Lessons in Photography

Three basic lessons in photography for shooting in RAW, using Flickr and sizing images correctly.

This is going to be a post where you walk away doing one of three things:

1. Thinking I’m a complete idiot for not knowing this stuff before.

2. Not caring in the slightest because you don’t have a blog or take a million pictures on a daily basis.

3. Picking up your jaw from the floor now that you realize how easy and simple some of these things are that you had no clue about or were doing incorrectly before.

I’m hoping there’s at least a handful of you that fall into #3. If so, this will be worth it.

Last week, I had some major breakthroughs on some incredibly basic stuff that completely changed parts of my photography process and I figured if I was dumb enough to not know this stuff before, maybe there’s some others out there too (wishful thinking at least to make myself feel better) that could benefit from this.


Let’s start with some basics, because I get this question on a somewhat regular basis.

I shoot with a Canon T3. I use the stock 18-55mm lens that came with it. That’s it. I don’t have a tripod, I don’t have a macro lens. I have the most entry level DSLR Canon makes. Simple, basic, and it works. I shoot every food picture you see on here in full manual mode. I had no idea how to use a DSLR before June when I got the camera. I taught myself in about 2 weeks through a ridiculous amount of trial and error and reading lots of posts and blogs on photography.

Ok, ready?

1. If you have a Canon DSLR in the original package and DVDs that came with it, you can shoot and edit a RAW image.

Um, hello? This was earthshattering news to me!!

I’ve literally been pining for Lightroom or some sort of editing software for months now, thinking it was the only way I would be able to shoot in RAW. I was previously shooting everything in L, but the editing process never really looked great because it was an already “formed” image, whereas in RAW, the picture is still “in pieces” if you will, and editing comes out much crisper (that’s an incredibly basic and dummied down explanation).

Canon actually gives you their own software on the Solution Disk DVD that came with the camera for editing photos in RAW. It’s called Digital Photo Professional. It’s no Lightroom, it’s basic, but it works and hey, it’s free!

The pictures from my last two posts of the dough balls and the parsnip puree were both edited from a RAW image and then converted to jpegs. I used Digital Photo Professional to do some exposure, saturation and sharpness tweaking, converted them to jpegs and then cropped them in Windows Live Photo Gallery.

2. Resizing from a smaller image to a larger image = BAD.

I can’t take credit for this realization at all. I owe this completely to Kat, my IT savior (and friend) who has basically taught me anything I know tech related. Here’s a glimpse into my psychoticness through our text message exchange the other night.

text 1

(There’s about 15 other texts from me not showing in this screen shot, haha)

Moral of the story? ALWAYS SIZE DOWN AN IMAGE.

For the past 7 months, I’ve been shooting in L (usually resulting in about a 4-5mb image), resizing it to a much smaller size, editing it and then uploading it into my posts and having to size it back up to fit my content area here on the blog. And here I was wondering why the hell my images always looked so much more grainy than they did on my camera! Someone hit me for being so dumb. Seriously.

Here’s the difference.

Image #1, how I used to do it, resizing up (bad, bad Gina):

parsnip puree 2 (800x562)

Image #2, sized down from Flickr (which we’ll get to below):

parsnip puree 2 (800x562)

Admittedly, this is not the easiest picture to see the difference given the nature of a puree, but look at the parsley and some of the “peaks” of the puree. The first one is definitely more fuzzy and grainy.

Here’s another (probably better) example:

Image #1, old way:

dough balls 3

Image #2, right way:

dough balls 3

See the definition in the chia seeds and chocolate chips? I also noticed that both image #1’s look darker. I guess that’s another effect of sizing up. No bueno.

And this brings me to my last point,

3. Flickr is an amazing resource, use it.

Kat has told me numerous times how she uses Flickr to store all her pictures and then inserts them to her posts from there. I knew many others did this too from hovering over pictures on their blogs and seeing “so an so on Flickr” as the description. I just never understood what the point was! It seemed like another unnecessary step. Why not just download from the camera and put it right into your post that way?

Two reasons:

-If you buy the PRO account (for what amounts to $2/mo) you have unlimited storage. No worrying about slowing your computer down with large files or transferring to an external device. The free account gives you 300mb of uploads a month. That will only last me 9-10 blog posts with the amount and size of the pictures I take so, I’ll be upgrading soon.

-Flickr lets you upload the high quality, large sized image and then with one simple right click, you can resize it (down!) and insert it directly into your post, save it to your desktop, whatever.


Lesson over.

If you were a #1 or a #2’er, sorry. I hope you still come back tomorrow. If you were a #3’er, you’re welcome. No one ever has to know because you don’t have to be as stupid as me and admit your incompetence publicly.

PS- I am no pro by any means, if you think I’ve gotten something wrong here, feel free to let me know (nicely) in the comments.


If you’re a photographer, what are some of your best tips on anything from software to taking pictures to editing?


  1. says

    I actually found all of that useful! I don’t shoot in raw… I’ve never wanted to use up that much memory on my memory card or computer, but with this new massive camera/memory card I have now I think its time I give it a try. And I can defintely see the difference in those pictures.

  2. says

    nice post! I don’t shoot in RAW…YET. I’m getting my new camera on Wednesday and I’ve proposed that I’m going to shoot in L + RAW starting with that one and I’m doing a 365 project so I can improve my photography :) woohoo! we can accomplish together!

    • Running to the Kitchen says

      Yeah, I’m shooting in L+RAW right now too just to have both in case :) What kind of camera are you getting? You must have a DSLR now though right? you’re pics are always great!

      • says

        Thanks! Yes, I have a DSLR now but I just upgraded. I’m going from a XSI to a 60D on Wednesday (I’m anxiously waiting for it to get here!). I’m now wanting to get Lightroom 3 — ugh, so tempting especially since I just read Amanda’s post on Lightroom & Photoshop..

  3. says

    Ha, if I started to admit my own photography epiphanies, you’d surely laugh your way to a soiled seat, so you’re good. I never understood what Flickr really was (see??) but seeing as my computer has recently started to slow down, I’m all over it!

  4. says

    That’s the camera I got for Christmas. My pictures are still awful (going to read the manual this weekend), so I can appreciate any tips n’ tricks you care to share.

    Oh… and now I want dough balls.

    • Running to the Kitchen says

      Number 1 tip: turn off auto and play around for an hour or two. You’ll learn way more that way than reading anything. I’m toying with the idea of a basic photo post on how to shoot in manual but it makes me uncomfortable since I’m really no one to speak on the subject and there are so many others out there who know WAY more than me. Ashley (edibleperspective.com ) has some great photo 101 posts on her site.

  5. says

    Great resource. I have had a Canon DSLR for a couple months and yes, there is quite the learning curve. Shooting in RAW format is awesome as it allows you to do so much before it goes to a JPG or other format. I still have a lot to learn and I need to figure a way to get consistent good lighting inside.

  6. says

    Love this. I just got my first dslr last January and there are so many things to learn. I still feel like I just got my camera, haha. I’ve been wanting to jump on using RAW. I have a Nikon and they give free software too, although I haven’t looked into it, I’m sure I can edit RAW with it. I know it’s so much better – I’m just scared of the massive files :P I shouldn’t let that stop me!

  7. says

    I got a Sony DSLR for my birthday in September and I’m still learning how to use it! I def need a photography lesson, as well as some photo editing help :P

  8. says

    Oh this post is awesome and Im pressed for time but in my photograph section/tab, there are tons of posts about lightroom, all the food styling trips and workshops Ive taken and been on; food styling stuff, lighting, tripods, gears, lens and camera body reviews…I have quite a bit of info.

    That said, image sizing is SO tricky and convoluted sometimes. Most times. Sizing from the camera to lightroom back to the blog or back out to another source. It’s hard to know what size to take in, edit in, resize for export in, etc…and not everyone’s blogs use the same size pics based on how wide or narrow they have their center table, i.e. I can fit a 665 px width pic by design, some bloggers can only fit a 575. Doesn’t sound like much diff but it’s huge to the eye and if you size it wrong, the compression, the graininess, etc…can be noticeable.

    Also…doesnt matter what kind of camera or lens you have if your food is just…ugly. Ugly food that is poorly styled will still be ugly and poorly styled with a very expensive camera. It will simply be captured in better clarity and higher resolution. :)

    • Running to the Kitchen says

      To your last point…exactly. I laugh to myself when I hear about people buying thousand+ dollar cameras and exorbitant lenses yet they still shoot on auto modes. To some extent it’s not about the camera or lens. it’s about your capabilities. That’s not to say I don’t covet a macro lens right now ;)

  9. says

    Great blog! I got a Canon SX40HS for Christmas and I asked for the T3, but my husband said the guy at Best Buy said the SX40 would be easier for me to use without taking a class. You know mine came with a disc and I never opened it, I will do that when I get home from work tonight! Running late for work now, I am going to read your blog in more detail when I get to work, he he! Have a great day!

  10. says

    Oh man…so much information. All wonderful. I always thought Flickr was an unnecessary step too. Maybe not so much. I have had so little time to play with my camera I keep going back to the point and shoot. I am trying not to think about all of the time since October I have wasted having a cool camera and not using it.

  11. says

    I totally appreciate this! I had wondered about Flickr for a while and am now finding it very useful. Question though, I can only figure out how to enter one pic into my blog. I click share, wordpress, but then it just makes that picture a post and I cant figure out how to add them individually into my post. Any ideas or thoughts? Thanks so much for all these tips!!!

    • Running to the Kitchen says

      Hmm, I’m not totally sure what you’re referring to. I write my posts in Live Writer and then upload to WordPress. But, if you’re writing in WP itself you want to click on the upload/insert button on the top left when you want to insert a picture. That should let you insert multiple.

      • says

        Ahhh yes I was talking about uploading a pic directly from Flickr. When in Flickr there is a “share” option and you can send it to WP but it just posts it directly as a blog post. I hadn’t heard of Live Writer though so I’m gonna research that…sounds like it might be just what I am looking for! Thanks so much!

        • Running to the Kitchen says

          Ahh gotcha. If you’re in flickr and right click on the image, it should give you the option to view different sizes of that image. I click on 640 (since my content area is 565 in my blog), that will bring you to another version of the image, right click again and choose copy image url. I then paste that into my post. I use live writer though like I mentioned before where it gives me the option to insert a picture from the web and just paste that url into that area. Not sure how to do it in wordpress directly, but I assume it’s something similar. Hope that helps and isn’t just more confusing! And thanks for the comment on the about page :)

  12. says

    I’m a part-time pro photographer, and I run a bit of a weight loss/gain blog. I must say, however, that I really was impressed by the pictures you’ve taken, and now I know that it’s all been taken with the kit lens gives me a bit more courage to set up pictures better. I wish my kitchen were as photogenic as yours, though!


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