PRT259 – Look for the Light

This week we’re talking about photographing everyday life…

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  • Debi Daugherty

    I’m currently catching up with your hundreds of PRT sessions, as well as listening to new ones as they’re released each week. I listened to this one… and then backtracked and found myself catching up with episode 126 which was also somewhat about scrapbooking everyday life. A comment was read which posed the question of whether we adjust our photography based on who we think will see the photos and/or the scrapbook layouts. I found that an interesting concept and, as I’ve been listening to the PRT discussions, have often wondered if you have had a discussion about scrapbooking the trials, tribulations, and disasters of our lives. Most of the layouts that are shared online show the fun events and pretty photos of life as we all know it.

    So this all fits together in what I’m actually trying to say, here. A couple years ago, I was involved in an online community that sponsored a team contest that nudged us all into getting lots of layouts completed. So – several weeks of power scrapping found me pushing myself to scrapbook a stack of photos taken during the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in 2011. Our home was flooded in that storm… along with the homes and businesses of many people in our community on the coast of North Carolina. It was tragic on many levels, but I needed to document it in photos. So many people came and helped… and so much work was done to rebuild parts of our community.. and I needed to get it all photographed so I could remember such a huge part of our lives. Those photos were taken (referring to the lady’s comment) for me and my family and close friends.

    I then made the scrapbook layouts and posted them online in the group for “credit” in this “contest” they were hosting. I didn’t really need much in the line of feedback… my goal was to power-scrap and get those layouts made and get that story told. But – somewhere in the comments was one that someone posted and asked if I could please change my layouts to a different topic because those layouts were depressing. My gut reaction was that she didn’t need to keep looking at them… her problem, not mine. I’ve thought about that ever since, though… and the question about “who do we take our photos for?” is very pertinent. And it fits in with this week’s PRT about photographing everyday things.

    So – bottom line. Do we take our photos to show REAL real life? Or do we take photos to show that life is always upbeat and happy? Do people (other than me) document the tragedies that happen in real life? Or do most people only document the good things that happen? If there are other people who have scrapbooked disasters or tragedies, maybe that would be a good discussion for a PRT sometime!

    Thanks for having thought-provoking, interesting, and sometimes just plain fun discussions on the PRT. I listen to them during my work commute and they give me great ideas for my scrapbooks. BTW… when we left our home during the hurricane, my scrapbooks and photos went with us.. so they’re safe and dry! Just wanted to add that in case people were worried. :-)

  • Cyndi

    Paint! I’ve been fighting to re-paint one of our walls that is host to all gatherings. The pictures are awful! My partner loves this bbq type colour as a feature wall. I say no, it’s hampering my creative spirit. Fortunately it’s been up long enough that I can get away with changing it. Happy face!

    Great episode. I found many take aways. Practicing with my little point and shoot has always been fun. Lighting is big. Not always obtainable for every occasion. Make the most of it and deal with it! Memories are memories.

    Talking about scrapping some of the not so happy moments. I recently told the story of a little girl who was not very happy to get her hair cut and the pictures were proof enough! Not a heavy tragic moment in the overall scheme for the rest of us but to one little girl it was the end of the world! Priceless.

    When documenting tragedies I think about who would be reading through my memory books. What would my story mean to them? They might like to know my perspective. I’m not going to write the story about the time I rolled my blazer and miraculously survived. It was tragic but I don’t think it has meaning for the future. (Unless I had spent months/years in rehab learning to walk again..that would be worth documenting). Would I document where I was for 9/11 and how I internalized that event? Probably. Do you think anyone would be interested in the story about the time I came close to loosing my husband and dad in a flash flood? It’s a great story. A real readers digest type of survival story. Do you think family members down the road in time would be interested?

    I’ve got good lighting right now so I’m going to grab the camera and walk about practicing skills learned!

  • Barbara Beeghly

    After taking many classes with Ali Edwards I know that she does scrapbook about the trials and tribulations of her life along with the joyful moments. And I think there have been PRT discussions about this subject also. Hopefully Noell will be able to tell you which episode.

  • I think one part of the podcast Ali was talking about selfie with iphone 6 or 6+ verse taking selfie with the older iphone which has flat edges. Now that iphone 6 or 6+ has rounded edge, it’s harder for me to take selfie too. But one thing I learn from Jennifer Lake when she was on the scrapgal podcast talking about taking selfie , she says to use our charger as a convenient tripod. I have yet to try it personally after listening to the podcast. I was actually taking photos of my project when i listen to the prt episode, so i thought I give it a try , taking a photo of me taking a photo (essentially taking a meta photo) AND I THINK IT’S SO SIMPLY AMAZING! In view that WITL is near, I think i should share this here! TRY IT! IT WORKS WONDER!

