Project 365

Happy new year everyone! Just a quick post today about resolutions.

I know, I hate them too.

I don’t hate them actually. I hate myself for failing to keep them. And so, in turn, I hate them.

But there is one new years resolution that I actually kept, and so I always remember it fondly. In 2007, I made a resolution to take one picture every day and post it to my blog. That blog doesn’t exist anymore, but the pictures do and I’m so glad I have that record. It was hard, but I can honestly say that doing that 365 project was the single biggest thing that improved my photography, more than anything else. You know what they say about practice. Well it really is true.

Here are four of my favorite images from the beginning of my project.


Here are four of my favorites from the end of my project.


As you can see, not only did I learn about light and all that stuff, but I also decided what was important to me that I wanted to focus on photographing.  (my kids)  🙂

These days, it’s so much easier to do a 365 picture-a-day project with phones making it simple because you always have a camera ready at your disposal. This last year, I did a 365 project without even half trying using the free app called Project 365.


In fact, the iphone has made doing a picture a day so simple that I plan to keep doing it and I know it’s one resolution that will be easy to keep.

This is how I’m going to be doing 365 pictures in 2013:

I will be using the Project 365 app again because it’s so easy (and did I mention free?) and it keeps it all organized for you.

I will be doing the Project Life 365 challenge from Design Aglow. (@projectlife365 on instagram) They will give daily prompts and challenges, which can be helpful when you get in a rut with your pictures and are running low on inspiration. You simply add your photo on instagram and then add the hashtag #projectlife365 as well as the hashtag for the day. The first week of hashtags looks like this: #resolution, #you_today, #optimistic, #graceful, #view, #still_life, and #simplicity.  If you want to sign up for projectlife365, go here.

At the end of the year I will be putting together a book of my photos. I might use blurb again because they are affordable and easy and their quality is good. (I used them to print my photos from the 2007 project)  Or I might just try out a different album company I’ve never tried before. (any recommendations?)


If you want to join in, I’d love company! Follow me on instagram (@jodipfunder) and play along by tagging your daily picture #purdue365. I’m excited to see what you have to share!

13 is going to be a very lucky year. I can feel it.


UPDATE: When January 1st rolled around, I tried to re-use my project 365 app and realized that the only way to use it for a second year is to replace the photos I have in there from last year. So I looked around for a different app to use and found Collect: Photo a Day, which I actually like even more than Project 365!  Features I like about it: it is easy to use and keep photos organized, just like 365. But I like the look of it better because it keeps all the photos from one month on the screen together so you can see a whole month at once (personal preference; I just like that). Plus, it has the option of adding different albums, so you could do different 365 projects for different subjects (I might just do an album for each of my kids and have 365 portraits of each of them!) which means I can keep using this from one year to the next and just add a different album for each year. Also, the 365 app didn’t allow you to delete photos, just replace them (big complaint from a lot of users) and Collect allows you to delete. So, Collect is what I’m going to use in 2013 for my 365 iphone pictures.



Back to School Pictures

Back to school. You’ve bought a million school supplies, hunted down the exact right kind of notebook/pencil/whatever it is they need, washed enough clothes to at least get them through the first week, packed and re-packed their backpacks, planned out their school lunches, organized their lockers, talked to their teachers, and you finally get to that big day, the frantic exciting nauseating tearful day of back to school, and there’s one more thing you forgot but you can’t quite remember what it was… oh yeah. Pictures.

I am horrible at taking back to school pictures. I usually remember as I’m driving away from the school. It’s ironic, because I’m known at the school as “that lady with the camera” but I almost always forget to get out my camera and take pictures of the kids when they’re heading back to school. This year I looked through some of the ones I have taken, and I resolved to do better. And I’m going to share with you some pointers on how to take better back to school pictures…

Take some pictures with school-related things in the background to tell the story of that first day. The school bus, the school itself, books, backpacks, lunchboxes, students, etc. These will spark memories later on that you had forgotten. Some of my favorite pictures from the first day of school are ones where I can see the kids’ friends (and parents of friends, who became my friends) who we didn’t even know at the time, in the background of the picture. If you want to get some pictures that show the hustle and bustle of the day, try taking your kid’s picture with them in the middle of a sea of students. Two tips for this kind of picture: use a wide aperture, and turn it black and white.

Of course you have to get a shot of your kid all by himself. For this one, don’t overthink it. You just want to capture what they look like on this day.

