January Photo-A-Day 2013

Did you play along with us in December?  Or did you fizzle out in the third week…like I did?  Ha!  No worries.  January is a new month.  Come join us again.  It has been so fun to see all of your fun pictures and to get to know some of you a little bit better!

So if you have not played along with us before, no worries…it is really easy to join in the fun. If you miss a day…or two…or 16…it really isn’t a big deal. Just join in when you can. The point is to get you taking pictures and recording those everyday moments in your life. If you don’t like the photo prompt for the day, use your own!


To play along simply take a photo and post it to one of your social media sites.  I use Instagram to post mine too and then sometimes share them on Facebook and TwitterPlease use the hashtag #idearoom to tag your photos.  This will then add your photo to the list of photos under the #idearoom hashtag.  If you click on the “#idearoom” it will pull up everyone’s photos who are playing along.  So you can see all the fun things The Idea Room readers are sharing.

If you want me to follow along with you personally, feel free to leave your Instagram name here and I am happy to follow.  I look forward to playing along with you in January!

Who is going to join us?

distressed wood photo prop

I have had several of you email me asking me what I was using in some of my photo shots to get the distressed paint, so I thought I would share with you what it is exactly.  I have used this distressed wood photo prop in a few of my latest “product photo shoots”.  Ha—That sounds a lot fancier than it really is!

mississippi mud brownies wm

{mississippi mud brownie recipe}

Do you remember the Mr. and Mrs. Anniversary sign that I shared with you a few months back? Well, I reclaimed that wood from an old bench swing that we inherited when we purchased our house 8 years ago.  We had great intentions to spruce it up again but it sat under our porch…F.O.R.E.V.E.R!  Chances are it wasn’t going to happen.  So I rescued it from the garbage can…literally minutes before the garbage man came.  I took this picture after my husband so heroically pulled it out of the big black garbage can.


I saved the wood that we did not use and knew someday I would find another use for it.  I finally realized I could use it as a fun way to add some interest and texture to my photos for this here blog of mine.

old wood photo1

The boards were pretty much the same length after we removed them from the swing.  So, I simply took an old piece of scrap wood, that we pulled out of our kitchen soffet in our recent kitchen remodel, and covered it with Gorilla Wood Glue.  Then placed the wood planks on the wood.

old wood photo 2

I added some heavy cans to weigh it down and give the glue a good hold to form a good seal and let it dry for a good hour or so.

old wood photo 3

Then I took some Minwax Polycrylic Sealant that we had laying around and gave it three coats allowing it to dry between each new coat.

old wood photo

This will prevent the paint from peeling off any further and it worked like a charm.

old wood photo 4

It has provided a fun way for me to add some interest and texture to my photos.

homemade-lemonade 5wm

{homemade lemonade recipe}


*I wanted just quickly introduce you to one of our newest sponsors…The Plaid Barn. The Plaid Barn offers daily deals on craft supplies, diy kits & more. It is a great way to get your supplies at a great deal. Be sure to check them out.


Kristen Duke Photography Farewell Post

Dear Idea Room readers,

It is with heavy heart that I must bid farewell to my regular photography tips and techniques series on here. I LOVE Amy and her blog…it is what got me all excited about being crafty a year and a half ago…but, I have had to slow down a bit from my fast forward mode, and this was the first thing that I thought of to do that. Even though its only twice a month, I spend many hours on each post. I would still love to come back occasionally, so let Amy know if you have a specific photography need!

My own blog has taken a life of its own as I post about my sessions, workshops, and my e-book. I will post occasional tips and tricks over there. You can also join me on facebook where I share full size landscape images once a week on Facebook Freebie Friday. As a farewell, I wanted to offer my favorite Idea Room readers a big discount on my e-book if you have not purchased it yet, or have been thinking of purchasing it for a friend. On my site, for just 24 hours, it will be available for half off–$5. Discount paypal button will be in my footer on the right at the very bottom of my site, it says Idea Room discount, $5.

 Photograph in manual settings

Don’t forget about the master list that I made a few months ago with the summary of all of my posts here. I keep meaning to update it, but click for Past Photography Tips with Kristen Duke here to see the list. Don’t cry, friends, it will all be o.k. ;) Amy continues to have some of the best content on the web, I will still be checking in!

Photography is such a passion of mine, and I think it is so wonderful that so many people see value in a beautiful photography vs. just snapshot. It IS attainable. You can have beautiful portraits of your family. Be patient with yourself, and if you have questions…just google it…there is SO much out there on the web (maybe too much, it can be overwhelming). It has been such a joy for me to hear feedback from all of you that my simple explanations have been beneficial. I am not a book learner, so I did my best to explain things in the non-book-way! Now go keep documenting those unique moments in your families, enjoy the candid moments, and record the people you love in a way that will bring you back to this precious time later in life. It is important, and you will be thanked later!

