Learn about Perspective (hands on camera activity for kids)

posted in: Learning | 1

Today in our ABCs of Photography series, we’re going to learn about perspective!  As always, I’ll be using simplified explanations that kids can understand (hooray!).

Learn About Perspective with these kid friendly photo activities! | BPhotoArt.comPerspective is how you look at things.  We see the world in three dimensions, but a photograph captures life and compresses it down into two dimensions.  I like this definition I found on B&H Photo (read more about their explanation of perspective):

Perspective has several different meanings—several applicable in some way to photography. For the photographer, perspective is a summation of the relationship between objects in a photograph.

This definition from School of Digital photography is nice too (what is perspective and how can we use it to improve the composition of our photographs):

Perspective refers to the relationships between objects in a photograph, the relative distance, size and space etc. perspective could be used to define a subject’s shape and form and also to convey to the viewer a sense of volume, space, depth and distance.

Okay, so let’s try and simplify that further.  Because simpler is better, right?

For photographers, perspective is how the different things in a picture appear, where they are in the photo compared to each other. Because you can’t walk into a photo (it’s flat, after all), your perspective is chosen by the photographer — they decide how things will look, where to get you to look, by how they take the picture.

 

Perspective Photo Experiment

Now, here’s an easy way to experiment with perspective!  (This one is really a fun activity, if your kids like taking pictures, like mine do).

Put some objects on your kitchen table, or a surface of any sort, really. Maybe some legos, or some fruit, it doesn’t matter what, so long as they are similar in size.  Try to put an object at each end of the table, and one in the middle too.  Maybe you put an toy truck in the middle, a toy car at one end, and a toy train at the other end.

Then, try walking around the table, looking at it from different angles.  When you take a picture from one side, the toy car will look bigger than the toy train.  When you walk around to the other end, the photo will show the toy train as being bigger.  When you take a picture from above, all three vehicles will look equally large.

Talk about these differences in perspective with your child, maybe prompting them to experiment with different angles of view as needed.  You can discuss the change in perspective during the photo taking part of the activity, or if you’d rather wait until it’s time to look at the pictures, that’s ok too.

Smartphone Panorama Perspective Experiment

Another way to see the the concept of perspective is to create a panorama with your phone — and have your kids run from one spot in the image to another while you are panning your camera phone across the room.

Yours might turn out a little mashed together, like my first attempt at this did, but your kids will undoubtedly have fun running back and forth across the room multiple times while you figure things out!

bphotoart-smartphone-pano-experiment

Your kids will be able to see how they look bigger or smaller, depending on how close to the camera they were!

Talking Points

You can make something look really really big by getting up close and below it when you take the picture.

You can make something look very small by taking the picture from above, or from far away.

Now, some people think photography isn’t an art.

But it is… photography is all about finding the right perspective, choosing the way to have the image look the way you want.  Obviously perspective is a much more complex topic than this, but you get the idea.

And by trying this exercise on perspective, I bet you’ll see it too.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Learn about Overexposure (activity for kids)

posted in: Learning | 2

It’s time to start back up our Photography ABCs as we learn about overexposure!  I know some of you have been very excited for this… as am I!  Thanks for your patience while we got my oldest used to the routine of full day school… he actually adjusted very well aside from being really tired.  Which we’re still working on.  Okay, so anyways, this week we’ll be talking about overexposure.

Simply put, overexposure is when there is too much light.  It’s kind of like when you walk outside into the bright sunlight after having been inside all day.  Your eyes take a few moments to adjust, and until that occurs, you can’t really see much around you — it’s just too bright.  That’s because your eyes haven’t closed down yet — the irises are still very much dilated and all of a sudden, a ton of light hits your retina.

That’s why doctors shine a bright light in your eyes at well visits. They want to make sure your eyes are working properly (check out our learn about aperture activity, which is the camera’s way to close out light).  And if you’ve bump your head really hard, one sign of a concussion is that your eyes don’t adjust like they’re supposed to.

Okay, well hopefully you’ve got the general idea!

Learn About Overexposure, including activities you can try on your camera phone! (Image used with permission from Pixabay.com)

Now, this is a really easy camera phone experiment that will help your kids understand the concept of overexposure.  You can do this one of several ways.

Learn about overexposure by recording a video.  

Make sure to start recording your video in a dimmer area, and then move the camera to point at a brightly lit lamp, the sky, or something else much brighter.  Depending on your camera phone’s capabilities, it will do one of two things.  Your camera might adjust the exposure in a moment, thus being only briefly overexposed, or it will stay overexposed for the duration of the video. Either way, you’ll definitely be able to see how the camera was exposing the video for the darker area, and got overexposed when you switched to the brighter spot.

Learn about overexposure by taking a picture.

With your camera phone, you might be able to tap and hold on a spot to “lock” the exposure.  If so, lock the exposure for a darker (shadowed) area, and then move the camera phone to point at something bright.  It should be very white and overexposed.

For my camera phone, when I hold down on a focus point for an extended length of time, it locks the exposure value and the focus point. Do this, then move your camera to aim at something bright to see an overexposed image.
For my camera phone, when I hold down on a focus point for an extended length of time, it locks the exposure value and the focus point. Do this, then move your camera to aim at something bright to see an overexposed image.

 

Learn about overexposure by using the over/under exposure adjustment in your camera.

