How To Capture and Edit a Lifestyle Photo

How To Capture and Edit a Lifestyle Photo

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!

Ever wish you could get a peek behind the lens of another photographer and watch them work?

Here’s your chance!  In this “How To Capture And Edit” series I provide a look into my shooting and editing process behind a particular image and share helpful how-to’s.

Shot with Canon 5D III and 35 mm 1.4 lens. Camera Settings: ISO 125, f/3.2, SS 1/250

I took this photo at a local frozen yogurt shop.  We were there close to sunset and my daughter was standing in direct light from the sun while serving herself some froyo.

I love to shoot with my subject in a pocket of direct light – meaning that the light isn’t diffused or reflected off of anything else, but shines directly from the light source (in this case, the sun) onto the subject.

This light is considered harsh, and wouldn’t be as flattering if the subject were facing the camera, but in this case, it works well because she’s facing away.

It creates a “spotlight effect” on her while the rest of the scene falls into shadow, drawing attention to her and away from other parts of the scene that might be distracting.

I took the shot in manual mode and set my exposure using a bright area of my daughter’s skin.  If you need help understanding how to set your exposure in manual mode, see How To Use Your DSLR Camera.

After I set my exposure I toggled my focal point to compose the photo. 

Here’s the SOOC (straight out of camera) photo: 

Editing Tips

I altered the crop to place my subject along the rule of thirds line, meaning that she is roughly in the right third of the frame.  This composition is more interesting than how the image was shot with the subject in the middle of the frame.

Also, I was bothered by the trash can in the foreground and wanted to crop out as much of it as possible.

Don’t miss the full editing video at the end of the post to see a demonstration of the editing steps below:

In Lightroom I adjusted the photo’s temperature by sliding the temperature slider toward blue.  This neutralized the warmth of the sunlight.

A few other adjustments I made:

I lowered the shadows globally to enhance them.

I used graduated filters to lower the exposure on the shadowy areas on the left and the right lower corner to enhance the shadows and minimize the trashcan.

I used a radial filter on my daughter to raise exposure and bring her out of the shadows a bit. 

I like the overall result, but if I could take this photo again, I would have stepped a bit farther to the left so as to avoid the trashcan in the image.

A step to the left would have also put the yogurt machine in the foreground and led the eye toward the subject.

I only had moments to set up the shot before my daughter moved on, but maybe we’ll go back for some froyo soon and give it another shot!

Check out the full editing video:

Want to improve your own photos right now?  Sign up for my free e-course HERE.

How To Take A Stunning Silhouette Photo

How To Take A Stunning Silhouette Photo

Inside: Learn how to shoot a stunning silhouette photo in 5 easy steps with your DSLR. iPhone silhouette photo tutorial also included!

Disclaimer: This contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!

Last year all I wanted for my birthday was a nature hike with my family.

They obliged, and we hiked a small summit near our home. The grade to the top was steep, but short. My kids found rocks to haul up and at the summit we were rewarded with a beautiful view and freshwater pools where they tossed their stones.

Minus the water, it felt like we were on the surface of the moon.

Of course, I had my trusty camera with me.  As the sun sank lower, my anticipation grew.  I knew the best light would come as the sun set.

I couldn’t wait to capture the perfect silhouette photo.

5 Simple Steps To a Stunning Silhouette Photo

I’ve broken the process for taking a great silhouette photo down into 5 simple steps:

Step 1: Find a Location With Open Space

Great locations for silhouette photos include the beach, the top of a hill or an open field – anywhere with lots of open sky and not a lot of trees, houses or other objects in the way.

I took this silhouette photo on the beach.

silhouette photo

Step 2: Find The Best Light

The easiest time to capture a silhouette photo is in the evening when the sun is low, and after sunset.

To capture a great silhouette photo the light needs to be behind your subject.  Place your subject between your camera and the setting sun.

Silhouette photos are easiest at this time of day because the light is becoming less harsh and is much softer. Shooting into softer light is easier than shooting into direct sun.

Also, as the sun goes down the sky becomes more vibrant!

silhouette photo

I took this image as the sun slipped below the horizon.

Step 3: Get As Low As You Can

Here’s a pullback of the spot where I took the photo above.  It’s hard to see the difference in elevation, but the kids were up higher than I was. I was positioned in a lower spot, on my back.