  • Cara

    Old houses in Australia were built to protect from the hot summer sun, so they tend to have deep verandahs so that the sun never actually hits the glass of a window. Rooms are dark. I have an old house like this coupled with the problem that I live in the inner city in a business zone (my house is a bit like the one in the children’s story that stayed put while the city grew all around it) so I have a blocks of flats about 4 or 5 yards from the sides of my home, doubling the impossibility of the sun actually shining in. I always need lights on in a room.
    In my defence as a photographer, my husband bought this home in 1970 so when we moved in 8 years ago we didn’t make the active decision to ‘buy’ such a dark home, but I always struggle with indoor photography. I would love to have just one room where I could use filtered window light to take pictures – lamps may provide atmosphere, but i think that’s only interesting as an occasional viewpoint, as an alternative to natural light, not 100% of your pictures.

  • Cyndi

    Great idea! Thanks Pepper.

  • Awesome! Thanks for the tip. Did your phone come with a charger that it stands in? I don’t think mine did. Or if it did, I don’t have it anymore. ???

  • Julie H

    Debi, I tend to agree with you that the reaction of the unhappy viewer was her problem, not yours – and I think it was rather bold of her to make that kind of comment. That was a significant part of your life that no doubt impacted your family in many ways. I can understand why you would want to document that period of time. Other family and friends (and people like me) cannot comprehend what you went through since we did not experience it. I know I would enjoy seeing the pages you scrapped and I’m guessing you and you future family will be glad you took the time to record not just the devestation that occurred, but the many blessing you received through all the people that came to help. You are scrapbooking to create memories for YOUR family. No one gets to tell you what is important but YOU!

  • I cannot believe someone would leave that kind of comment and request. I agree with Julie — that is her problem and a reflection of something about her life that, instead of showing compassion, she would respond the way she did.

    There are many reasons why a particular life difficulty might not get scrapbooked, but I think one of them is that those are not the moments/times that we’re going to pull out the camera and snap a picture. But I definitely WOULD shoot pictures of my home if it had been devastated like yours. That is a significant story. What a trial — I’m sorry you suffered through that. :(

  • I read your comment in my email inbox and I didn’t realize you had taken a picture. So now that I’m on the website I can see what you’re talking about. What a good idea! I didn’t mean you meant the little adapter. Mine is sized and shaped a bit differently, but I think it might work. I’ll have to try it. Thanks!

  • Definitely tough. The impetus to us investing in a better camera was my frustration at not having enough light for my indoor photos. I really truly am so glad that we choose to pass on other things and get a camera + a lens that could work in low-lighting. What do you use? The better camera and lens you get, the more less light you need to have well-exposed photos.

  • Cara

    I have a Nikon d750 which is fabulous for low light photography, and I love my 50mm f/1.4 with it (or 24-70mm f/2.8) but I would still like some natural
    light please!!!!!

  • Ahh — yes, you’re well set up with your camera and lens!

  • Melissa LaFavers

    I’m also sorry that someone so insensitive and petty made those comments on the layouts you were sharing. People act from pain, and that’s their story, not yours.

    I’m also sorry about that disaster happening to your life, your home. I’m sure it was beyond difficult to experience that, and I think it’s awesome that you documented it. In my view, that took courage, and I admire you, not only for including it in your scrapbook, but posting it online.

    Real life is what I’m all about when it comes to memory keeping. As Noell said, there are certain events I probably wouldn’t photograph, but I do tend to include even the “bad stuff” in my scrapbooks. For example, I have a half-sibling I’m estranged from. We were close when I was a child, but she was consistently awful to me, and I documented that experience in a scrapbook page with a photo of me from her wedding.

    Another example–as many people on the Paperclipping forums know, my nephew was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, and for a variety of reasons, I’ve been his primary caregiver throughout his cancer journey (he was diagnosed again in February of this year after the first bone marrow transplant was unsuccessful), and I struggled at first with how to document the specifics of that experience. I decided to include it in our 2013 year album because it was a HUGE part of everything that we did that year.

