99 In Articles

Professional Help

We made it home in just a few minutes short of 12 hours! Thanks for your prayers. He was 150% better on the way home than he was on the way up. He cried between Birmingham and Montgomery but that seemed like nothing compared to the long ride up. While I regain my blogging energy I’m going to do a little something fun.
Something that involves this beautiful, talented and gracious friend…


Marla Carter {pictured here with Hornet}. Marla’s a professional. I’m an amateur.
Sometimes you all email me or leave comments asking for photography advice. I’m honored that you would like for me to give you advice on photography, however, me giving you advice on photography would be like me telling you how to perm your hair at home {the results could be really scary}. So, I’m going to leave the advice up to the professional.

Marla is a very talented and trained photographer. And…. she has agreed to answer your questions about photography. Do you know how excited I am about this? Very. I’ve already started my own list.

Marla received her Bachelor’s degree in Commercial Photography from Syracuse. After graduation she made her home in New York City trying her hand in fashion photography, only to realize that the industry wasn’t a fit for her. Her heart had always been in portrait photography but knowing the start up costs of such an endeavor she put her dreams on the back burner. Until… the industry went digital, then she went for it and hasn’t stopped since. She and her husband are in it together and have been going strong on their own for six years. Marla and Shane have a retail space in Redfish Village, along Florida’s scenic Hwy 30-A. They each shoot over 100 clients a year yet make it a priority to maintain a very personal relationship with each one. Marla is such a natural with children {and parents}. None of the shots Marla takes are contrived. She captures each and every personality with such ease. She especially loves to shoot children playing with each other and interacting and playing with their parents. She also was recently chosen as a consultant for the nation’s largest professional lab and the picture featured above is part of their marketing campaign. Have I made it clear she’s good? Better educated than me? Better suited to answer all your questions? Ok, good.

Here are the rules for the sake of Marla’s sanity…

Be specific in your questions. General questions like, “How do I take good pictures?” are very hard to answer. Specific questions are much easier to answer… like, “Do you recommend filters? How do you get good pictures inside? What should I look for in a camera bag? What’s your favorite lens? How much can I expect to spend on a good SLR and a couple of good lenses?” You could probably even ask her a Photoshop question! Have fun, be creative, and be specific.
I’m going to leave the rest up to Marla. She’ll be back with answers early next week. I’ll keep the comments open.
In the meantime, I’m going to go hang out with her and throw my sister a little shower this weekend!
Photo courtesy of Marla, snapped by Erika!

You Might Also Like

  • Amanda
    July 23, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    glad you made it home safe and sound! i'll be back with a question or two!

  • Emily Dudley
    July 23, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Hey, Darby! I've never commented before, but I am a faithful reader. My husband and I just bought a Nikon D90/VR 18-105 lens, and we have LOTS of questions about it. Thanks, Marla, for any help you can give us!

    1. How do you blur the background of a picture? Sometimes when we use the aperture setting, it still doesn't blur as much as we would like. Is there a trick?

    2. What's the best setting for night pictures? (i.e. like for taking pictures of fireworks)

  • johnson_cm
    July 23, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    So excited and grateful marla is willing to answer some questions!!

    1. My first question is regarding turning the flash off. I have a canon rebel xt. For those pictures that the flash seems to ruin the beautiful lighting or scene, how do I manually turn it off? It seems like I should have figured this out already!!
    2. What lens would you suggest to capture the best pictures?

    Thank you!!

  • My Little Blessings
    July 23, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Hey Darby!

    I have never left a comment, but I am a regular reader πŸ™‚

    I'm so excited Marla is doing this for everyone!

    1) I have a Nikon D80, which lens does she recommend for taking photos of the kids?

    2) I always hear "turn the flash off"…but my photos do not turn out when I turn it off…they turn out too dark or blurred. is there a secret to it?

    Thanks again!

    You are just precious and so is your family πŸ™‚

  • Jenny Lynn
    July 23, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I have been looking at camera bags and I'm having a difficult time figuring out what would work best. I have a large camera bag that holds up to like 5 lenses and all other camera-related paraphernalia. But, considering that it's the size of a Utah {maybe not quite that big πŸ™‚ } I am looking for something that is a little more reasonable for carrying with me everywhere. I tried just putting it in my purse/tote but I can't help but worry that it's going to get messed up without any protection. But, any of the small-ish bags I've looked at are still too bulky for me to throw inside of my bag therefore I still walk around looking like a bag lady. No, not cute. Do you have a slim camera bag? And if so, what kind is it?? Or what kind would you suggest??

    Also, last question…promise, do you use any filters? I've heard mixed reviews…some say yes because it's better to scratch a filter than a lens but some say they aren't worth the hassle because you can't tell much of a difference. What do you suggest??

    Thank you so much!!

  • CC
    July 23, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I have a couple of really nice "Close Up" lenses. Do you think a panoramic lens is a "must have?"

  • Courtney
    July 23, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    If this little Q&A is anything like the can of worms in the Darby 101 questionnaire, this will be a hoot! Can't wait to read all of Marla's expert advice.

