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Photography Basics

Quick Tips to Better Photos



Quick Tips to Better Photos | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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As a professional photographer, I often find myself on the receiving end of countless questions from new camera owners who are frustrated with their pictures. As a mother, it’s especially hard to hear from other mothers who are disappointed with having missed out on capturing special moments with their kids because they couldn’t get their cameras to produce quality results. Thankfully, with the help of the endless supply of information on the internet and a little elbow grease, a little education and practice goes a long way with photography and with your camera. Here are a few quick tips to better photos that are sure to improve your final results.

Quick Tips to Better Photos - Camera Graphic
1. Look for the light! Photography is all about light. It’s something we often take for granted and rarely pay attention to. Start watching your house throughout the day. Where does the sun travel? Which rooms are the brightest? At what time of day? I happen to know that the upstairs master bedroom is filled with brilliant sunlight at 10AM every morning just as the sun breaks over the tops of the other roofs in the neighborhood. If I wanted to take pictures of the boys when they were babies, I always aimed for that time of day in that room. I’d drag their jumpers, bassinets, Boppys, whatever I needed to that special corner of the house. I also have a tiny patch of wall in our living room next to the television that is a nice clean spot with fresh light almost all day long. Now that they’re older and we’re on the move, if I want to grab a picture in a new outfit or just some funny faces quickly, I have them sit against that wall and I shoot away. The greatest frustration as a new camera owner comes from trying to force good photos in bad conditions. Throw yourself a bone and identify the available resources around you. Find the light!
Quick Tips to Better Photos - Take Better Pictures of Your Children
2. Read your manual! I know, I know. I am definitely one of those people who has a stack of manuals for every device or appliance I’ve ever owned stashed in a closet somewhere, unread. If you read one manual in your life, READ YOUR CAMERA MANUAL. Your camera is one tool that will absolutely get you nowhere if you don’t know how to use it. You’ll be stuck in Auto mode with very little wiggle room until you take some time to identify what your camera can do, along with the whys and the hows. In truth, there will be a lot of words in there that make absolutely no sense when you first read through. Thanks to technology today, we have endless resources to help fill in the blanks. There are countless tutorials on YouTube, any number of photographers holding basic classes (myself included!) and even local art schools that offer workshops. Get a leg up by asking the important questions (i.e. What the heck does Aperture mean?) and by doing some basic research.
3. Shade is your friend. I know, this sounds like a contradiction to #1. What we’re really doing is taking our light search one step further. Yes, we are looking for light. But what kind of light? FRIENDLY light. Think about it…what happens when you step out on the beach on a sunny day? Everyone squints, eyes water and we battle the harsh reflection of the blazing sun on the water and the sand. Off hand, one might think the beach was the best place to shoot because of its endless supply of bright light. In reality, it’s that harsh beach light that most of the time we’re seeking to curb with sunglasses, hats or umbrellas when we’re out soaking up the sun. As photographers, we are looking for gentle light. The kind of shade that comes underneath a big tree and allows your kids to smile and play without a care in the world. This is the difference between going in my back yard and shooting in the grass right in the sun and going in my back yard and shooting under the canopy on the back deck. There is light in both places, just different types of light and one which works best for me instead of making me work harder. Photographer secret? Cloudy days are your best friend!! Then you can shoot just about anywhere without having to worry about bright sun, shadows or patchy light.
Quick Tips to Better Photos - Take Better Pictures of Your Children
4. Ashton Kutcher is a dirty dog. There is nothing that angers me more than those stupid commercials where he makes taking perfect pictures look like an effortless breeze while he flies through the air or twirls on the dance floor. Technology these days has made us very lazy. We expect our tools to do all the work for us while we just push a button. Photography is one art form where that absolutely does not work. You have to know what you’re doing to get the best results. I hate to break it to ya…but there is no easy button. Ashton Kutcher is a filthy liar. A cute, funny, lying pile of hot, adorable jerkface crap.
5. See the world your children see. Get low! (Yup, singing that ghetto rap song! Totally inappropriate college throwback!) Meet your children where they are at and you’ll see more smiles and more engagement. Let them invite you into their world and capture them in their element! As adults, we forget that their perspective is entirely different and the world looks completely different to them. That’s the world I’d like to see through my lens. Those are the memories I want to look back on…reminders of their innocence, excitement and the newness of life. Engage!
Quick Tips to Better Photos - Take Better Pictures of Your Children
The ultimate goal is to be in control of your memories and your camera. Do you really want to count on your camera in Auto mode when it comes to the moments you want to remember for the rest of your life? Your camera may produce great results in Auto. Sometimes. In the best situations with ideal conditions. But what happens when conditions aren’t ideal (i.e. most of life)? Do you throw in the towel? What we’re aiming for is enough knowledge to know how to get yourself out of trouble. You don’t have to become a professional photographer to chronicle life. You just need the oomph to know what to do when Auto mode isn’t cutting it.
If you’re interested in really digging in to the fundamentals of photography, please let me know! Empowering others to feel confident when they turn on their camera is very near and dear to my heart. As a photographer and even more importantly, as a mother, I want every memory to be yours. Forever.

