Who am I and what is the intent of this blog?

Hi, my name is Grey Darrah. My wife, Kaysi, and I run a family and children portrait studio outside of Atlanta, GA. I’ve been a professional photographer since getting out of the Marine Corps in 1985. If you’re interesting in seeing some of the work we do (I wouldn’t want you to think I was making all of this up!), you can check us out at www.darrahphoto.com I’m not a professional writer, so if you find a few misspelled words or the occasional grammatical error (I do love a good comma), I apologize and encourage you to make fun of me.


Ask any questions you might have.  Just click the “Leave a comment” below and ask away!  This might include a certain picture you want to take, but can’t seem to get right, or something about a lighting problem, blurry images, or even a shot you saw somewhere that you want to replicate, but aren’t sure how to do it.  Just ask…I’m here to help.  And please, share your images and your stories…

If you’re not logged in (and you don’t have to be), you do have to copy and paste the password that you’ll see before you can leave a comment/post an image.  It’s just anti spam junk.

Check Out Our New Website – My Gift IQ

mygiftiq-large-app-icon-512I know…another post that’s not really related to photography, but we just got this new website (and an Android App) launched, and I really think it’s awesome for everyone that has ever given or received a gift, and it’s FREE!

The site is called My Gift IQ and it solves a problem that comes around a number of times each year…”What should I get (insert friend or family members name here) for their birthday, Christmas, anniversary, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Valentines Day?”  We make the phone calls to ask, they give us vague answers that are rarely helpful.  We wonder what size they are, can’t remember if it’s dark or milk chocolate that they love, is their favorite wine from France or California, does little Johnny like Star Trek or Star Wars, and on, and on, and on.  My Gift IQ is an app that allows a user to create a personal profile (as well as profiles for their children) listing all the things that they love.  It’s broken down into categories that cover almost any type of gift imaginable.  In it, you store all the things you’d like to receive.

But it’s not just about what you want, or what your children want.  You can search for your friends and family’s Gift IQ profile the next time their special day approaches and feel great about giving them the perfect gift.  For many of us, giving a wonderful gift is even better than receiving one.

My Gift IQ is about smarter gifting, but that doesn’t mean it’s just for women.  How many men out there are caught driving home from work and realize that their wife or girlfriend’s anniversary/birthday is just around the corner (like tomorrow)?  Now you can pull out your phone, launch My Gift IQ, look up her Gift IQ profile and find something she really wants in seconds.  If she’s posted links in her profile, you can even order the item right there on the spot.

From now on, when your Mom calls asking what she should get you (or your spouse or children) for Christmas or for a birthday, tell her to check out your Gift IQ.  You’ll never again be put on the spot having to come up with some lame gift idea that you hope you can figure out a way to return.

Join others in sharing your favorite things for perfect gift giving and receiving. This is where you list your favorites of everything…a great new perfume you just found, your favorite flower, that perfect pair of shoes you saw online, a watch you love, your favorite bourbon, the best raincoat ever, running shoes, chocolate, cigars, authors, tools, cookware, the cutest umbrella you’ve ever seen…you love it, you list it. If you want to get real specific, copy and paste a web link to exactly what you want. If you choose to use it, there are even places to put your size so your friends and loved ones don’t have to guess. This makes everyone happy.  Not only do you receive gifts that you truly want, but the giver has that wonderful feeling of having given you the perfect gift. No more guessing! Be sure to encourage your friends and family to sign up as well so you can use My Gift IQ to search for their Gift IQ Profile. Then you can be as great a gifter to them as they’ll be to you!

Smarter gifting with My Gift IQ.

Check out our Android App here.

Check Out Our New Cameras And Equipment Reviews

After many subscriber request, I’ve added a Cameras And Equipment Review page.  For starters, I’ve included one of the most popular camera subjects, Point And Shoot Cameras.  It covers cameras from the best in high end to the best in budget, and a really sweet one that falls in the middle.

If you’re in the market for a new point and shoot camera, I highly recommend checking out the page, but if you’re a “meat-and-potatoes” type, I’ll summarize with this…If I could only have one camera to carry around, and money was “somewhat” of an issue, for about $275, I’d grab a Nikon Coolpix S9900.  It’s an outstanding camera, fully featured, at a great price!

Be sure to check back with this page frequently, as I’ll be reviewing new items as often as possible.

Don’t Let The Cold Weather Get You Down

Getting motivated to go out in the cold weather sucks!  But you’ve got to do it.  The better you feel about yourself will improve everything else you do…better work, better play, better time with the kids or significant other…everything is better!  Get out of the house and run.  15 minutes after you start, you’ll be glad you did, and 30 minutes after, you’ll be elated.

And by the way, even I can take a crappy photo.

Snow Beard

Here’s a great example of distortion from a cell phone camera.  With my dogs nose so close to the tiny lens, her head looks bigger than mine.  But it’s OK…sometimes you just need to document that it happened!

Now go get some exercise!  Photographing your life is going to require you to be in decent shape.


10 Months Into A 1 Year Beard

So, my wonderful wife agreed to me growing my beard for 1 full year…no trimming.  It’s been wonderful (for me, anyway).  I’m kind of a messy guy, so letting it go has been a real joy.  Unfortunately, I’m 10 months in, with only 2 to go before a clean shave ravages me.  I thought I should document it while testing out a knew background I just got from David Maheu (of Backgrounds by Maheu).  I really moved myself and the lights away from the background, to keep it on the darker side (it’s a pretty light, but warm yellow) and just put a spot light in the center.  It came out pretty nice.



More Editing Of Cell Phone Images

We’re back with another editing tutorial of a cell phone image.  Before we look at the original and edited image, I want to take a moment to discuss the cell phone camera.  What’s not important is the specific phone that you have…iPhone or Android, if it’s less than 3 or 4 years old, it’s a fine cell phone camera.  I’ve taken great shots with too many different devices to believe that one is significantly better than the other.

What is important, is that you understand the advantages as well as the limitations of your phone.  It’s greatest advantage of all is that it’s the camera that is always with you.  It’s greatest disadvantages are the smallness of the lens and its lack of any lens hood (providing protection from glare…even glare from a white cloudy sky or the reflection of a brightly colored nearby building).  The glare issue (giving your image an overall washed out look) can be cured by simply using your free hand to create a shield, or shading, over the top of your phone.

As far as the smallness of the lens is concerned, this can create distortion or perspective issues, particularly when taking more of a close-up shot.  What that means is if you are photographing a child sitting in a chair, and that child’s feet are pointing straight out towards the camera (making them closer to the lens than is their face, it’s going to make their feet look noticeably larger than they really are.  One solution is to have the child sit with legs crossed (criss-cross-applesauce).  Now the knees are closer to the lens than is the body/face, but not as significantly different as with the feet sticking straight out.

What I chose to do, to completely remove any distortion/perspective issues, was to have this child get up on her knees, turned sideways, so that everything from her head to her toes are all on a flat plane to me and my cell phone camera lens.  To further perfect this flat plane, I got down on my knees to take the shot so that the camera/phone could be held in a perfectly vertical position when the shot was taken (on the same level as the subject).  If I had been standing up when I took this, being taller than the sitting girl, I would have had to tilt the phone (and its lens) downwards, creating a distortion/perspective problem.

Here’s the before image, meaning just as it was shot by the phones camera.  It’s not bad at all, but a minute of editing can make a not bad shot turn into something truly beautiful.


And the after image, cropped and edited on my phone using Snapseed (a free app for Android and iPhone).  WOW…what a change!  This now looks like something you could print and hang on the wall.


This edit would normally take about 1 to 2 minutes to complete.  The tutorial video below is a few minutes longer because I was explaining what I was doing.  I apologize for the vertical format of the video, but it’s the only way can figure out how to video record whats actually happening on my phone’s screen.

Editing Cell Phone Images Using Snapseed (a free app)

This is the first, with more to follow, video tutorials on editing cell phone images using a free app called Snapseed.  I’ll post the link to the video below, but first…here’s a before shot that I took on my cell phone of my dog jumping in the ocean (after a floating bumper) near sunset (meaning low light).  The quality of the image is not what I would call perfect, because it’s of a fast moving subject shot under low lighting conditions, but it’s a great example of how you can take a sub par cell phone image and make it much better.

The before shot…


And the after shot…


Here’s the link for the “How-To” video:

I’ll add more tutorials later describing some of the other editing features.

A “Founder of the Internet” says we really need to be printing our images!

Vint Cerf, a “father of the internet”, says he is worried that all the images and documents we have been saving on computers will eventually be lost.

This is a really smart guy telling the world the same thing I’ve been saying here…don’t just save your images, print them!

Currently a Google vice-president, he believes this could occur as hardware and software become obsolete.  He fears that future generations will have little or no record of the 21st Century as we enter what he describes as a “digital Dark Age”.  Mr Cerf made his comments at a large science conference in San Jose.

His focus now is to resolve a new problem that threatens to eradicate our history.  “Our life, our memories, our most cherished family photographs increasingly exist as bits of information – on our hard drives or in “the cloud”. But as technology moves on, they risk being lost in the wake of an accelerating digital revolution.  Old formats of documents that we’ve created or presentations may not be readable by the latest version of the software because backwards compatibility is not always guaranteed.  And so what can happen over time is that even if we accumulate vast archives of digital content, we may not actually know what it is.”

“We have various formats for digital photographs and movies and those formats need software to correctly render those objects. Sometimes the standards we use to produce those objects fade away and are replaced by other alternatives and then software that is supposed to render images can’t render older formats, so the images are no longer visible.”

“This is starting to happen to people who are saving a lot of their digital photographs because they are just files of bits. The file system doesn’t know how to interpret them, you need software to do that. Now you’ve lost the photograph in effect.”

“If there are pictures that you really really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally.”

Best Chocolate Substitute EVER!


The other day, we were at Costco and picked up a bag of granola to try called Love Crunch, made by Natures Path.  OMG, this is the best stuff ever, and it’s actually good for you and all organic!  If you like chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate covered raspberries, you’ll love this.  It’s rolled oats granola with a little cocoa mixed in, then they add some small chunks of dark chocolate (I’m really a milk chocolate fan, but these work perfectly here), and freeze dried organic strawberry and raspberry pieces.  The combination is heavenly to the taste buds.  As sweet and satisfying as it is, it’s only got 6 grams of sugar (the real enemy in managing weight control) per serving.  Although I may still eat an occasional Hershey’s Kiss, this is a great way to cut down on all the bad sweets that are so hard to give up.  Just make sure you grab a handful and walk away.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself holding and empty bag.

I have no financial interest in this company, but I do love their product.  If you can’t find it a local grocery store, I saw that Amazon carries it.