12 Books to Help You Take Better Pictures

Cameras are everywhere these days. Most of us carry at least one around with us daily (camera phone, anyone?) and we likely have access to at least one other. Whether you have a point and shoot, a digital SLR, or an old-school film camera, chances are, you want to take better pictures.

12 Books to Help You Take Better Pictures

Today, I’m sharing a collection of books that have spent a couple months in my house courtesy of our library. There is something for everyone here.

Snapp Shots: How to Take Great Pictures with Smartphones and Apps by Adam Bronkhorst – This is a fun book. It covers your basics like understanding how your phone’s camera works, setting up a good shot, and editing. My personal favorite sections were the last three: Using the Shot, Taking it Farther, and Accessories.

Sixty Tips for Creative iPhone Photography by Martina Holmberg – Obviously, this book is geared specifically for iPhone users. It covers the very basics like what an app is, and moves on to more advanced subjects. The tips are short but effective. There are a lot of examples to illustrate the tips, too. There is also a section on video and plenty of app suggestions.

The Unforgettable Photograph: 228 Ideas, Tips, and Secrets for Taking the Best Pictures of Your Life by George Lange with Scott Mowbray – The subtitle on this one sets pretty lofty expectations, doesn’t it? If you read this, I don’t think you can help but take better pictures. Photography is about more than pressing a button on a camera. This book focuses more on the storytelling of photography and why it is important in creating better pictures.

Mamarazzi: Every Mom’s Guide to Photographing Kids by Stacy Wasmuth – This book is geared for moms who want to take better pictures of their kids, but it is helpful if you want to shoot other people’s kids, too…with a camera, of course. Each section includes a focus on a professional photographer for even more ideas.

The Beginner’s Photography Guide: The Ultimate Step-By-Step Manual for Getting the Most From Your Digital Camera by DK Publishing – This is a very good, visual guide book. Lots of photos and illustrations to show you exactly what they are talking about. This book includes a section on equipment that is very helpful.

The iPhone Photographer: How to Take Professional Photographs with Your iPhone by Michael Fagans – Each section tells of a specific session the photographer shot, including apps used. Aside from the apps, this book could work for any camera phone, I think.

Art of Everyday Photography: Move Toward Manual & Make Creative Photos by Susan Tuttle – This is a good guide for those who want to start working with the manual settings on their DSLR cameras. Great info that covers portrait, food, nature, and everyday life photography.

Understanding Flash Photography: How to Shoot Great Photographs Using Electronic Flash by Bryan Peterson – This is a great, thorough look into using a flash in your photos. There is an art to creating great photos with a flash, flash can make your pictures flat and wash out the subjects. Understanding how it works will help you take better pictures with flash.

Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs With Any Camera by Bryan Peterson – Another thorough book, this time on exposure. This is a great next step book for those looking to break away from the presets on their DSLR and gain experience shooting in manual modes.

Your Baby in Pictures: The New Parents’ Guide to Photographing Your Baby’s First Year by Me Ra Koh – This book is broken down by age brackets for ideas on what to capture when. Each suggestion includes tips for those working with a point and shoot camera and those working with a digital SLR camera.

A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book: 95 Inspiring Ideas for Photographing Your Friends, Your World, and Yourself by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman – This is an inspirational book. It doesn’t focus so much on the technical side of photography, but on the composition and creative side. This book includes creative ideas for props and backgrounds, too.

Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting From the Heart by The Shutter Sisters – The sections in this book are categorized like this: Horizons, Portraiture, Nature, Documentary, Togetherness, etc. Each section includes an introduction, approach, perspective, composition, lighting, details, and processing. The book is written by several photographers, so there is a variety of thought processes shared.

There you have it, 12 books to help you take better pictures. Pick one up from Amazon today or see if your library has it. Either way, start reading and then start clicking!

What the Heck is an Instagram Challenge?

What is an Instagram Challenge?

Instagram is a great tool. I’ve not used it to its full potential, but was determined to change that this year. A lot of bloggers use Instagram as part of their marketing efforts. Me? Not so much. I personally like my Instagram feed to be full of “real life” versus the promotional.

So if you are looking for a post on how to use Instagram in your blog marketing efforts, this probably isn’t going to be of much use to you. If you want to see how Instagram is a great tool for the intentional life, just keep reading, just keep reading…did you read that in your best Dory voice? I did as I wrote it. The toddler is on a Finding Nemo kick right now.

What is Instagram?

In an effort to not put the cart before the horse, I’ll start here. Instagram is an app for smart phones where you can create a profile to share photos you take with said smart phone. You can follow your friends (or friendly bloggers…) and see their photos in your feed.

In your feed, you can heart (similar to liking on FB) and comment on those photos. There is also an explore section where you can search for people sharing specific topics and hashtags (like #capturinglifelaughterlove).

That’s the nuts and bolts of Instagram.