    Significant experiences, whatever label we give them, shape who we are as individuals, and as families, and I want that documented in my pages.

  • Melissa LaFavers

    One thing I got from this episode was captured in the title itself: pay attention to the light. I think that’s a simple tip that’s both creative and technical, and applies no matter what camera we’re using. Light is what makes the magic of photography happen, after all! I think it was Ali that said she’s a visual person, and I’m the same way. I notice light in my everyday activities, whether it’s coming through the trees and making a lace pattern on the sidewalk or streaming through the window, or hovering behind the window’s shade. I love the play of light, and I’m inspired to pay better attention to how light figures into the pictures I take.

    Thank you for always producing entertaining and inspiring shows. I enjoy the introduction portion, the chats you and your guests sometimes have, the Male reads the Mail segment, and even the sponsor message. It’s all good. Please don’t change a thing. :)

  • How is your nephew doing now, Melissa?

  • Thank you for the kind words, Melissa. :)

    Noticing light — I think that is a gift. Izzy and my son notice light, but I I don’t think I do as much. Even though I’m visual, I think I just pay more attention to other things more. It’s definitely something I’m trying to train myself to do more.

  • Debi Daugherty

    Thanks for the comments! Glad to hear there are other folks who are documenting more than just the fun, happy events. I’ve got my fair share of those, too. I just figure that if we’re going to set ourselves up with the task of being the memory keepers, we need to keep all the memories.

    Hope your nephew is responding to treatments, Melissa!

  • Yeah after I posted this post i realize different country has a different charger head , I think the ones from Australia is quite small might topple with a large phone . My 6+ works fine with this Singapore version :) I guess I’m lucky in a way :)

  • You’re welcome !

  • Melissa LaFavers

    He’s doing great right now, Noell. Thank you for asking! He’s recovering ahead of schedule, feeling good, and his hair is growing back. All good things. :)

  • Melissa LaFavers

    We all have different things that catch our attention. Part of the reason I notice light so much is that Michigan tends to be pretty dim a lot of the time, so I’m in tune to particularly sunshine when it happens. I’m curious about what other things you pay more attention to. There may be something I need to practice noticing more.

  • Oh, good!!

  • Cara

    It might look weird but if you walk along with your iPhone camera ‘open’ the world looks completely different, and you can ‘see’ the light much better. When I’m walking the dog through our local parklands i sometimes do that and get shots with really great light that my eyes alone haven’t noticed.

  • Melissa LaFavers

    Yes! We do need to keep as many memories as possible.

    My nephew’s doing well right now. We’re just taking it one day at a time, hoping for the best.

  • Marieitis

    I actually got into scrapbooking through wanting to create something as a memorial for a very sad situation for us. We lost our second baby at 19 weeks pregnant and the hospital gave us a small book that we could record memories in. I didn’t like the look of it (A4 white card with giant yellow sunflowers..not my style) but I commented to my husband that I had heard of this thing called scrapbooking and maybe I could make something more meaningful for us. I didn’t know anyone who scrapbooked so went to Big W (like Walmart, maybe) and bought a baby boy kit and book. Then put together the photos that we had of us together with our first boy and then of the memorial service etc. It was SO therapeutic and really helped me with my grieving process. And our first son, who was just around 2 yo, loved looking at it all the time. Interestingly we now have another son and he also looks at it and talks about his older brother that died …so 7 years later he is still part of our family. Very few people have ever seen the album (only family and close friends), but I am so, so glad that I made it. After I finished the album I had the dilemma that our son who is no longer with us had an album, but our son who was still with us, didn’t….so I started scrapbooking about him and have kept going. I probably wouldn’t have been a scrapbooker without that situation as I was very scornful of the time and money spend on just making “a pretty photo album”. I have had many people express that attitude to me when they find out that I scrapbook but I just shrug it off because I had had that same attitude in the past. Are they rude to express it…absolutely!!! But that is their problem, not mine.

  • Jennifer Larson

    I have to admit that my heart sunk a bit when I saw the title of the episode–for 9 months out of the year I would need to move out of Minnesota to look for the light (I leave for work and return in the dark for much of the year). Still, a few things in the podcast heartened me: late in the episode Ali said to learn to work with the environment you have. I don’t have a house conducive to photography–few windows, narrow rooms–but knowing that environment is a given allows me to focus on the subject that I am trying to capture. Thank you for giving me focus!

