August Photo Challenge Winners

We are so excited today to announce the WINNING photos for our August Photo Challenge.  Our theme last month was “DANCE LIKE NO ONE IS WATCHING”, and the images were truly spectacular!!   We want to thank all of our readers who submitted entries for the challenge, and a HUGE  THANK YOU to our fabulous sponsors Ketti Handbags; Beyond the Lens Photoshop Actions + Texures and Canvas by Blossom for their generous prize donations to the challenge this month.

Here are our winners for the “Dance” photo challenge:

1st Prize: #15 Clay Jars Photography

2nd Prize: #3 Christy Peterson Photography

3rd Prize:  #47 Eliz Alex Photography


Honorable mention 1: #33 Photography at Our Country Home

Honorable mention 2:  #61 Image 421 Photography

If you’re one of our top five, proudly display the button “Top 5 Photo” button on your blog and Facebook pages. This button can be found HERE.

Winners, please contact Karlen at

Thanks to everyone who entered, and STAY TUNED for our September Photo Challenge…

Featured Vendor + Giveaway: KatieAnn Designs

We are so excited to share the lovely KatieAnn Designs with you today! Learn more about her beautiful templates, get a coupon code for her shop and enter to win a $200 credit to her store!

About KatieAnn Designs

Creating gorgeous products for clients is a time-consuming process. After working alongside so many photographers, I recognized that no one has that time! KatieAnn Designs specializes in templates that offer affordable, attractive, and quality designs with versatile, effortless use. My designs can be purchased as templates with full editing capabilities or as custom matched final products to your images. All templates are fully layered and can be customized in any way!

In order to illustrate your vision, communication is essential. I strive to provide excellent customer service to ensure your design matches your vision and will work with you until your product is perfect!

KatieAnn Designs will provide your business with quality, beautiful products for clients – and save you essential workflow time!


50% off ALL templates until September 8th, 2014 using Promo Code: ROCK50

More About KatieAnn Designs: Hello! My name is Kate. I am the owner and designer of KatieAnn Designs and Little Photo Nook. At home, I am happily married and mom to a feisty little puppy! I thrive on coffee, cute scarves, and a great book! At work, I am a graphic designer who has worked for over 15 years in the photography industry. My designs are often inspired by the art of the photographers I work with. I love creating designs that are versatile and easy to use, yet ornate and impressive. I love making your cards the envy of your friends!

Visit KatieAnn Designs at their SHOP | FACEBOOK pages today!

Enter the Giveaway using the Rafflecopter app below for a chance to win  a $200 Gift Certificate to KatieAnn Designs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurry! Giveaway ends Tuesday September 9th. Winner will be announced on Saturday, September 13, 2014.

LEGAL STUFF: This promotion is in NO WAY sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. You will NOT be notified publicly via Facebook if you are a winner. You MUST be 18 to participate. By entering this giveaway, you are providing information to Rock the Shot and NOT to Facebook. Prizes do not have cash value. There will be no returns/exchanges on any of the items

Congratulations to Alesa Meilke Larsen on winning a $200 Gift Certificate to KatieAnn Designs.  Alesaplease email me at in the next 48 hours to claim your prize. Thank you all for participating and have a wonderful weekend!

Photographer Spotlight + Celebrity Mentor: Kara May

We are so honored to welcome Kara May to Rock the Shot today!   Her mastery of light is AMAZING, and her expertly styled sessions are absolutely stunning.  Take a moment to learn more about Kara and visit her website Kara May Photography!   The best news… Kara will be featured as our “Celebrity Mentor” in the Rock the Shot Forum for the entire month of September so come on over and ask her anything you like. Thank you so much Kara for taking the time to share your work with us!

Where did your inspiration for photography begin? 
When I was in high school I became very interested in photography.  I wanted to preserve the things I saw and the way I saw them.  So I got my first Nikon F601s/N6006 35mm SLR in high school.  I practiced on my parent’s fruit trees and loved the creamy bokeh. I loved practicing but practicing meant keeping a notebook, writing my settings and keeping track of what I did manually with the camera on each image.  It also meant developing film, which wasn’t cheap (for a high school student who didn’t have $).   So I did what I could but could pursue my passion with as much enthusiasm and zest.  So when digital became available my passion reignited.

