Exposure Made Easy PART 3: ISO

by melissa

In the first segment of the DSLR Exposure Series, I briefly discussed the exposure triangle, and one of the three settings in the Exposure Triangle, aperture. In Part 2 we covered shutter speed, and now in Part 3 we're finally moving onto the mysterious remaining setting: ISO.

I say mysterious because when Jon and I first heard the term ISO (and for a year or two later), it sounded familiar, but we had absolutely no idea what it was. When the time came for us to bite the bullet and learn how to shoot on manual, we of course turned to the trusty (yet not always trustworthy) Wikipedia. And believe you me, you don't want to go there for ISO. It looks like a calculus class on steroids, and it sailed right over our heads in 10 seconds flat. It's math, it's logarithms, and if you're like me, it's torture. Very complicated, very overwhelming, and definitely not our thing.

So we read elsewhere and took a more 'average person' approach to ISO, leading us to an 'average person' understanding of it.

What is ISO?
Once we finally figured it out (which took some time...), the way I remembered it was to think of ISO as fake light—a last resort to lighten the shot when my aperture and shutter speed were maxed out.

For the more engineer-minded of you, here's the watered down version that we can *almost* wrap our brains around. In film, ISO is the indication of how sensitive the film is to light. If we understand this correctly, in digital photography, ISO digitally simulates sensitivity of the image sensor to light. Remember, film changes in sensitivity to light, not the camera—but since there is no film in the digital world, the camera has to mimic that sensitivity without the film (since we know it's not the memory card affecting it :)

If you can take yourself back to the pre-digital version of you in the 90's, looking for film for your sweet 110mm camera (at least that's what I had, the flat-ish, plastic rectangle that came in all colors of dreamy neon, but feel free to insert your own 90's camera model from your memory here), you may have a flashback of some film speed numbers, like 100 for outdoors, 400 for sports, 800 for indoors...or something like that. Those are basically the equivalent of ISO numbers now.

The same basic number principles apply here as in film photography—higher ISO numbers mean the sensor is "more sensitive" to light, while lower ISO numbers mean the sensor will be "less sensitive" to light. Higher ISO settings are preferred in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds (i.e., indoors, dimly-lit receptions, outside at dusk/night)—however, the cost is noisier shots. Noise is the digital version of film grain, which is basically specks that take away from the quality of the image.

Since a lower ISO will create a clearer shot, a low ISO is ideal more often than not. However, a grainy shot is better than no shot, so if you’re choosing between a high ISO or no picture at all, crank the ISO and go for it.

(please keep in mind I use high ISOs in desperation when dealing with bad lighting, so in order to show grainy examples, I had to create bad lighting, and take less-than-ideal photos. All in the name of information sharing :)

Here's your takeaway.

  1. ISO is like a simulated lightening of your shot. (not to be confused with simulated lightning, which would hurt)
    Use it as a last resort to lighten your exposure when you've maxed out your aperture and shutter speed.
  2. Higher ISOs will make lighter shots and a grainier/noisier shot, which also decreases image and color quality.
  3. Stay on ISO 100 whenever possible, but know when and how much to bump up your ISO settings.
    For example, you could memorize some basic ISO settings, like...Sunny: ISO 100, Shade: ISO 400, Indoors: ISO 400, Indoors at night: ISO 800. Those are just basic guidelines that could obviously fluctuate depending on how sunny, shady, or dim your lighting is. But having the numbers in your head will allow you to think less and shoot more in each lighting situation.
  4. A noisy shot is better than no shot!
    ISO is there for a reason, so when you're hurting for light, don't hesitate to crank that ISO! And I have to put a plug in for modern technology...we've found that newer models are seriously killing it with ISO! There are sometimes when we're fighting to find any grain in our photos shot with ISO 6400—that's pretty phenomenal.
    Shots I would have missed out on last November if I hadn't shot up my ISO! Left: 50mm, f/1.8, 1/200, ISO:6400. Middle: 50mm, f/1.8, 1/400, ISO:6400. Right: 50mm, f/1.8, 1/500, ISO:6400.

