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Beginner Photography Video Workshop~Say NO to Auto

Do you have a fancy camera that you don’t know how to use?  Did you buy it thinking you’d take images like the professionals because you have a camera like the professionals?   I used to shoot on auto…it’s easy…and the pictures are decent.  But I didn’t want decent, I wanted amazing.  The only way to do that is to make the decision to Say NO to Auto and learn the camera’s manual settings.  I’ve outlined 3 basic steps, and I teach you how to find the right buttons on your camera, so you can have more confidence to produce beautiful images yourself!

Nearly 3 Years ago when I released Say NO to Auto as a beginner photography e-book, I never dreamed I’d sell over 5,000 copies, write a second intermediate book (Get Focused), sell both printed books from my site and Amazon, be asked to speak at blogging conferences, and travel the US teaching hands-on workshops based off of the book.

What an adventure!

I started planning family trips around the demand to teach workshops in certain cities, which was (and still is) really FUN!

When I got requests to go to Brazil, Australia, and Germany, though they sounded so exciting, I knew I just couldn’t do it all. The past year I’ve been dreaming up the Beginner Photography Video Workshop, and I’m so happy to announce, that it’s HERE!!!

Beginner Photography Video

This beginner workshop is based off of my book, Say NO to Auto. Though it would be ideal to have a group setting with questions and answers like my LIVE workshops, I’ve included commonly asked questions into this video, that often came up at my workshops. The benefit of the video over the workshop is that it’s YOURS TO KEEP after it’s over, and you can watch it again as a refresher, or rewind a part that didn’t quite click.  As always, I’m open to email questions at any time!

Watch this little one minute video to find out all about it (and please ignore that my eyes are wandering, I’m not an actress, I had to read to get some things just right!) Promise, the workshop is all about me staring into your eyes (via the camera lens) as if we are having a one on one conversation. Except, it’s just me doing all the talking.

If you don’t have a digital SLR camera, not sure what that means, or looking to upgrade your camera body, read my post on How to Decide What Camera to Buy.

This video is the basics. I believe it’s important to understand the very basics before jumping into a full-on, exhaustive workshop (as you might find other places online). I think trying to learn too much all at once can be overwhelming. For those that have never taken the switch off of AUTO, you may find these beginner 3 steps in the Say NO to Auto video to be intimidating at first. But you are in good hands, be patient with yourself and the process of learning and practicing after the workshop is over.

What’s in the Video?

  • How to find the right buttons to push on your camera
  • Aperture (f-stop)
  • Shutter speed
  • ISO
  • Lighting, examples
  • Lens suggestions
  • flashes of each page of my Say NO to Auto e-book within the video

What is not in the video?

  • This is not a business workshop. We will not be discussing how to start a business.
  • We won’t go over advanced editing techniques with Photoshop. It is important to get it right in the camera first.
  • We will not discuss flash, strobe, or backdrop setups.
  • Though the pages of the e-book flash across the video screen, the download for the e-book is a separate  purchase


I charge $150 a seat for my LIVE Say NO to Auto Workshops. The downloadable VIDEO workshop sells for $60.  The pages of the e-book are embedded in the video, but some like to purchase the e-book separately to study when away from the video.

After the purchase of the VIDEO, you can stream it live, or download it on any tablet, or computer. The additional e-book purchase is a PDF, and can also be saved on those devices.  (If you’d like the printed version of Say NO to Auto or the e-book in a format easy to print as jpg’s, CLICK HERE). After clicking on the video or e-book option below, it will take you to a new page. Then click on the  “I Want This” button to purchase. If you have issues on one internet platform downloading, try another.

*If you already have the book, Say NO to Auto and feel comfortable shooting on manual settings, you won’t need this video. I use the book as my guide as I offer some extra details that are not in the book. If you have the book and something isn’t quite clicking, the video may be helpful as I’m explaining it in more detail.

**Your credit card bill will show a payment to

***Because of the digital nature of this product, there are no refunds. This is a digital download, not a mailed disc.

VIDEO=$60                      PDF e-book=$10

buy video here       buy PDF ebook here

If you’d like to be aware of future sales, announcements, or photo tips, subscribe to my email feed, follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google +.

