It’s that time of the year! The time when my baby girls take a step into their next year of life. This year they will be 3. My girls had fun not looking at me when I asked them too. They had fun giggling together, telling secrets and putting one another into a head lock when I asked them to “give hugs”. Also, I’m pretty sure that it is nearly impossible to get them to both look in my direction at the same time. One will look for a second, then the other but by the time the camera clicks no one is looking. Oh well, anything more and it wouldn’t be them and I’m all about capturing true expressions and personalities. I love my girls! Happy 3rd birthday girls!

Callahan birthday portrait session

  • Sarah - You and they will LOVE these, headlocks and all for years and years to come. Beautiful!ReplyCancel

We had a ton of fun at this sunny family session at Monument Valley Park. The kiddos were adorable, playful and loved the attention (not to mention my abundant supply of Smarties candies):)This beautiful mama is active duty army and is currently serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. It was very important to her that we capture some precious memories of her with her babies before she left. These are the result of this session. Our prayers go with this sweet family during this deployment and after!


There is a fantastic setting on your camera labeled “ISO”. It is kind of a mysterious but super helpful setting, if you know how to use it properly. When changing the ISO setting on your camera, you are changing the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light. Understanding the concept of ISO settings and when to change them will help you to improve your photography in a dramatic way.

ISO 100

ISO 100

Would you like to learn a truly trivial fact? ISO stands for International Standards Organization. It comes from the days of film and was a rating system for film speeds. But now that mystery has been solved, so let’s move on to what ISO is and how it affects your exposure.

ISO simply controls the amount of light being let into your camera. You will typically see numbers like 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc… when looking at your ISO settings. Higher end DSLRs will have settings ½ or 1/3 of the way in between those settings. A smaller ISO setting lets in less light while a higher ISO setting lets in more light.

ISO settings of 100, 200 or even 400 are typically settings used for photographing outdoors. A bright, sunny day would probably best be shot at ISO 100 while on an overcast day an ISO of 400 may be more appropriate. ISO settings of 800 and higher are appropriate to use indoors or at night where you will have less ambient light to work with. You may also need a higher ISO when you have plenty of light but need a faster shutter speed or smaller aperture…but we will talk about those in the weeks to come.

ISO 6400

ISO 6400

Bumping up your ISO to a higher setting makes it possible to capture great exposures in situations that seem to have to little light. There is a drawback to using a higher ISO, however. The higher the ISO, the more “grain” or “noise” will be visible in your image. Noise tends to be more prominent in the shadows of an image and can become excessive if your image is underexposed. It is better to capture a properly exposed image with some noise than to capture an underexposed or blurry image with less noise.

ISO Setting - 12800

ISO Setting – 12800

One thing to keep in mind is that the quality of noise in your images will vary depending on your camera. Entry level DSLRs tend to display much more noticeable noise and lower quality images at higher ISOs while higher end DSLRs will display noise, but the image quality is still high. The images you see below are examples of well exposed images at various ISO settings. These were all shot with my Canon 6D which is a great camera that does a wonderful job of capturing quality images in low light (with the proper exposure settings set by the photographer, of course).

I hope this helps to demystify the concept of ISO settings!


Examples of noise levels at different ISOs

Have you ever had an idea for capturing a perfect photo, and you were slightly disappointed when you saw the results? The image was kind of grayish and flat, the colors just didn’t pop or the highlights were blindingly white? If this has happened to you then perhaps its time to stop letting your camera make all of the decisions. Switch that sucker off of auto mode and start calling the shots in the dreaded Manual Mode (cue scary music).

Take your images to the next level. Don’t let the MAN(ufacturer) tell you how to take great photos.

Honestly though, it’s not all that scary once you get the hang of it. It may be confusing at first, but with a little practice it will soon “click” (excuse the photography pun) and make perfect sense. Trust me.

There are 3 elements that affect the exposure of your image, and you should understand their relationship with one another in order to create great exposures and fabulous photographs.

The elements are ISO, Aperture (f/stop), and Shutter Speed. Before we jump into all that jazz, let’s start by talking about the general concept of exposure. An exposure can be described in three ways: underexposed, overexposed, and properly exposed.

The image on the left is an example of underexposure. You start to lose details in the shadows. It is overall a dark image, the subject’s eyes are starting to blend into the shadows. The  image on the right is an example of overexposure. The image is washed out, and there is lost detail in the highlights (we also could say that the highlights are “blown out”). The image has lost some of its depth.

IMG_5807 underoverexposure

The final image shows a good exposure. You can see details in the highlights and in the shadows. You can see individual hairs on her head and the creases on her white shirt. There are some nice shadows on the subject’s face that really help to give the image depth.


Remember how I told you about the 3 elements of exposure? What were they again? Oh yeah, they were ISO, Aperture (f/stop), and Shutter Speed

These elements and their effect on an image’s exposure make up what we call “The Exposure Triangle”.  Each of these elements has benefits and drawbacks. There are creative reasons to change or leave alone any of the individual settings. We will discuss the details of these 3 elements in the weeks to come.