10 Things That Turned My Photography Around and Rocked My World!

 10 thingsthat turned my photos aroundAlong the way I’ve had a few Ah-ha moments! Hopefully my experience will save you a few headaches, LOL!!

1. Wide-Open; shooting with the 50mm & the 70-200mm

I could see there was something different about my images vs. the professionals…. but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I remember that moment I upgraded from a kit lens to the 50mm 1.4 and learned to shoot wide-open. My mind was blown, I could finally achieve that “look” I was going for. That “look” being a shallow depth of field! While I still had so much more to learn about shooting with a shallow DOF, my images were instantly transformed! And then a few years later, when I finally had the money to really upgrade my lens, I purchased the 70-200 2.8 and WOW!! Talk about fast, sharp and gorgeous creamy bokeh; the 70-200mm is now my favorite lens!

Kit Lens vs. 50mm 1.4

2. Photoshop (not just elements)

I seriously went from amateur to pro over night! At least that is what it felt like the day I switched to the full version of PS and learned to use layers and curves! The freedom to go back and make changes to the edits I’d done because I was using layers was life changing. I no longer spent hours starting over when I made a mistake! In addition to that, being able to use curves and the many tools the full version of PS had to offer gave me a huge advantage over what I was capable of just using elements.

3. Getting it right SOOC is more than just white balance and exposure

I kept hearing over and over that the key to a great image was getting it right straight out of camera, but despite having correct exposure and white balance I was still unhappy with the quality of my images. Then I found out that getting is right SOOC was so much more than just WB and exposure. Quality of light, choice/quality of lens and camera are equally important. Not only that but understanding how your camera works and how the settings (like shooting mode) effect your image are important.

4. Light in the right direction

Who knew something so simple as changing the direction your light is coming from could make such a difference. When I took the first image I couldn’t figure out why it looked so off, later I discovered it was the haunting look of the shadows created by the light coming from under the nose. Kind of like when you are trying to look scary while telling ghost stories and you shine a flashlight up under your face! By simply aiming the light from the other direction, from the top of the head down, you get that beautiful butterfly lighting effect.

Butterfly Lighting

5. Monitors and Calibration

I know this is a huge battle for so many. There are only a rare few who don’t have any issues with their monitors and calibration. For a long time I didn’t know you needed to calibrate your monitor for accurate color but when I found out about it I didn’t hesitate to take care of it. The only problem was… I continued to have issues with color and matching my color to my print lab. I know there a many opinions on what to do, but let me share what worked for me. Mac + Color Munki = Accurate Color. If you are currently having issues and are working on a laptop… change. If you are not working on a laptop but having issues with your calibrator… try the color munki. Beyond that, remember your lighting in the area you are viewing your monitor and prints do matter. Try to work in a room with little changes in light (no windows) or light shining on your monitor. And of course, make sure your image is correct SOOC.

6. Catchlights and Reflectors

I worked hard to get my lighting right in the first image, but little did I know simply adding a reflector would have made all the difference! Without it, there were no catchlights in her eyes and no fill light to soften harsh shadows. Later I learned you could use just about any reflective surface to do this! What a difference it made!

getting catchlights with a reflector

7. Less is Better; Leave Good Enough Alone

Ok, here is the over thinker in me…. I complicate everything when the answer is simple! If you don’t suffer from this you probably have little issues with your editing, but if you do, you are constantly making adjustments and re-editing your images to make them look right only to have them look hideous once printed and or posted online! The truth is, if your image is good SOOC, there is little you should have to do. Keep in mind, this is where understanding what a proper image SOOC looks like. Really other than some little corrections to color and some contrast, you really shouldn’t have to do much. But also understand I personally edit the crap out of my images to give them a certain look… could I get away with doing just a few things? Sure! But do I? No Way! Thats just my style ;). I guess my point is, until you become very good (experienced) in PS, just do the basics… more often than not if you are having issues with your images in print, its because you’ve overdone it. A good rule of thumb is to edit you image to how you think it looks good and then reduce your adjustments by 20-50%.

8. Graphic Tablet

I was so frustrated with my editing and how long it took! I couldn’t understand how people could so accurately edit their images without getting a noticeably smudgy edges around their subjects. And then I discovered the graphic tablet. I was skeptical it would make a difference or that I would ever be able to get the hang of it, but after about a week of using it, I will NEVER, CAN NEVER, go back! It decreased my editing time by at least half and things I could never do with a mouse, I can do with the fine accuracy of a graphic tablet! It is one of the tools I most highly recommend you get and learn to use! You won’t be sorry!


9. The Right Computer

Lagging edits…. Thinking…. Loading…. Hourglass….. Little Spinny Rainbow Wheel….YOU ARE THE DEATH OF ME!!! Ugh! Do you feel me?! Truth is… your computer does make a difference. I really am not an expert, I am slightly knowledgable at best, but here is what finally worked for me: iMac,Processor- 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7, Memory- 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 and an external hard drive for photo storage. I don’t know whether PC vs. Mac matters as long as you’ve got the power to work with the large files produced by pro cameras. I guess the bottom line is that when it comes to computers less is not better. Don’t get me wrong, I made due for many years, but ultimately if you are dealing with a slow computer it won’t get better until you upgrade to something with the capability to handle those large files.

 10. The Skin Formula

I constantly struggled with consistency and accuracy in my skin tones. I just didn’t feel like I could trust my eye to get accurate color. Then someone introduced me to “the skin formula” and my life changed! It took some practice and getting used to but once I figure it out, I was able to train my eye to see accurate color.  There are many tutorials out there on this topic and I go in depth on it in week 4 of my All The Cool Kids course, but here is a brief tutorial on what the skin formula is. Cyan value= 1/3 to 1/5 of Yellow value. Magenta value= to Yellow value or up to -10 of Yellow value. 

I hope you enjoy these tips!



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Jenny Gibson

Jenny Gibson


Married and living in Roseburg, Oregon with 4 kids of her own, she is one of the most real, honest and down to earth people you will ever meet. It’s been said that Jenny has an uncanny ability to elicit great expressions out of any kid. She believes there isn’t a child out there that she couldn’t get a great photograph of. Her secret?? Patience. Determination. And an understanding and love of children.

Jenny’s confidence and passion spills out from her ‘Can Do’ spirit. She doesn’t believe being a successful photographer is a matter of what gifts you were born with, but how hard you’ve worked and how many failures you’ve overcome. Being completely self-taught has presented her with many challenges, but also an understanding for the needs and doubts among aspiring photographers. She never claims to be the absolute expert, but is willing to do whatever it takes to figure it out, and to help those around her succeed.

Jenny has earned recognition as an award winning photographer by the National Association of Professional Child Photographers, Shoot and Share Magazine and various other blogs and websites. When she’s not being a mama or photographing clients, you can find her filling her time with a variety of creative avenues like: refinishing furniture, redesigning/remodeling her home or cutting a friend’s hair.
Jenny Gibson