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Ten years ago was March 2008.  I didn’t know much about seeking out the best light, and I shot any and everything.  While this is great for practice – and a phase I would highly recommend every aspiring photographer experience – it’s painful now to look back on.

Ever ask yourself, “what on earth was I shooting there?”  Or, “why did I need so many shots of the same thing?”

I do.

I shake my head sometimes when I look back at my past self.  But I also know I’ll probably be doing the same in another ten years.

This was the best I had to offer from then:


It’s possible I was a bit biased because of the subject matter; I love even the fuzziest pictures of my Zoe.  But I also liked the close perspective of her fluffy face, not to mention that silly tongue.


Things done right:

  • I shot at a reasonably low ISO for an indoor shot.
  • The shutter speed was fast enough to freeze the frequent motion.
  • I captured a fun moment.

Things done wrong:

  • I shot in jpeg.  I didn’t learn better until much much later, so this will be a common complaint with my older images.
  • The depth of field is very shallow at this distance.  My aperture wasn’t quite narrow enough to deepen this and bring her eyes into focus.  This was a low-light situation, so this is difficult, which is why…
  • I used flash.  Ugh.. this one is painful.  I generally hate flash – mostly because I haven’t really learned how to use it properly.  Especially because I was so close to my subject here, the flash blew out the closer parts of her face and cast harsh shadows on the farther parts.

Take 2

I didn’t actually edit this the first time, so all of my improvements would be in how I took the picture in the first place.  If I were shooting today, there are a number of things I’d do differently:

  • I would bring as much light into the environment as possible by turning on all the lights.
  • While it might sound counterintuitive, I would use a much wider aperture to let in more light.  This would also shorten the depth of field, so I would compensate by backing away from my subject and zooming in or cropping.
  • I would have used a higher ISO.
  • If I absolutely had to pop flash, I certainly wouldn’t use the internal flash (seriously, past me, why??).  I would grab my external flash and point it up instead of directly at her face (I’m sure she would have appreciated that, too).  Depending on her position, I might even trigger it remotely for a better angle.  And it would certainly be diffused to break up the shadows.

Despite its flaws, I still do love this picture; it makes me smile.  And there are a number of things I can do in post to make this a passable photo.  So editing it today, this is what I get:

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

I made the contrast softer by bringing up the shadows and calming down the highlights.  I also darkened her eyes a bit, removing the blaring flash glare from her left eye.  I also cropped it a bit, converted it to a more-pleasing black-and-white, and added a subtle vignette.

Do you ever shoot with flash?  What are some of the things you do in low-light situations?

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