Whether you’re using your camera phone or your digital camera, there is probably a setting that will allow you to manually overexpose or underexpose your image.  On my camera, I have to tap the three little dots button in the corner of the camera screen, which expands a bunch of options.  One of those options is “EV” – this is the exposure value.  It should be at +0 or something like that, meaning your image is properly exposed.  To experience overexposure, change it to +2.  That will make it two stops brighter than the camera wants to make it.

On my camera phone, I can change the exposure value to intentional overexpose or underexpose an image. Yours can probably do something like this too.
On my camera phone, I can change the exposure value to intentional overexpose or underexpose an image. Yours can probably do something like this too.

Did you notice how the image changed in that last screenshot, by the way?  My black keyboard looks light gray, the keys are even completely blown out (meaning, they have no tonal detail, it is just pure white (to learn about the tonal ranges, check out my learn about grayscale activity, complete with printable coloring page).  But to make a long story short, the lighter the tone, the quicker it will “disappear” when something gets overexposed.  So, a yellow smiley face would “disappear” into white before a dark brown horse.

Pretty cool, huh?

I bet you can come up with some other ways to learn about overexposure.  Let me know your creative ideas in the comments below!  You might also be interested in my post where we learned about exposure (both over and underexposure). Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter P. You might also enjoy revisiting our previous activity where we learned about negatives.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Make a Jack-O-Lantern Stamp from an Apple {Plus Two Halloween Crafts}

posted in: Parenting | 0

Make a Jack-O-Lantern Stamp from an Apple ...plus Two Halloween Crafts!

It’s always fun to get ready for Halloween. Whether you’re pumpkin-carving, or maybe making a costume to wear when trick-or-treating, Halloween gives us the chance to be creative (like we did with this Jack-O-Lantern stamp craft!).

Did you know that carving pumpkins didn’t become popular until the celebration of Halloween was brought to North America? Originally in Ireland, people carved lanterns out of turnips. Well, in America, of course, pumpkins were very easy to come by (not to mention easier to carve!), so the tradition evolved to include pumpkin carving.

You might want to check out my post, 6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins; or learn how to Create Your Own Pumpkin Stencil from Better Homes and Gardens.

6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins - Betsy's Photography - BPhotoArt.com

Anyways, my boys were pretty excited for fall this year.  Our neighbors had a pumpkin patch, and gave us pumpkins… so we have a very well decorated front porch.  The leaves are coming down in droves, and there have been multiple requests for a leaf pile.  And, of course, reminders that we need to carve pumpkins.  Well, I wasn’t quite ready to carve pumpkins (we went overboard last year), but wanted to give the boys a chance to do something fun for Halloween.

So, we made Halloween cards! Well, they did.  And I made a garland.

You probably have most of the supplies on hand for this craft, but here are some links in case (#afflinks)

Supplies:

How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern Stamp From an Apple

While most of this craft is kid-friendly, the first step is going to depend on how old your child is, and how much you trust them to use a knife safely.  So, most likely, you, the adult, will be doing this first step… after that, let the kids loose!

The kids were excited to make jack-o-lantern stamps...
The kids were excited to make jack-o-lantern stamps…

 

Cut the apple in half.  Then carve out a chunk for the smile, and cut out two triangles for the eyes.  If you want to get fancy and cut out teeth too, go for it.  In my book, simpler is easier!

I cut the apple in half, and carved out a face in each side -- one for each of my boys.
I cut the apple in half, and carved out a face in each side — one for each of my boys.
Toby wanted to show off his jack-o-lantern apple stamp.
Toby wanted to show off his jack-o-lantern apple stamp.

Use the Jack-O-Lantern Stamp to Make a Halloween Card

Next, put some paint out for the kids. I took a kitchen plate, covered it in a plastic grocery bag, and then put the pumpkin orange paint on top.  This made for easy clean up, and allowed the kids to smear their apple stamps around to get full coverage.

Then, let them stamp to their heart’s content on the black construction paper with their thoroughly inked stamps.  My kindergardener was able to do this all by himself, while my toddler needed help placing the stamp down so the paint didn’t smear.  I didn’t think of this until after we were done with the project, but you could take a corn holder (for corn on the cob) and stick it in the skin side of the apple, creating a handle.

Oh well… hindsight is 20/20.

After the boys gleefully covered their paper cards with pumpkin stamps, I got out the white crayons.  My toddler was uninterested in crayons, and moved onto another activity, but my kindergardener sounded out and wrote an entire greeting on his Halloween card.  It’s so cute when kids start to learn to write… I love the phonetic spelling stage 🙂 🙂 …it’s so adorable!  But, I admit, it’s sometimes hard to read.  So, I did write a transcription of the message and tape it onto the card before we delivered it.

This craft took about 5 minutes for me to think up and prepare for the boys… and it occupied them for maybe a half hour.  Your mileage may vary, depending on your child’s interest and age.

Once you coat it with paint, the jack-o-lantern stamp looks a lot less like an apple, and more like a pumpkin.
Once you coat it with paint, the jack-o-lantern stamp looks a lot less like an apple, and more like a pumpkin.
Both boys diligently stamped away on their black construction paper to create lovely Halloween cards.
Both boys diligently stamped away on their black construction paper to create lovely Halloween cards.
Toby was definitely old enough to handle this craft on his own.
Toby was definitely old enough to handle this craft on his own.
The paint transferred better when we pushed really hard and went slower rather than faster.
The paint transferred better when we pushed really hard and went slower rather than faster.

