Take great pictures of your kids! Part 3: ISO & The Exposure Triangle

How is the practice coming along? Do you enjoy creating dreamy, blurred backgrounds with a wide aperture? Have you frozen a moment in time with a fast shutter speed? It’s time to add in the last point of our triangle and see how they all work together.

In the film days, ISO was your film speed, but in the digital world it is referring to the sensitivity of the image sensor in your camera. ISO can range from 100-6400 or even higher depending on how advanced your camera is. The LOWER your ISO, the LESS sensitive your sensor is to light. The HIGHER your ISO, the MORE sensitive your sensor is to light. How will this effect your photography? The sensitivity of the image sensor directly effects the amount of noise (grain) produced in an image. This is neither good nor bad. Some people strive for no noise, while others add grain to images in post processing. It is simply personal preference.

In the following image, I was forced to use an extremely high ISO in order to use a high enough shutter speed to freeze the motion of my son. You can see considerable grain in the image, and my way of dealing with it was to convert the image to black and white.

ISO 12800 f3.2 1/160
ISO 12800 f3.2 1/160

This time I was shooting outside on an overcast day. I had plenty of light to work with so I was able to set my ISO much lower and still properly expose my image. You’ll see that the colors and shadows are crisp and clean.

ISO 400 f/2.8 1/320
ISO 400 f/2.8 1/320

In the following set of images, I kept my shutter speed and aperture settings the same, only changing my ISO settings. This will illustrate the increasing sensitivity of the image sensor.

ISO compare

Generally speaking, you want to use the lowest possible ISO to properly expose your image. Lower ISO settings will result in clean, crisp images with little to no noise. However, sometimes we are required to raise our ISO higher in order to use faster shutter speeds in low light situations. Let’s say your image requires a shutter speed of 1/1000 and an aperture of f/5.6 and needs to be properly exposed, but there is very little light. Raising your ISO will increase the sensitivity of your image sensor, increasing the amount of light it is able to record even though there is very little being let in, thus allowing your to properly expose your image. Just be aware that you may need to embrace the grain that comes along with ISO. Compare the following images. The first was taken at ISO 800 and retains most detail leaving you with a crisp image. The second was taken at ISO 6400 and you will notice more grain in the image, especially in the shadows.

ISO 800 f2.8 1/60
ISO 800 f2.8 1/60


ISO 6400 f2.8 1/500
ISO 6400 f2.8 1/500


When shooting outdoors in full sun, ISO 100-400 is a good starting point. ISO 400-800 will be appropriate for pictures indoors with good window or overhead lighting. Low light situations will require ISO 800-3200 in order to obtain proper exposure. With practice, you will get to know the lighting in your house and yard. You will begin to intuitively know that the morning light in your kitchen allows you to shoot with a lower ISO, while afternoons in your basement force you up to ISO 3200.

Now, how do we tie it all together? My go to strategy depends on my subject. If I am shooting my kids running and playing, I determine my shutter speed first. I know that in order to freeze their motion, I need a shutter speed of at least 1/250. I then set my aperture based on how many kids are in the frame, usually somewhere between f3.2-5.6. Now I check my light meter and adjust my ISO to properly expose my image. (Remember that you want to get your light meter to zero as a good starting place.)  If I am shooting a large group of people, I know that I need my depth of field to be larger. In this situation, I would start with my aperture somewhere between f/4.0-6.3, then set my shutter speed to at least 1/125 (higher if there are little ones), and finally adjust my ISO in order to expose properly.

Exposure Triangle

At first, it is challenging to think about all three points of the triangle at one time. Don’t be discouraged. Be patient with yourself, and with a little practice, you will be capturing cherished memories for your family!

If you are interested in your own session with Kelly Scholl Photography, and would like to be the first to know about upcoming specials, please opt in for my monthly newsletter by using the following link! Click here to subscribe!

Take great pictures of your kids! Part 2: Shutter Speed

So you’ve nailed aperture. You know how to adjust your f-stops to give you the depth of field you want in your image. Let’s dive into shutter speed. I told you this was a fun one and it really is.

