Finding Backgrounds & Locations

This is one of my favorite parts about photography! Finding the location. Here are some ideas to help you find the perfect spot for your photos. 

Take a fun, bright quilt or sheet outside and drape it over a large patio chair. Sit your subject in the chair (candy always works for me), snap away, and then crop out the background.

Finding photography backgrounds and locations via

A little editing and voila! A pretty portrait! 

Finding photography backgrounds and locations via 

Drive around! You never know what you might find in your area…

…like this graffiti wall.

Finding photography backgrounds and locations via

Maybe a nearby hotel with a lot of history.

Finding photography backgrounds and locations via

The laundromat makes for a great location!

Finding photography backgrounds and locations via

A bright door (matching shoes are a bonus!)

Finding photography backgrounds and locations via

Speaking of doors, a white garage door is such a great backdrop!

Finding photography backgrounds and locations via

How about about an open field (bring an extra person to keep an eye out for snakes!)?

Finding photography backgrounds and locations via

An amusement park has fun bright colors for your backdrop and your kids will be happy :-)

Finding photography backgrounds and locations via

Can’t make it outside for your photo shoot? Here are some of our favorite links for building your own backdrops!

Mom*Tog - For moms who love digital photography

Have fun!


Tips and Tricks with Gayle Vehar

Gayle is back for a second day, yay! If you missed her post yesterday on shooting in manual, be sure to check it out HERE. Gayle will also be judging our “Nix the Auto” Photo Contest so be sure to enter!


Tips and Tricks to Get Better Photos

By Gayle Vehar

Okay, so we all want better photos. As much as I love my digital SLR and using manual mode on my camera, most of these tricks aren’t limited to those with “big fancy” cameras–these little tricks can be used by ANY camera! So, let’s dive in!

1. Turn off your flash! It is almost impossible to use on-camera flash and get a beautiful photograph. That super harsh direct light fired directly at your subject just isn’t flattering! I refer to it as the Flash of Death. If possible (and it is if you have a DSLR) turn off the flash and look for areas of beautiful natural light wherever you are. When indoors, that beautiful light can be found near glass doors or windows. When outside, that light can be found almost anywhere. I don’t mean NEVER use your on-camera flash–by all means don’t miss your daughter’s birthday or first dance recital over it. However, if you learn to turn off your flash and find the pockets of beautiful light, it will improve your photos 100%!!


2. Not all photos need to have your child looking at the camera and smiling. When I first started taking photos (okay–I sometimes still do it), I was constantly telling my children to “Look at me and smile!” We aren’t always smiling in real life and often when someone tells us to smile we present them with a fake (for the camera) smile. Don’t get me wrong–I still want smiles sometimes, but I have learned that capturing my subjects when they are not looking or even smiling is way more precious. It is then that they are fully themselves.


3. Fill your viewfinder with your subject. If you follow just ONE rule, have it be this one. If the subject is my son, then I fill the viewfinder with him, but if the subject is just his expression or his feet then I fill my viewfinder with that. If my subject is my blossoming tree then I need the tree to fill my viewfinder. But if my subject is just the beautiful blossoms on the tree then I need to fill my viewfinder with beautiful blossoms!

4. Practice everyday! I know this sounds CRAZY. I mean WHO could take a picture everyday, right?!?! I honestly think the fastest way to get better at taking photos is to do it everyday and share with others the pictures you are taking. It is also the fastest way to improve your manual mode skills. If you aren’t taking photos everyday (or at the very least many times a week) you won’t remember what to do when you pull your camera out or improve your skills.


I’d love to have you come visit me over at Mom and Camera! I wish you the best in your quest for better photos!


Big, huge thank you must go out to Gayle!! She has a such a gift and we are very thankful that she shared it with us here at Lil Blue Boo. We feel so lucky that she took the time to write these posts for our readers. Be sure to follow along at Mom & Camera for more amazing tips and check out her store where you can purchase some of her incredible prints!


"Nix the Auto" Photo Contest!

The only way to get better at taking photos is to practice. Now that Gayle Vehar has taught you how to use the manual function on your camera, you have no excuses for staying in auto mode 😉 Professionals, show us your best photo….we want to be inspired (because we are pretty sure you aren’t shooting in auto). Here is an example of photo I took using some of Gayle’s tips to get a nice exposure. I’m shooting wide open so that my background is super blurry.