You can also stand them in front of a plain wall/door/locker/whatever and then add text to the picture later to describe the details you want to remember. I’ve also done this where they hold a piece of paper or a chalkboard with this information written on it.

If you stand them next to the same thing each year (the front door of your house for instance) then you can see how they’ve grown from year to year. And I always love to stand them next to their teacher on the first and last day of class to see how they’ve grown and also to see how their relationship with their teacher has changed (they’re usually a little more awkward in the first picture and then all smiles and hugs in the last one).

Most importantly, just take a picture. Don’t overcomplicate it. Any picture you take will end up being among your favorite pictures because it captures a huge milestone and preserves that memory for you.

Happy back to school! Don’t cry until they’re out of sight.

Photo Friday: Lazy Days of Summer

Today marks the end of summer. It’s back to school and the old routine starts up all over again.

I wanted to get so much done this summer. I had a mile-long list of projects I wanted to accomplish, and of course photography had a list all its own. I can’t believe that summer is coming to a close and I still had so many things I wanted to do.

Here are some of the shots I did check off my list:

Mud fights


Blowing bubbles


Summer Foods


Adventure with the boys

Kite flying

Life at the lake

Fun with the hose

farm life

more adventures with the boys


If you’re one of those lucky ones that doesn’t go back to school the beginning of August, you can still get some of it done! Here are a few more ideas for those quintessential summer photos:

  • Bonfires
  • camping
  • fishing
  • a lemonade stand
  • drive-in movie
  • picnics
  • watermelon
  • fireworks
  • sidewalk chalk
  • fireflies
  • water balloons
  • a sandcastle
  • road trip
  • fun at a fair
  • sprinklers
  • parades

What was on your summer photo list? Did you get it all done?

5 Tips for Taking Pictures of Fireworks

I’ve discovered something about myself in recent years. I’m a wuss. I don’t think of myself that way, but every fourth of July I have to admit I’m a coward when the fireworks come out. I cringe and duck, I worry the whole time about burns, I watch every spark to see where it lands and if it’s going to start a fire, I struggle the whole time to not plug my ears and I am secretly glad when they are over.  I do not enjoy fireworks. But, I really really really enjoy taking pictures of them.  They combine all my favorite things in one picture: the joy and excitement of my children experiencing something memorable, family interactions as loved ones gather together, and interesting light that lets me get creative and experiment with settings.

When taking pictures of fireworks, you need to remember a few things:

1. Your light is constantly changing and you need to adapt to it. Chances are, you’ll start taking pictures at sunset or thereabouts and continue until it’s dark. In those twilight hours, or I should say minutes, the light changes so rapidly that you need to be constantly checking and adjusting your settings. You can simplify things by setting your dslr to shutter speed priority mode. The name for this mode will differ depending on your camera. It may show up on your dial as something with an S in it (mine is just “S” but my old camera was “SP” and I have seen other variations) and I think Canon uses something like TV. What this mode does is it allows you to choose your shutter speed, and then the camera chooses the best aperture to go with that in order to expose the shot. Remember, the longer the shutter is staying open, the more light it will let in and the more movement it will record, which usually results in blurry pictures so we try to avoid it. But with fireworks, a slow shutter speed can be desirable to show trails of light. (especially fun with sparklers)

Note that the shutter speed in the above picture is 3.0, not 1/30. That means the shutter is staying open for a whole 3 seconds, an eternity in photographing people. Remember to use a tripod or something stable to put your camera on so your own movement doesn’t add more blur to the picture.

2. Don’t forget the people watching the fireworks! Yes, fireworks are pretty, but how many pictures of fireworks do you honestly want to look at later on in life? Turn around and catch the expressions of the people watching the fireworks.

3. In photography, light is so important, it’s (almost) everything. When you’re taking pictures of fireworks, it’s generally pretty dark. You might be tempted to use your flash. Remember, the flash is only going to illuminate what is right in front of it so it’s not going to help light up the sky any better. It will light up the people on the ground. That can be great if that’s your goal, and if you want to experiment with off-camera flash you can come up with some amazing pictures of people with a fireworks background. But it won’t be helpful for pictures of just the fireworks themselves. To let in more light, go slower on your shutter speed (see tip #1). And even if you want to capture people, you don’t necessarily need a flash. The flash will change the light of the scene and it can ruin the whole mood of the moment. Look around and see where your light is coming from. Porch lights? Flashlights? Twilight? Don’t forget your main source of light, the fireworks themselves! They can actually be used to light your subjects’ faces, and they will give you an ever-changing, interesting light source that is so fun to play with. When the fireworks go off, the can light up an entire area that was dark a few seconds earlier.

