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First Meeting for 2013

December 30, 2012

Did you get a new DSLR for Christmas or already have one and want to learn more about photography?  The Moms with a Camera photo club is a great place to learn more about photographing your family and is also a great place to get out and meet other women.

Our first meeting this year is January 8th.   Shari Saysomsack will be starting a series on “Playing with Light.” The first meeting will be focussed on understanding black and white photography.

We meet twice a month at Thrifty Foods in Abbotsford.  Your first meeting is free and a yearly membership is $50.


What you’ll need to bring:

-A folder or binder for any hand outs

-A pen/ pencil

-Cash/ cheque for the yearly membership if you plan to join.

*You do not need to bring your camera to meetings unless it’s posted/ emailed for a specific meeting.




12 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge

December 8, 2012

It’s easy to get in a photo rut, especially at this time of year when the days are short and the light is dim.  However, it’s also one of the most beautiful times of year.  Twinkling lights, excited little ones (not to mention adults too), pretty decorations, fresh baking and many lovely traditions.  With Christmas just around the corner and the possibility of your camera sitting on your shelf (even if you want to get some great Christmas photos), it’s the perfect time for a photo challenge.

Here’s the details:

When: December 11-22

Who can participate: ANYONE.  You can be in the Moms with a Camera photo club, a follower on facebook, professional photographer, hobbyist photographer, etc. It doesn’t matter.

How it Works:  Each day, for 12 days, there will be a new photo challenge.  All of the challenges are listed in this blog post so that you can plan ahead. The photo can be of anything related to the theme, it doesn’t have to be of your child. It could be of an object, other people, abstract, etc.  You do not need to take your photo on the day you should be posting it.  All you need to do is post your photo on your own facebook page. Make sure that you tag the MWAC Facebook page on your post.

Just copy the following text onto your post (just adjust the day number as necessary):

@Moms with a Camera 12 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge: Day 7 Winter Activity

IMG_5686bw fb

*To tag a Facebook page just type @ and then momswithacamera.  It will automatically highlight and create a link back to the MWAC page.

*Do not email your photo to mwac challenges or post it on the MWAC facebook wall (we will not be posting any photos that are emailed, etc).  You do not need to watermark your image unless you would like to.

Here are the Photo Themes:

Day 1, Dec 11: Santa

Day 2, Dec 12: Advent

Day 3, Dec 13: Lights

Day 4, Dec 14: Christmas Tree

Day 5, Dec 15: Gingerbread

Day 6, Dec 16: Christmas Colours (Red and Green)

Day 7, Dec 17: Winter Activity (can be indoors or outdoors)

Day 8, Dec 18: Giving

Day 9, Dec 19: Joy

Day 10, Dec 20: Peace

Day 11, Dec 21: Anticipation

Day 12, Dec 22: True Meaning

At the end of the challenge we will try to write up a blog post with some of our favourite shots.  There is no prize, just the joy of learning and possibly seeing one (or more) of your images posted.  Please have a look on the MWAC page regularly to see what others are posting and leave a little comment love for others. It’s amazing how a little facebook comment can encourage someone and make their day!

Be creative and have fun.  If you just want to post an Instagram photo, that’s fine too.  You will notice that the themes start off fairly general and get more abstract as time goes on. You may want to consider doing a little brainstorming to plan for the shot that you would like to get.

You DO NOT need to post a photo every day. This is supposed to be fun, not stressful.  If you miss a day for whatever reason, that’s fine, don’t stress.  The challenge ends on the 22nd so that none of us need to be thinking of posting a photo right on Christmas (unless you want to).  Some days you may love your photo and others may just be a snapshot. That’s ok, life is busy.  This is what you make it, we hope you have fun and get creative!

Plan to participate?  Leave a comment to let us know that you’re on board. We look forward to seeing all your lovely Christmas photos!

Christmas Light Bokeh

November 20, 2012

Using Christmas light bokeh, or twinkle light bokeh is a fun way to add a festive touch to your photographs during the holiday season.  This tutorial will give you a few tips for how to take your own twinkle light photographs.

Twinkle Light bokeh is what we refer to as the dots of light in the background of a photo taken in front of small lights (usually strings of Christmas lights).  The bokeh appears very round because the photos are taken with a wide-open aperture.