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  1. Chirleen

    July 29, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    My biggest pet peeve about photography is people using their flash for EVERYTHING!

    Great tips… I think I need to finally read the manual for my camera. Sheesh.

    • Katy Blevins

      July 30, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      AGREE!!! When I teach my basic photography skills class, we don’t ever even touch the flash! I give them the skills to work without it in almost every situation and caution them to pull it out only as an absolute last ditch, emergency effort. Especially when it comes to kids…flash is such a turnoff and buzz kill. Have fun reading that manual (ha!) – let me know if you have any questions!

  2. Jennifer

    August 10, 2014 at 5:56 am

    I have a great camera, but like you said, I really need to read the manual. I think quality pictures really make a blog.

    • Jennifer

      August 10, 2014 at 5:57 am

      oh, and your pictures are great by the way

      • Katy Blevins

        August 12, 2014 at 9:32 am

        You are so kind! Thanks for the compliment. Makes my day. 🙂

    • Katy Blevins

      August 12, 2014 at 9:33 am

      So true. Quality images are a must-have. This word moves too quickly to capture interest with text alone. It’s the images that draw them in.

  3. Jamie

    September 5, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Absolutely adorable. I so wish I could just have a little of your knowledge when it comes to photos. I think I just need to invest in a good camera, but they are so expensive.

    • Katy Blevins

      September 23, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      Jamie! I’m happy to help offer additional tips and even teach one-on-one lessons if you want to take that first big step! While a new and better camera is certainly ideal, there are so many things you can improve upon wherever you are at and with whatever tool just with a few simple tips and tricks. Let me know if you want to chat more!

  4. Kaz @ Melting Moments

    September 11, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Fabulous tips. Thank you.

  5. Amanda @ The Anti Mom Blog

    October 3, 2014 at 10:58 am

    these are great tips!! i have the biggest problem getting a good shot of the kids or something for my blog. i have had a canon for almost 2 years now and still don’t know how to use it correctly. the manual just looks so boring to read!!!! haha! thanks for sharing your knowledge with us photog newbies!!

  6. Nicki Lewis

    October 8, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Funny you say read the manual. We got a new fantastic DSLR last year and bought a book on it. My husband wanted me to read the book before we left on our trip so we would take some great pics. I made it though a few chapters and stopped. Now I am still trying to figure out the camera. Absolutely love my camera, but wish I knew how to use it better. Always trying to improve my photos. What camera do you use?

  7. Maddy

    July 11, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    I think I need to read that manual again! I’ve already forgotten how to turn that pesky flash off!

  8. Kristen

    August 14, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    What about white balance??!!

    • Katy Blevins

      August 29, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      White balance is definitely important and deserves a longer conversation. Short answer, do not use auto white balance. Shoot me an email and we’ll chat more!

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Photography Basics

Hampton Roads #ExploreHRVA #Instameet with Ask Naoma



Hampton Roads InstaMeet | Chaos and Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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You’ve heard me sing the praises of WVEC Channel 13 News and social media guru, Naoma Doriguzzi of Ask Naoma before, both on the blog and on social media. Her constant support and interest in The Studio Hampton Roads have been invaluable to Somer and me, both personally and professionally. Of course we were thrilled to get a call from her pitching an idea to gather some Hampton Roads folks together for a little Instagram “meet and greet” at the local Old Beach Farmer’s Market.

Hampton Roads InstaMeet | Chaos and Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

Our day started out with a fun little surprise when Naoma gave us a shout out during her Social Media Saturday segment on Channel 13. There’s nothing that gets your little heart racing than seeing your hard work pay off on the television screen! I admit, it feels a little “celebrity.” At least in my own Working Mommy mind. Ha!