4. A good way to catch both the fireworks and the people watching them is by doing a silhouette. When doing a silhouette, you’re exposing the fireworks correctly so the people end up completely dark. Just remember that if you want the people to show up, they have to be in front of a light background or else they will just blend right in to the the shadows.

5.  It’s not just your settings you can play with. Try playing with your focus as well and see what you come up with.

And of course I’m going to challenge you to get out and try this. You have a couple weeks to practice. So get some earplugs and have your fire extinguisher on hand, and don’t forget to share what you catch in our new flickr group! (if you don’t have a flickr account it’s easy and free to sign up)

Anyone want to guess what my shutter speed was in this picture? I’ll give you a hint: my ISO was 1250, my aperture was 1.4, it was after sunset and fairly dark.

Good luck, have a great Fourth, and I hope no one starts a forest fire!

Organizing Your Family Photos

This week, I went from this:

to this:

I’ve talked before about organizing your digital photos. This week I went through my photos that are already in print, some of them from way back in my film days. I don’t print very many pictures anymore (I prefer to just print them up in photo books) but I always like to have some on hand, because you never know when your kids will need a picture for a project at school or your daughter will want to scrapbook her trip to disneyland or something. Also, it’s just another way to back up your pictures. The more places you have your photos saved, the safer you are in preserving them.

If you’re looking at a pile that looks something like my “before” picture, here are a few steps to get your family photos organized:

  1. Organize your photos into piles, according to the people that are in the photos. I had five piles, one for each of my kids, and then one for family photos.
  2. Get some boxes like these photo boxes or these plastic ones (which will protect your photos a little better against water damage). Most of mine in the photo above are from Ikea, and while they are affordable, they are also very flimsy and I would not recommend them. I have some boxes that fit 4x6s and some bigger ones to fit my larger prints.
  3. Add some dividers to your photo boxes to keep your photos organized into the groups you’ve divided them into. I made some that look like an old ledger so that I can write down some of the highlight dates and quickly see what is in each section (first tooth lost, first haircut, etc). You can download that printable here: picture dividers.

    (it doesn’t have my name on the printable).

  4. Keep it simple. When you print new photos, just stick the photos into their appropriate sections, to the back of the section, and they should be in fairly chronological order.
  5. Don’t get overwhelmed. There’s that old saying: a year from now you will have wished you started today.  So go get started! Set up the structure for organization and then you have the tools to keep you organized. Start today and do a bit at a time.


Good luck in your organizing and let me know how it goes!

Mothers Day Photo Challenge

I put together a 50th anniversary photo album for my parents several years ago, and so I spent many many hours going through all their old pictures and organizing them by years. It amazed me, when I was done with the project, that I actually had pictures of my parents from each and every one of those fifty years. I commend my parents for that. I am only beginning to understand what an accomplishment that is.

These are two of my favorite pictures of my mother. I love these because they are not posed and they show her in an unguarded, real moment. I love seeing her within a context as well; I love the details of the time period that add so much to the story of the picture.

When I look through pictures from my own marriage, I can find several pictures of me early on, pictures of me and my husband, some family pictures with one child, but then past that… just a huge hole where there is absolutely no picture of me to be found. Years, where I virtually don’t even exist.

This bothers me.

There are two reasons for the lack of pictures:

  1. I became the photographer. Everyone began expecting me to take the pictures, so I was never actually in any of the pictures.
  2. I am a melting pot of insecurities, just like many of you. I hate pictures of myself, where I see nothing but my flaws. And so I avoid them.

I started out insecure about my looks. But then, over the years… I got fat. I got wrinkles. I got gray hairs. In short, life took its natural course and I was not the exception that we all subconsciously think we will be when we’re young and invulnerable. When I do see myself in a picture, I’m usually shocked to see all the changes that I haven’t approved. How unfair of life to leave its mark on me this way, for my sacrifices as a mother to be repaid with sagging, wrinkled, and dimpled body parts. This is not who I am; it is a temporary anomaly that I will soon rectify, if you just give me a minute to get myself together. Just give me some time to take care of myself, when I can go to the gym and make healthy dinners, get manicures and have my hair done, give me a few months off when I’m not running from soccer practice to basketball game to piano lessons to school volunteering, give me just a bit of time to myself and I’ll show you what I’m really supposed to look like. Wait until then, and then I’ll be in the pictures.