This blog post is written with as much detail as possible, in case you are not confident with using your camera in manual mode.

Supplies you’ll need:

-strings of lights (usually clear lights, but coloured lights will work and offer a different effect). Lights on a white wire are preferable to those on green wires (unless you are using a dark background).  The white wires usually blend into the background better so that the wires don’t show up at all!  Some people have had success hanging the lights behind a white sheet so that the green wires don’t show up.

-backdrop stand of some sort (back of a couch, chairs, headboard,  or wall that you can attach things to)

-sheet to hang lights in front of (optional, depending on your set-up)

-area with good natural light

-reflector (optional, depending on lighting in the room.  A white sheet, white posterboard, or commercially made-reflector will work)

-50 mm lens or another lens that has the capability to open up to a a large aperture (small f/number) such as between 1.4 and 2.8. The 50 mm 1.8 or 50 mm 1.4 are great options for this type of photo.

What you need to know:

-bokeh is determined by the focal length of your lens, the distance from your camera to the subject, the distance from your subject to the background, and your aperture.   The same principles apply if you are taking photos of ANYTHING and you want to blur out the background.

Step by Step Directions:

1) Set up the twinkle lights on the backdrop stand in an area with ample natural light. Turn off overhead lights if at all possible.  Make sure you have enough twinkle lights, so that the bokeh is filling in enough of the frame.

2) Set up an inanimate object such as a stuffed animal or a container of some sort on the spot that you will place your child later.  If at all possible, try to place the object at the same height as your child will be, so that you can determine if the lights are placed in the proper area of the background.

3) Set your aperture “wide open”.  On a 50mm 1.8 lens, that would be at 1.8.  It is important for your aperture to be “wide open” so that the shape of the boekh is as circular as possible.  Also, the wider open the aperture is, the more blurred out the twinkle lights will be, and the less of the wires and details you will able to see.

4) Either spot meter or get in tight to your subject to meter for the skin.  Adjust your ISO and shutter speed to obtain a correct exposure.  Ensure that your shutter speed is at least 1/100 of a second to avoid motion blur and/or camera shake.  Try not to underexpose your image.  If you need to use a higher ISO to avoid having too low of a shutter speed, that is a better option.  A noisy photo is better than a blurry photo.  After metering for the skin, take a test shot.  You want the skin to be well exposed.  The bokeh will be brighter than the skin.  Once your settings are set, you shouldn’t need to change them.  When the twinkle lights are in the frame (if you’re not spot-metering) your meter might jump around.  Don’t adjust unless your LCD screen or histogram are showing that you are under/over exposed.

5) Set your white balance.  Take a test shot, if you don’t like the colour of the whites, try a different preset.  Set a custom white balance if you know how to do that.  (Check your instruction manual).

6) Decide on a composition for your photo that will allow the bokeh to show up and that is pleasing to you (rule of thirds, etc.)

7) Use your focus points.  Toggle (adjust the focus point) or Focus-recompose using the center focus point.  I find that it is better for this situation to toggle, as you will be quite close to your subject, and the simple act of recomposing your shot at such a wide aperture might cause you to lose focus.  When you have a human subject later, you will lock focus on the eye.

8) Lock focus and press your shutter button.


Problem: Entire face isn’t in focus

Solution: Learn about focal planes: Because you will be using a wide aperture, it is best to make sure that your subject is facing the camera directly.  That will enable you to keep both eyes in focus.

Problem: One eye is in focus, and the other isn’t

Solution: Focus on the eye closest to the camera if the person isn’t facing you straight on, otherwise, have them face you directly if you want both eyes in focus

Problem: Size/Quality of bokeh isn’t “good enough.”   If the bokeh is very small, you need to adjust one or more factors:


1)Get the camera closer to the subject

2) Move the subject farther from the background

3) Choose a wider aperture (smaller aperture number) (f/1.4-f/2.8)

Problem: You can see the wires of the Christmas lights

Solution: Ensure that your subject is far away from the lights and that you are close to the subject.  This will blur out more of the wires.  Alternately if you have green wires, you can try putting a thin white sheet in front of the lights. This doesn’t no always work, but you can try it.