~Kristen Duke

How to convince your husband to have family portraits taken…

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me, "How can I convince my husband to do family portraits?" Often times men will go along with it to make the wife happy, but even if they do, doesn’t mean they are happy about it. I have other friends and clients who just have pics taken of their kids because their husband refuses. This makes me a bit sad because I think it is so important to show solidarity and togetherness with the family portrait. Lets face it, most men don’t love to have their pictures taken. (There are a few select men that I have come across that do).

So today, let me suggest as we focus more on dads this weekend, something that will help the men in your life enjoy family portraits a little more. It’s very simple. Come close and I’ll whisper it….Include something they love to do. Is it football? Frisbee? guitar? Amusement park? Have a family activity photographed. This has become popular with professionals, called Lifestyle photography and I personally LOVE it, but I don’t really get requests for it (I wish I did!) The key is to just play and have fun, might sound much more appealing to the man in your life.

The fact of the matter is…it isn’t really fun for anyone to sit up tall, look straight at the camera, in a cohesive manner, in clothes someone else picked out, and smile. But we women like that perfect shot, right? So for your next family pictures whether you hire a professional or have a "friend with a nice camera" snap shots of you, think of something your husband would enjoy doing. Think more about playing and less about posing.


It is one of the highest compliments to me when at the end of the session, the dad says, "that was fun!" I’ll often include the posed shots for mom, but if I have dad throw the child in the air, or wrestle with the big kids, that is their idea of fun… mixed in with the dreaded. It just so happens, those candid moments are my favorite to capture as well. Even if you don’t have a sports theme just for him, just let them be, it will help them relax. We women have a tendancy to get cranky (and nit picky) when we want that perfect-ness from our family, and it stresses our husbands out, believe me, I KNOW! Tell yourself (I know, it’s hard) there is no such thing as a perfect portrait and just enjoy your family. Let them decide and plan the session.


Though they may not always say it, this is something they may actually enjoy;) If they might also bring up the money factor, you just remind them of those rounds of golf or cycling gear, and save your splurging pennies (and birthday wishes) and he cannot argue to that end. Beautiful family portraits are heirlooms that have no price. What does your husband love to do that would be fun to have photographed?

P.S. Here is an idea for family pictures at home, right in your own backyard.

–Kristen Duke

When Natural Light Isn’t Available—Kristen Duke Photography

Ok, so I am a HUGE lover of natural light. It’s what I use 99% of the time. But for that 1% (really, I have no idea my percentage, but its small) I need something else. I have had many people ask about photographing products in the evening. Kids are in bed, its quiet time, and the natural light is gone. I’m going to talk about a few options for you today. 1. Dedicated flash Right now, I have a dedicated flash. I show people at my workshops that my Canon 5D doesn’t even have a pop up flash–not even an option for me! I have a hot shoe at the top of my camera ready to receive my Canon speedlight 580 EX flash when I need it. Sadly, I know I don’t use it to its full potential. I just pop it on, turn it ON and shoot.


Before this, I had a 430 flash, but found it wasn’t as powerful. The cool thing about the Canon 580 (and comparable Nikon SB 800) is that it can be used as a slave, or off camera light, if you ever do set ups with backdrops and studio lighting. The dedicated flash also has a swivel top up and down and right and left. When I use it, I am often bouncing that light off of the ceiling. Seems like an odd concept (did to me at first) but light actually bounces! It just diffuses the light a bit so it isn’t so harsh. It really is prettier. I purchased a lightsphere a few years ago that also works as a diffuser. In my example below, image #1 I bounced the light off of the low ceiling straight up. It bounced back down in an uneven patter. #2, I bounced my light at an angle and it was prettier, but still dark. Image #3, I used my lightsphere and put the diffuser cap on and pointed it straight towards my subject for nice pretty light.

2. Natural Light Lamps These lamps are used to simulate natural light. I have never used these, but have heard great things about them. This seams like a great option to use for those bloggers wanting to take pictures in the evening and show off their product well. They provide controlled light during the day or night. (Lots of people who live in gloomy cities also like these to boost their mood that comes from dreary days–has been recognized as an effective therapy in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder). They are fairly affordable starting at $40 depending on the lamp.


