Theme Days

So, as I briefly mentioned in my last post, I spent a bit of time last week prepping and doing a couple themed shoots with my little one.

The first was a cake smash to celebrate his first birthday (already?!). Ive only done one other cake smash, last year at this time with little McKenna which I described on this blog back then. You may remember it didn’t go over super well.

The day of M’s cake smash, she wasn’t feeling her best having just started daycare and my backdrop was unexpectedly back-lit (and also went unnoticed until after I had the photos up on my big screen). On top of this, because this was before I had my speedlight or pop up flash bounce, I chose not to use any additional lights relying only on the natural light in the house. To the naked eye, it appeared as though there was adequate soft lighting and I was in such a rush to get the pictures done before M melted down or quit on me that I wasn’t checking them as I went, leading to an entire set of grossly underexposed images.

While I was able to salvage a few, I really wasn’t happy with them. To refresh your memory, here are a couple from that session:

There’s more grain in them than I like to see in my photos, and her colouring was especially difficult to fix. You can also see on the image on the left where the frame of my backdrop was visible due to the back-lighting.

So, as I went into planning mode for this next cake smash, I had a few big ticket items to take care of first.

The most obvious challenge (the lighting, or lack there of) I knew I wouldn’t have this time around since I am now the so so so happy owner of a speedlight (a life-saver truly).  To deal with the back-lighting, I chose to drape my backdrop against a light coloured wall instead of using the frame.

In terms of the mood/cooperation of my subject….well there’s not much you can do about that! It’s kinda a throw it out there and see what you get sort of deal when you’re working with babies and toddlers. I did however request a soft icing for the cake this time around as I remember McKenna being hesitant to ‘smash’ the cake because the icing was hard and pointy to touch! So I tried to make it easier to make a mess this time around lol.

So, on to the challenges I faced in this session.

The first was that I was by myself and my son was not so interested in playing along. So keeping him focused/entertained/happy whilst still getting the shot was a big challenge. I tried to keep it quick (relatively speaking), less than a half hour and thankfully my husband arrived home just in time to help with the clean up lol.

In the live view it appeared that all of the aspects of the shoot had gone off well, despite the lack of smiles or laughs. I had chosen a different set to set it apart from the style I used in McKenna’s shoot and it worked well. The lighting seemed well balanced, and despite the need for a little straightening here and there, generally the pictures looked great.

Here’s an example of the set:


Then I got it up on the big screen and noticed a giant glaring mistake. The backdrop was incredibly wrinkled. I had only set it up that morning while the little one napped so it hadn’t had time for the wrinkles of being folded up (badly) to fall out, and I hadn’t thought to iron it.

Here’s a pull back with no editing.


So I knew there would be a fair bit of editing to try and fix this.

I tried out both the adjustment brush to adjust sharpness, and also the same brush on clarity. I found the sharpness tool simply was not strong enough to deal with the wrinkles so had to rely on the clarity tool. However, it still wasn’t a perfect fix for me as the clarity tool when used this way I find creates a bit of a ‘glow’ – for lack of a better word. And this changes things a little bit. Also, it means there is some discrepancy between the photos as this had to be done by hand on each individual photo making it a bit inconsistent. But I can learn to live with that :).

I also used the dodge tool to try and bring the subject out a bit from the background and help him stand out. One small error I made on a few of the images (that I was honestly just too tired to go back and fix) was that my lines were not perfectly done and when zoomed out, in a couple of the photos there’s a bit of that halo effect from too much brightness beyond the borders of his skin.

The only other complaint I have, is unfortunately not something I can control. While the skin tones, white balance, and general appearance appear perfect on my editing monitor, when I uploaded some of the photos to my personal Facebook account and looked at them on my phone, I was disappointed to see that his skin appeared more orange than on my monitor and the backdrop a little bluer. I’m not sure if this is something photographers (especially in this digital age) compensate for or if they accept that it is what it is. Aside from printing, there is no good way that I can figure to guarantee accurate colour depiction from your computer to the public’s or clients’.

But alas, overall I think the session went well and as usual I have a few things to work on for next time, but nothing major!



The other themed shoot I did was much quicker as it was just for Valentines Day a few days after this shoot. While he still chose not to smile for me, I was actually really happy with how this one turned out! A little kitchy perhaps but sweet all the same!



© 2017 Amber White, KoiBlue Photography. None of the contents may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.


No More Snow Please!


Alright, well I might as well put it out there: I’m really struggling with this challenge.We’ve had a lot of cold and a lot of snow, which means I’ve seen a lot of the inside of my house lol. It makes me feel better to think that many people find this time of year difficult to get creative – at least those of us whose art typically involves going outside or to new places.  Throw in a soon-to-be one year old and I hope you can understand why I tend to gravitate towards the easiest path available! This path of course doesn’t often involve getting us all dressed to go outside and freeze our clavies off (so to speak).