 

Toby decided to personalize his Halloween card further by writing "Happy Halloween" ...among other things.
Toby decided to personalize his Halloween card further by writing “Happy Halloween” …among other things.
The apple stamps worked pretty well, I'd say. This crafting session was a success!
The apple stamps worked pretty well, I’d say. This crafting session was a success!

Use the Jack-O-Lantern Stamp Make a Halloween Garland

After the boys were done, I cut up some black construction paper into triangles and stamped them with the jack-o-lantern stamp.

Once the paint was dry, I punched holes in the corners and then had my older boy thread yarn through the holes so we could hang it up.

Voila!  Fun and easy decorations for my front door!

Mom's project while the boys made cards? cutting triangles from the construction paper so I could make a fun jack-o-lantern garland.
Mom’s project while the boys made cards? cutting triangles from the construction paper so I could make a fun jack-o-lantern garland.
I punched holes in the triangles and threaded floss through to string them together.
I punched holes in the triangles and threaded floss through to string them together.
We hung it over the sliding glass door, upon my boys' request.
We hung it over the sliding glass door, upon my boys’ request.
The boys decided it looked very spooky!
The boys decided it looked very spooky!

Use Your Imagination!

I am sure there are a million other ways you could use this cute jack-o-lantern stamp…

Do you have any other ideas for an extension activity based on this project?  Think of something else you could stamp with an apple Jack-o-lantern stamp?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Our Experience With Online Piano Lessons

posted in: Parenting | 0

bphotoart-busy-kids-piano-lessons-2I love music. And my kids do too. But that’s not news to you, since I’ve blogged about raising kids who love music in the past, as well as why you shouldn’t give up piano.   Now, my boys haven’t really had formal lessons, as they haven’t been old enough.  But this summer, Toby, now in kindergarten, asked if he could take piano lessons.

Perfect timing!

So, I went digging through my music cabinet to see what books might be suitable for a younger piano student. I have quite a wide span of material, not surprisingly (my grandmother was an organist and a piano teacher, and I took piano lessons in grades K-12). When I inherited my grandmother’s upright piano, my mom gave me even more piano lesson books.

I found some books by Faber and Faber that I thought would be helpful (you can find lots of Faber and Faber piano books on Amazon #afflink). But I wondered if there was something else out there for the beginning pianist.  Something more modern and interactive.

busy-kids-do-piano

That’s when I discovered Busy Kids Do Piano (#afflink). When I saw this review opportunity grace my inbox, I was really excited! Busy Kids Do Piano is a complete system that includes online lesson videos and printable worksheets. Like any quality program, it’s not free.  The Busy Kids Do Piano course is $49.95, which works out to a more than reasonable fee of $2.50/lesson.

Let me digress for just a moment. You may know that learning music isn’t just about learning to play the notes. It’s also about understanding rhythm. So when you research a learning method, it’s important to evaluate how well it teaches rhythm, note length, and other basic concepts… because these are the building blocks you need to make a strong foundation for later understanding of music.

So, for me, it was important to ask myself, does Busy Moms Do Piano teach these concepts?

The answer is yes.

For the first lesson, she doesn’t even have kids use the piano — because they are learning about rhythm. Toby had fun choosing a percussion instrument from our musical instrument box — he selected two, actually.

With a tambourine and a rhythm stick in hand, Toby listened intently as he learned about the different notes, what they looked like, and how long their counts are. He practiced tapping along for the different notes, and I made sure he understood the concept of “holding” the note.

After playing the video through a couple times so that Toby could play along as instructed, he was ready to work on his worksheet.

I’m not one to force too much learning in one sitting, but when my kids are interested in a concept, I’m all for continuing!

So I pulled out the first worksheet and Toby worked his way through it. He learned how to draw a whole note, a half note, and a quarter note. We played the rhythm that was written on the page together.

Toby had fun completing the printable worksheets!
Toby had fun completing the printable worksheets!

Over the next days, Toby continued to be excited about piano, and repeatedly asked me when he could do another piano lesson.  Specifically, “the one with the video.”  Score!  I love it when my kids stay interested in something.

Looking back at our experience, I would say my child enjoyed Busy Kids Do Piano, and I did too.  The materials were clear and I was able to walk Toby through the activities without any trouble.  While I would have been comfortable teaching a more traditional lesson to my child, I think Busy Kids Do Piano is a great program for anyone who wants to familiarize their children with piano.  It’s an easy way to try out piano lessons, with the benefits of being able to go at your own pace, and being able to do the lessons anytime, anywhere.  And, as I mentioned, the fee for the material is more than economical when you consider a typical in-person music lesson might cost more like $30 for a half hour.

Can the Busy Kids Do Piano (#afflink) method replace a traditional teacher?  I think that’s hard to say…it depends on what you’re looking for, honestly.  For beginning musicians, or children you want to acclimate to music?  Sure.  For more advanced students?  Nope.  But it’s definitely a starting point for entry into the wonderful world of music!   I grew up taking music lessons, and a number of my relatives are musicians.  I think music lessons with a live teacher play an important role in shaping the musical experiences of children.  The instant feedback, the communication — you just don’t get that with a video lesson.  But these lessons are a good way to set the stage for learning music in the more traditional way, later on.

bphotoart-busy-kids-piano-lessons

Note: I received this product free in exchange for an honest evaluation and review.  The opinions and thoughts expressed are 100% my own.

“Why Do I Always Dislike How I Look In Photos?”

posted in: Notes | 1

This is one of the complaints I hear a lot.  Whether it’s a client coming to me for a session, or just a comment in the course of casual conversation, the sentiment is the same.  Most of us don’t like how we look in photos.

