Friday Feels – Photo tips and equipment

Hey guys! Welcome to another Friday feels where I share what I’m “feeling” this week. (This post contains affiliate links)

So, I have had lots of questions about my photography/camera/editing photos lately, and I thought I would share a few tips today. First off, I am by no means an expert. I’ve never taken a photography class – I’ve just sort of googled things and asked questions of my friend Kari (who is an amazing lifestyle photographer check her site out here). But I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way, so I’ll share my limited knowledge with you (which is much like I’m always doing, basically sharing how I wing my life).

Back of a camera

I recently bought a new camera and lens, which has helped my photos significantly. I went to a local camera store to talk with an expert and explain all the things I use my camera for and he actually persuaded me to buy the cheaper camera. I bought a Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm STM Lens – WiFi Enabled  he recommended that one because he said I would be better off with a cheaper camera base and more expensive lens. Also, because most of the photos I use are online and not being printed off into huge images like say a wedding photographer, he said there was no need to spend a zillion dollars on the camera itself (Side note: we are talking huge poster size photos, I’ve printed off beautiful perfectly sharp 11 x 20 shots). WordPress (the blogging platform I use) compresses my images a bit anyway, so I could have the most amazing zillion dollar camera and they still wouldn’t appear as sharp as I would like them here on my site.

I was surprised that this was his recommendation, because I had a 10 year old canon rebel before and was looking to upgrade, but the technology has lept ahead like crazy. I’m so glad I listened to his advice. My new camera has bluetooth, so I can send photos right to my phone and I can also use my phone as a remote (which makes family shots so easy…well minus my kids’ shenanigans). It also has a touch screen, so it’s super user friendly as well. This is a great easy camera for a family, realtor, or just a hobby photographer.

Close up photos of camera lenses

So the lens he recommended for me, which has made the difference on the blog is the Tokina ATXAF120DXC 11-20mm f/2.8 Pro DX Lens for Canon EF. It is a wide angle lens that helps me capture more of our home because it can fit more of it into the shot. It’s not crazy expensive (still an investment, but believe me lenses can shoot up there in price, and bonus, it’s actually on sale right now on amazon, just click the link above) and I feel like it grabs nice sharp shots.

My other go to lens for close up shots and food photography is the “nifty fifty” Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens w/ 49mm UV Filter & Lens Pouch Accessory Bundle that every blogger has, this guy is so inexpensive, so grab one if you don’t have one. I use it for most of my photos of the kids and our Christmas cards too.

A little girl wearing a hat and smiling at the camera

My next biggest tip (especially for you realtors) is to get a good tripod. I have this Professional PRO 72″ Super Strong Tripod With Deluxe Soft Carrying Case For The Canon Digital Rebel XSI, XS SLR Cameras and I shoot 95% of all my shots on the blog with it. It’s only $30 and worth every penny. I always want to shoot on ISO 100 for really clear shots, but most of the time that’s going to require such a slow shutter speed to let in enough light that it’s hard to get a sharp shot. I set my camera on a tripod and use the 2 second timer so there is absolutely no shake (you would be shocked how just pushing the button on your camera can shake it enough to blur your shot). This allows me to slow my shutter speed down as much as I want and still get a nice bright photo even in a dark room. Also, turn those interior lights off! It messes with the white balance too much and you will always get that yellow look.

Camera on a tripod

On to editing, I use Lightroom to edit all my photos (you can get the creative cloud pack of Lightroom and Photoshop for around  $10 a month, which includes the LR app on your phone. I use it even on quick iPhone photos) and this is how I’m able to get those shots where you can see the lake out the window. I take 2 shots with my camera in the exact same spot on my tripod. One at the correct exposure for the inside and one at the correct exposure for the outside, and then I will merge them in Lightroom (there are lots of youtube videos to walk you through this process just google it).

I also use the HDR feature on my iPhone. This will get a nice shot of my living room, but it will still be dark in spots so I go into the Lightroom app and use the graduated filter over the dark spots (you can use the brush tool as well) and lighten those areas. Below is the before shot straight off my iPhone and after I used the Lightroom app to fix the exposure of the couch area. I should point out that’s ice on the lake and not glare on the window.

Photo editing tips with the Lightroom app

Here are some screenshots of what I do to adjust them on my phone. Choose the graduated filter option under the selective edit feature and drag it up the photo to encompass the area you want to lighten. The red portion shows the area you are going to adjust. I usually bump up the exposure and  shadows as well.

Photo editing tips with the Lightroom app

Here is the final photo. So, this was all done right on my phone. It’s not perfect by any means, but you can see there is a huge difference. I lightened the ceiling area as well, so I was able to adjust the exposure on most of the photo without changing the exposure of the water out the windows if that makes sense. This doesn’t give you the sharpness the merged photo out of my camera gets you, but it is super quick and still gets a nice shot for instagram or facebook. It’s also a handy tool if one of your kids faces is in the shade etc…

lake house living room

Below is a photo of the same space where I used my camera (as opposed to my phone), wide angle lens, tripod and the merge function. Obviously, it’s much sharper, but the quick phone trick will do in a pinch. Also, you can see how much more of the space my wide angle lens can capture vs my phone, standing in the same spot.

White Lake House living room

I hope that helps! Like I said, I’m not a pro, but these are the little tricks that have helped me out a ton. If you have any questions feel free to leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer.

Happy Weekend!