Help me spread the word by pinning the main image above!

————————————————————-If that’s not enough info, here are some reviews!————————————————–


I sent this workshop video to a handful people from all different photography backgrounds. Very beginner, Intermediate levels, even a few professionals to get their feedback. I also sent it to people who attended my LIVE workshop, so you can hear from their perspective how this video helped them.

from the beginners:

The Say NO to Auto video workshop really made everything”click” for me!  I had TONS of pages printed off google from other resources, and it was so nice to have all the info, clear as day, in one easy to watch spot!  It really is what taught me how to shoot in Manual settings. 

Jessica~ Kailua, HI 

I’ve had beginner DSLRs for a couple years, but have never been confident enough to shoot in manual mode. Usually I shoot in Auto or Av mode.  This video truly helped me to get a good grasp of the three important aspects of shooting in manual. For some reason, even though I’ve read various articles, links, and blog posts, as well as my camera manual, I still haven’t gotten a handle on manual mode just by reading about it. Having the audio and a real person explaining makes a big difference!

Blair~Corpus Christi, TX

I loved how simply Kristen explained things – I have read SO many tutorials, and there have been a couple of things that just haven’t clicked for me.  Mostly about shutter speed.  It clicked today!  I had my camera sitting here with me, and did things along with Kristen.  THIS video is great!  

Kristin~Junction, Utah

Intermediate level:

I wanted to tell you how much I loved watching your “Say No to Auto” video workshop.  I went to your workshop a couple of years ago, and I thought I had incorporated most of the elements of the course into my shooting, but as I watched the digital workshop I realized how much I had learned at the time, and have forgotten since then. I don’t shoot as often as I like, so it is awesome to be able to go back and review after long stretches of not breaking the camera out of my bag. Thanks for putting this together, I look forward to taking my photography to the next level!   

Travis~Tucson, Arizona

My husband and son surprised me with my SLR camera in May and I challenged myself to shoot entirely in manual mode, so I immediately got online and ordered the book, Say No to Auto.   I love the book as a reference point and return to it over and over again (I carry it in my camera bag). Watching the video gave me the opportunity to hold my camera in my hands and practice changing settings and finding the correct buttons at the same time. I love that I can learn about my camera while wearing pajamas!

Stephanie~Scott City, KS

The whole “manual setting thing” has always been confusing and intimidating to me, and to have someone SHOW me how to do something was very helpful. I really liked watching YOU on the video.  You were very clear and easy to understand.

Julie~Banks, Oregon


No fooling around with a lot of photography jargon, just good information in a simple format. I think the video workshop is a good addition to the book because there are more details and information. I love that with the video download, I am  able to watch as many times as I want!

Aline, Kaehler Photo~Curitiba, Brazil

I had some knowledge of shooting in manual when I attended the Say No to Auto workshop in March of 2011.  After attending the workshop, my prior knowledge was reinforced but my biggest a ha moment was learning the “rule” of number of people and your aperture settings. That was huge for me.  The book was a fantastic resource tool for many months afterwards.  I have now had a very successful photography business for almost 3 years.  I highly recommend taking Kristen’s workshop, ebooks, and her video to start learning how you can take amazing pictures with your own camera.  I definitely think if I just watched the video I would definitely have learned just as much.

Brandie Kennedy Photography~Austin, Texas

I bought your book a while back and it was very helpful for when I first started out.  The video definitely helped cement important points of photography.  Everything was set out in a methodical, clear manner. I think it is a wonderful product. As a intermediate/advanced photographer I didn’t really learn anything new, because I’ve felt comfortable in my understanding of the settings after practicing for a few years. My 70 year old father-in-law was sitting next to me when I was watching, and I saw the lights go on as he watched.  He has been photographing in auto for years.

Ruby-Jane Photography~Johannesburg, South Africa

Say NO to Auto Video

How to Take your Own Family Pictures

This time of year is the busiest for Taking Family pictures, and I know I personally get excited at the idea of picking outfits, deciding on a location, and dreaming about how I’m going to display the pictures in my home. So today I’m going to talk ALL about those topics. I asked a few blogger friends if they’d allow me to post on their site for a little blog hop all about tips for Taking Family Pictures. Scroll to the bottom to HOP (and a fun giveaway)!

I live in this dichotomous world in my head.  I’ve always been an uber thrifty DIY gal, who loves to shop garage sales. However, I’m also a professional photographer who charges according to my expertise, which aren’t necessarily garage sale prices.  I think that every 2-3 years, investing in a professional photographer is ideal. There are many price ranges out there, and with a little research, with a little research, you can find someone in your area that meets your needs. I also know that taking Family Pictures just isn’t in the budget each year for most people, so I’m going to share some tips on How to Take your Own Family Pictures.

How to Take your own Family Pictures

{Image of my taken by my friend Jennifer Polson, more of me from my Birthday Shoot HERE}

For many years, I took our family pictures. Now, I’m blessed to have a handful of photographer friends that we trade services. {FYI–Lots of photographers are up for trades, so if you have a skill, offer it up. I personally love to have meals brought to me as a trade from friends–it doesn’t have to be an expertise!}

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think it’s more important to have the time in your life captured…than making sure it’s captured professionally. I want to cry when I hear that some families have never had an official family photo, and so many moms just don’t get in pictures at all with their families. I’m here to offer some advice on how you can get it done this year–promise me if it hasn’t happened for a while, that it will happen for you this year!

Use a Tripod

Ok, this isn’t a novel idea, but I use this a lot (even still) and think it’s worth the small investment for the random times it’s used.  I have this one with a bag carrier, found on Amazon for $14.99. It’s a handy tool for years to come.  Many times I’ve set my tripod up, and RUN into the picture. The toughest part about this method is making sure all the kids look in the right direction, and not at you running back. If you have a remote, you can snap a few shots in a row, instead of running, but the distance is limited. You can also tape a stuffed animal or something else on top of the camera to encourage the kids to look at that object. In the family photo below in 2008, I set up the tripod and camera on a trail near our home….and ran in ( fun little fact: I was expecting #4).

Tripod Family Picture

{More pictures of this session HERE, a friend came later and took a few more}

Last summer at my extended family reunion on the beach, I went into it knowing I was going to have to figure something out. I decided to find a kind soul on the beach, and ask for a big favor. I set up the entire family, got the tripod/camera in place, then nervously looked around. I thought to myself, “who is the lucky person that I will pluck from their family fun to do me a favor?” There was a nice lady not too far from us, who was in her chair reading a book. I went up to her and asked if she’d mind snapping a few for us. The reason I didn’t do the running thing this time is because there were so many of us, I needed her to just snap 30 in a row to make sure we were all looking. I said that, too. Just take a bunch in one minute, then you’re done!

Below is a collage of 3 images taken that day, and I’m in all three. The first, the kind lady on the beach took. The second with the trucks, I ran back and forth for a few (didn’t have my remote). The third action shot, I took a bunch of the fam throwing the ball, then my  husband took one of me, and I pasted them together later.

How to take your own family pictures

{More pictures of the beach session HERE}

So it can be done, you just have to work at it a little bit! It’s worth it to me, because I want my life to be documented, too. I want to be in the pictures with my family, not just take them of my kids! See more about that in my push to Capture the Joy in front of the lens.

Set up the Camera, and Have a friend Take Them

I mentioned that I swap with photographers now, but before I knew friends with such skills, I’d ask my non photographer friends to come snap away after I’d set up the camera. After a 60 second deomonstration of where to click, and what to keep in the frame, we were good to go! My 4 year old can even do it, I just tell her to not move her feet, and just keep snapping keeping my entire head in the frame.