Shutter speed is the measurement that determines how long your shutter is open, controlling how much light is let in. Shutter speed and aperture work together to determine how much light hits your sensor, controlling the exposure of your image. Shutter speeds are expressed in fractions of a second or whole seconds. With each shutter speed increment, the amount of light that is let in is halved.

Generally speaking, the faster the shutter speed, the crisper the image. A fast shutter speed will stop motion, giving you a tack sharp image. A fast shutter speed will allow you to capture splashes as your son jumps into the pool, or your daughter’s hair bouncing as she jumps on the bed. As you slow your shutter speed down, you introduce motion blur. Done correctly, this can be fun too. Photograph a subject on a sidewalk in front of a busy street. If the subject stands still, a slow shutter speed will allow you to capture the person in focus while the cars blur in a streak behind them.

ISO 800 f/2.5 1/250
ISO 800 f/2.5 1/250

This image was taken with a shutter speed of 1/250.  You can see some detail in the water, but there is still motion blur. The shutter speed would have to be closer to 1/1000 to completely stop the motion of the falling water.

ISO 400 f/ 3.5 1/60 sec
ISO 400 f/ 3.5 1/60 sec

This time the shutter speed was slowed to 1/60 and the water almost looks smooth because of the level of blur.

ISO 400 f/22 1/40
ISO 400 f/22 1/40

A slow shutter speed can create the appearance of something moving fast. This can help tell a story in your images.

ISO 200 f/2.5 1/4000
ISO 200 f/2.5 1/4000

While, a shutter speed of 1/4000 will completely freeze the motion and capture the expression on your child’s face.

Generally speaking, you don’t want to drop below 1/60 without a tripod. This is the slowest shutter speed you can use without causing motion blur from camera shake. 1/125 is good for portraits, or slow moving subject. 1/250 is going to be your golden spot for freezing children. If at all possible, I try to keep it even faster than that because my little guys are FAST! 1/1000 is a good place to start for sports photography, and if you are trying to catch something moving super fast then 1/4000 is a safe bet.

As I said, aperture and shutter speed work together to expose your image. You can monitor this using your camera’s light meter. Look through the view finder and change your shutter speed. As you do this, you’ll see the a bar across the bottom of your view finder shift to the left and right. When that bar reaches the center your lighting is perfect, at least according to your camera. As you move toward the plus sign you are over exposing, as you move towards the minus sign you are under exposing. Trust it, but not completely. You will find that you may need to take a few test shots and adjust your settings to get the look that you are trying to achieve.

light meter

What’s next? You guessed it, get out your camera and practice. This time you can set your camera to shutter priority mode if you aren’t quite ready to tackle manual. (S for Nikon users, and Tv for Canon.) In shutter priority mode, you choose your shutter speed and your camera will adjust your aperture and ISO for you. Good luck!

Up next, ISO and the exposure triangle.

If you are interested in your own session with Kelly Scholl Photography, and would like to be the first to know about upcoming specials, please opt in for my monthly newsletter by using the following link! Click here to subscribe!


Take great pictures of your kids! Part 1: Aperture

Did you get a new camera for Christmas? Do you have a DSLR sitting in your closet begging to be used, while you shamelessly post blurry iPhone shots to Facebook? If you are raising your hand, then read on!  We all love adorable photos of our kids, and while it’s wonderful to book a professional portrait session from time to time, most of us can’t hire a photographer to follow us around 24 hours a day! Through a series of blog posts, I’ll walk you through some of the basics of understanding your DSLR camera. We will cover aperture, shutter speed, and ISO; the three points of the exposure triangle. As we dissect each piece and learn to control them separately, you will see how they all work together to help you create beautiful images. I’m going to help you dust off your fancy camera, switch it to that scary “M” setting, and fearlessly push the shutter with success! Let’s get started.

Whilst teaching 5th grade, we studied roots of words. One of the roots was “photo”. It’s Greek, and it means “light”. Photography means “write with light”. You’re going to start noticing that it’s all about the light! In the film days, exposure referred to how much light was hitting the film, but chances are you are working with a digital camera, so in your case exposure is referring to the amount of light hitting your cameras sensor. There are three ways to control the amount of light your camera takes in: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Today we are going to focus on aperture.

So, what the heck is APERTURE? The aperture refers to the adjustable size of the hole in your camera that lets in the light.  It is measured in f-stops.  The smaller the f-stop number, the larger the opening.  Take a look at this diagram to help wrap your mind around that.


Aperture, or f-stops, are great because they determine your depth of field, or the amount of the image that is in focus. Imagine an image of a child where their eyes are in sharp focus and the background fades away into a beautiful, creamy blur. Having trouble…I’ll show you. (Excuse his drool…)

ISO 800    f/3.5    1/640

This look is achieved by using a wide open aperture, or a small numbered f-stop. A small portion of the image is in focus, while everything in front and behind him is blurry. Wide apertures are commonly used for portraits, allowing your subject to pop from their surroundings. In the following series of images, I kept my focus on the fireman. ISO 1600 f/2.8 1/160ISO 1600 f/2.8 1/160

I started out wide open at f 2.8, you can see blur both in front of and behind the fireman.


ISO 3200 f/5.0 1/125
ISO 3200 f/5.0 1/125

With an aperture setting of f/5.0 you are able to see more detail in front and behind the fireman. The depth of field has increased bringing more of the image into focus.

ISO 6400 f/11 1/50
ISO 6400 f/11 1/50

In the final image I have set my aperture at f/11 allowing an even larger depth of field. Notice how I’m no longer blurring the junk behind my couch out of the image. 😉

How do you know where to set your aperture? It depends on your own artistic vision for the photo. If you have one subject that you would like to be your focus, you can get away with a wide open aperture. If you have multiple subjects that you want in focus, f3.5 to f/5.6 is a good place to start!

It can be overwhelming to dive right into shooting in manual mode. So, take the information you have just soaked in, and set your camera to aperture priority mode. (A for Nikon users. Av for Canon.) This will allow you to choose your aperture, and your camera will adjust it’s ISO and shutter speed for you. Experiment a little and see which look you prefer!

Next up, shutter speed! This is a fun one!

If you are interested in your own session with Kelly Scholl Photography, and would like to be the first to know about upcoming specials, please opt in for my monthly newsletter by using the following link! Click here to subscribe!

Meet AlmaLeigh: Mankato Newborn Session

A few months ago, a high school friend contacted me about donating something for a silent auction at a Walk for Life hosted by the Options Pregnancy Center. She had her first born while still in high school and couldn’t imagine her life without her oldest son. So, she naturally advocates for young parents to have options. I remember watching that journey into young motherhood and remember being impressed. At that time, I had no idea how much being a mother took out of you. I’m even more impressed with the grace and courage that she showed at that time of her life. Without hesitation, I donated a session for the silent auction. This is where sweet AlmaLeigh enters the story. I met her family last week and was immediately impressed by her parents. They were only 14 days into the journey of parenting at the time and everything seemed so natural for them. From the moment they entered the door, they worked together to gather the special props they brought, and make sure that their precious baby girl was comfortable and cared for. I have to touch a moment on their props. Once in a blue moon, a family will bring something along to a session that just floors you. AlmaLeigh has a special blankie that was first started by her Great Great Grandma. She had quilted the center square and from there her Grandma fashioned a lovie from ribbon and fabric scraps that had been used by Great Great Grandma. It’s beautiful and it’s an heirloom. It doesn’t get much more special than that. Her parents can’t get enough of her. Dad even had a hard time looking at her images at the reveal because he wanted to soak up the real thing after being away from her after his first day back to work. She’s a special little lady! Meet AlmaLeigh!


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If you are interested in your own session with Kelly Scholl Photography, and would like to be the first to know about upcoming specials, please opt in for my monthly newsletter by using the following link! Click here to subscribe!

Project 365: One month down!

