Photography Questions and Answers, and Some Learning Opportunities

I often receive emails and messages from other photographers, asking how I do what I do or what equipment I use in my photography work.  So, I decided that today would be a tell-all day.  Pull up a chair.  :) - - - - -

What camera and lenses do you use?

For clients, I shoot with a full-frame Nikon D700 with a D200 backup.  For photos of my family, I use the D700 as well, or more frequently... my iPhone + Instagram.  Truth.

My favorite lenses are the Nikkor 85 mm f/1.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro, and a Lensbaby Composer Pro.  I shoot in RAW + manual mode 100% of the time.  Yep, even for personal photos.

My personal goal for a long time has been to spread my wings and shoot more film.  My favorite film cameras are my Nikon F100, a beautiful Polaroid SX-70, and my dad's old Minolta Hi-Matic G.  (It captured all of my childhood memories and still works beautifully.)  I dream and long for a medium format Contax 645.  Someday.  Until I get an extra $2,500 (and really, who has an "extra" couple of grand when you have three kids?!), then I will be perfectly delighted with the lovely array of cameras I do have.


What camera bag do you recommend?

I have a Crumpler 7-Million-Dollar-Home that I use basically for storage here at home.  When I'm at a client session and think I'll need to change lenses often or quickly, or if I'm shooting at the beach and think my bag may get wet (it's a common occurrence!), then I'll use my faithful Shootsac + a favorite cover.  When I'm out and about with my kids and I want to bring the camera along, I use my beautiful Ketti handbag.  It keeps my camera safely padded and separate from my phone and keys, Charlotte's baby things, etc., and it assures me that I'll be able to grab my camera easily to capture their sweet faces.


Do you only shoot in black and white?  How do you edit your photos?

I actually shoot all my client work in color, and digitally convert it to black and white in Adobe Camera Raw.  I do all of my basic post-processing in ACR and then finish up with minor retouching in Photoshop CS5.  When I edit an image in color, I want it to be warm and natural, not too trendy with the possibility of becoming dated and out of style on my client's wall any time soon.  I personally feel that most of my work looks better in black and white.  I guess it's mostly because of my perspective, and the way I prefer to photograph real emotions and interaction.  I also find that black and white helps to bring attention to a particular detail of the photo, rather than the entire scene.  Sometimes black and white images feel more peaceful to me, or more dramatic, or more classic... but I always feel that black and white processing gives my images a more timeless feel.  You can read my thoughts on what makes a good black and white photograph if you'd like to.


How long have you been a professional photographer?  Did you attend college for it or hold a degree in photography?

I have no "formal" training.  I learned everything I could by eating, sleeping and breathing photography for years.  I read, I shot, I asked questions, I practiced, I took workshops and local classes, I bought books, I practiced, I searched and researched online, I tried different techniques, I practiced, I read some more, I experimented, I practiced, I practiced, and I practiced.  (Notice a theme here?) I made wonderful friends in the industry, I joined several amazing photography forums, and I photographed the still and the moving at every opportunity I had.  And my heart still adores it all. I officially opened Stacey Woods Photography in the Fall of 2007.  Prior to that, I photographed friends, family and clients for free until I knew that I could consistently create quality images that I would be proud to have my name on. It took me two years to be confident enough to say "I'm a professional photographer," without cracking a smile, and I continue to find ways to improve every week.  I hope I never stop learning.  It's addicting. And rewarding. And so much fun!


Can you help me use my new dSLR?

I sure can.  Sign up for The Creative E-Courses: Photography Chapter One below and let's get to it!


Which camera should I buy?

Well, that's a tough question for me to answer.  It all depends on what you intend on photographing and how.  I personally use a full-frame digital SLR camera because I often need to shoot at high ISOs, and fast prime lenses to allow more light into my camera.  I'm a Nikon girl, but Canon makes fine cameras and lenses too.  For portrait photography, I would suggest skipping the largely-useless-indoors kit lens that comes boxed with your camera, and opting for the camera body only.  Grab yourself a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens (either Canon or Nikon) for around $100 and start shooting.  With your pop-up flash turned OFF.  :)

Have any tips and tricks for shooting indoors with natural light, backlight, location-scouting, etc.?

I have been a contributor and co-editor at The Creative Mama for almost three years now.  I've written several informative photography tutorials there, so grab yourself a glass of iced tea and read away the afternoon.

