Dec 25, 2011

Designing your own Christmas Card | Photography & Design Tips

Every year, we send out a huge stack Christmas cards. It's one of my favorite Christmas traditions, especially since we get to show off our little boy each year!

I've learned these tips for designing your own Christmas card:

Gather inspiration. Look at other card designs. It's fun to see what pro designers have put out there. You can get a lot of great ideas from these sites: and

Have your family pictures taken in the fall. (We've waited until November before, but it is tough to squeeze them in. Our general rule is to get pictures done around the first couple weeks of October.) This year, I asked a fellow photographer to trade shoots with me. I shot pictures of her family with her camera equipment, and vice versa. Since we both knew what we were doing as far as posing, clothing coordination, and settings, we each got great images to take home and edit ourselves. (Big plus for me!)

If you decide to go the tripod and timer route, don't expect more than one or two photos to turn out. Self-timer pictures can be done, but they take a long time, and kids tend to fade quickly with the tripod. From my experience, it is totally worth it to get a photographer to take your pictures.

Pick one to two of your favorite images to put on the card. I've seen cards with so many pictures, I can't tell which is the most important. A good rule of thumb is to keep one image dominant by making sure it is at least 3 times bigger than the other elements on the card. Of course, this rule may be broken if you are doing a series of pictures of the same size -- often in odd numbers. In that case, the set of images itself acts as the dominant element.

Keep text and fonts to a minimum. I really think the photo (or photos) should be the most important part of the card--after all, that's why you are sending it--people want to see you. As for fonts, I rarely use more than two font types in a design. If I'm using a fancy font for one piece of text, I'll use a plain one for the other. Good design needs contrast. If you have too many elements competing with each other, then the design is weak.

Get help designing if you need it. I design my card in Photoshop. But you don't have to have a professional design program to make a great card. If you are having your Christmas cards printed online, see if your vendor has an online design program. If you want to do something totally unique, contact me for custom designs or get help with an online/phone mentoring session.

Proofread! It's embarrassing to have misspellings or grammar mistakes in your card. Make sure to print up a sample and proofread. Better yet, have someone else look over the card. I hate to admit it, I've seen a few mistakes on Christmas cards I've received this year. Whoops!

Have the cards printed at a reputable printer. We print our cards at They offer great prices and are professional printers that color manage. If you get cards at a discount printer that does not color manage or use professional inks and paper, you'll probably be disappointed. It's not fun sending out a ton of cards that don't look right.

Save one or two for yourself! Your yearly Christmas card is a great piece of family history that you'll want to look back on every once and a while. I keep our old Christmas cards with our decorations so I can look at them every year. It's fun to see how our family has changed.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Dec 22, 2011

Giveaway winner

The workshop giveaway winner is: Molly!

Please contact me within 48 hours to claim your spot in one of my January 2012 Workshops. Thank you to all who participated!

If you didn't win, but entered the giveaway, you can get a $5.00 discount if you sign up for one of the workshops before Christmas 2011.

Dec 15, 2011

Workshop Giveaway! | Atlanta GA Photography Workshops

UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed. I'll announce the winner by noon on Thursday.

In honor of completing my Christmas shopping (well, almost), I'm doing a giveaway! Here's a chance to win a spot (for you or for a friend) in one of my upcoming workshops this January. I will be giving away one free admission to either the Basic Photography Workshop, the Intermediate Photography Workshop, or the Teen Basic Photography workshop in Alpharetta, GA. They are all hands-on, fun, and informative classes that will take your photography to the next level. Click here to read more about the workshops.

Here's how to enter the giveaway:

  1. Like Butler Family Photography on Facebook, and/or follow @marchetbutler on Twitter. Then, . . .
  2. Post about this giveaway on Facebook, and/or Tweet about it on Twitter. (Use the Tweet and FB Share buttons above.) Finally, . . .
  3. Post a comment below saying you entered the contest. Also, let me know which workshop (the Basic, Intermediate, or Teen) you would prefer. Yes, you can win for a friend!

You have until midnight (Eastern time) on Wednesday, December 21st to enter the contest. Only one entry per person allowed. One winner will be chosen randomly from the comments section below. The winner will be announced the following day. The winner must contact me within 48 hours or the workshop admission will be awarded to another giveaway participant.

Butler Family Photography has no association with any social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  Butler Family Photography reserves the right to remove entries due to irrelevant or inappropriate content.

Dec 14, 2011

Little Models | Alpharetta GA Children's Photography

As often as I can, I get out and take photos of my little guy and (as in this case) his friends that happen to be with us that day. I always love new faces to photograph, but in this case I had to work fast. Big brother wasn't as into taking pictures (2 minutes and he was done), but his little sister took my breath away. Seriously, I only took pictures of her for about 10 minutes, and look how gorgeous!