    I was also worried early in the podcast when the talk turned almost immediately to higher quality cameras and equipment. I have the financial resources to buy a DSLR, but the resource I lack is time, time to learn how to use it. Ali gave me an idea that I hadn’t thought of before, though: to google lessons and then try them out weekly. I prefer learning all at once, but using slips of time to master one part of a big thing would be very manageable.

    Thank you for a terrific episode! I got a lot more out of it than my initial trepidation would’ve led me to believe.

  • Debi Daugherty

    I’m glad for you that you created that scrapbook. You’re absolutely right… it IS therapeutic to work through these kinds of things. I’m also glad you kept going with more scrapbooking. It’s MUCH more meaningful than the photo albums I had from my childhood back in the 50s and 60s. There may have been names of family members and friends, but that was about it. Older, heritage, photos lacked identification for the most part, so I don’t know who those folks were. So your son will appreciate these as he gets older – and you will too – because the information behind the photos will be included in your scrapbooks! And… I sometimes wonder if it’s worth the effort to make my pages pretty, too….. but that’s the fun part of it for us!

    Thanks for your comment, too.

  • Jennifer Larson

    I forgot to add this: dealing with photographing clutter, sometimes I use the CoffeeShop action Teeny Tiny World to blur the background (the stuff I don’t want to highlight, like laundry piles) and highlight the subject. Here’s a link:

  • Ali Edwards

    So glad you found some takeaways!

  • Marieitis

    That is the fun part :) I really enjoy it just for fun. The bonus is that the family gets something more interesting to look at and more meaningful with the stories and information. I agree it is so sad to have heritage photos and no idea who the people are or why they took the photo…there has got to be a story..but we don’t know what it is. I want to put that all down for my kids. Especially of things while they are young as there are so many things they don’t remember. Just last night I was talking to my nearly 6 year old about flying to Sydney 2 years ago. It was such a big deal for them to go on their first flight, so exciting yet he says he doesn’t remember it now..I know it is just the age thing but I want to drag out those photos asap and scrap them so he can remember :)

  • Jennifer G.

    Too funny!!! We love everything Amazon, but we do have a daughter named Alexa. We would have to name our Echo something else if that is indeed how it works.

  • Courtney

    I do take photos of the not so happy stuff. But I don’t always share them online because there’s usually a lot more personal journaling that I don’t want out there. But sometimes I do. When my spouse was laid off, I wrote a lot. And just left the first sentence that said he was laid off for posting online. But as a digi girl, it’s easy for me to hide journaling without being obvious. And sometimes the not so happy stuff is part of my story, but not only my story. And without permission from that person I’m not sharing online. No one cares if I share a wedding photo, but most court things are frowned upon. I look at it as If it’s online, it is forever. Because I don’t know who’s pinned it, or screenshot it, or whatever. So I’m careful about what I share with the world when it’s not only my story. I think it’s horrible that she said that to you.

  • Courtney

    You can use “Alexa” or you can use “Echo”. I love mine!

  • Courtney

    Izzy, the only complaint I have about the Echo is PRT isn’t available in Tune-In Radio which is what it uses for podcasts. I have to make do with bluetoothing PRT. LOL.
    I also love the Flash briefing that it has. And it streams music awesomely. I’ve had it since December, but I adore it! And my 5 year old loves to ask for Jokes. And my keyword is Alexa, so no worries!

  • purple_sparkles

    I forgot to say that I love that you include smaller pages like 6 x 12 in your albums. I know Shimelle does this. I think it’s very freeing. I scrap 12 x 12, and sometimes, there’s just not enough to make a large page like that. Or, there’s not enough room on one page, but not enough for two! LOL! I’m going to give this a try and see how I like it. I think it makes a nice “bridge” between stories, as well. These videos are a breath of fresh air. I love them!

  • Anandi Raman Creath

    I think once you start actively looking for it, it starts to come more naturally. I am not a born photographer but have been working actively on it since I got my DSLR in 2012, and every now and then, I’ll be out somewhere and think “wow, this light is amazing!”. So now I’ve made a point to think about and look for it more.

  • Kerig Taylor

    Just listened to this this morning. Great episode! Of course I might be biased since I’m a photo guy. I think it has some good insight and doesn’t get muttered down in the technical aspects.