The What & Why of an Instagram Challenge

An Instagram challenge is simply a set of prompts for a set number of days that is meant to inspire you to post to your Instagram account. The prompts are simple and there is no right or wrong way to interpret them. A few examples from last month’s Capturing Life, Laughter and Love challenges, click on the prompt to see how I interpreted it in my photos:

Why would I participate and even co-host an Instagram challenge? For me, it’s personal. I am terrible about taking photos, even though I have an awesome DSLR (actually, I have two…), a great point and shoot camera, an iPhone, and various other devices that take decent photos at my disposal each day. I wanted to change that.

I wanted to be intentional about capturing these moments before they become memories long-forgotten. That’s my why.

If you have ever started a 365 photo challenge and run out of steam, then using a prompt guided challenge may be a great way to help you meet that goal!

Instagram Challenges

Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love isn’t the only Instagram challenge out there, though I am pretty partial to it. 😉 Here are a few other options to check out:

  • Capture Play – Aims to encourage parents to play with their kids with one word prompts each month.
  • 10 iPhoto Photo Challenges – No need to commit to a long term challenge if you aren’t up to it. This can be done on your own time.
  • #100HappyDays – I simply love the concept of this challenge. Look for the happy every day!
  • Project 52 – Maybe every day isn’t your thing, surely you can manage on a week?

Finally, here is a list of 11 Tips for Completing a Project 365 that is helpful for any photo challenge you may take on. There really isn’t a wrong way to go about this, just be intentional to snap some photos each day. You don’t even have to share them on Instagram!

If you decide to join us for Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love, you will receive a free ebook in your welcome email called 20 Tips to Improve Your Instagram Photos.

Want to Learn Photography for Free?

Well, then I have just the post for you! My very first post for Free Homeschool Deals is up right now!

Learning Photography in Your Homeschool for Free <— That’s the link right there! Click it! Yay!

This just might be the shortest post ever here, but I am so excited! Please read it, use it, and share it! Please and thank you! Exclamation points!!


I bought these carnations to add some beauty to our table when we had some friends coming over for lunch. They lasted a full two weeks before they started to wilt. The thing is, I really liked the way they looked when they wilted, so they are still on my kitchen windowsill. Best $2 I’ve spent in a while.

I thought I would share the beauty.

Lightning Round Two…Sort of

Last week we had a couple storms roll through that had major lightning. One was around midnight and I just did not have the energy to get out of bed to capture it. The next one blew in in the middle of the day. I grabbed my camera and shot over 700 frames before the sky opened up and dumped very. cold. rain on me. For the record, I had taken the camera back inside already and was closing up barn doors and chicken coops. Everyone was fine.

I almost didn’t unload them from the camera because I thought I had nothing, but I was glad I did when I found this gem:

I do believe I have discovered a new obsession.

You can see my previous shots here.

Around Our Little Homestead – July 2012

Around here, we try to grow more food each year than the year prior. Here’s why. You can see my ambitious list of seedling started last year on this post. You should also check out this post because my chickens make me smile.

I’ll get this out of the way first:

Dead Zucchini Plant

There are not enough words in the English language to encompass the whole of my loathing of squash bugs. Thank you, fair zucchini plant, for the half dozen zucchini you blessed us with before those hideous beasts got the best of you.

Now, on to better things.

This is Zane:


Zane curled up to sleep in a pallet in the barn. Commence oohing and awing.

Bell Pepper Plants

Our bell pepper plants are doing significantly better than the zucchini plant.

Tomato Plants All in a Row

So are our tomato plants (all 75ish of them).


Our volunteer tomatillo plants are already providing fruit.

Leek Blossoms

And I saved the best for last, the leek blossoms. These things are huge and they just make me happy.



Commercial Eggs…


are boring compared to homestead fresh eggs.


Photographing Lightning is Fun!

Last night my husband walked past our back door and saw this:

1/30 second f2.8 ISO 1400

In addition to lovely clouds, we had a lightening storm all around. I’ve always wanted (and tried several times) to get photos of lightening. Never could do it.

Last night I grabbed the tripod and started trying to get some shots. Setting the camera to Auto mode gave me a shot that was like grainy daylight:

1/4 second f1.8 ISO 1600

Not exactly producing stellar results. So I switched to manual, closed the aperture down to f10.0 and slowed the shutter speed way down to 5 seconds. I didn’t set the ISO (mostly because I forget about that setting) and it was set at 400 from previous shooting.

Then, I just kept clicking hoping for a “lucky” shot. This was the first shot that made me squeal:

5 seconds f10.0 ISO 400

After that I didn’t mess too much with the settings, just kept snapping.

5 seconds f10.0 ISO 400

5 seconds f10.0 ISO 400

I wish I was positioned better for this one, the lightening bolts were AWESOME, but the lit up cloud is pretty, too.

5 seconds f10.0 ISO 400

After 80 shots, I had these 6, plus 3 other cloud shots that were decent. I was ecstatic, which is nice considering the last few times I’ve picked up my camera, I’ve set it back down without taking a single shot.

All that was done for editing on these shots was some cropping & resizing, that is about the extent of my Photoshopping most of the time. I tried learning all the different, awesome tools in PSE 8, but found I would just rather get it right in the camera than mess with it after. So it’s been a long haul with lots of cruddy photos and a few gems, but worth it to me.

What is something you’ve always wanted to take a good photo of?