What Is Shutter Speed?

Most digital cameras have automatic settings for action shots, portraits and other types of photos, but if you really want to take your photography to the next level, you need to use a manual setting. In this post, we teach you how to set your shutter speed.

What is Shutter Speed?

The shutter is like a curtain that opens when you take a picture — the term snap comes from the snap sound the shutter make. This opening allows light to flow through the lens and into the camera’s sensor (or film, if you still use it). Becoming familiar with how to use different speeds will let you to take a variety of captivating photos.

How to Set Shutter Speed on Your Camera

To set your shutter speed, adjust the setting that is often displayed as a single number or a fraction. These numbers tell you how long the shutter will stay open (for example, 1/250th of a second). With DSLR cameras, you can set the shutter speed and still let the camera automate the other settings through “shutter priority mode,” which is generally indicated by an S or TV on your camera.

When to Use Fast Settings

A short exposure time essentially freezes quick movement, such as a bird in flight or the action during a basketball game. With the faster speeds, you have to ensure that there is enough light or the picture will be underexposed. If the light is low, you can still use the fast settings, but you should use a wide aperture setting and a higher ISO, as well.

When to Use Slow Settings

Using a slower shutter speed can help you capture different types of lighting

A slow shutter speed adds motion blur to the photo and can give a sense of movement in the image. It’s the preferred way to capture images of certain fast-moving subjects, such as fireworks, and provides a clear depth-of-field for the stationary objects in the photo. When using slower speeds, a tripod is essential or the image could be ruined by camera shake.

What About Long Exposure Time?

Long shutter speeds are used for certain types of landscape shooting and pictures of the stars’ movement across the night sky. For these images, the exposure time can be anywhere from a quarter-minute to many hours. Usually, you would need special equipment to take pictures like that.

Getting familiar with shutter speed settings on your camera requires more than information; it also requires practice. It’s helpful to jot down your settings as you adjust them initially so you can become familiar with how each affects the final image. With just a little practice, you will be able to take professional quality photos you can use to decorate your home.

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Image source: Flickr

3 Tips for Making Your Photos More Professional

Taking a professional photo isn’t easy. Even for seasoned pros, it can take hours of shooting before they get a perfect picture. That being said, there are three main things that all professional photographers do that will significantly improve your photos.

When my daughter needed some quick headshots for a play she was auditioning for, we went out in the yard to take them. Ten minutes later, we had this professional photo.

1. Practice

As with any skill, the more you do it, the better you become at it. To continue to evolve as a photographer, you should do the following:

  • Take photos every day.
  • Have something specific in mind that you want to shoot.
  • Take photos of that subject in different locations.
  • Experiment with different settings on your camera until you know what all of them do.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get to know your camera. Even if it’s an inexpensive camera, knowing its features and settings will help you take better photos.

2. Plan

Every professional photo shoot is planned out long before the first click of the shutter button. For your own photo sessions, whether it be a family reunion or pictures for Christmas cards, you need to know where and when you’re shooting. Other things to consider include the following:

  • Lighting: Where will the natural light be, and how will it affect the shot you want to get? Do you need to bring artificial lights?
  • Backdrops: Do you need one, or will you use a natural setting?
  • Clothing: If you’re photographing people, do you want them to wear similar colors or does anything go?

Planning out the details ahead of time will make the whole process much smoother.

3. Get the Right Light

Photography is all about light; it is by far the most important element when you take any photograph. But you don’t have to run out and buy a bunch of studio strobes. Follow these tips to effectively light your shots:

  • Use existing lights: You can often just use the lights in the room you are in. Simply move them, shoot a test photo and then move them again until you like the results.
  • Use natural light: Consider going outside to shoot your photo. Natural light is always your friend, which is why you’ll see many portraits and headshots taken outdoors. I took this photo of my daughter against a neighbor’s fence in the afternoon light when she needed a headshot for an audition she was going to.
  • Use a reflector: If you’re not getting quite enough light on your subject, try reflecting the light on it. A piece of white poster board or paper is a perfect budget option.

Each of these tips will help you take more professional photos that will make great Prints for friends and family. Good luck, and happy shooting.

Share Life’s Happy,

C.C. Chapman

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Image source: C.C. Chapman

4 Great Photo Crafts for Grandparent Gifts

Grandparents really love photos that remind them of their family and friends. If you’re thinking of creating a gift for your grandparents, add something special by being creative and hands-on. Here are some ideas that will make great photo gifts.

A happy child with her grandparents

1. A New Twist on the Family Tree

If you really want to personalize your grandparent gifts, try a different approach to the traditional family tree. If you have children, help them paint a large tree with a branch for each family member. Instead of writing out all the names, you can create Prints of each relative. Use craft scissors to cut them out and place on your painted branches.