But why?

I ran across an article (What’s Up With That: You Hate Pictures of Yourself) the other day that hit the nail on the head. It talked about a term called mere-exposure:

Formulated in 1968 by a psychologist named Robert Zajonc, it basically says that people react more favorably to things they seen more often. Zajonc tested this with everything from shapes, to facial expressions, even nonsense words. Since we see ourselves most frequently in the mirror, this is our preferred self-image. According to the mere-exposure effect, when your slight facial asymmetries are left unflipped by the camera, you see an unappealing, alien version of yourself.

And wow.  I can’t believe I never quantified this reason before, but it makes total sense.  We all know ourselves based on part of our daily morning routine —  the mirror.  We’ve grown up seeing ourselves a certain way — and the bathroom mirror is we spend time making ourselves look beautiful, or examining the intricate details (and yikes, flaws) in our facial features.

So what’s that got to do with this?

Well, our faces aren’t perfectly symmetrical.

One eyebrow may rise a little higher on your left side, your smile might pull back a little more on the right.  But when we see these things in photographs, it’s on the “wrong” side.

When you see yourself in a photo — it looks “wrong” because it’s different.

The photo is flipped — it’s not a mirror image, so the facial features you’re used to are on the opposite sides.

And that’s where this sentiment comes in.  Even if you look great in your photos, they probably will look a little foreign to you because you don’t look the same as you see yourself in the mirror, day in and day out.

This is why sometimes everyone loves your photos but you.  They see you and know you as the photos capture you.

But you?  You know yourself in the mirror — the mirror image of that photo.

It’s not that you hate how you look though.  It’s just that you don’t really recognize yourself (This is The Real Reason You Always Hate How You Look in Photos):

Ultimately, when we dislike a picture of ourselves, it’s not that we think we look necessarily ugly. It’s just that we find our other self — our inverse self — more attractive.

If you ask a third party for their opinion on the photo, chances are you’ll get a different perspective on whether that photograph actually looks like you than if you tried to make that decision yourself.

Depending on the person, they may like one image of you better and another image less — purely because of which facial features and expressions of yours they have seen you make most!

So next time you see yourself in a photo and think about saying you don’t like how you look, just take a moment to remember — you know yourself as you see your face in the mirror.  There’s definitely no exact science to which photo of you is best.

But chances are, you do look good — like yourself — in photos after all (although maybe not to you!).

family-photo-mirror

 

5 Tips That Will Save Your Sanity

posted in: Parenting | 0

five tips that will save your sanity - betsy's photography - bphotoart.comWhile our goal may be to keep life stress-free, you know as well as I do that that just doesn’t happen. Somehow, things always manage to complicate life, and sometimes we just want to throw in the towel.

My own search for sanity hasn’t been completely successful, but then again, I doubt it ever will be. Instead of trying to eliminate stress, I’ve found that it’s better to find activities that are relaxing — find a way to relieve stress when it comes into my busy life.  Read on for Five Tips that will Save Your Sanity!

Breathe.

Have you noticed that when you take short, quick, breaths, your body gets more tense? Well, the opposite is true too. When you’re feeling stressed, managing your breathing is an easy and effective way to relax your body and mind.

Instead of just breathing from your chest, take deeper breaths — your stomach should expand as you use your diaphragm to fill your lungs completely. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…

Breathing slowly and deliberately will make your body relax and will clear your mind, allowing you to regain your sanity!

Exercise.

This is one of the best ways to relieve stress, anger, or frustration! By exercising, you can relieve pent-up energy and direct it towards something more beneficial (we all know it’s not good to internalize things, right?).

Plus, you’ll feel better and have more energy to do the things you love!

Of course, exercise also has the added benefit of being good for your health and maintaining weight — but think of those as “bonuses” :).

Be Flexible.

Some of the most common sources of stress could be avoided if we are willing to compromise.

Of course, there’s a time and a place to stand your ground, but sometimes there is room to give. A little flexibility can go a long way towards maintaining sanity.

Schedule “You” Time.

Yes, it’s important to help others, but you also need to help yourself. By dedicating time to your needs, you’ll be more refreshed and better prepared when it comes time to help others.

Try to spend some time each day doing something for you — it could be a getting a manicure, reading a book, or even painting a picture.

Spend some time doing what you love so that you will be able to enjoy doing things for others.

Get Enough Sleep.

Not surprisingly, sleep is important. If you’re like me, when you get too little sleep, things seem to be more frustrating and exasperating. In turn, this makes life more stressful.

While I’m not saying you need to go to bed when the kids do, it probably will make life a little less stressful if you make an effort to get to bed by your bedtime. Well, what if it’s just one of those days? Try getting a nap in, and if that doesn’t help, you can revert to your normal pick-me-up (e.g. coffee, tea, or chocolate) for the day.

So, there you have it! Five easy tips for maintaining your sanity and keeping your life as stress-free as possible! Of course, these are just suggestions; I’m sure you can think of additional activities and methods to reduce stress and keep calm. Just remember, a healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy mind. It is worth your time to unwind and relax — as you begin to focus on saving your sanity, chances are, you just might find yourself starting each day with more energy and excitement!

Spring Art Exhibit features Fine Art Photograph by Betsy Finn

posted in: Local | 0

A fine art photograph by Dexter Michigan photographer Betsy Finn has been included in a local spring art exhibit.  The photograph, titled “Jerusalem of Gold,” was taken at sunrise on Easter Sunday.  Finn and her traveling companions arrived at the scenic viewpoint on the Mount of Olives before dawn on the day she created this photograph.  As the sun rose, Finn captured a series of images, and ultimately blended them together to create a breathtaking panoramic view of Jerusalem.  The fine art print is approximately 8″ tall by 40″ long.