We had a blast meeting up with several Hampton Roads’ social media lovers, making new friends and connecting with old ones. I even got to meet two bloggers in “real life” for the first time, which was super exciting. Be sure to check out Virginia Blogger, Jonna, of Naturally Glam. She’s a firecracker of feisty fun! And for the record, the Old Beach Farmer’s Market is the most amazing little spot I’ve ever laid eyes on! It was an absolutely wonderful experience to see so many local small business owners sharing and supporting each other with creativity, tasty goodness and commitment to Buy Fresh Buy Local. We were even super excited to meet and welcome My Vegan Sweet Tooth aboard for The Studio Hampton Roads’ upcoming open house at our new location! Owner, Tonya Deveau, has generously offered to contribute some seriously tasty yummy to our Alex’s Lemonade Stand campaign to raise money for childhood cancer research!

Buy Fresh Buy Local | Hampton Roads | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

You might ask yourself why taking the time to head out to a local farmer’s market early on a Saturday morning just to hang out with some random people would be worth your while. These people weren’t photographers, they more than likely wouldn’t be clients (especially the men since we’re female portrait artists)…why put energy into this when my schedule is already jam packed? I talked about this a bit in a guest blog I did for Scott’s Marketplace awhile back, but I’ll revisit briefly here. Every opportunity you have as a small business owner to connect with your local community is worth its weight in gold. Making connections, sharing your personality and letting others know that your community involvement stems beyond your goals as a professional and is deeply rooted in a genuine interest in seeing those around you succeed…it’s invaluable.  Nothing inspires me more and revitalizes my passion for my own small business than connecting with others who are just as committed to making their dreams a reality. And in truth, breaking away from the crazy of day to day business and just kicking back to be social with like-minded individuals is a welcome relief. Get involved! You’ll be glad that you did.

Hampton Roads InstaMeet | Chaos and Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

You can find the complete listing of vendors that visit the Old Beach Farmer’s Market regularly HERE, but here are some fun shots of our day spent there and mentions to some of the fabulous Hampton Roads’ locals that we had the pleasure of meeting.

Fresh Batch Jams – A small, family run business that makes ridiculously tasty jams right in their homes!

Fresh Batch Jam | Hampton Roads InstaMeet | Chaos and Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

Fruitive – The spicy Kale chips are a must-have. I am an official addict now.


Jubilee Seafood Company – They had a special rarity featured! Live soft shell crabs for the picking!


Give. Treat. Love. – Meeting owner, Dave McNeeley, was truly a pleasure. He is such a happy, passionate person when it comes to creating healthy dog treats for your four-legged friends.


Zinnia Girls Flower & Bee Co. – Delightfully delicious local honey and beautiful blooms.

Zinnia Girls | Hampton Roads InstaMeet | Chaos and Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

Three Ships Coffee – I’m not a big coffee drinker myself, but watching these guys work…I was fascinated!


New Earth Farms – Amazing organic farmers that focus on “farm to table” and even host cooking classes.


Tasha’s Own – Hand-crafted goat milk soaps that smell like heaven. Seriously.


My Vegan Sweet Tooth – I always thought vegan food must tasty. I was wrong. Way wrong. You must try the Greek wedding cookies. You’ll thank me later.


The Farmer’s Market was such a bustling environment of color and food and freshness, I’ve already marked my calendar to head down there again this Saturday with the kids so we can enjoy getting out and about with other Hampton Roads folks to celebrate our local community and the creative offerings our small businesses produce. Hampton Roads, I am seriously impressed and honored to be included among such fabulous peers. Keep on, keepin’ on!



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Photography Basics

10 Tips to Get Better Photos of Your Children



10 Tips to Better Photos of Your Kids | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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Within minutes of meeting any Mom, I usually hear something to the effect of “You’re so lucky you are a photographer! I bet you just get fantastic pictures of your kids all the time! I wish I could get better photos of my children.” I’ll put aside the whole shoemaker’s kids don’t have shoes thing (usually the last thing I want to touch at home is my camera), and reply “No, we have horrible days too and girl, my iPhone pics are HORRENDOUS!” In truth, you can be the best technical photographer in the world, but if you don’t know how to connect with kids, it’s a slow and painful train wreck for everyone involved. Anyone can get better photos of their children if they simply change their perspective from “I want this photo” to “My kids are making an awesome memory.” Here are 10 tips to get better photos of your children and make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

10 Tips to Better Photos of Your Kids | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

1. Seek out great light. If your kids are anything like my kids, they move faster than seems scientifically possible and they are on the go from the second their eyes open until they jump their last trampoline jump in their beds before sleep. In order to keep up with their speed with my camera, I need to give it a helping hand by taking pictures in great light. The better the available light, the faster the camera’s shutter speed can move and the closer I get to keeping up with the crazy. Great light can be anything from a room with bright sunlight streaming in, to the comfy shade under a big tree. Direct sun provides a ton of light, but it causes squinty eyes and with kids, general frowns and discontent. Great light is friendly light where your kids can play comfortably without any notice of the sun.