Another excuse I have (because it’s definitly not a good reason!), is that I have a new off-label 85mm prime lens that I’ve been playing with. I really wanted an 85mm to play around with portraits but new lenses are currently out of my budget. However, I came across this Opteka brand lens for around $120CAD on Amazon so I decided to give it a try.  The lens is manual focus (which means the f/stop also has to be manually set) and is taking me a while to get adjusted to using it comfortably. As a way to push me to practice more I have left this lens on the camera so any pictures I take will have to be taken with it. Hence the laziness described above lol.

So I havent picked up my camera quite as much in the last two weeks as I should have, but I have been doing lots of photography planning. The mancub’s first birthday is coming up soon, in just a few days actually so I have spent some time prepping for a cake smash session with him (some of you may remember the technical disaster that was M’s last year at this time). As well as some themed shots for Valentines Day and his actual birthday. So over the next couple weeks I’ll take advantage of those themed shots to fill in a few days from this challenge lol. It’s not cheating I swear.

But in the meantime, here are the next series of shots in this challenge, predominantly taken with my 85mm lens.

Any thoughts or suggestions from those of you who are experienced with this type or level of lens, I would be happy to hear your tips!

Day 32- “Stark”
Day 33- “Those Eyes”


Day 34 – “More Snow”

Day 35- “Fur Coat”

Day 36- “Night Cap”

Day 37- “Puppy Cuddles”

© 2017 Amber White, KoiBlue Photography. None of the contents may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.

Girls Nite!

So it looks like we’re finally on the recovery side of this season of sickness at our house. It’s been a long few weeks but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel!

So you might remember the woman of honour in this series of photos. I took some engagement photos for her and her hubby-to-be a year ago and featured them on this blog (scroll way down to see them!). With their wedding coming up in a few weeks, her Maid-of-Honour threw her a bachelorette party and asked me to help out with some photos of the shenanigans and a photo booth. We had a lot of fun and it gave me a great opportunity to test out the newest addition to my tool belt – a speedlight! (finally, right!).

So for this week’s ‘submissions’ I’m going to include several shots from the bachelorette and just one of the mancub to round out the first 31 days of this new challenge!.


Day 21- “Fuel”
Day 22- “BTB”
Day 31- “Too Tired for Cheerios”

© 2017 Amber White, KoiBlue Photography. None of the contents may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.

The Case for Being Flexible with your Art

Photography, I’ve learned, is a lot like life in that it’s not always going to go as planned and you just have to be flexible and forgiving. Art of any kind is not a perfect science. There’s no magic composition to create perfection every time you head out to create something new. A musician doesn’t write a symphony every time he picks up his pen, so as Photographers we shouldn’t feel pressure to create perfection every time we pick up our camera. There are so many variables that can affect your creative process. But through all of the bad days, bad shoots, and the many many many bad shots, you learn a little here and a little there that help you to grab something you really love. The art that you’re in it for. For me, this most often comes completely unplanned lol! I often find the real gems after I’ve unloaded my camera and am sifting through the photos. The ones that I thought were great in camera preview often have major flaws that I just couldn’t see there. And then there are pictures that I felt were so-so or nothing special, but once downloaded and processed I see something new. Maybe an emotion, a story, or just a style that I really connect to. You never know so you just have to go with the flow and as I said be flexible. And forgiving because of course there are many times that even after downloading my camera I find nothing worthy of keeping. Nothing that I really connect to, or as Marie Kondo would say – nothing that brings me joy!

You also have to be flexible and forgiving towards yourself and expectations you have for yourself and what you plan to accomplish on any given day. This week and next I’m going to have to be a little more flexible and forgiving with myself in relation to this challenge as our household has been off to a bit of a rough start this year with many days housebound due to weather and over this past week it’s been illness as our wee one came down with croup. So I’ve decided to flex my rules a little for this week (and potentially next!) as there were many days this week where I looked at the photos I had taken and was unimpressed. They just didn’t have “it”. And with everything going on here at home I’m running a little low on time and energy. My creative process is going to have to take a back seat to my family’s needs, so as an exception due to sickness, I’m going to sub in a couple photos from earlier this month that I haven’t used yet but truly love to fill in my week.


Day 13- “Chickadee”
Day 14- “Backlit”
Day 15- “Working Space”
Day 16- “Healthy Eats”
Day 17- “Tip Toes”
Day 18- “From Scratch”
Day 19 – “Heat Seeker”


© 2017 Amber White, KoiBlue Photography. None of the contents may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.

Photo Challenge – week 2

We’ve had yet another snowy messy week here meaning a lot of housebound days and evenings. So to keep myself motivated I’ve been doing a lot of reading, completing a couple online workshops through the ClickinMoms network, which I’ve really enjoyed! I’m definitely looking forward to doing a couple more this winter!

There are a couple technical exercises I’ve been wanting to do to stretch my shutter muscles lately, the first of which was working with low key portraits. So late one insomnia-filled night this past week I did a little playing around. It took me a while and several attempts to not only find the right placement of the light source, but then the correct exposure as well to keep the focus on my face, and the area around me darkened. I’m pretty happy with the result, a properly balanced photograph that’s also an accurate portrayal of it’s subject! So when the insomnia hits, this is how you’d typically find me. Curled up in the dark with Pinterest in hand!