Aperture is too closed down (the f/number is too large). More is in focus, so you can see the wires.

Aperture is wide open, so the lights are blurred. In hindsight, I should have had fewer lights, as the effect is VERY blurred. But you get the idea!

Problem: Subject is blurry

Solution:  Your shutter speed might be too slow.  Adjust your shutter speed so that it is a bigger number (ie. If it is blurry at 1/60 second, adjust so that you are at 1/125, and so on.)

Problem:  There is an orange glow on top of the person’s head.

Solution: Some of the glow might be from the Christmas lights.  Otherwise, it could be happening if you have overhead light on.  Turn the overhead lights off.  Make sure you are using the proper white balance setting.

Problem: The subject is underexposed (too dark)

Solution: You need to choose a bigger ISO number or a slower shutter speed.  (ie. If your ISO is at 400, bump it to 800, or if your shutter speed is at 1/400, change it to 1/200 and so on).  Meter off of the skin.

Problem:  The subject is overexposed (too bright)

Solution: You need to choose a smaller ISO number or a faster shutter speed.  (e. if your ISO is at 800, change it to 400, or if your shutter speed is at 1/400, change it to 1/800 and so on).  Meter off of the skin.

There are so many creative things you can do with twinkle light bokeh.  These above examples are very simple.  I have plans to do some more creative set-ups to play around a bit more.  How about you?  Do you have plans to try out twinkle light bokeh?  Leave us a comment if you have anything to share or any questions!

For our Fraser Valley MWAC club members, we are having a special “photo challenge” with twinkle light bokeh.  You can submit up to five images and they don’t have to all be of your kids!  Get creative.  E-mail them by 1:00 on Monday, November 26th to or put them in our MWAC members dropbox.  Shari will make a slideshow for us to enjoy at our final meeting of the 2012 season which is happening on Tuesday, November 27th.

Creating Collages in Lightroom

October 24, 2012

Taking your camera on everyday outings is a great way to capture ordinary moments that wouldn’t ordinarily be captured.  Try to have an idea ahead of time of the thing that you want to photography. What are the things that make a certain trip unique or special to your family?  Capture those moments.  If possible, try to have another adult with you, giving you the freedom to photography without having to worry about safety, etc.

Photography Tips: Try shooting from different angles (high, low, etc), get shots that focus on the big picture (narrow aperture) as well as ones that just capture your child (wide aperture to blur background).  Shoot the details, get photos of the items that your child likes to look at, etc (photos that are nothing special on their own but are a part of your story).  Try capturing the whole event (from leaving the house to coming home). *Many stores don’t allow photos to be taken inside the store, feel free to ask a manager ahead of time for permission or just go for it and see if anyone stops you.

Wondering what to do with your photos?  You can easily make a collage of your images right in Lightroom.  This can be done in the Print module (find the tab on the top right of Lightroom).  You can use a collage right in Lightroom,  import additional collage templates here, or create your own.  Each collage just takes about 30 seconds to put together when using a template, amazing!  So much easier and faster than bringing your images into photoshop.  The above pics are by Carla and below images are by Kim.

Grocery stores are great places to practice manual exposure since the light doesn’t change much (can vary depending on the store.  This is my family shopping at Superstore (& Hope Depot at top).

Bonus Challenge:

Capture your children/ family out in public (similar to the above examples).  Pick a location and have fun with your DSLR.  Put a set of your images into a collage and email your “Story” to Anna at

Melissa DePape Photography

October 9, 2012

This Tuesday, October 9, 2012, Melissa DePape Photography will be sharing with our group.  Melissa is based in Chilliwack, BC and is a natural light photographer.  She specializes in photographing children and newborns.  Melissa is an onlocation photographer but also does some studio work.  Melissa has a wonderful way of creating”magic” with her photography by capturing children just as they are. Check out her blog here to be inspired.

