• Homeschool,  Photography,  Photography Lessons

    Photography Lessons By Rachel Dawn~Episode 3

    Today we are going to define and discuss one part of exposure. After this lesson, you should know what shutter speed is, how it works inside your camera, and how changing your shutter speed affects your photographs.

    BUT FIRST-What is exposure?

    Inside your digital camera, there is a little sensor. The sensor is exposed to light. The goal is to expose the sensor in your camera to the correct amount of light. If the picture is overexposed, it means that the sensor was exposed to too much light making the photo too bright. If the picture is underexposed, it means that the sensor wasn’t exposed to enough light, which results in an image that is too dark. Our goal in beginning photography is to expose the sensor correctly. We want to be able to see all the detail in the photo-nothing too bright or too dark.

    To better understand the idea of exposure, you need to know more about the parts involved. There are three parts to exposure: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. For this lesson we will only be focusing on shutter speed.

    Shutter Speed

    Think of shutter speed like your eyelid. You can control how long the your eyelid stays open. The same idea happens inside your camera. The shutter-like your eyelid-“blinks.” Some blinks take longer than others. You are in charge of how long or short you’d like the “eyelid” (or shutter) to be open.

    When you think of shutter speed, think of two things: Motion and Light.

    Shutter speed determines motion.

    Shutter speed determines how much motion is captured by the sensor. Ok, so what in the world does that mean? I’ll show you. In the photo below, you notice that the cream is falling into the cup in a blur of motion. It isn’t a nice detailed line of cream; it’s more smooth, and shows the movement of how the cream fell into the cup. When the shutter inside your camera (think eyelid;-)) is open for a longer amount of time, the motion is captured in a blur. The “eyelid” is open longer so the sensor is able to capture all the movement from the creamer. The opposite is also true. The shorter amount of time the shutter is open, the less motion will be captured.

    Shutter speed determines light.

    Shutter speed also affects the light in the photograph. When the shutter is open for a long period of time, more light is allowed to reach the sensor. So the longer the shutter is open, the brighter the image; the shorter the shutter is open, the darker the image.

    This photo was taken with a long shutter speed. The “eyelid” was open for a long amount of time. The longer shutter speed captured the motion of the cream falling into the tea cup.
    This photo was taken with a short shutter speed. The shorter (less time) shutter speed captured the crisp lines and motion more clearly. It doesn’t blur the motion; it captures what motion was there in that small amount of time.

    So this is what you need to remember:

    When thinking of shutterspeed, think of 2 things: Light and Motion. Here are the relationships you need to know.

    LONG SHUTTERSPEEDS mean more light and more motion in your image(but be careful of blurring the photo.)

    SHORT SHUTTERSPEEDS mean less light and less motion in your image. (sharp lines, crisp edges in the photo.)

    Measuring Shutter Speed

    You measure shutter speed in fractions of a second. The shutter speed of 1/30 is slower and open longer than the shutter speed of 1/4000. What you want your image to look like has a big impact on what your shutter speed should be. Some questions I ask myself when setting my shutter speed: Do I want my image to be sharp or do I want to capture motion? If I want to capture motion then my shutter speed will be longer. If I want my image sharp with crisp lines then I want my shutter speed to be shorter. I recommend you memorize some common shutter speed settings. This chart on Pinterest is a great reference.

    Test Your Knowledge

    What kind of shutter speed (long or short) would you set your camera to if you want to show the motion of a runner crossing the finish line? Tell what shutter speed would you set your camera to if you wanted to capture a flat lay for your blog? What kind of shutter speed would you use if you wanted to capture the water flowing through a stream?


    For homework, look at some photos online. Pinterest is a great resource. Ask yourself what kind of shutter speed you would use in order to get the same image? Or maybe you’d want the image totally different. How would you change your shutter speed in order to get the opposite effect?

  • Homeschool,  Photography,  Photography Lessons

    Photography Lessons By Rachel Dawn: Episode Two

    For today, we are going to explain the assignments (yes, it’s more than one). But you’ll have the next two weeks to get the assignments finished. The best way to learn photography is to work through every assignment. If you missed Episode One, be sure to head on over to that post first. It will help you better understand all the assignments for Episode Two.

    First Assignment ~ Journal Your Why

    Your first assignment is to write a little blurb in your journal about why you want to learn photography. It can be one sentence or an entire page. I want you to remind yourself now, so that when you’re tempted to quit, you’ll look back and encourage yourself.

