beginning photographer with a dslr should have it in their camera back. It is a great lens to learn on. The 50mm is a “prime” lens, meaning it does not zoom. I prefer primes because they make me move fast, keep me sharp on my feet and I just don’t like having to zoom a lens.

2. What editing software do you use?

I shoot in RAW and edit slightly in Adobe Camera Raw and then finish off the photo in Photoshop CS4. I manage my photos with Bridge. I’ve only been shooting in RAW for a few months…and I LOVE it. It makes my editing time so much faster.

3. How do you get your client’s eyes so sharp? They always look so full of light.

First off…thank you! That is a true compliment and that is also a great question! I get asked that a lot because what makes a photo?? The Eyes. Ask any photographer and they will tell you, taking photos is ALL about the light in their eyes. When you are about to take a photo of your subject, make sure they are in great light, whether that is in a corner of a room by a window, or under a big shade tree away from harsh sun, or in the bathtub where the white of the walls will reflect into their eyes. Your subject needs to be looking slightly up and turn their body until you see the catch lights in their eyes. When you’ve got it, focus your camera on either eye and shoot.

image recipe:  2.5f, 1/100, iso800 – the light is coming from a large window in front of her (behind me).

Posted on Mar 25, 2010
Posted in Q & A

I recently received a couple emails with some questions about photography and I thought I would take some time and answer them publicly. I know when I was just starting out I had a TON of questions and searched and searched for answers. I still do so much research and am always learning. I really appreciate it when photographers take time to share their secrets and since none of the information are really secrets…I thought I would share too! (All these questions are from one lovely soul. I admired her willingness to ask, and so I thought I would try to be as detailed as possible!)

“OK , I saw that you are going to be answering questions, so here are a few from a complete novice! First, do you do much post production on the photos of your kids? You seem to capture so much light in their eyes and (although they are exceptionally beautiful!) I am wondering if you do any photoshop work (i.e. whites of eyes/brightening) at all?”

Yes and Yes! (and thank you for the compliments!) I process (or edit is another word for it) all the photos that you see of my kids. If I do post any SOOC (straight out of the camera) then I try to always note it with the photograph. I can say I probably brighten eyes about 80% of the time. Light of course is the most important part of taking a photo. Most of the close up photos shown on my blog last month (during my 28 day project) were taken right up against bright windows.

“I just got Photoshop CS3 at the advice of some friends and it is a struggle for me. I like natural photos using natural lighting — but I recognize it (Photoshop) must have its uses. Do you have Photoshop and, if so, how long did it take you to learn it? Are there certain actions that are particularly useful for the natural lighting photographer? Especially to get that vintage feel? Or is there something better/easier out there?”

I do have photoshop, and I used CS2 for a couple years before recently upgrading to CS4. Let me tell you…Photoshop is a very large and detailed program. Google is your friend! I am still learning photoshop, but I think it took me a good couple months to really understand the jist of it. When you figure out how to do something, keep a pad of paper next to you so you can write it down, or bookmark all the sites that you have found your most helpful tutorials. You can google “Photoshop Tutorials” Or “how to (fill in the blank) in Photoshop”. Believe me, if you have the question, someone else had it too and there is an answer out there.

As far as actions, (see here for definition of actions) I don’t use them a lot, although I own a TON. When I first discovered them I invested a couple hundred dollars on some huge packs (creator to remain nameless!) and except for 2 short actions (read it…TWO) the whole thing has been useless. BUT, I am very glad I bought them, it opened my eyes to what I can do on my own, and what I needed help with. I’m not saying I never use them, 99.9% of my b&w’s are done with an action and I just discovered The Pioneer Woman shares some of her (free!) actions that include some great vintage.

“Where/how do you print your photos?”

I print at a professional photography lab for all my client’s photographs. There are so many labs to choose from. It has taken me awhile to find the perfect one for my needs. (That info though I need to keep off my public blog.)

I can though, recommend Mpix.com. They are a great lab with awesome prices and great quality. They are the lab that I recommend to my clients when they receive their digital files from me. I would rather they print at Mpix.com than with anyone else.

As far as my personal photos, except for enlargements, I puffy *heart* Sam’s Club (it is like Costco.) I have even gotten down my editing of Sam’s Club photos so that they come out looking exactly like my monitor when I print them (since Sam’s is not a professional grade lab, it ta. I take a lot of personal photos and I would go broke printing them at my professional lab, so Sam’s Club is perfect for me! I have also printed at Snapfish.com and Artscow.com

“And how do you ensure that the color you are seeing on your computer screen is the same/similar to what will appear in the photos?”

Calibration! It is pretty much the most important thing you will do when you start to print photos for clients. I calibrated my pc monitor with a Spyder2express calibration system. I just upgraded to a Macbook Pro and I’m waiting on my test prints from three different labs to see how I shouldcalibrate.

“Do you shoot in RAW or JPeg? Are you self taught or have you taken classes/workshops?”

Jpeg and I am self taught. Although I did take a natural light workshop given by Detra & Deb about 4 years ago. Remember what I said about Google?? Google is a great teacher :) Also I have the privilege to have a very good friend who taught me the wonderful basics of using my camera. She was my cheat sheet :) If someone could have someone like her…they would be set!

“Do your children/husband get annoyed at having the camera around all the time? Do you have any tricks you use to encourage patience (with the camera) in your kids?”

My husband, no. He is a great support and I don’t take photos of him that often for him to get annoyed! I’ve never seen him get annoyed at me having the camera out. He’s always willing to help me get the shot or prolong the “spontaneous moment” while I get my camera so that I don’t miss it! My time on the computer…yes. But when he is annoyed, I usually am as well and try to get my work done asap.

My kids, yes. They get annoyed. I can tell though if it is real frustration, or just wanting to be snarky to mommy who loves to take photos. They have all gone through their phases though, Abby is finally getting the hang of eye contact, Zach is starting to ask for photos. My best advice, find your child’s favorite thing…and bribe. Seriously. This is not an obedience issue here until they get older. My 6 year old does not get bribed very much because she is a wonderful model (but I do reward her when we are done! Always!) My two year old though…A LOT of bribing happens. She is not capable of sitting down and looking at the camera without an M&M in my hand :) I was given this advice early in my photography career…even the big shots do it. No one is above a little bribing!!

Also, think about how to get your child to love photography as much as you do! Teach them about it, show them their beautifully edited photos when you are done. Let them pick out their favorite, print it out and hang it in their room or on the fridge. This is your passion, make it theirs as well. And if it just isn’t working, let it go, take them off the hook. The last thing you want is for your child to hate the camera. You may go through a span of a couple months of just photos of his/her brother…one day the lone kid will ask for a picture…and you will be ready!

Ok folks…that is it for now. I will revisit this very soon and answer some more. If you have any questions for me (and not just about photography of course!) please don’t hesitate to email!

Lily’s “no more photos” face

sacramento child photographer


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