Simple Tip for Better Pics

Posted on March 30, 2017 by April Lahti | 0 comments

Have you ever taken a picture of something beautiful- a scene, person or moment- and then looked at the result and thought “that doesn’t capture it at all!”? This simple tip will lead to dramatic results for your pictures:

Turn off your flash and use natural light whenever possible

Lighting is a huge part of what makes a good photo, but it's often overlooked because people are so focused on capturing the subject. As a result, they end up surrendering creative control of lighting to their camera. I definitely recommend avoiding use of your on-camera flash. The internal flash of cameras and phones tends to create unwanted shadows and dull-looking photos that have a flat quality. When photographing your subject indoors, try to pick a room that’s brightly lit by a window.

These two photos were taken in the same room. In the first one the subject was on the couch on the opposite side of the room from the window. The second photo was taken in the same room only a couple of moments later. All I did was move myself and my subject closer to the window and no flash was necessary. You can see how the quality of the image is better in the second photo. It captures the contours of her face better and makes the photo come alive. It has a much more natural quality. You can always try moving yourself or your subject to get a better lighting angle. You generally want the light to be shining on your subject (from an angle is nice to get those contours). The only exception to this would be when you want to get a silhouette. Then you simply place your subject in front of the light source. Try experimenting with lighting and angles of lighting to get different effects.


This same rule can apply for artificially lit situations. In the following example the camera recommended flash. There wasn’t much natural light coming into this huge building, but it was still decently lit by indoor lighting. The flash was completely inadequate in this large space.  The subjects were somewhat lit, but the background faded into darkness. For the second picture I turned off the flash, which made all the difference. The key was to take advantage of the artificial light in the building.

If there isn’t enough light to get a sharp picture, try increasing the ISO number. This makes your camera more sensitive to available light. If the photo still looks too dark, you can use your exposure compensation to brighten everything up.  I’ll be talking about ISO and exposure compensation in future blog posts.

Posted in lighting tips, photo tips, photography tips, portrait photography

Fun with the sun on Sanibel Island

Posted on June 04, 2016 by April Lahti | 0 comments

I recently had the pleasure of spending a week with family on Sanibel Island, FL.  Our favorite activities were bike riding, relaxing by the pool, walking the beach hunting for shells, and kayaking.  Of course, photography is always high on the list for me and I was hoping to get some new great beach photos for PictureItPersonal. The weather was perfect and I wasn’t disappointed!

I was eager to try out my new polarizing filter  which I would recommend to anyone with a DSLR shooting in conditions where there is any kind of glare (like what you get from water or ice).  The filter reduces those bright reflections (just like your polarizing sunglasses) and deepens colors.  As you can see in this photo, the reflection on the water is cut down resulting in an exposure that isn’t thrown off as much by the brightness of the sun:


The other challenge of taking a sunset photo is that when you are photographing such a bright object--even with a polarizing filter- you will have areas of the image that are over or underexposed just because of the vast difference in brightness within the same frame. The camera cannot expose properly for both. The only way to correct for this would be a gradient filter (which darkens the sky) or taking two separate exposures and putting them together later in an editing program.  Here I took one shot for the sky, and one for the sand:

Of course, stitching these together would be tricky. Because of the movement of the water, things won’t line up easily.  I’ll let you know if I figure it out!

I had another photo idea while at the beach.  I wrote “love” in the sand with shells and left room above them for your names.  Coming soon to

What do you think?

Posted in beach photography, photo tips

3 Tips for Better Snow Photography

Posted on March 03, 2016 by April Lahti | 0 comments

Have you ever gone out after a snowstorm and marveled at the beauty? Every surface blanketed in pure white and the details of every tree branch emphasized? You take some pictures hoping to capture some of that beauty--but when you look at them later they turn out to be a big disappointment. The snow might look gray, or your subject may be washed out. Here are a few tricks that can greatly improve your results. They don’t involve fancy equipment--just using the tools you probably already have on your camera.

1. SHOOTING TIMES AND CONDITIONS. Shoot in overcast conditions, or early or late in the day. The clouds act as a diffuser and soften harsh shadows. Shooting early or late in the day means that the sun's rays aren’t as harsh, their color is warmer, and they won’t cause those dark shadows where detail is lost in your photo. When you have extreme blacks and whites in your frame, the camera cannot expose properly for them both. You will end up with either gray snow or washed out dark subjects and shadows. Even lighting and tones within your frame will result in a better chance of your subject and the snow looking like you want them to.

2. EXPOSURE COMPENSATION.  If you are shooting in “auto” mode, use your exposure compensation tool.  Most cameras have them--either as an external button or as part of the shooting menu. Think of the camera in auto mode as wanting to expose everything as a medium gray tone. This is why when the majority of the scene you are trying to capture is bright (snow), you need to increase the brightness (exposure). Usually dialing in +1.5 or +2 does the trick. But you should keep experimenting until you feel that the snow looks bright enough.


3. STOP ACTION. If snow is falling during your photo shoot, use a fast shutter speed to stop the snowflake action. You will wind up with pretty little white wintry dots instead of blurry streaks that can get between you and your subject. Most cameras have a “shutter priority” mode. Set it to this mode and use a shutter speed of at least 1/500 seconds, but still experiment with different speeds. If you are using a compact camera without shutter priority mode, your camera probably still has a “sports mode” which also uses high shutter speeds to stop action. 

Posted in photo tips, snow photography, winter photography