What is your style and how did you create it?  Was it something you had from the beginning or something you grew into?
Oh good question.  My style has been described as classic yet modern, real but dreamy, soulful, ethereal  & whimsical.   I guess it’s a combination of all of these.
I think my style can change and evolve but still look like it’s mine and has ‘my look’.  So it’s always changing depending on the mood the photo evokes and how I want people to see and feel the mood of each of my images or a session of images.  But ultimately I think it always has an element of ‘me’ in it.  Does that make sense?  I know confusing lol.

All of your images are pieces of art.  How do you create such masterpieces?
Wow, thank you.  That’s very flattering.  I’m glad you see them that way.  I’m a little harder on myself but each image has a unique meaning to me.  So to me they are art since they are all special to me and evoke feelings for me.  I never know how the viewer feels when they see my images but if they evoke a feeling for me then I’m happy.  And how do I create these?  I try to get to know my subject and pull true emotions, feelings and reactions from them.  When the emotions are real the image says so much.  I also like playing with light to provide mood….the hazy hot summer days when the light is lower on the horizon provides a really cool vibe.  And then I like to add depth and increase a bit of the drama in Photoshop to finish off the image.

Do you have any tips for photographers on finding the light when taking pictures?
Very good question with many answers ;o)  I love dreamy light that envelops my subject so most of the time I look for a location where there is plenty of sun (not hard to do in Arizona).  Usually the magic hour is ideal for getting the light I love.  But sometimes a location doesn’t have that light and that’s okay.  As long as there is enough light to see catch- lights in your clients eyes your images will feel alive.   I would avoid hard overhead light; it creates unflattering shadows and ‘raccoon eyes’.  I know this is a matter of preference, but I never use a fill-flash.  I will use a reflector in situations where a fill-flash is really needed.  It’s difficult when you’re working with children since they’re on the move so it takes some practice.

How do you approach your sessions? Do you like to tell a story or do you create it.
After booking a session I  like to get an idea of what the client is looking for in their final images – a look, a style, a location.  95% of the time they ask me to choose and I love that.  Then we talk about clothing.  Clothing is so important to my sessions – they really make a session.  If my client asks for recommendations I send them links with clothing ideas, similar looks from previous sessions, etc.  Some of my clients send me pictures of their outfits, some will describe them over the phone and sometimes I’ll even go to a client’s home and we’ll go through their closets together.  The latter happens a lot with ‘family sessions’ since there’s a lot more coordinating involved.  So once I have an idea of their clothing, I can mentally plan the session and the look we’re going for and the story we’re going to tell.  Every family, and every child has a personality that’s revealed through my images and that’s how their story is usually created.   If I’m planning a commercial shoot it’s different.  I create the story and the scene I want to capture.  I love it!  It’s freeing and I’m in my element when I can do that.

Are you a Canon or Nikon lady?  What is your most used lens?
I started out as a Nikon girl when I first began photography but once I switched to digital I moved to Canon.  I currently shoot with a Canon 5D MkII and my favorite lens is my 24-70 f/2.8 L lens.  It’s a great all around lens and I love that it’s a zoom.  I haven’t fallen in love with a fixed lens yet so until that day (which I know will come) I’m loving my zooms and their flexibility.

How important are the right props, clothing and accessories?  Do you have any favorite websites or stores you like to shop from?
Props, clothing and accessories are so important.  Sometimes it’s great to have a lot of props and accessories and sometimes less is more – it depends on the session.  But making sure the props mesh properly with the client’s clothing is key.  A boy in a polo shirt in front of a vintage car just wouldn’t evoke the feelings and look that makes the picture complete.  But a boy with suspenders, rolled up jeans and a newsboy cap in front of an old rusted vintage truck looks right.   Sometimes props aren’t needed at all.  The person or the family along with the location is enough to make an amazing session.  Most of my clients buy outfits from the designers shown on my blog.  Other popular sites I recommend are Crewcuts,  GAP, Banana Republic, ModCloth and Shabby Apple.

How do you sell value to your customers when the price tag may be higher than they expect? 
Oh that’s a tough question.  One I don’t have a magic answer for.  I’m not a sales person AT ALL.  I don’t do ‘in-person’ ordering – I use a program that allows my clients to go on-line after they’ve viewed their gallery.  They can see images side by side, enter coupon codes if applicable, add comments to their specific order, etc.  And with that, I don’t influence anything my clients order and they don’t feel pressure to order specific items/images since I’m not in the room with them.  Prior to our session however, I make sure they have seen my pricing and understand my rates so there are no surprises when it comes to ordering their images.  I don’t have an order minimum anymore (I did briefly but quickly eliminated it – since I don’t think that’s necessary).  I am very thankful that I have amazing clients that value photography, art and preserving memories of their children and family.