Day 6-“Pinterest”

While we haven’t been able to wander too far from home due to the wind chill, we did get out a couple of times just into our yard for some fresh air. I’ve got a new sled with wind screen on back-order that we’re hoping to receive soon so we can get back out on the trail and really enjoy all the winter has to offer. But in the meantime, our trusty Bob on our dirt road will suffice!

Day 7- “Bob”
Day 8- “Bouvier wind sock”
Day 9- “Blue eyes, red cheeks”

Of course, all of this indoor time means a lot more time for scouting out new recipes during nap time and experimenting in the kitchen. It didn’t seem right to have a week full of photos and not feature some of my culinary efforts! Baked salmon with creamy lemon and dill sauce, mmm mmm good!

Day 10- “yum”

The other exercise that I’ve been wanting to play with this week in follow up to some of my readings and workshops has been playing with natural light – following the light throughout the day and experimenting with all of it’s potential. This is something that I really want to focus on for the next couple months; making the most of the light at different points through the day and finding out all that it can mean for a photograph. Unfortunately we have had a dull, dark, grey week here! So while I didn’t get the light I was looking for, I did manage a couple of alternate light shots with what nature did offer. The trick to dull or flat lighting, is making the rest of your shot matter. Finding other ways such as subjects, composition, and especially perspective (in my opinion) that can tell the story and still share the emotion without the light.

Day 11- “bird watching”
Day 12- “bird watching part 2”

And that’s week 2/52 done :). Leave any comments, thoughts, or critiques in the comment section below!

© 2017 Amber White, KoiBlue Photography. None of the contents may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.

Week One -(almost) 7 days, (almost) 7 photo

I’m almost a week in to my new photo challenge and so far it’s going well. Of course it’s only been like 5 days so I’m still in the honeymoon phase of any New Years resolution! It’s week 3-4 that really starts to feel challenging (usually anyhow). But I’ve done this before and was successful so I have no reason to think I won’t be this time around either!

My ‘submissions’ for this week are pretty straightforward; we’ve been a little house bound due to weather and just trying to get back into a routine since the hubby went back to work after the break so I’ve not been doing too much experimentation. We’ll leave that for next week!

As always, critiques are welcome in the comment section below :).

Day 1- January 1st 2017: “Cocktails”
Day 2: “Play Time”
Day 3: “Lunch”
Day 4: “Quiet Time”
Day 5: “Colour”


© 2017 Amber White, KoiBlue Photography. None of the contents may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.

New Year, New Challenge, Same Journey

Happy New Year! After a long break from blogging, I’m back at it with a new challenge for this new year!


To remind you of where I left off, I started my photography journey after Santa brought me a Nikon D3300 for Christmas 2014. That January I started a 52 week Photography Challenge which, despite a few bumps in the road over the course of 2015, I am proud to say I stuck with it and finished the entire challenge. The learning curve was steep and there was so much to learn! But it was a great way to get started and build a solid foundation of knowledge. In the year since I completed the challenge, I’ve been working on learning editing with Lightroom and Photoshop, and continuing to experiment with new settings, and subjects. The cutest of which has to be my son Benjamin who was born in the new year. So I backed off the blog while I focused on just capturing my life as I lived it. I did keep it around however to continue to document my progress, and to show off my art of course! Feel free to scroll down and see some of what I’ve been up to this past year.

So, now that we’re all caught up, let’s get to why we’re here again. Over the last couple months I’ve been feeling somewhat unchallenged, or perhaps more accurately, unmotivated to look for creative opportunities for new photography. So, as a way to motivate myself out of this plateau I’ve decided to start a new photo challenge. This time I’m going into it a little more experienced, a little more knowledgeable, and hopefully a little more skilled. It’s time to up the ante!

Last time, I used a pre-made photo challenge I found on Pinterest that had a variety of weekly themes. Originally when I decided I needed to do another challenge, I figured I would brainstorm my own 52 week challenge to put a more personal spin on it. However after thinking on it a little more I’ve decided instead to shift gears and do a 365 Challenge instead! That’s a photo for every day of 2017. No other expectations, themes, styles, or ‘inspiration’. Literally just life as I live it, and whatever my camera sees each day. The biggest reason for my shift in challenge style was a point made by a guest blogger in the ‘Clickin Moms’ network. She made the point that a 365 day challenge, on top of generally challenging you to something every day to keep those skills well oiled, can also help you to discover your style. Over the course of the year, and especially near the end as I slideshow through my ‘submissions’, I should be able to identify common themes or elements (such as recurring subjects, types of light, colour etc) that make up my style.  I have a general idea of what my style is, or at least what I most enjoy photographing and editing, but I think this challenge will really help to hone in on it and develop it more purposefully.

With my updated blog layout I’ve included a countdown that should appear near the top left hand side of the screen (for desktop views anyway) to help keep me on track to the end of the year!

The other detail to layout is also editing and posting. While I will be taking photos every day, I know it would be completely unrealistic to think I could also edit and post those photos every day or even every other day! So while simply getting the photos in the camera is the top priority, I will make it a somewhat looser goal to edit and post weekly updates of my challenge and any other special photography learning or taking I’ve been doing!

So welcome back and thanks for coming along on another journey with me!