Hazy summer light, backlighting and flare Using window light indoors In-camera metering: Parts One and Two Changing your camera's settings to maximize light How to get beautiful bokeh Making the most of your location My thoughts on what makes a good black and white photograph How I edit a black and white photograph in ACR Arranging your photos in an artful way at home 


Could you take a look at my portfolio and let me know where my strengths are and how I might improve?

Absolutely!  I accept limited mentoring appointments, as my time and schedule allows.  Email me with what you'd like to learn, and we can create a custom mentoring program to suit your budget.


Do you offer workshops or classes to other photographers?

I do!  And two of them are open for registration TODAY if you'd like to sign up!

the creative ecourses photography class


Bree Hester and I are collaborating on our second presentation of Photography: Chapter One.  It's hosted at The Creative E-Courses, an online learning experience at The Creative Mama.  Photography: Chapter One is first in a series of photography courses that will teach you how to take that fancy DSLR and use it to its fullest potential... and yours.  If you're currently shooting in full-automatic mode (commonly known as "the green square"), and if you're a visual, hands-on learner.... then this course is perfect for you.  We provide simply-written instruction, email prompts, video segments, hands-on assignments, a weekly Q&A, and even a private Facebook group so that you can mingle with and get feedback from the other students.

This course was designed to be taken at your own pace, however the content will be given to you over a span of three weeks.  We want you to be able to digest it easily and to ask questions as they occur to you. Each weekend, Bree or I will answer your most common questions in video format, and leave you with an engaging assignment for the weekend.  By the end of the course, you'll receive the entire program wrapped up in a beautiful e-book that you can take with you on your iPad or other mobile reader.  You're welcome to print it as well, if you're a paper-kind-of-girl (like me).

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stacey woods lifestyle photography workshop


This is my fourth time offering this mini-workshop with the girls at Bloom*, and I'm so honored that they have asked me back again.  Lifestyle: Your Style is a two-week online program that will give you an overview of what I love most about lifestyle photography, and help you incorporate it into your own style of shooting.  I teach it from the vantage point of an on-location photographer, where my backgrounds, locations and lighting situations change at every new session.  I continually try to find ways to connect with my clients, get them to relax and be themselves, and connect to one another.  I wholly believe that I am there to document their love for one another, and my goal is to create images that flood them with emotion.  Even years later.

In this mini-workshop, you'll get a ton of information: daily-ish email prompts to get you thinking differently about your approach to photography, two assignments with feedback from me, interaction each weekday within The Bloom Forum, a video showing you how to find and make the most of natural light when on-location, and the whole course laid out in a pretty little e-book at the end of our time together.  This online course is also meant for you to take at your own pace, but if you'd like my feedback on your assignment results, then you'll need to post those within the time constraints of the mini-workshop.  There is also a wonderful little private After-the-Workshop section within Bloom for us to continue the conversation.

Click HERE for a lovely interview with one of my favorite past attendees, and see how her perspective has changed since taking the course.  I love hearing stories like these and feel blessed to do what I do.

If you're convinced that this mini-workshop is for you, then we'd love to have you!  You must be a member of The Bloom Forum first.  To join, go here*, then go to the "Mini-Workshop Information" section and choose the appropriate Paypal button.  I'm accepting only 25 Active Members this time.  If you're not interested in group participation or personal feedback from me, then you can sign up as a Silent Member and simply read along with us!


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If you have any more questions for me, ask away in the comments below or send me an email, and I'll be happy to answer them in a future Q&A post.  I hope you're having a wonderful start to your week!


*affiliate link


Chic Critique | Celebrity Secrets Revealed Live Web Event

Today is the LAST DAY to sign up for my 4-week Chic Critique, which runs from now until March 2.  If you'd like a portfolio review, or just a few tips on post-processing, lighting, getting more emotion into your images, or anything else that's "bothering" you about your work... then I'd encourage you to sign up right now!  You'll be able to submit your images to me each week for my detailed video critique on each one, and find out specific actions that you can take to improve your photography.  Improve your confidence, and your images!  How I wish I'd had something like this available to me when I began my photography journey!! While you're there, be sure to sign up for the exclusive Celebrity Secrets REVEALED Live Web Event!  It's only available to Chic Critique Forum Members, and the Intro Price this week is just $89! 

Read on to find out more... I hope to see you there!

Have you seen the new look of Chic Critique Forum founded by Kelli France? Even Chic Critique's Facebook page looks fabulous!