Love these portraits? Want to learn how I do what I do? I'm holding photography workshops in January for beginning and intermediate photographers. I even have a special workshop for teens. I still have several spots open, but hurry! I'm limiting enrollment to 6 per class. Click here to find out more.

Dec 1, 2011

Using Props | Roswell GA Children's Photographer

Lately, I've been using props in my shoots, especially with children. Something new like a hat (or hats Dad brought), blocks, or vintage telephone toy captures their interest and helps keep the smiles going through a whole shoot. Since these boys' parents especially wanted portraits of the boys together and alone, I stuffed my photo bag full of props and used them all through the portrait session. I think we got some amazing shots!

Nov 28, 2011

Buying your first DSLR | Atlanta GA Photography Teacher

So you are going to take the plunge and buy your first "big" camera. It's an exciting step, but there's so many choices out there, how to you decide what to buy? Here are my tips on buying your first DSLR.

Decide on a budget. Photography equipment is expensive and generally, the better the equipment, the more expensive. So, make sure you have a price point before looking. It will help narrow down your choices. I also like the website DPReview which helps you compare features of different cameras:

Don't sweat the features. Cameras nowadays are so filled with features, it makes it hard to decide what is important and what is not. I tend not to worry too much about them except for the number of focus points (more is better), the frames per second (again--the more the better), the megapixels (12 or more is great), and how far up the ISO goes (the greater the number, the better). I will also see if lenses I'm interested in are compatible with the camera body.

Buy a brand you recognize. Most semi-professional to professional photographers buy either Canon or Nikon. There are other brands out there, but I always go with something that will be around when I want to upgrade or add new lenses. It's a good idea to ask around and see what brand your friends have. Then, you can borrow equipment from them and visa versa. My aunt and I both own Nikons. It's been fun to work with her equipment whenever I visit. Once you've decided on a brand, you usually stick to it. Lenses and accessories are not interchangeable between different brands of cameras.

Be wary of "kit" lenses (and kits in general). Kits are bundles that often include the camera body, 1 or 2 lenses (also called "kit" or "stock" lenses), a bag, sometimes a DVD or other accessories all for one price. Usually the kit lenses aren't the greatest. They take okay pictures and are good for the beginner, but after a while, you realize that kit lenses don't give you that nice blurry background. Plus, they can't take nice pictures in low light (like indoors, at a gym, at twilight, etc.). Then again, it's nice to have a couple lenses that zoom and cover both close and far away objects, even if they don't do a great job in low light. I started out with a kit and it was good to start on, but I quickly learned I had to upgrade my lenses to get better pictures. I haven't used my kit lenses in years. (Oh, and I got rid of most of the other stuff in the kit too.)

Consider a prime lens. Most photographers will spend more on lenses than they will on camera bodies. Unfortunately, pro lenses are really pricey, but there are a few nice lenses that aren't that expensive and can be used to make wonderful pictures. These lenses fall in the prime lens category. That means they don't zoom; they just have one focal length. So, if you want to "zoom in" with a prime lens, you've got to move in closer to your subject. To "zoom out," you have to move backwards. That's the down side. The plus side is that you can make the lens opening open very wide to get those blurry backgrounds and to take pictures in low light. 

A great starter prime lens is the 50 mm f/1.8 lens. It's the first prime lens I bought. Other good prime lenses are the 85 mm f/1.8 (a telephoto lens) and the 35 f/1.8 mm (more of a wide-angle lens). I also have the 28 mm f/1.8 lens. Be aware that if you buy the Nikon prime lenses, the auto focus on certain prime lenses doesn't work with certain DSLRs, so double check the compatibility before you buy.

Try it out first. If you can borrow or rent the camera and lens you are interested in, then you'll know whether or not you really want to buy it. My favorite place to rent is Aperturent. I love their service and the quality of their equipment. If you are in Atlanta, you can pick up your orders locally! They also ship all over the country.

Learn your camera. Buying a DSLR is an investment, but it's not worth a lot if you don't learn how to use it. One of the first things I did when I was learning photography was to take a workshop. I also read (and still read) a ton of books, blogs, and websites about photography. I offer both photography workshops and lessons if you are in the Atlanta area. If you aren't, you may want to look into my online mentoring package

Marchet's DSLR Essentials List
If I were to put together my own kit, this is what I would choose for a beginning photographer. (It's also a great list if you are looking to buy a gift for someone who has the camera, but doesn't have all the necessary accessories.)

  • 1 DSLR camera body. (The body usually comes with the battery and battery charger.) 
  • 2 memory cards (I like the 8 and 16 GB cards the best.)
  • 1 lens cleaning cloth (like the one you get for eyeglasses) and cleaning solution (found in most camera cleaning kits)
  • Local camera shop like PPR Atlanta (The people are usually very knowledgeable and you can try out the camera in the store before you buy it.)

Favorite places to buy camera equipment
Once you've decided what to buy, you have to figure out where to buy. Sometimes you can get a deal by buying used equipment. I bought my first pro camera from another photographer, and it's been great. I also look at buying a older model to save money. My favorite spots to get camera gear are listed below. Most of them also have used equipment for sale that include a seller's warranty (something you won't get off of Craigslist).

Nov 24, 2011

Want to Learn Photography? | Atlanta GA Photography Workshops

I am pleased to announce a three Photo Workshops this January--two for adults, and one just for teens. This is perfect for a Christmas gift for that budding photographer in your family--especially if it's you. I'll even email you a certificate to print out if you decide to give it as a gift. Click here for more details.

Nov 18, 2011

Urban Family Portraits in the Cold | Roswell GA Family Photographer

I shoot either in the morning or the afternoon in order to take advantage of the best light. But it's chilly those times, and so I tell my clients to come prepared with warm outfits and coats/blankets to wrap in with in between shots. Such was the case with this shoot. The kids were such good sports, taking on and off coats, wrapping up in the old purple quilt I brought while I shot individual portraits, and jumping up in down to stay warm. The temporary discomfort paid off--we created some amazing portraits that I am super proud of!

Nov 14, 2011

The Photographer | Themed Children's Photography in Alpharetta GA

Lately, I've been itching to try themed shoots. The shoots on Reverie--a photography inspiration blog--just make me drool. I've also had an idea of putting together a calendar featuring my little guy in different themes for each month. Well, whether or not that gets done, I had fun coming up with a concept for a themed shoot for the fall. This is my first attempt with my son, who posed in clothing inspired by Ansel Adams, the famous photographer.  

I love how the above photograph mimics the feel of this one:

My boy tried to imitate Ansel Adams' beard with his hand!

Nov 11, 2011

Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents | Roswell GA Extended Family Photographer

Every once and a while, I feel like I'm the recipient of miracles -- like the weather for this extended family shoot a couple weeks ago. All week, the weather had been beautiful, but the forecast for Friday (our day of the shoot) was predicted rainy; it fluctuated from a 30% to a 100% chance of rain. We ended up making tentative for a Saturday shoot if we were rained out--though I was running a half marathon Saturday morning and we would have had to be in a separate location that afternoon.

Then, Friday came. The weather was holding, but I knew it would be pushing our luck if we waited until our originally planned time. So, on very short notice, everyone dressed in their coordinating clothes, and I found a babysitter who could take my son at the last minute. We did the shoot. It was a lot of people, a lot of kids. But it worked. And just as I was finishing up the last portrait, we felt the first raindrops falling down. I'm so grateful the heavens held back enough for us to capture these family pictures.

And yes, I did run the next morning, all 13.1 miles. What a weekend for blessings!


Nov 7, 2011

Photog in the Fall | Milton GA Headshot Photographer

After my own family's photo shoot with fellow photographer Stacey Johnson, I couldn't help taking over with the camera for a few more photos -- of the photographer. "I want to put these on my Facebook page, so I can show my friends, 'See. It's fall!' " There you go Stacey! Love ya girl.

Oh, and scroll down, you'll see a sneak peek from my family's shoot. Stacey shot the photos with my equipment, and I took the images home to edit! Just the way any photographer would like it.

Oct 31, 2011

My Halloween Knight

I have learned that it's best to take Halloween costume pictures before Halloween. And all the better if a little friend in a fairy princess costume will pose with your little knight. Happy trick-or-treating everyone!

Oct 22, 2011

Family Portraits in the Old Town | Marietta GA Family Photographer

I love, love, love old places like historic Marietta where we shot these photos last week. Although I have a great fondness indoor photography, my heart really belongs to these great location shoots. After I came home from the shoot, I told my husband how much I was in my element.

Today, though, I was on the other side of the camera. A good friend and fellow photographer Stacey took my family's photos, and it was a good reminder how it feels to be the subject. The shoot itself was awesome, but beforehand, I had major trepidation about our clothes, even though I know very well how to put together attire for a shoot. Then there was the hair, the makeup, and worrying that the location I had chosen wouldn't work out. Well, it all came together, just like last week's shoot did. But after today, I have a new appreciation for my clients! It's definitely worth it though. When you're all done, you have amazing family portraits like these!

Oct 20, 2011

Three Boys and a Baby | Atlanta GA Children's Photographer

I showed a friend this picture as I was editing today, and she said, "Somebody finally got their girl." They sure did! I remember how excited mom and grandma (both close friends) were for another female in the family.

For this shoot, we did an indoor setup with a background and a photo light I recently got from my dad (thanks Dad!). Their mom specifically wanted all the kids on her couch. Love it! The texture overlay you see around the edges of the portrait was a request by the oldest son, and both his mom and I thought it was a good idea. I think it really enhances the look of an otherwise flat background. Well, I've got more pictures to edit . . . enjoy the sneak peek!