Jerusalem of Gold, fine art photograph taken at sunrise on Easter Sunday in Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

The spring art exhibit in which Finn’s work is featured is one of three yearly juried shows put on by the Ann Arbor Women Artists, a local non-profit group with about 330+ members.  Finn was one of 35 members whose art was chosen to be included in the spring exhibit, which runs March 13 through April 29th at the Mallets Creek Library in Ann Arbor.

Below are two images from the opening reception, held the evening of Friday, March 18th at the Mallets Creek Branch of the Ann Arbor Public Library.

Betsy Finn's fine art photograph on display at the ann arbor spring art exhibit
Attendees of the opening reception discuss “Jerusalem of Gold” with one another.
Betsy Finn's fine art photograph on display at the ann arbor spring art exhibit
Finn’s fine art photograph was hung in main area where the opening reception was held, alongside many other gorgeous fine art pieces.

The spring art exhibit will be on display at the Mallets Creek Library in Ann Arbor through April 29th.  We hope you will consider stopping by to view the many wonderful artworks on display.  Many of the art pieces on display, including Finn’s panorama, “Jerusalem of Gold,” are for sale, so if you’re looking to add some art by local artists to your fine art collection, this might be the perfect opportunity to view a variety of pieces.

Michigan Family Photo (in the studio)

posted in: Notes | 0

Here’s a simple family portrait that we did at the studio.  The whole thing took about thirty minutes, including photos of the kids by themselves.  If you’re looking for quick and easy, there’s nothing simpler than that.

bphotoart-family-kids-brothers-studio-photo-folio

And yes, the kids were being silly, but you wouldn’t know it by the end result (well, not by the family photo, at least).  We did take some silly pictures of the boys together, of course.  Want to know how this client thought the session went?  Here you are:

“Betsy was professional, efficient, and produced a lovely portrait for us! She was great handling my kids’ antics and going with the flow. Thanks, Betsy!” – Abbie L.

Getting your family photo done doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful.  You deserve a hassle-free portrait experience.  Choose a photographer you can trust to make that happen.  For more information about planning your next Michigan family photo with Betsy, contact her today.

Motorcycle Racing Painting

posted in: Fine Art | 0

It’s interesting to see how motion is captured — whether in a photograph, or through other media.  I had fun creating this painting of a racing motorcycle (based on a photograph by Steve Sewell).  Brush strokes, whether “in real life” or digital, convey motion, impart a sense of speed.  This “quick draw” painting was completed in about an hour, give or take.  I had fun playing around with different brush strokes, but really wanted an abstract feel for the background on this one.  The brush strokes lend a sense of motion, though they are a bit rough.

motorcycle racing painting, based on a photograph by Steve Sewell
Motorcycle racing painting, based on a photograph by Steve Sewell

The thing about art is — you can spend hours on it.  Tweaking brush strokes, overworking details, deciding you both love and hate the painting at the same time.  Art is personal, involved. It’s not just an image, it’s about the emotion.

I could come back to this same motorcycle photograph tomorrow and end up with a completely different painting.  It’s all about the feel you’re going for in an image, how rough you want it to be, how refined.

Art is fluid, everchanging.

Art is personal.

As an aside, if you want to commission a painting from one of your own snapshots, please contact me.  I’d love to find out what styles of art interest you, the look you’re going for, and what excites you about your image.

What Kind of Camera Should You Get?

posted in: Parenting | 0

What Kind of Camera Should You Get? Moms weigh in on their go-to favorite camerasThe inevitable question that is asked of me, as a photographer, is this:

“I’m looking at getting a new camera, what kind should I get?”

I have to break it to you.

There is no simple answer.

Sure, I could tell you to go for the biggest and the best.  Or the most expensive.  But what good will that really do you?

Instead, my usual reply is this:

What do you want to use it for?

Then, depending on how the conversation goes, I might ask what type of bag you want to carry around if you plan to have your camera on hand always.  Do you have a purse that can fit the kitchen sink?  Yes? Well, then that entry-level DSLR might not be a bad idea.

But, on the other hand, if you’re like me, and have a small purse, or sometimes no purse at all, then you might want to think in terms of compact cameras.  The quality on today’s cameras is really phenomenal, so it depends, again, on what you’re going to use it for.

What I like about my “everyday camera” is that I can fit it in my pocket.  And I can use it with one hand.  Bonus points because it takes videos.

Actually, the HD video feature was a selling point for me.  For my personal use, I wanted a camera that could document our everyday moments. One that could record my boys as they took their first steps. A camera that would be on hand and easy to operate while I maneuvered around small children.

I didn’t want something I needed to think about. Or a camera with a lot of parts.

Changing lenses?  Not something I wanted to deal with.

But then again, I’m a professional photographer. I do this day in and day out.  I need to draw the line, find a way to experience my life rather than concentrate all my energy on documenting it.  So the compact camera was my choice.  I am still happy with my five year old Canon G12 (#afflink – I’m using Amazon affiliate links in this entire post, thanks for your support!).

When you buy a camera, make sure you’re confident in the brand.  In the five years since I purchased my G12, I’ve had to send it in for repairs twice… due to inadvertent camera drops.  Fortunately, I know Canon stands behind their product, and that the repairs they do are top notch.  Just something to consider if you look into any off brand cameras.

