I am kicking off the Q&A posts with the questions related to photography….here we go…

What app do you use to make your photo grids that you post sometimes of all your instagram photos? I use PicFrame


How much do you edit your pictures? How do you know when a picture is β€œdone”? I don’t have a ton of down time and the last thing I want to do is be on the computer, so I try to get my photos as close to what I want when I take them. For editing, I usually use actions and presets from Totally Rad or VSCO. If I don’t use an action, I mainly tweak the contrast and brightness, if needed. I simply don’t have time for lots of editing on Photoshop, so I consider a photo done pretty quickly. If it looks good, its done. I batch edit in Lightroom too…so I can select a bunch of photos and make a few adjustments to all of them at one time.

For someone interested in getting into photography, would you recommend starting with a DLSR or a mirror-less camera? I would recommend a DSLR because I think they are more user friendly, especially for learning if you are shooting fast moving kids. That is just my opinion. If you ask a photographer that primarily uses mirror-less cameras, they will probably recommend a mirror-less. I think it depends on what you are shooting. If you are shooting adults, food, scenery – a mirror-less might be better. I rarely use my mirror-less when shooting my kids because I am just not quick enough with changing the settings. If I shot with it more, I am sure I could get faster though. I do wish my DSLR was as small and lightweight as my mirror-less though!

Click here for a post I wrote about my mirror-less and DSLR


How do you make the time / organize your time so that you have time to sort the photos and keep up with the editing? Blogging definitely helps with this! Since I am consistent with my blog, by default I am consistent with my photos. I tend to transfer my photos from my camera to my computer on an almost daily basis. I delete ones I don’t like, batch edit and am done in just a couple of minutes. Only a small percentage of my photos actually appear on my blog, but I go through all the pictures at once.

Are you going to offer the course in an abbreviated form where you can read about your photography tips, or watch videos/read tutorials on how to shoot in manual, or videos or tutorials on composition, etc.?Β  I am working through several ideas and options on how I want to use the SnapShop curriculum in the future. I still have one more class, so right now my focus will be ending my courses well. After that, I have a few ideas churning.


How do you organize your videos both on the computer while you still want to work with them and also on your external hard drive? My friend Amy encouraged me to keep my videos on my hard drive only. I have a wireless hard drive, so I just work off my hard drive instead of storing the videos on my computer. I do have clips on my computer that need to be transferred to my hard drive. I have a good system down with photos, but still working on my video system.

Have you updated your way of organizing photos since your last post a couple years ago? More to do in lightroom and tagging pictures in categories to easily access? Nope, I still organize my photos the way I have for several years. Lightroom does do tagging and other organizational options, but I just have not been able to get into a habit to doing any of that. There are so many things that I could be doing, but just keeping up with what I am already doing is a big enough job! I think if I could get into a routine and habit with tagging and categories, it would be beneficial.


I thought you said that your SnapShop courses had helped finance TWO international adoptions. I was curious if you all are adopting again, or if you helped with another family? It did fund two adoptions: ours and the adoption of our friends’ daughter. You can read that story here.

What are your go to photo apps on your phone? Instagram, VSCOcam, PicTapGo, Afterlight, PicFrame, Rhonna Designs, A Beautiful Mess

We are getting ready to do an epic roadtrip. Do you have a formula/philosophy/tip on how not to end up with 3,000 photos of β€œthe kids in front of a famous thing?” My tip would simply be ‘don’t pose your kids in front of famous things’:)If you are thinking about it already, my guess is you will be conscience of it while you are on your trip. Try capturing your kids just being themselves with the famous thing in the background. Think about the story you want to tell. Ask your kids for ideas of what kinds of pictures they might want with the famous thing.

Left: my family in awe of Flaming Gorge

Right: twirling in front of the Grand Tetons. She twirled on her own, I just made sure to pick an angle that had the mountains in the background.


Left: Stinky pots in Yellowstone. Chris captured us as we were talking about the smell – it tells so much more of the story than if we were standing there smiling.

Right: I climbed in the back of the car to capture my son watching wildlife in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone. Having him turn and smile at me would have killed this shot.8.15qaphoto-15

How do you end up getting so many great pics with you in them?! Do you teach your kids to use your DSLR or are these pics mainly with your phone? I do both. Most are with my phone, but I have been teaching a few of my kids (the ones that are interested) how to use my DSLR. Here are a few past posts I wrote on that topic:

3/14 Embrace the Camera: Tips for Getting in the Shot

3/11 Getting in the Shot

3.16embrace-3Whew…that was a lot of random photography related questions and answers! I know I didn’t cover everything, but hopefully that is helpful for some of you…a new topic coming tomorrow.

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  • Bevy @ treasured up and pondered - I found this to be very helpful. Thanks so much!!

  • Jenny - I loved reading these questions and answers. So fun! :)

  • amber - These are great! And it was fun seeing that little bitty photo of you with one of your brand new babies:). Your wisdom is greatly appreciated. πŸ˜‰

  • Mary - The adoption funding story is still one of my all time favorites from your blog!

  • Court - Your photography has inspired me since I found your blog a few months before you adopted Little One. Do you mind sharing your favorite actions in RadLab?

  • kimberly oyler - a wireless hard drive?! genius! i hate plugging my hard drive in.

  • Hayley - For 3 years I have been dragging photos into Photoshop and combining/resizing them there to make collages. Holy Cow… just downloaded PicFrame and it’s changing my blog life!!! Thank you for sharing your tools!

I am working through your questions from last week – so many! I am going to break them into four separate posts this week by theme. While I am still working on answering those, I wanted to give you a heads up that Mpix photobooks are on sale this week. A couple weeks ago I shared how I am ordering prints this year instead of a big yearly photo album. My original plan was to make a 2015 family video, but I have not been so on the ball with actually recording video! I need to work on that big time.

Though I am ordering prints for most of our photos, I do want to make a few smaller books for certain themes/events. For my first book this year, I used the pictures from our family session that Shannon shot. It is amazing how fast a book can be put together when I am not doing it for the whole year!

8.15qaphoto-01One downside of many basic photo books is how pictures get lost in the center fold. Mpix has a new line of lay flat panoramic books. As I was inserting pictures into the templates, I kept trying to arrange them so nothing important (like a face) would get lost in the center. I was halfway through making the book before I remembered the pages would lay flat and nothing would get lost in the middle. I started the design over, but it was worth it.8.15qaphoto-038.15qaphoto-048.15qaphoto-068.15qaphoto-07

The pages are extra thick and well made. I am thrilled with the result and am looking forward to future books.

Mpix has their premium and softcover panoramic photobooks on sale for 40% until Wednesday, August 5th. Use the promo code BOOKS15.

My book is a 10×10 hardcover, panoramic photobook with a dustcover, c/o Mpix.com


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  • Maura McCurdy - Do you print your books in matte or glossy? I can’t seem to get an idea of what looks better. Thanks.

  • Rachel - I was working on one of these books, but was frustrated that it cropped all my pictures! Did that happen to you as well? They are such great books and the sale is wonderful, but not if my photos are cut off?

  • Saraj - Have you ever used a company to scan negatives into digital files? Any recommendations? Thanks!

  • Jenny - Oh, this looks like it turned out just perfect! Love it!

  • AshleyAnn - Maura – I chose matte

  • susie - Thanks for the code!

  • Zainab - Hi Ashley! How would you compare these books to the my publisher books?


  • Natalie - Ashley, Have you ever heard of the app called One Second Everyday? Its amazing. You shoot video on your iPhone everyday (its prompts you so you don’t forget) and it helps you edit one second of it and mashes it up. It’s so simple and so, so cool to watch. I think you’ll love it!!

  • Marcy - Thank you for the tip on MPix! Just ordered a book with family vacation pics (well 2, so the littles can look at their own as often as they want). Can’t wait for it to come in! =)

My oldest daughter has been planning her birthday party for over a year. She’s changed her ideas a dozen times. At one point she wanted a party that involved her brothers chasing all her friends in a nerf battle. I convinced her that all her friends may not think that is a fun game. She also thought about a ‘wrestling party’. Then it was a ‘gymnastics/dance/singing party’, which would include a stage for her to perform. As the party grew closer, she found pinterest and decided she wanted a painting party.

She planned every detail. I just did what she said! The girl had a checklist and she was checking it far more than twice.

7.15paintingparty-01In the midst of planning her party, DecoArt contacted me about their Social Artworking Canvas Painting Parties…the timing could not have been better. I’ve worked with DecoArt for several years and am always a bit giddy to get a DecoArt package on my doorstep. The idea for the painting parties is simple – gather together with a group of friends and paint a canvas. There is a Party Planner that makes figuring it all out really easy. My daughter picked an owl design and everything we needed was sent to our home care of DecoArt. Easiest party ever. I will say the biggest investment is the easels, canvas and paintbrushes. Just keep that in mind if you begin planning a party.7.15paintingparty-03The kit comes with transfer paper and the design. I transferred the basic design on each canvas prior to the party.7.15paintingparty-04There are very easy to follow instructions for leading the painting. The instructions tell you which brush to use (for example use #12 or #08). The numbers are small. Since my party included a group of 5 & 6 year old girls, I color coded the brushes with washi tape. It was easier to tell the girls, “use your pink paintbrush.”7.15paintingparty-05My paint trays are from Hobby Lobby. I use and reuse them all the time. They clean up so easily. Each girl had a prepared spot that included her brushes, paint try, cup with water, paper towel and her canvas.7.15paintingparty-06All the decorations were decided by my daughter. She wanted rainbow colors with an emphasis on blue (her favorite color).

We gave all the moms a heads up that we would be painting, so they could dress accordingly.7.15paintingparty-08The straws are from IKEA. The napkins are c/o Shop Sweet Lulu.7.15paintingparty-09My daughter told me she wanted a square cookie cake. It also had to have white and blue icing in a square and in circles with a number 6 candle. I baked the cookie cake and then had her direct every step of the icing. When it was finished she declared it the most beautiful cake she has ever seen. She also told me she was sure everyone would think we bought it at the bakery. I love that about kids. She sees everything in the most beautiful way.7.15paintingparty-11One of my favorite parts of the painting was that the girls mixed the paint. The colors didn’t come ready to use. They had to combine different colors and mix them to get the right shades. I then led them in what to paint where. It was cute watching them get up and walk around to encourage and admire all the paintings.7.15paintingparty-157.15paintingparty-167.15paintingparty-17We took a break to let the first layer dry…cookie cake, snacks, hide-n-seek, and chicken chasing.7.15paintingparty-18And back to finish their paintings. Also, note the red washcloths on the table. I got those wet before the party so they were on hand and ready to use when little hands got paint on them, which they did.7.15paintingparty-197.15paintingparty-207.15paintingparty-307.15paintingparty-31

When the party was over I told Chris I want to be an art teacher. I had so much fun helping the girls with their paintings. SO MUCH FUN. They were all so proud of their work and my girl was beaming the whole time. I am hoping she decides she wants another painting party next year. If not, I’ll just invite my friends over for a party. Maybe I’ll invite my friends over either way!

For more information on designs and details on planning your own party, visit the Social Artworking website!

It has been fun reading all your questions yesterday. I’ll work on answering some of those next week!

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  • Aja - I absolutely love this party idea. So fun! You have such the perfect space for it, too. Definitely get some friends together- that sounds just as fun! :)

  • Annemieke - Love love love everything about this party, but the very best part is that picture of your two daughters hugging. That one is priceless!

  • Danielle - That is adorable!

  • Alice H - you should teach art for your homeschool co-op kids (if you do one, which I think you mentioned before that you do!)

  • Tammy Kay - I teach a mixed media class at our local co-op. Maybe you could make that happen. Love this party. You inspire me yet again!

  • Lisa - Wonderful!

  • Kaleigh - Ummm.. this is amazing?! Seriously! I want a painting party!!

  • Raimie Harrison - This is great! I love it!

  • Keshia - I am an art teacher that works from home. And your right, it is SO much fun πŸ˜€

    Never thought of having a painting party, I am totally going to have to add that to my bucket list.

  • Tiffany - So well done, the suggestions provided are fantastic. My daughters birthday isnt until December but im excited to show her this post..

  • Anastasiya - I love this post… such a cute idea! Looks like the girls had a blast =)

  • Emily - oh i love this idea! I’m going to ask my little girl if she would like to do this too for her next birthday! On another note, I wanted to tell you how thankful I am to have been able to take your snapshots course. It’s made such a difference and I have you to thank!

  • Elizabeth Higsmith - You are an art teacher, a very good one! From your snapshot classes to your blog you’re a natural and I hope you do teach official “art” classes one day!

  • Beckie - We had a party like this several years ago and it is still my daugher’s favorite party to date! I asked her art teacher at school if she would be willing to help out by instructing the painting part and she was thrilled to make a little extra pocket money. She also had enough easels for everyone to use so I didn’t have to purchase those. On top of that – the kids LOVE their art teacher and they were absolutely giddy she was there to teach them. It freed me up to finish up the food, visit with the other moms a bit, and take photos of the entire painting process. My daughter just said the other day that she wants to do this again for her 11th birthday party coming up in October!

  • nadya kotik - Where did you get the easels?

  • AshleyAnn - Nadya – they are from Social Artworking

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh my goodness!! Julia wants to know if she can come to her next birthday party. It looks like a blast!

  • Natalie Frank - Hi! Your blog is so beautifully designed and inspiring to read. From your adoption advocacy to your passion for your family and photography…so awesome! I love this painting party idea too! Our lil one is only 6 months old so it will be a bit before I can pull this off but it will be in my brain until then!

  • Kyra - I had read this post about 3 times before committing to do a painting for my daughter’s birthday party. We had 8 girls, ages from 8-11, all painting the Electric Zebra picture my daughter chose from the Artworks site. I ordered the paint, brushes, and pattern with carbon paper from Artworks. My local art store was having a huge discount on canvases and art related items. I purchased the canvas and 4 extra easels locally. But all the items from Artworks came packaged without damage and made the project so much easier. It took us about 2 hours to complete but it was a lot of fun to see each painting-even if the pattern was the same, brush strokes and the amount of paint each used, created an individualized painting. I highly recommend using Artworks! Thanks, Ashley, for posting about the party.

  • AshleyAnn - Kyra – I am so thrilled you had a great experience!!! Thanks for coming back and sharing with me!

  • Holli - Where did you get the easels? My daughter would like to do this for her birthday!