Category: Tutorials

Tutorial Tuesday | Photography with Artificial Light

Hello, and welcome to another edition of our Tutorial Tuesday series here on The Digital Press blog! Today I’ll be sharing ways to use many under-utilized artificial light sources around your home in order to snap memorable photos and document your life.

Why does the light source matter?

Back in March, I shared a post here on the blog containing tips for using window lighting for capturing photos, and today I’m back to talk about the similar use of artificial light. What’s the difference, and why does it matter? Well, several reasons:

  • Always know your light source, and avoid mixing them
  • Size of light source matters (in general, artificial light sources are smaller than what you’re likely used to working with, and this requires a bit more planning and arrangement to get the photo you want because of how dramatic the shadows are likely to be; more on that later!)
  • Overhead lights don’t count. I only use overhead lights if it’s absolutely unavoidable, as the shadows are often not flattering (or non-existent) and lend themselves better to snapshots and not photographs.

If you have a DSLR camera, I recommend pulling it out to try these ideas. Be prepared to use your highest ISO settings on you DSLR. This tutorial by Chloe is a great intro (or refresher!) on setting exposure. You may be able to get similar results with a cell phone camera… if you can put it into manual exposure mode.

The subtle art behind indoor photography is revealing little bits of light to tell your story, so be prepared for lots of shadow.

Now, let’s jump in!

Computer Monitor — Rim Lighting Effect

My son would live in front of his computer if I let him, so capturing images of him at his desk is important to documenting who he is right now. My goal here was to capture him as I see him… with his face lit up by the screen of his monitor. The very bright light from the monitor quickly fades away and leaves much of this image in shadow, but the way the light frames his face and arm is called “rim lighting”.

To try this yourself: Use your DSLR in manual exposure mode, then set exposure for the brightest spots on the skin of your subject (here I exposed off the skin on his cheekbone). Be sure to eliminate all other light sources or you won’t get that rim lighting effect! Rim lighting is meant to be bright light and dark shadow with little gray in between.

Computer Monitor — as Direct Light Source

Direct Light is light that goes from the source straight to your subject.  In the lens example above, I simply placed the lens on my desk about 6 inches away from the monitor. I love the way the light reaches down into the layers of glass within the lens, and highlights the repeated circles. Notice that the light “falls off” so quickly that it doesn’t even extend down the full length of the lens! This is perfect for helping me hide all the other junk on my desktop that I didn’t need in my image. 🙂

To try this yourself: Use your DSLR in manual exposure mode, then set exposure for the brightest spots on the object you are photographing. Be sure to eliminate all other light sources in the room so you capture all that wonderful shadow! This would work well for a favorite pen, a steamy cup of coffee, or anything else that is slightly reflective!

Laptop — as Portable Light

I really wanted a picture of my oldest sleeping. Her room was lacking a suitable light source, however — so enter the laptop as a portable light! I positioned my laptop on it’s side on her night stand, pretty close to her face and just out of sight to the left in this image.  I found that putting it on it’s side allowed the light to project straight out, vs. the downward angle of a laptop screen when it’s upright and in use. (also note, my sweet sleeping angel called me a creepy stalker when she saw this! LOL).

To become a creepy stalker yourself: Use your DSLR in manual exposure mode, then focus and set exposure for the brightest spots on the skin of your subject. As always, be sure to eliminate all other light sources in the room so you capture all that wonderful shadow! You could also use a laptop on a subject fully awake too, but where’s the fun in that?!

Book Light — as Indirect Light

This is one of the easiest techniques! See that tiny book light on the left of the image, above? That’s the only light source in this whole image! Since the white paper of a book is a perfect reflector, the light bounces off the pages right back onto my subject’s face. The light would be way too harsh if I simply pointed it straight at her face, so using the book to distribute the light back into her face was the perfect solution.

To try this yourself: Grab a book light and make your kid read for 5 minutes. Position the light down onto the book, play with the angle of the book to get the most flattering light on your subject. Eliminate all other light sources. Use your DSLR in manual exposure mode, then set exposure for the brightest spots on the skin of your subject.

Cell Phones and Tablets

This is another SUPER easy technique! I had my niece hold the phone a little closer to her face than normal, set exposure off the skin on her cheekbones, focused on her eyelashes, and clicked. So easy! She was even sitting on my daughter’s bed, in the middle of her messy bedroom, and you wouldn’t even know it!

