Photography Secrets for Shooting in Your Home

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I’m not sure what I ever did to annoy Mother Nature, but it seems to me that every time I finish a project and need to photograph it, the weather turns ugly. Case in point: my cake stand was completed the day the tornadoes ripped through North Carolina.

3" of water flooding our front walk after the tornado.

But, rather than be deterred by some nasty weather, I decided to use a few tricks I learned from some professional photographers I’ve worked with over the years. And, from a few photography blogs like: and and My3Boybarians.

One trick I learned was how to bounce the light back onto the subject. To light the underside of the cake stand, I set a mirror next to the cake stand and angled it to reflect the light onto the bottom of the stand. I was careful not to let a strong highlight hit on the stand from the reflection.

Next I used a foam core board propped up against a chair. I positioned the board back and forth until I saw the light brightening the cake stand and dessert.

With just those two changes I was able to change my cake stand photo from this:

to this! Va va vooom!

Another trick I use while shooting some of my tutorials is to use two pieces of foam core to get a professional looking white background.

Sometimes if I’m feeling very perfectionist, I’ll use Photoshop to edit my photos. To erase the seam, I selected a color that is midway between the foreground and background foam core.

Then, I used the airbrush tool to paint out the seams that stand out.

Sometimes I really want to photograph a still life in an environment. Take my spray-painted bottles for example:

Whoa, that is one dark and dreary photo. Once again, I had finished the project and the clouds rolled in. So, here is how I dealt with fickle Mother Nature.

I put the bottles in the window to capture as much natural light as I could. Then, I backed away from my subjects and zoomed in with my lens. Next, I used a flash (egads, not a flash!) Yes, I used a flash, but I have the ability to change the flash exposure in my camera so it wouldn’t wash out the subject. And because I was far back from the vases, the flash wasn’t as harsh.

And here is the resulting photo!

I wouldn’t say it is perfect by any standards, but the photos look much more appealing. Don’t you think?

(At the time that I took the above photos, I didn’t have this great flash gadget. However, recently I ordered a Light Scoop and I love how it bounces the flash off the ceiling instead of the object. This is an inexpensive alternative to buying an external flash.)

To head off the inevitable camera question: I currently use a Canon T1i Rebel (SLR). However, I before I bought the Rebel I used a simple point and shoot camera and made some edits in Photoshop to compensate for the cheaper camera.

First I select Auto Tone and if I’m happy with the changes PS made, I move on to the Auto Contrast.

To make the colors more vivid, I play with the Vibrancy and Saturation Settings:

Finally, to give the details that crisp focus look, I add the Sharpen filter:

There are oodles of other fixes that Photoshop can perform on your photos, but these are the ones I use the most.

Do you have any photography tips or tricks? I’d love to hear them.

My friend Megan (Honey We’re Home) has a great post all about using your SLR! Check it out HERE.

59 replies
  1. Mandi Werner
    Mandi Werner says:

    I cannot say thank you enough for this post! I really need more practice with photoshop and your hints will come in handy. Thanks again!

  2. Shell W.
    Shell W. says:

    This is always great to see in action & helps others to have better photos. Another cheap trick & time saver is to use a white poster board as the backdrop & then you don’t have to edit the seam later. Thanks again I really enjoy your blog!

  3. Sallie @ Texas Cottage
    Sallie @ Texas Cottage says:

    Thanks so much for your tips! As a new blogger, I have so much to learn. I love the way “old” bloggers are so willing to help the newbies.
    The foam core idea is so simple. One on those times you want to say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” The boards may help with the problem I have with my dark kitchen cabinets, black granite, and not enough natural light.
    Still in love with those bottles! I’ve been collecting a few to paint since I first saw your post.

  4. Ann W
    Ann W says:

    Well that sounds simple enough. I guess I won’t read those other posts. Could you give us a tip a week? thanks Ann

  5. Tati
    Tati says:

    GREAT photography tips! I too have a T1i so keep the tips coming – I’ve had it for over a year now and still most of the time use the auto mode because I’m clueless about camera settings (but my pictures are still miles better than my point-and-shoot!)!

    • Brittany (aka Pretty Handy Girl)
      Brittany (aka Pretty Handy Girl) says:

      Oh you definitely have to get off the auto mode. Try using the A mode for a while and play with the aperature. I like the lower aperatures settings (3-4) so the background it out of focus. This is an easy way to chose the aperature and let the camera choose the shutter speed for that F-stop.

      I will definitely have to blog about this more (just for you ;-).


      • Tati
        Tati says:

        Thanks so much for the reply and tip! I know, I feel stupid for spending what I did on this camera and not using it to its full potential. The problem is a little bit of laziness and a lot of lack of time and energy to try and “learn” photography – plus, I seem to have lost my retention ability thanks to chemo a couple of years ago.

        My daughters are 4.5 and 6 and I love to take pictures of them and lots of other things and would love to learn some tips that are not too involved but can make a drastic difference. I LOVE the pictures like you describe, with the blurred background! I get many like that in auto mode but it’s hit and miss. If you write a post with tips (for me!) I would be so grateful – and honored – YAY! I look forward to it…

  6. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    I was excited to see this on my blog feed today. My tight-budget kitchen re-do hasn’t been photographed and blogged yet because of the very problems you mention. Thanks!

