Take better family pictures this holiday season | Austin County, TX Portrait Photographer

With Thanksgiving right around the corner and Christmas knocking on the door, everyone will be pulling out their cameras to take pictures of relatives they haven't seen all year and what a better way to make family memories!  But how would you like a few tips to help make your pictures even better?  The following are 5 tips that will hopefully help you create some great pictures this year.

#1 – Turn off the flash!  The flash that comes on cameras should be outlawed, really.  They cause those devil red eyes, horrible shadows and it’s just totally unflattering.  Use the natural light that streams through your living room window or go outside when the light is warm and lovely.  Just remember, flash = bad!

#2 – Find the light
The best light can be found in the morning before 11am and in the evening after 4pm.  These times can vary depending on the season, in summer the evening time will be later.  The light at these times is nice and not harsh.   Sometimes you can’t help taking pictures at high noon, so if that’s the case, look for shade.  Shade is your friend, as long as you have a bright open sky in front of your subject.  Make sure to have your subject positioned on the edge of the shade.  The reflection from the sky will brighten your subjects face and give great catchlights.  Catchlights are the twinkle in their eyes that make your subject come alive in their pictures. 

#3 – Be mindful of the background
What sets a really great picture apart from an everyday snapshot is the background.  Creating interest with textures on the side of a barn or under a majestic old oak tree can really make your pictures something to cherish.  Be careful when you are posing family or children so that branches do not appear to be coming out of their heads or that your dog isn’t in the background making a present in the yard.  Another trick to use is pulling your subject several feet away from the background so that the background is slightly blurred, and your family is in focus.  What I mean by this is…don’t have your family right up against the background (such as a house, barn, etc), but instead, have them move up towards the camera about 10 ft or so.  The background will still be there, but the focus will be on the family. (p.s. - there is a cemetery in the background here...but you would never know if I didn't tell you)

#4 – Get on their level
Whether you’re taking pictures of your toddler or your teenager, get on the same level or plane as they are on.  If they are sitting on the ground, don’t take your shot from up above, get down on the ground so you’re at the same level.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how that change of height can really make an impact on your final product. 

#5 – Composition
The way that you set up your picture in the view finder of your camera can really make a huge difference in the quality of your final picture.  At some point in your life, your Aunt Nelda took a picture of you and your husband, but it wasn’t a close up of just you and your husband, instead, the both of you were just a small speck in the picture that included her entire living room and random other people in the background.  Paying attention to framing your subjects inside the camera is key.  If your camera doesn’t zoom, use the manual zoom – your feet! 

Well, I hope this helps you think about things a little differently the next time you pick up your camera this holiday season.  Make memories that will be cherished for generations!

The Kitchen That Could - Part One

Back in May of this year I said goodbye forever to my kitchen in Houston so that I could live in the country in the 1860's farmhouse that Brad and I have been remodeling for 20 years.  Just kidding, it's only been like 2 years...but it dang sure feels like 20 years!  Here's a look back at the kitchen when we first started tackling it many moons ago...it was in rough shape.  The kitchen was in a part of the house were the roof had been leaking for a long time and it needed our help B-A-D!

And take a look at the "padding" we found when we pulled up the flooring....check out the dates too!

I never knew that Lane Bryant was around in those days! :)

Anyway, sorry about the trip down memory lane, but the unfinished kitchen in our country home has been a huge source of frustration.  You see, trying to cook in that kitchen is like camping...seriously.  I have a 2 burner hot plate and a microwave to work with.   (sorry, cleaning THIS thing is just not high on my priorities these days)

But now I have this!

Yes, our refrigerator is in there and we have a utility sink...so running water is a big plus, but still, everything is everywhere and trying to cook the smallest thing is a huge undertaking.

Don't ask...not sure how a banjo, guitar and a box of booze got crammed in the kitchen either!

So a couple of weeks ago we decided it's now or never and we decided come hell or high water, this kitchen was going to get finished by Thanksgiving!  I wanted to be able to bake in my kitchen for Christmas dangit!  So we successfully got our cabinets, new stove and a dishwasher.  Now, anyone who's a relative or a friend of the family and has ever visited this house before the remodel, knows that there has never been a Voelkel woman with the luxury of a DISHWASHER in this house unless of course, it's the kind with 2 hands and a heartbeat.  So I am over the moon to know that I will be THE FIRST Voelkel woman to be able to use a dishwasher!

This past weekend my step dad came out to help Brad install the cabinets and stove.  And thank goodness for my step dad who recommended the layout that I wanted for this kitchen...even though our prior measurements determined that it wouldn't work.  Guess we don't know how to use a tape measure too well? :)

With the new layout, we have tons of room, so much that we have a surprise addition that will make you say - holy moly that was a great idea!

On Monday we went to Ikea and spent a good part of the day there.  By the end of the day, my dogs were barking, my brain was mush and we had some pretty awesome stuff.  We decided to use their butcher block counter tops.  I LOVE the look of it and think it will look awesome with the farmhouse feel that we're going for.  We also got a pretty neat light fixture too...but you'll have to wait and see that once we reveal the surprise addition!

Yesterday we got busy doing a little customization on our cabinets.  When we purchased them from Home Depot, they were your average run of the mill oak cabinets, nothing fancy.  But thanks to our friend Beverly down the road, the owner of The Round Top Farmhouses, she gave us a really cool idea to save money and give them a more custom look.  We purchased a sheet of beadboard and cut it into pieces that fit inside the inset of the cabinet and secured them with some liquid nail and tah-dah!!!

 Pretty snazzy huh?  All we have to left to do now is to caulk and paint them.

We've been agonizing over the color for a while now, but we finally agreed on black cabinets and we're going to try to tackle that today and tomorrow.  That's the progress report for now...stay tuned for more updates this weekend or early next week!