Here are a few options I found. 3. Lightscoop I just heard about this, but the lightscoop is a little attachment that can be placed on top of your pop up camera flash to diffuse the light upward. I do have my 20D that I will use the pop up flash when its all I have, and for $30, I’d say its worth a try…examples on their site.


I hope this gives some of you some different options when it comes to photographing people or things at night. I would love to hear feedback on these if you have it!



**Amy here…On Kristen Duke Photography Site, she has posted the pictures she took of my family when she was out here for a visit.

I’d love for you to check them out if you are interested.

Photography with Kristen Duke~Family Reunion Portraits

Hello Friends! How is the photography coming? How have you improved in the past year since these posts have come out? For a link list of what I have already covered, go here. I’m so excited, I get to go to Utah next week and see Amy (of this here Idea Room), attend a wedding, hold a workshop, chat with my grandparents, along with a few photo shoots. If you are near San Diego or Houston and want to attend my workshop there, contact me ASAP! This week, we will discuss organizing outfits for your family reunion portraits. Summertime is upon us, and I would venture to bet that 90% of us are having a little get together–family reunion style. Inevitably when we get together with family, we take family portraits. If you don’t, then shame on you! Just kidding, but I am a big fan of that idea. Believe it or not, I LOVE planning outfits for family portraits, but having a group of 10 or more does get a bit complicated…but it doesn’t have to! I will give you my special formula for seamless group photos. First, start with a color palette. I say to pick 3 colors, then have a neutral for a freebie. In our case, we used neutrals, so had white as our freebie. Neutrals can be denim, khaki, gray, white, or black…but just pick one of those. Here is our color palette we came up with:

For more color inspiration, I’ve recently seen on Pinterest designers grab color palette’s from home design and nature:



Check out more at Design Seeds for some major eye candy.

Once you have selected your palette, each family has to coordinate their outfits first with themselves. Here is my family below. I used our selected colors and found something for each person that would go well with the others. It’s a bit of a puzzle, I tell ya. Even looking at this now, I’m not a fan that my husband and older son are wearing something identical, but with my hubby holding the baby (and yes I think of that when planning outfits), it isn’t as noticeable, and I knew they wouldn’t stand together in the big group shot.


Then my older brother worried just about his little family (had no idea what we were wearing). I love how my sis in law threw in a scarf for her teal pop! Teal is a little harder to find for boys, but it

isn’t necessary here. 

Then my younger brother and his fam… Love that my sis in law threw the teal in with a skirt to not just give the pop of color to the top half of the group. I believe my nephew has a onesie turned around backwards (I’ve even done inside out). For pictures like this, you won’t see the back.



Then my youngest bro and his wife did great, hers is a dress….


I did have to oversee my parents though. My dad came out with a teal shirt along with my moms teal shirt and I said…"Um, no no no….wear the gray." He had both shirts ready, and we were at their home, so it worked.


Then we got all together for the group shot, and check it out! The main thing I worked with is separating myself, my mom, and my sis in law that had dominant teal on top. (I had just run in the picture–not my favorite photo sessions when I have to set up and run and corral the group that is my family).


I LOVE the way it turned out! Do you??? Just for funnies, here is our family silly shot. Always gotta have the silly shot.


So if you are planning a family reunion this summer, plan to get a group shot, and apply these guidelines and I know it will be great! Let me know how it turns out, too!

~Kristen Duke

Photography with Kristen Duke—Custom Watermarks

I went back through the requests and saw someone wanted to learn how to make a custom watermark to stamp on images they post on their blogs. I think the word mentioned was when someone “steals” an image from your blog. Really, I know when I put something online that there is a high likelihood that it will be lifted. I’m ok with that. I make the images pretty small that would never look good printed and I put an unobtrustive stamp on each image.

I figure if it’s used, it will most likely still show my logo (think about placement when stamping) and then my name will just be shared with more people. Now wasn’t that nice free advertising? Generally, I like to know if my stuff is featured on another blog, but if you have good google analytics, you can figure it out from the referrer eventually. I do understand why some bloggers want to be asked ahead of time though.

SO…..the way to make your own stamp in photoshop is creating a custom brush.

1. Open an image in photoshop that you want to make a brush. I open my logo design.

2. Select the entire image by using the shortcut: ctrl+a and you will get the dancing dash marks all the way around the image.

3. In the top menu of photoshop, go to EDIT and scroll down to DEFINE BRUSH PRESET



4. A pop up will then show with your brush on the left and you will need to name (Blog watermark) it and hit ok.

5. To use your brush, have an image up that you want to “stamp”

6. Make sure you are on the brush tool in your toolbox—looks like a paint brush. You might have to right click on the pencil or another box because some tools share a square.