2. Meet them where they are. Great photos of your children all depend on mood. Before I pick up the camera, I have to ask myself “Am I about to pull them away from something fun for my own benefit or am I seeking to make a memory of what we are doing?” Try to make sure you are entering and engaging with them where they are at instead of pulling them aside to say “Stand still! (Translation: Stop having fun!) Mommy wants a picture!” Instead I usually ask “Hey there! Are you having an awesome time?!” and am usually greeted with a huge grin, bright eyes and a “Yeah!!!!!” and CLICK. Great picture.

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3. Get down to their level. This is the next step to meeting them where they are. As adults, we so often overlook the good stuff in life. As we tower over our kids, we struggle to capture the moment in its true form. I always try to “get low” when taking pictures of my kids. I want those pictures to reflect the world as they saw it. It’s a great reminder to see how captivated they are with tiny ants, how big the world feels to them, and how focused they are on experiencing every aspect of life. I don’t want my photos to look down on them. I want my photos to be them. Know what I mean?

4. Start with silly faces. The camera can feel overwhelming to children. Mommy has just put a big giant piece of machinery on top of her face, I can no longer see her eyes, and it beeps and clicks and flashes and she wants me to sit still and smile, when I really just want to run for the hills. Or just have my Mommy back. You have to teach children that the camera is fun and not something to fear. The best way to do that is to start silly. A soft voice that encourages them to show off their best funny faces can loosen the mood and let them know that this is play time, not work. We take pictures because we love to capture our family having fun! I always make silly noises and silly mouth faces or stick out my tongue to encourage them that Mommy is playing too and is still there behind the camera.

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5. Show them the back of the camera. Kids are totally vain, self-centered little animals. They love nothing more than to see themselves projected on the camera viewing screen. This amazing surprise of seeing themselves on the camera can often prompt sillier faces, greater engagement and a committed effort on their part to help you get great photos. Don’t be afraid to take the time to ooh and ahh over their latest frame and boost their egos a bit with how awesome their pictures look.

6. Let them play. We already talked about not interfering with the fun that is happening, but if you’re dying for better photos and need to “create” the play environment, than go for it! When I want some updated pictures of my kids, I usually take them somewhere new to play or break out an awesome art project. I want to see my kids happy and in action, doing what they love best! Things like board games, painting, even watering flowers or trying to fold laundry…These little moments are divine. I promise you’ll be happier with these images than the ones from when you told them to freeze and stand still by the stairs so you could snap a picture, grumpy smiles, begrudging shoulder sags and all.

7. Kid chat. If they are tapping out and getting quickly distracted, often times you can bring them back to “center” by engaging them on their favorite topics. I love to chit chat with my kids while I shoot. “Is your favorite color blue?” “Who is your best friend?” “Is your Mommy the best Mommy in the whole wide world?” (Naturally that last one always brings a big smile to their faces…ha) Engage them and let them show off what they know and tell you their preferences. When you have their genuine interest, you get better photos every time.

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8. Act quickly. The best thing you can do to get better photos is to know your camera. Whether you take a class, read the manual or hit up YouTube, make sure you’re comfortable with its basic functionality BEFORE you try to wrangle the kids for pictures. You surely know that any hesitation on your part means they’re off and running. Be ready and engage, quickly! Don’t aim for marathon sessions. Shoot for short bursts to avoid them feeling antsy or trapped. The more you know about your camera, the faster you can be in and out when it comes to capturing better photos without their annoyance.

9. Avoid pictures before excitement. My mom used to always make us stop at the bottom of the stairs before Christmas so she could get a picture of our eyes closed before we saw all of our presents. One word. Torture. Be mindful of what your kid is thinking before you stop them for a picture. If they’re en route to a pile of presents, or excited to ride the school bus for the first time, the last thing they probably want is to stop and smile for the camera. You have now become a roadblock on their path to awesome, and they will surely let you know it. Instead, take a picture the night BEFORE Christmas, when they are excited for Santa to come and know bed time is coming and are willing to extend their excitement just a little bit longer. Dress them in their school clothes the week before school for a little model walk photo shoot so they can be energized by the excitement that comes with knowing that school starts in a few days. Choose your timing wisely.