Do you have any tips for marketing and getting your business out there? 
The best tip I have for marketing and getting your business out there is perfecting your craft and making it ‘your’ style.  With that, word of mouth will spread quickly.   Of course a blog is very important so past clients, friends, etc. can easily refer people to your site where your most recent work is displayed.  And Facebook is important as well.  Social media is mass communication and simple marketing.  That doesn’t mean you need to advertise, hold contests, do give away’s, and promote your business on Facebook.  It means having a Facebook presence and showing your work so it sells you and your art and your passion.  If your passionate about what you do and have worked to refine your art, it will attract clients who see the value in your art.  I don’t have a business page since  my inspiration is derived from my personal life & daily experiences. And since I don’t do giveaways, hold contest or have a separate niche like weddings at this time, I didn’t see a reason to separate my business from my personal.  Someday I may have a separate business page but it’s not necessary for your business to separate the two.

If you encourage new photographers in one area (editing, business, marketing, etc..) what would you encourage them with?
Another great question!   I would have to re-iterate perfecting their craft – the technical aspects, shooting in difficult situations, making yourself ‘uncomfortable’ in order to learn more.   I also think the business side is very important.  It’s the part I like the least but it’s one of the most important parts of having a business.  Making sure you’re legal, properly reporting earnings, and expenses. Having the proper software to facilitate this for you and your accountant is essential.  And knowing what you need to protect yourself and your assets {insurance, proper license, etc}. This is an area you don’t hear about every day but it’s so important to the success and growth of your business.

What is one lesson you’ve learned and want to share?
One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is to price yourself right to control your workflow.  When I first started out I had a busy season that was so booked that I neglected my family, friends, and barely got sleep.  It was insane!  The last thing I wanted to do was disappoint my clients so that wasn’t an option but I suffered and my family suffered.  I vowed NEVER to do that again.  It was a defining moment in my business {a moment when I almost decided to leave the industry} and that’s when took a step back and really thought about how I can balance family, being a mom and running a successful business.  My priority is to my family and missing important moments in their lives really affected my business outlook and me.  Now I really limit the amount of sessions I book and I have a holiday order cut-off that I stick to so I can enjoy the celebrations, the festivities and the everyday fun activities with my family and friends.   I will take on less to spend time with my family and to see and experience those moments with my kids and husband that I will never get back if I decide to let work get so busy that it controls me.  I’ve learned to have set boundaries on what I allow myself to take on, I have priced myself appropriately and with that I make sure to do all that I can for the clients that I book.

Where do you see your business in the next few years?
I honestly don’t know.  LOL I know, how wacked of an answer is that?  The industry is changing so fast, the technology is constantly shifting and I will have to adapt accordingly.  Since I don’t know where this industry is going in the next several years, I’ll continue to delve deeper into my passion, expand on my art and love what I do.

About Kara:  Hi my name is Kara May.  I’m a children, teen, family & commercial fashion photographer.  I began shooting professionally in 2004 and in that time I’ve lived in 3 different states.  Moving so much has taught me to adapt and learn to grow my business where ever I may be.  I’m currently serving clients in the Phoenix Valley as well as clients in Southern California and Seattle, Washington.  I live with my husband, two entertaining children {Tyler 8 years old and Brielle 6 years old} and our sweet puppy in Mesa, Arizona.  When I’m not photographing I love to spend time playing with my kids, going to the movies {all of them have been kids movies lately so I’m itching for a good chick-flick}, antique shopping and ‘trying’ to decorate my home.  I’m obsessed with ‘Pinterest’ and  think I may actually need an intervention.  And I love meeting other photographers who share my passion.

Visit Kara at Kara May Photography | Blog | Facebook

And don’t forget, you can ask Kara anything you like in the Rock the Shot Celebrity Mentor Forum for the entire month of September!!

Photographing and Editing Silhouettes

Silhouettes are images where the subject or subjects are totally blacked out against background of a sky or setting/rising sun.

