Honorable Mention from Colorvale Actions!

It’s always so fun to be given a little love and notice with my photography, so when I was contacted a few days ago from Colorvale wanting to give me a quick honorable mention for my spring themed photo I submitted to their weekly Photo Challenge, I was super excited! It totally made my day. :)

This family of red finches nested right outside my back door, and I was lucky enough to watch them hatch, and grow, and just today they’re flapping their wings getting ready to leave the nest.
babybirds Click here to view their post!

Thanks Colorvale! Now I get the privilege of displaying this badge on my site. :)

It was the Golden Hour

Just for fun, Pete and I decided to head down to the river by our house. I really wanted to take some pictures with my new 85mm 1.8 lens he got me for Christmas. It was actually one of the nicer days we’ve had this “winter.” Warm with a cool breeze.

The lighting couldn’t have been more perfect. The only thing missing was someone to take pictures of! So I subbed in my hubby for a few.

This would be an amazing location for a more artsy meets high fashion shoot.





IMG_9445[2]web See, there he is. Checkin’ out the water… like a boy.

IMG_9450[2]web These rocks were so cool. They look like your average limestone rock prevalent in Texas. But up close, they had crystals growing on them!

IMG_9462[2]web I’ve never seen anything like this on limestone before.

IMG_9463[2]web How awesome is that?




IMG_9455[2]cloudsWEB Seriously gorgeous. 

Contact me if you want to have a shoot here!


My Top 3 Must Have Photo Editing Apps


I love taking photos with my cellphone. I equally love taking photos with my “big” camera, but sometimes my phone is the easier one to grab. Point at me and call it shameful, and I will shrug and say “eh, such is life.” 90% of the time I will double fist my phone and my camera. I love getting shots with both. I love to edit, so waiting until I can get to my computer, transfer my photos, then cull and edit, is like waiting for Christmas morning. This is where my photo apps step in.

I can’t help but notice the quality of cellphone photos has gotten extraordinarily better since the days of the Razr, or the first Blackberry. And with that, the amount of photo apps is overwhelming. Which is why I like to keep it simple, and have narrowed my photo apps down to 3.

I never post any of my photos to social media without some sort of edit. Even cell phone photos posted to my personal page always have an edit. I want my photos to look their best. Call it a quirk, call it the curse of the first-born. Perfectionism is in my blood, so sue me. lol. (please don’t sue me :) )

I’ve put together a quick review for each of my favorite FREE(I’m cheap) photo apps I use for my mobile editing. These are purely my apps of choice, and what works best for me! None of these reviews have been paid. I’m just in love with these apps!
*Click photos to view larger.*


So, let’s start with the app that everyone needs!

1. VCSO Cam. The best of the best for all your detailed editing! This is no lie. With all the photo editing apps I’ve gone through over the years, this one has everything I need within ONE app. With options like adjusting shadows, highlights, exposure, tint, temp, crop, rotate and more, you can pretty much fix any photo. Not to mention, enough customizable filters to make your photos look their best. Once you have this app, everything else is icing.

Here’s a shot of my niece I edited with VSCO. I was able to bring enough light back into her eyes on the B&W edit just by lightening the shadows.

Here’s a before and after shot of my neighbors kitty when we were babysitting. The intense back lighting was no match for the VSCO editing capabilities! With control over the highlights, I didn’t entirely lose the background when I lightened the image. I’m obsessed.
ranger I love this app so much. It can really make your mobile photos look like a million bucks if you tweak them just right.


2. White Balancer. Simplest app ever. Select your photo, and use the bar at the bottom to adjust your white balance. Done. A lot of my photos end up too warm when taken inside at night because of the lighting and surroundings in my home. This is the perfect app for getting the correct WB before putting your photo into your main editing app.

Here’s a shot of Ruby I took the other night. She is brown, my carpet and the dog bed are beige, and the energy efficient light bulbs we use cast a warm hue. Nightmare.
ruby I’m still amazed at how easy it is. 


3. Studio Design. For those who love to add beautiful text or shape overlays to photos, this is the app for you. Think of Instagram, but BETTER. It has your filters, and your square crop, and your ability to share to social media. But let’s dream bigger for a second. Add on the ability to add shapes, custom text, pre-made overlays, lines, borders, and you’ve got yourself a party! You can also “remix” other users photos by being able to take their overlays and apply them to your photos, and visa versa. danae I added my own text and slight filter to the first shot. I changed the second photo to B&W in app, and added a pre-made overlay. Oh, how I love simple.
Photography + Design = Love.