10. Don’t force it. Know when to walk away. The minute you hear the first whine, your time behind the camera is limited. Instead of trying to force it and squeeze every possible frame that you can as moods sour and attitudes bristle, know when the timing is wrong and to put the camera down for a few minutes until things pick back up. It might feel frustrating at first, but you’ll be happier in the end (as will they). As you work the steps above more frequently, you’ll find that you don’t need to force it at all, and those days when they’re just not into it, you’ll be more than happy to put the camera down, knowing that you’ll get better photos later.

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If you’re struggling with your camera or feel frustrated enough to just give up trying altogether, shoot me an email (blevins-dot-katy-at-gmail-dot-com)! I love to teach one-on-one photography skills to new camera owners and offer private and group lessons. Don’t give up!!! You can get better photos of your children and I’m happy to help. I can’t wait to help you capture those special memories for years to come.



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Blogging Resources

LadyBlogger April 11, 2015 – Blogger Photography 101



Blogger Photography | LadyBlogger 2015
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We’ve been talking about the LadyBlogger Conference for awhile now, and I couldn’t be more excited to be on board as a speaker! Both Somer and I will be traveling to St. Louis for the April 11th conference, where I’ll be sharing basic blogger photography tips and tricks while Somer offers several really exciting professional opportunities to the attendees! Before I let the cat out of the bag with the special offers we’ll be promoting, I’ll give you the quickie 411 on what to expect at my Blogger Photography 101 session.

Blogger Photography 101April 22, 2015St.

Blogger Photography 101 will focus on the “art of the sale.” That’s right! You, a blogger, are in sales. What are you selling? Your voice! And how do your images play into making the sale (i.e. getting a potential reader to click through to your site)? Three simple words. COMPEL. CAPTIVATE. CONNECT. I’ll be digging into these power house words at the conference, defining each and directing appropriate visual strategy to improve your reach. We’ll touch briefly on the fundamentals of light and photography, but rest assured, this class is for everyone! Whether you have a high end DSLR or are just stuck using your iPhone right now, this class will provide the insight to creating images that trigger reader response. Join me in St. Louis and take your blogger photography to the next level!

So what else are we bringing along with us to #LB2015??? We’re creating a fabulous one-stop shop for all attendees and vendors to help streamline your brand, take a step towards becoming more professional and showcasing your very best self! Combining our brands at The Hampton Roads Creative and Modern Femme Photography, we’re offering you the chance to treat your blog like your business!Modern Femme | Luxury Female PortraitureHRC250x250

What are 3 things every business owner needs? A professional head shot, well-designed business cards…and strategy.

Here’s your chance to grab all three! 

  • Professional Head Shots – First impressions truly are everything. You only get one! And when it comes to sponsored posts, professional communities, or other potential blogger money-makers, having a professional head shot on hand to lead the way can be the difference between a passing glance and a “We need to work with them!” As the photogs behind Modern Femme, we’re uniquely equipped with highlight a woman’s unique beauty and strength. We’ll be shooting portraits on site at LadyBlogger with a crazy awesome special conference rate! $40 will get you 2 high resolution edited digital head shots. This is a savings of over $200 from our normal portrait packages! Completely remodel your professional image online for a next-to-nothing investment. WIN!

What does your head shot say about you-

  • Official Business Cards – Do you have a business card for your blog? While most of our interactions may occur online, opportunities always present themselves to network and build new relationships in person, be it at conferences or just a run-in with a like-minded friend at the supermarket. Don’t miss an opportunity to leave your mark! Here’s what our special conference rate of $150 will get you – 500 uniquely designed business cards (1 round of edits) – Order now and we’ll have them at our booth, on hand, waiting for you to pick up just in time to spread the networking love at the conference! That’s right! Prep now and we’ll have them shipped and ready for you!


  • Social Media/Small Business Consult – Do you feel stalled out in the social media arena? Overwhelmed? Need a helping hand streamlining your brand, online personality and rules of engagement? We can help! Sit down and chat with us about your business or blog and where you want to be down the road. We’ll help you develop some basic tips and tricks to your online engagement and make sure you’re playing on all the right fields! We’ll be offering a special BOGO to conference attendees. Buy 1 hour of consulting for $150 and get a second hour FREE! That’s two hours of consulting time for just $150. Woot!

Need all three???? And want to save a ton of moolah???? Yup, we’ve got ya covered! Jump on The Ultimate Business Blogger conference pack. A $340 value for only $250! You’ll get your professional head shots, official business cards AND a social media consult for only $250. That’s every skill we offer for less than we would charge a single client for a portrait session. It doesn’t get any better than this. Take the leap and make it official. You’re in the business of blogging!

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