There are usually two parts to a silhouettes: capturing it in-camera; and perfecting it in post-processing.  In this tutorial we will briefly cover both of those aspects of creating silhouette images.

Photographing the Silhouette

The key to photographing silhouettes is to meter for the brightest spot in the sky, other than the sun. Doing that will make the shutter speed much faster than it was previously, and block out all the light that is on your subject.

What does it mean to “meter?”

It is easiest to answer that question with a hands-on demonstration. Okay, put your camera in MANUAL mode, then look through your view finder (eye piece you look through). Do you see a little line graph with tick marks or number line? That is your meter.

When the big tick mark that moves gets to the MIDDLE, the exposure is where you want it (with some caveats).

  • If you are in Spot Meter mode – the areas where your focal point is what the camera is exposing for
  • If you are in Center Weighted mode – the camera is exposing for the center of the image
  • If you are in Matrix mode – the camera is exposing for the center plus the areas near the four corners

To best meter for the sky, put your metering mode into either spot or center-weighted. Once you have that done, here are the steps to create your silhouette:

  1. Point your camera to the brightest part of the sky (not the sun)
  2. On a Nikon, with your “pointer” finger, use the top scroll wheel to move your tick mark to the middle, to be under the zero. On a Canon, use your thumb and move the back scroll wheel/circle to move your tick mark until it is under the main tick mark in the middle of the line
  3. Focus on the subject (can be tricky if the light is getting low) and press the shutter release

Are you completely lost at this point? No worries! Click HERE to download (FREE) the lesson on metering in my Everyday Photography PDF workshop. Hopefully it will connect a few dots and you’ll be on your way to a beautiful silhouette!

Shutter Speed Alternate Technique

If the whole metering-thing is bogging you down, just think Sx3 (read that “S times 3″). Are you thinking “Say what?” What I mean by Sx3 is “super shutter speed.”

When photographing silhouettes, your shutter speed it going to be super fast. The below image illustrates this tip.

Getting just the right brightness for the sky can be tricky, so watch your shutter speed: make it faster if the sky is too bright (not enough drama) and make it slower if the sky is too dark and you want more light to it.

Editing the Silhouette in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (or Lightroom)

Usually with silhouettes, some part of your subject(s) will still be visible, however slight. You want to darken those areas and it is easy to do with one or two adjustment layers.

  • Create a Levels adjustment (click on circle that is half black/half white) and move the black slider to the right a lot
  • In that same Levels adjustment, you can move the white slider to the left if you want to brighten the sky some
  • To brighten more of the sky, you can do a second Levels adjustment layer, moving the white and gray sliders to the right to suit your image

Here is an image from the same “shoot” as the silhouette above, of my niece doing a split in the air. The image was editing in Lightroom 5, doing virtually the same things. I moved the Blacks to the left, increased the Exposure a bit and used a graduated filter to brighten the sky a bit.

Hello!  I’m Amanda, a quirky, introverted Mom of four, who is passionate about helping others learn their cameras and editing software. I also currently homeschool my four kids, ages 13 to 6, all whom run away when they see me carrying my camera.

Visit me at my WEBSITE and FACEBOOK page!

Photographer Spotlight: Kat Gill of Katch Studios

We are so excited to welcome the insanely talented Kat Gill of Katch Studios to the Rock the Shot Blog! Take a moment to learn more about her beautiful wedding and boudoir photography, and be sure to visit her website. Thank you so much Kat for taking the time to share your work with us today!

Where did your inspiration for photography begin?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the “picture-taker” amongst my friends and family. As a teen, I was never without my little point and shoot camera, and in my 20′s that love for photos segued into a love for scrapbooking and making photo albums. But like many female photographers out there, it wasn’t until I had my first baby that I went out and purchased a DSLR camera and my passion for photography really became all-consuming. Playing around with that first Canon 20D really inspired me and soon, I was rarely seen without it.

How would you describe your photography style?

My photography style has really evolved. When I first started out, I was really inspired by everything and everyone and my style was kind of all over the place. Over the years, I think I’ve really started to find my own voice, and now I love to try and have a consistent look & vision. I’d describe my photography style as modern, romantic, soft & natural.

Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?

I’m 100% self taught and am always pretty frank and upfront about the fact that I’m really not a “technical” photographer at all. In fact, I’m sure I’m doing things all wrong according to the book:)I learned everything I know from just trial and error, and fiddling around on my own. Whatever talents I have in photography are really derived mainly from my eye and my gut. I know what I want my photos to look like and what I want them to say… and I get there by following my instincts.