So, what should you do if your 10 year old camera is dying?  Have you been told it’s better to buy a new one than to repair?  Are you hoping to find recommendations for a good replacement?  What to do…

Think about what you want.

Do you want small size, portability? Do you want easy to use, easy to download, etc?  It all comes down to personal preference.

Now, let’s hear from some other people about their favorite camera.  These all happen to be moms who use their cameras on a regular basis.  Their opinions vary as much as their cameras do, but each has figured out what works best for them.

Now, as you read through these thoughts below, consider which opinions echo your own sentiments.  It may just help you get a better idea of what camera you should get.

 


Canon DSLR Bundle – Canon EOS Rebel T5 with 2 lenses #afflink
It’s easy to use, takes great pics and came with 2 lenses. It can be cumbersome to take to school events where there’s not much room in the seating area but I love it.

Peta Groth, www.greatgoogamoogas.com


iPhone + DSLR – iPhone or Nikon D3200 with 2 lenses

IPhone (does that count?) I have a lovely Nikon DSLR that takes great pictures, but my phone fits in my pocket and is always on hand. I make a point to pull out the Nikon for fun sometimes and for special trips and events, but when capturing our everyday moments I almost always use the IPhone.

Erin Buhr, www.bambinitravel.com


Canon DSLR – Canon EOS 70D kit

Canon 70D – being able to shoot in manual mode to get quality pictures is invaluable to me. I would rather carry around a nice camera bag that looks like a purse with my DSLR in it than have mediocre photos of the memories I care about. Getting used to carrying a bigger camera was pretty easy too and I am much happier with the results even though I have an awesome camera on my phone.

Kara Carrero ALLterNATIVElearning.com


 

Olympus Tough Waterproof Camera

These days my go to camera is an Olympus Tough point and shoot. Since I’m in my 40s, I cut my teeth on heavy SLR film cameras–I didn’t go digital until my first kid was 4, and I’ve had enough of carrying a giant bag for camera and baby gear. The Tough is water proof, dirt proof, drop proof and fits in my jean’s pocket. I have boys, I need to be able to keep up with them! Plus it takes blog worthy photos. (I have a Sony a100 DSLR if I feel like dragging it around.)

Denise Bertacchi, stlMotherhood.com


 

Nikon DSLR

I am always carrying around my Nikon DSLR. I hate it when I am stuck using my camera phone to capture a really great moment of my kids because the quality is not up to par. I purchased a new larger purse so my camera fits in it so I will always be prepared to snap away!

Katie Pinch www.alittlepinchofperfect.com


 

Canon Elf – Canon Powershot Elf 350

I have a simple canon elf that tucks into my purse that seems to have 9 lives. (it has been dropped, stepped on, splashed, and still works 7 years and 3 kids later!) It takes good photos and videos for it’s size and price. My kids use it often too! I also have a Canon Rebel EOS that has a much clearer image, but is bulkier, so I use a camera case when bringing it out and about. I love the clarity of the picture and couldn’t image life without it! The image is clear and I can change lenses but it doesn’t have video.

Amanda Boyarshinov www.theeducatorsspinonit.com


I hope you found this post helpful!  It’s always tough to decide on something like what camera you should get, so if this post has helped you at all, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

Professional Portrait – Woman

posted in: Notes | 0

When it comes to convincing you of the value of what we do, there’s no better way than to simply pair an image with words.  Words, that is, from the client.  Because their testimonials cut to the heart of it all, and mean more than any words we could assemble.

I so appreciate what you have done.  You did a great job with taking the photo; you were professional and quick! My time is precious with a busy schedule but you got me in and out with a great outcome. The retouching you did was fabulous. Thank you so much.

bphotoart-professional-headshot-woman-photo-studio-folio

Yes, a picture says a thousand words.  But sometimes you need just a few more.  If you want to read more testimonials from other clients, please do so!  Rest assured that we can quickly and easily create a business headshot for you within a half hour at the studio.  You’ll be pleased with the results, and when you use your updated professional portrait you will be making the right first impression!

 

Horse + Rider Painting (from Photograph)

posted in: Fine Art | 1

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Finding Time For Yourself), this year I’ve been trying to incorporate art into my daily routine.  For the most part, this has been in my sketchbook, with pen and paper.  But today, I took some time to experiment with digital painting.  This painting is based on a photograph taken by Bhakti Iyata (source: Pixabay.com).  I had a lot of fun painting digitally.  It always takes time to find a groove when working with new media, and digital is no exception.  But my goal was to capture the essence of the image, the feeling, and keep things kind of spontaneous.  Oh, and experiment with the painting process and “media” available digitally (i.e. all the fancy schmancy brushes).

digital painting of a woman riding her horse, cowgirl at a rodeo.
Painting of a woman riding her horse, based on a photograph by Bhakti Iyata (Source: Pixabay.com)

I’m liking the results, especially considering the amount of time I spent on it (maybe an hour or so of experimentation).  I’m not completely in love with the airbrush streaks on the woman’s hair and the horse’s mane, but that’s okay.  Art is a process.  The more time you spend practicing, the more you can refine your skills.

As an aside, if you have a photograph that you’d like turned into a painted art piece, please get in touch (contact Betsy).  I’d love to help talk with you about how I could create a custom art piece from one of your treasured snapshots.

Now, back to the daily art thing.  I have been pretty consistent!  Yes, I’ve taken a few days off, but other days I’ve had time to finish more than one sketch.  It’s interesting how creative inspiration strikes.