  7. Latoya
    Latoya says:

    Whoa! What a difference! I found your site through twitter and I am glad I did. I really am looking for ways to improve my photography and these tips are great. Thanks a bunch!

  8. Lisa~
    Lisa~ says:

    Great tips. I have the same camera that you have and am enjoying learning new ways to improve my pictures. I’ve discovered a spot on my front porch that has great light, so I almost always take pictures out there. Inside is harder….I am going to try your ideas. I have used the mirror/foam core before and you are so right….it really helps. I have the hardest time getting shots of my dining room. The lighting is bad and the window adds really harsh light no mater what time of day. I’m heading over to Megan’s blog to learn more, thanks! Lisa~

  9. morganmadeit
    morganmadeit says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I live in Portland where it rains the majority of the year – we’re talking weeks of gray skies at a time. Any tips to brighten dark shots are awesome.

    I use the foam core background trick all of the time but I also found that a piece of white fabric or a big piece of white tag board draped over the foam core makes it so there is a seamless transition from vertical to horizontal background and saves a bit of editing time. A cheap light box has also been a life saver.

  10. ColleenwithMurals&More
    ColleenwithMurals&More says:

    Absolutely awesome, as always! Question: any ‘secret’ to lighting artwork? I don’t use flash (I have a point ‘n shoot Kodak) try to use natural light, but am wondering about foamcore/mirror trick for canvas. Have you tried it?

  11. laurie
    laurie says:

    …thanks for sharing these ideas on photography….no matter what you do your pictures look great…furthermore, I was in North Carolina as well visiting my sister when the tornados hit….s-c-a-r-y is all I can say. We were at the Museum of Natural History (or something similar)…my sister is in Jamestown. Keep up the great blog – thoroughly enjoying all your posts and hard work!!!

  12. Shelly
    Shelly says:

    If I may offer a tip (and please don’t use the photos on my site as a judge, I use my iPhone) for the “professional looking white background”, instead of using two foam coare pieces set together and photoshopping out the seam, use a large piece of white construction paper. Lean it up against the wall and allow it to curve on the floor. Same effect, no seam 🙂

  13. Linda Leyble
    Linda Leyble says:

    Hi – great tips. Thanks so much. I just got a Nikon DSLR and I have to lean how to use it better. A little nervous but – I will get over the fear.

    Meanwhile, your tips about the mirror and the foamcore are really great. And your PhotoShop tips – very understandable.

    Now, all I have to do is to learn how to use the dials on my camera!


  14. Ann
    Ann says:

    Thank you for the awesome tips! Possibly, one of the best blogs I have come across! I am new to photography and love the tricks you have shared! Keep on!

  15. Rasonda Clark
    Rasonda Clark says:

    ok, I know this is a year old but I have to ask what you think of your light scoop? Was thinking about ordering but wanted to see what you thought first. Also, did you order standard, warming, or both?

    • Brittany (aka Pretty Handy Girl)
      Brittany (aka Pretty Handy Girl) says:


      Yes, I like my light scoops a lot! I have both, but honestly I use the standard one 95% of the time ;0). A good investment. The only thing you need to be aware of is when you are shooting a portrait view (vertical) shot, you might have to bounce the light scoop off a light wall or foam board since it isn’t aimed at the ceiling. Does that make sense?

  16. Michelle@Faith, Trust & Pixie Dust
    [email protected], Trust & Pixie Dust says:

    Hi Brittany, Just stopping by to say how much I enjoyed meeting you at SNAP {yes, I am running a bit late – life . . . }. I loved your unassuming demeanor – even though you are a blogging celebrity. You did a great job on your presentation . I enjoyed it so much. AND thanks for this photo tip. I’ll give it a try!

    Warmly, Michelle

  17. Monika
    Monika says:

    Omj , not only you have amazing house projects which Ive been a fan of since I can remember but your tutorials are so well put and easily explained, even an amateur would understand. Thank you for taking pictures of your photoshop options, it’s so much easier seeing it, then reading where to find it. I’ll be back for more of your amazing ideas:)

  18. Laurie clarke
    Laurie clarke says:

    I don’t know you.. But I love you 🙂 soooo glad someone I follow on Pinterest pinned your DIY light box tutorial — and then I just kept clicking around your blog for the next hour. I think you may have just saved me about $900 with your photography advice! I’m shooting pics for an article in American Cake Decorating magazine and I was gonna go spend a huge amount of money… But this is sooo much better :-). #sugar dome

  19. Char
    Char says:

    I know this post is an older one…but it is just what i needed to learn. Thank you so much for the simple tips that seem to make a pretty big difference. Heading to get some foam board today and check my shed *read as hoarding area* for a mirror.

    Your newest reader, found you via Snap 2013 and so glad I did.

    Char @

  20. Roxanne
    Roxanne says:

    Brittany, thanks so much for posting this! It’s so frustrating to do a room makeover and have my point and shoot pictures not do it justice. The Photoshop tips were especially helpful!

  21. david
    david says:

    thanks very much for these! I’ve pinned the post and am eager to try them out (strangely enough it’s currently grey and rainy in usually sunny southern California so the timing is flawless!)

  22. Brenda Black
    Brenda Black says:

    Thank you so much for the great info. I also read your article on making a light box. Thanks for the tip about the CFL bulb.


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