    So I've enrolled in a 3-day photography course in Sept. Can I stockpile my questions, take the class, learn what I can and come back in 2 months for more advice? Thanks πŸ˜‰

  • Anonymous
    July 23, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    should you/do you edit every picture? And if so, do you adjust the color, sharpness, etc?

    what editing software do you recommend?

    in your opinion, is it unprofessional to deliver photos without being edited?

    also…do you recommend always shooting RAW?

    thank you soooooo much!

  • Michelle
    July 23, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    I'd love to know how to take better low light photos (ie pics around dusk)… it seems that mine turn out a blurry mess with the flash off or totally bright with the flash.

  • Devon
    July 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    D, welcome home!

    Marla, thank you as well. Would love your recommendations on the type of camera to purchase and the types of lenses you recommend.

    Have a great shower with Erika!!

  • Melissa Wagner
    July 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Darby: This question is really for you!! How do you come up with photos that are composed in such a cool way?? For example, the photo of just the girls' legs in the round barrel at the playground or just Paiger's hand with the blueberries. I want to take really cool photos like that, but I seem to be really really good at the kind that are totally centered in the middle, don't cut off the legs, arms or head but they are boring! I'm so good at that perfectly centered style, I rarely have to photoshop something out — but I want to take the really cool photos that you and Erika take … and since we are related, I have to have that gene in me somewhere!

  • ang
    July 23, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Love, love, love your blog. The home perm comment made me laugh! Loved your adventures in the Midwest!

  • Paloma {La Dolce Vita}
    July 23, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Is there a specific DSLR camera that you would recommend for a complete amateur?

  • Amanda
    July 23, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks so much for setting this up Darby!!

    My question for Marla:
    I live in a townhouse and have very little natural light inside, so the amount of time in a day for taking pictures without a flash is quite restricted. Do you have any suggestions of how to take better lit pictures inside? Is an external flash necessary?

  • Jennifer
    July 23, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Looks like my questions are very common!!
    I have a Canon Rebel xs…

    1. I would like to be able to take more natural pictures without such a harsh flash. However, when I try to use different settings or no flash, my picture comes out very blurry. How do you suggest I take pictures more naturally?
    2. How important to you find editing? Do you edit every picture?

    It is very kind of you to take my questions. I really appreciate it!!

  • Carrie
    July 23, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    What is your #1 for photographing infants/young children?

    What is one piece of advice in branching out on your own as part time children's photographer?

  • Elizabeth
    July 23, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    What is the best way to store pictures?

    I have photoshop elements that I bought about 3 months ago but haven't taken it out of the package. It seems it will be overwhelming with editing. I wanted to be able to take good pictures straight out of camera before I do much editing.

    What settings: iso, shutterspeed would you use at a concert?

    I took my daughter to the county fair this week and had hoped to get some good shots. It was not even dusk, my aperture was at 1.8 but pics still looked dark. Any suggestions?

    Thanks for doing this. I know I've asked several questions…..i could ask more but hopefully someone else will.

    Glad you made it back safely with your family, Darby.

  • Hannah
    July 23, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Hi, I have a Canon 50D with a 28-135mm lens. I am a total novice but am trying to learn. I would love a different lens but to be honest I am not sure what type does what and what I should look for in a reasonably priced lens. Could you offer a few suggestions? I mostly take pictures of my children and their activities.

  • kurt and kari
    July 23, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    The answer to my prayers!
    I have been admiring Marla's pics since I stumbled upon Erika's blog some time ago, then yours!
    I recently bought the canon xsi I AM A COMPLETE BEGINNER!

    – Is there an online DSLR course that you reccommend? I am barely getting the courage to shoot in the "creative" settings!


  • bean
    July 23, 2009 at 11:01 pm


    1. I have a Rebel XTi, a regular old zoom lens, a zoom lens up to 300 and a 430ex flash and love all of it. πŸ™‚ What would you recommend as the next purchase? Maybe a portrait lens? Wide angle? I'm mostly taking pictures of my kidlets…kidlets and remodeling.


    3. Any way to transmit your talent to us?


  • Jessica {lovely jubbly london}
    July 24, 2009 at 4:10 am

    Glad your journey home was better!

    I want to know Marla's must have lenses. Does she recommend buying the same brand as the camera- like Nikon with Nikon?

    I also want to know what lens was used on the shot of her and hornet? That is a great picture!

  • Gray Matters
    July 24, 2009 at 4:32 am

    Yeah for happy travels – tomorrow we leave for our trip back up to Maryland (from the 30A beaches). I received a Pentax KD20 for Christmas and am now just getting up the courage to start shooting. I would love to know what Marla's favorite lens is – does she prefer a fixed lens? I haven't purchased any editing software yet, does Marla have a recommendation?

  • Ole Miss Mom
    July 24, 2009 at 4:58 am

    When shooting into light (like in the picture with Marla and JM) how do you expose so that you can see their faces – and not blacked out?

