q and a

Hello and Happy Monday internet friends!  A few questions as of late…

H asks…I was wondering how you get such crisp images.  While I realize a big part is correct camera settings, I was wondering if you do an sort of sharpening on your subjects.

The best chance of getting a tack sharp image is to use a tripod.  But, the truth is…I use a tripod 1 in every 452,352,446 times I pick up my camera.  It’s just not me…I have to be moving around everywhere.  So, yes, you are correct…your camera settings do play a part.  A lower ISO and carefully chosen shutter speed will definitely help with getting a sharp image.  As a general rule, try to keep your shutter speed above 1/125 and if you are photographing a moving child, 1/250 or higher is a good rule of thumb to minimize blur from hand shake.  You can absolutely achieve a sharp image with any lens, but it is true that nice “glass” makes a world of difference in the clarity and sharpness of an image.  As far as sharpening while post processing, I do use a general Kubota sharpening on most images after the image is processed.  Oh…and don’t forget to sharpen for the web!  This makes a huge difference in how crisp an image looks when it is on the web.  I use Kubota’s web sharpen action for this one.

L asks…Do you use actions and what are your favorites?

I do use actions…a combination of my own as well as others.  I am a huge fan of Kubota, Totally Rad, My Four Hens, MCP Actions, Brenda Acuncius actions, and Lilyblue (most of which are fabulous sponsors for our workshops, by the way)!

E asks…Do you ever find yourself using higher ISO’s in low light rather than setting up flashes?   Do you get a lot of noise at your higher ISO’s?

Yes, I absolutely raise my ISO if needed.  Deciding whether to use natural light with a higher ISO or flash depends on the situation and the “look” I want to create.  I am a big advocate of creating my own light using flash if needs be, but there are times such as weddings or the following image in which I need the image to be lit naturally and a higher ISO is required.  If I had kept a low ISO in this image, my subjects would have been black silhouettes, with very little detail.  My two cameras (Nikon D700 and Nikon D3s) do allow me to shoot at a high ISO with very little noise.

M asks…Do you shoot RAW or JPG?

A couple of years ago, my answer would have been half and half…weddings RAW, portraits JPG.   But, in the past year, I switched to 100% RAW.  Love it!

T asks…I am somewhat new to photography and am obsessed with it, but I am already feeling the need to quit before I even start.  I have two children  and can’t even think of keeping up with shooting, editing, emailing, ordering, and everything else!  I know you have four children, how do you do it???

Ahhhh, the never ending quest for balance.  I think many people DO quit because there is a lot of pressure as a working parent from home to try to find that balance between work and family.  For me, it was all about deciding exactly how many hours and what days in the week I wanted to work and and STICKING WITH IT.  I learned to say no.  Seriously…simple, but it saved my sanity.  Another saver?  I outsource…a lot.  It’s all about keeping what you love and getting rid of the rest.

And…a few more images from my recent shoot with the little one from above…



  1. Brandi says:

    Great Q and A. I’m trying to figure out integrating CS4 with LR. What do you use and what is Kubota?

  2. Hope says:

    Loved this Q&A. Going to check out Kubota. Great images!!!

  3. Holly says:

    I’m still on the fence about upgrading to full frame…I know I definitely will within the next year or so, but I so want to do it zOMG NOW NOW NOW. You sure are making me even more impatient to ditch my crop sensors forever and ever, amen! 🙂

  4. Emily says:

    Wow! I’m amazed that there isn’t a fill flash anywhere in that first b&w photo….reflector perhaps?…… I love playing “how did Jean light THIS photo” each time I look at your posts.

  5. jean says:

    Brandi…”Kubota” is a set of actions created by Kevin Kubota. You can find them here…http://kubotaimagetools.com. Holly…I have a D300 (crop frame) and still love it. I do not advertise that everyone should be shooting on a full frame…I am just saying that I really like the high ISO capabilities 🙂 Emily…nope…no fill flash in this one. The day was bright with tons-o-light coming through those windows, so I cranked up my ISO to 1600 and the huge windows allowed for the light to kind of wrap around them. Usually I don’t have amazing windows like this, so I would have to use a fill flash.

  6. Lisa says:

    Super helpful – thanks Jean!

  7. denise says:

    thanks for the post, very helpful-love your work! why bump up the ISO with all that light? thanks for fielding all the ?’s!
    Also, I’d love to see more posts on before(straight out of the camera) and after (edited) shots including the shooting info (iso, ap & shutter speed), you are so helpful-thanks!

  8. jean says:

    Hey Denise! Two reasons I had to bump my ISO. First, although the windows are a huge source of light, it is not a direct sunlight, (windows are facing north), so it is not bright enough for detail at a lower ISO. The second and bigger reason is because I am shooting from the shadow side…and the shadow side indoors nonetheless. In almost any indoor situation, you will have to raise your ISO if you are backlighting and want your subjects to be lit and have detail. Before and afters coming soon!

  9. paula says:

    ok, I’ve got one for you. What is your most used and favorite piece of “glass”

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