  5.  If you've maxed out all three exposure settings and you still can't get enough light...
    ...you either need a better lens (you can read up on my lens post for ideas), or you need to find more light. (get out of the shade, turn on more lights, add more lights/lamps into your home, or you go the flash route and learn to use it without looking like you used it) Or wait until the sun comes up :)

Some little FYI nuggets about noise/grain...
(you should be able to click on the images below to see them larger and see the noise better if you want to) 

 I think it's definitely better to have ISO noise than shutter-speed blur, so don't feel bad if you have to up your ISO to lose the blur. Do it.
50mm, f/1.4, 0.4s, ISO:100

Long exposure (slow shutter speed) and a tripod will allow more light in without a high ISO, but that's typically best for still-life or capturing time-lapses (not people).
50mm, f/22, 4.0s, ISO:6400.

Noise typically shows up most in the shadows in your shot, and in the portion of your image that is not in focus, but even then it probably won't show up much until you're using a very high ISO in poor light.
haha...I just realized I was talking about "noise" and pointing to different keys on a piano...all the sudden this photo looks like a strange piano lesson illustration when taken out of context. Whoops! 50mm, f/1.4, 1/500s, ISO:1600

Probably no one will even notice the noise except you or a professional photographer.

50mm, f/1.4, 1/80s, ISO:1600
Using a high ISO in a dark place will mess up the colors of your image. Check out how different the color is in this shot!! And when color gets messed up like that in a JPG file, it's pretty much impossible to post-edit it in a way that will make it look the color it should have.
50mm, f/1.4, 1/500s, ISO:1600

BUT...noisy shots can look pretty awesome in black and white when the colors of your image are messed up :) It's a good plan B. It makes them feel a little old and newspaper-y, and what's not to love about that?
50mm, f/1.8, 1/400s, ISO:6400.

50mm, f/1.4, 1/200s, ISO:400.

Photo challenge of the week!

Gear yourself up to go full-manual mode! You can try one day a week, or even 10 minutes a week, but challenge yourself to start braving the learning curve and give it a shot! (More on how to make this process easier coming up next :)

Good luck as always! Hopefully it was clearer than mud and definitely less painful *hopefully* than looking it up on Wikipedia :)

Have a fabulous weekend...rock on, party people.

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Loving your body


1. “You seriously need to lose weight.”
2. “Your arms are too skinny. You need more tone, more muscle.”
3. “Your love handles are totally hanging over your pant waistline.”
4. “You seriously need to work on those thighs.”
5. “You would look so much better if you could just lose 5 pounds.”
6. “You look awful without makeup on.”
7. “What are those spots on your face? Scars or zits?”
8. “You are so out of shape!”
9. “Your cellulite is showing.”
10. “You have big hips.”
11. “Wow, that girl has an amazing body. You don’t look like that at all.”
12. “If you could get to 18% body fat you would look so much stronger.”
13. “You are not that pretty. You have a pointy nose.”

Those are 13 negative statements. And no, they are not from a bad boyfriend or husband. Shockingly, these are awful statements women say to themselves every day. About one thought for every waking hour of our day. According to this Glamour article, on average women have about 13 negative thoughts daily. And 97% percent of women admit to having at least one “I hate my body” moment every day. 

Most women are unhappy with their bodies. There are a million different reasons why this is the case. Many of which I don’t want to go into today. We can blame society all we want for this problem. But it still doesn’t solve it. So how do we fix it? How do we stop this negative spiral of daily thoughts? Start seeing yourself though the eyes of love.

What are the eyes of love? Simple. It is how my two-year-old daughter sees me.

She doesn’t know what my body fat percentage is. She doesn’t know that I am still working on losing the last of the baby weight. She doesn’t know that I think my hips are big or that my nose is pointy.She doesn’t know if I am ugly or pretty. She isn’t yet penetrable by society’s definition of beauty. All she knows is that she loves her mamma. There is no fat or skinny, pretty or ugly in her eyes. She loves me for who I am.