    Do you use the custom white balance function in your camera? Sometimes I get really yellowy pictures.

  • Shari
    July 24, 2009 at 5:09 am

    OH how fun to ask a PROFESSIONAL questions!

    What editing program do you use?
    I love the washed out look to shots and I have no idea how to do it – is that all done in the editing?

    and If you had to use just ONE lens to take portrait shots, what lens would you choose?

  • Little Household
    July 24, 2009 at 5:10 am

    I have photoshop elements. Is there a way to convert a batch of photos from RAW to JPEG, or do I have to edit them each individually?

    Thanks! I love this idea.


  • Kristen
    July 24, 2009 at 5:23 am

    Glad y'all had an uneventful trip home. Have fun showering Erica this weekend.

    Camera question…I have a Nikon D70S. My lens (Nikor 18-70) just recently broke and is going to cost @ 250 to repair. Is there a better lens that would be worth putting that 250 toward? Also, I'm thinking about a 50mm fixed, what do you think about them? (not to replace the other but in addition). Thanks Marla! Your photography is so real and unique.

  • Kendra
    July 24, 2009 at 5:28 am

    I have never left a comment before, but I LOVE your photography style and have a few questions for Marla.
    1. I am interested in starting a small photography business in SC. I do not have an SLR yet.What type of camera do you recommend?
    2.Also, I have had trouble getting my digital pictures to blow up well. Is that mostly dependent on the type of camera I buy?

    Thanks so much!

  • Kendra
    July 24, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Also, what lenses do you suggest for starting off?

  • Amy Nunnally
    July 24, 2009 at 5:31 am

    This is wonderful! I have a Nikon D40x, a 18-55mm lens and a 55-200mm lens.

    1. How do you get the darks in your pictures to look SO black?

    2. When taking pictures of a group of people (different depths), someone is always out of focus. My old point-and-shoot had multiple focus points so that didn't happen in the past, but with my new Nikon it happens all the time!

  • Vaughn
    July 24, 2009 at 5:35 am

    I have enjoyed reading about your trip and glad that your trip home was a safe one.

    I have a fujifilm camera. Nothing fancy, but does what I need it to, but I can't figure out how to focus an object and make everything else blurry or fuzzy. I have tried everything.


  • Anonymous
    July 24, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Do you shoot in RAW? Why or why not?

  • Katie
    July 24, 2009 at 6:26 am

    Hi Darby! Kristy Dean put a little comment about your blog on her blog and so I had to check it out… I'm so glad I did because I have really enjoyed reading all of your posts! Your blog is very positive and uplifting and always makes me smile. That is such a cool idea about getting Marla to answer photo questions and I am very excited about it!

    I just got a Canon T1i and I love it. However, I am really overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to use the software that came with it. Where should I begin? Should I ignore the software that came with the camera and use a program more suited for my abilities (very beginner)?

    Thank you so much!

  • The Hill Family
    July 24, 2009 at 6:29 am

    How can I get the focus of my pictures really clear and the background really blurry? I have a Nikon d-40 and I think it has the capability to do it, I just don't know how. Do you have any good recommendations for a photoshop(not sure if that's what is called) where I can edit pictures like make one all black and white with just a splash of color, etc.

  • L
    July 24, 2009 at 6:31 am

    I'm sure I could think of a million questions, but here is what first comes to mind:

    How DO you take good pictures indoors? My greatest frustration is getting a clear picture in low-light situations without washing out my subject and making it look unnatural by using flash. Is this merely an issue of adjusting the flash compensation?

    When I see Darby’s pictures, I notice that whether indoors or out, the lighting always seems perfect! No shadows, no fuzz, just beautifully clear photos. Is there a trick? Perhaps it is a faster lens that is good in low-light situations? Or a particular setting? I’m dying to know!

    Thanks in advance to Marla for being willing to answer!

  • Shar
    July 24, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Oh, Darby, this is so wonderful for you and Marla to do this. I constantly admire your photos.

    Marla, my question is about long distance shooting. I want to get better at shooting coastal birds and plan to get a really good zoom. I am in process of deciding on Nikon D90 or the latest Canon with 15 megapixels. So, using that info, what zoom lense would you recommend and might as well ask which camera you would recommend?


  • Anonymous
    July 24, 2009 at 6:39 am

    My question is for you. How do you have time to load all the pictures to your blog and do a post? It seems to take me forever to just load pics. Is there an easier way to do this? My pictures always get out of order too.

    Do you keep all of your pictures in albums?

    I thought about using snapfish to order pictures. Any suggestions?

  • Kristin
    July 24, 2009 at 6:52 am

    I love Marla and Shane. Shane did pictures of our family about a year ago. I wasnt into photography when he took the pictures, but now that I am, I realize how AMAZING they are. I have not had the pleasure to meet Marla, but her work is gorgeous as well. Unbelievable emotion and clarity. I have 2 questions.
    1. What is your typical pp workflow? I shoot in RAW and after doing some adjustments in ACR for white balance and such, I will bring into photoshop, do a levels and curves adjustment, a few other tweaks and then sharpen. Some workflow tips would be amazing.
    My 2nd question is about composition.
    What is the best way to see creativly and get those amazing compositions?


  • Nessa
    July 24, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Thanks Darby…


    I have been planning a camera purchase to and want to move past the basic point and shoot camera. I had been planning on getting a SLR and taking a class or two at our local college.

    Well, just found out that we are finally expecting a baby (Yippee)… but the baby has decreased my budget for the camera. I still want a great camera that could get this hobby started, but I really need to keep the purchase at around $300 – $400 (accessories included). Are the any recommendations for a camera that will let me get great photos (good zoom and rapid shutter speed, that I can not feel guilty about purchasing.

    Thanks for all your help.

  • Dana
    July 24, 2009 at 7:05 am

    I am about to buy a nice camera, considering the cannon rebel. I just want this to take good pics of my kids and not have to spend a fortune taking them to a photographer. What is the best camera for the money (less than a thousand, please!) and what must have lenses do I need? Thanks so much!!!

  • Lucy
    July 24, 2009 at 7:14 am

    hi marla,

    I love all of the B&W prints that you took of Eleanor earlier this year. I think that is your signature. How would you suggest creating a similar look in photoshop. I never like how my b&w's turn out but would love to turn some of my favorite photos into b&w prints.

    thanks so much for doing this q and a.
    -lucy murchison (from dallas)

  • Mandy
    July 24, 2009 at 7:15 am

    oh this is great!

    My question is for Darby…

    how do you store/organize your photos? I have a horrible habit of keeping them on my computer and never printing.

    for Marla….

    What editing software (and storage) do your recommend?

    do you recommend an external flash for portrait photography?

    I've never had the opportunity to look at Marla's work….but I'd love to get my photos to look as crisp as Darby's…what is the SECRET? do tell πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous
    July 24, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Would you recommend shooting in RAW or JPEG or what format and why?

    What is the easiest and quickest way to edit?

    thanks so much for your time and help. You are truly talented!

  • Hicks Family
    July 24, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Thank you Darby and Marla…this is awesome!
    My question is regarding action shots – how do you make a moving object freeze in the picture and NOT be blurred?

  • Betsy
    July 24, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Would LOVE to know her thoughts on these:

    1. Shooting in RAW
    2. Better to convert images to b/w while in camera or just edit in Photoshop
    3. Do you often adjust ISO settings?

    Thank you, thank you!

  • two Excited nests
    July 24, 2009 at 7:22 am

    ohmigosh, I love you for doing this!


    Any books you would recommend for a beginner? Specifically, book that would improve one's ability to take portraits?

  • Heather
    July 24, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Darby, I've never commented before either, but I love your blog.

    Marla, I'm in the market for an SLR camera. What do you recommend? Also, if you could only have one lens (for photographing children), what would you choose?

  • Laura
    July 24, 2009 at 7:45 am

    How fun, Thanks for doing this! I have a repeat question- what editing software do you use, and do you use a Mac or PC/ desk top or lap top. Thanks again!

  • Jennifer
    July 24, 2009 at 7:49 am

    I'm such an ameteur I don't even know what to ask! But can't wait to hear her answers to everyone else's questions.

  • Sarah
    July 24, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Oh my goodness. You have opened up a big ol' can of worms. Thank you, Darby!!!

    I just got a dslr and find the manual extremely complicated. What would you suggest (books, classes, etc.) for a beginner trying to learn the manual settings?

    Also, favorite lenses would be great. There are so many! I have a birthday coming up and would like to ask for one but am having a hard time deciding.

    Darby – glad you made it home safe & sound and have fun with Erica.

  • KayleneLanae
    July 24, 2009 at 8:02 am

    oh this is fun!

    okay, I have a point and shoot (Canon PowerShot A620) and it's been a good camera for us for several years. It's point and shoot but has plenty of different options for me to get into different settings and what not. Anyway, I feel like I want to move up sometime soon. I would love to keep with a canon and have been coveting a rebel. What camera would you recommend for my "next step up". I want something that packs a lot of punch for not a huge price tag. This is the camera I want for when we begin to have kids and want to capture those moments. That will be it's primary function. Family moments. Do you have any recommendation?

    I also second what another lady up there asked. I NEVER use my flash because it drowns out EVERYTHING (the hands-down WORST part of this camera). So I have to always take pictures in natural light and NEVER at night, even if I have lighting inside. It always turns out blurry and the flash pictures look HORRIBLE. Is there any way to take pictures without blurs but not drown everything out with my flash?

  • Yevette
    July 24, 2009 at 8:12 am

    I've already learned some things from reading the questions in the comments! Darby's blog (and her sister's) has pretty much sold me on the Canon Rebel camera. I guess my questions are:

    1. As a beginner, should I read a manual or book (and if so, what?) or even take a class before investing in a "real" camera?

    2. Do most pictures require some type of editing in a photo software to achieve the best results? If so, what program do you recommend?

    Thanks so much to Darby and Marla for taking these questions! If they are too vague to answer, I'll just continue reading the comments and learn : )

  • Jack
    July 24, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Hello Darby! First time commenting here – LOVE your blog and thank you so much for setting up this Q&A session! you rock.

    My question –

    How do I take pictures like Darby?

    Heheheh. I kid, I kid!

    My real question –

    I have a Nikon D40 and would consider myself a somewhat skilled amature. I'm looking for a good portrait lens for taking shots of my kiddo and the kiddos of my friends … and I'm not looking to spend $1000. I've had my eye on the Sigma 30mm – any feedback on that lens?

  • Tenia Fuselier
    July 24, 2009 at 8:45 am

    What a wonderful opportunity! Thank you in advance for any advice you can share with us.

    I have been looking for my first DSLR and the more I read the more confused I become. I will mostly be taking pictures of indoor sports. Both of my girls play high school volleyball and high school basketball. This will be a big purchase for my family, so I really want to spend my money wisely.

    1. Can you tell me what features to look for in a camera for indoor sports?
    2. If I can only buy one lens, what should it be?
    3. Could you possibly recommend a specific brand and/or camera? Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, etc? I've read review after review and I just don't know what to buy because I don't understand a lot of the terms and features.

    Thank you!

  • Shireen
    July 24, 2009 at 9:11 am

    You know why JM cried between Bham and Montgomery, right? Well, I believe he wanted yall to stop and say hello to the Wright's! πŸ™‚

    Gosh, I wouldn't know the first question to ask on photography. Maybe about how much would I be looking at spending to get a camera like yours, Darby? I have gotten interested in taking pics of Rhys and our family lately. In fact, I borrowed my neighbor's nicer camera for the weekend, so let me know what kind of investment I'd need to plan for. I would like to not have to plan to have a garage sale, however. πŸ˜‰
    Love you!

  • Hillary @ The Other Mama
    July 24, 2009 at 9:14 am

    What a great and generous idea!! I love it!
    OK, my main question is about cameras and which one to choose for a good starter. I have a Canon that's pretty decent, but can't adjust any lenses or anything. I want to know if the Nikon is as good as it's hype and if it's worth the right arm… or big huge yard sale… to get one.
    And you can perm my hair anytime…just pretend it's 1987 and that would work!
    Thanks to you both!!

  • Amanda @ Serenity Now
    July 24, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Oh, so excited!!! Thanks Darby and Marla for this opportunity to ask some questions. πŸ™‚

    1. For those of us that love taking photos, but may be on a budget, can you recommend a user-friendly photo editing software/site (like Picasa or something, maybe)? I'd like to transfer my photos to black & white, sepia, blur backgrounds, etc. but I can't afford to go out and purchase Photoshop.

    2. Any tips for those of us who just have a plain old digital camera and want to make the most of what we have? (mine is a Sony Cybershot)

    Thank you!

  • Anonymous
    July 24, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Hi Darby! I'm a regular reader of your and Erika's blogs, although this is my first comment post!

    A quick (and hopefully not too generic) question for the generous Marla – is there a SLR that she would recommend for a total SLR/photography novice? I have a point & click digital camera that sometimes, after much effort, yields nice results but I'd like to upgrade. I also recognize my own limited ability so I don't want to be sold something I won't be able to use in the way it was intended.

    Thank you for organizing this & I'm glad to hear you arrived safely home and that the young Hornet limited his vocal abilities! πŸ™‚

    Robyn R

  • Southern Exposure
    July 24, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Thanks for offering this Darby!

    For Marla: I have a Canon Rebel XTI. I love it for outdoor pictures, but indoors my pictures often come out too dark if I don't use the flash, and with too much glare if I do use the flash. Since I am a designer, I like to take a lot of interior shots, but I never love the way they come out. I have just been brightening them in Photoshop. Any advice?


  • Kim
    July 24, 2009 at 11:10 am

    I'm just excited to read about this. I know nothing about photography but would love to learn.

    I'd love to know what camera she would recommend for a total total beginner.

    And, what online resources she recommends for tips and tools.

  • Page
    July 24, 2009 at 11:24 am

    This is great!

    For Marla: Do you meter for each picture you take? If so, do you use a grey card? Thank you!

  • Anonymous
    July 24, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Darby, I love you blog! I am a very regular reader. Thanks for having your friend answer questions for us. I have recently bought a DSLR and am a total novice so I am looking forward to the answers she gives.

    I do have one question though, where is the place to have the digital images processed. I have sent most of mine to quick print places and they don't come out nearly as good as they do on the computer. Are there online places where I can get better quality images?

  • Amy
    July 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    What perfect timing! I was planning to purchase a Rebel XSI today. Seriously. Thank you for making this generous gift possible.

    I have questions about storage of photos. Do you use a desktop storage system or an internet-based system? Both concern me (if it's in my house and it is stolen, I'm hosed v. do I trust an internet site with my photos?). What sort of backup system do you use? Any tips on organization and storage would be greatly appreciated.

  • Anonymous
    July 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I LOVE your blog and so enjoyed reading about your trip home. Your sweet family is precious!

    I am so excited to read Marla's helpful advice!

    1. I'm thinking of renting a lens for an upcoming beach trip. I usually shoot with a 50 mm. Any suggestions for the best lens for shooting at the beach? Or, maybe tips to get some really great beach shots? My main goal is to get some great pictures of my family. Thanks!

    2. I love my 50mm lens but would eventually love to buy another lens. Any suggestions for a can't live without lens?


  • margaret
    July 24, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    oh, boy… where do i begin? my apologies in advance for so many questions!

    (1) how do you store your photos – jpg vs. tiff? i've been told if you store in jpg on a hard drive that every time you open and close it, the quality is reduced (i.e. compressed). however, the tiff just takes up so much more memory. part B to this question is if you store your pics in jpg format on a cd/dvd, does the same compression occur?

    (2) can you give us a simple tutorial on aperture, f-stop, shutter speed, iso …. in other words – all those "camera terms"?

    (3) i have a nikon d40 and love it. mainly i use my 18-55 lens because i have found that most of my pics with my 55-200 VR lens come out blurry. i'm mainly using it outdoors and good light so i don't know what my problem is. any suggestions?

    (4) do you always shoot with manual focus? i've tried to do this, but it's been tough. it's just so much easier to use auto focus. does it just take practice? it seems that i've gotten it focused when looking thru the camera, but when i look at the pic on my computer i realize it didn't come out clear at all.

    (5) it seems like you've already gotten a bunch of question about this – any suggestions on avoiding using your flash?

    (6) i fee like i'm not using my camera to its full potential – any books you can recommend on using a dslr? as much as i'd love to take a class, i just don't have the time.

    my thanks for both darby and marla for doing this!!

  • Stacy
    July 24, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Darby!

    I've never commented before, but I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now and I love it! I love hearing about your sweet family and about all the cool things you craft and do. And I love your pictures! Would you be willing to email me that picture you took of the sunset on the farm? I want it to be my desktop background but I don't know how to do that from Flickr. You might not want to share your personal photos and I would totally understand–but if you don't care, my email address is stacyjstory@gmail.com. Thanks for your sweet Christian witness and for always giving our Lord the glory for all the great things he has done!

  • Carrie
    July 24, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Ditto the questions about not using a flash… I also love to use natural light, but my little crawler makes it hard to get a non-blurry photo. I have a Canon point and shoot– does this mean I'm out of luck in getting a non-blurry, non-flash photo without investing in an SLR?

    And, Darcy, I'll also ditto the questions about your amazing composition. Even one or two tips about seeking out these unique angles would be so appreciated!

  • julie
    July 24, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks Darby & Marla! I have been complaining for the last week how terrible my pictures turn out! I take those "mom" pictures! I need all the help I can get! I have a Canon PowerShot S3IS?! Girl, I dont even know what kind of camera I have! Ha! Would purchasing a lens help? Any suggestions on taking pictures of my two cuties! Thanks for any help you can give! Julie

  • Emily Y.
    July 24, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I can't wait to hear Marla's advice but what I'm really looking forward to is seeing what you do for your sister's shower. Whatever it is I am sure it will be fantastic based on what I've seen so far. Have fun!

  • Dana
    July 24, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Thanks Darby and Marla! This is great! I LOVE photoshop and use it 24/7 for all sorts of things. I find myself searching the internet for fun tutorials when I have free time. What are your favorite techniques to make your pictures "pop?" I find myself wondering how photographers achive different shots and wonder how much of it is photoshop. Like this site:https://rebekahwestover.blogspot.com/2009/05/megan-and-tanner_23.html GREAT photos! Are these black and whites photoshopped? And what time of day can you get the great sunlight halos?

  • Alexandra
    July 25, 2009 at 3:47 am

    Hi Darby,

    My questions are:

    1. What is the best (day)time to take pictures at the beach and

    2. Are there any rules which should be followed to take pictures at the beach?

    Thanks a lot for your loooooovly blog! God bless you all 5!! Kindest regards from Europe!

  • KMR
    July 25, 2009 at 6:08 am

    I know you dn't want the picture about the kids but….everyone always has pictures of little kids. My kids are 15, 12 & 7. I find it hard to take pictures of them now. What kind of setting and how would you take 3 boys like that? Kim

  • Ferreira; Party of Four
    July 25, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Hi, Darby! I like your blog so much; I find it very inspiring. I just recently started blog-stalking your sister, too!
    We use a Canon Rebel XSi with a 17-85mm lens, and iPhoto on our Mac when editing (though my Hubby has Photoshop, etc., on his laptop). TMI? We are novices to SLR digital, but love being behind the camera. My questions for Marla:

    Is there a setting on the camera itself that enables a better quality black & white photo? Would you recommend shooting with a filter? Or are there some tips you can give us to 'edit' a better black & white photo in iPhoto and/or Photoshop?
    Thank you very much!

  • The Harris Family
    July 25, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Brave Brave Marla this is so generous of you! Thank you in advance!

    I have thousands but I'll keep it to these 3.
    1. I've always heard use your flash outdoors but not indoors. I can take an OK indoor pic w/o my flash but I can't figure out how to make it work outdoors. Do you always use your flash outdoors in daylight? And if so, what settings?

    2. What are…say…your top 3 favorite 'buttons' in photoshop to give a photograph that 'pop' of vividness and color? Or is this all done with filters on your cam?

    3. What are some really great props for on site locations, I'm always so uncreative when it comes to this!

    You're awesome for doing this!

  • Ruth Williams Photography
    July 25, 2009 at 9:44 am

    This is a GREAT pic of Marla in action! Miss that girl! Darby you really have an eye for photography πŸ˜‰ Great job!

  • shanna
    July 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    darby, this is the first time i've commented, but i enjoy your blog greatly and have been reading for a couple months now. arre, who is a mutual friend of mine and ericka's told me about it. i'm a follower of Christ, wife, and stay-at-home mom. we live in albany, ga. i'm getting more and more interested in photography as a hobby and am excited about this idea of marla answering the questions. thanks!

  • Smokey Evo
    July 25, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    This is great! I'm looking to buy a SLR and am always interested in learning more about photography.

    1. What's the difference between the Rebel XSi and the XT?

    2. What is the difference between a Nikon D90 and Rebel XSi? Speaking from a beginner point of view.

  • C. Smith
    July 25, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I have a blogging question- How do you get your pictures on your blog so BIG???

  • Elizabeth
    July 25, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    whoa…..marla. boy you are brave! all these questions

  • The Harris Family
    July 25, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Oh please oh please, one more I forgot. How do you get that 'bubble' effect like this one of you and JM on Darby's post? Thanks! πŸ˜‰

  • Bridget
    July 25, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Darby-I enjoy your blog and reading about your beautiful family.

    I hope we can see all the answers you and Marla give everyone!

    1)suggestions for photo organization and editing…programs and general advice for simplicity but future order!
    2)I have a canon powershot SD900 (elph) and love the convenience of it…what am I sacrificing in quality of photos and if I wanted a good step up for my next camera but still wanted convenience-what would you recommend?
    3)suggestions for minimizing blur
    4)suggestions for indoor photo improvement (quality/lighting)

    Thank you, I can't wait to read the wealth of information shared here!
    Bridget Carraway Penaskovic

  • Emalee
    July 25, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Darby, Your trip home made for great shots. I loved them!

    My question:
    I have a Nikon D40 with a 18mm – 55mm lens. I take indoor shots without a flash with great success often times. My in-laws house has yellow walls and all my indoor pics there are YELLOW. How do I stop the yellowing when I'm taking holiday shots of the fam?

    Thanks for opening the floor to questions. I can't wait to learn.

  • Anonymous
    July 26, 2009 at 6:42 am

    fyi…..there are lots of good tips on momtog.com

  • Sarah
    July 26, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    I think these have not yet been asked…

    any recommendations regarding having the photographs printed? have you used shutterfly/snapfish, etc? how do they compare to a pro lab?

    also any sources for having a photo printed on canvas?

    thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  • Jennifer
    July 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I have just one more question… I have a Canon xs. When I take pictures in Auto mode, it often gives the "BUSY" message after I take a photo and I have to wait several seconds before I'm able to take the next picture. It's very frustrating, because I end up missing some great shots in between. Any idea why my camera is doing this? Should I have it on a different setting?
    Thanks again for your help! I appreciate it!

  • Lyndsey
    July 27, 2009 at 3:02 am

    Hi Darby, lovely trip! Marla- I too am an alum of Syracuse- Go ORANGE! Your photos are amazing.

    I was hoping you could suggest a new digital camera for me. I have been using low price ($150-250)ones for the past few years and would really like to upgrade. I love taking basic photos of my family, friends, landscapes, etc. I am very impressed with the quality of photos on Darby's blog-is there a mid-priced camera that could give me similar quality?

    Perhaps this is too general of a question, but I hope you can help. Again, your photos are delightful!

  • Angel
    July 27, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Thank you for being willing to answer our questions! I see you have a zillion already.

    I have a Canon Rebel XTi with the kit lens and a 50mm/1.8 that I use 99% of the time.

    1) How important is it to shoot in Raw format? I'm thinking I should switch to Raw for portraits I take for friends (where I give them a CD to print their own photos), but not for every day shots of my kids.

    2) Can you explain white balance and how/when to fix it?


  • Julie Platt
    July 27, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Wow. Thank you for giving your time and photography advice so generously with Darby's blog readers!

    Not sure if I'm too late to add a question, but figured I'd try. Marla- I live in New York and have been searching for a good class, school, or independent teacher in the city. I'm looking for a beginning class that covers SLR camera use and potentially some photoshop as well. Do you have any suggestions? They are quite pricey and would love a trusted opinion before signing up.

