Photography Tips


5 Ways to Shoot With the 50mm Lens

How many of you bought a 50mm lens as your first lens? I think it is the first lens most people choose to buy. For the most part, we all spent a good long time with that stock lens that came with our first cameras, am I right? It's true, the 50mm is a favorite among most. It's probably my favorite, with a close running to the 35mm. And it's a favorite for good reason. One can get a lot of miles out of the 50mm because it's so versatile.

I spent the first 5 years of my photography journey shooting portraits with my 50mm lens. It didn't take long for me to use the 50mm for nearly everything; landscapes, details, low light, and cityscapes. To this day I still use the 50mm lens, but I use it primarily to shoot styled stock photos and it's highly versatile with everything I shoot today.  

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My photography journey started in lifestyle portraits which were my favorite for a long time... until I started shooting flatlay. The 50mm makes it so easy to capture lifestyle images. It has a great low aperture allowing lots of light to enter the lens and also creates a beautiful bokeh. The 50mm makes it easy on you as it's a "normal" lens, meaning the view that it produces is natural, similar to seeing it with the human eye. 

I shoot a variety of lifestyle images for each styled stock photography collection I create and I've found the most brands are interested in utilizing lifestyle images for social media because they are so inviting. 


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The 50mm is also great for shooting details. Getting sharp details with the 50mm is as easy as picking the right aperture. F2.8 is a good jumping off point. I actually prefer not to shot any lower then that to maintain the sharpness of my photos. It's great to include detail images in each styled stock photography collection because it adds variety. 

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Shooting flaylay is one of my favorite types of photos to shoot. Because of the versatility of the 50mm lens it's great for shooting flatlay as well, as long as you're using the right settings. When shooting flaylay is important to shoot with a high f-stop, like f10. When you shoot with an f-stop that large, it allows for all of your props to be in focus. 

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I view mockups as either lifestyle or flaylay because I shoot a variety of mockups that fall into both categories. I wouldn't say there is much of a difference between the technique between lifestyle and flatlay, you're simply treating the item that you're using to mockup (imac, ipad, iphone, notebook, ect.) as the subject of your photo, so you'll want to do your best to keep the focus there. If you're shooting lifestyle you'll want to shoot it like a portrait with a low f-stop. If you are shooting flatlay you'll want to shoot it with a high f-stop.


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I think desktops are great photos to use to add interest to your brands website, perfect for banners and landing pages. Shooting desktops is just like shooting flatlay with a high/large f-stop. Desktop styled stock images are perfect for setting the tone of your brand. Nearly every page of my website as a hero image that was shot as a desktop styled stock image and I think it represents the Elah Tree ethos very well. 

There are far more ways than 5 to shoot with the 50mm lens, what are some of your favorites? xoxo! Samantha



I'm giving away one of my secrets today and It's one of the quick and easiest projects ever too. Recently I've really been wanting a concrete background. I asked Tyler about it and he said it probably wasn't the best idea to make a real concrete background because it would be to heavy and not really ideal for my to lug around all over our apartment. I agreed... I didn't want to try to lug around a large piece of concrete every other day, haha!

I decided to look for an alternative and I found something that is so great! Concrete contact paper. Concrete contact paper is so easy to apply and it's by far one of the easiest backgrounds I have ever made.


  • Concrete contact paper (I ordered mine from Amazon)
  •  Foam core board
  • Ruler or book, something with a straight edge. 


Applying contact paper is super easy. The most important thing to remember is the make sure your contact paper is straight when applying it to the foam core and to use the straight edge to ensure there a no bubbles or wrinkles.

PRO TIP: Don't try to measure and cut your contact paper ahead of time. Leave the contact paper on the roll. Apply the paper with the sticky side down, against the form core. Roll out the contact paper as you go. It makes is much easier to manage and you can use your straight edge against the roll. 

Easy peasy, right!? And on budget. ;) What are some of your favorite DIY photo backdrops? xoxo. Samantha



Alright friends, let's talk about getting nice sharp images when shooting. Whether you're shooting stock photos, product photos, or lifestyle photos, the sharpness of the photos we create convey a sense of quality and professionalism. Before I get into the technical details I wanted to provide a quick rundown of the gear I shoot with. You can find a full list of my gear here, but the important things you'll want to know for today is that I shoot with the Nikon D300s and the Nikon D700 (similar). I pair the D300s with the Nikkor 35mm lens and I pair the D700 with the Nikkor 50mm lens


One of the first things to consider when producing sharp images or if you're finding that your images aren't as sharp as your would like, is to understand your lens. If you're shooting in natural light and you're shooting handheld (without a tripod) you want to start with your shutter speed twice the amount of your lenses focal length. For example, if your shooting with the 50mm lens you want to shoot with a shutter speed of 1/100 or more. This will ensure the the shutter opens and closes fast enough that there won't be any shake. 


Often times when we go from the stock lens that came with our camera to the 50mm or the 35mm (basically any lens that allowed us to shoot with 1.8 or 1.4) we stop shooting with any other aperture except for 1.8 or 1.4, haha! Shooting with an f-stop of 1.8 isn't bad, but when we try to shoot with it all the time, without considering the type of shot we won't, our images can come out soft, instead of sharp. When Tyler and I used to do a lot of style shoots there were plenty of times when my photos came out soft and I wasn't sure why. It wasn't until later that I learned that I wasn't using the proper f-stop for the photo that I wanted. 

When I'm shooting portraits I like to use an f-stop around 2.8. When I'm shooting styled stock flatlay photos, I like to shoot with an f-stop of 14. Different photos will require a different f-stop. Once your understanding which circumstances require what f-stop, you'll be on your way to creating sharp beauitufl images. 

xoxo. Samantha



One of my favorite backdrops for styled stock photography and brand photography is my repurposed wood backdrop. I built it last spring and it remains to be a constant in my work. One of the great things about backdrops like this one is that if you can find old pallet wood, you can build a repurposed wood back drop for FREE. :)


  • Old pallet
  • Circular saw
  • Hammer
  • Mallet
  • Drill
  • Screws


STEP ONE : If you're familiar with pallets, you'll know that the base of the pallet is made up of three parallel 2x4s that secure the pallet. The first step in building anything with pallet wood is disabling the pallet. I had two options. I could dismantle the whole pallet with a hammer and mallet. Or I could use the circular saw to remove the two end pieces and only have to dismantle the center 2x4 with the hammer and mallet.  I chose the second option. Using a straight edge and pencil mark a line for where you will make your cut. Use your circular saw to cut along your marked edge. Repeat this step on the other side of the pallet. When your finished with this step you should have one remaining 2x4 in the center of the pallet.

STEP TWO : This step takes the most muscle and patience. ;) Using your hammer and mallet gently pry away the remaining 2x4 from the pallet wood. This must be done gently so that you don't crack or break any of the wood. We tried lots of different techniques when removing the wood. We pried the wood away with the hammer. We used the mallet to loosen the wood and nails. We even stood on the wood and used our body weight. Any technique will work as long as your wood doesn't break.

STEP THREE : Once all your wood is free you can begin building. For my backdrop I decided to use the back side of the pallet wood because it was more rustic and had more character. We laid the pieces out to ensure we liked the design, then flipped the boards over. We used spare wood pieces and other pallet pieces to secure the backdrop together. Using your drill and screws attach the boards on the back. The most important part of this step is simply to make sure the boards on the back span your backdrop so each piece is secure.


Once you're finished you can can use your backdrop for all types of things. You can use it for flatlay photography or stand it on it's side and use it as a background. xoxo! Samantha