Get as low as you can.  You may need to lie on your back to get low enough.

silhouette photo

Pin this for later!

Step 4: Expose for the Sky

What does “expose” mean?  How does one “expose” for the sky?

Here’s a quick explanation:

Exposure is the amount of light captured when you take a photograph.  If too little light is captured, the image will be “underexposed” (too dark).  If too much light is captured, the image will be “overexposed” (too bright).

When you expose for the sky, this means you’ll tell your camera to read the light coming from the sky, rather than from your subject.  Instructions are below.

For a more detailed explanation of how to set your exposure please see How To Use Your DSLR Camera.

To expose for the sky, you’ll need to 

shoot in full manual mode

switch to spot metering mode 

switch to single point focus

Don’t be afraid to shoot in manual mode!  For silhouette photos, it’s the best option.

How To Expose For The Sky

Step 1: After switching to spot metering mode and single point focus, point your camera at the sky, but not at the sun.  Place your focal point on a spot in the sky that’s blue.

Step 2: Adjust your ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed until your camera meter is a 0 or somewhat underexposed (below 0).  You may need to underexpose to get your subjects blacked out.

Step 3: Once your exposure is set move your focal point over your subject.

Your in-camera meter should shift far toward the negative, meaning your subject will be underexposed.  That’s what you want for a silhouette photo.

Focus your camera by depressing the shutter button halfway, and take a test shot.

If the sky looks good and your subjects look like blacked-out silhouettes, you’re ready to go!  If not, adjust one of the legs of the exposure triangle to darken your exposure a bit more.

Step 5: Isolate Your Subject

This is easier said than done with kids, but if you have more than one person in your photo, encourage them to give each other a bit of space.

You’ll have best results when you can see each person’s distinct features.

silhouette photo

If your subjects are too close together they may look more like a blob than people!

This principle also applies to the subject’s environment.  I love how in the photo below my daughter is isolated from her the ground beneath her.

silhouette photo

Pro Tip: Ask your kids to jump, dance, walk and move.  You’ll get more photos where you can see the entire body and their limbs are more likely to look distinct. 

Be sure your shutter speed is fast enough to capture the motion.  In this photo, my shutter speed was 1/640.

silhouette photo

I love this image BUT the houses and trees on the horizon line “ate up” my daughter’s feet.  The image would be stronger if I could see more of her feet.

Pro Tip:  If you notice anything distracting along the horizon line, remove it in Lightroom.

I used the healing brush in Lightroom to remove a cell phone tower in the distance.

A distraction removed keeps your eyes focused on the subject.

How To Take An iPhone Silhouette Photo

An iPhone silhouette photo is a bit simpler to take, but the camera phone’s capabilities are limited. An iPhone is more challenging to use in low light, so still subjects work best if you’re shooting after sunset.

Step 1: Place your subject with the light behind them. Face your phone toward the sunset (or light source).  Get down as low as possible.

Step 2: Tap your finger on the sky to set your exposure.  You can drag your finger up or down on the iPhone screen to brighten or darken the photo.  Adjust the exposure until your subjects look blacked out.

Step 3: Snap the photo!  You can edit the photo on your phone to give it more pop.  

I took this silhouette photo with my iPhone. 

The next time you’re out in nature with your family be sure to stick around for the best light at sunset and remember these five steps to create your own stunning silhouette photo:

Find a Location with Open Sky

Put the Light Behind Your Subject

Get Down Low

Expose for the Sky

Isolate Your Subject

Do Photography Terms Sound Like a Foreign Language?  Let Me Simplify It For You:

How to Avoid Yellow Grass in Your Photos

How to Avoid Yellow Grass in Your Photos

Inside: Do the greens in your photos sometimes look more yellow than green? Lightroom has a simple fix! Watch this video tutorial to learn how to edit greens in Lightroom.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  Any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I recommend tools and resources I use and love!

How To Edit Greens in Lightroom

Ah, spring, such a lovely time of year!  Everything’s in bloom and the world is awash in…yellow?  Often, through the camera lens, fresh green grass and new foliage can look more yellow than green.

If you prefer a warm look in your images this can be a big problem.  Yellow grass <<cringe>>.