7. Below I have arrows showing you how to change the size and where to select your logo. You can see right under the bar on the top of Photoshop next to Brush: is my logo really small and an arrow down box (by the orange line). That is where you select your logo and below that is the size. You can also do ctrl and the “+” key together to make it bigger and the “-” to make it smaller for a shortcut. 8. Click you left mouse button to STAMP your logo and there you have it! I sometimes click 3 times in a row to make it dark, sometimes I want it softer. Sometimes in white, black, or maybe a color to match the image.

(below, it is an outline hovering on top, then the orange is the stamp)

If you don’t have a logo, you can simply type out something like your website and make that a watermark. Just open up a new photoshop document (file–new). I sized mine to 10 wide x 2 height for long and skinny. Type out the website in any color. Make sure you flatten the layers (white background is one layer, green type is another layer) into one by selecting on the top bar Layer–flatten image. Then repeat the steps above for a logo file. Watermark until your heart is content! Have a great day! ~Kristen Duke

P.S. I am starting something fun each week called Friday Facebook Freebie. By being a fan on my facebook page, I will upload a full size landscape image that my fans can download and print as they’d like. Check it out!


Tips for Taking Pictures of Newborns—Kristen Duke Photography

I’m just going to throw out at random my thoughts on newborn portrait sessions. Of course I’ll sprinkle in some shots to further explain my points.


Newborns are the toughest for me and generally not my favorite–though I do adore that cute baby stage. I know from the start that it is going to a) take a while and b) require patience in knowing that. Because I do this part time and often on Saturdays, I am all too conscious of my time away from my family. 

The best time for newborn portraits is in the first 2 weeks of life. My personal preference is within the first 5 days. Before noon, most babies seem to be happiest. I plan to be there for 2 hours, but I usually finish in one. I used to have a backdrop set up at my home, and have clients come to me, but I have stopped doing that. This is the only type of session I actually enjoy the look of a backdrop, but still prefer the backdrop of the home. The only downside to that is new parents often have a little bit of a mess, but I try to mention ahead of time that I’d like to use the nursery of somewhere in the home in the shots.


 I really enjoy the photojournalistic side of newborn sessions and like to include mom and dad in the shots as well. Most moms won’t love the way they look, but I think it is important to include them, if only a brush of their face, or part of their hand. It is also fun to include elements in the home such as the crib, a rocking chair, dresser, or rug. I like to freeze the moment in time and capture the scene to tell their story at that time in life.


I often bring a handful of blankets with texture, solid black furry blanket, and beanbag. I will also throw in a few diaper covers (crocheted or cloth diapers), hats, etc. but I like to use the special blankets or hats that the parents have bought for their child instead of using mine and then leaving with it. But I do provide it as an option. A Boppy pillow is also a great place to set the newborn with a blanket inbetween. I also tell parents to wear solid colors (prefer black) to be a makeshift “background” as they cradle the baby. Long sleeves are best. Unless there is a lot of colorful home decor, I often show the majority of my images in black and white. There is something so pure and simple about that look, and often the baby skin has blemishes that are hidden with black and white. Keep it warm! I often suggest to crank the heat up in the home so baby will be cozy and happy. Have them fed (and happy) just before the shoot, but if crankiness occurs, I just plan to sit and chat while they are fed–and am constantly reassuring the parents that this is normal. Binkys on hand are great, white noise, but I am regularly rocking and shushing (in a rhythmic way) the baby myself and will place them in the spot I have in mind.


 Eyes opened/eyes closed. I like both. I do not have the sleep-baby-posed-just-so-with-hands-tuck under-chin pose down. There are videos on you tube, I’ve seen people do it, but I guess I don’t try enough because it isn’t my thing. I often bring my bean bag as close to a window as I can with the baby facing it, grab a kitchen chair to stand on, get above the baby and shoot down below. Great angle. Great Light. The above shot is just that.



I am not a big fan of “baby outfits.” You have newborn portraits taken to see that fresh new baby-ness, not the cute little outfit you bought with just a head poking out. I like to shoot partial nudity. Naked with a diaper/diaper cover on. It is a good thing to discuss ahead of time with the parents so it isn’t an awkward thing there. If they are completely against any form of nudity then I love the clean look of a white onesie. If possible, strip them down to the desired look well before the shoot/before feeding and wrap them cozy in a blanket so as not to disrupt that peaceful phase as you being shooting. 

I take close ups of the feet, and often cradled in mom or dads hands to show the size difference.

