Caleb A.  - North Kansas City High School Senior

Kanas City senior photographer, high school senior, north kansas city high school, Kansas City library, rooftop

You'd think when you're in Kansas City for a week, it wouldn't be difficult to schedule a couple of senior sessions. Wrong! Between schedules and excessive heat, it actually proved quite challenging. That's why I'm so thankful it worked out when I was able to photograph our good friends' son, Caleb, to document his senior year. I love that we were not only able to capture the urban settings, but we were also able to get away to one of his favorite fishing spots and get a few images there, too.

We got the chance to go to the rooftop at the library downtown and get a few pictures, plus we were invited to the top of another building on the other side of I-70. A man saw me taking pictures with the skyline in the background, and then asked if we'd like a better view - from the rooftop!!!! Oh how I needed a wide angle lens! But alas, we still got some great images, and can't wait to see what Caleb's plans are come next year.

Kanas City senior photographer, high school senior, north kansas city high school, Kansas City library, rooftop
Kanas City senior photographer, high school senior, north kansas city high school, Kansas City library, rooftop
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How do I take better photos? | Part 2

In our last segment, we decided to take our cameras out of AUTO and start experimenting with the Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority settings on our cameras. These settings are a great place to start if you want to venture into the world of "manual" camera settings. They allow you to set certain settings, but the camera still chooses the other settings.

For instance, when you are in Aperture Priority (or whatever your make of camera calls it), you are able to change the F-stop/aperture. This changes the opening of the lens, allowing more or less light in when you take a picture. In very basic terms, the larger the number, the smaller the hole, so less light is coming into your camera. The smaller the number, the more light is allowed in because the lens opening is larger (or wide open). (To quickly try to remember this, just think bigger number = darker photo, while smaller numbers = lighter/brighter photo.)

How does this affect your photos? Well, when shooting portraits, we usually choose a smaller number. The smaller numbers not only allow more light in, but they also blur out your background. So, a setting of 2.8 or 3.5 is going to put your subject in focus, but everything behind them will be blurry. (There are other things that factor into this, but we are trying to keep this basic.)

Here is an example of changing your aperture to get a creamy background. I put my settings under the photo. At 3.5, that allowed a very creamy/dreamy background, but her face is still in focus.

college senior photos, McKinney photographer
Settings: ISO - 800 | Shutter - 1/180 | F-stop - 3.5 | Focal Length - 200 mm

In the next two photos, just a slight change in aperture makes a pretty big difference. In this one, I shot at 4.0, and you can see more details in the background.

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How do I take better photos? Part 1

People often ask me, "How can I take better photos?" I wish there was one simple answer, but there isn't. So, I plan to write a few blog posts with some tricks to help each of you become better photographers, whether you're looking to take better pictures of your kids in sports, on the stage, family photos or vacation images.


The first thing you MUST do to become a better photographer, is to get your camera out of AUTO. Surprised you, didn't I? I think most people think they need a $5,000 camera to get better photos. While good gear helps, there are plenty of great images taken with iPhones and point and shoot cameras. When I started getting into photography, I shot in AUTO. That meant the camera was choosing everything for me — aperture (aka F-Stop), ISO, shutter speed, white balance, and my focal points. Today's cameras are smart, but they can't read minds. So that meant I was leaving a lot up to chance, thus I'd have blurry photos or photos where the background was the proper exposure but the person I was photographing was just a silhouette or dark shadow. I never really understood why until I took a class from our local community college. The first thing we did was take the dial off of AUTO.

When I say AUTO, that includes the portions of the dial that have the little portrait picture, the mountain and the little running man. Try to ignore that whole half of the dial, and use the one marked M (Manual), AV (Aperture Priority), or TV (Shutter Control). These are Canon's markings and are found on all DSLR cameras. Nikon, Sony and other manufacturers will have different abbreviations, so just look in your manual or on the internet. Even some point and shoot cameras will allow you to get into manual mode by adjusting the aperture and shutter speeds.


Why is that so important?

Photography is all about light, thus its name. It is a light drawing. To make good photos we need to learn how to control our light. The best way to do that is by shooting in manual. but to shoot in manual, you need to have a good understanding of something called the Exposure Triangle. The Exposure Triangle consists of three important elements:

  • ISO - Light sensitivity
  • Aperture/F-Stop - Amount of light allowed in
  • Shutter Speed - Amount of time light is allowed in

This week's assignment is to just play with your camera in the two of the three non-AUTO settings - Aperture Priority and Shutter Control (or whatever your camera may call them). Take photos of moving subjects with both options and compare. Take photos inside, outside, of still subjects, landscapes, portraits. See what (if any) changes you may see.


If your camera is a point and shoot or even an iPhone, "Google" and see if you have the ability to change the f-stop/aperture or shutter speed. If so, you're in business.


If you have any questions, or want to post some examples to my Facebook page, you can do so at

My Uncle Steve — 1945 - 2015

My daddy recently lost his baby brother, Steve, to a 2 year battle with cancer. I am so thankful we can place our hope in the Lord. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." — Romans 8:38-39

I had the privilege of putting together this slide show using lots of family photos and some I found on Facebook. It is a huge reminder of how precious photos are. If you're like me and hide behind the camera, make sure you move in front of it some, too! Also, be sure you are printing out your Facebook/cell phone pictures. I have lost valuable photos to computer crashes and lost discs. These memories are important! Just ask my aunt, who lost her best friend.