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August 2018

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My Online Photography Workshop

This is how I learned to edit my photos

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Member since 11/2005

« Auditing The Photographers' Workshop | Main | Notes »


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annie bellamy

I think most parents have a perfect tree decorating experience in their heads, but it never actually works out that way! But your photos look magical anyway!


Your photos would certainly fool anyone into thinking it was a magical evening. Maybe you'll be like me after vacations...looking at the photos afterward, I forget the bickering, whining, and backtalk. Unfortunately, I also forget that I said that I would NEVER take them on a trip again, until I do.

Abbey S.

i love your honesty, Karen. Been there so many times...


Your photos are beautiful. I wish you had posted one of the entire tree, it looks like it has character! We have had those days, too. My girls only wanted to help long enough to put their favorite ornaments on then they were off, texting or doing whatever. I was left finishing up by myself. My husband puts the tree up and then promtly leaves the room. He doesn't enjoy it at all. So at least you were all in the same room! The girls look so sweet in their pretty dresses.


I adore your photos - I believe I read somewhere that you do not use flash. Can I ask you how you get the photos without the warm yellow/orange cast? I have almost mastered the outside/low light without flash, but just can not seem to get the bright ones inside. Any advice?


So beautiful! Your house, tree, and family is gorgeous!


And in 25 years, they will remember the snuggling, the music, and the togetherness part of putting up the tree....... and if they do remember the crazy-ness of it...they will laugh. Trust me...I know.
Now, can't wait to go back and look at the exif info. on each of your photos. I appreciate so much being able to do that...thanks.
May you bask in the "light" of Christmas.


Awesome. Embrace the imperfection, right? My 12-yr-old daughter kept asking me if we were done decorating when we trimmed the tree. She couldn't get back to her computer fast enough. She won't let me take photos either. Sigh....

Michelle Bostinelos

love your pictures. Love the "real" story. Even if it was a stressful event it looks magical! And I am sure that is how the kids will remember it!


Seriously.....that last paragraph made me laugh. Sounds like my tree sister and I are directing the 2 kids to wait, don't start this, don't pull that out yet...bla bla bla all the while trying to take those memorable pictures as well. We sat back and looked at the pictures and thought we looked like we had a really calm enjoyable time but it sounds more like your night. Makes it all the more real doesn't it. Your experience will bring joy and laughter to my friends and after all isn't it good you share the christmas spirit. Enjoy another cider!!! love Kathy A, Australia.


Love the pictures, you take such great indoor shots! The last one is my fav! Our tree is in place, not decorated and we kind of like it like that! Maybe this weekend we'll find some motivation to decorate!

debbie susee

I love your blog. Thank you for keeping it real. I was just thinking how fun your house and family look--kinda too perfect--and then I got to the last paragraph where you tell it all. So funny and heart warming. Thank you. We all have unreal expectations some times. But we are trying to make good memories for our kids and the truth is, they'll remember the good times more than what we consider the bad times.
I have almost the exact same chandelier in my dining room. I decorated it last year with Christmas ornaments and now you are making me think I need to do it again this year. Maybe I need some new ornaments. I'm thinking silver stars would look pretty. OR maybe I need to make something with my Cricut to hang there.


Thanks for keeping it real--life is so much like that, especially with kids. One minute you think, how could I be so lucky? and the next, God, grant me patience. Thanks for sharing, thanks for the slice of real life.


I wanna be your make me giggle....I look forward to reading your BLOG everyday. Thank you for that.


You'd never know it wasn't perfect from the pictures! That has happened to me many times...I'll try to make things perfect & wonderful & memorable and then the kids will fight and we'll get mad at them and then crying will ensue and my husband and I will be watching the clock willing all the "fun" were having to be over. Then people look at the pictures and say how wonderful it looks! If they only knew!

Julie in Australia

My heart goes out Karen...there are those times every now and again where only you remember the 'real thing'.
But as Janel 25yrs they will only remember the good stuff!
But I'm sensing a bit of a worrysome undertone here...hope you and Josh are OK?
Love those photos...esp Courtney Lee and her peace sign and the kids decorating the tree...wish I had pics like those.
Here in Oz we had a 'White Christmas' day today...but it was storms and hail...damaging it is! But afterwards we got those magic photos of all the little ones playing in it...not knowing the real cost eh!
Have a Merry Christmas Karen,Josh and kids...I will be thinking of you all and just hoping for you all...that all is well...
Merry Christmas America...from all of us down here in Australia...and a Happy new Year.

Laura Bax

You totally crack me up. I wish we were friends in real life, instead of me just stalking you in blog land. We'd totally get each other.

mandy friend

thank you! Every.single.year. the decorating of the tree goes down the tubes quickly. I always feel like a failure in the 'make it magical' realm...glad I'm not the only one;)


I agree with Kim. You are the master with indoor white balance. Love how you get perfect skintones.

I'm glad to know someone else has the same tree decorating experience with their kids. :)

Happy Holidays!!


