Photography Tips: What Lens Do You Use?  | Professional Portrait Photographer | Mesa, AZ

Photography Tips: What Lens Do You Use? | Professional Portrait Photographer | Mesa, AZ

Photography Tips

I’m here to help and am always willing to answer questions. There are no dumb questions, trust me, I’ve asked them all. What may seem like common sense to some is new to someone else no matter how long you’ve been shooting! Today I’m just gonna ramble a little about some basics and see what happens!

What Lens Do You Use?

Oh boy is this a loaded question! It is by far the most asked question that I get from both hobbyist and professional photographers. The answer is easy to give, but much harder to put into practice. Let’s start with the easy answer. What’s in my bag?

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon 70-200mm 2.8L
  • Canon 28mm 2.8
  • Canon 85mm 2.8
  • Canon 24-70mm 2.8L
  • Sigma 15mm 2.8

Clear as mud, right? I went through exactly the same thing! I used to get so frustrated when I’d ask and the photographer would reply with “well, what are you trying to do?” Uhhhh, get awesome pix like you? LOL! No joke, we all thought like that as beginners and we are ALL beginners at some point! Worse yet I would ask and they’d tell me. I had asked for a great lens for sports and bought my 70-200mm 2.8L which I bought in 2009 and is still my baby. Over the years I took portrait classes and one webinar in particular really had me stumped. I had the same camera and same lens, but VERY different results.  Mine were, well, not great. Hers were amazing! Then I started to notice something. While we were both using the 70-200mm lens, my focal length was all over the place. Hers was at 200mm nearly all the time.

So What? Bokeh vs Compression

So think of focal length as if you stand in one spot facing your house. The smaller the focal length, the more of your house you’re going to get in the frame. Nearly everything will be in focus, due to the compression (or lack thereof). Just stick with me and stash that in your brain for now.  Everyone seems to think that bokeh produces those beautiful creamy images, and that is one part but not the whole picture, so to speak. So now go stand in front of your house using an 85mm. You’re gonna get maybe half of your house. Next, use a 70-200mm lens, 135mm, or long focal length. If you’re still standing on the sidewalk, you’re likely get a window and front door. Why? Because of the compression.

Now let’s put that into practice. For years I shot all my sessions with my 70-200mm getting nice portraits and creamy backgrounds. This image was taken with the 70-200mm at a focal length of 140mm. All that color behind him? That’s sun and trees at Tumbleweed park. All compressed into a gorgeous, creamy background.

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Too many photographers think that creamy backgrounds come from shooting wide open with an aperture of f/2.8. That’s only part of the equation and honestly, that thinking will often result in one eye that’s in focus and another that’s out of focus. Again, speaking from experience.  So in order to get a shot like Jalen’s and get that creamy background, I knew I needed to use a long focal length. So this was taken with a focal length of 140mm and an aperture of f/4. Not even f/2.8! I could have closed down even more if necessary and still had this compressed background. Say for example, if Jalen’s parents were standing behind him. I’d want them in focus too, so I probably would have closed down to f/5.6 and adjusted the shutter speed and/or ISO accordingly.

When I’m with a client, I keep my 70-200mm lens on most of the time. It’s an amazing portrait lens!  So here’s Adrienne which was also shot with the 70-200mm lens, but this time at a focal length of 75mm and an aperture of f/4. See the difference? Still get the upper body, but the background isn’t all compressed. You can see the lake and tall grass, get some sense of the surrounding and Adrienne still fills a good part of the frame.

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Now let’s get serious. What happens when you want those gorgeous eyelash shots and you want all the lashes in focus? Well, following the thought that shooting wide open will give beautiful bokeh just doesn’t work in this case. This is really the perfect example of using the right lens to get the background compression but still keep your subject in focus. This image was taken with the same lens, focal length set to 110mm, and an aperture of f/4.5! Yep, 4.5 not 1.8 or 2.8. If I had used my 85mm @ f/1.8 the result would have been very different. See, she’s not perfectly straight. Think of aperture as a thickness, like a piece of glass. Using an aperture of f/1.8 would have resulted in one eye being more in focus or her eyes being in focus but not her nose.

