Basics of Photography Class

by: Tera Girardin on

So you have a great camera but all the buttons and functions seem intimidating. And maybe even with this expensive piece of equipment, you still aren't quite getting the shots you want. Let's change that! Come hang out with me at the studio and I'll teach you the basics of exposure and how to make that camera work for you! We will go over the 3 things that go into making a good exposure (aperture, shutter speed and ISO). We'll talk about composition a little, we'll talk about what types of shots are frustrating you, we'll actually take photos and we'll turn that little dial off of AUTO (gasp!). Yes, that's right, we'll learn how to use your camera in manual mode. You can do it! I promise not to talk over your head or get too technical. This is me guiding you to get comfortable with your camera. We'll use some still life to practice on and then we will have a model come in so you can practice on a real live person. (Speaking of which I'm looking for a volunteer -- ideally a child between 5-12 - to hang out with us for about an hour). Who should attend? You should have a DSLR camera and a lens or two. This is a very basic class so if you've never taken the lens off or turned the dial off of auto, this is the class for you. More advanced users I welcome too, but understand my goal is to get everyone shooting on manual by the end of class. The studio is a fun place to practice so come on in! Bring your camera, any lenses, the manual and a notebook. What's included? The three hour class will be very hands on from the start. It includes a copy of the book "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson so you aren't lost after the class. As mentioned we'll be practicing our new skills with a model. And there will be light snacks and refreshments. The class size is limited to 10 people (minimum of 3 people to hold the class). The class is only $75 which is a great value. Previous students have commented they have gotten so much out of the hands on shooting part of the class. It clicks! I've been photographing children and their families for almost 10 years. I mainly use natural light and I always shoot on manual. I am not the kind of photographer that gets caught up in the technical aspects but more so focuses on the subject and the connection. I know what I like and I know how to achieve the results I want. I can teach you how too! Sign up by filling in the form below "I'm in!" And bring a friend - life is always more fun with a friend. :) See you soon!

Sign up by emailing Tera and reserve your spot! Only 10 students max. 

Tips for Better Kid Pics

by: Tera Girardin on

Photographing your own kids is hard! But if you plan ahead a little and have the right attitude, you can create beautiful portraits of your children.   Look for the light Unless you have professional studio lighting, your best bet is to get your kids outside and in natural light. Take a look around and see how the light plays off your subject’s face. If your kids are young, you might want to enlist the help of a grownup to do some location scouting first! Look to find the right spot. Are there harsh shadows? Is your subject backlit (so their face is dark and behind them is light)?  Is the sunlight too bright, making their eyes squinty?   Your best bet for soft flattering light can be found in open shade. Think of the edge of a porch with your subject in the soft shade. The sun can be just in front of them but not falling on them. This is the easiest type of lighting.

Many photographers love the sweet light just before dusk and it is truly beautiful. However, I find with young kids that timing the sunset isn’t always convenient. So give it a try with your older kids but better to photograph your littles earlier in the day.   Advanced Technique:  If you are indoors (since it is winter right now!), try placing your subject near a big picture window -- right up next to it. It can give a bit of shadows to the face if they are sitting with the window light to the side of their face. Classic and pretty portrait.
Take a bit of time to find the right light. It will make a huge difference in your photos.   Watch the background Before you click the shutter, take a quick scan of what’s behind your subject. Do you have a random sibling photobomber? Or something weird coming from someone’s head? Or maybe the background is just busy. Take the time to adjust your angle to correct for the background.   Advanced Technique: Utilize your camera’s depth of field and blur that background out.   
All about the angles Speaking of angles, most of the time it’s best to photograph a subject at about eye level. With little ones, that means getting low. Really low sometimes. Or moving the subject up higher so you are level.
Or get high! One way to correct an overly busy background is to have your kids sitting on the ground. Photograph them from a standing position slightly over them. Your background will be all ground and they will be peering lovingly up at you. It really is a sweet innocent look to photograph someone from above and offers a different perspective. 