When I started this project 365, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I mean yes, I knew I was supposed to take a picture a day, and I knew that I wanted to better my photography skills. But, what I didn’t bargain for was the wonderful documentation of my kids lives. Most days I only spend 5-10 minutes with my camera in hand. I don’t want to  miss out on the fun with my kiddos, but I’m already looking back over the last 35 days and loving that I have their quirky personalities and favorite games saved. There have been days that I have not wanted to pick up my camera. Yesterday was one of them. My camera was on the kitchen island, ready in case something caught my eye but I was pretty uninspired. I could hear the boys playing with their swords in the basement with Tyler so I leaned over the railing and called to them, figuring I’d just catch them off guard and see what happened. I snapped a few and called it good, figuring that I’d just go with whatever I got because honestly, today I just didn’t really care. But, when I uploaded them, I found Owen, sword in hand with the best Peter Pan inspired shadow on the stairs. I love it. I love the look of determination on his face as he tried to reach me with his sword, and I love the way the light and shadows are working in the image. I probably got lucky, and there will be other uninspired days, but I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I’m so glad I took on the project. I think it will lead to quite a treasure of images in the end.DSC_2046-Edit DSC_2084-Edit DSC_2119-Edit DSC_2144-Edit DSC_2148-Edit DSC_2160-Edit DSC_2195-Edit DSC_2217-Edit DSC_2262-Edit DSC_2344-Edit DSC_2399-Edit DSC_2370-Edit DSC_2382-Edit DSC_2487-Edit DSC_2500-Edit DSC_2714-Edit DSC_2932-Edit DSC_3009-Edit DSC_3057-Edit DSC_3076-Edit DSC_3086-Edit DSC_3091-Edit DSC_3123-Edit DSC_3137-Edit DSC_3378-Edit DSC_3398-Edit DSC_3402-Edit


Today’s image is a fun one. You can see the chaos in the fly away hair, the blurred motion, the eager pizza eyes, and the “stuff” all over the floor. This morning, Jonah & Owen and their best friends had a Frosty party. The play room is in shambles and they are totally wiped out, but they had the best time!


Meet Nevin: Mankato Newborn Session

Sometimes it’s a small world. I received an inquiry about the model call I had put out, and we worked out the details. After gathering more information, I found that I already knew the family. We had first met sitting in a circle on the floor singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (or something equally circle time appropriate). Sometimes it’s hard to get to know other moms when you have toddlers in toe. But, a newborn session allows for a little more chat time. Even though the family just happens to be Packer’s fans, we managed to hit it off. We may even get a play date scheduled! 😉 Now, let’s talk about Nevin. I don’t know what I loved more about him…his beautiful dark hair, his very sleepy personality, his squishy poses, his gassy smiles, or the way his big brother Talon absolutely loves him. Oh my goodness these little boys were absolutely amazing! Talon even picked out a little lamb just for Nevin. It doesn’t get much more adorable. This session was such a blast. Nevin snuggled right in to my new little pants with the most adorable hand stitched pockets (made my Lolo and Max, a local prop vendor, and probably my new favorite), and continued to produce the funniest faces. It truly was a fun session! Take a look at this beautiful baby boy!  DSC_2723-Edit DSC_2759-Edit DSC_2769-Edit DSC_2777-Edit DSC_2788-Edit DSC_2795-Edit DSC_2800-Edit DSC_2801-Edit DSC_2814bw DSC_2817-Edit DSC_2825-Edit DSC_2833-Edit DSC_2845-Edit DSC_2850-Edit DSC_2860-Edit DSC_2863-Edit DSC_2866-Edit DSC_2885-Edit

If you are interested in your own session with Kelly Scholl Photography, and would like to be the first to know about upcoming specials, please opt in for my monthly newsletter by using the following link! Click here to subscribe!

Walking in a winter wonderland: Mankato Family Session

You may recognize that tiny bundle of joy in in these family images. He was a recent newborn model and his session was wonderful. Definitely in the top ten! And, it seems that when it comes to photo sessions, the Peterson family knows how to rock it. It all started with them planting a seed about a snowy photo shoot at Zack’s gallery reveal. What followed was a blur of emails and weather watching, waiting for the perfect day to run out into the snow and capture some memories. When I say we got lucky, it’s an understatement. Huge flakes started falling mid day and continued to blanket the ground. When we got to our location we found all of the trees coated with white and the stream was still flowing. We even found the perfect “Christmas tree”! And then, let’s talk about their outfits. Jen has style! (Because we all know Mom is picking out the outfits.)  I will be adding their family images to a “what to wear” post for sure. Just adorable! Coordinating colors and cozy accessories, squirmy giggly hugs and a determined toddler made for a magical winter Mankato family session. Happy holidays everyone!  DSC_2674-Edit DSC_2640-Edit DSC_2633-Edit DSC_2624-Edit DSC_2620-Edit DSC_2612-Edit DSC_2592-Edit DSC_2581-Edit DSC_2569-Edit DSC_2560-Edit DSC_2549-Edit DSC_2541-Edit DSC_2537-Edit DSC_2529-Edit DSC_2527-Edit

If you are interested in your own session with Kelly Scholl Photography, and would like to be the first to know about upcoming specials, please opt in for my monthly newsletter by using the following link! Click here to subscribe!