  1. “Mom, I love you!”
  2. “Mommy, come dance with me.”
  3. “Mommy! Good to see you.”
  4. “Mom, I like you.”
  5. “Mama let's play.”
  6. “Maaaaaaaam! Maaaaaam! Where are you? I want to be wif you.”
  7. “Hello mommy!”
  8. “Mommy, so preeetty!”
  9. “1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Yay! Mommy I did it!”
  10. “Mamma, hug?”
  11.  “Kiss it better mommy.”
  12.  “Do we look alike? Yay! Wahoo!”
  13.  “Mommy’s eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, ears, cheek, chin, lips, hair.”

Every day she sees me and she loves me. When I was big and pregnant, she never once told me I looked awful. But she did love to see and touch my big belly. She knew there was a baby in there, and that is all that mattered to her. She sees my eyes and lips with or without makeup on them. And they are just eyes to her; eyes that see her, lips that kiss her and make her feel better. She doesn’t see me through society's eyes. But she does see me through the eyes of love.

And it doesn’t take a two-year- old to love you in order for you to love yourself like a two-year-old would. One day at a time, we can decide to see ourselves as beautiful and love ourselves for who we are with the innate beauty we each possess.

What about you? What helps you to see yourself in a more positive light? 
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Wrap it up

Have you ever found yourself fresh out of creative food ideas for the next family event?  I feel like we have hit up most of the classics.  We have had a bunch of salads and croissant sandwiches.  We have done the brunch with quiche, yogurt parfait with the most delicious homemade granola (recipe I must share someday), scones, cinnamon rolls, and crumb cake.  The soup bar with lots of yummy soups and good bread.  The pasta bar.  The small plates event with appetizers and desserts.  The taco bar, actually, I think we have covered most of the popular foreign cuisine.  Did I mention my family loves food?  When we hear that we have a family gathering coming up, the first question my mom asks is, "What are we going to eat?"

Well, a family event was approaching so my most darling sister-in-law and I were brainstorming what the food needed to be for our next family gathering, a baby blessing.  We went through the list and thought and thought.  As brainstorming goes, I don't know where it came from but we decided on a salad/wrap bar.  It was really fun and I think everyone enjoyed the meal.  We did get a few confused looks from the first ones through the line, but they soon caught on and were wrapping it up!

So I thought, if you are out of ideas like we were, here is a fun summer party idea or just something you can do for your next family event.  It is fairly simple and everyone can find something they like!

First we decided on three salads,

BBQ/Southwest Salad (she had cute dressing bottles with ranch dressing and BBQ sauce in them on the side of this salad)

An Oriental Salad

Last but not least, a classic Caesar Salad (I know the pear Gorgonzola was in vogue and there are other fancy salads you currently love, but I find that everyone loves a classic Caesar.  Take it to your next dinner and you will be surprised what a refreshing classic it is).

We put out the three salads and even though some of the salad recipes call for meat, we left it out of the salad and did a good ole summer grill on the BBQ.  She used grilled chicken and grilled tri-tip.  Just a basic salt and pepper feel so that they could match any of the salads/wraps.

She also had a few different flavors of tortillas/wraps.  So, the guests picked up their wrap, added the salad of their choice and added the meat of their choice folded and went of their way!  It was also nice because if they weren't into the wrap thing, they could just have a nice salad with some yummy meat on it!

On the side you can do as you please, but she went for a beautiful tray of fresh fruit and veggies.  She also had chips and dips.  A little something for everyone!

I thought it turned out wonderfully!  The great thing, is that you can use your favorite salads and make it your own!  We did pre-dress the salads, so they were getting the full effect of the wrap, but we also had extra dressings on the side.  Wa-la!  I hope you get a chance to try it out at your next family gathering.  Let me know what salads you use and how it goes!
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Creamy Dreamy Orange Cupcakes


I've been making these cupcakes for years now and whenever I take them to neighborhood parties, church functions, baby showers, etc, people can't get enough of them. It's not uncommon to see all of them disappear off the serving platter within minutes of setting them down. People always ask me for the recipe, and frankly, I'm a little embarrassed to give it out because of how easy they are.