2. Handmade Frames

If you look around the home of any grandparent, photos of their past make up much of the decor. Family pictures are expected, so why not add a handmade frame to ensure your gift will stand out? Craft stores offer so many options for frames, and they’re generally easy for tiny hands to make and decorate. Smaller kids can try a popsicle stick frame decorated with glitter or beads; older kids can paint a simple wooden frame.

3. Handprints

If your children like to get messy, they’ll love this one. Let them cover their hands in water-based paint, then fill a large piece of paper with their brightly colored handprints. Scan these works of art and use the image file to create a Laminated Placemats that your grandparents can pull out and show off whenever friends visit.

4. Photo Book

Photo Books aren’t hard to make anymore, and Facebook isn’t the only place to post a cute family album. At Walgreens, you can easily create a Photo Book that tells a story your grandparent can keep and proudly share with the rest of the family. You can also include some artwork and letters from the kids.

You can’t go wrong with a little touch of the personal when creating visual grandparent photo gifts. They’re sure to love anything that reminds them of their grandchildren, but nothing compares to those extra details your kids add by hand.

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Shanell Mouland

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Image source: FreeImages.com

Dorm Room Decorating Ideas

Dorm move-in day is swiftly approaching. College students, you know what that means — the roommate who steals your food, those necessary communal-shower flip-flops and cinderblock walls that haven’t been repainted in a few, um, decades. While our “Snaps!” team can’t do much about your rogue roomie, we can help you cover those walls and freshen up your surroundings with our budget-friendly dorm room decorating tips.

Dorm Room Decorations

  • Buy an ornately framed vintage mirror from a thrift store and paint it with magnetic chalkboard paint. Use it as an artistic accent that’s also functional by exchanging notes with your roommate.
  • Customize your dorm-room bed with a Collage Fleece Blanket, which can accommodate up to 30 photos. Show your school spirit by choosing a background personalized with your school colors.
  • Elevate your dorm décor on a tight budget with Square Prints. Make a collage of Instagram photos using record frames, which fit up to nine 4×4 prints.
  • Is painting your walls against the rules? No problem. Buy a multipack of sticky notes and create a mosaic-like wall covering.
  • For interchangeable art, cut out magazine pictures or create 8×10 Prints and attach them to clipboards. Post a row of clipboards on nails or hooks on the wall. The back of the clipboard serves as a frame. Plus, you can reuse them as, you know, clipboards.

Got any dorm room design ideas of your own? Do tell!


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5 Photos to Take Before the Summer Ends


Hard to believe it, but summer’s winding down already. Before our thoughts turn to dreaded cooler temps, our “Snaps!” crew aims to spend every weekend minute soaking up the sun, putting our feet in the sand and feasting on picnic foods — and photographing all of it.

Here are our top five things to shoot before we bid adieu to summer 2014.

1. Photograph sand hearts
We don’t know who the genius is who discovered that hands holding sand turn into the shape of a heart, but we thank them. To set up this beach pic, cup your hands together and scrape up some sand; let your fingers relax — and voila! — a heart. For best results, put those lapping waves and the blue sky in the background.

Sand Heart Photography

2. Squeeze a landmark between your fingers
Whether your late-summer travel plans include a visit to the Eiffel Tower or to the Lucy the Elephant, this forced perspective trick never fails to get a laugh. Stage the shot by standing far enough away from a landmark that it fully fits in the camera’s frame. Ask a camera-wielding friend to shoot you, and when your fingers are open the right amount, it will look like you’ve got the monument in your hands.

Forced Perspective Photography

3. Capture sunbeams in your photo
When we think of summer, we imagine warm, streaming sunbeams. To capture that “ahh!” feeling in a photo, pose an object or person between you and the sun — the dark silhouette will show off the contrasting sunbeams. Then set your aperture to a high value such as f/16 or f/22. The higher the number, the smaller the aperture becomes and the more sparkling rays appear in your photograph.


4. Photograph writing with sparklers
If you have any leftover Fourth of July sparklers, grab a digital or film camera with adjustable shutter speed, a tripod and a friend. Put the camera on the tripod and set the shutter speed to about five seconds and shoot. Then have a friend write a cursive message in the air with a sparkler. It might take a few tries to ace this trick, but the resulting image will feature their words in glittery lights.

5. Shoot hot dog legs on the beach

The Hot-Dog Legs Tumblr was an awesome Internet sensation that swept 2013, but we’re still going to rock it as summer 2014 comes to a close. To emulate the Tumblr page — and entertain yourself on a leisurely day at the beach or pool —  take a pic of your legs, from thigh to bended knee, glistening in the sun. We’ve also seen it done at baseball games with two legitimate franks (or so we think).

Hot Dog Legs

Want to preserve your warm-weather memories? Print ‘em out on the go with Photo by Walgreens’ new Instagram features. Oh, summer, we miss you already.