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Wide Angle Lens

Now let’s jump to the shorter focal lengths. This image was shot with a 28mm lens because I wanted the full picture. I wanted the background, the water, and the surroundings. Using this lens, I can be pretty close to my senior and still capture all of this. I could have easily been sitting in this exact same spot shooting, changed to the 70-200mm lens and taken a closeup of Adrienne! What would have happened? All that tall grass behind her would have been compressed. Results might not have been ideal due to the lighting, but that’s a post for another day.

Top photographer in Chandler, AZ offers beautiful outdoor photo shoots by the water.

Let’s get out away from the pretty backgrounds into urban downtown Phoenix. This image was also taken with a 28mm focal length. Notice how I got everything in the frame and was able to make Mercy take up a good part of the frame but still fit in all the urban landscape.

Downtown Phoenix Senior Photographer SunFlare

What lens do you use?

Let’s get back to the original question and answer. The answer is, it depends what I’m shooting and the look I’m going for.

When you might use a wide angle lens or short focal length, like a 28mm:

  • Want a large area
  • Landscapes
  • Tall buildings
  • Urban areas
  • Lots of surroundings

For me, 28mm let’s me get these fun shots like the one of Mercy. It let’s me catch gymnasts jumping or a football player throwing a football and I want to capture a lot of the field and stands. It also lets me create the illusion of something being larger or bolder, like a car. The closer you get, the more distortion you get. Play with it! Wide angle lenses can really bring variety to your portfolio!

When you might use a long lens and long focal length, like a 70-200mm:

  • Don’t love the background and want to blur it out
  • Headshots without distracting surroundings
  • You want the texture but want the focus on your subject
  • Creamy backgrounds

My 70-200mm is still my go-to lens for portraits. I get great headshots and people are always requesting those “gorgeous blurry backgrounds.”  It also lets me get further away so I’m not right in someone’s face. The downside of course, for those of you who have worked with me, is that I have to back up. Then back up more. And then back up a little more to get everything in the frame!

Next time we’ll talk a little more about aperture and bokeh. Have more questions or need clarification? Shoot me an email!

Senior Photos Michelle Robetson

Hand Lettering | Calligraphy Tips for Beginners | Mesa Senior Photographer

Hand Lettering | Calligraphy Tips for Beginners | Mesa Senior Photographer

Calligraphy Tips for Beginners

Hey everyone!

Something I’ve picked up within the past year and a half is hand lettering, or modern calligraphy.

This kind of style is new and fun, and it’s different from the kind of calligraphy you may have seen from hundreds of years ago. With the help of a bunch of different YouTube videos and Pinterest posts, I have become obsessed with improving my hand lettering! I am no expert and am still learning, but here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned, along with some product and Instagram suggestions!

Make sure you are writing correctly.

For this style of lettering, it’s important to do a thicker line on the downstroke (more pressure with your pen) , and a thinner line on the upstroke (less pressure with your pen). This is key to modern calligraphy, or really any type of calligraphy. It’s hard to get the hang of this at first, so try some exercises like this:

Choose the right brush.

For this style of lettering, I use the Tombow Dual Tip Brush Markers. They come in loads of different colors and are super fun to play with! Each marker has a brush tip, and on the other side has a bullet tip for faux calligraphy or any other type of writing. They are fantastic. (Pro tip: use a smooth marker paper or sketchbook if you want to buy some Tombows. Believe it or not, regular printer paper is rough on the brush tip, and can leave it frayed!) A cheaper alternative are Crayola markers, or the Crayola Super Tip Markers. Below you can see how you can achieve a similar effect with the Crayola markers for a fraction of the cost. You may want to consider starting out with these, and if you are interested further in hand lettering, check out the Tombows.

Fake it till you make it!

I started off without using any type of brush markers or Crayola markers. I used a regular pen or pencil to create my hand lettering. I’m glad I started off this way. I got the hang of what the lettering should look like, and I had so much more control over the letters. For this, you add another line and fill it in next to the downstrokes. It’s hard to explain, so look at the picture below for help!

Be Patient.

It’s hard at first to make your lettering look like all those pictures you see on Pinterest and Instagram. This is something I’m still working on! Especially when you start out with brush markers, it’s easy to get discouraged. It all looks so easy, and then you go to try and make your letters, and it looks horrible. Don’t give up! Keep trying and practicing. You’ll soon see that you are more comfortable. For inspiration on different designs, check out Instagram and Pinterest. They have loads of cute quotes and words to replicate. This is mainly what I do, but am starting to branch out and create my own designs.