In a nutshell, I use a white cake mix but replace the water called for with orange juice and throw a little fresh orange zest in to bump up the flavor. The creamy, tangy frosting pairs perfectly with the cake. People are always surprised when I tell them how I make them because they really do taste fancier than they are.


  • 1 box white cake mix
  • Orange juice
  • Oil
  • Eggs
  • Zest and juice from 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • Make the cupcakes according to the directions on your cake mix except replace the water with orange juice (my mix used 1 1/4 cups orange juice, 1/3 cup oil, and 3 egg whites). Zest the orange and add half into the batter, reserving the other half for the frosting. I usually add a little red and yellow food coloring too to make the batter a light orange color. I think it looks pretty that way!
  • For the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth and fluffy. Alternate adding the powdered sugar and the juice from the orange. You may not need to add the juice from the entire orange. Just add it until you reach the consistency you want. Add the remaining orange zest and beat again to incorporate.
  • Once the cupcakes are completely cool, frost away! Decorate however your little heart desires. I like to add tiny orange pieces to the top of each cupcake so it's easy to tell what flavor it is.  
I had just frosted these cupcakes beautifully with a piping bag and a decorative tip.  I had them all arranged on a beautiful blue pedestal and they looked gorgeous.  I walked out of the room for 5.47 seconds to grab my camera and when I came back in to take some pictures of them, my 3 year old exclaimed, "Mommy!  Look what I did!"  And I saw this:

In an effort to help himself to one of my delicious cupcakes, he had tipped the serving plate over and they all slid off! My first instinct was to think, "Oh no!  They're ruined! Now they're going to look so ugly and none of the Doe A Deery readers will be impressed!" But then I remembered that we're all friends here and this blog is all about being real. So instead, I laughed, snapped some pictures, and helped my son unwrap his cupcake. I salvaged what I could of the frosting and rearranged it with a butter knife.  No harm done.

I know they're not the prettiest cupcakes you've ever seen, but I like to think of them as "rustic." Plus, it doesn't matter what they look like, anyway! All that matters is what they taste like. And I promise if you make these, you won't be disappointed. The cake is light and fluffy, the frosting is tangy and creamy, and because you're using a boxed cake mix, they couldn't be easier! Happy baking, everyone!
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Quick and Healthy Breakfast


by Rachel A.

In an effort to lose a few extra [extremely stubborn] pounds of baby weight, I've been really watching what I eat and have been trying to find ways to make what I eat more healthy.  With two little kids running around, eating healthy can be a challenge. Here's one option for breakfast that is super easy to put together, tastes good, and leaves me with lots of energy to chase those kids around.

First, I start with about eight ounces of unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

Next, you'll add your dry mix-ins. Most of these can be measured out and put in a sandwich bag ahead of time, for more time-saving. I typically use the following combination, but feel free to use your imagination. If something seems like it would taste good - try it out!


Chia Seeds - This is the one essential mix-in to this drink. When soaked in a liquid for more than 30 minutes, the Chia seeds form a gelatin shell, which makes the liquid more yogurt or jello like. Chia offers many health benefits including being a great source of Omega-3 and helping keep you hydrated. However, claims regarding it's ability to aide in weight loss have been disputed. Regardless, I love the stuff! I usually put about 3 TBSP of Chia in my 8-oz glass of almond milk, and let it sit for an hour or so (this takes a bit of forethought), if not overnight.

Slivered Almonds


Unsweetened Coconut - make sure it's unsweetened!

Fruit - In the picture above I show dried cranberries (make sure they are simply dried cranberries—most brands are loaded with extra sugar), which is one of my favorites, especially in the winter when fresh berries are hard to come by. This summer I've been using blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and even nectarines. I imagine frozen berries would taste great too, but I've never tried it. The fruit adds the sweetness you may feel you're missing with all the other unsweetened ingredients.

Other ideas:

Stevia - On days that I'm wanting a little extra sweetness, I'll add in a small squirt (a little goes a LONG way) of this Stevia sweetener. It doesn't quite taste like traditional sugar sweetener, but it is so much better for you to avoid the sugar!

Flax Seed - Lately I've been throwing in a tablespoon or so of flax seed, which is being called one of the most powerful plant foods around. This does add a bit more grit to the drink, but if you can get past it, the health benefits are huge.

Once you have all your ingredients together, throw them in your almond milk and stir it up. If you haven't let the Chia sit in the almond milk yet, you'll need to let the whole mixture sit for a little while to set up. I usually put this together as soon as I wake up, then help my kids get breakfast, or jump in the shower and it's ready by the time I am done.

As a heads up: I usually get hungry a couple of hours after breakfast when this is what I have. If this happens for you too, be prepared with a banana or LARA Bar (I'm a new lover of LARA Bars thanks to my friend Kristie Belliston of The Belly Fit Club) to hold you over until lunch.

Let me know how you like it! I'd love to hear if you have more ideas for mix-ins, or if you have other quick & healthy meal ideas.
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A Glimpse


by Rachel A.

photo credit: Nubia Allen
When we decided to move to Big Sky country, I knew the summers would be incredible. Nearly every week we've been packing up and heading for the hills on Friday, then spending all Monday trying to recover. Our kids are getting some great cousin and grandparent time in, and we're all soaking up the outdoors life we were missing back East. It has been amazing, but honestly, I'm exhausted! 

Two weeks ago, we traveled to my husband's uncle's ranch, just outside of Lewistown, Montana (pretty much the center of the state) to help with a cattle drive. Every summer a bunch of family and friends gather at the ranch to move cattle from the lower pasture to an upper pasture, where they'll spend the summer getting nice and fat. It's a unpredictable 30 mile round-trip process, with the first 15 miles taking about twice as long as the second... those horses know they're headed home!

Having grown up in more urban areas, and especially being so far removed from this type of environment for the last several years, this event really feels like you get to take a step back in time (aside from the LARA Bars, Camelbaks and 4-wheelers). I'm not sure I would have survived back then, although I'm pretty sure my husband was made for it.

During the drive I had several moments when I realized how lucky I was to be able to participate in this unique event. It may be a bit self-indulgent, but I thought I'd share a peek into the life I get to enjoy now.

Many of the photos were taken by my amazing photographer cousin, Nubia Allen. I love her and how the world appears through her camera. Enjoy!

photo credit: Nubia Allen
photo credit: Nubia Allen
photo credit: Nubia Allen
photo credit: Nubia Allen
photo credit: Nubia Allen

photo credit: Nubia Allen

photo credit: Nubia Allen

photo credit: Nubia Allen


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And the Custum Calligraphy Banner Winner is...


The winner is miss.alexis!  Congrats!

Email me at doeadeery+cat@gmail.com so that I can get your details and make your custom banner!

Thank you my deers for reading and entering the giveaway!
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Where are you guys?!?

I've been getting that question a bit lately, so I wanted to put all theses crazy rumors to rest and let you know where we are! Onto the rumor mill... No, Julie didn't leave her family to sew and dance her way across the fifty states, and yes, Ali is still alive after having a second child. Rachel and Rachel are NOT fighting about sharing the same name (anymore), and Melissa's eye is not crazy glued to her viewfinder. Andrea is not too busy gelling her nails to not write, and Erica isn't spending the summer in Russia. No, Cat didn't permanently go into hiding after shaving her head, and yes, Misa is a busy woman with a lot going on. Actually, we all are... you are too... and that's the truth!

So the biggest reality is: Life gets busy, and I'm not stressing about it. Yes, posts have been a little less frequent, but I'm not going to stress about it. Doe a Deery is a fun outlet. I want to contribute to the world and help others in some way, and not just add to the crazy blog frenzy because a post needs to go up. That is real. But sometimes I get sidetracked and think my blog needs to be like other blogs. But it doesn't. It just has to be enjoyable for me and the people who participate.

So thank you for reading and being patient and not believing the crazy rumors that have been swirling around the internet like a tornado! Everything's gonna be alright because I'm not stressing. Try it my friends!

Rachel W.
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Five Ways to Make Your Husband Feel Special

by Erica
Growing up, I specifically remember my cute Mom taking time to make us each feel special. I will never forget dumping out my sack lunch in 10th grade to find a note, attached to a toothpick, sticking out of my shiny red apple. It was a simple note and I carried it in my purse for a long time. It wasn't exactly what was said in that note but how special it made me feel, even as a snotty 10th grade girl. Although I had grown up, my Mom was not about to stop making me feel special. Even now I will randomly find a box of donuts on my front porch with a note from my Mom. Simple acts of kindness that will never be forgotten.

Creating the same environment for my little family is something I have tried to emulate. I want the people in my life to feel special and loved. So for the next few months I will be sharing some ideas on how to make certain people in your life feel special. And guess what, taking a little extra time to make someone else feel good - makes you feel ever better! Win, win people! 

Five Ways to Make Your Husband (or significant other) Feel Special 

1. Leave Hidden Notes
This is nothing ground-breaking or new but is quick, easy and will mean a lot. I love trying to find a new spot to hide them. My favorite is to hide it in his laptop, so when he opens it there is a little something waiting for him. Other fun spots: inside his wallet, on his steering wheel, bathroom mirror, on a random piece of paperwork or in his sock drawer. Sometimes I even leave notes written on his favorite candy and stash them in his brief case! 

2. Do a chore/job that usually he does, a do it! 
Is there a certain something around the house that he always does that he may not love doing? While he is away or before he has a chance to do the chore himself, you do it! I think you'll be surprised at how happy it makes him. And maybe you can gain a little appreciation for that job he always does!! Example: My cute husband doesn't love to mow our lawn. I can promise you it is not his favorite "job" he does. One Saturday I decided to be really nice and do it for him. And if I am being honest, I hated every second of mowing the lawn, but as soon as I saw his face it made it all worth it! He was so happy and shocked that I would do it for him. P.S. He had to take photo of me while mowing the lawn... obviously I wasn't too thrilled about lawn mowing plus a photo and he was loving I would mow the lawn just for him! Next time I will try to have a happier face when he decides to take a photo! 

3. Compliment him. Thank him. 
Bottom line, who doesn't like a compliment. Or a simple Thank You! Maybe he has worked hard on a work or school project - tell him how great it is. Maybe he is trying out a new tie - tell him he looks handsome! Or maybe he has had a bad day and you simply just tell him Thank You. Just taking that time to do so will make him feel good. 

4. Send a random text or email...
Making someone feel special doesn't have to take a lot of time. It can be as easy as sending him a text in the middle of the day, for no reason at all and say, "I Love You" or "I'm thinking about you". Or my favorite is to send a one line email that will pop into his inbox that says something silly that only the two of us would understand. Hopefully he will read it during a really important meeting and he will totally laugh out loud. Or blush. One of the two! 
5. Plan a Special Date Night - Just for Him
Pick his favorite restaurant and favorite activity and go do it with him! You may hate Chinese and hitting golf balls, but if that is his favorite thing - do it for him! One of my husband's favorite things is to go to sporting events. For me it has become not as much about what sport we are going to watch, but rather about being with him while he is doing something he loves. 

Put 'em to the test... Try a few of these out. 
See how the person in your life reacts. See how you feel. 

What are some ways you make your husband or significant other feel special? Please share!

**Disclaimer: I am not a "make your husband feel special" expert. These are just a few of my personal ideas.  xoxo
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