True story, I dislike the yellow grass look so much I’ve been eyeing darker grass varieties for our yard.  But as a new photographer I didn’t notice yellow grass in my images.  It wasn’t on my radar.

Now it’s hard for me to miss, and an adjustment to the grass and foliage in my images is an important step in my editing workflow.

Before Grass Adjustment:

yellow oversaturated grass

After Grass Adjustment:

Photo of girl in field with grass color adjusted in Lightroom's HSL/Color panel

White Balance and Grass

I often set a custom white balance in camera.  White Balance, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, refers to an image’s temperature (how blue or yellow) and tint (how green or magenta).

A good white balance setting will balance temperature and tint so the whites in the image are white (not yellow or blue) and the color of the image reflects the real colors in the scene.

My favorite way to set a custom white balance is with my Expo Disc.  It does a beautiful job, but an accurate white balance setting is often warmer than the camera’s auto white balance setting would render it, and a warmer white balance often renders those greens more yellow than green.

Lightroom offers an easy way to deal with this problem.  This tutorial explains how to edit greens in Lightroom in the HSL/Color Panel.

To read more posts on photography basics, check out my photography resource page HERE.

How to Edit Greens In Lightroom – Step 1

Scroll down on the righthand side of your Lightroom Panel inside the Develop Module and open the HSL/Color panel:

Screen shot of Lightroom HSL/Color Panel

Be Sure to Pin this for Later

How to Mute Greens In Lightroom

How to Edit Greens In Lightroom – Step 2

Click on the yellow square and slide the yellow saturation slider to the left.  This will, as the name suggests, desaturate the yellows in your image. If there’s yellow in the grass you will see the color of your grass shift away from yellow.

Note this is a global adjustment – ALL yellow colors in your original image will be impacted.  In images with lots of yellow throughout the image you’ll need to be careful with this overall adjustment so as not to lose other elements where you may want to keep the yellow.

In this image yellow tones are confined to the grass (note: the yellow sun flare was added and wasn’t part of the original image, so the global adjustment didn’t affect it).

See my suggestions at the end of the post for selective reduction of yellows in your grass if a global adjustment causes problems for other parts of your image.

screen shot of Lightroom HSL/Color Panel with Yellow Saturation Adjustment

No Magic Number

In this image, I adjusted the yellow saturation slider to -37.  This isn’t a magic number. How you render grass in your images is a matter of preference, not right or wrong. 

But consistency matters

Some photographers prefer more yellow in their grass, some much less.  A popular editing style renders grass blue and desaturated. 

Don’t stress over it!  Exercise your artistic choice and preference. Play with the sliders until you like it and try to apply similar adjustments to all your images.

How to Edit Greens in Lightroom – Step 3

Scroll down to the green panel and slide your green saturation and luminance sliders to the left.  Again, no magic numbers, just work with it until the grass looks less yellow and more natural.

A Selective Edit

If an adjustment to your yellow or green saturation and luminance dulls other important colors in your image, like a yellow shirt or yellow flowers, try the adjustment brush.

Click on the adjustment brush and bring down your temperature, exposure and saturation sliders.  Then paint it on the grass with the adjustment brush. This will be more tedious but will help remove the yellow saturation from your grass and won’t affect other important colors in the image.

Video Tutorial

For visual learners, watch this video tutorial on how to edit greens in Lightroom with the HSL/Color panel.

Pretty simple!  Keep green adjustments on your radar and be sure to add this step to your future editing workflow.

Want to see the full edit from START to FINISH?

Click HERE to watch the full edit!

How to Achieve a Blurry Background in Your Photos

How to Achieve a Blurry Background in Your Photos

Inside: Want to take photos with a blurry background? These three tips will help you achieve a beautiful blurry background – and two won’t require you to change your camera settings!


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend tools and resources I use and love!

Years ago I kept a personal family photo blog, before I knew the first thing about photography.

Back then, I didn’t know how to take good photos, but I did seem to recognize when I got lucky on my auto settings.

When I look back I see the photos I loved and shared most had a sharp subject in the foreground and a blurry background.

Those photos garnered lots of attention and compliments from others.  I remember the rush of excitement I felt to share my best photos. I knew they looked good, yet I could never pinpoint why those photos came out so well.