    Also, I love our Amazon Echo. At first it was a glorified ‘party trick’ but it has become so much more and continues to grow. We have the voice remote in the kitchen which is great for having Alexa set timers for cooking or adding items to our shopping list. Caroline and I do have a small dislike about it; Alexa can’t pronounce Caroline’s name correctly. She says ‘Carolyn’ instead of ‘Care-o-line’ :-O

  • veramats

    Hi everyone at PRT! As always, I just love episodes about photography. I particularly love discussions that are less about technical aspects, and more about making the best of what you’ve got to work with! I tend to get bogged down into technical details and forget to just shoot and capture the story. For my own photography inside my house, my main practice is to remember to move myself in all different directions to try to maximize the light to get the best ‘story’ shots. When I’m shooting a story shot in my own home or wherever my family is at the time, I just need to make sure I expose properly to get the story captured. So, I love the idea of letting the background go dark or overexposing the non-important parts like a window or lamp, and just worry about getting the action and subjects exposed enough to tell the story. I also overexpose on my Canon and I go right up to blowing out non-important things like lightbulbs or windows, and as long as I don’t blow out the skin or clothing, I can then bring the highlights down in Lightroom and that actually decreases some of the noise a bit. If you expose on the dark side and then boost exposure in post processing, you’ll actually increase noise, especially if you shoot in jpeg. But if you are willing to shoot in raw, and can comfortably over expose a bit (I ETTR by 2/3 of a stop) then when you bring it back down a bit in Lightroom or any raw processing software, you’ll be pretty pleased with the results. At least this works for me! In my camera’s menu, I turn on highlight warning, so I can occasionally check to make sure I’m not blowing out the subject’s skin, etc as I’m shooting.

    I agree with Katrina also about spot metering, but I don’t think that many DSLR camera models link the metering to the focus point. Most cameras only meter from the center point. I think some Nikon’s and maybe the Canon 1d can link the metering to the focus point, but check your camera’s manual to be sure, and if I’m wrong, let me know. I’d love to know how to set my camera to link the metering to the focus point! I always set my exposure first, then I set my focus. I set my camera to a high enough ISO to keep my shutter speed pretty high and then I adjust my shutter speed with my finger on the dial and my eye on the viewfinder meter to stay properly exposed as I move around and shoot.

    There I go again, getting bogged down by technical stuff!

    I’ve attached a photo I took of my son a few years ago in his room one night. I wanted to capture my son’s nightly routine and things on his nightstand. The lava lamp was a favorite that year. This was shot from the angle of me looking into his room to say goodnight. I’d love to take some more shots now that he’s older, and we’re in a different house. I’d try different angles this next time for more variety.

    I’m inspired to go to my kids’ rooms and take some low-light photos again! They’re teens now. I hope they’ll let me in their rooms! LOL


  • Oh, an extra timer (or multiple extra timers) would be helpful!

    Bummer that you can’t teach Alexa the proper pronunciation of something, though!!

  • veramats

    Brilliant idea for an instant tripod!!!! I have a little gorilla pod that I use, but the charger idea is genius!

  • veramats

    If I didn’t already have Canon equipment, I’d go for the Nikon d750! I’ve heard so many good things about that camera!

  • veramats

    It’s funny: I can see light pretty well, but it’s color that I struggle with. I understand the general principals of color, but I don’t necessarily ‘see’ color like other people do. It’s a skill I’m working on!

  • veramats

    Sorry for my ‘wordiness’ today, but something else occurred to me while listening to this episode. On the concept of clutter, it occurred to me that some clutter is okay, and other clutter can be distracting. For me, our general ‘life’ clutter like backpacks, stacks of books, toys, etc, that kind of clutter is special to me. It’s what we’re currently doing, reading, carrying, etc. I don’t mind it at all in my personal photos. The clutter that bothers me is things like soda cans, anything with bright, garish, marketing on it, loose papers, and anything that I would just recycle or throw away during the week. That’s the clutter that bothers me. I’m fairly tidy, but the daily objects that we currently use are what I love about being a mom and having a family.


    ps, I’m not fond of dirty socks on the floor, though. haha

  • veramats

    That’s odd that someone would comment like that on your layouts. I believe that each person can and should photograph and scrapbook whatever is important to them. We all have a different approach and each approach is highly personal. We need to support each other’s individuality and each other’s approaches to our memory keeping! So sorry you lost your home due to flooding.

  • Gina

    Thanks so much for this episode. I’ve listened to it a couple of times now and have started listening to Katrina’s podcasts too. I’m really trying to improve my photography and love Ali anyway so this was a great episode.