    Second Assignment ~ Draw and Label Your Camera

    Your second assignment is to label some parts on your camera. You can draw a picture of your camera (or use the print out below) in your journal and label the following things:

    1. How to put your camera into Manual Mode

    2. How to change the shutter speed

    3. How to change the aperture

    4. How to change the ISO

    5. How to change the white balance

    There are many more buttons on your camera, but for this course, these are going to be our main focus. It’s important that you familiarize yourself with where these buttons/dials are on your camera so that when I mention them later, you’ll know exactly where they are. For more information and hints for where to find these items on your camera, watch the video down below.

    It’s important that you have your manual for this assignment. Manuals usually have a diagram of the camera with all the buttons and dials labeled. This should help you find the buttons and dials I mentioned.

    NOTE: To print the outlines, first save the photo as a PDF. Then print.

    Also, keep in mind, this isn’t an art class. You don’t have to draw a perfect camera diagram to scale. Just make it so you know what it means. Be creative-think outside what’s normal…be different. The important thing is that you learn your camera! 😉

    Third Assignment

    This is my favorite one! Take four photos and get them developed. I know I haven’t taught you anything about the camera yet, but that’s the point. I want you to see your growth from how you took photos before the course to how you will take photos after the course. For the photos you take, I recommend you do it in a variety of places-inside and outside. Have fun with it. Then get those four photos developed and put them into your journal. To see my recommendations for where to print photos, go check out the first photography lesson. Also, remember there is no editing for this photography course.

    Photography Lessons By Rachel Dawn- Episode Two
    The capital M on the dial means that the camera is in manual mode.
    The fraction shows the shutter speed. The decimal shows the aperture. Can you find what else is on the list?


    That concludes the second episode for this photography course. I would love to see your assignments! Feel free to message me your assignments over on Instagram @byracheldawn, or use the hashtag #photographylessonsbyracheldawn. I won’t grade them. =-) But I would love to see them.

  • Homeschool,  Photography,  Photography Lessons

    Photography Lessons By Rachel Dawn: Episode One

    For the first photography lesson, we’re going to be covering all the tools you’ll need for the entire course, and why you need them.


    For this course, you need a DSLR camera. In simple terms, it means that you need a camera that has a removable lens. I work with a Canon camera and lens, but the brand doesn’t matter. To find out what camera I recommend, go and check out my blog post Cameras: Which One Should I Buy?. But keep in mind, I know great photographers who work with Nikon, Sony, and Sigma. I’ve also asked a few other photographers to share their recommendations as well. It’s good to get other’s perspectives.

    Kathleen over at The New Girl in Nashville says,

    A great camera to start with as a fashion photographer is any full-frame camera. A full-frame camera gives you more control over the images you shoot; the ability to crop images to fit any type of editorial is much easier. I recommend an 85mm lens for fashion portraits and a high-speed zoom lens (70-200mm) for runway shows or any shoot where the models are using movement. I recommend spending money on a high quality lens and looking more for the camera body that fits within your budget. Camera bodies are always changing, but lenses will last a lifetime!

    Camera Nikon D850 here

    85mm lens here (another option a lot cheaper here)

    70-200mm lens here

    Kathleen Clipper Photography
    Maria over at Maria Ann Photography says,

    Hi, My name is Maria and I’m the photographer behind the lens at Maria Ann Photography. My photography journey started after the birth of my first daughter, ya know, a momtographer. 🙂 In 2010, after my last baby turned one, I realized that my babies were growing up way too fast, and it was at that moment, that I decided I wanted to take my photography to the next level. I also wanted to capture amazing memories for other families too. The very first camera I purchased was the Canon Rebel T3 which has been discontinued. The T3i is comparable to it, but one step above mine.  I currently shoot with the Canon Mark III (which I absolutely LOVE) and my back up is the Canon 6D.”

    Maria Ann Photography
    Jennie at Jennie Tewell Photography says,

    “My camera recommendation is going to be for the aspiring professional photographer. There are a lot of great cameras out there that are a little less expensive, but if you are wanting to go the professional route, I would definitely recommend a Canon 6D. I’m a Canon girl, but I’m sure there are other brands with a similar camera. It is an amazing camera, and will be fully capable to use professionally. It is a full frame, which I feel is a must, but also has a quick auto focus and works good in low light. You can find them super affordable if you look for a used one too! “

    Jennie Tewell Photography
    Brittanie over at A Quiet Soul says,

    “Even entry level cameras are 100x’s better than what we had 15 years ago! I love Canon & recommend you buy a DSLR camera body – the best you can reasonably afford. Skip the kit lens and get a prime lens according to your taste. I recommend one of these three: 50mm 1.8 (the most versatile), 35mm (great for wider angle shots) or 85mm (best for close portraits). A creative eye works much better than all the expensive gear.”  

    A Quiet Soul

    Camera Manual

    When I first taught myself photography, I learned from two resources. The most important resource was the camera manual. (The second was blogs!) Yup. I know. Who really reads the manual, right? Well, you will. LOL. Every camera comes with a manual-a book of directions telling you all about your camera. This is important because while camera brand doesn’t necessarily matter for this course, the manual does matter because it tells you exactly where everything is on your camera. When I mention specific buttons, you’ll get out the manual for your camera. You’ll look it up, and find out exactly where that button is on your camera. The important thing to remember is that I can’t tell you where every button is on your camera, but your manual does.

    Camera Strap

    This is basic, I know. And honestly, if you wanted to go without the strap, I get it. But I wanted to mention it because using the camera strap incorrectly for so many years has caused permanent damage to my neck and upper back. I go into more detail about how to use a camera strap in the video below. But I encourage you not to use your camera strap to hold the weight of the camera. The best way to hold your camera is in your hands. Use the strap only when absolutely needed. I promise, it will save you from a lot of pain down the road.

    Notebook & Pen

    The notebook and pen is to keep track of your progress. You can print out your photos and use washi tape to post them in your notebook. For printing your photos I recommend online printing labs. Mpix and Artifact Uprising are great places to get your photos printed. The best part is you don’t have to leave your house to do it. You can also write down any important things your want to remember about your camera. I will also be making some printables along the way that you’ll want to put into your notebook for reference. Over time you’ll love looking back to see how you’ve grown in your skills.

    Computer & Printer

    You’ll need a computer for downloading your images. You also need a computer to send them to print through an online printing lab. But keep in mind that there will be no editing in this photography course. You don’t need photoshop or lightroom. The first step to becoming a great photographer is to learn your camera. Then down the road, an editing class would be great to help you add a little more pop to your photos. The printer will be used for any charts or printables I make for you to print off and put into your notebook.


    Rome wasn’t built in a day. So it makes sense to say you won’t become an incredible photographer in a day. It takes practice. Work. Lots of work. When you’re tempted to give up-because you will be-I encourage you to remember why you wanted to learn photography in the first place. I wanted to learn photography because I wanted to share our heritage with my great grandchildren. I imagine myself sitting with them and looking at photo albums. Telling them stories of life and God’s goodness. That’s what pictures remind me of. I see God’s story wrapping it’s way around my own- and I want to share that with my great grand children.


    That concludes the first episode of the photography lessons here on the blog. I’m so excited to share the next episode with you. I can’t wait to see you grow and improve in your photography skills. And before you go, tell me why you want to learn photography! When you know your why it helps you stay motivated to learn!

  • Photography

    Cameras: Which One Should I Buy?

    Around Christmas time, people come to me wondering what camera they should buy? Before telling them what I recommend, I always ask them why they want a camera. Usually people will answer in a few different ways: “I want to take pictures of my kids.” “I want to take pictures of the places I travel to.” “I want to pursue professional photography.”

    Based on their answer, I give them my recommendation. The question I’m going to answer is, “What kind of camera should I buy if I want to take pictures of my kids?”


    The Camera Body

    My first camera was a Canon Rebel. It was nothing super fancy, but it was all I needed. Before getting into photography, my main goal was to take great pictures of my kids. I wanted to preserve our heritage through photography. I wanted to capture memories. My personal experience with the Canon Rebel won me over completely. I learned how the camera worked, and how to shoot in manual mode. I learned to love photography. Funny thing is that almost 10 years later, I still have it. I gave it to my daughter to learn photography. In all that time, it has never let me down. That’s why I’ll always recommend a Canon Rebel camera.  It’s easy to use and not too overwhelming to learn. But this is only the body.  I prefer to choose my own lens.

    The Lens

    Different lenses are used for different reasons.  That is an entirely different blog post for a different time. But since we’re talking about portraits of kids, my go-to lens is this fixed lens. It’s important to know what a fixed lens is. A fixed lens doesn’t have the ability to zoom.  You have to use your feet.  Some people aren’t interested in a lens that has no zoom.  It’s a preference.  But I think the inconvenience of having no zoom is worth it when you look at the image. Also, the more you practice using a fixed lens the more you get used to moving around instead using zoom.

