January… I talked about how calm and quiet it is before, right? Yeah… well it hasn’t been so quiet.  Work has been abundant which is fabulous.  So what have I been up to? I’ve been taking my pictures every.single.day.  Haven’t missed one! Two days I snuck in iPhone pictures because it described what we were doing, even though my camera wasn’t with me.  I’m up to 93 days of straight shooting.  I’ve had some low moments… a few days that it’s 11pm and I realize I’ve forgotten… some that I haven’t wanted to grab the camera.  However, I did. I usually end up shooting my wine glass on those days.

As for work… I’m not taking photography sessions this year, but I was/am a teaching assistant in some pretty amazing classes (Lightroom Fundamentals and Flash and Continuous Light for the Modern Photographer are two I’m currently finishing up/working on) and just last month the Click Magazine’s Product Blog launched, in which I’m one of the contributors.  Have you seen Click? It’s honestly the prettiest magazine I’ve ever read… and it’s recently been on the shelves in Barnes and Noble!  You certainly don’t have to be a photographer to read it! Want to see some of my posts? Check me out, here!

Enough about that… Here are the pictures from the last 20ish days… I’m just about ready to bust outta this house and play outside. Only a few more weeks, hopefully.  We were promised a blizzard by the weather folks, but they did not deliver.  I secretly love that Mother Nature laughs at us simple little people trying to guess what the clouds will do! There’s been house projects, chalk painting, and mess around the house. I’d love for this post to be a touch more eloquent… but the brain, it’s about full currently!

I do have a post coming about camera settings… and discussing the difference between Aperture Priority/Shutter Priority/Manual/Automatic… it’s written… just needs some pictures… so stay tuned!!:)




  • February 26, 2015 - 12:40 am

    Danie - It looks like quite a special January!ReplyCancel

Sixty one years ago, today, January 23rd, my Gran & Pop were married.


In the fall of 2013, my aunt let me borrow all of the love letters my Pop wrote to my Gran in 1951/1952.  He was in the army and stationed in Massachusetts.  He had already been to war (the Korean War) and lived through some incredibly difficult things.  Yet the sweet, young, and even a touch naive tone of his letters amazed me as I went through.  I adored reading his words in a way I didn’t know him, and anticipating what my Gran probably was writing back to him (since we don’t have her letters).

I’ve gone back and forth about sharing these next stories, but they feel significant, so I’m going to.  A few odd things happened to me (and my husband rolls his eyes when I tell these stories) however, when I received the letters they seemed out of order – things in the wrong envelopes, mostly.  I categorized all of them, put them in the right envelopes and even made a check off sheet with each one.  I put them away to take back out a few days layer.  When I took them back out they were 100% out of order again.  No one touched them.  Letter #14 was in #2’s envelope, not simple misses, but huge incorrect ones.  I put them back together again… but it just felt odd.  I’m a logical person.  I’m an organized person.  I make mistakes, but I don’t put #14 in #2, ha!


To continue… I took pictures of all of the letters. I really took my time, doing just a few on any given day… so I can thoroughly read them, and take special care to shoot the details.  Finally, after months of doing this, I was ready to create a book from the 200+ images I had shot, edited, viewed. I even typed up each one with his words, misspellings, etc. When I went to the file with all of the images, there were only 20 files in the folder.  The rest were gone, just gone.  Like I said, I’m organized – and that includes digitally, too. I haven’t ever lost a client’s images or personal images. I double back everything up to both an online site & a 2nd external hard drive.  These images were G.O.N.E.  Take from this what you will – but quite honestly, I don’t lose files.  Anyhow, I reshot all of the letters in one afternoon and it probably saved me time in the long run because it was a bit more orderly, better consistent light, etc.  But it’s still strange….


My Pop passed on my birthday, in 2007.  My Gran is still here with us.  They were/are really fun and loving grandparents, each with a bit of an edge to their personalities – helping to make me the fiery and passionate person I am today. I have so many wonderful memories – drinking coffee when my mom wouldn’t let me, eating ice cream for breakfast and frequent visits to the dollar store with my Gran (she got a dollar store allowance from Pop).  The way my Pop sat in one spot in their kitchen and him coming into the house, in the fall, in his referee uniform. In his older years, I once put all of his beer in the basement so he’d have to get more exercise.  Everyone in the family recalls him being “so mad” at me, but he wasn’t.  It amused him, I saw it in his eyes. He knew I loved him.  Their home was the first place I drove my car to when getting my license and that same home is now my sister’s.


The two of them… they loved each other, alot.  They could also argue and fight like the best of ‘em! He began most of the letters with “My Dearest Darling” and in one even told her he’d “never have been drunk in front of her if he knew she would be there and that he swore to never do it again”… let’s revert to how I put his case of beer in the basement so he’d get exercise…  These are just so neat to read and makes me connect with their thoughts and actions even more.



Thanks to the internet I learned some new acronyms: SMRLH – “Soldiers Mail Rush Like Hell”


So what did I do with all of these images? On Christmas I gave my Gran a book of all of the letters.  Artifact Uprising has these beautiful, simple, and old world feeling softcover books.  I knew they’d be the perfect choice. I printed the books in size 8×6.  They are wonderful and I got a few copies to share with family.


The will forever be together in Sea Isle City…


  • January 28, 2015 - 12:55 pm

    Laura Carroll - Came across this on Pinterest today and I’m so glad I clicked! Such a beautiful, inspirational and meaningful photo project!ReplyCancel

    • January 30, 2015 - 5:34 pm

      Melissa Stottmann - Thank you so much, Laura! I didn’t even know it had been pinned by someone! That makes my day :) Have a great weekend <3ReplyCancel

  • February 8, 2015 - 3:04 am

    Heidi - how incredibly beautiful. Cherish every moment you have with your Gram. I miss mine horribly… you gave her an incredible loving gift.ReplyCancel

“Do not hurry; do not rest.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I adore January. It’s a breath of fresh air after the busy holiday season. I have been feeling like I’m moving at double speed the past 4 months as I visited Salt Lake City for Click Away, onto Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas and the second run of my workshop. It’s only after the slow of January begins that I feel like I can breathe again. I was intentional this year through the fall and into Christmas. We simplified our outings and our weekends and I took a break from client sessions, but somehow, I still felt over extended and just plain busy. It’s not a feeling I welcome, typically, as I shine in the calm and quiet. Long days spent in pjs, projects together in the dining room, art and drawing scattered throughout the house, and no schedule is what makes me feel like me.

For 2015, my primary goal is to slow down and keep “rushing” to a minimum. This will mean doing less and prioritizing more. Leaving dishes in the sink in order to add extra padding time to school pick up. Saying no to events and outings that just aren’t doing it for me and ridding our lives of the “should” monster. Social media and watching other peoples lives has a way of creeping into the “should” zone. “Others are doing it so if we don’t I’m a bad mother…” which is a made up idea that I allow.
As I write this, on my phone, the kids are finishing up a 50 minute bath in which they have renamed soap, “contiste” for a reason I can’t explain. I can feel little bits of guilt trying to grasp me… “Your bed isn’t made…“, “Her room could use picking up…“, “You haven’t done the laundry“… But instead I’m taking a deep breath, reminding myself that this isn’t a race or contest.
Here’s the last few weeks of images from my “Remarkable Everyday” 365 project. We had a beautiful holiday and I shot more film clips and video footage than I did images, which I hope to share next month when I put them all together into a film on iMovie. I am also completing the next post in my “So You Wanna” series, it’s a big one that I’ve already spent two hours on, and will be covering exposure and the modes on your camera! It’s full of links and resources for further learning and I’m excited to share.
I hope you had a fabulous December… and here’s to 2015!
The picture in front of the fire place is a DIRECT example of why I never ask the kids to smile for the camera, hahah.
We did some Christmas traveling and visited our favorite “Boat Hotel”.  The kids also spent lots of time at Gran’s house:)
traveling_christmas_delaware_photographerAnd then January began…. slow, quiet… and full of surprise house projects!

We are busy gearing up for Christmas and between holiday shows, our Elf ‘Buddy’ and my workshop wrapping up I’ve been busy! Today I edited 2 weeks worth of my 365 images.  I’m taking them… Oh… I’m taking them.  I have a lot of images.  I haven’t gotten them together to post, though… until today.  I know as 2014 begins I will have much more time on my hands.

So… I love white Christmas lights. I think they make a Christmas tree look incredibly classy and beautiful.  However, I remember the magic of coming out of my bedroom on Christmas morning and gazing at an amazingly colorful Christmas tree and my childhood heart fell in love, every year.  We had a really wonderful (though difficult for my mom) tradition.  Her and my dad would put our tree up on Christmas Eve.  They got the lights on (which was often frustrating as one string would always go out… or all of them…).  Following the tree, we’d head to church only to come home and admire the shining and colorful tree some more.  We were whisked to bed not long after, with a few of the hundreds of chocolate chip cookies made, in our bellies.  Santa, that night, would decorate the tree to perfection.  What a magical experience that was to wake up to.  All of our cherished ornaments, the twinkling garland and angel on top with bundles of wrapped gifts beneath. This was my favorite Christmas tradition… and while I don’t wait until Christmas Eve (mostly because I know how stressed out my mom and dad would end up on Christmas Eve orchestrating all of it) I am holding tight on the colored lights, for my babies.  To experience the colorful childhood that I remember.  We even mixed tiny bulbs and big bulbs this year.  One day they won’t care any more and I can class up this tree to my heart’s content.



I even handed my daughter the camera as my husband and I dragged our Christmas tree into the house.  The results were amazing. HA!



In addition to shooting daily throughout 2015… I have also started a class with Xanthe Berkeley.  I will be creating a film of our family- might be a morning, an event, a season of our lives… but I will be creating 1 per month (wish me luck!).  Here is our first with footage from October…

October 2014 from Melissa LaCroix Stottmann on Vimeo.