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  1. I love reading about photography and editing! Could you create an updated post? Specifically on how you get your photos so white, clean, and airy? White balance issues will be the death of me!!

    1. I use Lightroom but I’m not really a pro. There are a zillion amazing tutorials on youtube I’m sure that would be way more helpful than me :)

  2. Kelly,

    Thank you so much for writing this blog post about photography. As a realtor/remodeler I create spaces that should be photographed and posted to help me grow my business, but I don’t take photos of the spaces that reflect the way they feel in person. I have been looking for a camera, but there is just so much out there that it is totally overwhelming.

    The way you wrote this post and showed before and after photos is extremely helpful! Thanks for being willing to share what you have learned, it is so refreshing!


    1. Oh great Nicole I’m so glad you found it helpful! I’ve had a ton of trial and error figuring out how to shoot rooms and I’m still learning :)

  3. this is such a great post Kelly, thanks so much for sharing. I do have a quick question – do you try to optimize your photos for the blog prior to uploading? I always try to resize mine down in photoshop (export–> save to web) and then try to get them down to around 400kb or so to keep from slowing down my site. But then they’re not super sharp like yours. Just curious as to what size yours are because they still look great and load quickly. Thanks!

    1. I resize mine to about 900 x 600 – ish when I export from Lightroom that seems to get me a pretty sharp image here on the blog but no slow my site down too much. I’ll be honest I don’t 100% know if that’s the best route to go it’s just what has been working for me.

    1. Oh I’m glad it made sense! I’m not the best at writing tutorials because I need to wave my hands around in real life while explaining lol :)

  4. Hey, love this post. I do a bit of photography as a hobby and use Adobe Photoshop (Lightroom looks confusing) lol. So far I only have a 50mm and a 40mm macro (an inexpensive one) but you can get super close with it to take the photo. I’m wanting to add another but haven’t decided which one I want yet. Do you use your 11-20 more at 11 or 22? Lol. And do you find using it at 11 gives you distorted photos? I should point out, I use Nikon. ?

    1. It kind of all depends on the situation but I really don’t find that I have much distortion. That was important to me I didn’t want that fish eye look and this was the lens the camera guy recommended based on me emphasizing that to him. And that is so funny I am so intimidating by Photoshop but find Lightroom to be so easy ha!

  5. I just love your style. You have the means but also the taste. I also like how you don’t necessarily buy the most expensive things and you make it look great. I think you are the master of the spend/splurge challenge. It’s so great. I’m not a blogger or a photographer, but your post is helpful if I wanted to start getting better pictures.

    1. Thank Lisa, I definitely try to do a mix of high and low things. Sometimes it’s worth it to buy quality items and sometimes I know my kids will trash something lol and I go for the inexpensive option. So glad you found this post helpful!

  6. Thanks so much for this very useful post! I’ve wanted to upgrade my camera (10-year-old digital) but have been putting it off because most of my photos – the good, the bad, the blurry – are taken on my iphone. Now I know which direction to go! Thank you, Kelly!

  7. This is super helpful. Thank you! I’ve been wondering how people do those shots where you can clearly see the outside along with the inside. I thought I just needed a phone upgrade but now I see I also need to work on graduated editing. I wonder if VSCO has something similar because I am completely Iphone now. This post does make me want to get a real camera again though, mainly for my travels.

    1. Liza, consider a micro four-thirds, aka mirrorless camera for your travels. Compact, with interchangeable lenses, which is what I was looking for. I’m currently taking a photography class, and my little camera can do everything the big guys (Canon, Nikon) can do! Camera + 4 lenses, small tripod (don’t need a big one with this camera!) fits in a small, leather case that doesn’t scream “I’m carrying thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment” to would-be thieves!

  8. Perfect timing!!! We are in the market for a new camera and I remember you mentioning a while ago that you had bought a new one. I was just going to search your site to figure out what it was when this popped up. Thanks girl!!!

  9. Thank you so much for posting this! Such perfect timing; I was just playing around with my new Canon Rebel! I am definitely heading over to amazon to buy those lenses and purchasing photoshop. You make it sound so easy and your photos are beautiful. Thanks again!

  10. Thank you so much for writing this post Kelly! That’s so interesting about the recommendation to go with the Rebel (that’s what I have too) and then invest in lenses. I have the nifty fifty (love it!) and would love to add that Tokina one you use to my arsenal to get wider shots. I’m amazing at what you can do in Lightroom to capture your interiors and the lake! Your photography is always beautiful!

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful Lisa, I was shocked by the Rebel rec too but really the lens has made all the difference for me. That and Lightroom, such a fantastic tool!

  11. I know nothing about photography, you gave a ton of great info! This makes me want to look into doing more with my photos. I want to get better photos of the things I see outdoors walking/hiking. Thanks!
    And your view is just the best! I would probably never get anything done, just looking out at the lake all day!!

  12. Love this post! So interesting! What is that round thing sticking out of the tripod? Also, where did you get the wood tray on the ottoman? Thanks!

    1. Ha that is a weird optical illusion! Leave it to me to do a post about photography and then use a super confusing photo to illustrate my point lol. Do you mean the wood tray on the ottoman in my basement? Or there is a basket tray on my coffee table? The basket is from HomeGoods I think! The wood tray is linked under the shop our home page on the blog :)

      1. Hi, yes I was looking for the round wooden tray on the ottoman. I followed the link on your blog that you suggested but I don’t see it there? I love it so if you have any other suggestions on how to find it, I would really appreciate it.

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