Do you shoot Canon or Nikon, and what is your favorite lens?

I’m a Canon girl, and surprisingly enough, about 80% of my photos are taken with my 50mm f1.4. The f1.2 has been on my “to buy” list for a few years now, but my good ol’ trustee f 1.4 does such a good job that I have yet to trade it up.

Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?

When shooting on location, beautiful light really just comes from knowing where and when to shoot. As with most photographers, I schedule most of my shoots during “golden hour” to get that beautiful warm, sunset light. And of course, some places with give you a view of that pretty light better than other places will. When shooting portraits or boudoir in my natural light studio, I’m always mindful of where the natural light is and how it works for all the different poses.

What is the most challenging thing about photographing boudoir?

Every woman just wants to feel beautiful. Knowing this though and trying to execute this are two different things! Shooting boudoir is so fun & inspiring but it is without a doubt, one of the hardest types of photography out there. There’s so many factors that go into every single shot– you have to find the light, come up with a pose, adjust the pose to make sure it’s flattering, find the client’s best angles, make sure everything looks effortless and not too “posey”, make sure the hair and the lingerie/outfits are in the right place… and then on top of all of that, you need to make sure the facial expression is just right. When clients are fully clothed in other types of shoots, all these things are already tough enough, but when your client is so exposed and feeling vulnerable, these things become that much more important and having a quick eye for detail really becomes crucial.

What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?

Like most photographers out there, I’m always working on finding a good balance between my personal life and my work life. Thankfully, every year seems to get easier, and with experience, I’ve slowly found my way to a really happy place. I have 2 young kids and an amazing husband that has always been super supportive of my business. They’ve had to endure a lot of times where it seemed I was married to my job and my computer. Becoming more established and busy in my career has actually allowed me to really choose what it is I want to do and how often. It’s still VERY tough to say “no” to work, but in doing that a lot more, I’m so much happier and my life is more balanced. I make time for the things that bring me happiness such as yoga, family fun days with my kids, date nights with my hubby, and ladies nights with my girlfriends. And unlike before, if something doesn’t get blogged right away, or I have to turn down that extra client– then so be it:)

If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?

This career is not for the faint of heart! It often requires a thick skin, lots of determination, and countless sacrifices– but it can also be so extremely rewarding and fulfilling. I’ve heard a statistic that says that most aspiring photographers quit within 2 years of starting their business and this doesn’t surprise me at all. I think a lot of people think “I love taking pictures so I should become a photographer!” but in reality, so much of this job has to do with customer service, long hours working in isolation in front of a computer, and the ability to manage yourself efficiently. It’s very often not glamorous at all, and if you’re not a self-starter and extremely motivated to succeed, it probably isn’t the right career path for you. BUT, if the passion is there, and you’re willing to really commit yourself, it’s an amazing job. My biggest piece of advice to new photographers is to constantly work on your craft. Shoot a TON and continue to work on refining your style. Put out into the universe more of what you WANT to shoot, and eventually that will be what starts coming to you.

What do you love most about being a photographer?

The fact that my job is also my passion. I don’t just go to work and punch in and out. Every day, I’m intrigued, I’m challenged, and I’m inspired. Also, having a job that touches others and brings them happiness is a feeling that never gets old, and when I’m feeling tired, overwhelmed, stressed out, or beaten down– remembering this is what lifts me up again. When I take a photo so beautiful that it makes me gasp, or when I hear from a client that I’ve affected their life deeply in some way– I reflect on how lucky I am that I get to call this “work” and I know that it’s something not to be taken for granted.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’m pretty happy right now and there’s very little about my life that I’d want to change. I hope to continue to just grow as an artist and touch people with my work. In 5 years, my kids will both be in school so my schedule will probably be opened up a bit. Hopefully that means I can expand my business and take on more clients. I bigger studio would also be the cherry on top of this lovely sundae:)

About the Artist:
 Kat Gill is the photographer behind Katch Studios | Photography.  When she’s not holding her camera, she’s holding her iphone camera.  When she’s not taking pictures of her beautiful clients, she’s taking pictures of her beloved kids or the food she’s about to eat.  When she can’t be found posing clients in her studio, she can be found doing yoga poses just about anywhere.

Visit Kat at her WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK pages here

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