Want some ideas on who to follow on Instagram? Here are some of my favorite accounts!

@amandaarneill, @calligrabasics, @calligraphy_by_drew, @calligraphynerd, @hellotosha, @itskateshandwriting, @krystalwhitten, @lesliemaedesigns, @makewells, @oncewrite

Best of luck in your hand lettering journey!

Preparing for College | The Transition from High School Senior to College Freshman

Preparing for College | The Transition from High School Senior to College Freshman

Tips for Making the Transition to College

Hey everyone!

At this point in high school, you’re probably starting to think about college. You may be working on applications, scholarships, or have already been accepted to a college. Then you start thinking about your dorm room or apartment, how you are going to pay for all that stuff, your roommates, etc, etc. I was just in that spot a few months ago, so let me give you a few tips on how to manage that stress!

Start Planning Early

It’s easy to say, “Oh, college is still so far away, I don’t have to plan for another few months.” While it’s true you still have a little while, it’s best to start planning early. Start thinking and planning where you want to live- are you going to live at home, in a dorm, or in an apartment? Will you have a meal plan? Some colleges have rules involving staying in dorms and having meal plans, so check with your college to see if you are required to have one or both of those things. Some other things to check is what is included in the dorms, whether you have communal bathrooms or private bathrooms, how close your dorm room is to certain buildings, etc. It’s better to be prepared so when you arrive on campus, you aren’t surprised on much.

Start Saving… NOW!

This is something you may have been doing for years, but for me, I’m a horrible saver. I just want to spend right away, so when it came to getting stuff for my room at college, things were a bit more stressful. I don’t know about you, but I saw all these perfect college dorm rooms on Pinterest, and wanted all the best decor and storage. I had to remember that there are things I have at home that work. Try bringing things from your own room at home to make you feel more comfortable at college. A lot of people like to purchase brand new comforters and/or decor (which is great and fun!), but for me, I wanted things to feel more like they were at my home. I brought the same comforter and a lot of the same decorations I used in my room to make things familiar.

Get in Touch With Your Roommate

Once you have your dorm room or apartment figured out, now would be a great time to get in contact with your roommate(s). Your student housing may give you your roommate’s contact information and name, so contact them! For me, my apartment building only gave me their first and last name, so I went to social media to figure out who they were. It sounds creepy, but they were all grateful I took initiative and contacted them first because they were hesitant to do the same thing! It was helpful to create a group chat with my roommates so we could figure out who was bringing certain things so we could save money and not buy double. When it came to contacting my room roommate, we discussed things like who would bring the shower curtain, who would bring a toothbrush holder, if we wanted to have matching towels or just bring our own, stuff like that. It may also be helpful to discuss with your roommate if you’ll have matching room decor; I know some people like to match or coordinate colors and bedspreads. Plus, it’s great to get to know your roommate before you move in with her! Ask her about her favorite food, some of her pet peeves, what her family is like, etc. Might as well become friends with her when you’ll be living with her for several months. 🙂

Meditate/Take Time for Yourself

All of this may seem daunting, but take some deep breaths! It’ll be okay. NOW is a great time to start planning these things, because the earlier you start planning everything, the easier it will be when it comes down to crunch time. You’ll thank yourself later when you don’t have to plan everything only a couple weeks before move-in day. Planning in small increments over a long period of time will significantly reduce your stress levels. So plan early, but don’t stress! Everything will fall in place and it’ll work out how it’s supposed to. You may want to look up a guided meditation on YouTube if you feel stressed, or even just hang out with your friends to get your mind off things. Do things that genuinely make you happy. Do you like to play sports? Do you like working out to release some stress and endorphins? Maybe you like singing, playing an instrument, or being creative. Whatever it is, try to make time in your day to do something you love.

I hope these tips were helpful and you have a smooth transition to college! It’s a lot of fun!


