TWiP Family 030: December Q and A

This week on TWiP Family, I answer questions from listeners with help from Clickin’ Moms CEO, Sarah Wilkerson and family photographer, Erika Thornes.

Question 1

Richard is using his camera on manual more and more. But, he still leaves his ISO and white balance on auto. After talking to Richard, I wanted to get some more information about both ISO and white balance. I called Sarah Wilkerson to help answer his question more thoroughly.

Question 2

David has a question about using flash indoors. He noticed that many images of the photographers who have been guests on TWiP Family look very clean and well lit. Erika Thornes and I talk about how to bounce flash for a more natural look than the pop up flash on the camera.

Erika talked about this flash.

Some images using bounced on camera flash:


Listener Tip

familyphotoOn this episode I’m introducing a new segment: a listener tip. David from Belgium sent his family photo and told me how he got it. He offered to come on the show and tell all about it. His secret: he uses an intervalometer. Instead of using the ten second timer or remote, he sets his camera to take a time lapse of his family. Over the weekend, my family went to get our Christmas tree. I took a time lapse of our family to get a photo.



It’s the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere. The sun is down before I make dinner. What better time to think about taking photos in low light?

(I know some of you are enjoying summer right now. Enjoy it! Romp in the ocean for me. You can still do this challenge.)

Erika and I talked about bouncing and external flash. That is one way to have fun when daylight is in short supply.

Another way is to turn up your ISO. I know. You’re worried about noise and other losses in quality. For years, I steered clear of anything higher than 800. But, think about what your photo is for. My friend, Randi, talks about what she calls the life of a photo. Randi is a wedding photographer. She knows that the portraits of the couple and family are most likely to be printed and hung on the wall. The photos of the couple’s friends dancing? They are fun but probable are going to be viewed online. Randi turns up her ISO for those shots knowing that the life of the photo isn’t a magazine spread or 20 x 30 canvas. You can do the same with your family photos. Turn your ISO up.

Your high ISO will allow you to use a high enough shutter speed to stop motion. Low light is also a good time to put on your fastest lens – if you have a lens that changes aperture as you zoom – it’s a challenge. If you zoom in, your f-stop will be 5.6 or so. So, zoom out and you’ll get more light to the sensor. If you have a lens that opens to f 2 or lower – this is a good time to use it.

Your autofocus won’t work as well in low light. Maybe you have a focus assist light. You may need to focus on your own.

Now that you’ve set your ISO high and opened up your lens – look around for moments when there is light coming from just one place – a door way, candle or window. Be patient and see what you get. I want to encourage you to experiment and instead of wishing it was a bright summer evening, look at what the light is like today.

Share your low light photos in the comments.


Sarah Wilkerson: Website, Clickin Moms, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

Erika Thornes: Website, Google+, Facebook

Jenny: Flickr, Facebook, Website

Keep the family photography questions coming! If you have a suggestion for a topic or guest you’d like to hear on this family photography podcast, write to me and tell me all about it. Your emails make Q and A shows like this one possible. My email is

As the new year begins, I’m starting a 365 Project. I will take a photo every day for a year and share it. Some days it’ll be fun. Some days it’ll be hard. Some days it might just be boring. But, over the course of a year, it means I’ll make many photos that wouldn’t otherwise. Does a 365 Project appeal to you? Join me! TWiP Family: 365 Project 2016

You can also find TWiP Family on Facebook and join our Facebook group there to share photos and connect with listeners.

Next week, I share my conversation with Design Aglow’s Lena Hyde.

  • Hi Jenny…Thanks again for the great answer to my question. Here is my photo for the challenge. I pushed to 3200 ISO, the max for my camera, and I relied on available light. I had my 50mm 1.8 lens on with it wide open. I am very happy with the result. It was a great learning experience!

  • Keep up the great inspiring work! As it helps me drag my 7D everywhere my family and I go. I’ve also noticed the better I get the less the wife question “do you have to bring it”, heck it has even gotten easier to talk about spending money on this great thing we do! We like to walk around the neighborhood with friends this time of year looking at all the different lights. Here is a quick shot of my Kylie (blue hat) and her friend stopping to admire the lights of this house we came across. ISO 6,400 🙂 Side Note: Bummer we can only upload 2MB file size images. I had to lower the quality down to 30% to get it exported from Lightroom to upload here.

  • What an excellent episode!! Thanks so much.
    Re: the flash question, the guest recommended an $80 flash on Amazon – can you point me to a few good options for a Canon T3i? I don’t see anything specific in that price range and I remember she said there were cheaper ones that required something manual, so I wanted to understand exactly what specs I should search for. I need to request my Christmas gift 🙂

  • Hi Jason,
    Great shot. Christmas lights are so much fun – I love the excitement on your daughter’s face. With the lights in the background and shining in their eyes the photo captures the moment so well.
    I got used to dragging around my camera when I did my 365, and I’m still in the habit.