Black and White is Your Friend

I snapped this purple-skinned image with my cell phone one night after my teen spontaneously joined me while I was scrapbooking. Sure, i could use Photoshop to edit the skin tones… but I’m WAY too lazy for that! One click on a black and white preset — and voila — a beautiful black and white snapshot I’m perfectly happy with, allowing me to remember that moment forever — on a scrapbook page, of course!

[ Layout created using “Our Story” by KimB Designs ]

Don’t be afraid to convert to black and white. Many photos with low lighting tend to look awesome in black and white, which further accentuates the play of light and shadow. Give it a try, yourself!

Thanks for joining us today on the blog! I hope all of these ideas encourage you to try capturing images around your home using all those underappreciated sources of light! And don’t forget you could try many other light sources, as well — like fridge lighting, candles, televisions, etc.!

About the Author  Beckie is a creative team member at The Digital Press who lives near Austin, Texas. In addition to scrapping and photography, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and ignoring household chores. 

Tutorial Tuesday | PART 3: The Exposure Triangle

Welcome another edition of our Tutorial Tuesday series here on The Digital Press blog! This is Part 3 of our 4-part photography series all about the exposure triangle. If you happened to miss it a couple of weeks ago and need a recap, you can find Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. To refresh your memory, in the first post we introduced the idea that photography exposure depends on three settings: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. and we explored ISO in part 2.

Today we’ll be focusing on the aperture setting in the exposure triangle.

Aperture is the size of the “hole” that lets the light come into the camera and hit the sensor. As we saw in the first post, it’s expressed as a fraction. An aperture of f/2, for example, means that the “hole” equals the focal length of the lens divided by 2. As it is a fraction, a big aperture number will mean a small “hole” and hence less light coming in, and a small aperture number will mean a big “hole” and hence more light coming in. Photographers often say they shoot “wide open” (small aperture number) or “closed down” (big aperture number)

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, every setting of the exposure triangle has a “side effect.” In other words, each setting has consequences on the exposure but also on something else in the picture. The aperture impacts the depth of field of the photograph. Depth of field is the “slice” of the image that is sharp, in focus, when everything in front of it and behind it is blurry. How shallow or deep the depth of field will be depends on the aperture. Other factors, such as the lens and the distance, also come into play but that’s a topic for another blog post. For now, let’s focus on how aperture influence depth of field!

In the three next photos, I only changed my settings but didn’t move the camera or the toys. First, let’s start with a big aperture (small f/number, f/1.8 in that case). It will allow a lot of light in and will create a shallow depth of field: the “slice” of sharpness will be very small. For example, here the toys are situated one behind the other and only the one I focused on (the teddy bear on the right) is sharp. The blue bear on the front is further away from the toy I focused on than the elephant in the back, that’s why it’s more blurry than the elephant.

On this second image, I picked a “medium” aperture (f/6.3) and the subject (still the same teddy bear) is still sharp while the other two are sharper, but still blurry.

A small aperture (big f/number, f/16 in my example) will allow very little light and will create a deep depth of field: a lot of the image will be in focus. As you can see here, all three toys are sharp.

See the difference?

In the part 2 of this serie I said that ISO is a setting you can set on “auto” if you are just starting to shoot manually. That is because ISO doesn’t have much impact on the “creative” part of taking a photograph. Aperture, on the contrary, with its impact on depth of field, can totally change the image so it’s important that YOU decide which aperture to use. Do you want to blur the background of your subject? Do you want to create bokeh (this beautiful artistic blur)? Pick a wide aperture.

Do you want to have a very sharp image, where all of it is in focus, for example for a landscape photo? Do you want to create sunbursts? Pick a closed down aperture.

If you’re not comfortable using the manual mode of your camera (where you choose all the settings), you can use the aperture priority mode: you decide on the aperture and the camera picks the other settings in order to have a correct exposure. This “semi-automatic” mode is often represented by the letter A (Nikon) or Av (Canon) and it gives good results in most situations. It is a good way to experiment with aperture without having multiple settings to worry about and it is a great way to start learning about shooting manual.

In two weeks we will end this serie with shutter speed. See you soon!

ChloéAbout the author  Chloé is in charge of PR and communication for her small town by day, a digiscrapper “by night,” and a photographer whenever the light is beautiful. She recently became a very happy mom to an adorable little boy and is enjoying the last days of her maternity leave.

Hybrid How-To | Paper Lanterns

Hello, everyone! Kate here with another edition of our Hybrid How-To series here on The Digital Press blog! Today I’m here to show you how to make these cute paper lanterns that are perfect for your next backyard gathering.