One year, I got a Santa costume, and my husband dressed up with my kids in their jammies. I took a series of  pictures with them together, but I wanted to be in some, too. I LOVE these pictures, but they were before I had honed my shooting and editing skills. It doesn’t make me love them less though, you don’t have to be a fabulous photographer to enjoy fun pictures of your family, right? So, I asked my friend to come over and just snap away. My white backdrop was set up in the backyard, it was windy and it kept blowing over, but we still got some fun pictures of Mommy kissing Santa Clause;) (This is a similar backdrop stand to what I have)

I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause

{More Santa pictures HERE}

Just 2 years ago, my sweet photographer friends Heather and Tricia took our family pictures, and I love them, but my son was sick, and we didn’t get a smiley shot. I didn’t want to bug them again, so I asked my friend Caroline to just come snap ONE pose for me, and she took this after I set it up, I love it!  It was the main image on our card that year.

family pictures on a bike

{More of these family pictures (both times) HERE}

 I traveled to Utah, and really wanted some pictures in the snow. I had the most fun and colorful outfits for my family, and my sweet friend Kelsey just snapped away after I set up the camera. Though it’s hard to tell we are in the snow!

pictures snow

{More Snow family pictures HERE}


Say NO to Auto

I’m not sure who out there is shooting with an SLR or a phone camera, on Auto or Manual, so this needs to be said. You can get decent pictures from phones. Some of you may even be satisfied with pictures taken on Auto from your fancy cameras and that’s great too. Just capture the moments. If you’d like to take better pictures, and you do have an SLR, I’ve got a treat for you today. A little cheat recipe, if you will.

I wrote a book called Say NO to Auto that teaches you to shoot in manual in 3 simple steps. If you haven’t heard of it, check out all the details HERE. I’m going to be giving some away some books and my workshop video today, too! 25 winners!! But first, a little secret recipe to help you get on your way.

Say NO to Auto Beginner Photography Book

{Secret Recipe} Once your family is dressed and ready to go, get your gear. If it’s a sunny day, and you’re in the outside shade with 4-6 people clustered in a shot (similar to the green/navy blue picture above), then set your camera to these settings:

ISO 200 * f stop 4.0 * shutter speed 1/250

Set your focus on the center of the group, making sure you have a good border of background (you aren’t zoomed in too close to the group).  Take a test shot. If it’s an over exposed image (too bright) crank your shutter speed up to 1/300 or so. Still too bright, keep cranking it up until you get an even exposure. If it’s a cloudy day, start at ISO 400. This is a very basic place to start on your journey towards shooting in full manual mod. I’ve got that recipe plus lots more tips in my book, enter to win below!

 Do you have Family Picture Sessions on the brain this fall?

 Join me today at these other sites on the web for more inspiration with Taking Family Pictures:

Infarrantly Creative–Decorate with Pictures

Capturing Joy–What to Wear for Family Portraits

The Idea Room–How to Enjoy and Not Just Endure Family Pictures

The House of Smiths–The Best Backdrops and Settings for Family Photos

Capturing Joy–How to Take your Own Family Pictures

{If the direct links above don’t work, click on the home page}



I’ll be giving away 17 e-books and 3 printed copies, and 5 winners of my soon-to-be released Say NO to Auto Workshop on VIDEO!  If you win a book, you can choose between my beginner and my intermediate books. Info on those here. If you buy one of my books and then you win the giveaway, I will re-emburse you!!!

(enter giveaway below, wait for the page to load all the way)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s my Birthday!

Today is my 35th birthday, I’m officially in my mid thirties. I’ve never concerned myself TOO much with the number, haven’t felt too much sadness about getting old—yet! I feel young, and that’s all that matters, right? I’ve always loved my birthday, it’s my one special day, and I like celebrating, and I think everyone should feel the same.

I had a fun idea to do a giveaway for my birthday, so asked my good friend and photographer, Jennifer Polson, to take some pics of me with balloons and confetti, then we ended up doing a whole bunch of other stuff in the shoot (check out her blog today to see her fave pics of our session). Why not share my 35 year old shoot with you all? Then…the 7 giveaways…

There were a lot of pics, so I asked my handsome hubby to pick out his favorites, this is what he chose:

balloons birthday  confetti


cookies jump

I often take my kids on a small shopping spree on my birthday each year, I deprive myself of the joy of  buying them all the latest and greatest all year long (even their birthdays, I do the parties and that’s all) except Christmas I indulge. So I see my birthday as a time to make ME happy by getting them a little something…a little Christmas in July. They like this idea, too.