Now we want to see YOUR photos taken in manual mode!

Photographers of ALL backgrounds are welcome to enter! Whether you just picked up the hobby yesterday or you have been in the business for a while, we want to see how you shoot in manual. To be fair, we will be splitting the entries into two categories: amateur and professional. We will upload your photos to the Lil Blue Boo Facebook page and then the voting will begin! The top 10 photos from each category plus 5 photos from each category that Lil Blue Boo feels should go onto the final round will be judged by Gayle Vehar. She will have the difficult job of selecting a winner from each category!

Winners from both the amateur and professional categories will receive a custom designed Lil Blue Boo outfit (boys or girls) and a feature on the Lil Blue Boo blog! Winner of the professional category will get a month of free advertising space on the Lil Blue Boo sidebar (over 12,300 weekly visitors)!

To enter:
1. Email your favorite photo taken in manual mode to lisa @ lilblueboo dot com. Please let us know how you would like to be recognized, if you prefer to be anonymous that is fine. Watermarks are welcome on your photos.
2. Please designate “amateur” or “professional” category.

The deadline for photo submission is Friday October 29th. International entries are welcome.


Getting out of Auto with Gayle Vehar

We are honored to have the amazing Gayle of Gayle Vehar Photography and Mom & Camera as a guest blogger today! I stumbled upon Mom & Camera back when I was on my quest to understand the manual function on my camera. I have been hooked to her blog ever since. Her images are beautiful and her ability to teach is just as wonderful. She is going to get your camera out of Auto mode and you are actually going to understand what this camera terminology means! Please welcome Gayle Vehar to the blog!


How to Take Your Camera Off Auto Mode and Start Getting the Photos You Want!

By Gayle Vehar

When Lisa asked me to write about taking a digital SLR from auto mode to manual mode, I was thrilled. I love manual mode and I love teaching others about how to get their own great photos by shooting in manual mode. I have written about this topic on my blog in a series I titled The Big Three. I am going to do my best to condense it a little for you here but there is still LOTS of information. If you’d like to read my posts in full one at a time, you can check out the series on my Mom and Camera blog. Grab a drink and a snack and let’s dig in!!


You need light in order to make a photo. If there is no light, there can be no photograph. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are the “Big 3″ things that control how much light is recorded by your camera. EVERY camera has each of these things–however, with most point-and-shoot type cameras (or any digital SLR operated in AUTO mode), you don’t have full control over how they operate. Why do you want full control? The short answer–because your in-camera light meter is easily tricked!

Field of Weeds 3

First, let’s talk about aperture. It is a circular opening that allows light into the camera. The aperture is located in your lens. Aperture lets light into your camera much like the pupil of your eye allows light into your eye. It can be opened up or closed down depending on how much light you want to enter your camera. When you are trying to take pictures in a low light situation, you want to open the aperture up as much as possible to let in lots of light in much the same way that your pupil opens up and becomes larger when you are in a dark room. The more open your aperture is the more light that can enter the camera. In bright situations, you might want the aperture closed down or made smaller to let in less light in much the same way your pupil becomes smaller when you are outside on a sunny day.

F-stops are the number that your camera uses to tell how open or closed the aperture should be. The most confusing thing about f-stops and how they relate to aperture is this: the smaller the number the larger the opening in the lens (or aperture) and the larger the number the smaller the opening in the lens.

Aperture is also used to control the depth of field or how much of your photo is in focus. If you want everything between your camera and the subject and beyond in focus, then you need a closed down aperture (small aperture opening/large f-stop number.) If you want only your subject in focus and everything else to have that nice blurry look then you need an opened up aperture (large aperture opening/small f-stop number.) Since I LOVE blurry backgrounds, I tend to use a very open aperture A LOT!!


Shutter speed is the second of The Big 3. Shutter speed is pretty easy to understand. Each time the shutter “clicks”, a little set of curtains open and close to allow light to enter the camera. The speed that it opens and closes is what determine how much light the camera records. That little curtain isn’t moving slowly. Cameras record shutter speeds in seconds or, more accurately, fractions of a second.

Shutter speed is used to control the amount of motion in a photograph. A slow shutter speed is often selected to suggest movement since a slow shutter speed will allow some blur. Fast shutter speeds are used to “freeze” motion.


ISO is the third of The Big 3. I was first introduced to ISO in the days when I used film. I would go to the store to buy my film and the ISO 100 and 200 film had pictures of sun and ISO 800 film showed clouds. The real story is that ISO measures the sensitivity of the camera sensor (or film) to light. Digital camera sensors are made up of pixels. The lower the ISO number the smaller and less noticeable those pixels are. This is ideal. Increasing your ISO will allow your camera to be more sensitive to light and these numbers would be used in low light situations. However, increasing your ISO will also allow the pixels to become more noticeable.

As a general rule, you want to keep your ISO as low as possible. Increasing your ISO should only be done after you have exhausted all other options for letting light into the camera. Does that mean that I always keep my ISO at 200? Absolutely not! When photographing indoors, I really dislike on-camera flash and sometimes choose to have more noticeable pixels over using pop-up flash.

So how does this all work together? Let’s talk about exposure. At the beginning of this post I talked about how you need light to create a photograph. Really, you need the RIGHT AMOUNT of light to create a photograph. If you allow too much light in the camera, your photograph will be overexposed and your subject will be too light or white. If you allow too little light in the camera, your photograph will be underexposed and things will be dark or black. You control exposure with the Big 3–aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

For any given scene, there are many different exposures that could be correct. Your subject and the final photo you see in your mind will dictate the settings you choose to get the right exposure. Think of these many different options as EQUIVALENT exposures. Your in-camera light meter looks like this: +…..0…..-. It can be seen when looking through your viewfinder and will help you set your exposure. Here is an example:

Let’s say that I am outside taking photos of my kids. I want the background blurry (shallow depth of field) so I open my aperture to f/3.5. The last time I was taking pictures I had my shutter speed set to 1/60 of a second. As I look at the light meter in the viewfinder, it looks like this: +|||||0…..-. Those lines toward the plus sign tell me that I have TOO much light coming into the camera. In order to get the light meter in balance, I need to make the shutter open and close faster so less light will hit the sensor. I turn the dial until the lines toward the plus sign disappear. Now my shutter speed is at 1/500 of a second and my light meter is in balance and looks like this: +…..0…..-.


I could have also taken this photo at f/10 and 1/60 since that would also have been an equivalent exposure. However, the photo I ended up with would have been much different. In that photo the background would have remained in focus with much more detail than I wanted.


You may be wondering how ISO plays into the balance of exposure. Let’s say that I now want to move inside and take some pictures of my kids jumping on the bed. There is a lot less light in my house, so I open the window blinds to let in as much light as possible. I know that in order to freeze the action, I am going to need a fast shutter speed. However, even with the blinds open and my aperture opened up, I still can’t get my shutter speed fast enough to freeze the jumping (the shutter speed would have to be above 1/250 to freeze motion.) Since I have exhausted all my other options to increase the amount of light coming into the camera, I need to make my camera sensor more sensitive to the light. By increasing my ISO to 800, I am able to increase my shutter speed to 1/400 of a second and thus freeze my kids mid-jump!


Congratulations!!! You made it to the end! But really this is just the beginning! Now that you know the basics, start practicing in manual mode. It will take some time and patience, but you can take control of that powerful camera and begin getting the pictures you have always dreamed of!


Now that you understand what Aperture, Shutterspeed and Iso are, you are well on your way to taking better photos! Be sure to refer to your camera manual if you don’t know how to adjust these settings. Post your questions if you have any, and we will do our best to answer :-)

Be sure to visit Mom & Camera for more great information. You will be hooked like me!

Gayle will be back tomorrow with some Tips & Tricks so stay tuned!


Lets Talk Equipment

If you are just starting out in photography and want to take better pictures, you are probably wondering what equipment you will need. First, let me start off by telling you what you probably already have realized, photography is a VERY expensive hobby! Good news though, you don’t have to have the latest and greatest in order to take better pictures.

Ashley and I often get asked what type of camera we use. We both use Digital SLR cameras. Here is our equipment:


Ashley shoots with a Canon T1i and a Tamron 28-75mm lens.
Lisa shoots with a Canon Rebel XSI and Canon 50 mm 1.8 lens. 

A DSLR camera basically gives you full control over your photography when utilizing the manual settings. They produce better image quality, allow for faster continuous shooting (great for action shots) better depth of field (blurry background), and you can switch up the lenses for different situations and effects. Also, when you look through your viewfinder, what you see is what you get. Even when you leave your camera in the “auto” setting, you will still notice a difference in the quality of your images as compared to a standard point and shoot camera.

If you are purchasing your first DSLR camera, either one of the camera bodies mentioned above are great for entry level. There isn’t too much difference in the image quality of the T1i vs the xsi. If you are willing to forgo the HD video option then you can save a little money by going with the xsi.

Ashley and I both use different lenses. She prefers a zoom lens while I prefer a prime lens.

A prime lens does not zoom in and out. The focal point is fixed. So, if you want to get in closer on your subject, then you physically have to move closer. It definitely takes some getting used to in the beginning, but it allows for a lot of creativity when shooting and a prime lens will give you that super blurry effect in the background, aka bokeh, when you shoot wide open (will get to the technical stuff in a later post). You can get a 50 mm 1.8 lens for about $100 and for the price it’s a great score!

A zoom lens has a range of focal points which provides the photographer with a lot more versatility. They are pricier then most prime lenses, but if you prefer to not have to change lenses for different focal points then this might be the lens for you. To save money on a zoom lens you might try a brand like Tamron, rather then going with the camera model brand lens.

So, prime or zoom lens? It really all depends on the situation. Ashley shoots all of her tutorials and products for the store with a zoom lens. I could never shoot these instances with my 50 mm prime lens, trust me I have tried. I would have to stand really far back, and then my shot may be out of focus.

For a great article on choosing the right lens for your camera I encourage you to read this article HERE from PictureCorrect.

If you are not ready to purchase a DSLR, but are looking for a good recommendation for a point and shoot camera. Take a look at the Canon Powershot SD870.

You can still take amazing pictures with a point and shoot. It’s not all about the equipment, but more about the person behind the lens. Don’t worry, we will have a post dedicated to those without a DSLR in this series. So stay tuned!


Random Equipment Tips

:: Pass on the camera kit, get the camera body only and then the lens you want. The 18-55 mm lens that came with my camera is still sitting in the box.

:: Try a rental first! Borrow Lenses is a great resource! Rent your camera and lens before committing to a purchase. Try out a zoom and a prime lens to see which one you prefer.

:: DSLR cameras hold their value pretty well. If you decide later on that you want to upgrade to a Canon 5D Mark II (my personal dream camera) then you can always sell your current camera body on eBay and put it towards your new one.


Contributed by Lisa

Welcome to 2 Weeks of Photography with LBB

Welcome to our two week series of photography related posts at the Lil Blue Boo blog! Whether you are new to photography or a seasoned pro, we hope you walk away having learned something new or find a link or resource that you might not have heard of before.

We love practicing photography at Lil Blue Boo! It’s a hobby that has brought us a lot of satisfaction. It’s fun to search our town for new locations to shoot at, and discovering new props we can use. We both agree that we are FAR from professionals, rather we are mommies with fancy cameras 😉 However, we are constantly learning new things about our equipment and ways to achieve better photos. Most important piece of knowledge we have learned, you can take beautiful pictures no matter what type of camera you have. Throughout this series we will be sharing some technical information about photography that helped us along the way, along with some fun things you can do with your photos, craft projects, and our favorite links and resources! There are going to be some amazing guest bloggers too!

So, grab a button and lets talk photography!

Lil Blue Boo

Butterfly Birthday Party

Lisa here! Miss Elle turned 3 over the weekend! She requested a butterfly themed party and mommy delivered. It was butterfly overload! This was probably the easiest party to throw together. I’m going to tell you how I did it!

1. Party decor is focused entirely around the table. I rent child size tables and chairs from a local party rental company along with the table linens in a color to coordinate with the theme. I wrap tulle around the chairs for a little something extra.

2. I was inspired by this picture over at Martha Stewart. Instead of cutting out paper butterflies I opted for artificial butterflies, and I hot glued them everywhere 😉 Let me recommend Just Artifacts on eBay for the lanterns. You can search for artificial butterflies on eBay as well. These are going in Elle’s room, they will look so cute!

Butterfly Birthday Party Decor Ideas via


Butterfly Birthday Party Decor Ideas via

3. I can’t take credit for the centerpiece. This was my mother’s idea. We realized about 20 minutes before the party that our moss needed a little something extra, so she cut down a branch off one of the neighbor’s trees and hot glued butterflies on it. It turned out pretty perfect.

Butterfly Birthday Party Decor Ideas via


Butterfly Birthday Party Decor Ideas via

4. Upon entry to the party, our little guests received a pair of wings and a skirt. All purchased at the dollar store. If you don’t shop at the dollar store for party favors you are missing out! Plates and napkins were also purchased at the dollar store!

Butterfly Birthday Party Decor Ideas via

5. I hire someone else to entertain my kids, so I can enjoy some time with the other mamas, sit back and take pictures, and enjoy all the yummy food 😉 Is that wrong?

Butterfly Birthday Party Decor Ideas via


6. I decided to go with cupcakes this year. Wow, that made things so much easier! Last year it was about 100 degrees and cutting a cake while you have 15 kids waiting for a slice was a lot of pressure and I will never do it again!


Butterfly Birthday Party Decor Ideas via

That’s pretty much it! You too can throw a dreamy butterfly party for your little one. I’m not sure who had more fun, me or Elle 😉



The Li’l List

A Li’l List of new and favorite things to share!

Anna from Noodleheads made this adorable peasant dress with one of my favorite patterns from Leila and Ben. She used the Lil Blue Boo Li’l Leggings pattern for the cute striped pants! Love this outfit!

I just got some goodies in the mail….one package was from a favorite upcycled clothing store: Dress Me. Check out Boo’s newest t-shirt! Pieced and blocked from recycled knits!

I’ve been trying to add more upcycled items of my own for boys… are some silk screened appliques from recycled t-shirts I made this week…..aren’t they cute?

I love Zazzle! I added my Swedish Dala horse graphic to some shoes for Boo:

We are still loving the ones with Li’l Mei and on them:

Finally, next week is Lil Blue Boo’s Two Weeks of Photography! Photography has come a long way. Years and years ago my father worked for Photo Corporation of America….he and a few friends left and started a photo company called American Studios which put photo studios into WalMart. As a baby I was used in many of their ads…..these are from around 1977/1978….check out the sitting fees and prices…..this was before digital too!

I found this cool sheet of photography stamps my dad gave me when I was little for my stamp collection:

I grew up around photography….but it was all now antiquated studio photography. I’m so excited about the next two weeks and ready to update my photography skills! Lisa has put together an amazing two weeks of posts…..and it all starts on Monday! Guest bloggers, tutorials, fun products, downloads, giveaways etc!


A Template for Hemming

A template for hemming via


I can’t stand ironing. Any clothing creation that calls for ironing…..ugh. I will do anything to shorten my ironing time, and I never had any luck with those metal ironing guides, so I created these little templates. If I have an outfit that I sew over and over again I’ll make a template that gets stored with the pattern pieces so it’s handy and I don’t have to remember what the measurements for seams or hems are.

This particular dress I worked on today I usually hem by ironing a 1/2″ fold and then a 1.25″ fold. I made a template just for this dress….so the whole process is foolproof and the hem is perfectly precise. I start by cutting a piece of poster board or heavy cardstock and then cutting small slits at 1/2″ and 1.25″ using an exacto knife. The slits aren’t continuous so that the template is more durable:

A template for hemming via
The template makes marking my folds a breeze….I can create hems with my eyes closed.

First, I just line up the template with the bottom of the fabric.

A template for hemming via
Then I use a disappearing ink pen to mark the entire length of the first fold…..

A template for hemming via
….and then the entire length of the second fold. I repeat this all the way across the piece of fabric.

A template for hemming via
Then I fold my fabric on the line and iron.

A template for hemming via
A perfect hem…….

A template for hemming via
……for a cute little silk screened party dress soon to be revealed in my shop :)

A template for hemming via
Just a little glimpse into my sewing process!