    In closing, I’d encourage you to remember why you want to buy a camera. The one you choose has everything to do with what you want to photograph. Keep that in mind when you go shopping. And have fun!! Buying a new camera is so exciting! Let me know what you bought in the comments below! Also if you just bought a camera, go and check out this blog post about posing children.

  • Photography,  Writing Challenge

    A Writing Challenge

    A Writing Challenge

    I love to write.  It makes me feel alive.  There’s a freedom in writing that I can’t explain.  It’s like abandon happens.  I throw everyone’s opinions to the way side.  My thoughts come barreling to my mind and I write non-stop.

    I’ve heard over and over that in order to be a great writer you need to do 2 things:  you need to read good books, and you need to write everyday. I love reading good books.  My favorite of all is by CS LEWIS, The Chronicles of Narnia.  If I could pick a hero author, it would be him, hands down.

    But writing. (sigh).  Well, I’m a homeschool mom who cleans the house and makes dinner, all while making sure my kids don’t die-that right there is like a full time job. Oh, and also we’re living in a fixer upper.  But being a mom is the best job in the world.  There’s no place I’d rather be. I say that because it didn’t used to be true.  In my “young mama” days, I was stupid and immature-wanting my own dreams more than anything. I think that’s why I didn’t write-because of my own selfishness.

    But now it’s time write.

    The Writing Challenge Book

    I purchased a book with 300 writing prompts.  I’m going to write as often as I can.

    So here it goes:

    Writing Prompt Number One: What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day?

    Lazy days.  They begin slowly.  The kids are still asleep, the house is just beginning to come alive with sunlight.  Streaks of it stretch along the floor; shadows vividly reveal themselves on the walls.  Stillness. Coffee.  Silent conversations with Jesus fill my head as I sip my coffee and let my gaze drift out the big picture window.  Gradually, the kids stir in their beds.  I hear them stretch, turning over every now and then.  And I wait, coffee in hand to see their sleepy faces and bed heads enter the room.  Gradually, they come.  Lots of cuddles.  A bit of morning chatter-but still quiet.  Bowls of cereal.  Lots of crunching at the long wooden kitchen table. The chatting starts to increase and the sleepy voices disappear.  They place their bowls in the sink-one drops his bowl in the sink crashing away the stillness. They slip on their flip flops and go romp in the dirt.  And I watch them all day, enjoying their happiness and God’s incredible goodness.  Lazy days are best spent at home with my family.  There is no other place I’d rather be.

  • Photography

    Which LightRoom Editing Software Should I Choose?

    Lightroom. I finally made the plunge.   I’ve been working with Photoshop for the last six years (Maybe longer?),  and I was hesitant to take on the challenge of learning a new program. Almost every photographer I talked to said, “You need to make the switch to Lightroom.  You’ll love it!” And I finally did.

    Lightroom Versions

    All of the Lightroom versions confused me at first.  Apparently, there are three different options.    Lightroom 6, on Amazon, is $149.00. Basically, it’s the original Lightroom.  The difference between Lightroom 6 and all the other versions is that Adobe is no longer offering updates for Lightroom 6.

    Another option is Lightroom CC. It’s offered on the Adobe website for a monthly subscription of about $120 per year. This is the version I bought.  I figured that at $10 a month, it may be worth the convenience. The subscription includes a limited amount of online storage, a Lightroom CC editing app on your IPhone, and a “cloud” based simpler version of the original Lightroom Classic CC editing software. It’s specifically for photographers who are “on-the-go” and consistently taking and editing photos on their phone.  But it can easily be used on your desktop as well.

    And finally, the last option is Lightroom Classic CC.  This is like Lightroom 6, but now you get all the updates.  There are more editing options in this version of lightroom than with Lightroom CC. Lightroom Classic CC is made more for the photographer who is editing photos from a desktop computer.

    First Impressions

    If I’m honest, I find it all bit overwhelming. I wish the versions of Lightroom weren’t all so similar! I ended up making my own personal chart to compare them all. Ha!  Just being real here. I’ve been researching all this information for a few hours now, and I’m wondering if I should just stick to the world of Photoshop. But I’m no quitter. (Grunt, Fight Face)

    In order to compare Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC, I bought the Lightroom CC subscription and downloaded the trial version of Lightroom Classic CC.  My initial reaction is to lean more toward using the Lightroom Classic because it seems more like Photoshop(which I’m more familiar with) than Lightroom CC does. I have a seven day trial period to decide which editing software I prefer.

    Here are some shots of the user interface.

    This is Lightroom CC.

    Lightroom CC Image

    This is Lightroom Classic CC.