I realize Instagram isn’t on this list. Instagram is just not my thing. But I do love these above apps, and they’re the only ones I currently use. They do the trick for my perfectionist eye.

A few paid apps I’ve been eyeing… the pictapgo photo app from Totally Rad, which looks awesome! But I haven’t made that $1.99 commitment yet. Same with Afterlight. I’ve heard nothing but good things about these photo apps.

Share your favorite photo apps with me! Maybe I’m missing out on some greats?! I’m always up for new things.

The meaning behind the name

Recent events have caused me to really think about the name, Life’s Joy Photography, and why I picked it.

No I didn’t just pull it out of thin air.

I didn’t pick it because it sounded pretty.


I didn’t pull it from a hat,
I didn’t ask my neighbors cat.


A few years ago when I was trying to come up with a name for my business, my main focus was the word Joy.

I wanted a business name that was a part of me, without using my real name. I wasn’t opposed to using my full name + photography, I just felt like that was taking the easy way out, and I had an opportunity to be creative.

I also didn’t want to go overboard. I’ve heard some doozies. Anything over 3 words before the word photography is just about pushing it, in my opinion.

Anything too wordy doesn’t roll off the tongue easily. It also sounds less professional.

So, since Joy is my middle name, I figured I’d start there.


I actually thought about it for a lot longer than I wanted. A few months went by before I committed 100% to a name.

And if I still had that list of potentials, I’d definitely share it.

I had to finally just push aside the thoughts of “what will everyone like?” and pick something that I liked. Because, really, as long as it makes you happy, there is no wrong.

So, I knew photography made me happy.

I knew Joy was a happy word.

And I knew my mom would love me even if I named my business Say Cheeseburger! Photography, because that’s what moms do.
Although I hope she would have stopped me and gave me that “are you serious?” look, if I was serious.

Moms do that too.


Bottom line is photography is my Life’s Joy.


Photography brings me joy, it makes me joyful, and the hills are alive with the sound of joyful music!

Too much?



I’m just lucky enough to have a middle name like Joy to play off of. It sort of made it just a little bit easier.

And that’s all she wrote..

End of story.

Thank you for listening, reading, suffering through my lame jokes and sticking around anyways.

Graduation 2012 + Childhood Pictures

I suppose it’s time for a post from my brother and sisters graduation.

It only makes sense, since it took 3 weeks of prep to get to the party!

You betta recognize.


The day came so fast, and went by in a blur.

No time for crying, only for taking photos. :)

Going through old pictures for the slideshow was really fun..

I can’t believe these little munchkins graduated. It feels like just yesterday they were this little.

Growing up is bittersweet.. and takes forever but goes by in the blink of an eye.

Can you stand it?

We were pretty cute :)

By our sunflower field at the farm.

One of my favorites! In one of our fields after dad baled straw.

Seriously, how cute were they.

Yes, that’s me. hahahaha, oh boy. Husking corn, and feeding it to the horses… this was probably 13 years ago.

Love this family photo! Us at Itasca State Park.

Now for some graduation pictures..

Getting ready for the big day!

Dylan helping out before the party.

The guys hanging candles from the tree around the new firepit area my parents put in just before the party. The benches around the firepit, my dad made! And I lucked out and got to take a couple back to Texas with me :)

The grads, then and now. They’re still pretty cute. :) Dylan was homeschooled and although he wasn’t walking with Danae, he graduated too!

Mom and Dad.

I love these two.

The grads and me

Then and now :)

And then off to the school we went, for some pre-graduation photos, and to find our seats.

My beautiful cousins (who also grew up quickly!), came to watch Danae graduate.

Here she comes! And a very proud boyfriend looks on (in the blue plaid). :)

She did it!

Best photo of the day.

Then it was time to party :)

But first… a family photo.

And finally party..

I snapped this before the party.. the cute slideshow display we did for the party. It had all their baby pictures on it, and this one of me and Danae. :)

Obviously the cutest picture on the slideshow.

Oh, and this cute boy came to see me again!
It was a good day!
A busy, good day.
Filled with memories, and the beginning of a new life chapter for my “little” brother and sister.
So proud of them!

Prom ’12

For the past two years, my sister has been asking me to come home for her prom and take her photos, and this year we were able to make it back early enough to be here for prom and my brother and sisters high school graduation!


