Top 3 Things for New Photographers to Know

If you’re anything like I was, you are spending hours upon hours on the internet learning photography techniques, viewing photoshop tutorials, and wondering when your photos are going to look professional. Here is my first bit of advice to new photographers:

Get it right in camera.

This will save you so much time in post processing, and will start to set you apart from your peers. When you set everything up to be perfect before your press the shutter button, you won’t have to edit for hours upon hours to get one photo right. Two minutes fixing something in front of the camera is better than 30 minutes in post processing. Before we go further, please know that this is not a post about camera settings. That is important, but today we are focusing on what is in front of the camera. The topics that will help you if you’re shooting with a pro camera or an iPhone. So what are the top 3 things you should learn in order to get it right in camera?


The top 3 things new photographers should learn! Photography tips and resources about light, posing, and composition. Written by Kristen Ellis of Kristen D. Photography. Kentucky Wedding & Portrait Photography.

A Portrait in Natural Light.

You cannot up your photography game unless you learn about light. Photography is essentially how a lens and camera read light. This goes for natural & artificial light. Many of us will start with natural light, so here are the Do’s and Don’ts while working with natural light.

  • DO photograph during golden hour. The time right after sunrise or right before sunset. The sun is more directional, lighting the face in a flattering way, as well as adding a gorgeous golden glow to your subject.
  • DON’T photograph your client in midday bright sun. It will cast unpleasant shadows on their faces. If you have to photograph during this time of day, find shade. Trees & buildings are your best friends during midday. Also, you can use a scrim to soften the light.
  • DO photograph with window light. I love window light. It’s the best. Find a window, get a reflector, and have fun.


The top 3 things new photographers should learn! Photography tips and resources about light, posing, and composition. Written by Kristen Ellis of Kristen D. Photography. Kentucky Wedding & Portrait Photography.

Bridal Portrait at The Historic Shelby Manor.

If you’re photographing people, you need to learn how to pose them. I’ve seen incredibly creative photos that lacked luster because it lacked posing of their main subject. I’ve heard arguments against it. “I like the more natural, candid look!” During a shoot, you have to know how to get a candid look from your client, which goes into posing/knowing your client. Also, this will send your photography skills through the roof. Not only will your photos come out better, but clients will feel more confident in you as a professional! Clients like to be told how to stand, what to do with their hands, where to look, etc. Most clients are not models, and even most models like having direction.

  • DO learn the difference between posing women and men. Here is an amazing video of Jerry Ghionis teaching how to pose, and it changed my world! I became obsessed with learning how to pose.
  • DO learn how to get genuine reactions from your clients. This is where the candid look comes into play. Most people don’t know how to be candid in front of a camera. During a couple’s portraits I ask the groom, “Do you ever do anything that makes her laugh?” Every time it results in big smiles and laughter, even if they don’t come up with an answer! Just thinking about it makes them laugh.
  • DON’T assume that every pose is going to be good for every person. We are all made differently, and certain angles may compliment one person, and look unflattering on the other. Posing takes time and practice, but it’s so worth it.


The top 3 things new photographers should learn! Photography tips and resources about light, posing, and composition. Written by Kristen Ellis of Kristen D. Photography. Kentucky Wedding & Portrait Photography.

Candle Lighting Ceremony

When I caught the photo bug, I went to my Orchestra Director. (I majored in Music in college.) He is also a photographer, and the first thing he told me after seeing a few of my photos was about the Rule of Thirds. This helped me tremendously. FStoppers does an amazing job breaking down the rules of composition here.

  • DO practice, practice, practice. Composing a photo will become second nature only after a lot of practice!
  • DON’T assume the rules of composition are set in stone. Some of the most interesting photos break the rules. I always think of music as the same way. Learn the basics, learn the rules. Practice them until you grow an appreciation and admiration for them. Then learn how to bend them to create something new and beautiful.

Thanks so much for reading! If you liked this post, please share, tweet, or pin! Happy Labor Day!

-Kristen D.

The top 3 things new photographers should learn! Photography tips and resources about light, posing, and composition. Written by Kristen Ellis of Kristen D. Photography. Kentucky Wedding & Portrait Photography.



Worksop Wednesday: Golden Hour

Okay, photographers. Let’s discuss light. Better yet, let’s discuss how you can improve your photos just by choosing a different time of day. We are talkin’ Golden Hour.

Golden Hour is an amazing hour prior to sunset and a little after when the light is AMAZING. If you have been photographing families, couples, or just people in general during midday, you may be familiar with raccoon shadows (shadow around the eyes). The reason why this happens in midday is because the sun is directly overhead of your subject. The brow ridge will cause a shadow over the eyes.

