Thursday, April 14, 2011

Picture Perfect: Photography Tips from Jessica Hills Photography

On past posts I have repeatedly mentioned my friend Jess from A Few of My Favorite Things, and today is no exception. I think it's time you a little more about her. I've known Jess, or Jessica if you wanna get fancy, since the summer before I got married when my then fiance, Tad and his best friend Trey were selling security systems in Seattle. Trey & Jess started dating and our fate as friends was sealed. :) Me on the left, Jess on the right
Tad on the left, Trey on the right

Jess manages her apartment complex, takes care of her adorable little girl Allie, and runs a Photography business. Not to mention her super popular blog & the Esty Shop she just opened. And she does it all looking beautiful!

Jess is my go to person for family pictures (although I will admit I don't like being on the front end of a camera lens). She's always so great about bringing her camera along with her whenever we get together. So today I asked her for some tips and advice for those of us who'd like to improve our picture taking. Whether you're looking just to get your pictures in focus, or you want to become a professional her advice is great!

I know I need the help!
Exibit A:
a picture I took at the zoo last summer......random peacock anyone?

So Jess, tell me....
Why and how did you get started in photography?

I got started with photography about 7 years ago. My first digital camera was a canon powershot and I have always loved those for point and shoot cameras. I still use a canon powershot when I don't want to lug around a big DSLR in my purse.

After owning my first digital camera I realized how much fun photography was and decided to slowly get into it. I bought a $200 camera (Kodak) that looked a little more professional and started doing free photo sessions that I would advertise on Craigslist. After getting more practice I started charging a very minimal amount to save up for a DSLR. Then I bought my Nikon D100 for $500, Nikor 50mm lens, then eventually my Nikon D90 that I am currently using.

For someone just starting out (whether for a professional reason or just for family pictures) I would definitely suggest saving up for a D90. It is definitely worth it. or, buy a used D100, D70, D80, D90 etc. on craigslist or For a starter lens, I would definitely go with a 50mm 1.8f. And never buy the cheaper lenses. They aren't worth it.

Are there classes you would recommend for beginners, or did you learn more from other means?

The first class I took was a beginner's course at Utah Valley University (after hours and not just for UVU students) It was taught by Rex Allen (owner of Allen's Camera) and it was on $35 for a 6 week course. It was definitely a good starting class for me. However, the classes that I would recommend for all starting and intermediate photographers is Nicole Hill's classes. She has a few different ones and they are all AMAZING. You will learn SO much and it is worth EVERY SINGLE penny. Here is the website with more info about those.

Do you have a favorite photo shoot?
My favorite shoots are always the ones that I have fun with, can relax while I'm there, have good lighting, and the pictures turn out really good. I have had a lot of favorite shoots, but the one that I can think of last is this one I did last November. The weather was a perfect 72 degrees, I had a gorgeous couple to work with, who I knew and could relax with, and the pictures turned out great. The second part of the shoot here.

My second favorite shoot recently was this one I did. I just love photographing couples and bridal/groom sessions are really fun. It was another gorgeous day and a gorgeous location in the foothills of the mountains. Plus, I had my MIL there helping out, which is always a lot less stressful and makes the shoot MUCH easier.

What's your favorite thing about doing photography?

My favorite thing ever is when I can show someone how beautiful they really are. When I see them look at their pictures and they are surprised at how good they look. I love to see the confidence that a good picture can give someone. My favorite part of a shoot is when I come home and put all the pictures on the computer. It's like opening a present to see all the pictures on the big screen and adjust them just how I want them; especially when they turn out even better than I thought they would, and when I captured it just how I wanted to.

What's your least favorite thing about doing photography?

Bad weather, difficult children, and stressful shoots that don't go as well as I was hoping.

What are some tips you'd give us amateurs who'd just like to know how to take better pictures?

Hmmm. There are so many tips I don't know where to start. First of all, try to keep your backgrounds as simple as possible. Try to shoot in the best lighting available (no direct sunlight, 1 hour around sunrise or before sunset, and in shade) Make sure the eyes of your subject are in focus. Use the white balance settings on your camera so the coloring looks good. You can read more about some of these tips here.

I hope that this helps and please feel free to email me any specific questions about photography! You can see more of my work on my photoblog.

Thanks Jess for taking the time to share your tips with us!
Everyone be sure to check out her:
Photography Blog
Etsy Shop
A Few of My Favorite Things


  1. Ahhh you are too nice Candice! So glad that our husbands are best friends so we could be friends too! :)

  2. Seriously! I don't know what I would have done without you!

  3. Candice, I love your blog! I am glad I found it through Jessica's!

    Jess, I love all of these tips. I have really been researching cameras and photography lately and this helps me out. I was planning on starting Nicole's Photo 101 class starting in May, if I can get a camera in time. Loved this post! Thank you!

  4. I bought my husband a fancy-dancy camera and now I'm the one 'using' it...busy soaking up any and all photography tips - thanks! Will check out Nicole's class too!

  5. Thanks for sharing, this is fantastic. I linked you today to my blog - I posted about blogging & photography and this post had to go in there too!!

  6. Found this post through Heather and enjoyed it! I feel like that when I open a big batch of photos...a giant surprise present!! Jessica's bridal photos are especially beautiful!



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