Today, I’m going to give some gifts to YOU!! Because it’s 7-7, I’m going to select 7 winners, check out the fabulous prizes below from some of my favorite companies!

Kristen Duke Birthday Bash Giveaway

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Winner #1: Ryobi Power Tools 18V Drill and Impact Combo, LOVE THEM!

Winner #2: FotoStrap, sleek, trendy, and sturdy,camera straps. A monogramming comes with it. See my review about it here.

Winner #3: Vintage Rose Wraps, $100 gift card to some of my favorite accessories

Winner #4: The Handbuilt Home by Ana White as well at $100 gift card to Home Depot

Winner #5: Jo Totes Camera bag of your choice as well as a photography Skype mentoring session with ME!

Winner #6: 2 months of Kiwi Crate shipped to your door (see my review) as well as each of my printed photography books

Winner #7: Six Sisters Stuff Cookbook as well as $100 Gift Card to World Market!

Now, don’t get overwhelmed with the steps below…IT’s my birthday (and I’ll have a lot of entries if I want to). Ok, just kidding, but really I want to have options for everyone that is plugged into different social media, AND I want my fabulous sponsors who donated all of these items to make some new friends, too. So please take a minute and follow them on facebook!!

Notice there are different points for different entries, the entry that counts for TEN is to pin images from yesterday’s post, click here for that info, or the link is in the entry form below, too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How to fix a Picture taken in Auto

For those that know me and my blog know that I’m all about Saying NO to Auto.  Goodness sake, I wrote a book about it!  Today I’m sharing how to fix a picture taken in auto. Firstly, I’m a photographer with a desire to teach moms to use their fancy cameras the RIGHT way. BUT, I also think it is necessary to emphasize that it is more important to capture the moment, than to be fiddling with your camera in the moment and miss the shot. (It’s important to practice using your camera when you don’t care about the shots). I found this gem of a shot while pulling images to guest post for  Lil Luna today, and sharing tips about photographing newborns.

3 tips to remove distractions and make an automatic mode picture look better! #phototips #photography


I simply LOVE this picture.  I had my friend Tamiel come in and take some pictures for me when my older kids met the baby for the first time and I adore these moments captures.  My friend didn’t have any camera experience, so I quickly flipped it to auto and handed off my camera.  Maybe now I’d pre set the settings and hand it off, but this was easier.  My photography motto is that I’d much rather have the moment captured than worry about having it captured right…the time to learn is not in the hospital. So she snapped away, and I got lots of images like the one on top. LOVE the moment, but I needed to clean it up a bit to enjoy the capture a little more. Here are some tips if you have images that you wished looked a little prettier than what you get on Auto.

Tips for cleaning up a photo taken in the Automatic Mode:

  1. Crop in Close–this shot was pulled back, and when I zoomed in, it made the image a much more intimate moment.
  2. Turn it to black and white–I’ve seen it all around the blogosphere, a picture taken on AUTO looks much better when turned to black and white.  It evens out bad color temperature (too orange or too blue) and takes out a lot of distractions from the background.
  3. Erase out distracting t-shirt logo’s– In Photoshop, use the patch tool and clone stamp together. In Picmonkey, follow these tips for cloning and erasing. I’m basically grabbing the dark part of the shirt and “covering up” the logo’s and making it a solid shirt. After erasing the logo’s, I used the BURN tool (in photoshop) to darken the area to match the rest. I left some of the logo to see where the edges are, I just didn’t quite finish the job!

This will probably take 10-15 minutes to work little by little on erasing the distractions. It was worth it for this shot!

. siblings meeting baby


I’ve got lots more photo tips to share, and if you want to learn to Say NO to Auto, check out my book!