I had no idea how I’d done it!

blurry background

Now I know how to get consistent results from my camera and how to take photos with a beautiful blurry background.

Why A Blurry Background Is Appealing

A good photo captures a scene the way your eyes would see it. Let me explain this with a quick exercise

Hold your hand one foot in front of your face.  Without taking your eyes off your hand, notice what you see beyond your hand.

It’s blurry, right?

When a person or object is close to you, you’ll see a blurry background behind them.

Photo with a sharp subject and a blurry background.

On the other hand, if you look at a scene far from you, such as a landscape, notice how most of the scene appears in focus as you gaze over it.

A good landscape photo will have the whole scene in focus because it mirrors how your eyes would see it.

As you learn to take good photos, you can think through the way your eyes would view a scene to evaluate how well you captured it.

The First Key To A Blurry Background

You can increase the blur of your photo’s background with two methods I’ll share below.  These won’t require any change in camera settings.

But one camera setting is crucial to a blurry background – your aperture.

Aperture is one of the legs of the exposure triangle.  Aperture, also known as f/stop, controls how much of your image will be blurry.

For a simple to understand explanation of aperture, be sure to check out this Easy To Understand Photography Cheat Sheet for Beginners HERE.  

The wider the camera’s aperture opens, the lower the f/stop number will be, and the blurrier the background of the photo will be.  

The more the camera’s aperture closes, the higher the f/stop number will be, and the less blurry the background will be.

In the photo of the girl walking on the beach, the camera’s aperture was set at f/3.2.  This helped produce the blurry background. 

The photo of the mountain sunset above was taken at f/14 and it’s sharp throughout the image.

The first key to a blurry background: choose a lower f/stop setting, like f/2.8 or f/3.2.  

portrait blur

This photo, taken at aperture f/2.8 has a beautiful blurry background.

The Second Key to a Blurry Background

The second key to a blurry background is to increase your subject’s distance from the background behind them.

The further the subject’s distance from the background, the blurrier the background will appear.

Check out these two photos.  I took them both at aperture f/6.3 with the same lens, my favorite 35mm.  But notice how much blurrier the background in the second photo looks because he’s further away from the wall.

How to Take Photos with a Blurry Background on your iPhone

With your camera phone you can’t control your aperture.  The phone chooses the aperture for you.

But you can use your subject’s distance from the background to get a blurrier background.

The next time you’re taking a photo of a person take a moment to move them into a position where the background will be as far behind them as possible.

Another option: use your phone’s portrait mode to generate a blurry background.  The phone uses an algorithm to create the blur.  On closer examination the blur may not look as natural as it would if taken with a DSLR, but overall, it’s a nice option to improve your iPhone photography.

Here’s a great tutorial on iPhone portrait mode.

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The Third Key to a Blurry Background:

The third key to taking photos with a blurry background is to use a lens with a long focal length.

You can achieve a blurry background with a wide-angle lens.  In the example below, I used one of my favorite lenses, a wide-angle 35 mm lens:

blurry background

But a longer lens, like an 85 mm, 135 mm, or 200 mm compresses the background.  That is, the focal length of the lens causes the background to appear closer to the subject and blurrier. 

In the photo below I used my 135 mm at aperture f/3.5.  I love the creamy background.  The trees behind her are across the street but it looks like she’s in the middle of the forest.

portrait blur

Background Blur Simplified

To achieve a blurry background in your photos:

  • choose a wide aperture (low f/stop number)
  • increase your subject’s distance from the background
  • use a long lens

All 3 employed together are a powerful combination for beautiful photos with background blur. 

No luck required.

Do Photography Terms Sound Like A Foreign Language?  Let Me Simplify It For You:

How to Choose Your Camera Focus Points for Better Photos

How to Choose Your Camera Focus Points for Better Photos

Inside: a detailed tutorial on how to choose your camera focus points and choose which part of your image you want in focus.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  Any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me at no extra cost to you.

Before I learned how to take great photos I found myself in need of a creative outlet.

A Pinterest search turned up some cute DIY glass tile pendant necklaces and I got excited to try my hand.  I made a few and felt so pleased with my craftiness I wanted to show them off with photos.

I studied the photos on the tutorial’s website.