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Turn Instagram Snaps Into Rustic Photo Blocks

They’re creative and cool, but they’re also cooped up inside your smartphone. Your best Instagram shots don’t have to stay digital. You can turn them into fabulous Square Prints to share with friends. And because the photos are square, they actually work perfectly on photo blocks. These frameless blocks of wood are a chic way to show off some of your best snaps. Here’s how to create a photo block using your favorite Instagram photos.

Create a photo block to display your Instagram photos

  1. Download the free Walgreens Mobile App to your smartphone. Click on the photo icon, connect your Instagram account and choose which pictures to print. The app will send the images to your favorite store, where you can pick up 4×4 or 8×8 Square Prints.
  2. Pick out wood blocks to use for this DIY project. You can find them at craft stores and big-box home improvement stores. To feature the 4×4 Square Prints, choose 5×5 blocks. For bigger prints, 10×10 blocks work best.
  3. Sand the front surface of each wooden block to rough up the wood. Next, add a layer of craft glue using an old paintbrush. Stick a photo to the middle of each block.
  4. Paint the back, sides and edges of the blocks. Pick a vibrant paint to coordinate with the colors in the images or the room in which you’ll display the photo blocks. Overlap some of the paint onto the edges of the pictures to give them a rustic, artsy feel. Let the blocks dry.
  5. Finish by painting the surfaces of the photos with Mod Podge to seal and protect the images. This glue-like substance appears white and cloudy during application but dries clear to make your picture visible again.

That’s all there is to it. You can make a crafty photo block to decorate a bookshelf, desk, child’s bedroom or even give as a gift. Have you been crafty with your Instagram snapshots lately? Comment below to tell us how you’ve been displaying your pictures.

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Angela Tague

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Image source: Angela Tague

3 Engagement Photo Poses That Will Make You Smile

Professional engagement photos are a popular modern trend that lets couples share the joy of the occasion with family and friends. The photos tend to be less formal than wedding pics, so it’s an opportunity to get creative and have some fun. Here are some tips on how to decide on the best engagement poses and photos for you and your other half.

Creative engagement poses can focus on more than a couple

1. Formal or Casual

Talk with your partner about what kind of photos you want. Would you prefer posed formal shots in a studio or a more casual shoot in an outdoor location?

Casual photos offer more variety, and you can really go for something different. They also open up a range of options for save-the-date Photo Cards. For these cards, you can think outside the box. The above image is a great example of a unique photo that shows a couple’s interests and personalities, yet still conveys the connection and love they feel.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from having a combination of formal and informal engagement pictures. The formal shots can be used in a newspaper announcement, and the less formal shots can be posted on social media and given to family.

2. Inside or Outside

Engagement poses in a studio setting are beautiful, but you can also consider having a photo shoot in your own living room, on your favorite sofa or even on a porch swing. Outdoor settings make for stunning shots. Visit a botanical garden where you can walk toward the camera among colorful spring blooms, or stroll through a park packed with bright fall foliage and leaves falling around you. Another idea is to revisit special places, such as the spot you first met or had your first date. Choose places that involve your shared interests as a couple.

3. Get Close

Couples photography is about showing the connection between two people. Don’t be afraid to get close: Hold hands, caress a cheek or walk arm in arm. For casual engagement poses, lie on your bellies side by side and prop your upper bodies up on your elbows. Another fun angle is to lie on your backs with your heads side by side and feet pointing in opposite directions. Have the photographer shoot you from above for a fresh twist.

Pick the poses and locations that best show your personality. Let loose, and it will shine through in your photos.

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Kristin Emery

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Five Tips for Taking the Best Sport Photos of Your Kids

There’s nothing more exciting than watching your child score a goal, hit a home run or stick that landing. Don’t miss the opportunity to capture the moment. Here are some tips to ensure you’re taking the best sport photos of your kids.

Keeps shooting to get that perfect sport photo.

1. Position Your Camera in the Best Spot

With so many spectators, and even other photographers, it can be hard to get the best pictures of your child, but a little preparation is key. Arrive early to stake out your spot. Talk with the officials and ask them the best place to stand without getting in the way. If the local newspaper photographer is there, where are they standing? Follow the pros to get a good angle.

2. Check Your Settings

Make sure you’re snapping your sport photos at the highest resolution and with proper light exposure. This is especially important if you plan to print out a Poster or hang up Enlargements of your child in action. If you aren’t that handy with your camera settings, not to worry. Today’s auto camera settings do a decent job of setting the lens exposure. If you’ve captured a great shot but with poor lighting, you can often correct it with photo editing software.

And be sure the camera battery is fully charged. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it’s not that hard to overlook. Bring an extra battery. You never know when that game will go into overtime or extra innings.