My takeaway so far from this endeavor?

  • it’s good to let your goals have fluidity.  I don’t want to be stuck doing something daily “just because” or out of obligation.  The whole purpose of this was to spend some time every day doing something for myself.
  • Don’t feel pressured.  Yes, I wanted to say “I’ve completed a drawing every day” — but realistically, I know this isn’t feasible.  Some days I’ve just done quick sketches.  Other days I’ve had time to spend an hour or two drawing.  Just do what you can, when you can.
  • It’s good to take a break.  Time off gives balance, refreshes, energizes you.  Our work week has a weekend (even though many of us don’t stop working), the creation story has a day of rest, exercise schedules incorporate “off days.”  It’s no good to be in a state of constant activity.  Rest, reflection… they’re good for the soul.
  • Include others.  Some of the days I’ve had most fun drawing were when I did collaborative sketches with my son, Toby.  It was fun to work on something together, to chat as we drew, and to have more than one creative opinion expressed in the final piece.  A note to Type A individuals — if you let a child collaboratively draw with you, set aside any expectations or need for things to go a certain way. It just won’t happen.

Am I going to continue?

Yes, probably.  Though I am not officially committing to a drawing (or painting) every day, I’d like to continue engaging the creative portion of my brain daily.  It’s really interesting how much that overflows to the rest of my daily routine.

In a nutshell… find time to do what you love on a regular basis, even if you have to make major changes to your definition of that activity.  Five minutes drawing.  Reading one chapter of a book.  Taking a five minute walk.  Playing games as a family once a month.

Whatever it is that energizes and inspires you, make it something you can realistically do.

Family Photo at Barton Hills Country Club

posted in: Notes | 0

We photographed this family a while back, during the summer months. It’s always nice to be able to plan a family photo session for someplace outdoors.  And if you can choose a location that is meaningful for your family, so much the better!  For a golfing family, there is no place better for family pictures than at the golf course.  So we did their family picture at Barton Hills Country Club, their favorite golf course.

Family photos don’t have to be formal, they don’t have to be held in the studio.  It’s just as easy to go on location and find someplace that really reminds you of what’s important to your family.

Ann Arbor Graffiti Alley Senior Photos

posted in: Notes | 0

It can be tough to find a spot for senior photos that hasn’t been overused.  But even with a place as popular as Ann Arbor’s graffiti alley, it’s all about your vision.  Betsy uses her photographic talent to bring dramatic lighting and different camera angles together so that your senior photos will look unique — even if they are taken in a popular place for senior pictures.

Don’t worry so much about whether a particular spot is “overused” — make sure you trust your senior photos to the right photographer, so that you can get creative and unique results — no matter where your senior photos are taken.

For this high school senior’s portraits, we went on location for the bulk of her session.  We also did some traditional senior portraits back at the studio, though by traditional we really mean studio setting, with studio lights.  With the right clothing, even something simple can still be personalized and unique.  With senior portraits, if you’re going to do a two part session, we recommend starting at the studio — that way you have time to get used to being in front of the camera (Betsy will do her best to help you relax and start having fun ASAP).  These studio photos are often used for high school yearbook submissions, as they usually have backdrop requirements and such.  Once we have that out of the way, it’s off to the location of your choice for a fun and creative photography experience!

Newborn Baby Photos in Studio

posted in: Notes | 0

Sometimes with a new baby in the family it can be tough to get out of the house.  But one of the first excursions, in our biased opinion, should be for newborn pictures! If you are looking for those adorable sleeping baby photos, it is best to plan this session for the first week or two of baby’s life.  Because as we all know, babies sleep a lot to begin with, and then become more alert more often as they get older.  That’s why we have so much interest in our Baby’s First Year plan — it includes multiple sessions so you can have us photograph each adorable stage.

Siblings and family members are always welcome in newborn baby photos!  If you’re worried your kids won’t sit still for the camera — just relax and let us do our thing.  Betsy has many tricks to get willful little ones looking their best for the camera.

Extended Generations Family Photo

posted in: Notes | 0

There’s something unique and special about extended family portraits.  Yes, it can seem tough to get the whole family together.  But it is worth it. Because you’re bringing the whole family together.  So plan your session, have Betsy create your portraits, and then take the rest of the evening to be together as a family.  Life is too short, we all are too busy.  You have to make family a priority.  You deserve to have portraits not just of your kids, but of your entire family, on your wall.

A secondary challenge?  Location.  Sometimes people want to have their family photo taken, but aren’t sure where to do it.  Well, the studio is always an option.  But Betsy likes to recommend you consider having your family photo taken somewhere more unique to your family.  Your parents’ home.  The old farm house that’s been in the family for generations.  The park where your grandfather proposed to your grandmother.  Family photos are a special occasion — and it’s ok to put some thought into planning where you want yours done!

The Easy Way to Draw a Heart + A Photo Valentine Craft

posted in: Parenting | 0

Last year in preschool, Toby’s teacher taught him (and me) a neat way to draw a heart.  It’s so ingenius that I had to share.  And since this trick about how to make a hear is so short and sweet, I thought I would also share an idea for making a photo Valentine’s Day card too.

But first, this trick for drawing a heart.

If your child is learning their letters, this method will be something they can do — Toby learned how to draw hearts this way at the age of three.

You need two letters to make the heart.  First you draw a big “V” — and then you put a little “m” on top of it. I’ve included a diagram below, that shows the heart with the “V” and the “m” not-quite-put-together, as well as the final heart.