Estelle: A Toddler Session

Toddlers are a challenge. They are a challenge to have living in your house, and they are a challenge to photograph. They have strong wills and small attention spans. But, when you catch “that look”, or you get a quick hug and kiss before they run off on their next exploration… Well it reminds you just how special this season of their life is. When I got together with Estelle’s grandma and mom, we discussed just that. We talked about the split personalities our kids seem to have while Estelle shied away from me and my big camera and chose to hug Grandma instead. We talked about how difficult it is to not feel like you are doing something wrong when your child is throwing a fit in public or maybe hasn’t reached a certain milestone that what seems like every other kid around them has. But, we also talked about how raising our kids is a job we would never turn down. How these tiny people bring more joy to our lives than we knew possible. Estelle is no exception. This little girl has sparkle and spunk. She may dress “all girl” but she can explore the sticks and leaves like a pro. And she loves her family. You can see it in the way she grasps their fingers, hugs their necks, and runs to them with her most exciting discoveries. And you know what? They love her right back. How could you not?

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Kelly Scholl Photography: Project 365: Week 1

I think pretty much every photographer has taken one on at some point. It’s my turn. I’m a week into my first Project 365. The goal? To take, edit and share one picture every day. I can already tell it’s going to be a challenge. But, I don’t like to lose, so I’m determined to see it through. One thing that I’m already excited for is the fact that it will keep the photos of my boys up to date. Because lets be honest, they will most likely be featured in almost every image. I hope you like seeing my kids… Right now there really is no rhyme or reason to what I’m choosing to take a picture of each day. I’ve read some articles that give tips on how to be successful with a 365 project, and many say to find some blogs to follow that provide weekly prompts. That may happen at some point and then instead of Jonah and Owen, you may see a picture of my old sneaker or something cool like that. You never know, got to keep it fresh. 😉 But for now, Ive got my new camera handy. I recently upgraded my equipment (right before Click Away actually). I had started to feel limited by the capabilities of my entry level camera. It’s been so much fun and I’m looking forward pushing both my technique and my creativity. For those of you who are choosing to follow the project, thanks for taking a look and thanks for your words of critique and encouragement!



I can be pretty indecisive when it comes to picking favorites. So, here are a few extra favorites from the first week! DSC_2035-Edit     DSC_1674-Edit DSC_1629-Edit 1 DSC_1648-Edit

Mankato Newborn Photography: Baby Zackary

Newborn photography is my passion. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy meeting up with families to capture them being silly and making memories, and toddlers and grade school kids are hillarious.  But to snuggle brand new babies, and freeze their tiny features in time… well, it just doesn’t get any better than that. I’ve been busy learning new techniques and was itching to test them out. So, I put out a model call and was absolutely the most lucky person in the world to hear back from little Zackary’s mom. From the first interaction Jen was easy to work with, and that makes all the difference! When Zack and his mom arrived at my home, we started chatting while we got Zackary from his carseat. His mama had to step out to an appointment so dad was there to supervise his photo debut. Brian was a pleasure to chat with while his little guy fell into a deep sleep and let me pose him to my heart’s desire. He even lent a hand (literally) so we were able to preserve the memory of this tiny boy fitting into Dad’s hands.  Zack was such a flexible little guy! He kept tucking his legs up close to his head! Dad joked that he looked like he was doing yoga! This baby boy was an absolute dream to photograph; a seriously beautiful baby. He slept so calmly, but if he grows up to be anything like his oldest sister, he will be bouncing around in no time!

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If you are interested in your own session with Kelly Scholl Photography, and would like to be the first to know about upcoming specials, please opt in for my monthly newsletter by using the following link! Click here to subscribe!