Danae’s so photogenic, and never takes a bad picture. >jealous<



I asked him to pretend she was poking him with the pin. A natural response, I think. :)





Her hair was gorgeous.


And so was her dress.







So happy I got to take her pictures. It was a blast.


Before & After

Before & afters are fun to see.

I always enjoy seeing other photographers photos, pre & post processing. I love that little peek of what they really look like before using the wonderful tool that is Photoshop. Or for those of you that use it, Lightroom.

Most of the time it’s just color adjustments, maybe filters and some actions, but nothing too different from the original.

Photoshop can be good and bad. I’d rather take a really great photo and spend a short amount of time processing it than take a photo that could have used more thought and spend too much time in Photoshop.

I think the test of a great photographer is how much time they have to spend in the editing process to make their photos look good. You shouldn’t have to let Photoshop speak for the quality of your photos. Your photos should speak for themselves!

I’m no professional photographer. I don’t claim to know it all. I don’t even claim to actually know what I’m talking about at any given time, BUT in my experience the more changes you make to your photos, the more it takes away from them. I don’t even like to use vignettes as much as I used to because I’ve come to appreciate the naturalness of a photo without all the fix-it-ups.

But there are exceptions. Believe me, there are exceptions.

Let’s start out with this before & after.. very simple, no big changes.

Here you have my beautiful sister Danae. I shot this photo behind my Minnesota home in the swamp area where everything is shaded, lush and green. The original photo had lots of green tones in it, but a good photo overall. All I did was lighten it up and add some yellow and blue tones. It is still green, but her skin tone improved a lot and she stands out more.


This next photo was taken of little Olivia in her backyard on a bright sunny day.

The original colors and exposure aren’t too bad. Definitely fixable with little trouble. In this case it was more of what was going on in the background. A rooftop, fence, and mom’s hand. I didn’t want it to look like I tried too hard to fix it, and her pose was too cute to scrap it all together, so I had to do something. I cropped it slightly, which helped with some of the background, but the hand and rooftop were still there. So I took those out. Then I blurred and lightened the fence quite a bit which made Olivia more of the focus. Even though the fence is still there, you don’t really see it as much as before. Then I ran a PS action and called it quits!

This photo was taken with the stock lens that comes with the Canon 50D, before I got my 50mm lens. So now with my 50mm I have more control of how blurry the background is.


Another one of Danae on a very sunny day.

I was very worried this photo was completely ruined. I’m totally convinced that this was 70% my fault and 30% the elements. Her back was to the sun and the background was over exposed because of it. But I placed her that way so she wasn’t making faces and squinting into the sun. That doesn’t make for flattering pictures. :) Also the wind was blowing through her hair facing the way she was.

This is a perfect example of why I shoot RAW.

No, that doesn’t mean I photograph in the buff.

When bringing a RAW photo into photoshop you are presented with this wonderful pre edit screen where you can adjust exposure, tones, fill light, recover washed out pixels, contrast, brightness, clarity, vibrance etc. I was done before I even started!

So I did what I could in that screen and everything else was “by hand”. Or by which ever tool I needed. I had to fix the really bad shadows on her face. That was tedious. But in the end, it turned out to be a nice picture. You can’t really tell I did much unless you were to see the before picture, which I have shamelessly presented to you.

Why am I doing this again?



One of my more recent, drastic photo edits was from the Kramer Station shoot.

For my die hard fans, (Hi MOM!) I’m sure you’ve seen this photo of Anna from our shoot a few weeks ago.

I bet you never would have guessed there used to be a cute boy standing next to her. So I’m here to tell you.. there was!

I really loved how Anna was standing. A natural, relaxed stance. No posing. So I decided I’d see if I could take Elias out, and see what it looked like after.

I personally think it turned out good! Almost like he was never there. It’s not perfect, but you wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t show you!

Sometimes I thank God for the Content-Aware function in PS.


One last one.

Danae again during one of our days shooting her senior pictures.

We were in Bemidji, MN for a mini vaca and I snapped a few senior pictures of her. It was dusk and this was one of the last photos I got of her that day. In the original photo you can see Paul Bunyan and Babe in the background. That wasn’t going to do. Again, with the Content Aware function, I was able to fix it up in a snap! Then all that was left was brightening it up, and having fun with PS actions. It actually ended up being one of my more easier fixes.

So there you have it. Normally I do small fixes, but there are times where that just isn’t enough. The drastic changes are always more fun to see. :)