And finally… have you planned how you are photographing your Christmas morning? Last year I shared how to get in the picture, yourself, using the interval timer on your camera (Nikon only) or if you are Canon, using a remote, here:


Well, this year, I have updated this with some of my tweaks (adding some light and removing harsh light!):



If I don’t make it back here before Christmas– Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! <3

  • December 21, 2014 - 11:32 pm

    Carol Graf - Melissa,
    I just love all your pictures and the video was great!! I love seeing how your family is growing up and being able to get a glimpse of you all once in a while! You are very talented….but I always knew that!! My love to you, Ryan and the kids…..I hope to get to see you all sometime soon! Have a wonderful happpy Merry and blessed Christmas!!
    Carol GrafReplyCancel

Welcome to Post 2 of my “So You Wanna…” Series.
 I’m going to tackle lenses in this post!


This post took longer than expected… between running my workshop and the holidays the time is escaping me!

Did you miss the first post, “So You Wanna Buy a Camera?”… no worries, check it out HERE.

Be sure to check out all of the links within the post- from writers more eloquent and thorough than I!

Lenses each have a different focal length.  The way your eye sees the environment is close to equivalent to a 35mm lens (on a cropped sensor camera — it will say DX on the camera- which all entry level cameras are).

There are lenses that are wider than the naked eye (called ‘Wide Angle Lenses’). Some examples are 24mm, 10-20mm.  Basically any numbers lower than 35.  Typically the subject gets a bit more stretched, and wider, at the edges.  Super wide lenses will give the appearance of being in a fish bowl, hence they are named “Fish Eye” Lenses.

Then you have telephoto lenses.  These lenses show items more zoomed in than you’d see with your naked eye.  Some examples are a 85mm, 135mm, 70-200mm, etc.


The image above was shot standing in one spot, just using different focal lengths!

Finally, there are lenses that cover a range from wide to telephoto like the 18-55mm & 24-70mm…

Lenses with just one focal length, the 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc.  Are called “Prime” lenses.  Lenses with a range, the 24-70, 70-200, 70-300 are “Zoom” lenses and can have different focal lengths and zoomed in and out.

My friend Kristin Dokoza wrote a fabulous blog post comparing lens focal lengths to demonstrate the differences on the Clickin Moms blog, “Lens Choices: how to decide which lens to use

When purchasing a lens you will notice some more numbers after the lens with a  “f/  ” in front of it.  This is the aperture of the lens and refers to how wide the lens opens up to let more light in (yes, lower number… wider open).  The lower the number, the better the lens.  Also, the lower the number, the more expensive.  We will cover aperture more in another post… but for now just know that a really nice quality lens has a low aperture (1.4, 1.8, 2.0, 2.8 are low numbers).  For instance, the ‘kit’ lens, the 18-55mm, that we talked about in the last post has a variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6.  This does not let a lot of light in.  Also, it varies based on your focal length… so if you are shooting at 55mm (with the 18-55mm) you can only shoot at 5.6 and this is a major cramp in your style;)

Click It Up A Notch did a fabulously comprehensive description of the writing on the lenses.  Continue on through their entire lens series for even more information about lenses!

Here’s a fantastic graphic demonstrating each aperture.  It’s very similar to the pupil in your eye- the more wide open, the more light that is getting in.  The wide open numbers are the lower numbers.  Notice how f/22 lets only a very little bit of light in?

aperture-scaleimage from Expertphotography.com
How to Understand Aperture in 5 Simple Steps

So what do I recommend beginning with? I recommend getting a 35mm on a cropped sensor  (either 1.4, 1.8, or 2.0) to start.  This will give you a view of the world as you see it  and allow lots of light in (again, we will talk about this later!)  Yes, this doesn’t zoom.  You know what does zoom? Your feet.  Get up and move;)It’s cheaper than a high quality zoom lens. Canon’s 35mm is more expensive than Nikon’s – so for a Canon I’d recommend going with the 50mm 1.8 – but for indoors you might find yourself wanting more breathing room than this will allow.

Another thing to note… lenses are for life (generally speaking).  Your lenses have an infinite shelf life (they may have to be sent in for repair and cleaning every so often but you can literally have them forever).  Your camera is not for life.  It will die eventually.  The technology will degrade and it may not be worth it to fix the camera.  So… invest in your lenses, even if it’s over time! (We will talk about which lenses to purchase next in a future post!)


Please research your camera and the lenses that work with your camera. All DSLR cameras have an arsenal of lenses… but some of them just aren’t made for certain cameras due to functionality.  For instance, some Nikon cameras do not have a focus motor so you will need to purchase a lens with a focus motor (it will say AF-S).  I don’t know much about Canon… but I know there are things to watch out for.

One more thing I’d like to cover is how DSLR camera lenses differ from a point and shoot or your iPhone with a lens built in.  Digital zoom (on a point and shoot or iPhone) simply takes the same size image you are shooting and crops the image.  The image is lower quality.  Optical zoom, from your lenses, literally brings you in closer and allows the image to be high quality.  Some more technical information on that here.

Questions? Comments? Leave me some below in the comments! I’m happy to help:)

Soooo… you will need to go ahead and purchase that camera that you are thinking about.

Go ahead… I’ll wait.  Hit buy.





Want more? Well, next up is Post 3 – “What are these modes?!”   We will be covering Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority & Full-On Manual… with some fabulous resources to get you going even further!