March Meeting Wrap-up! Upcoming Workshops & Meetups in April & May!

Hi Mamas,

Lots to post about today because there is just so much going on! We had a great meeting with guest speaker Della Chen, who inspired us with her unique documentary-style imagery. This month’s assignment and my meeting notes will be at the end of the post! But first here are some important dates for your calendars:


Next Meetup! April 22nd, 6:30 pm at Mosaic Coffeehouse:  Guest speaker Jessica Peterson presents on “Baby’s First Days.” She’ll discuss her tips of how she gets those special newborn photos right when the baby is born (either in a home or hospital environment), and early setups and poses that you can do whether you are photographing a friend’s newborn or your own!

May Workshops!  


Did you buy a digital SLR camera but have no idea how to use it outside of the automatic setting? Does the idea of reading an instruction manual make you nauseous? Are you interested in taking amazing pictures of your kids, but feel a bit intimidated by the technology behind your camera?

Give yourself a Mother’s Day Weekend treat! With an investment of just a few short hours, we’ll get you grounded in the basic definitions and controls on your digital SLR camera so that your photos of your child’s big milestones can be as beautiful and moving as the moments themselves.


If you have thousands of digital pictures that have never been seen outside your computer, this is the workshop for you! Learn how to use Blurb to make beautiful, compelling photo books that will engage and delight your family and friends, and preserve your most beautiful photos! In this hands-on workshop, you’ll be guided on how to gather photos beforehand and make real progress towards finishing a book that you’ll treasure.


Inspired by Della Chen’s talk, our photo assignment this month is to share 3-5 printed images at the next meeting from “A Day in the Life” of your child(ren). The guidelines of the assignment:

1. Pick an “ordinary” day to tote around your camera with you- the goal will be to capture pictures that capture daily rituals like getting dressed, eating breakfast, playing in the yard etc. Cull down to your favorite 3-5 prints to share with the group at our April Meetup.

2. Extra challenge: if you are up for it, go to Glazers or and rent yourself a lens that is wider than the lens you currently use- so if you are currently shooting with a 50mm portrait lens, try renting a 24mm f/1.4, or a 24-70mm f/2.8. The wider angle helps to get more of the surrounding environment and contributes to the documentary feel of the photos.

3. Extra EXTRA challenge: if you really love the idea of this assignment, Della advises that a great thing to do would be to actually trade a few hours with a fellow Mama With Camera and take turns documenting each other’s quiet (or crazy!) moments!




During last week’s presentation Della shared many of her professional and personal images and answered lots of questions from the group. Below are my notes that I took as she was speaking- because of the nature of the Q&A we skipped around a lot so there are many different categories!


Della Chen Notes

-Worked at a newspaper for 5 years, has a documentary background. Doesn’t tell people to smile or pose, doesn’t work in a studio. She shoots wedding in a journalistic setting. She does documentary- “day in the life” sessions with families. Life changes so fast, your Saturday afternoon will look different in a year than it does now.

-She does families, weddings, editorial and commercial work. The documentary/editorial style is very specific.

-She is a fly on the wall, steps in when she needs to get close.

-Working as a journalist, you learn to be prepared at all times.

-Always looking for good light, good texture.

-Likes to crop in squares.

-Shoots at people’s homes. Beaches & parks are ok, but if they’re  not part of your routine, doesn’t make sense.

-Tends to do more black and white than color.

 What’s in Della’s Camera Bag?

-shoots with Canon 5D Mark II

-24mm/f/1.4 and 50mm/f/1.2


Shoots very wide which means that she gets very close to her subjects

-When shooting wide, set settings, go in and frame the shot, then take picture quickly.

-Typical settings- portrait f/2.8 or lower. f/8 for big room


Doesn’t use a flash for family shoots, only for wedding receptions

-Shifting from photographer to “mom”. In Mom mode, Della has snacks. She always keeps a camera in the kitchen, with 24mm f/1.4 on the camera.

-Likes to shoot very low, gets on the ground, lays on belly

-Shoots a lot of “hail marys” (not looking through view finder)


Q: Are there problems with distortion on 24mm? A: No, no distortion, at least not on the Canons.


-All done in lightroom. Very little in photoshop. Just dust removal/burning & dodging. Uses Visco filters.


Most of the time, moments “in between” are her favorites. Usually the ones you don’t mean to take.

-Asks her clients: What kinds of activities are happening in your life? Soccer game? When are naps?  Go with the flow. Be aware of what people are feeling. Little bit of planning and a lot of playing by ear.

-5 hours of shooting in a “day in the life” session= 2000 images. Edits down to 300. Presents a slideshow of 70.

-Uses a shower cap to protect equipment in the rain.

-She shoots in manual all the time.


-In houses with low light- open all shades, shoot at ISO 3200, convert to b&w


-How long does she spend in post-processing? For a 1 hr shoot, 45 mins. Use key system where she stars, she batches and adds the metadata in bridge. Doesn’t do a lot of effects, usually basic b&w.

Dressing for shoots: recommends against thin  stripes. No matching outfits (white shirts, khakis) For babies, just diapers.

Her style has improved with digital. She takes more risks. Shoots a lot.

Advice: the more you shoot, the better you get. Weddings=lots of frames, many scenarios.

Tries to shoot everyday, at least with phone.

Advice on editing? Tough to edit our own kids.  Too much of the same scenario dilutes the impact of the image. Biggest pet peeves= 15 images of the same scenario on a blog. Dilutes impact of the moment.

Keeping things fresh with kids= sometimes changing lens helps. Changing perspective.

Focal point, uses single point focus. Focus/recompose.

Documentary style- have to anticipate what happens next, have to move around a lot more than if you were just a straight shooter, have to listen a lot, be in tune with what’s happening. Rolls on the floor a lot.

Family/wedding/editorial/commercial is all similar. Do the same kind of lifestyle/storytelling. Doesn’t want commercial work to look different than portrait work.  Doesn’t work with lights. Heavy lighting=not the right job.

 -Sunny 16 rule= set aperture at f/16 and double your ISO to determine shutter speed (if ISO is 100, then shutter=1/200)

-When shooting subjects with glasses- adjust so sun isn’t hitting the glasses.

-Lightroom actions= VISCO supply company.  Presets mimic what film looked like. Adds grain, different hues. Favorite is Canon triX 400: adds grain, very contrasty.

-In the winter, she mentors for youth in focus, after school program for kids, all manual, all film, develop own prints.

-For prints- locally uses Moon Photo and Panda Lab- down in Mercer. For clients, uses White House Custom Color. Large exhibition prints= Moon Photo .

-Favorite place for camera maintenance= sometimes Camera Techs in Ballard. Became a member of Canon and sends in camera for regular maintenance.

-How do you keep things challenging? Does 10 x weddings a year, 50 portraits, 10 family documentaries, works with Redfin Real estate.

– Uses external drive that automatically backs up to another external drive, then online at


Who inspires her?

Wedding work= Wi Wynn (photojournalistic wedding) Anna Cuperberg (SFO) Jenny Jimenez (photo JJ) Sergio Matola (19 years old-very talented) Group in CA called Images Found- interesting, creative portraits. Not documentary style but artsy.


We look forward to seeing everyone next month!