   Pee and poop is inevitable. Embrace it, friends, and laugh with it. Those can be fun shots, too! I also like to capture a little cranky face. Seems sad at the time, but I enjoy viewing that raw emotion later. This is such a beautiful time of life. The new addition to a family, the joy, the love. I do my best to capture that emotion and tenderness. To see more Newborn images, this link Kristen Duke Photography will take you directly to my newborn blog posts.



Past Photography Tips with Kristen Duke

I have had lots of people ask me about doing a post on something I have already done. So I thought I would make a catalog of all the posts I’ve done so you can check the back entries. Maybe Amy can post a link to this post by my logo to easy access it in the future.

Here we go:

Anatomy of a Shot–The taking and editing of a silhouette shot

Bokeh–That Christmas-time light/circle blur

Cameras and lenses–whats in my bag

Candid shots–suggestions on how to get great candid images

Capture the details–look for the little things

Capture the scene–not just a close up

Coaxing kids to smile–suggestions on how to crack a smile with little ones

Color pop–enhancing your images

Creative Angles–look at one situation from different angles and capture it

Creative, sneaky shots–become a spy and get cool shots

Cropping an image artistically–think outside of the box

Decorating with Portraits–why I think it is important to display pictures around your home

Dragging your shutter–creative shooting with a slow shutter

Focus–changing your focal points for creative photography

Food Photography–Some examples of food I have photographed and tips

Having your family portraits taken–How to select a photographer and planning outfits

Halloween photography–tips on capturing those fun costumes

Inspiration is everywhere–look around

Knowing your camera–ISO, f-stop, and aperture tips

Location scouting–looking for great spots to photograph outdoors

Make your own backdrop–creative suggestions to change up a background

Panning–following a moving object

Photoshop Editing and using actions–processing images creatively

Photoshop head swaps–having a little fun

Photoshop merging images–also self portraits

Photoshoping Racoon eyes–tips on how to lighten the darkness that often appears under eyes

Pose yourself in a flattering way–Story of how Amy and I met and tip on personal posing

Pose–to pose or not to pose

Random questions answered RAW–my how-to on shooting in RAW then converting to JPG

Self Portraits–do something fun and different

Starting a photography Business–A long list of things to do to start and maintain a photography biz.

Take your friends camera and get shots of them in it at birthdays and events–lets help each other out!

Valentine’s photo ideas–few tips on gifts and games

Water pictures–Slow down and speed up your shutter for creative shots

Hope that helps! If after looking through this, you still have questions, let me hear ‘em!

Pixorial Memories in Motion Community Header

Also, there is a live chat tonight at 8 pm EST over in the Blog Frog Memories in Motion community. 


Anatomy of a Shot–Photography Tips with Kristen Duke

Thanks for the great feedback on ideas for posts! Now to just plan ahead a bit. Besides the comments, I got a few emails with questions, and I will address one from my friend Liz. She found an image of mine that she liked and she asked me to break down the anatomy of the shot: what were my settings, time of day, lens, and I’ll add in my photoshop techniques I used. I don’t often add glitz and glamour in Photoshop, but this one has a little extra spice to it. First off, if you missed my tip on how to take a great silhouette shot, click here (middle of post) to read all about it. Shot on the left: ISO 500 f 13 ss 1/3200 evening sunset (sun behind their heads) 70-200mm 4.0 lens




Technically, the shot above isn’t STRAIGHT out of camera, as I lowered my exposure in RAW so you could see their clothing details better and I could explain my point. The sunset this day was only decent. Overcast, so not a lot of color. So I used some saturation to bring it to life. First, use your burn tool at about 15% to darken the details. You don’t want to see the pattern on his shirt or that her shirt is white. A true silhouette is just a dark outline filled in.




See, much better. I love how her necklace stands out.




I then wanted to change the color of the sky, so hit control+B for my color balance sliders. Below is a screen shot where I messed with the colors to get a nice yellow. Yellow isn’t usually in the sunset (that I’ve seen), its orange, but I liked the look of the yellow, so I went for it. You can see that my color balance formula to get this desired look.


I then needed to darken the details a bit more as it faded with the color mixture. Got out my burn tool again and used it at about 16% (I just picked a number). See the 16% just below this typing at the top of the screen shot? I also got my sponge tool and at about 30% brought out the yellow color just a bit more and "colored" with my sponge circle in the yellow area.




And there we have it!


This was fun to do! *For those that haven’t seen yet, I am headed to Utah at the end of May (27-28) and have a slot left for a mini photo shoot and I am also doing a beginners workshop. Come find out how to Say NO! to auto and much more! Check out this post for more details and let me know ASAP if you want in!


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