    Thank you so much!

  • Kelly
    July 27, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    How do I make the color in my pictures "pop"? In other words, my pictures are fine to me from focus and capturing standpoint–but other peoples' pictures just seem to be so much more colorful than mine (even if they are in similar settings)?

  • kristen
    July 27, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Here's my question for Marla: Is Canon better than Nikon? Most of the pictures I see online that I love are taken with Canon. I currently have the Nikon D40 and 3 lenses but often think of starting over and getting the Rebel and Canon lenses. What should I do?

  • Anonymous
    July 28, 2009 at 10:00 am

    darby–I love your blog and pictures. I am so impressed with your composition of your pics. I know this is Q&A for Marla, but I also have a couple of questions for you in looking at all of your shots. Maybe Marla could comment as well?
    1) I see that you use your 50mm lens with a wide aperature a lot. Your exposure is always on target. Do you shoot in AV mode or Manual, or which mode?

    2) Did it take you a while to get used to the 50mm lens? I can't seem to get everything in the shot when I'm trying to take the picture. I am not used to moving so far back, etc. I especially love the puddlejumper picture and the JMhighney, and the Morgantrike shot. Those are awesome and you captured everything perfectly! (as always)
    3) How do you always ensure your exposure (lighting) is correct? I try to change my aperature and/or ISO to affect my shutter speed in order to get the mix of lighting and great exposure and always miss the shot and moment! Can you give a quick overview of what you do?!

    Too many questions, I know–as you have a full time job of making a home and being with your family, but if you have a minute for any of these, I would be so excited! Thanks for sharing your good days and grace with us. Lori

  • MyLittleHappyPlace
    July 28, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Oh my. I can't believe I missed this post. I would love to toss some questions Marla's way, but something tells me they will be covered.

    I too am enamored of your awesome composition skills, Darby. I always want to know if you set up the shots as is or if you crop out afterwards…

  • Petit Coterie
    July 29, 2009 at 7:28 am

    First visit to your blog and looking forward to Marla's suggestions.

  • Tenn Hens
    July 30, 2009 at 6:15 am

    Could you suggest some tips for shooting in AV mode? (I have a canon xsi)

    Sometimes when I try shooting an object/people they get blurred and the back ground is in focus.

    And what mode to you recommend shooting in at night? Mine seem to get very blurry at the slightest hint of movement.

    Thank you for all your help & inspiration!

  • Kerry
    July 30, 2009 at 8:51 am

    I'm so excited to read Marla's comments…Here I go:
    1) I have a Canon Rebel XSi and I like to shoot in the P mode (no auto flash) but a lot of my pics turn out blurry. How do I get the natural light look without the blurry hands/head/hair/legs of a 2 year old and 2 month old? (um, yes, I know it's a shot in the dark).
    2) What do you recommend as a setting when you have minimal natural light?
    3) How can I keep both my subjects (a.k.a. little monsters) in focus when one is closer to the camera than the other? I always end up with one slightly out of focus.
    THANKS SO MUCH — totally awesome, Darby!

  • twin2trip
    July 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    I don't know if I am too late but I was just thinking today about how to spot focus. I currently shoot in manual but in auto focus. It always focuses on the biggest and closest item but want to be able to have control what I focus in on even if it is something further back (distance wise) in the photo & then have everything else a little blurry. Hopefully that makes sense.

    Thank you so much for doing this. Actually I used one of Marla's pictures on my blog last Christmas so I am aware of what a beautiful photographer she is.


  • Anonymous
    July 31, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    OK-let's blame it on the painkillers. I left this on the wrong comment section last night! =)

    So excited about this Q&A. I am new to the whole blogging world (reading of yours and keeping my own).

    Today is the first day of getting on the computer since my return from the hospital.

    One of the operations I had was a hysterectomy. I know I should not be sad as God has blessed my husband and I with four beautiful kids. But it's an odd feeling. To give me a new thing to play with while I recoup my family bought me a Cannon Rebel T1i. It takes short videos and has some great features I have no idea how to use!
    What is an all around basic lense? Darby, what do you find you use MOST when photographing your kids?
    I love your shots they seem so soft to me and that's why we copied you with the Rebel.
    How do you carry your camera when out and about with the kids? The big bulky camera bag is another thing to tote with the diaper bag etc? I want to keep it close so I can capture the moments!
    Thanks for your inspiration!

  • Andrea
    August 4, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Thank you for answering our questions! Do you have any opinion on the Canon Rebel vs Canon D40? Or, why would someone spend more than $1000 on a camera? I have the Canon Rebel XTi with the 18 – 55 mm lens.


  • Here’s Marla… - Fly Through Our Window
    September 14, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    […] patient, long-suffering blog stalkers. A few moons ago Marla graciously offered to answer your questions about photography… and now we finally got our act together and have compiled the answers! If I ever tell […]

  • Kathy Schapals
    March 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    I am wanting to buy my husband a good point and shoot camera…any suggestions would be appreciated?