    Your photo looks good here – don’t worry about the size!
    Thanks for listening and sharing your photo. ~ Jenny

  • Thanks for being part of the show, Richard. This photo is great. I’m glad you bravely raised your ISO to it’s max. I love the ordinariness of the moment and the details too. It makes me glad to have no more midterms in my future. ~ Jenny

  • Great show (as always) 😀
    I felt the urge to post one picture that I took a couple of weeks back at a sports event (1st pic). Its a weekly soccer training for the refugees in our region. There’s people from Syria, Afghanistan, Gambia…playing soccer. To some it means a great deal. So I figured it might be worth documenting.
    Trouble was: winter. It was 6pm that day and pitch black except for the stadium lights. Flash is useless. I needed a telephoto lens – max. aperture f4. The only option was to bump the ISO – really bump the ISO. The shot was taken at ISO 20000 (no, that many zeros, really). I corrected the white balance and cranked color contrast a little – that was it. Export it to JPG and a reasonable size for Facebook, and that was it. Nobody who saw the picture moaned about the noise.
    Of course, I wouldn’t print that picture; and yes, sports photography is not my strong suit. Thus, I am quite aware of the fact that the high ISO is the least of the picture’s problems.

    The second one, with the family and the christmas tree, might get printed. Also, there’s noise at ISO6400. But, who will notice? If it hangs on the wall you will never walk up to it up close and pixel-peep.

    The second shot was taken w/ a f1.7 75mm (on APS-C). Set to f4 or f5.6. I still had trouble focusing correctly, because it is an all-manual lens. The focus-assist of my Pentax really helps there. So much so, that I decided to shoot the whole christmas-season with my 75mm.

    We will see how it goes, but I like the bokeh of that lens.

    The last picture was shot at a moderate ISO5000 😉 its the Coca Cola truck 😉

  • Hi Jason,
    quick question about the image quality when uploading to disqus: 2MB is more than enough for web-content. Trust me 😉
    However, having to set the LR-exporter to 30% compression-quality might not be the best solution. I made two assumptions here:
    1. You use Lightroom.
    2. You only fiddled with the “JPG-compression” slider in the export menu.

    Are those correct? If so try to edit the resolution of the image. You use a 7D which means the Files are 4000+ pixels on the long side. The JPGs that you export are also 4000+ pixels wide. LR does not change that. Thus, the only way for LR to get the file to a reasonable size for the interwebz is to crank up the JPG-compression.
    However, you never (!) need the 4000+ pixel resolution for the web. It is all being viewed on monitors anyway; even in fullscreen that means no more than 2500 pixels rez on the long side. Thus, I would set the export to:
    pixel-width (long end): 2000 to 2500 pixels.
    JPG-compression(quality): between 60-80% is best. The compression works in increments from 1-10 anyway. So, it doesn’t make a difference if you klick 68 or 70%. I have mine set to 75% for all web-uploads.

    Lemme know if that works for you, or if you need a walkthru for the export-menu in LR.

    Take care and happy holidays

  • Florian,
    Wow! That was an answer and a half!! Thank You!! I’ve been struggling with the export settings in Lightroom for awhile. One other area I’ve been trying to figure out is Facebook, and what is the best combo of pixel resolution and quality to post. It’s never fun to look at a photo on FB after you spent time editing it to see this less then sharp, soft image. As it looks so good on my 27″ monitor and I just want to share that images details with others.
    Right now I just export straight from Lr to FB and have the quality slider all the way up at 100%. I also really wish FB would allow you to view the EXIF data of other photos.


  • Hi Jason,
    well, the “less than sharp” problem might stem from the fact that you are using a crappy camera – I mean, a 7D? What did you expect? 😉
    No, srsly. Truth be told: I wouldn’t post my stuff on facebook. never have. never will. Facebook is not made for picture viewing. The app is way to cluttered. I would recommend, if you wanna sign up to yet another service, to go to Flickr or 500pix or picasa. All of them are pretty equal. They let u view exif data and you can look at the pictures in fullview, unobstructed. Flickr is best because: the TWIP 365-Project Group is on Flickr (see what I did there, Jenny; that’s advertising!) 😉

    Anyway, there is plugins for lightroom for all those services. You can set up Lightroom to export to flickr using specific presets. I set my pictures to 2500 pixels on the long end (you can go wider of course), 75% compression is plenty. Add watermark, exif data to your liking. Keywords set in Lightroom are automatically assigned as tags in Flickr. So now, you have your images in a decent quality on Flickr. But how do I get them on Facebook, you ask? This is where the magic of IFTTT comes in. Free service, synchronizes your accounts automatically. Pretty sweet.
    Scenario: You drag a photo into the flickr-plugin in lightroom. Export it. It is automatically uploaded to flickr. IFTTT is preset to create a post on Facebook whenever you upload to Flickr. So, as soon as you flickr-photo is uploaded, IFTTT automatically creates a facebook-post with the link to the image and/or a thumbnail. Pretty sweet. Yes, people have to make the click to view the image in Flickr. But hey, there they can view it in all its glory!

    Hope this helps. Back to gift wrapping. Happy holidays 🙂

  • Thanks! That’s the same one a friend recommended, and it did appear under the tree for me. Now I just have to figure out how to use it 🙂

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