We have an artificial tree, three actually. Two belong to the children. This solved the "tree decorating" issues. They decorate theirs, I decorate the main tree. I have a handcrafted Lego angel on my tree. It was made with love!

Corie Farnsley

I love your honesty almost as much as I love your photography, Karen! Sadly, I can relate to those don't-talk-to-me-honey moments and bickering kids all too well!


At least you got photos! I totally did NOT take pictures of decorating the tree this year. Just decided to let it happen. Of course, with a 2 year old it can be hard to have your camera in your hand as much as you want! Anyway, your pictures are beautiful and I don't think anyone's life is the perfect magical story we dream of.


ahhh the magic of Christmas... :) sounds much like our home!

Cynthia, TX

it looked magical to me

and Annie should be modeling she has the best facial expressions on a little kid I have seen in years! I just love it! even tho you think she is a little stinker. (lol)


The pictures are beautiful. Have to smile at Courtney Lee and the peace sign. We took a very long road trip last summer with daughter and 7 year old grand daughter in tow...peace sign in every single photo. The kids are just precious. And, can't wait for January, even though I'm just auditing!


Love, love this story. So real and honest. And truly, isn't that what a lot of our lives are about when raising children...just rolling with it all and trying to stay (slightly composed).

Hope you have a magical Christmas and that the tree doesn't fall over again. PS - Pre-lit fake trees aren't a bad way to go - my husband from Wisconsin fought it for YEARS and then gave in and now is in love with his instant tree. Nothing makes that thing tip.

Gorgeous photos as always. Thanks for sharing your real life!


that is the norm.
picture perfect things we have engrained in our minds to be THE family bonding times....are so rarely that.
it's 9 times out of 10....the worst.


teresa b

Oh jeeess..sounds like our Christmas tree extravaganza...went to home depot with 2 grouchy teenagers. one didn't get the tree they wanted..all the 8 to 9 ft trees were half dead. the other could care less. brought the tree home and didn't decorate it for 2 days because of sourness..then 2 days later.. well the sourness continued and i just wanted everyone to go to there rooms so I could enjoy decorating the tree by myself! eventually dad gave them the knock it off before i know you off talk aaannnddd the tree was complete... happy christmas karen!

Jennifer S

Such beautiful pictures - no one would know it wasnt so magical! I don't think anyone's tree decorating is magical! I did not even attempt to photograph it this was too busy with football and the kids need me to put hooks on all the ornaments. Their excitement got to me too and I resorted to a game inspired by military training - they had to stand at attention to get their next ornament!!! They were giggling and trying not to smile...little soldiers. I wish i had a photo of that!

Judy Webb

I know why you painted your walls white!! To make it easier to shoot photos with out a flash. Loved photos, the children and tree are beautiful. Merry Christmas.


Your pictures are always gorgeous but what you are able to do in low light situations is amazing. And the process of putting on the lights always puts my husband over the top.




keep it real, sista'!!!!!!!!


I have that same Beavers ornament that Annie is hanging up :) my sister goes to OSU and I bought it last month when I visited her. I used to work at CI as an in-house designer and always loved reading your blog (and still do!).


Every year I had these expectations of a magical tree decorating moment with my family. NEVER happened. I found out how to fix it. Stop putting up a tree! Worked like a charm ever since. My motto is: no expectations, no disappointments.
But glad you put up a tree....I really enjoyed your photos! As usual :)


It's adorable!!! There's nothing like wrestling with a real tree to make Christmas seem more magical....ha. (We do it too--but ours comes from Home Depot.) Hey--you never know--it may have come from Oregon!!! :)


What lens did you use for those photos?


Linda / Seattle

Oh my goodness, your photos so had me thinking the other way and I just giggled when you wrote your words cause you all of a sudden made me feel "OK" with my crazy household. I love a good honest post....

amy emery

oh your pictures.
your lovely pictures.
and then your storytelling, just makes me giggle.
merriest christmas to you and yours.

Kristal Jones

Several things...

~You are making me want to paint all of my walls white.

~ Love the ornaments on the chandelier. Brilliant!

~All of these self-timer shots are inspiring me to do more of my own with my family. Thank you!

~Love how honest you are about real life. :)


could have fooled me.....

at least they want to help with the decorating ... at my house I DO IT ALL BY MYSELF!!!!! not my choice by the way

Gretchen C

gorgeous photos!! and you tree is pretty :) I love your editing, could you share some of your secrets??? pretty please ;)

Michelle Arthur

It sounds like, at least, your kids completed the tree --- my kids made it through about 1/3 of it. It was just too taxing on them, bless their hearts. My only complaint about your post is you didn't show a pic of the completed "ugliest" tree. I just love your pictures. I never get any half as good --- not even by accident. Thanks for sharing......


I was thinking what a fabulous tree decorating party you were enjoying - so different from our own chaos of fighting kids, a dog chasing cat, and crabby parents - and then I read your last line. Ahhhh - another typical American family :-)


These images are seriously divine.


Ok, had you not admitted that things went crazy, the tree fell over, etc. one would never have known it (although I did wonder about the pine needles on the very clean floor just a bit)... Your photos are spectacular. Great job! You captured things SO beautifully!! (and I hope you are doing a Christmas journal and will capture that paragraph, as it's priceless. :)


Beautiful pictures even if it was miserable. :) I got in a fight with my husband over the tree lights this year...again, and didn't put one ornament on the tree. Then, after my kids decorated, I spent the next week moving ornaments where I wanted them every time I walked past the tree. Ahhh, the joys of Christmas!


Your photos are gorgeous - so merry and bright. But -- thanks for keepin' it real, and telling the truth. We've all had Christmas decorating sessions like yours! What counts is, you all made it out alive! Merry Christmas!


Love the pictures and love the honesty. Thanks!


I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one that sets my sights high and then gets much more realistic results. Your photos are beautiful, as always. As someone posted above, in the years to come they will remember the snuggles and the special memories more than whether the tree was perfect. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Barbara Jones

To look at those beautiful Children decorating you would have never thought that was going on lol The good part is you can even look at the bad moments and still crack a smile about it. Next year yall will be joking about the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree that fell over 5 times lol. Thank you for sharing this with us It lets us know we are not the only ones with times like these. Have a Very Merry Holiday Season!

debbie McIntyre

The best Christmas photos ever!! Love the truthful can be


Oh goodness... it is of great comfort to me that it is stressful at someone elses house while they decorate their tree... and not just as mine. NO matter what, the trees always turn out beautiful!


I just have to thank you for being so honest!!! I have these grand ideas for memories and in the end I feel stressed and cranky!!! I love your photos and please know you are not alone. I usually put up the tree, lights and garland at night after the kids are asleep. Then, I let them put up the ornaments and I save any special ones I don't want broken for me to do. This way I get my photos, less stress and the kids are happy they got to decorate lol


Thank you for your honesty!! It was like that in our house too. Your pictures are so beautiful you would never know they were fighting or anything but a happy time. So sweet those last pictures are. Beautiful kids! Love the stockings. Merry Christmas

Jenni Hufford

you are the best. love you!

Nancy Wyatt

The photos are AMAZING, thanks for sharing them with us! Love seeing your family photos and it makes me yearn for my own. Then you are honest and tell me about all the fighting and I think ok, maybe it's ok that I am just an aunt! LOL All kidding aside, thanks for being so honest with us! The lighting in your photos is incredible! If only I could take photos half as good as you! Hugs from Conroe, TX!


oh karen.. thank you for sharing the special moments of your family all while KEEPING IT REAL for everyone who is also raising children... love how bright white your tree looks...

Heather Tarrant

Your honesty is so completely refreshing! I stumbled onto your blog for the first time today, and was totally moved not only by your amazing photographs, but by your story. I appreciate it so much, because most of the time we're fooled by what seems like everyones perfect lives and we try to be perfect also, and its just not so! So thank you for sharing and being honest about it. That said, I'm curious to know what camera and lens you used to shoot these pictures with.


That's okay. Nothing is perfect but your pictures are close to it!


Your pictures are awesome! And your story about the night sums up probably about everyone else's story :) Thanks for making the rest of us feel better!

Jen B

Love your pictures, love your honesty!


hehe OUR tree trunk was too small too !~ no broken ornaments. but it's wedged with 2 x 4's and tied to the window so it won't go boom again. =)


Isn't it amazing? Photographs tell just the story we want to tell--and yours tell a wonderful story so superbly!


Oh my goodness, so I am not the only one who's tree trimming with the kids is nothing like I imagine. The fighting, breaking, knocking over the tree, it drives me crazy. Here I thought that it was just me that had this experience. Why is it though that I do not remember it being like that when I was the kid and not the parent?
The pictures are great and your words complete the story. Thanks for sharing.

Rhonda P litlfrogy

I have to tell you...I follow several blogs, mostly scrapbooking. That's how I found you awhile back. I enjoy yours the most of any. It's your stories. I think your photos are awesome. But I just love to read your stories. You should write a book.


I have lots of similar Christmas tree decorating memories. This is the first year that both of my kids have gone off to college and when I asked if we should decorate the tree before they got home this year and they were shocked and disappointed that we would think of doing it without them! It all turns out good in the end!


Tree decorating is always chaos in our house, too. Do you tell your girls what to wear so they coordinate beautifully with your decor, or is it just coincidence? Beautiful colors- so pretty!


This is the first blog I have ever read that doesn't candycoat the moments. In most blogs you would think there are super crafty moms with everything homemade always in the state of perfect patience, exemplary parenting, and infallible domesticity. Thank you thank you for not being afraid to be real in blogland.


You have to share your camera settings and what you used to get these pictures so darn perfect!
Pretty Please:)

Bonnie garcia

Well I have to admit I was admiring the photos and thinking she's done it again created an absolute *perfect* memory. So nice to read the last paragraph and realize we could have been in the same house. Much love Merry Christmas Bonnie

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