Saturday, April 27, 2013


Cellphoneography ~ try saying that five times fast!  I'm not even sure if it is a real word, but it accurately describes a type of photography that has become extremely popular in this generation.  With Camera phones and iPad's with cameras, photography is literally at our fingertips.

There are many different photo sharing apps that you can use to share photos you've taken with your cell phone.  Here are a few of them: Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, Hipstamatic, Snapseed, Pixlr-O-Matic, Hipster, Camera+,  Adobe Photoshop Express 2.0, and Streamzoo.

I personally use Instagram to share my photos.  I enjoy the community and the "relationships" I've formed through this platform.  Even though I post photos through Instagram, I do most of my editing with other apps.  I'm going to walk you through what I do and hopefully some of my tips will help you to take better cell phone photos.

Step One ~ Take a good photo

This may seem like a trivial statement, but in order to have a good final product, you must have a good photo to start out with.  Make sure it is in focus.  You do this by touching the part of your screen you want your camera to focus on.  Look at the background, can you create a more pleasing or appealing background by changing your position?  Is there enough light?  If there isn't, your photo will be grainy (higher ISO).  And lastly, as I always say, TURN OFF THAT FLASH!  Yes, even with your cell phone, turn off your flash!  Turn lights on, go outside, move out of the shade... all things you can do in place of the flash.

Step Two ~ Composition

If you will be posting your photo on Instagram, remember that it will be in a 1x1 format (basically a square).  Keep this in mind when taking your photograph.  If I am taking a photo specifically for Instagram I will purposely add space in the photo so that when I crop it later, my "square" is still intact how I want it.  As with regular photography, make sure your lighting is how you want it.  If the sun is in front of you, you will have washed out tones and a sunflare.  If the sun is behind you, you will have a certain flatness (limited depth) to your photo.  If the sun is to the left or right a bit you will achieve a nice depth and shadowing on your subject.  There is no "right" way to take the photo ~ just pay attention and try to make your results "intentional."

Step Three ~ Editing

Many people just throw their photo into one program do a few edits and post (either to a sharing site, Facebook, or email).  I go a little crazy with my editing.  I'm going to show you a few apps that I use and take you through my process.  Something I'm not doing here is adding texture.  I will leave that for another post...


First I take the photo with my regular cell camera.  Some of the apps allow you to take the photo through them but I prefer to use my regular phone camera and then open the photo in the app that way. My personal favorite and go to editing app is Snapseed.  I open my photo into the app as you see below.

Next I crop the image.  If I am just throwing it up on FB, I only crop if something needs to be straightened or cropped out.  If I am using the photo for Instagram I crop it to a 1x1 ratio.  As you can see below, I have the option now to move my box around the photo and crop it how it pleases me.  I choose to have more of the bottom than the top because I like the curvature of the carousel and want to retain that in my photo.

Next I straighten the photo.  Again, this is optional depending on your photo and if you need to make any adjustments.  This is also where you have the option to flip your photo to the right or left.

Now I make exposure or white balance adjustments.  I want to brighten up my photograph a bit and also increase the contrast.

From here I can continue to make artistic edits if I choose, or just continue on.  I am happy with how it looks, so I will save my image as is.  I usually choose the top option as I like to make additional edits in other programs.  But you can share this photo directly from this app if you choose.

Now I open up an app called "Color Cap."  This is where I add my watermark.  Again, there are other apps that you can do the same thing, but I prefer this one.  You can change the size, color, and font of your text.

Here is my photo with my watermark added to it.  I will move the watermark around so it is in an eye pleasing place.  When I started on Instagram, I never watermarked my photos as they were all cell phone images.  However, there are enough people on there who "steal" images and market them as their own.  I just slap my watermark on the photo and personally have not had a problem.

Now you save your image again and can either open directly into Instagram or Share another way.  I am done with the photo so I will open directly into Instagram from here.

In Instagram, I look at the possible filters and choose the one I like.  For this specific photo I like the way that the Earlybird filter looks.  I click the "Next" button at the top, write a little caption, and share the photo.

And VIOLA, you have a nicely edited photograph to share with friends and add to your personal library.  Enjoy ~ and if you are on Instagram, let me know so I can follow you!  <3

Capturing the Moment,

Corrie <3

Monday, April 22, 2013

And so it begins...

Moving: Stage 1

We have had the mission this month of getting our home "show" ready so we can find renters for it.  We met with our property manager last month and she gave us a run down of the things we would need to do to get our house ready.  In my head I knew it was time to face the music.  There was no way we were going to be able to continue to live our lives if we had to spend hours cleaning, stashing, decluttering, and staging every time someone wanted to see the house.

So I began gutting the house.  I started in our bathroom (which took an ENTIRE day).  Moved on to the laundry closet... and continued on from there.  We got rid of so. much. stuff... but the more we got rid of, the better it felt.  The nice people at the Salvation Army know us by name and we were able to bless several different families with some hand me downs.  The boys now can keep their rooms clean, because everything has a place.  My bathroom stays nice and sparkly and I actually make my bed now. My kitchen is gleaming and I find I want to spend time baking cookies with my kids.  I can finally breathe...

I wanted to share some of the photos we took of our house.  This was a bit of a challenge for me since I have not done any type of real estate photography.  I just looked at it from my point of view and how I would want to see photos of houses.  For 99% of the photos I used my wide angle lens.  If you are selling/renting your home ~ I highly recommend you borrow or rent one if you do not own a wide angle.  The images and lines do become a bit distorted, but there is really no other way to showcase the size and fullness of your rooms otherwise.

This first photograph is my pride and joy because I FINALLY was able to get some of my photos up on the wall!  This has been a hard road for me to choose which photographs to display.  I am so happy with how it came out!

ISO 200 ~ 10mm ~ f/8.0 ~ 1/5 sec
© Corrie M Avila

When taking photos of your home for the purpose of real estate showing/renting, you want to remember three things.  
  1. Use as much natural light as possible, but make sure it is diffused and not direct or the shadows will be harsh.
  2. Use a tripod and turn OFF that flash!  You will want to have a small aperture (if unsure of what your aperture is, click here) so that your room has a lot of crisp clarity.  To do that, your shutter speed will be slower and you will need to have your camera on a tripod.  You can pick up a cheap tripod from Amazon for $20 or $30.
  3. Make sure everything is staged and clutter free.  Try to hide wires, straighten blankets, and make sure pillows are straight (I had to redo an entire set of photos because it looked like there was a war that broke out with the couch pillows).  These are not things you can photoshop out easily.  Make sure everything is clean, especially mirrors and windows.  I've gotten so many comments already about how "clean" the photos look.  This is your first impression, make it count!
Here are just a few photos from our stockpile that we will be giving to the realtor.  Remember, you can always let the realtor take the photos him/herself, but no one cares more about your home than you and that will show in the photographs.

ISO 200 ~ 10mm ~ f/8.0 ~ 1/8 sec
© Corrie M Avila

ISO 100 ~ 10mm ~ f/9.0 ~ 0.5 sec
© Corrie M Avila

ISO 100 ~ 10mm ~ f/9.0 ~ 1/4 sec
© Corrie M Avila

ISO 200 ~ 10mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/6 sec
© Corrie M Avila

ISO 100 ~ 11mm ~ f/7.1 ~ 0.6 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Our home has now been "completed" and is "show ready."  Tomorrow we have a showing and rather than running around the house trying to shove things in random places, I made chocolate chip coconut cookies with my boys.  A much better use of my time I think :)  Here's the recipe in case anyone is interested, they came out exceptionally yummy!

Capturing the Moment,

Corrie <3

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Manual Tutorial #5 ~ Aperture

As always, if you are just joining us, I'd recommend you start at the beginning with Tutorial #1.  Just scroll to the bottom of this post and you will find the links for the previous tutorials.

I've saved my favorite for last.  Aperture controls your depth of field, or how blurred or crisp your background is.  Since I am very into Macro photography, aperture is my best friend.  This is what creates that yummy blurred background.  It also is responsible for the beautiful bokeh that you see here.

The circles of light are referred to as "Bokeh"
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/2.8 ~ 1/10 sec
© Corrie M Avila

The circles or orbs of light you see are actually out of focus christmas lights.  By having a focal point (the teacup) in front of the lights, and by using a f/stop of 2.8 (large aperture, small f/stop #) I was able to create this look for my photograph.

Aperture can also create a crisp background so that you can see all the details such as in this NYC photograph taken from on top of the Empire State building.

Detailed View of New York City
ISO 100 ~ 50mm ~ f/16 ~ 1/200 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Basically your f-stop number is your aperture.  When you have a wide open aperture it is a small number. When you have a small aperture it is a bigger number.  This is tricky in concept because it goes against logic.

The aperture controls how much light is let in.  Lets think of your eye again.  If you step into a dark room, your pupil opens really wide and lets in a lot of light (small f/stop #).  When you step outside on a very bright day, your pupil is very small and lets in very little light (larger f/stop #).  While your shutter speed is how fast your shutter opens and closes, your aperture is how wide or small the opening to the shutter is (just like the pupil of your eye).

Okay, so how do we use this information?  Before you go to take a photograph, think about what your priority is.  If it is freezing or blurring movement, adjust your shutter speed first.  If it is controlling your depth of field (i.e. having a crisp or blurred background) adjust your aperture first.

In the following diagram I visually explain the difference between a wide open aperture (small f/stop # = blurred background) and a small aperture (large f/stop # = crisp background).

As you can see from this diagram your aperture or f/stop number can completely change the look of your photograph.  When you fully understand and embrace this component of photography, you will begin to see the multitude of creative opportunities available.

The range of f/stop numbers depends on your lens.  For the above example, I used my macro lens which happens to have a larger aperture (f/2.8) than my telephoto lens (f/3.5).  Regardless of the range of your lens, you always have the ability to change your aperture and in turn can determine your depth of field (blur vs crisp background).

Homework for Tutorial 5:

1) Locate where your aperture is on your camera.  Get comfortable with this setting so that you are able to adjust your aperture with ease.

2)  Put your camera in AV mode (This is Aperture Priority).  Again, do not get comfortable here.  This is just for now to allow your camera to figure our the other settings while you adjust your aperture.  Choose a still life object that won't move or run away from you :)  Also make sure that you have a subject and a background.  I used the apple as my subject and the tree as my background in the example above.  Put your aperture to the lowest number you can.  (Remember lower number means larger aperture = blurred background).  Make sure your focus is on your subject and then take the photo.  Write down the settings of your camera.  Next change your aperture to the highest number it will go.  (Remember higher number means smaller aperture = crisp background).  Make sure you are focusing on your subject again and take the photo.  Write down your settings once more.

3)  Now compare your photos.  Can you see a distinct difference in your background?  Did you ISO change at all?  If it did change, do you know why?

Now that we have completed the 3 components of Exposure, we will next work on the light meter and combining all you have learned together.  You are closer than you think to photographing in Manual Mode.  If there is an area you still need help with, please feel free to reread the tutorials, email, facebook, or comment below.  I am here on this journey with you <3

Continue forward to Light Metering

Capturing the Moment,

Corrie <3

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cherry Blossom Heaven

The Cherry Blossoms have finally bloomed in Washington DC <3  I was able to go to the Tidal Basin before sunrise on Tuesday morning with a friend and photograph these magnificently beautiful trees.  When I went last year for the Cherry Blossom Festival, I used "P" (program) mode the entire time.  I had a general knowledge of manual photography, but I did not feel confident yet and felt "safer" staying in "P" mode.  While I had a lot of compositionally good photographs, many were lacking in the technical area.

This year, I was ready technically speaking!  But due to the later than anticipated Peak Blooming period, my schedule was already very busy.  Basically the only day I was able to go into DC (without kids) was Tuesday.  It was kind of a ready or not, here I come sort of thing.  The trees were blooming and there was plenty of color, but there were many branches that were not completely open yet.  The only thing I missed out on was the blanket of cherry blossom petals that cover the ground.  That of course happens a little later in the blooming period.

Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin
Washington, DC
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/2.8 ~ 1/320 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Last year I took the family there for an evening and we just sat under the trees and watched as the blossom petals fell like a soft fragrant rain all around us.  It was heavenly <3  I have plans to go twice more this week.  Once with my boys and once again at sunrise over the weekend.  As you can see here from the live webcam, the trees are still nice and pink.  I'm hoping they make it through tomorrows rain and last throughout this next weekend.  I took the photo below last year.

Benches Blanketed in Cherry Blossom Petals
Tidal Basin, Washington DC
ISO 100 ~ 44mm ~ f/4.6 ~ 1/80 sec
© Corrie M Avila

If you area looking for something to do this weekend, the Cherry Blossom Parade is on Saturday, April 13th, at 10am.  I went with my boys and a friend last year and had a great time, but be prepared to be there a while.  There are a lot of people that go and the parade stops and starts quite a bit.  We purchased grandstand seats so that my boys had a place to sit, but there is plenty of seating along the parade route. Just bring chairs if you aren't purchasing tickets.

I am apologizing in advance as my posts will likely be sporadic and almost definitely scatter brained over the next few months.  We are trying to finalize a lot of things prepping for our move this summer.  My husband is finishing his Masters Degree and will be graduating next month (woo hoo!!), we have to prep our house to be listed to rent, find renters, find a house on the other end of our move, and keep up with the kids and all their activities... But this is life and we are here to live, right?!

Jefferson Memorial Framed by Cherry Blossoms at Sunrise
Tidal Basin, Washington DC
ISO 100 ~ 60mm ~ f/2.8 ~ 1/2000 sec
© Corrie M Avila

I am still editing the photos I took on Tuesday and will be posting them here (Traveling Hearts Photography Facebook).  If you aren't a fan yet, click "like" that way you will be kept up do date!  I will be hosting another giveaway once the Facebook page reaches 100 likes!

All the photos you see here and on Facebook are for sale.  You can send me an email, a message, or use ETSY if you are interested in purchasing any.  The Cherry Blossom photos aren't up on ETSY yet, but will be soon.

Take care and make the most of your Spring!

Capturing the Moment,

Corrie <3

Thursday, April 4, 2013

WANTED: Punxsutawney Phil ~ DEAD OR ALIVE

As my son so eloquently put it, "are the cherry blossoms ever going to bloom?"  I feel his pain!  We had such an early blooming season last year that I really thought this year would follow the same time frame.  But this is not so!  I've been seeing warrants out for the capture and conviction of Punxsutawney Phil, and it just makes me laugh :) Even though the calendar says we are in Spring, if you take a look at the thermometer, it feels more like winter. It is still snowing in many parts of the country and seeing that it is April, enough is enough!  Here in the DC area, we woke up to below freezing temps and this is having a direct correlation to the later than predicted blooming period.

Proof that Spring is indeed on it's way!
Instagram Photo
© Corrie M Avila

The National Park Service updated their bloom schedule today.  The cherry blossom trees have reached their "puffy white stage" which puts them at 4-6 days from their peak bloom.  So that puts us at approximately Monday the 8th - Wednesday the 10th.  There is a fantastic blog by David Coleman Photography and he has an update from the tidal basin yesterday with photos.   It looks like if you were to go down there this weekend, you will have blossoms to see, but it won't be all encompassing.  You should also check on the Cherry Blossom live webcam from the tidal basin.  As of today, you can see a few smatterings of white, but the trees are still looking quite bare.  My only recommendation if you will be heading there this weekend is to steer clear of the tidal basin area on Sunday morning as they are hosting the Cherry Blossom 10 mile run.

If you are in one of the cold and snow ridden areas, hang tight... Spring has to come, eventually <3

If you have yet to read my tips on photographing the cherry blossoms, click here.

Capturing the Moment,

Corrie <3