Springtime Portraits and a Mini Photo Editing Tutorial

The weather has been amazing here the past few weeks. Our family has been enjoying lots of time outdoors…including a trip to the zoo over the weekend!
Last week, I decided to do an impromptu photoshoot with Hazel and Owen and these were some of the images I got of my beautiful babies…

My sweet Hazel…how she is growing up so fast. She will be 2 in less than two months!
and my adorable little Owen…getting so big…but he is definitely Mama’s little boy…
I am so in love with his sweet face.
And all of the days I get to spend with these two precious people. I am so blessed to be their mama 🙂
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Since the questions I get the most on my blog are about how I take and edit my photos, I thought I would share some of what I do. I would like to preface this by saying, I am completely self-taught when it comes to digital photography and Photoshop. I have been doing both for years now…but nothing ever formally. I kinda “make it up as I go along” if you know what I mean.
As for taking my photos, I use a Canon Rebel XSi and typically my favorite lens…the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L. It is really amazing but works the best for me in very good natural light. Otherwise a tripod is necessary, which I typically just don’t have the time or patience to get out and set-up (unless I am doing product shots for our Etsy shop).
I try never to turn the flash on unless it is really very low lighting and I just want the image for a memory (not a great photo). That is why great natural light is key. I use the manual settings, but I do use auto-focus! Saves a lot of time.
I also take a lot of shots. Lest you think all of my photos end up straight from the camera looking “glorious”…I typically can take about 50 photos in one setting and then only really love about 5. 
Not even kidding.
For the session above I took about 35 and only edited a handful. For editing I currently use Photoshop Elements (because I am too cheap to by full Photoshop! Although I have used it in the past a lot). I have found a niche with Paint the Moon and Florabella photo actions. I like to keep it simple and usually stick to just a few actions. Editing photos is sure a process and I don’t have a lot of free time. Currently I use Paint the Moon Picture Perfect and Florabella Luxe. 
Here is a before shot of Hazel (straight from the camera with no editing)…
for this photo I started with Pain the Moon Picture Perfect and used the “Brighten and Tone” action. Then “Vivid Eyes” to sharpen her pupils. After that I used “Sweet Prairie” but adjusted several of the settings till I got the look I wanted. For this image I hid “Extreme Vintage” and “Color Tweak” layers. I also went through some of the other layers slightly till it got to where I really loved it. And here is the after…
Here is one I took of Owen straight from the camera…
Since there were a lot of colors going on in this one…I wanted to tone it down. I began by using Paint the Moon Picture Perfect “Brighten and Tone” and “Vivid Eyes” again (I typically start with these for portraits). I also cleaned up some of the spots on his shirt and face with the healing brush tool.
Then I opened the Florabella Luxe action set and used “Black & White Mink”…but tweaked several of the layers to my liking as well as hiding a few…(you really just have to play around with them because each photo is so different!)
Here is the after…
Some of my other favorite actions to use (which were done on some of the other photos above) are Paint the Moon’s Picture Perfect “Velvet Retro” – I use this one often for photos here on my blog) as well as Florabella Luxe’s “Ruby” (another one I go to often). 
So there you have it…some of my secrets to photo editing 🙂 but if you have any further questions that I haven’t addressed here…please feel free to ask!
And here are the links to both of these action sets if they are of interest to you…both sites have tons of great actions!
Thank you to everyone who has updated their link to my blog since I have moved. I am so grateful to everyone who will follow me over here since I have decided to leave Typepad.
Till next time…
~Alice W.