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



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



When I was a portrait photographer the concept of working with brands or small businesses never crossed my mind. I was a portrait photographer, so I shot engagement photos, or senior photos, or family photos. Isn't it crazy how things change, how photography has changed and how the blogging industry has changed. It's crazy and great all at the same time. 

I became acquainted with working with brands when my creative endeavors were focused on lifestyle blogging and I love everything I learned through that experience too. Before we dive into the concept of working with brands I want to talk about you as a photographer. Something that I hope will help as you grow your business or grow as a photographer. 


I have been hearing this a lot and I'm guessing for good reason. I recently finished Fast Track Photographer and that was one of the main takeaways from the book. There is no short of photographers these days and there is no short of lifestyle bloggers either. I think I could say this about a variety of creative industries. So, why is this important? Because we all have choices, tons and tons of choices. When we look for brands to work with or vice versa, we have plenty of choices to choose from. What sets us apart is being uniquely who we are. We want to create a style and brand of our own that is instantly recognizable and memorable. We want to differentiate ourselves.  

So if you are a photographer, looking for brands to work with, remember, they are looking for something specific. You can't be everything to everyone, but you can be the perfect photographer with a memorable style that brands want to work with. 

If you are a brand or small business owner choose a photographer who's style that you absolutely love. You want to choose them because of the style and vision they create, because you can trust them to do the same for you. 

Don't be discouraged if you are still developing your own unique style. I still feel like I'm developing mine. What's important is that we continually push ourselves to get there and stay true to that unique style. 


Now on to the good stuff, working with brands. To get started, make a list or keep a running list of brands that you would love to work with. These brands can be big or small. They can be a small business just getting their business off the ground, it can be someone who has been in business for a few years, or it can be a larger brand. The idea is to get a sense of which brands you think you would be a good fit for. This isn't just a wish list, you also really want to evaluate if you feel that your style, will work for the brands on your list. There are plenty of brands that I love and that would be amazing to work with, but I also know that my specific style probably isn't the best for them and that's okay. Knowing this about your style and how it serves others will help you build positive relationships with brands down the line. 


Engaging with a brand and doing a bit of research will help you establish a relationship with them before working with them. Working with brands happens two ways. You reach out to them or they reach out to you. The practice of engaging and researching brands could lead to either outcomes; they might reach out to you and you might reach out to them. Engagement is important because you are able to get on their radar. You could tag them in a post, like their posts, or comment on their posts. Remember, brands are getting pitches all the time, your engagement with them may set you ahead of the pack. 

Here's a great example. I have been following Rosalynne Love on instagram for a long time. Longer then I can remember, haha! Just recently Rosalynne Love was looking for Ambassadors for their brand, which I found out about through instagram, and I jumped at the opportunity. I love working with and supporting brands and I always love the opportunity to shoot new products. Because I had been following Rosalynne Love for so long I was familiar with her brand and felt like my style would be a great fit for her. 


A few things to consider when you outreach to brands. When writing your emails keep it friendly, but short and with a purpose. Let them know what you have in mind, but don't overload them with details. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Consider sending one of your favorite images or include something that you feel will work great for their brand. When you wrap up your email, include a call to action. 


Every brand is different and one thing that will make working with brands enjoyable and successful is to embrace the brand through your own vision. This is why the research part of the process is so important. If you have already done the research and feel that you have a solid understanding of the brand, you will start to develop a vision for the imagery you want to create. Let's get back to Rosalynne Love.  Because I was already familiar with the brand when our working relationship started I already had a vision for the type of images I wanted to create. I knew that the style of her tees were right in-line with my own personal style which is also apart of the Elah Tree brand. You want to be able to embrace the brand with your own vision, all while creating your unique styled in your images. 


When working with and creating for brands, be clear and confident. Remember, your first goal as a photographer is to create your own unique style. Brands that want to work with you know the type of imagery you create, that is why they have chosen you. Remember to be clear in your communication of deliverables. Let them know how many images you will be delivery. What type of license your images come with, the timelines in which their photographs will be executed and when they will receive their final images. When I work with clients I always send them an email when I begin working on their images, the progress of their images, and when I'm close to delivery. 



Every brand and product are different and one thing I absolutely love is that often times every product can be shot in a variety of ways. Make sure to include a variety of styling with the products. For the  Rosalynne Love tee I knew I would physically wear the top, but I also knew I wanted to do some flatlays with the tee as well. 

When styling clothing pieces, especially pieces that have sayings on them, like the one I'm wearing, I like to create imagery that adds to the story. I knew I wanted to shoot outside and I wanted to create imagery that added to the story of being outdoors or going on an adventure. I wanted the flatlays I created to do the same thing. (Read all about my flatlay tips here.) 


One thing that is incredibly important to me when styling products is that I want all the products to feel lived in. I want each product to feel natural. When we make the products feel natural and lived in, customers connect with them on a more personal level. They see themselves wearing the product or using the product. 


Whew, I feel like I barely just scratched the surface. I think I may have to come back with round too. What do you think? ;) xoxo! Samantha

P.S. Don't forget to grab my favorite tee from Rosalynne Love