Top 6 Fall Fashion Trends | Prepping Your Wardrobe for Senior Pictures

Top 6 Fall Fashion Trends | Prepping Your Wardrobe for Senior Pictures

Fall Fashion Trends

  1. Burgundy
    • The color Burgundy is not only one of my favorite colors but a perfect choice for the season leading up to Christmas! The color gives off a nice a cozy vibe. Something you would want to curl up with a cup of tea or cocoa while you watch some movies.
  2. Metallics
    • Metallics are an interesting a fun choice for the fall. Silver metallic boots are the rage this season and definitely add a fun little something to your outfit.It’s a good addition when you want a little bling but not look like you’re going to the Met Gala! Or you’re a tween who just discovered sequence!
  3. Retro Vibes
    • Though Retro Items have been in style forever this season especially takes its nod to the retro styles. Things crop tops and high waisted jeans and shorts. This season many Aesthetically pleasing pictures on media contain a cropped top or sweater paired with high-waisted bottoms! I good way to keep casual but also show off what your mama gave you! I definitely love participating in this trend!
  4. Oversized tops/sweater
    • One of my favorite trends in this fall that never goes out of style is a good oversized sweater! The versatility! You could wear it as a dress, with some shorts, jeans or leggings! The options, graphics, and styles what give it the classic go for cozy casual or cozy chic. It all depends on how you style it!
  5. Velvets
    • I’m not saying you gotta go out and get the expensive velvet! There are plenty of velvet items you can get affordable! Like a pair of velvet booties (Which are very popular right now), You can find them for a good price if you look hard enough! If velvet boots aren’t your thing then maybe a velvet hat? I got a red velvet baseball hat from Forever 21 for 7 dollars! Whenever I wear it out I always get compliments. This trend is the fuzziest by far!
  6. Boots/booties
    • This trend is always in but it really takes the cake during the season of Halloween and Thanksgiving! Shorter boots (known as Booties) are extremely popular, especially when they are sequined, suede, or a glossy leather look. As for the longer boots, thigh-high velvet boots are super popular right now, they give off and fun and glamorous vibe with just a hint of retro! Those boots are definitely on my wishlist to pick up ASAP!


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Teen Dating Ideas | First Dates & Group Dates | Mesa, AZ

Teen Dating Ideas | First Dates & Group Dates | Mesa, AZ

Fun Date Ideas for Teens

Hey guys!

High school is such a fun time to meet new people and go on some fun dates! When I was in high school, I mainly went on group dates which was a great way to get to know someone without the pressure of it just being just you and your date. Whether you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, or maybe you just like to date around to get to know people, here are six fun date ideas!

  • Photo scavenger hunt

This one is so fun! The idea is to do this with a group of other dates. It could be with one other couple or multiple other couples. Someone prints out a list of items and/or tasks you have to do with your date (when I did this, we did this at a mall, but you could also go to a park or neighborhood) and set a time limit of an hour or so. You have to go around with your date and check off as many things on the list as you can, making sure you take a picture with you two in the picture. Bonus points for coming back with items like a business card or a sample of chocolate! At the end, get together with all the dates, and see how many items you got checked off the list and laugh at the funny pictures! Another fun idea is to bring a small item like a toy doll or dinosaur and make it a rule that the item has to be in all the pictures. (Here’s a website for some more ideas:

  • Progressive dinner

Another fun group date idea is to have a progressive dinner. This is how it works: each couple has to make a certain dish for dinner at one of their houses. For example, one date might make an appetizer, another date makes the main dish, and another date makes dessert. Each couple makes the food at one of their houses, and when everyone is done, they go to each house to eat each course. This is a fun way to bond and get to know your date, and then eat some yummy food! What’s better than that?

  • Swim party

Here in Arizona, being able to swim or hot tub is a year-round possibility. One idea when it’s hot outside is to have a swim party. Whether it’s just you and your significant other or a group of other dates, grab your suits and bring some snacks and swim! This is a fun idea to just talk with your date, get to know them, and have some fun outside.

  • Ice skating

On the contrary, another fun idea is to go ice skating. Most cities have an indoor ice skating rink, or if you live in a cooler climate you could find an outdoor rink. Grab your coats, scarves, gloves, and several pairs of socks and have some fun at the rink! Once you get in the groove of skating, you could try having a race with your date or another couple on who can get around the rink the fastest. This is a fun idea because not only do you get some exercise, but if you’re lucky, some hand-holding action may be in order. 😉

  • Blindfolded makeovers

A fun activity you may do with friends could be even more fun with a date! Grab some makeup and a blindfold of some sort and do blindfolded makeovers. One person puts the blindfold on, and has to feel around for the makeup and put it on their date’s face! Try to do fun things like winged eyeliner, a perfect contour, or master lip liner. Bonus points for posting before-and-after pictures on social media!