    Lightroom Classic CC Image

    Final Thoughts

    Ok.  So I’ve played around with both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC.  I think the choice you make between the two depends on the type of photographer you are.  If you want fast editing options on the go, I’d recommend the Lightroom CC.  But if you are the photographer who sits at a desktop and wants to have more in depth editing options, I’d recommend the Lightroom Classic CC.

    For me personally, I found myself wanting something in the middle. I’m not an on-the-go photographer. I like to sit at my desktop so I can see my photos at a larger scale. But on the other hand,  I have no need for the extra editing options. My editing style is usually very minimal. But the accessibility that Lightroom CC offers tipped the scale for me.  I love being able to access my photos from multiple devices.

    If you aren’t sure which one would work best for you, download the trial versions and test them out for yourself.



  • Personal,  Photography

    Fireflies and Wonder

    His eyes light up. No words, but you can tell his heart is beating faster.

    You watch him hunch over, close to the ground.  He’s in his own little world. A perfect world where there is adventure and happy endings happen every day.

    Then you see him capture something in his hands.  He’s careful. In fact, you’ve never seen him move with the care he is showing now.  He turns toward you slowly. Again, you see the light in his eyes.

    Holding up his clasped hands, he says, “Look, I caught a firefly.”  His voice is barely above a whisper.  You smile at the awe and wonder in his eyes.

    You know this isn’t a perfect world, but you pray he’ll take his wonder with him everywhere he goes.  You pray they all do.





  • Personal,  Photography

    Fourth of July

    This Fourth of July, our friends from Alabama came to visit us.  We’re so thankful for them.  These are the times my kids will remember forever.  Good stuff, ya’ll. Good stuff. There’s nothing like hanging out with good friends.  Ya know?  Hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July.

  • Photography

    A Letter To My Younger Self About Learning Photography

    A Letter To My Younger Self About Learning Photography

    Here is a letter I wrote to my younger self about learning photography.  I wish someone would have sat me down and said all this to me when I was first learning. Wherever you are in your photography journey, just know you can do it.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to learn, it just takes someone who isn’t willing to give up!  Hope this letter encourages and inspires you to go out and learn photography on purpose!

    Dear Rae,

    So, you want to get into photography?  You want to capture amazing, take-your-breath-away photos, right?  Well, I have some advice for you.  It’s blunt and to the point, but also encouraging.  If you listen to this advice – you’ll get somewhere – I promise.

    Learning Photography
    My first piece of advice for learning photography is to get out that camera manual that you stuffed in the drawer.

    Yes, I know – you think great photos are made in Photoshop.  Well, they’re not and you’re wrong.  Great photos are made with a camera.  In order to make great photos, you have to understand how your camera works.  This takes labor – it doesn’t happen magically – you actually have to work for it.  So, get off your butt and learn something on purpose.  Be intentional about becoming better with your camera.  No skill is ever learned by accident.

    Learning Photography

    My second piece of advice for learning photography is to be diligent.

    Let’s be honest, sometimes you’ll want to quit.  You aren’t always going to feel like teaching yourself this stuff.  Sometimes you’ll want to be lazy. But remember,  no one ever learned anything by being lazy.  Now, go get a cup of tea – yes, right now.  I know you hate tea, but trust me, you’ll learn to love it someday. Sit down somewhere cozy with that wonderful tea, get your camera manual out and read it again.  Practice what you read-over and over again! Even if it means reading that manual 12 times through, just do it!  Be diligent.  Someone who takes great photographs must understand everything about their camera.  Don’t quit, don’t be lazy – get to work!

    Learning Photography

    My third piece of advice for learning photography is this:   Find your own style.

    Your photography isn’t meant to be like everyone else’s.  Don’t try to imitate others. How do you do this!?  You find you own photography style by not comparing yourself to others.  No, seriously, JUST STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS.  God has made you to be entirely His – even what you capture with your camera is meant to point others to Him.  Some people will love your photography style and others will absolutely hate it – get over it.  Do what you enjoy – but do it for Jesus.  No one ever made a difference by making everyone happy.

    Learning Photography

    My final bit of advice for learning photography is to enjoy the little moments you capture with your camera.

    Enjoy the pretty light and embrace those dark shadows.  Allow each moment you capture with your camera to remind you of how good God is.  Then be thankful.  Number your days.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.

    Learning Photography

    Now, enough of this – get off your butt and go learn something on purpose.  And go do it for Jesus.


    Your Older Self


    P.S.  Go check out this camera recommendation on YouTube!