When the sun is setting, it is horizontal to your subject, lighting the face evenly and with a marvelous glow. So, if you can choose the time for your photo sessions outdoors, stick to golden hour. I usually start about an hour and half prior to sunset for golden hour sessions. Here are three different looks throughout golden hour.

A full hour before sunset, the sun casts a very warm light, and shadows are still a bit harsh. Tip: Always be mindful of shadows. Shadows will be your guideline for many of your portraits.


About a half hour before sunset, the shadows are softer and are slightly cooler in tone.


Right after sunset (like within five minutes), the light is very even, wraps around your subject beautifully, and just looks amazing. This is my FAVE time to shoot. I wish it lasted longer than a few minutes each day.


Sun flare is fun to play with during this time of day. Get out and experiment with it. You can create a variety of looks based on which lens you use and where you let the light leek into your camera.


Of course you can’t beat a sunset…


Post your midday photos (we’ve all taken them) and your golden hours photos in the comments! I would love to see them! Thanks for reading!

-Kristen D.

What Does It Take to Be a Photographer?

Hello, all photography enthusiasts! I do hope you are having a wonderful day! Today I want to help you follow your dreams. What is it going to take to become a photographer? Here are a few things:

  • Knowledge
  • Initiative
  • Drive
  • Creativity

Over the next few weeks, I will be addressing what it will take to become a photographer. Not the business side… yet. Simply what it takes to create AMAZING photos. Notice how I listed Knowledge first. Knowledge is powerful. You need to know many things to be a photographer. Like…

  1. How to work the camera.
  2. The difference between lenses.
  3. How to use light and shadow.
  4. How to compose a photograph.
  5. How to pose subjects.

And so much more. So, I declare hump day as Workshop Wednesday! Next week we will be discussing light and shadow! This subject will go over a few posts, so don’t forget to check back every Wednesday!

-Kristen D.

Capturing Snowfall


I thought I would put up a quick tip on how to capture snowfall. This isn’t the only way to catch the snow, so keep experimenting!

First find something dark (trees, barn, etc.) to contrast the snow. Trying to photograph snowfall when your entire background is white will be frustrating. Second, decide on if you want to freeze (haha!) the snow or if you want to show motion. You will have to adjust your settings.

I didn’t want to get out into the snow, so I went to the backdoor and shot through the window towards a tree.


I think we can agree that there is nothing awesome about the image above. If you are focusing on the tree, that will happen. There is so much detail in the tree that it distracts you from the little snow you can actually see falling. If the tree is your subject, go for it! However, I want to showcase the snowflakes.


Instead of focusing on the tree, I focus about four to five feet in front of me. This makes the tree more of a backdrop, and I get the really awesome snowflakes in midair. My settings for this: 1/800 shutter speed, 1.8 f-stop, and 100 ISO. If you want to capture more motion, please look below.


This is great if you want to show the motion. The previous photo is more peaceful, and this seems more hectic. It simply depends on what you want the viewer to feel and experience. My settings for this: 1/100 shutter speed, 3.5 f-stop, 100 ISO.

Thanks for reading! Don’t be afraid of shooting in the snow! DO be safe out there!!!

-Kristen D.

Photography 101: Shutter Speed- A Low Light Technique



Thanks for stopping by my blog! This is the second entry of my Photography 101 series. Today we are going to talk about Shutter Speed! You can have a lot of fun with shutter speed. This post is more focused on long shutter speeds with inanimate objects… for the most part. First we have to discuss what shutter speed does.

Your DSLR camera has two things called curtains. The first curtain begins the photo capture by allowing in light. The second curtain is what signals the end of the photo capture by stopping the light. That is a very basic explanation of what the curtains do. For a more in depth explanation, please click here. How does this affect your photos? I’m so happy you asked! First let’s see how it affects the exposure.

Shutter Speed Exposure

As you can see in the diagram, slower shutter speeds make a brighter image. This is because there is more time between the curtains, letting in more light. The faster the shutter speed, the darker the image.

Let’s connect ISO and shutter speed. Do you remember that candle photo I asked you to take in my previous post? Did you have a bit of grain in it? Yeah, most likely you did. Take that candle and light it in a dark room (remember, safety first! Don’t burn down your house). Take your camera and put it on ISO 100. Take the shutter speed and set it to a full second. Since you have a very long shutter speed, you will need to have a tripod or a solid surface on which your camera can rest while it capture the photo. Ready? Set…. Go!

Finished? Here are my results…

1/125 Shutter Speed, 2.8 f-stop, 6400 ISO

1 second Shutter Speed, 2.8 f-stop, 100 ISO
Do you see the difference?

What are your results? If you remember, a low ISO setting causes a darker photo, but less grain. A slow shutter speed will brighten the photo, because it lets in more light. Pair these two together, and you will get a well exposed photo with minimal grain. Whoa!!! Awesome. This works well with still objects and a stable camera.