3. Use More Than One Camera

As a parent, it can be frustrating to take sport photos while watching your child at the same time. Set up a video camera on a tripod to record the action so you can focus on the still shots. Enlist the help of friends and other parents to take as many pictures as possible. More than one camera and angle means a better chance to catch that perfect shot at the perfect moment.

4. Try Something Different

Instead of the usual team photo of everyone standing straight on in a group, get creative! Pose all the gymnasts sitting on the balance beam or the swimmers on a diving platform. Get the water polo team to pose in a synchronized swimming shot — anything that really captures the vibrant personality of the team.

5. Don’t Stop Shooting

Keep taking pictures. You never know when you’ll capture a great sport photo. You’ll often have to sort through many blurry or off-center shots before you find the perfect one, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

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Karen Putz

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Image source: Flickr

Vacation Photo Tips: Don’t Leave Home Without These

If your last set of vacation photos put everyone to sleep when you tried to show them off, don’t worry. Follow these vacation photo tips and your friends and family won’t be able to get enough of your photos, no matter where your travels take you.

If you


Do Your Homework: If you’ve never been there, research your destination before you leave home. Locate some interesting spots to take photos, whether on or off the beaten track. Also, make sure you know your camera inside and out before you go — watching the sun sink below the horizon while trying to get a silhouette of the Eiffel Tower is not the time to discover you don’t know how to change your metering mode.

Avoid Postcard Shots: Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, anyone can buy a postcard of it and bring it home. Don’t take the same photo as thousands before you. Change it up; try different compositions and cropping. Make your own photos, don’t copy someone else’s.

Be a People Person: Include people in your pictures, whether they’re friends, family or candids of perfect strangers. The human element adds scale to landmarks and shows local color and custom.

Worth a Thousand Words: Try to take photos that weave together to tell the story of your vacation. Your friends and family should be able to figure out what you did on your travels without you having to spell it out for them. This kind of travelogue is perfect for making into Photo Books, too.

Skip the Selfies: Sure, it’s okay to put yourself in the photos to prove you were there. But rather than put yourself in every photo, try using a toy, stuffed animal or other object in your shots of famous and not-so-famous landmarks to put your personal touch on the image.

Travel Light: If you’re a DSLR shooter, pick one lens and use it all day instead of carrying your whole kit around — your back will thank you later. Worried you won’t have enough zoom? That’s what your feet are for.

Thanks for the Memory (Cards): Bring more storage than you think you need. Extra memory cards or a laptop or tablet to store your images will ensure that you won’t run out of space.

Avoid Power Outages: Don’t forget to bring your battery charger and a spare battery. Charge your batteries each night. Don’t miss a shot because you’re out of juice.

Know When to Say When: If you spend your whole vacation photographing, are you really relaxing and soaking in the experience? It’s okay to put the camera down for a while and enjoy what’s going on around you.

The best part about these vacation photo tips is that they work for any destination, from a safari to a visit to a theme park or a weekend camping trip. Now every vacation you take will be a photographic adventure.

Share Life’s Happy,

Andy Warycka

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Image source: Andy Warycka

Cute Photo Props for Babies

Cute Props for Babies

In the world of photography, there’s probably nothing cuter than baby photos. While the only thing you really need to snap amazing baby pics is a sweet subject, some natural lighting and a camera, there are a lot of ways to create unique images that you’ll cherish always.

Using cute props for your baby photos is a fun way to add a little something extra to your shoot. Here are a few simple ideas that are safe for baby and budget-friendly for parents:

Hats and Headwear

Make or buy knitted or crocheted baby hats to create a holiday-specific ambiance for your photos. For example, a red Santa hat works for Christmas, or a pumpkin hat for the fall. You can even find hats with animal ears, just because they’re adorable.


Search yard sales and thrift shops for vintage chairs, wagons or wooden crates for baby to curl up on. Drape a knit blanket or other fabric for comfort and style. Always be sure to have a pair of helping hands nearby as you snap your photos to ensure sure that baby is happy and safe.


You can create a cozy hammock for baby to cuddle up in for the photo shoot. Gauzy materials work wonderfully for this, and babies love to be snuggled up just like they’re in a sling. For safety, always have a pillow or other plush surface (you could do this right over a bed) underneath and a spotter on the side.


Hang a simple banner or bunting on the wall behind your little one. You can make or buy a paper or fabric bunting, which can be reused for party or bedroom décor later on.

Wooden Letters and Blocks

Search your local craft store or thrift shop for wooden letters to spell out baby’s name or another message. Arrange them around your little one for the photos.

There are lots of simple ways to create a special scene for your baby photos, including working on a budget or using things you already have around the house. Once you’ve edited your photos, you can even create a Photo Calendar or Photo Book to give as gifts to family and friends. Which prop are you most excited to try?

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Amy Bellgardt

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