The pendant in the photo’s foreground looked sharp while the background looked blurry. I loved how it looked and wanted to figure out how to take a photo like that.

I laid my pendants out on a white table cloth and arranged them in rows.

I took a few shots with my nice DSLR and checked the back of my camera.

Arghhh…why couldn’t I get the one I wanted in focus?

I tried everything I could think of.

I changed my camera angle and took the photos from the side.

I moved closer in, then further away.

How hard could this be?

But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get my camera to focus where I wanted it to.

One shot would have one pendant in focus, but never the one I wanted.

The next shot would have them all in focus.

And the third would be a shot of the wall behind them!

After 20 minutes of attempts to get my camera to focus where I wanted it to, I gave up.

“What am I missing?” I thought.  “What’s the trick to this?”

Why It’s Important To Choose Your Camera Focus Points

A great photo has a clear focal point.  The focal point should be in focus and stand out from the rest of the image.

In Auto Mode, most cameras will choose the focal point for you.

As you look into your camera’s viewfinder you will see an array of focal points.  When you depress your shutter halfway you’ll notice how one or more of the camera focus points light up.

camera focus points

If you’re lucky, when you shoot in auto mode, one of the camera focus points will fall on your subject.

But as often as not, when your camera decides for you, you’ll get an unpredictable result.

In the image below I wanted the flower in focus, but the camera chose the leaf instead:

photo of flower demonstrating how to choose your camera focus points

I got the result I wanted when I chose the camera’s focal point.

photo of a flower demonstrating the power of choosing your own camera focal point

Learning how to choose your focal point will take your photos to the next level.

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A Powerful Camera Setting

Toggling your focal point is powerful.  Here are three reasons why:

First, it’s powerful because you can tell your camera what’s most important in your image.

Here, I placed the focal point on my daughter.  This told my camera I wanted her in focus, not the poles or trees behind her.  When paired with a wide aperture the background blurs while the subject remains sharp.

Second, it’s powerful because if there’s something between you and your subject you can incorporate it into the foreground of the image without confusing your camera as to what you want in focus.

In this shot, I told my camera to focus on my son as the subject of the photo, not my daughter in front of him.  This added nice depth to the photo, and my camera knew what I wanted in focus.

Third, it’s powerful because you can use it to create interesting compositions while shooting.

In this photo I used the rule of thirds to compose my photo with my son in the right third of the frame.

boy playing soccer with focal point overlay to show how photos was composed and shot

Single Point Focus

Photography terms can get confusing.  The words focus, auto, and mode get thrown around a lot and not always in reference to the same camera function.

In this tutorial, we’ll use the term single point focus to refer to the camera setting that allows you to choose and toggle your focal point.

But this camera function may be called something different based on the camera model.  On Nikon cameras it’s called the AF area mode.  On Canon cameras it’s called single-point AF.

How to Toggle Your Camera’s Focal Point

Step 1 – Pull Out Your Camera Manual

Remember that manual that came with your camera?  Time to dig it out!

If you can’t find it, Google can help.  Most camera manufacturers provide copies of their camera manuals online.  You can search for your Nikon camera manual HERE, or your Canon camera manual HERE.

Every camera’s a little different so you’ll need to find out how to switch to single point focus – or whatever term your camera manufacturer uses – on your camera.

Step 2 – Get Out of Auto Mode

You can’t choose your focal point unless you shoot in manual mode, or a semi-manual mode.  If you shoot in Auto mode the camera will choose both your exposure settings and focal point for you.

If you need help with this be sure to check out How To Use Your DSLR Camera.

Step 3 – Switch To Single Point Focus

Here are some tutorials to help you switch your camera to single point focus:

Canon Rebel

Nikon D300

Nikon D5000

Canon 5D Mark iii 

Step 4 – Practice!

Once you get your camera set to single point focus practice using your camera’s multi-selector wheel to toggle your focal point.

On most cameras, it looks like this:

Look through your camera’s viewfinder. Use the arrows on your multi-selector wheel to toggle your focal point up, down, left and right.

Practice until you get comfortable doing it.

You’ve now got a powerful photography tool at your disposal for whatever you want to shoot – craft projects and kids alike!

Do photography terms sound like a foreign language?  Let me simplify it for you: