Category Archives: Helpful Articles

Beginner’s Guide to Underwater Photography


I recently got into this, and it is so fun and addictive! I feel like a lot of us dry land photographers are overwhelmed by the thought of this but it doesn’t have to be scary! Here is a step by step guide to getting started, from gear to editing.

There are a lot of options here. And you can drop a lot of dough. But you don’t have to. When I started researching underwater houses for my Nikon D800, the one that came up most often and seemed like the best reviewed is the Ikelite. They make housings for Nikon, Canon and more, and this is what I would have gotten:

Ikelite Underwater Housing for D800

This is an obviously expensive option. When you are talking about protecting your “baby”, expensive is probably a good thing. Based on my research …

PROS: Least cumbersome of underwater housing models and easy to use. Easy access to your camera’s settings buttons. TTL or “Through-The-Lens” flash metering for proper exposure. Easy viewing and metering. Easy grip and handling. Easy lens zooming. Amazing quality images.

CONS: Really just the price here.

The price for me was a non-starter. I had no idea if I would even enjoy underwater photography! Another popular and well reviewed option was this one:

EWA Marine Underwater Housing

This is the one I went with after extensive research. THE MOST IMPORTANT thing for me was that it didn’t leak and this one passed with flying colors in that regard. There are lots of cons though:

PROS: Low cost, no leakage, lightweight and easy to travel with, fits most larger DSLR cameras. It is very functional and does what it says. It’s easy to load and unload once you know what you are doing, and the images are unaffected by the plastic and pretty amazing.

CONS: Cumbersome to use – it’s really just a plastic bag, so it’s difficult to access and adjust camera settings. There is a groove for your finger to adjust camera functions, but it is not easy to use. Again, it’s plastic, so it’s not as durable. The lens must be flush up against the lens house, so you need to make sure you have the correct adapter. It is difficult to see through the view finder. It is difficult to zoom within the housing. It is buoyant, so it is difficult to hold underwater. It’s best for shallow photography.

Yet another option, the cheapest and most safe, is to buy an underwater digital camera like this one:

Olympus Stylus TOUGH

PROS: Pre-designated underwater settings. This is a biggie! Your images don’t come out with blue skinned smurfs! No cumbersome housings. No worries about leaking or ruining an expensive camera. Easy to travel with, light, small.

CONS: It’s not a DSLR. The images are not as spectacular and you lose control over many DSLR functions that would be helpful underwater, such as continuous shooting mode (this is a huge CON for me).

So there you have it. I went with the EWA housing and couldn’t be happier. It’s not the easiest to use, but the images are still amazing. So now what?

Shooting Tips

– I recommend shooting in continuous shooting mode, particularly if you are capturing an action shot. Underwater, most subjects are moving, so this is your best bet.
– Try to get pretty close to your subject. Water tends to dull the contrast and sharpness of your image.
– If you are using natural light (like I do!) try to shoot closer to mid-day than you typically would, so the light filters into the water and to your subject. You can get some nice light rays diffusing through the water in the right conditions.
– Use a high shutter speed for high contrast/sharpness and to capture action.
– Get creative! Some of my favorite shots are split captures, with the camera half in the water and half out. This is a very simple trick to master.
– This is a no-brainer, but the clearer the water, the better for image quality.
– Don’t forget about composition. Negative space can look beautiful underwater and add a sense of depth. Look for where light is reflecting – maybe in interesting patterns off the bottom of a pool, or if you have bubbles you can get some pretty cool bubble bokeh.
– Shoot in RAW. It will make post processing white balance and color temperature corrections so much easier.
– Get your settings as accurate as possible for underwater shooting. You want the lowest ISO possible for a reasonable shooting speed (fast is good here) and you also want to adjust your white balance/color temperature for underwater conditions. A good starting point is 9,000 K (kelvin) but will depend on your conditions and the sun. Your best bet is to use a grey card underwater.

This is an example of how much setting your white balance can help your image. 5,000 K is the temperature you would use during the daytime for proper exposure of subjects (out of the water!):

Erica Bowton_underwater_2 (1)


Probably the most daunting aspect of underwater photography is editing. The images have a blue tint that takes some work to correct on skin. So here are some tips to help. If you get your settings right, the less you will have to correct in post-processing, but I have “fixed” the most atrocious images, so it can be done! Some basic steps:

– Try to shoot in RAW so that you have more control with post fixes.
– Your first step is to correct skin as much as possible in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw before importing to Photoshop. I use Adobe Camera Raw, but the same principles apply to Lightroom. You’re going to want to take the blue and green down significantly.
– Run any presets here. I typically use a VSCO preset.
– Up your contrast and clarity.
– Import image into Photoshop.
– The first thing I do in Photoshop is fix the skin. I use brushes with masks and layers to selectively correct the skin tone and brighten up the exposure. Some rules of thumb using CMYK curves (these are starting points, and will vary):

Caucasian skin:
Cyan = 1/4 – 1/3 Yellow
Magenta + (0-10) = Yellow
Black values ~ 0

African American skin:
Cyan = 1/3 – 1/2+ Yellow
Magenta + (0-10) = Yellow
Black (K) values higher than 0

– After I fix the skin, I up the contrast more and A LOT. I also play around with tone curves to get the most out of contrast adjustments (try upping whites and reducing blacks). This adds more depth that is often lost underwater.
– I start with my creative edits. I might deepen the color of the water by increasing saturation of blues or greens, or selectively bringing down the exposure around the subject. I sometimes enhance any light sources that are there with brushes and masks. If I have a split image, I might enhance the curve of a wave using the Liquify tool. Have fun with it!

Some fun Before and Afters:

Erica Bowton_underwater_4 (1)

Erica Bowton_underwater_3 (1)

Erica Bowton_underwater_5 (1)


Tag your underwater images using #napcp on Instagram!

Enter your underwater image in the NAPCP International Image Competition, open through August 18th, 2016!

5 Tips for Your Best Sparkler Photos


July 4th is a great time to take photographs of your family. It is a fun day, people are together, the weather is (generally) good and your photos will reflect this. Photographing sparklers, with the right knowledge, is easy. Here are a few tips.

1. Let your children have a few in the early evening, right before the sun goes down.

The light from the sun as the sun sets is truly beautiful, plus the ambient light provided by the sparklers enables you to capture the joy on your child’s face as they swirl their sparkler around. Make sure that your flash is off, and, if shooting in manual, make sure your settings don’t blow out all the highlights of the sparkler. I like to take photos of my children’s faces, as well as a couple that focus on the sparklers themselves. To achieve the blur (bokeh) the aperture should be as wide open as your lens will allow (the f-number should be as low as it can go, with most kit lenses that is 3.5 when the lens is completely zoomed out).



2. Photographing your children with sparklers after the sun goes down:

If you shoot your child after dark with a sparkler, the results are generally less than inspiring. Either your camera’s flash will pop up and wash all the ambient light away, or it will focus on the sparkler and expose for that, leaving a tiny dot of light in the darkness because the light from the sparkler by itself is generally not bright enough by itself to light your child’s face, even with cameras that work well at a high ISO. You have two choices at this point: photograph using a long exposure with the intention of capturing sparkler writing (see below for tips on how to achieve that), or use another source of ambient light, such as ground fireworks from a safe distance nearby. In the photograph I use as an example, the ambient light was from a camp fire about 10 feet away from my daughter.

Even with the ambient light source, such as ground fireworks like roman candles, or even light from a nearby window, you will be shooting in very low light and need to use a very high ISO and wide aperture (small f-number) to allow as much light in the camera as you can. Do not let your shutter speed drop below 200, otherwise you run the risk of blurring your child or the photograph due to camera shake.

If you use fireworks as your ambient light source, your child’s face will likely be a similar color to the fireworks, which can be either adjusted in post processing, or the cast reduced by waiting to use white fireworks as your ambient light.


3. Writing with sparklers:

To capture sparkler writing, a few things need to be in place. Firstly, it needs to be dark, with no dusk lingering in the sky. Secondly, your camera needs to either be on a tripod, or another hard surface, such as a table, as a long shutter speed is needed. Without this hard surface, the image will be blurry. Take a moment to send someone out with their camera to the spot you want your letters to be written. Have the person writing take note of that spot. Focus your camera on the light, and then switch the focus to manual on the lens. This will help save you time when you begin to write, as your camera does not have to search around for focus as the clock is ticking down on both the sparkler and the long exposure. Make sure that the area you are going to write in is big enough for the word you are writing, and that your camera lens is wide enough to capture it all. The settings that I typically use are: shutter speed: 8-15 seconds, aperture: 3.5, ISO 100. The key is to allow the shutter speed to be the setting that allows the light in. Keep the ISO at 100, because as it is so dark, the slow shutter speed is what captures the light, and motion, from the sparklers.

Writing with sparklers is more difficult than you might think (unless you are a teacher that is used to writing on whiteboards). Have the person writing to have their back to the camera and write out to the side so their body does not block the letter they are working on, otherwise if they face the camera, they will need to write the letters as if they were reflected in a mirror (not fun!). You might also want to use the timer on your camera to make sure it does not have any shake, which will result in blur, from you taking the picture. If you have a child that is too young to write a word, have them do their first initial or just wave the sparkler around in a pattern, the results are sweet because, hey, it’s your child!



4. A Quick Tip About Your Pets

My husband is a veterinarian and this time of year has a number of recommendations to keep pets safe. A lot of pets have anxiety related to the loud noises of fireworks. In some cases it may be appropriate for them to be prescribed medication for the anxiety that will help keep them calm through the fireworks. Unless you know that you dog is not sensitive to the sounds or sights of fireworks the safest thing to do is to keep them inside. If they have any anxiety keep them in a crate or kennel, with medication where necessary, to help them as that anxiety, if untreated, generally leads to destruction inside the house. If your dog is left outside and has anxiety, they may run off, and it’s not fun trying to find them after so it is so important to keep them inside, or kenneled. So many dogs get lost on July 4th due to running away scared from the fireworks, so please keep them safe too!


5. Have fun and stay safe!



3 Reasons Mini Sessions Don’t Succeed (and How to Fix This!): A Special Guest Post from Heidi Hope of Heidi Hope Photography


Mini sessions … we have a love-hate relationship with them. Mini sessions can be amazing for your business; they can be a great way to increase profits before the slow months of January and February hit. They can help you to capitalize on the urgency and need for shorter holiday sessions and greeting card photos. At Heidi Hope Photography, mini sessions have become a way that we keep in touch with our very best clients who may not need full formal sessions multiple times throughout the year.

For many, mini sessions aren’t selling out like they used to. Lately, we’ve been hearing from photographers that their mini sessions aren’t as attractive to clients as they once were. With so many photographers offering mini sessions all year round (at really low prices), it’s hard to stand out and get your mini sessions noticed. When you do get noticed, it’s hard to attract the right type of clients.

Our mini sessions still sell out within minutes of launching them, and we want to share with you just how we achieve this. If you aren’t promoting your mini session event adequately, you’re very likely going to hear crickets. Lack of preparation and organization can quickly lead to burn out and loss of profit. Here are the 3 most common mistakes we see in mini session promotion. Avoid these pitfalls and you’ll be well on your way to mini session success!


#1 – Not Building Anticipation

Have you ever put together a mini session concept and for weeks planned the details, put together the pricing, chose the location, and spent hours putting together the plan? Then, once you had it all finalized, you threw up a post notifying everyone that you’re open for booking … and you heard nothing? After a week of silence, you take down your Facebook posts because you’re too embarrassed to keep promoting. After all, the mini session is a week away and you don’t want to look pathetic when only one client ends up booking.

Join the Failure to Launch Minis Club. We’ve all been there.

Most assume that it’s because their pricing is too high, or that they are being undersold by another photographer because the industry is oversaturated.

The truth is, the failure to launch is almost always because there was little to no anticipation built up PRIOR to the launch.

Building anticipation requires WEEKS of promotion before hand, but it doesn’t have to be aggressive and salesy. It just needs to happen! For a successful launch, you need to show up on radars weeks before you are ready to start booking. Your excitement, and sharing details about the upcoming mini sessions, is what PRE-SELLS your audience on the idea of booking a mini session. That way, the minute you announce you are ready for booking, they are ready to snag their spot.

At Heidi Hope Photography, we use a 17 week promotional calendar (download it below!). We start the promotion of our mini sessions several weeks in advance of booking, to build anticipation. With a simple newsletter announcement, we sell out our mini sessions within a few hours every time!

Giving more time to build anticipation also allows your clients to start mentally calculating their budget for the expense, and plan accordingly. It gives them a chance to determine if they can truly invest with you, so you avoid those impulse hires which often lead to unfavorable clients who won’t continue on as full paying clients with regular sessions.



#2 – Not Promoting Enough (For Fear of Being Annoying)

Not only do most fail to promote early enough and build anticipation of what is to come, it’s often that they aren’t posting frequently enough on ALL marketing platforms.

Please, please, please remember this … YOU AREN’T ANNOYING.

If your clients love you, they are going to appreciate the reminders. When they see something more than once, it gives them an opportunity to share with those that they think might also be interested.

People know that you are a business and it’s not annoying for a business to promote what they do.

Based on social media visibility, low email open rates, and blog posts not showing up … most people who follow you AREN’T seeing your posts at all unless you are posting multiple times in multiple places. You must cast your net wide to grab the most visibility and then follow up with reminders. Most people wait until the last minute to take advantage of an opportunity, so don’t be afraid to remind clients that the opportunity for snagging a spot is about to close.

For 6-8 weeks you should be building anticipation by talking about your mini sessions once a week. Then, once booking is open, you should be increasing your promotion to 3X a week until sessions are sold out.

Including follow-up promotional images during and after your mini session event helps builds anticipation for when you offer them again. This is a great way to reach the audience who hesitated to take this opportunity, but may still be interested in future events.



#3 – Not Sharing the Vision for Your Mini Session, with Clients

This is an obvious point, but tends to be overlooked or minimized: creating a vision.

Saying “Beach Sessions” or “Lemonade Stand Sessions” with a shot of the location or cute little fonts and graphics is NOT going to entice your clients to book a mini session … you must create the exact vision for them.

By using model sessions of the exact set you will be shooting on, behind the scenes images, images of props and outfit suggestions, you will help your clients to better envision if this is something they actually want to invest in. It also establishes trust with your clients, as they can feel confident in what you will create for them and how the resulting portraits will look. Many people have been burned by hiring a photographer that didn’t produce what the client envisioned; they walked away disappointed simply because the photographer didn’t communicate visually what the client was supposed to expect.

The more excited you are about your vision, the more excited potential clients will be! If you have a solid reputation, trust alone will have clients interested in your promotion — but what ultimately gets them to book is the vision that you present to them.

We schedule a model call and session into our 17 week outline so that we have the exact images we want to use for the duration of our promotion! This also gives us the opportunity to build anticipation, getting clients excited for what is to come, without having to talk sales.



If you’ve tried mini sessions with less than favorable results, enter your email below to download our 17 week outline, to get a behind the scenes peek of how we operate a launch at Heidi Hope Photography, to sell out our mini sessions! You will also see what we have put together in our complete, done-for-you, mini session marketing & management suite.

Visit Photographer Rising for full details on our Limited Edition

Backdrops, which include our Promotional Marketing & Management Suite (a value of $995). It’s like having your very own personal assistant & marketing strategist with done-for-you copy & paste simplicity, so that you turn the very best profit on every backdrop!



Fall Mini Session (Woodland) + Limited Edition (Spring Birch, Paris & Carousel) backdrops release June 20th. Keep an eye on NAPCP, and Heidi Hope social media for an exclusive giveaway, this Thursday!

Limited Edition Holiday backdrops release July 25th.



Freelensing is, quite literally, freeing the lens from the camera body. You may wonder – why on earth would anyone want to do that? Couldn’t you drop and break the lens, or allow dust inside your camera body? Possibly, yes. But aside from the cheap thrill of living photographing on the edge, there are many creative reasons for freelensing.






The effect of freelensing is similar to using a tilt-shift lens or a lensbaby, creating a “sweet spot” of sharp focus, while shifting everything else into creamy softness.

Creatively, I get bored easily, so for me, freelensing is a way of feeling inspired and breathing new life into my photography. Just like you might experience with a new lens, tried subjects and scenes became new again as I started exploring this technique. I found a way to give my images more depth and create photos that convey deeper feeling, two things I always strive for in my photography. It has made me become a better observer, taught me to slow down, shoot with intention, and helps me notice more of the small things and magic surrounding me in everyday life.






Ready to give it a try? If you are new to freelensing, the easiest way to get started is with a 50mm lens. You don’t have to risk your expensive, high quality glass. A cheap, used, or even partly broken lens will do just fine. Bonus – a plastic lens is lighter and smaller and therefore easier to hold.

Turn your camera to manual, figure out your exposure, then turn the camera off. Make sure your lens is set to manual focus and infinity, detach the lens, and turn your camera back on. Hold the lens right in the mount, and tilt or move it forward slightly as you look through the viewfinder. Less is more – think millimeters, not inches. You’ll see the focal plane shift across your image as you tilt and move the lens.






Some tips for beginners:

– I recommend starting with a stationary subject or still life for the first few tries
– Take lots of photos – what you see is not always what you get (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing)
– Picking a multidimensional subject or scene will up your chances of achieving a sweet spot







The fun thing about freelensing are the endless possibilities this technique presents. Once you get the hang of the basics, take it a step further:

– Try moving subjects – my wiggly baby is a really fun challenge to freelens
– Turn your lens around and give macro freelensing a try (back of the lens facing your subject)
– Give other lenses a go – you don’t have to be limited to a 50mm. I’ve seen gorgeous shots with an 85mm, and am currently experimenting with my zoom lenses and wide angle prime.
– Experiment with positioning yourself in different ways relative to the light source to allow for light leaks
– Hold your lens further away from the camera body while moving closer to your subject and see what happens
– Create some intentionally out of focus images
– Freelensed video, anyone?


In conclusion, the main thing is to have fun. Embrace the unpredictability of it – let go of missed shots and celebrate happy accidents. There is no right or wrong. Follow your intuition and let your heart lead your eye. I can’t wait to see what you create!


Thank you, Barb, for the fantastic introduction to freelensing! We can’t wait to put your tips into action.

For more of Barb’s photography, be sure to bookmark her web page, Like Endless Summer Photography on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram.

A Guide to Shooting In-Home Lifestyle Sessions


In-home sessions are among my favourite type of session to do. No two are alike and each has their own pace and challenges (especially when siblings are involved!). Even with an over the phone consultation, talking with a client about areas in the home they think will work best, and scheduling best as possible around toddlers, you’re still walking into an entirely unfamiliar territory.

I started this session off by spending some off-camera time with this shy big sis, hearing about all her favourite toys and what she learned at gymnastics that week. Once she was suitably sure that I was alright, she led me upstairs to meet her new baby brother.

Lolabean Photography 5jpg

I figured I had about 20 minutes or so before big sis checked out, so we worked quickly to shoot as many different poses as we could of them alone. Toddlers generally set the flow of my in-home sessions (let’s be real, they set the flow of ALL my sessions!), so taking advantage of her excitement at the beginning was key!

Lolabean Photography 1

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Once she had enough of the camera, Dad took her out for a snack break and we focused on pics of mom and the newest little member of the family . Doing an in-home session can start with a wish and a prayer for good light, but luckily this room had the most delicious, creamy winter light which we took full advantage of. If a client doesn’t have the perfect set up with beautiful, light diffusing sheer panels as this client did, I always have an inexpensive (and when I say inexpensive, I mean literally from a dollar store) pair of sheer white curtains to put up with painters tape to soften any hard light coming through.

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Now that big sis was all snacked up and ready to go for round two, it was time for full family photos. Big sis got to decide who she wanted to sit with, which usually gets me a little more co-operation for the short window we have.

Lolabean Photography 6

Lolabean Photography 8

Baby brother was starting to get hungry and while mom was giving him a nice, long feed, I got to spend some more time with my newest little friend. She showed me her favourite book (Robert Munsch, of course) and we got to horse around with dad while we waited!

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Lolabean Photography 13

Once baby was in a wonderfully dozy, milk-induced coma, I moved on to some close ups of his sweet little fingers and toes, individual shots, and of course, some shots with daddy.

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When it comes to shooting lifestyle, going with the flow is the order of the day. Take a deep breath and know your best laid plans may fall to the wayside, but sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed to give the best images possible.


Natalie Balen-Cinelli is an Ontario natural light photographer who loves to work with neutrals and soft pops of color. Whether shooting indoors or out, she strives to make each session as unique as the family she’s photographing. Natalie gets giddy about her clients taking a first look at their photos, and hopes they love them as much as she does.

For more from Natalie, and for booking inquiries, visit the Lolabean Photography website, Like Lolabean Photography on Facebook, and follow Natalie on Instagram and Pinterest.

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