OR get really low! With older kids it can show off how big they are if you lay on the ground and let them tower over you. Again, a fun perspective to try.   Contain Them Young children tend to wiggle and move and not stay still. So after you’ve found your sweet lighting spot, how do you get them to stay put?! You will need to find a way to anchor them. You can try a blanket and some books or favorite toy. No? That won’t keep your child still? Try a small stool that they can climb on themselves. Most toddlers love to play on a small sturdy stool. No? That won’t work either? Try a regular sized chair that’s hard for them to climb off of. No? You say your child is a monkey? How about a container -- basket, metal tub, wooden crate. Sitting inside something can be novel just long enough to snap a few. Or even try a small tent to play peekaboo with. As a last resort you can try a small snack like goldfish or Cheerios to keep them coming back to the place you want but you are likely going to get crumbs and fat cheeks.
  And if that doesn’t work...I suggest waiting until they are asleep and photographing them then! 
 Avoid “Mean Mom” So, sadly I have to admit, even I turn into Mean Mom when I photograph my own kids. I’m a professional! I’ve had clients call me the Child Whisperer because I get their kiddos to cooperate and create great portraits for them. And it’s still hard for me to get my own kids to do so. Here’s a few things I’ve learned after almost 10 years in business.   First, know your subject... pick the time of day that they are their best. Probably not when they are hungry, tired or over stimulated. Almost everyone is better in the morning.   Avoid bribes -- they almost always backfire. Kids are counting down to the bribe. And then not engaged with you and the camera. Reward afterwards but don’t promise, bribe, threaten or trick. Kids are too smart and it will backfire. If you cave in then you’ll have a lollipop in every shot. How do you engage your subject? Ask silly questions, get them talking, sing a song, have them tell you a secret, blow bubbles, have them count to 3 (the word “three” is a more natural smile inducing word than cheese). Go with the flow! Maybe your child insists on having their doll photographed -- go for it! Your child will be more likely to cooperate if you cooperate with them.  Do your best to shift your own mentality to “Loving Photographer Mom” because kids FEED off your attitude. Even in my own client sessions I can tell when tension is in the air. When mom is stressed, kids are stressed. Bad photos are the result. So shift your mindset and embrace whatever comes your way.   And finally if the kids are not into it...bail on it and try again another day. You can tell when a kiddo is tired of taking photos. Camera fatigue is a real thing! Advance Technique:  Hire a professional! :) Like I said, it’s hard for us professionals to get our own kids to cooperate so splurge and hire someone to do your photos once in a while. That way YOU get in the photo too!   

Know Your Camera
And lastly, it’s helpful to know the ins and outs of your camera. Today’s cameras are amazing and there are so many automatic settings that are really really good. But I still think it’s really valuable to know how to override your camera’s settings and shoot in manual mode. At the very least, you’ll have an understanding of what is going on with your auto settings. Don’t be afraid! Turn that dial and see what happens!   Read the manual, take a class, learn online, ask questions, practice and make mistakes and try again. Feel free to shoot me your questions about your own photos!

Why a selfie isn't the best

by: Tera Girardin on

If you are a small business owner or work for a large corporation, you likely have an online presence these days. And more than just your personal Facebook page. I'm talking social media and websites where you are professionally represented. What photo do you have attached to these sites? Is it the one where you cropped out the rest of your family but you can still sorta tell? Or did you friend at work snap it of you over lunch? Or did you *gasp*  do it yourself?!  :) Is that how you really want to professionally represent yourself? Selfies and snapshots are fun but maybe not what's best for you business.  It's important so let's do it right! I can help! Here is one client that chose a Deluxe Headshot Session and went with a mix of formal and casual. She was going to use the more formal one for LinkedIn and her company website and the more casual ones for Facebook and other social media. A great idea to have a shot that makes you feel good about yourself as you profile photo. If you are a small business owner, you need your photo to represent your brand. Here is a Deluxe Headshot Session I did for a Licensed Family & Marriage Therapist. She looks warm, approachable, and professional.  I can help you create a portrait that suits your business brand. 


Or maybe a Basic Session is all you need. Sometimes a straightforward headshot is best!   Whatever your style, I can work with you to create a professional portrait that works best for you! 

WHAT TO WEAR?!! | Fall Family Portraits

by: Tera Girardin on

After booking your portrait session (which many of you have from the Someday Sale - thank you!!), the first thing likely on your mind is "What should we all wear?" Followed by a minor panic and inventory run down of what is owned, what fits and what coordinates. And then likely a trip to the mall. I get it. I have my own portraits done and do this scramble each year too. I thought maybe if I post a few of my faves from past years, you can get some ideas and color palettes. Things to consider 1. Your family does not need to wear a "uniform." By this I mean exactly the same clothes like khakis and white polo shirts. This is your family portrait! Add some of your family personality to it. 2. Along that same thought, although you don't want to be all matchy-match, you do want to coordinate. Think about balance and kept it to 2-3 colors. Moderation but not plain. 3. Consider where you'll display your portraits and what the colors are in your room. If you have lots of deep rich, warm colors in your living room, stick with deep rich warm colors. 4. Consider the location of your session and what the season is like. The fall can give us many many different looks from brilliant fall leaves to neutral muted colors as the season fades. (as you'll see in the samples below). If you plan to be in front of a maple tree in all it's blazing red glory...maybe skip those pastel sherbets or neon colors of spring and summer as it just won't flow right. 5. Consider the weather - let's be real. It gets cold in Oct. in MN. Heck it's been known to snow! So maybe opt for fun coats, scarves or other warm gear for later season photos. They can add character and personality to your photos. 6. Don't forget about footwear. They often show in family photos so make sure you are ok with what you are wearing. 7. Wear what looks good on you!! By all means wear something you feel good in because if you dress yourself last and only to fit into what everyone else is wearing, you won't like your photo. I'm speaking mainly to the moms who are doing the coordinating. Do not put yourself last in this. In fact start with your outfit first. I promise you'll like the end product so much more.   Let's take a look at some inspiration from families I've had in the past couple of years.   First up... a very All American look in front of their home which happened to match their outfits perfectly. This was also at the end of summer so shorter sleeves worked well. Notice they have a nice balance of solids an only 2 patterns. Patterns are a nice way to break things up and I think often necessary when assembling your ensemble. But two plaids or two polka dots would have been a little much here. Think about dressing your group as you would one person.