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft

Pretty simple, huh?

It’s amazing what kids gravitate towards.

So, now onto part two of this post.  The photo Valentine craft.

We usually have some holiday cards left over every year, so I let the kids turn them into photo crafts until we run out.  Last year we made photo valentines with pictures, and my toddler had fun, so I decided to make a photo Valentine’s Day card a little early so I could share the idea with you!

Toby was taking a rare nap when we created this card, so I had an 18 month old’s help putting on glue and decorating.  But hopefully this rendition will inspire you, in the very least!

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-5

As you can see, I cut out some heart shapes, and cut out the photo of our family in a heart shape as well.  With an older child, I would have drawn the heart outlines and handed over a pair of scissors.  Toby would’ve loved that.  But, Zack just enjoyed helping my hands open and close the scissors as I cut.  And he wanted to use the marker too, so I let him have free reign of the inside of the Valentine’s card.  We kept it pretty simple. “Happy Valentine’s Day” on the front of the card, with “love Zack” on the inside.

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-4 bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-3

Then we digressed to other activities.  Zack found the paper I had gotten out, and a pen.  He had fun drawing on the paper, and wanted more hearts. So I drew him a few.

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-2

After tearing up some paper, grabbing the scissors, and exhausting his young attention span, we were done with our photo Valentine craft activity.  Zack is a little young to do more than help push the cut out objects onto the card, but he did really enjoy the portions of this activity where I let him help.

Do you make homemade Valentine’s Day cards?  Have you ever included photos in your Valentines?  What do you think about the “trick” for drawing a heart? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Thankfulness + Gratitude Journal

posted in: Parenting | 0

bphotoart-gratitude-thankfulness-journalSometimes it’s hard to stay positive. This life is full of heartbreak and troubles.  Something that has helped our family lately?  A gratitude journal.  Also known as a thankfulness journal.  I got the idea from a good friend who has gone through a lot.  She mentioned that this simple act of writing down five things a day that she is thankful for has helped her realize how much good there is in her life.

Starting a thankfulness journal is a step towards a change in perspective.  It helps you focus on the good.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit

Being thankful, being grateful, about the things in your life …these small things can help cultivate a happy heart. Happiness is a choice, and the more you work on cultivating it, the more it permeates your life.

When I started my gratitude and thankfulness journal, my son, Toby, was really interested — and wanted his own thankfulness journal too.  So I found another notebook lying around the house and gave it to him.  He was thrilled.

Since Toby is just learning to read and write, his thankfulness journal looks a little different than mine.  I usually write the date for him (he’s started tracing it after I write it), and then he draws a picture on that page.  After that, we talk about his drawing, and depending on the complexity of the subject, I’ll write some notes about (porcupine and and obstacle course) it or have Toby write the words (i.e. race car, or airplane).  For him, it’s more of a focusing tool, a way to spend time drawing each day and thinking about what he is doing rather than just scribbling out a tornado (like he does sometimes with his school journal).

Some of Toby's drawings, including a bird on the left page and race car on the right page.
Some of Toby’s drawings, including a bird on the left page and race car on the right page.
Toby showing his drawing of a fishing boat on the left, and a playground in the rain on the right.
Toby showing his drawing of a fishing boat on the left, and a playground in the rain on the right.

My thankfulness journal is just words.  I end up using about a third of one page daily, by the time I write all five things I’m grateful and thankful for.  every item on my list is numbered, one through five, each day.  And I always start with “I am thankful” or “I am grateful” …just the simple act of writing those words hammers home what I am deciding to be happy about.

 

Some days, it's tough to find five "worthwhile" things to be thankful for. Other days, it is tough to stop at just five.
Some days, it’s tough to find five “worthwhile” things to be thankful for. Other days, it is tough to stop at just five.

The most consistent time for me to do my journal is right before bed, when the house is quiet and I have time to reflect on the day.  It helps me to find good, to see how I am blessed — even when I have a rough day.  Even if I can’t come up with something entirely original, I’ve never skimped on my daily list.

What have I listed?

It varies depending on the day.

Some days I’ve been thankful for the fact both boys took a nap, or that I got to take a nap myself.  Other days I’ve been grateful for miracles, both big and small.  Like a relative’s recovery from surgery complications, or that my son inexplicably found a precious earring that I had lost half a year earlier. I’ve focused on finding reasons to be thankful about my life — my husband, my boys, my pets, my home.

Toby with his thankfulness journal -- showing his drawing of a toy
Toby with his thankfulness journal — showing his drawing of a toy

There is so much in my life that I have — and all too often, I take it for granted.

This thankfulness and gratitude journal has been a way for me to change that. The best part of this method of journaling? It’s brief, succinct.  Anyone can find five minutes a day to write down five quick items.  Because in all honesty, it doesn’t take much longer than that.

Toby writing in his thankfulness journal.
Toby writing in his thankfulness journal.

And one thing I like about this journaling concept?  It focuses on the positive.  The only journals I previously knew about were ones where you chronicled daily life.  And what tends to come to the forefront?  The negative.  I don’t want to focus my life on the negative.  I don’t want to leave a written legacy that focuses on things in life that drag me down.  I want to focus on the positive. I want my written legacy to be inspiring and motivating.

And that’s why I keep this journal.  Because my days seem to go better when I make time for it.

Do you journal?  What do you write about?  Would you consider starting a thankfulness journal?  Would your kids do this with you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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