Photo Talk

Alright, alright!! Let’s talk photography!!

As you can probably tell, I do not take most of my pictures since I am the person in most of my pictures haha.

I just supply the camera, make sure its in the right settings, tell how I want the picture shot, and do the editing.

Sweet John Luke is the one behind the camera, and if we are in the picture together, it’s self-timer, a friend, a sibling, or a mom.

But I have loved photography for so long. When I was in high school I’d take family and senior portraits for people in my little town and I’d help one of my friends who was a photographer shoot some weddings. My mom and uncle both enjoy it, so when I was little I’d just use whatever camera my mom had and make my sister go outside and let me take pictures of her.

I’m sure theres better ways to go about things with your camera and easier steps for this or that, but I’m just going to tell you what I like and do!

So I’m going to try to answer my most-asked photography questions:

1. What camera do you use?

I have a Canon 6D. I absolutely love it. BUT I would not at all recommend this for your first camera. I had like 4 cameras before this one. I was given two different digital cameras when I was little that I would take to camp in the summer or on vacation. I bought a Nikon early in high school but ended up selling it because I prefer Canons (it was kind of on a whim). Then I bought a Canon SL1, which is the camera I had before my current one. My sister-in-law Sadie has one and I really liked it a lot. For anyone looking to start dabbling in photography I’d recommend a Rebel for your first camera. They are seriously great cameras. They generally come with a lens, but I’d recommend getting a fixed 50mm lens, aka the nifty fifty. I used it on my rebel and now still sue it on my 6D. It’s Canon’s cheapest lens. It’s fixed so you can’t zoom in or out, but it’s what really helps making bokeh (the pretty blurry background!) If you’re already shooting and thinking about upgrading to a new camera, I’d 100% recommend the 6D. It’s so fun.

2. What settings do you shoot in?

I shoot in either AV or TV, usually TV. Honestly I’m not smart when it comes to this stuff…I actually never take it off of these two. No matter what camera you are using, just learn to NOT shoot on auto. You’ll see a HUGE difference in how your pictures turn out. My sweet little SIL gave me a photography book a few years ago for Christmas and it was really helpful on learning these different settings. Definitely read up on it. I also shoot in RAW. It basically means your pictures are made up of a ton of more pixels (or something like that) so that when you open it in an editing program, you have more freedom to do what you want and “bring things back” if its over or under exposed. This is one of those things I never really understood until I had a friend sit down and explain it to me while showing it to me.

3. What filter do you use? How do you edit?

99.9% of photos I post on instagram are shot on my camera and edited in Lightroom. Lightroom is a program developed by Adobe and it is amazing. If you’re a student check and see if you can get a free membership through your school-that’s what I do! If not, I’ve heard the best way to go about it is to do the month cloud subscription. If you are going to be using Lightroom, you need to be shooting in RAW. If you are not shooting in RAW, I wouldn’t pay for Lightroom, just do VSCO! You have so much freedom in Lightroom and can play with lighting and colors and grain and you can completely make your own edits. I have purchased several different bundles of edits though.

VSCO Classic Films

You get a ton of filters and they are similar to all your VSCO faves. Really easy to put on a picture…not much adjusting needed. Good basic ones to have! Click here.


This is a photographer from Hawaii who I met through instagram! You should definitely check out her instagram and see what her edits look like on instagram, because she’s AMAZING. I’ve been using these a ton lately. These have a higher contrast and they make anything, especially anything outside, instantly look so good and professional and fun. Goodness, cannot say enough good things about these! AND she is releasing new ones today and they are INCREDIBLE…cannot suggest these enough!! I am so looking forward to using the new one (insert all the heart eyes). Click here to see where to buy.


These are presets from another instagrammer whose photos I love! They make your photos warm and fuzzy and who doesn’t love that?! She has several and offers a bundled pack. I have Tezza01. You usually have to do more tweaking after you apply it which may surprise you at first, but stick with it and play around with it and you’ll be so pleased with it! Click here.

Generally I never just apply an edit. I do tweaking afterwards. I almost always lighten the shadows a bit. I usually add a little bit of grain as well just to give it a little texture. Just play around in Lightroom. Find a photographer style you like and try to work with things in Lightroom to imitate that edit. .




~Practice. The more pictures you take the better you get!

~Ask your photographer friends! I don’t mind when friends or family ask me questions, I actually love getting to share what I learn and I think a lot of photographers feel the same way. I have a friend, Isaac, who has been oh so helpful. So shout-out to you Isaac!

~ But when it comes to a good picture, its not just the edit…don’t just say “oh, I’ll throw a filter on it and it’ll be fine.” Yes you can do that if you’re in a bind, but the great pictures are going to happen when you take a good photograph in the first place

~Follow people on instagram who inspire you with their pictures! These are some of my favorites:





~Get your subject to move around and just have fun!

~If you are outside, do not use your flash. Always use natural lighting if you can…makes a huge difference! This is why earlier I stress about learning to take your camera off of “Auto.” Usually it’ll pop your flash up if you don’t even need it.