Supplies Needed:

  • digital kit of your choice
  • lighter-weight cardstock (I found a package of 65 lb that worked great)
  • plastic or paper cups
  • x-acto knife
  • scissors
  • eyelet punch (not a plier kind, since you need to reach into the middle of the papers)
  • glue stick
  • LED tea lights

First, choose a digital kit with a theme that suits you. I chose Fun at the Fair by Rachel Etrog Designs for my lanterns, as shown here…

We have a concession stand we built for when we host movies on the back of our house; I thought this kit theme was perfect!

Next, measure around the thickest part of one of your cups. Add 1/2” to that (for overlap so you can glue it together). I chose two different-sized cups for my lanterns; thus, I had one that measured 10” and the other measured 12” after adding the 1/2” overlap.

I created a canvas to those specific sizes in Photoshop because I knew I wanted to design the lanterns using both the paper AND elements from the kit, but a photo-editing program isn’t necessary to do this project. You can also just keep it simple by printing off the papers and cutting them down to size.

After everything is printed, take your punch or x-acto knife (or both!) and make holes or lines in the paper, depending on the pattern.  I have two different sizes available with my punch. I used the bigger one on the ticket paper I printed out, and I used the smaller one for the star paper and ferris wheel paper.

I also followed one of the roller coaster lines with my knife so light would shine through. I cut around either side of the carousel so it would pop out a little when I rolled it and then used the knife to cut the carousal poles.

Next is to cut the rims off the cups. You need two per lantern to stabilize them and to help keep their shape. I punched through the cups with my knife and then used the scissors to finish cutting around the rim, leaving about 3/4” of the cup intact.

Make a tube with the paper and glue the seam together. I had two seams for my larger lanterns.

Insert the cup rims on the top and bottom. I was going to to glue them in, but they ended up tight enough that I didn’t have to do that.

Now all you do is place them over the LED tea lights. I really love how easy these were and how impressive they looked once it got dark! It was such a fun project and I hope you’ll give it a try.

Kate About the Author  Kate is on the hybrid team here at The Digital Press. She lives on the Utah/Colorado border with her husband, 5 kids, 10 chickens, a dog named Gracie, and a cat named Kit. She’s a city-born girl who found she’s really a country girl at heart. She can be found outside, barefoot, and probably in her garden.

Tutorial Tuesday | Tips for Choosing Color Schemes

Hello, and welcome to another edition of our Tutorial Tuesday series here on The Digital Press blog! Today I will be sharing some tips for using color schemes more effectively in your scrapbooking projects!

The importance of color in scrapbooking relates to how significant color is to the human mind. Color plays a vital role in how we respond to the things we encounter every day. As such, using color effectively can make a huge difference in your creative projects. There are four main ways that using color can help you create more eye-pleasing scrapbook projects:

  1. Color conveys emotions and can set the mood for your project
  2. Color establishes a focal point on your page by telling someone where their eyes should focus first
  3. Color defines space and can help you provide differentiation on your pages
  4. Color can create harmony on your project by balancing out the different components of your page

Color schemes are simply associations of colors that can be used to create a particular style and appeal. These sets of colors that work well together can create a unified aesthetic for your project. Understanding these color schemes will give you more flexibility when creating pages that will stand out to the viewer. There are seven types of color schemes that you can use to make your pages the best that they can be.

  1. Monochromatic Color Schemes — use varying shades of one color such as various shades of blue
  2. Analogous Color Schemes — use colors that are next to one another on the color wheel such as green/blue, yellow/orange, blue/purple
  3. Complementary Color Schemes — are sets of colors that are opposite of one another on the color wheel such as yellow/purple, blue/orange, red/green
  4. Triatic Color Schemes — are a combination of colors that are equally spaced from each other on the color wheel such as yellow/red/blue and purple/green/orange
  5. Neutral Color Schemes — are those colors that contain equal parts of the three primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and include black, white, gray and brown
  6. Cool Color Schemes — are colors that give the impression of calm and soothing such as blue, green and violet
  7. Warm Color Schemes — are the colors that are vivid and energetic such as red, yellow, and orange

Each of these color schemes offers different ways for you to create pages that are compelling and eye-catching! Here are 4 easy ways to choose a color scheme that will help guide you when creating scrapbook projects…

  1. Choose a dominant color from your photo(s) for a starting point to guide your color scheme choice. In the following page, there was a lot of red in all of the photos so it seemed like a good place to start. I decided to use a neutral background and used two complementary colors (red and green) to bring it all together…

2. Choose a color that will support the emotion you’d like to convey with your project. In this case, I chose a cool color scheme of violet, blue, and green… in order to help convey the feelings of calm and harmony. I think the color scheme I chose helps reinforce the theme of friendship and togetherness.

3. Consider making a photo black & white in order to allow you more flexibility in your color choices. The colors in this photograph were not cohesive in any way, but it was the perfect photo for this page. Therefore, I edited the photo to make it black and white, which opened up my color scheme options considerably!

4. Another tip is to use the rule of three technique and choose one primary color and two complementary colors as accents. With this next page, I wanted the page to be bold and convey action (since the page is about gymnastics and being strong)… but I also wanted there to be a serenity to the page, as it also focuses on friendship and working together. As a result, I decided to use yellow as my primary color… but I chose blue and grey as my complementary colors in order to find that balance that I wanted the page to convey.

It’s important to work toward finding colors that enhance and coordinate with your photos to make the most memorable pages possible.

I hope these tips and techniques can help you feel more comfortable using color in a variety of ways, to help you create more eye-catching scrapbook projects!


About the Author  Amy lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and their 14-year-old boy/girl twins. Their 23-year-old daughter has recently finished up graduate school at Clemson and has started her first full-time job! She has been scrapbooking since the early 1990s, but discovered digital scrapbooking in 2005 when her twins were born… and has primarily scrapped digitally since that time. She is passionate about telling her family’s stories and documenting their life together. She is also a huge reader, a pop culture junkie, and LOVES all things beauty & makeup!

Tutorial Tuesday | PART 2: The Exposure Triangle

Welcome another edition of our Tutorial Tuesday series here on The Digital Press blog! This is Part 2 of our 4-part photography series all about the exposure triangle. If you happened to miss it a couple of weeks ago and need a recap, you can find Part 1 HERE. To refresh your memory, in that first post we introduced the idea that photography exposure depends on three settings: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

Today we’ll be focusing on that first variable — the ISO setting in the exposure triangle.

ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor. A high ISO means that the sensor of the camera is more sensitive to light, that it will “capture” every bit of light available, so to speak. More light is let in when you choose a high ISO number; conversely, less light is allowed in whenever you choose a lower ISO number.

What does this mean when you’re taking photographs? Well, for example… on a bright, sunny day outside you can choose a lower ISO (usually 100; sometimes 50) on most cameras. The opposite is true when you are indoors taking a photo in a room with very little light (at night, for example… or in a room with a tiny window and no lamp on). In that scenario, you would need to choose a much higher ISO (6400 or higher, etc.).

Here’s a look at a couple of outdoor/indoor photos, and the corresponding ISO used to capture the image…

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, every setting of the exposure triangle has a “side effect.” In other words, each setting has consequences on the exposure but also on something else in the picture. The side effect of ISO is noise. In the film days, it was called “grain” because the sensitivity of the film corresponded to the size of the grains of salt (the less sensitive the film, the smaller the grains and the cleaner and smoother the image appeared). With digital cameras we use the word noise to express the same thing as the film-age term “grain.”

Here are two examples of the noise that appears on images with a very low ISO and a very high ISO. As you can see, high ISO = more light allowed in but more noise; low ISO equals less light allowed in (so I had to adjust the other settings of the triangle), but less noise…

See the difference?

Even if grain was part of the charms of film photography, oftentimes digital noise is considered to be a bad thing. It can be distracting when it’s too strong, and it can create color artifacts. One way to avoid “bad” noise is to correctly expose the image in the first place, even if that means upping the ISO (noise will be better on an image correctly exposed with an ISO of 12800 than on an image with an ISO of 3200 that needs to be brightened in post-processing.

Here is another example that illustrates this idea…

First, the SOOC (straight out of camera, no post-processing) image at ISO 12800:

And next, the SOOC image at a much lower ISO of 1600, with all other settings remaining the same (hence the severe underexposure):

And finally, the second image… but with its exposure corrected in post-processing:

You can already see in the full image that the noise is much worse in the last picture (corrected) than it was in the first of the series, up above… even though the ISO is much lower. It’s even worse if you zoom in:

Moral of the story: it’s typically much better, in order to avoid bad noise, to take a picture with a high ISO but a good exposure… than it is to take an underexposed picture with a low ISO that requires brightening it in post-processing.

There are so many different cameras on which you can choose the ISO (even some smartphones!) that I will advise you to read the manual or do an online search on how to change the ISO on your own gear.

*TIP* If you are just starting to learn to shoot manually (where you, rather than than the camera, pick the settings)… ISO is a setting you can set on “auto” and let your camera take care of,,, so that you can focus on aperture and shutter speed. Once you get the hang of those, you can then start adjusting the ISO yourself.