Again a late summer/early fall session with lots of sunshine. This family definitely did not go with a matchy-match and even though they are all wearing different things it works very very well. No competing colors - it all just blends nicely. And suits each person.     

This family ensemble works well because they used ivory and LIGHT blue shirts, darker denim and only one darker shirt. If they had all been in ivory and navy...totally different look and a bit stark for this warm family. I am not a fan of doing strict black and white shirts --the contrast in tones is distracting to me and harder to photograph. Keeping everyone is similar color values -- darkers, mediums, pastels, lights, whites -- helps and makes your black and white images look better.  
And then here's an example where dark and light WORKS! So ignore everything I said above. :)  Ha! Really why this works is the girls have a navy and white pattern and it pulls out dad's shirt. Plus they are grouped all together tightly so it's not so much white vs dark competing against each other. Note...I love the pop of color with the pink. It makes this ensemble!   

Here is a couple of great uses of classic fall colors. First the browns and greys paired with pumpkin. Wonderful to blend with autumn leaves! (or your golden dog!). And the one below with classic brick and denim. Looks good with fall and marries well with holiday cards too!   

This extended family really knocked it out of the park with coordinating their outfits. With a larger group you can go with 3-4 colors like they've done here with the plum, denim, brown and cream. They mixed it up yet coordinated it so well - great balance. BUT what is even better is that it all works well when we broke down into smaller family groups pictured below. Outfits still flowed great with individual families yet, with the large group photo, it doesn't look like anyone is in family uniforms. They all belong to one cohesive group. The other thing to point out here and in all the successful ensembles is the use of LAYERS. The shirts with jackets, vests, scarves, etc. It just adds so much dimension without taking away from the people in the photo.   

These next two are a definite "heart of fall" sessions with pretty grasses and leaves. First family did a nice job using neutrals with a pop of color and not over doing it. And they were aware of the location so they are not competing with their surroundings.   

I love the use of a grey with purple here because it's not expected in a fall or holiday card photo and it works so great with the colors of their surroundings. Plus it's good to note that these colors compliment the subjects really well. Their coloring lend them to look good in cool colors. Good thing to keep in mind! Wear what looks good on you!


Ok this session was not technically a fall family session - it was shot in March and there's a whole story to how we waited and waited for the right snow to fall that year! But I include it because it's a great example of how to do a session in the heart of winter. And great use of neutrals with pops of color.   

And another snow photo. I love this very traditional look for a holiday card. And for this family, they moved here from a not so snowy place so it was very fitting way to celebrate their first MN winter! Can I point out that this wouldn't have worked so well if both the kids were in red? And that dad has a bit of red to his scarf - perfect. IF this were a family of 5 or 6, then I'd add in another splash of red to someone -- red sweater for example. Reds are tough to match though so be careful of this.   

If being outside in the cold ain't your thing...there is the studio to work with. Here's a few samples of studio shots where really we can tailor the background to your outfits. This sibling shot is a nice mix of red/white/blue but in a less summery sort of way. Super cute!   

I mentioned in the tips to start with that having matching outfits doesn't work. Unless you are sweet sisters like this. Identical outfits works great for 2-3 siblings as long as they are 12 or under. These girls rocked this look! Formal, stunning, classically Christmas colors!   

Full disclosure...these are my parents with all their grandkids. If someone had been filming while I was shooting it had to look insane. But I show it because it was a challenge to dress multiple age groups of children -- newborn to middle school. My sisters can take the credit for the coordinating on this one and we opted for a few coordinated pieces from Children's Place (many of the specialty children's apparel shops do a fantastic job of coordinating outfits! Start there for inspiration). And for the older kids and adults, we built from the colors in the red plaid. Black, grey, red -- always looks crisp and sharp. My mom was so grateful for this portrait. Now she wants a new one since this is two years old! I'm putting her off. ;)

And finally, if you simply cannot decide and can't stand the thought of coordinating outfits...why not stay in your pajamas! ;)   

The point is to showcase who you are as a family and your clothing, setting, style should reflect that. I'm happy to consult on your session! Send me photos ahead of time and I'll tell you what will work. Here's to happy fall! (If you are wanting to book a fall family session, contact me at and I'll let you know what's still available for dates.) - Tera