This technique is a life saver if you are photographing weddings and the room is dark. Here is a reception hall at a recent wedding I photographed. It was candlelight, and beautiful, and this technique is a must!


This is also a good technique for photographing stars! I love star photographs. Again, you will definitely need a tripod or solid surface your camera can be placed while aimed at the sky. I did this one with a 30 second shutter speed, 3.2 f-stop, and 400 ISO. Now if you look closely, you can see the stars are making trails. Click on the photo to enlarge it, and you can see it more clearly. This is due to the earth’s rotation within 30 seconds. Yes, you can actually see the stars traveling across the sky! This is also a technique used for light painting… but more one that next time!


I hope you enjoyed this entry about Shutter Speed! I have two more entries to go about this topic, so stay tuned! Let me know your questions and post your results below!!! Thanks for reading! – Kristen

Photography 101: ISO

ISO Image


Thank you for visiting my blog! This is the first entry of my Photography 101 series. In Photography 101, we will learn how to use our cameras. What you need is a DSLR, your camera’s manual, and a can-do attitude. This series is for the beginner. I am also working on Photography 201, which is learning about light. Check back often for updates.

First thing is first, take your camera off of Auto. No, really… do it now. Change your camera from Auto to Manual. It’s not so scary once it’s there. You there? Good! Now that you are on Manual, go read your camera’s manual about the settings of ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture (this may be referenced as F-Stop). Go ahead, I’ll wait. 🙂

Do you understand how to change your ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture? Great! You don’t need to understand what they are yet, just how to change them on your camera. Okay. Now, change your settings to the following:

  • ISO:100
  • Shutter Speed: 1/125
  • Aperture: 5.6

We are going to experiment with only ISO today. ISO is basically how sensitive your camera acts towards light. Here is a diagram that explains the affects ISO has on an image.

ISO Kristen D. Photography

There is a compromise on each end of the ISO scale. Low ISO gives you a clearer photograph, giving your more details. However, if you aren’t in a bright room or outside on a sunny day, the low end will give you underexposed photographs. On the other hand, high ISO will brighten your image, but will add noise (also known as grain) in your photo. Here is an example using my son’s train set.

ISO 100
ISO 100

ISO 6400

ISO 6400

I did adjust the shutter speed to keep the exposure the same in the above photos. Do you notice how the ISO 100 image has no grain? Now, look at the ISO 6400 image. Do you notice the added noise? The noise (or grain) comes from your camera amplifying the light available.

Let us look at how ISO affects exposure (how light or dark your image is, in brief). ISO usually begins at 100 and then doubles, with 1/3 stops between. In the following photographs, I kept the Shutter Speed at 1/125 and Aperture at 5.6. I only changed the ISO beginning at 100 and going to 6400.

ISO 100

ISO (1 of 9)

ISO 200
ISO (2 of 9)

ISO 400
ISO (3 of 9)

ISO 800
ISO (4 of 9)

ISO 1600
ISO (5 of 9)

ISO 3200
ISO (6 of 9)

ISO 6400
ISO (7 of 9)

Now it is time for you to experiment. Take your camera and photograph something in the room. It doesn’t have to be pretty, I just used my son’s train set. Start from ISO 100 and take the photo. Repeat the process at ISO 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, and 6400. I’ll wait. 🙂 Now, review your photos. Which ISO setting do you like the best for your photograph? I like ISO 800 for mine. Your’s could be very different, because the room in which you took your photos will have different lighting than mine.

Now for the second experiment. Is it sunny outside? If it is, then go outside and repeat the last experiment. I’ll be here when you get back. What did you notice about your photos? Did your photo start getting overexposed (overly bright) more quickly than your indoor photos? Most likely they did. That is because on a sunny day, there is much more light. Remember that ISO amplifies the light you have available. The more light you have, the more overexposed your image will be at high ISO levels.

So a general rule of thumb is to use lower ISO in bright situations, such as outside on a sunny day. Use higher ISO in darker situations, such as school plays.

Now it is homework time! Here is a list of photographs I want you to take and find the ISO you like for each photo.

  1. A flower on a bright, sunny day.
  2. A glass of water on your kitchen counter.
  3. A landscape on an overcast day.
  4. A candle in a dark room. (Safety first! If you are a minor, ask your parents for permission before lighting a candle. Take steps to ensure you don’t burn down your house.)

You can also experiment on your own. Find the ISO you like for each situation. Soon you will be able to say, “Oh! I need ISO 400 for this situation!”

Thank you for reading! Please post your favorite pictures in the comments below! Stay tuned for more in the Photography 101 series! – Kristen