We will explore those other two variables (aperture and shutter speed) in the next two parts of this series (coming in June, every other week). See you soon!

ChloéAbout the author  Chloé is in charge of PR and communication for her small town by day, a digiscrapper “by night,” and a photographer whenever the light is beautiful. She recently became a very happy mom to an adorable little boy and is enjoying the last days of her maternity leave.

Hybrid How-To | Happiness Jar

Hello everyone! It’s Donna here, and I’m excited to share another edition of our Hybrid How-To series with you here on The Digital Press blog! Today, I have a fun project for you that will allow you to capture and document your happy moments throughout the year… a Happiness Jar!

The idea behind the Happiness Jar is quite simple: on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis (your choice!), every family member writes down what they are happy about or thankful for… and places their written thoughts into the Happiness Jar. At the end of the year, it’s really fun and meaningful to empty out the jar together as a family and have fun reading/reminiscing about all those moments that brought you joy.

It’s a really easy project, too… so let’s get started!

For my example, I will be using the digital kit Mademoiselle by Julia Makotinsky, shown here…


I love the fun, whimsical feel and the bright colors of this kit (and doesn’t that little bluebird element just scream “Bluebird of Happiness” to you?!).


  • digital scrapbooking kit(s) of your choice
  • photo editing software (I am using Photoshop Elements)
  • empty jar
  • printer/copy paper
  • label paper (could use Printer/copy paper & double-sided tape instead)
  • scissors or paper cutter
  • binder clip
  • ribbon (optional)

The first step is design the jar labels. I used an empty candle jar, but any style of jar will do. In my photo editing software, I designed labels for the front of the jar, as well as for the lid…

The next step is to create the strips of paper that you’ll use to write down your happy thoughts. You’ll need to do a little calculating here to determine how many strips of paper you’ll need. Since it’s just hubby and I, and we will do this weekly… I’ll need 104 strips of paper (52 weeks X 2 people = 104). The size of my paper strips are 1″ x 4.25″, meaning I can get 22 strips from one piece of 8.5″ x 11″ printer paper. This means I will need 5 sheets of printer paper (22 strips x 5 = 110)… so I chose 5 papers from the kit I am using and printed those papers out to add a decorative touch to the back side of each strip.

The image below shows where the strips should be cut on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper…

If you are cutting with a scissors, you may want to include the lines on your papers before you print them out so you will have a cutting guide (optional). If you are using a paper cutter or cutting machine, having the printed cut lines isn’t necessary.

Here’s a look at my labels and papers printed out…

The final step is to assemble everything, as follows…

  • Cut out the jar labels and adhere them to the jar (if you used printer/copy paper, you can use double sided tape to adhere them)
  • Cut out the small paper strips (I used a paper cutter)
  • This last step is optional… but for myself, I didn’t want the little paper strips to get lost (which they certainly would, laying loose on my countertop all year!), so I used a binder clip and tied them to the neck of the jar with a ribbon. You could also keep your strips in a drawer or a little box, etc. and skip this last step… it’s up to you!

And that’s it! Your Happiness Jar is now ready to collect all your joyful moments. The entire project, from start to finish, took less than 2 hours.

I wanted to also share with you a few variations of this idea that could easily be adapted from this tutorial…

  • A “Mom, I’m Bored” Jar — start out with the jar full of fun ideas, and when the kiddos are bored let them pick from the jar to find inspiring ways to combat their boredom
  • A “Date Night” Jar — start out with the jar full of fun date ideas, and let date night be determined by the luck of the draw (this would also work for the “What do you want for dinner?” dilemma that occurs frequently at our house)
  • A “Journal Prompt” Jar — start out with the jar full of journaling prompts, so when the urge to write surfaces you’ll have something to write about
  • A “Scripture or Positive Thoughts” Jar — start out with the jar full of scriptures or positive thoughts, and pull one out when you need a little uplifting

I hope these ideas will inspire you to create your own jar! If you decide to make a happiness jar (or any variation, like those listed above), please let us see it! You can load your project into the gallery at TDP and leave a comment below with a link to your project… etc. I would love to see what you come up with!

DonnaAbout the Author Donna is a member of the hybrid team here at The Digital Press. She has been a digital scrapper and hybrid crafter for over 10 years, and loves the flexibility digital products provide. When she’s not scrapping you’ll find her in front of the TV, at the computer, or in the kitchen  cooking up something scrumptious. She has been married for 40 years to her husband, Sonny, and they live in South Florida with their sweet little dog, Roxy, and kitty siblings Cashmere and Velcro. She also enjoys swimming, gardening, traveling, and chocolate (of course!).