Melissa photographs children with disabilities on a regular basis.  Melissa is the founder of The Tiny Light Foundation.   She donates her time and talent photographing child of all abilities including Autism, Down Syndrome, Trisomy 21, Trisomy 18, Premie babies in chilliwack and surrounding areas.  Melissa DePape photography also specializes in labor and delivery in Chillwack. Editorial style  Labor and Delivery Photography at Chilliwack General hospital

October Challenge: Fall

September 28, 2012

We’re back to regular photo challenges again, this month the challenge is “Pumpkin Patch/ Fall.”  Anything fall related would be great, it could be at the pumpkin patch, apple farm, in the leaves, etc.! You may interpret that however you wish; try to think outside the box. Let this photo bonus inspire you to remember to take photos of your children enjoying the wonderful things about fall! Photos should show at least a part of your child not just be a photo of a pumpkin.  We encourage you to participate in the photo bonuses by taking a photo related to the theme and e-mailing it to

Please e-mail your “pumpkin patch/ fall” photo anytime between now and Sunday, October 21 . Anna will watermark them and post them on the facebook page in a “Fall” album.  We will be showing and critiquing the images as a group on our Tuesday, October 23rd meeting.  Challenges are not contests in any way. They simply provide an opportunity for personal growth.

Have fun!  Looking forward to seeing lots of great fall photos on your children!  Even if you don’t attend our Fraser Valley MWAC club, we encourage you to follow along with our challenges.

*Looking through my pumpkin patch photos from last year, I was sadly disappointed with the quality of images I got.  The blown highlights on my children’s faces, the total lack of composition not to mention the small amount of photos I got.   I’m really looking forward to stepping it up this year!

Lightroom 101: October 13

September 25, 2012

We’re excited to be presenting a workshop all about Lightroom on October 13, 2012 at MEI Secondary School in Abbotsford.  A big thank you to Rick Having, who will be teaching the workshop.

This will be a full day workshop, from 9am-4:30pm (bring your own lunch).  The cost for non MWAC members is just $50 (includes remaining 2012 membership).  There are a total of 28 seats available in the workshop.  Each participant will have their own computer work station for hands on learning. Once your payment is in you will be considered registered.  No payment = not registered. Payment can be given in person to Shari Saysomsack or mailed to 16162 Springside Ct, Surrey, BC, V4N 1S2 (paypal may also be an option).  This is an incredible deal for a full day workshop, let alone one in a computer lab.  Whether you’re just starting out with photography or more experienced, this is a wonderful opportunity!  A course such as this would have been so valuable when I was just starting out, it’s so much better to learn how to do something right the first time.  Therefore, if you’re trying to decide if you should come to this, we whole heartedly would say, “come!”  We are not planning on doing something similar in the future, therefore please don’t wait until next time since there may not be a next time.  This workshop is for everyone!

Wondering what Lightroom actually is?  Check out this short video clip to get a better idea,  Lightroom is very user friendly, quite affordable and perfect for the hobbyist photographer.  We will be referring to editing in lightroom throughout the 2013 year. Lightroom will help you take your images from ordinary to extraordinary.
Below you can read a little more about what will be covered in Lightroom
Lightroom 101 :Presented by Rick Havinga and Moms with a Camera

Differences between LR and PS, what are the strengths in both.

Structure and Flow of Lightroom. 

Importing a photos into LR and settings paths and tags.

Understanding RAW format.

Working through the Library Module of LR.

Understanding all the options in the Development Module of LR.

         Using Presets (and how to make your own)

         Manual Editing of photos

         Rick’s basic 5 edits to an average photo.

         Cleaning up facial features with the Brush Tool

         Using the Sync tool in Batch processing.

         Exporting photos

         Working beyond LR with Photoshop

Understanding the Print Module in LR.

Understanding the Web Module in LR.
***We will have several amazing giveaways at the workshop as well!
 Sarah from My4Hens Photography has donated a set of presets for Lightroom (value of $40).  See the attached images to show what the straight out of the camera photo looks like and how it can be edited with a preset from My4Hens.  My4Hens is a very well known photographer in the USA, check her out here, or her fb page here,!/MyFourHens
Jessica from One Willow has also donated a set of presets (value of $45) as a giveaway.  One Willow is also a very well known company for presets and actions used by professional photographers. Check her out here, or her facebook page here!/OneWillowPresets
Pretty Presets is also giving away a $50 gift certificate for any preset collection.  Pretty Presets also has a wonderful blog with lots of great resources, be sure to check out their site!
For more information about the workshop please email Shari at or call at 604-583-6126