  • Fort and movie

Finally, this cute idea will fill your hearts with joy! Channel your inner child and make a fort in the living room with your date or with a group of dates. While making the fort, maybe you want to talk about some of your favorite

Mesa Senior Photographer Girl wearing Minnie Mouse outfit

Disney movies are always a good choice!

childhood memories and get to know your date that way. Make the fort good- add a bunch of blankets and pillows to make it cozy. Pop some popcorn, bring some candy, and watch a fun movie with your date!

Dating can be so fun, and a great way to get to know someone. Whether single dating is your thing, or you’re more comfortable with group dates, I hope these ideas gave you some inspiration for your next date!

Favorite Shows To Binge On Netflix | Phoenix Senior Photographer

Favorite Shows To Binge On Netflix | Phoenix Senior Photographer

Looking for a good show to binge on Netflix?  Check some of these out!


  • Friends

Ah yes, the instant classic everyone loves! It’s always my go to when I want to binge a good classic. Friends ran from September of 1994 to May of 2004, almost exactly ten years! It’s a fun 90s sitcom that revolves around a group of 6 friends and the adventures (sometimes drama-filled) they go through in life. Not only is it extremely funny, it’s also got deep moments that make you happy for the friends you have (that are basically family). Also, who doesn’t love looking back at the fashion, makeup, and hairstyles that were all the rage in the nineties! It’s got 10 seasons and around 20 episodes each season, perfect for those weekends you don’t want to leave the bed … or the couch! This show is a nostalgic gold mine!

  • Leverage

Personally, I’ve binged this show more than I can say! In fact, I’ve got it on right now! Leverage is definitely one of those shows that were gone too soon. It ran from December of 2008 to December of 2012. Leverage is a show about a gang of thieves who turn into good guys and take down corporate villains to help out the citizens they wronged. Every cast member has a specific role to play: a mastermind, a hitter (the muscle), a hacker, a grifter (professional liar), and a professional thief! The show has 5 seasons and each season has around 15 episodes. The show itself is full of excitement, action, and heartfelt moments. I definitely recommend this show it’s witty, exciting and very feel good!

  • The Good Place

This show is adorable and funny! It’s got some of my favorite actors in it too! This show started just last year and is now starting its second season. It’s centered around a girl (Eleanor) who dies and is accidentally placed in heaven, or as this show calls it “The Good Place”. The show has 13 episodes in this season, it shows what happens when someone is misplaced by the crazy things that happen there. Throughout the first season, Eleanor tries to become a good person to stop the horrible and crazy things that are happening in “The Good Place”. The ending of the season has a crazy plot twist that will make you want to see what happens next! The show is cute, funny and adorable, they also make it appropriate for all ages to enjoy!  

  • Gilmore Girls

My mom is my best friend, which is why I love this show so much! I used to watch it with her all the time. It aired from October 2000 to May 2007. The show stars a single mom (Lorelai Gilmore) and her daughter (Rory Gilmore) and a host of other family and friends. The main idea of the show is about dealing with the changes of life being a single parent and a child of one. It’s a very female positive show with great witty writing and lots of heartfelt advice. It shows the changes women go through in life and how to overcome them. The show has 8 seasons and recently came back for a short ninth season! Each season has This show is a great feel-good series that really makes you happy for your and other friends and family you have. A great one to binge if you want to laugh, feel good, and cry (of happiness and sadness).

  • Bones

This show has everything! Crime, comedy, and love…  The show itself is about a group of forensic anthropologist and an FBI agent that teams up with the anthropology to help solve cases. Aside from the usual crimes that happen in crime TV shows this one is different. From their unique and funny interns to the close friendships and relationships that blossom during the show; the main characters themselves are what make the show stand out. They’re all different in their own way and work seamlessly (most of the time) together to bring criminals to justice. The character development is astounding and fun to watch. The show ran from September of 2005 to January of 2017. They’ve got 12 seasons and each season has got around 10 to 20 episodes so there’s a lot to watch! Definitely a good one to binge!

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