Ayla of What? Mermaids?

of  What? Mermaids?

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B i o g r a p h y :

~ A Girl and her Camera ~

Hi everyone. My name is Ayla, and sometimes I take pictures. Sometimes people pay me to take their pictures. Sometimes I just go to work every day and do a normal job and I don’t take any pictures at all. It just depends on the weather and how cute people think their kids are that month.

Before I get started, let me say that this post is intended for people who were in my shoes two years ago—amateur photo-takers who just want better pictures.

I grew up without much of a camera. I had a cheap Canon that used film, which I couldn’t afford to buy. I spent most of my college career letting my roommate take snapshots with her fancy-schmancy digital point-and-shoot.

But then I got married, and I moved to a part of the country whose beauty was not old to me, but completely new and wonderful. I started using my husband’s point-and-shoot to try to capture some of what I saw around me, as well as document our first few months together as a married couple.

And here, two years later, I’m still doing that. I’ve got a different camera and a new understanding of photography, but my interests are the same—record memories of my life with Matt, and never stop appreciating the beauty that surrounds me.

So, two years ago, I had never heard of an SLR. I actually went in to Best Buy and asked to see an SLR without even knowing what I’d be looking at! I bought my DSLR and frantically Googled articles explaining what “aperture” was, and how that affected my “exposure” and how to control my “ISO” settings. It was like Greek to me, let me tell you!

I will not be explaining those things to you. If you want to learn about aperture and shutter speeds and exposure and white balance and ISO settings, bounce over to Google and do a bit of searching.  There are a hundred articles written far better than I could hope to in a single post, I promise!

But I would like to take this opportunity to share three things that I learned that greatly improved my photography—Turn off your flash, change your angle, and watch your edits.

The single most important element in photography is light. And the absolute best light for most photography is soft, filtered, natural sunlight. And the absolute worst light is a built-in, automatic flash.

So my first step for improving my own photography was how to work without a flash. It’s not always easy—your camera will compensate for no flash by slowing down your shutter speed, which means that if your camera shakes a bit, you’ll get a blurry picture. But you can either set your camera down (a tripod will help, or even a stack of books on a table could work!) or add more off-camera light. Open your curtains, turn on all your lights, move closer to a window. Whatever you do, unless you’re documenting a crime scene… Turn off your flash!

 Baby Brenden
Taken on the floor in front of a sliding glass door on a cloudy day.

The second thing I learned that helped make my photos more interesting was changing my angle.

Tilting the camera a bit, crouching down to the ground, holding the camera high above your head—these are all moves that can completely alter the composition of your photo. I have found that it’s trial and error with angles—if you tilt the camera too much or too often, it can be just as bad as always shooting something straight on, if not worse! But I found that once I gave myself permission to shoot things from unusual perspectives, I started having more fun and getting results that I liked. 

Family Cruise Vacation

The last thing I want to talk about is photo editing.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is over-editing photos. It’s super common to take a perfectly good photo and edit it to death, until the final product is grossly oversaturated or touched up. If you choose to edit your photos, just remember to use a light hand with the edits. The goal is to enhance the photo, not completely distract your viewers with “retro” or “vintage” actions. Less is totally more. 

 Black and white is a good option 
when you have lots of contrasts of light and dark.

And remember, with digital photography, you can take a thousand photos of one subject (if they’ll sit there long enough). Practice, try new things, and don’t judge yourself! If you take 50 photos, and one turns out well… it’s worth 49 that don’t.

At least, that’s what I tell myself… 



  1. Ayla - This post had excellent tips that I really appreciate at this point. The photography class I took encouraged us to over edit and I want to get as far away from that as possible. I especially love your self-portrait here (which is why I included it twice). ;)

  2. What a wonderful post! As an aspiring photographer, I appreciate any tips that I can find. Thank you!

  3. Great post! Love this, "If you take 50 photos, and one turns out well… it’s worth 49 that don’t." Totally true!

  4. I couldn't agree with you more. I was def. guilty of the over editing. Overtime I developed my "style" without even realizing that was what I was doing. I let the picture tell me what it needs. Some I leave alone, others I enhance, even more get artistic treatments like textures and dramatic effects. I usually keep all versions of the image, just in case I change my mind later.

    I love the idea of sharing tips and advice from the practical stand point. Makes me think about what I would share if asked.

    Very thought provoking. I love your photography and thoroughly enjoy your different perspectives.

    Keep it up!

  5. I have a friend that needs a photoshop intervention ;)

  6. I love that photo of you!

    I have this thing where I can't seem to settle on one way to edit a photo... Sometimes I keep the original just in case I change my mind.

  7. gotta love her
    shes got them dreds!

  8. @adriana isis - "photoshop intervention," i love it!

    @nicole - i always save the original. it's why i need so many external hard drives. :P

    @cry - love your dreads also, friend!

  9. Beautiful infant picture! :) I dreadfully miss my point and shoot, but since it died (a family member drowned it with Pepsi!!!), I am saving up for my first DSLR.

  10. Great advice Ayla. Your a whiz with the camera that's for sure. The shot of the 2 dogs is lovely. Hope your having a wonderful week fellow veg-head and animal lover...and wishing you continued good luck with your photography.


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