And yet, this is what I am, every day to my kids. This is temporary. The hair in a ponytail and the tummy rolls and the pants that look the same as my pajamas (as my 5-year-old told me the other day) and the stains from who knows which kid that gave me a hug and left a reminder on my shirt.  This is what they see, and guess what. They love this person. This is what they want to remember.  And I owe it to them to get over my insecurities and hang-ups, and get myself into some pictures. This is fleeting. And we’re both going to miss it.

The pictures below are of my grandmother and my aunt. I’m sure my mother was just on the other side of the table, doing the same thing. I remember this kitchen. I don’t remember de-feathering a chicken and preparing it, so I wish this picture showed something that we did often in this kitchen, like preparing hot milk toast or beets. You know what else I wish I had a picture of? Milking cows with my grandpa. I wish I had a picture that captured that quiet, dusty little corner of the barn and his three-legged stool and old Jersey munching on her hay as we milked her and sometimes talked. That’s something I did every day with him, and I love that memory. But we don’t think to take pictures of the everyday moments.

I have often admired those mothers who are skilled in the art of the self-portrait. There are some seriously talented women with either fast legs or a good remote. Me, I can never get the focus right and I’m too lazy to get out the tripod.  So, one day as I was pondering all of this and thinking about my burden of guilt, the thought occurred to me, I have a perfectly suitable photographer right here in front of me. So I took a picture of Elliot, and then I handed him the phone and told him to take a picture of me. Then the next day, I did the same thing with Aidan. (and I let him instruct me as to what to do in the picture, hence the weird pouty face, which he particularly enjoyed). Then the next day, I took a picture of my daughter while she took a picture of me. And, that simply, ended my pictureless non-existing state. And started a fun project with my kids, which I will continue to do.

As a photographer, I am always telling mothers that they need to have pictures of themselves, not for them but for their children and their grandchildren. I know you see all your imperfections in each picture you see of yourself; I understand this, believe me. But you’re not doing it for yourself. You’re doing it for your kids. Your children are going to want these pictures later. They’re going to cherish them. They don’t see your imperfections. They simply see you.

And so, I am issuing a challenge to all you mothers: get yourself into pictures, however you can, this week. Do a self-portrait, have your kids take a picture of you, have your husband take a picture of you, whatever it takes. If I can do it, you can do it! I have set up a new flickr group where you can share your photos as part of our photo challenges. You can start with this one, or you can also go back and do either of the first two challenges. And if you’re not on flickr, you should be. It’s packed full of inspiration. Check out these pics below to see what I mean.

One more thing… Happy mother’s day! Here’s wishing you many wonderful breakfasts in bed.

What light through yonder window breaks?

Wednesday morning. Got up early, made pancakes for the kids. Then took some pictures as they were slowly getting ready for school.

Then, later, I looked through some old photos and found these from several years back…

Apparently my love of dramatic window light has been going on for some time now.

If you want to join in, the steps are simple: begin by watching the early morning light as it first starts to spill through the windows and creep across the floor, drenching everything in its path in a kind of liminal magic. Take your time, just watch, as the light grows and finally changes from that early stream to a full flood. Next day: pick your favorite window in your house, and then your favorite person, and introduce them to each other. Now, watch again, but this time with your camera. Oh but first, you must make pancakes. (Trust me on this.)

Don’t be surprised if it makes people want to dance. Just go with it. Don’t clean up that clutter; that can wait until later. This is more important.



And until next week, think on this. What is the difference in the two pictures below? Meet me here next week and we’ll talk about it.

And if you have any questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them next time. Thanks for playing.

The details you’ll miss

April 2012

He has almost lost his toddler belly. The stains are getting a little smaller. And his curls are gone.

December 2007

This week, look around you, at your family, your loved ones, your kids, all the people in your life that make your life what it is and make you what you are. Look at the details. What is it about them that you will miss five years from now?

One of the most important reasons we take pictures is to capture details so we don’t forget them. And one of the things we need to learn as we become better photographers is how to see. How to see patterns, shapes, light, connections, action, stories, and we need to learn to really see the people around us. Take a good look at your five-year-old, your baby, your teenage daughter, your spouse, your mother, all the people you love that you want to keep. What is it about them, right now, that makes them uniquely them. Pick one detail, and then choose how you would capture that detail in a photo. Watch, watch, watch…

Now go catch it.