Chic Critique offers Celebrity Critiques from some of the best photographers in the industry so that you can transform your images from weak to CHIC. To celebrate their gorgeous makeover, they are having "Red Carpet Week" this week with giveaways, freebies, and more!

They will be launching a CHIC magazine soon and you can enter their Cover Contest to win a Kelly Moore Bag!

Chic Critique also just announced this Exclusive Live Web Event:


The Chic Critique Forum

I remember participating in a popular photography forum several years ago when I first began shooting.  It was a wonderfully helpful forum filled with photographers of all skill levels; lots of people participated and shared their images and gave/received feedback and critique.  A lot of the feedback was really helpful, and forced me to open my eyes and view my images on a more technical level instead of an artistic one (ya gotta know the rules in order to break them, right?).

After awhile, as my work improved, I began to get comments like "Great shot!", "So stinkin' cute!" or "Love it!", or the ever-popular "I lurrrrve it!" (anyone remember that one?!).  While sweet words like that were (and still are) wonderful to hear (and so good for the ego, lol)... I felt that these compliments weren't necessarily the truth.  I longed for honest critique again.  Someone to tell me flat-out that my highlights were blown to smithereens and my shadows were completely blocked.  Or to offer helpful advice, for instance, if I had turned my subject a few degrees more toward the light, I could have brightened up her eyes or lightened the shadows alongside her cheek.  Give it to me straight!  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt hat I could have improved my technique faster if someone had simply told me the truth about my work.

Well, enter the Chic Critique Forum!  It's a wonderful new resource that focuses on giving photographers HONEST critique on their work.  What's it really worth to you, to have honest and helpful feedback on your photography?  To have another set of eyes to view your work, someone help you figure out what your images might be lacking.  What could make them a little bit better, what could make them stand out and shine?  I say $59 is a steal for something as valuable as the future of your art and your business.

I'm thrilled to be a part of this amazing group of "Celebrity" Photographers who are offering our honest critique to help your images improve.  Sign up HERE for my 4-Week Critique, and also become a part of a fabulous forum that will continue to help you and your photography business blossom and grow!  My class is only $59 and begins on Monday, October 3.  I can't wait to chat with you and help your images become better than ever.  See you soon!

Lifestyle: Your Style Mini-Workshop is Back on the Bloom Forum!

I'm slowly easing into work again.  I'm not yet ready to leave my tiny baby girl behind and begin shooting just yet... but I am offering my third installment of Lifestyle: Your Style, a Mini-Workshop for Photographers, over on The Bloom Forum from Monday October 3 to Friday October 14.  You must be a member of The Bloom Forum to participate, and you must live/shoot at least 120 miles away from Tampa Bay in order to be eligible to take the course.  This will be the last mini-workshop I offer in 2011, so jump in now if you're interested! Thirty (30) Active Memberships and ten (10) Silent Memberships will be offered this time around.  Active Members will receive a beautiful ebook filled with the course material, my philosophy on the lifestyle approach, an explanation of my own shooting methods and session techniques, two assignments to complete at your own pace during the course, a client questionnaire sample to help you prequalify your clients, and a couple of other goodies to help you integrate this lifestyle approach into your own work.  Active members can fully participate in the course, submit images for critique and feedback within our private area of the forum, and receive feedback (from myself and the other students) on the assignments submitted.  Each Active Membership is just $200.

Silent Members pay $150, and receive all of the above EXCEPT feedback and critique on images and assignments.  Silent memberships are read-only, no active participation is allowed at this level.  You're still welcome to read and follow along with the class in the forum area, however.

Lifestyle: Your Style is held online and is truly a work-at-your-own-pace opportunity.  You need not be online or logged into the forum every night; nor do I ask you to submit any of your assignments by a certain deadline.  You're free to do the course work at your own leisure during the two weeks we have together.

Seats always fill quickly, so don't wait!  Take the Lifestyle: Your Style Mini-Workshop if you want to discover new techniques to use during your Holiday Family Sessions this Fall.  (We all know you're tired of those forced-smile posed images on the Holiday cards, right?)  We're going to have a blast together.

SO HEAD ON OVER TO THE BLOOM FORUM!  You'll love it... the women there are beyond helpful and so inspiring!  Once you're a member of Bloom, you can register for the mini-workshop right there within the forum.  If you have any questions about the forum itself or about the mini-workshop, let me know.  See you there!

*Affiliate links are utilized in this post.