~ But when it comes to a good picture, its not just the edit…don’t just say “oh, I’ll throw a filter on it and it’ll be fine.” Yes you can do that if you’re in a bind, but the great pictures are going to happen when you take a good photograph in the first place. This doesn’t just come from having the nicest camera or the newest edits. You can have the nicest camera, but if you haven’t been practicing it’s not going to matter! I promise, he more pictures you take the better you’ll get. Learn to bring your camera everywhere with you. Or if it’s your phone, make the most out of it….iphones are crazy good these days when it comes to taking photos.

~Lastly, just try and be yourself! Take pictures of things you like! Don’t take certain pictures just because you think you’ll get more likes. Honestly this is way easier said than done. Every now and then I like to do a little reflection of “ok what have my motives been lately? Do I like that picture or do I think others will like it?”

I hope this has been helpful and if I’m leaving anything out let me know in the comments!


Check below for which edits I used on certain pictures and check the bottom for links to my recommendations 🙂


HBGoodie Edits











Various edits (a.k.a I dont remember which of the three packs these came from haha)

Click on picture below for information on where to buy!




29 comments so far.

29 responses to “Photo Talk”

  1. alli says:

    thank you for this, super helpful! also what is the name of of the book you use?

    • marykate says:

      I’ll try to find it!

      • Emily Martin says:

        Did you ever find out what the book was called? I got some money for Christmas and I am going to buy a camera with it! I am a missionary in the Dominican Republic and really need a camera to take pictures of the kids I work with!

        • claire says:

          i just went there like 4 weeks ago and i FELL IN LOVE with the country!!! This makes me so happy :)) what city do you work mainly in?

  2. Kathryn says:

    How do you get the “swirly” blur in some of your backgrounds? I’m new to lightroom and photoshop. Love your photos. 🙂

  3. Lacey says:

    Love it! You should check out Brad & Hailey Devine’s Lightroom presets @somewheredevine. They’re amazing! 🙂 also @tellthebirds has great ones too!

    • Amanda says:

      Brad and Hailey are my absolute favorites!!! I bought their presets and they’re amazing!!!

  4. maura says:

    hiiii!! so much love for you! i know you use vsco for most of your edits for your picture.. do you know which filter you use most often bc i really live how your pictures look :))

  5. ReLea says:

    What is a good way to take pictures in the dark with limited lighting? (E.g. after sunset.) I love these kinds of pictures but can never seem to take them myself.

    • Amanda says:

      I would say to use a lens that has a wide aperture like 1.8 or 1.4 or something to let in as much light as possible. And bump up your ISO to a high number like 800 or 1600 to also let in as much available light.:) I hope that helps! You can also use a flash and that can help too – just depends on the look you’re goin for!

  6. Daniella says:

    I would love to know a book (or books) you recommend.

  7. Autumn says:

    Yay, thanks so much Mary Kate!! This is super helpful I love your photos!! 🙂

  8. dharma jade says:

    Thank you so much for this post it was super super helpful. i just started with photography and i’m going to keep all your tips and advice in mind!

  9. Sydney says:

    this is so helpful!! what photography book do you have?
    thanks!! 🙂

  10. ELizabeth says:

    You are the cutest human everrrr!! i love your style and always look for links at the bottom of your blogs:) I would love to see a fashion blog or something to know where you get all of your clothes!

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this!! Do you have any tips on photo storage?

  12. Emma Patterson says:

    when you post pictures on your blog what size file do you choose. I feel like my pictures post a lot larger than yours. I always use the original size or else my pictures come out pixely. You seem to have found a good combo, would you mind sharing?

  13. Your photos have the best sweet-meets-70s-chill vibe. Love them! Also, you completely inspired me to start a blog because of your uplifting style and stories. I feel like we could be best friends! God bless <3

  14. Howdy!! First of all, I (Haley) just wanted to say I love your blog/style!! You’re the reason my sister and I started our travel blog this winter break…check it out? … it’s gonna be awhile before our pictures are as good as yours 🙂

    H. & M.

    • marykate says:

      Aww I’m honored 🙂 Just looked at your blog and I love it!! Hope you have so much fun with it! 🙂

  15. Maura says:

    Can you tell us what filters you use when you use VSCO?

  16. Emily says:

    What settings do you typically use when you shoot in AV or TV?

  17. Abigail Wynn says:

    This was very helpful! What was the name of your book?

  18. Isabel says:

    I love reading your blogs! I’m new to photography and I’m loving it! Thanks for writing this blog about photography stuff! How do you travel with your camera?

  19. Isabel H. says:

    I love reading your blogs! How do you travel with your camera?

    • marykate says:

      Thanks! John Luke gave me a camera bag for Christmas. It’s actually a backpack and has been amazing. So I carry it in that on planes and then once we get somewhere will usually just carry it around my neck. Honestly don’t know if there is a perfect way to do it- still figuring that out haha.

      • Isabel H. says:

        Thanks MaryKate! I traveled recently with my camera on a mission trip and just carried it in my camera bag.

  20. Abigail says:

    Thank you for these tips, Mary Kate! I was just looking to buy a camera, so now I feel like I have a place to start! And your blog is amazing. You’re inspiring me for my own blog, and have really helped me feel more confident about myself by continuing to point to the Lord!

    Wish I could know you in real life :). But I pray for you, and love getting to know you from a distance! Thank you for being such a wonderful role model! Love you! <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *