Family Reunion Session – Antelope Valley Family Photographer

Nineteen people!!  This was by far the largest family session I have ever done and it went splendidly!  I photographed them at Apollo Park in Lancaster, California.  They have beautiful man-made lake, ducks, geese and three playgrounds.  It is a huge park right next to a small rural airport.  It’s always fun to look at the planes when we drive by.  If you head out there, be sure to drive down the musical road going westbound Ave G.  Its really cool.

If you are interested in booking a family session please visit www.melissabeach.com for more details.  Also be sure to follow me on Facebook



How to Learn a New Lens – A Tutorial for Photographers


85mm, f2.0, ISO200, 1/3200 sec

Hi everyone!

Recently I bought an 85mm 1.8 lens as a gift to myself for accomplishing so many of my goals this past year.  It’s been a couple of years since my last lens purchase, which was a 35mm 1.8 lens and as I started to use the 85mm lens I realized just how much I have learned about lens choice over the last couple years.  I thought that writing a post on how to learn a new lens would probably be very useful to a lot of photographers so here it is.  I hope you find this insightful.

I am not going to go into the basics of lenses and how they work in this article.  I am going to assume that you know what changing the F Stop does, are aware that changing the focal length will change the compression of the image and the depth of field.


85mm, f2.0, ISO200, 1/800 sec

One Lens, One Month

Commit to using only your new lens for one month.  If you have a portrait session use whatever lens you need to use, but for personal use, stick to your new lens.  By using just one lens and shooting everyday you will have ample time to become very familiar with all its quirks.

For example, I used my new 85mm on a portrait session recently and had several beautiful photos come out slightly blurry because I forgot that I needed to use a higher shutter speed for the longer lens I was using.  If I had waited and spent some time getting to know that lens I would have learned this lesson in a practice shoot and not in a paid shoot.

Pay Attention to Distance


85mm, F1.8, ISO640, 1/250sec


85mm, F1.8 ISO640, 1/400sec

One thing you may want to study is how far you need to stand from the subject to get the image you envision.  You can get similar pictures using a 35mm or 85mm lens.  However, the distance between you and your subject will change quite a bit to get the same composition.  By knowing these approximate distances you can concentrate more on the artistic side of photography and less on figuring out where to stand.


  1.  Find a willing model who can sit still for a while.  Teens and adults are best for this activity.
  2. Place your model in a chair and compose a headshot.  Then measure the distance between you and your subject.  Note that distance in your photography journal (more on this in a later post).
  3. Next, compose a waist up shot.  Measure the distance between you and your subject.  Note in your journal.
  4. Continue this process for a full body shot and an environmental portrait (that uses the enormity and beauty of the landscape in the portrait).
  5. Extra Credit: Do this exercise with a different lens and compare the distances.
  6. What do you notice?  How will this information help you in your photography?

The Blur Factor


85mm, F2.2, ISO400, 1/500sec  He is about 20 ft from that tree, 5-8 ft from me.


85mm, F2.2, ISO400, 1/500sec.  They are about 8-10ft from the tree and 20+ ft from me.

Many photographers want to have that beautiful blurry background behind their subjects. What many don’t realize is the distance between your subject and the background as well as you and your subject really makes a difference in how blurry the background is.  To learn how your new lens deals with this try this exercise.  In the first image above my son is closer to me and farther from the tree.  In the second image he is closer to the tree and farther from me.  Notice the difference in background blur, bokah, and how the antennae looks.


  1.  Place your subject right in front of an outdoor wall.  Have them lean back against it.  Compose and shoot a headshot.
  2. Move your subject 3 feet from the wall and compose the same headshot.  You will have to move back 3 feet as well to get the same composition.  Take another headshot.
  3. Continue to do this at 6 feet, 12 feet, 20 feet and 50 feet.
  4. Bring your images into Lightroom and compare them to each other.
  5. How does the distance from the background change its blurriness?  Which look do you prefer?  How can you use this information to help your photography?

Create a Depth of Field Series


85mm, F2.0, ISO400, 1/500 sec.  This grass is about 2-3 ft away from me.

Different focal lengths affect the depth of field differently.  Practice using and studying the changes in depth of field with your new lens so you are familiar with how much focal space you have at each F stop.  Keep in mind that your distance from the subject will also affect the depth of field.


  1.  Put your camera on a tripod, or balance it on something (safely) and focus on your subject.
  2. Start at the lowest F stop and take a picture.
  3. Change to the next highest F stop and take the picture again.
  4. Continue to take the same picture of the same subject and each F stop until you have done them all.
  5. Go into Lightroom and study the changes to each image as the F stop changes.
  6. Extra Credit:  Do this activity again, but drastically change the distance between you and your subject.  Compare the depth of field between the images taken at the same F stop, but at different distances.
  7. How does the DOF change based on the distance between you and your subject?  How does this affect the background?  How does it affect the subject?  How will this information help you in your photography?

85mm, f2.0, ISO200, 1/2500 sec

Practice & Analyze

The most important trick to learning a new lens is to practice a ton then analyze your images.  Use the EXIF data to compare your camera settings to your pictures.  Decide if you met your vision.  What could you do differently in camera to better achieve your vision?

I hope this tutorial was helpful to you!  I would love to know how this helped you in your photography.  Please leave me a comment and let me know!


85mm, f2.0, ISO200, 1/2500 sec


Family Session at the Creek – Palmdale Family Photographer

We had so much fun out at Big Rock Creek in Littlerock, California.  The creek is in the mountains looking over the Antelope Valley and is a wonderful place to take your family swimming.  It is also a fabulous location for family portraits!  So many wonderful backdrop possibilities.  I can’t wait to do another session up there.

If you would like to book a family photo session please contact me through my website www.melissabeach.com and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook.



Wildflower Sessions – Lancaster and Palmdale Family Photographer

I can’t believe I never blogged this family photo session!  I loved this one!  For about 3-4 weeks in the Spring the Antelope Valley desert erupts with miles upon miles of wildflowers.  Some years are better than others, but for the most part we have a stunning display every year.  I absolutely LOVE doing photo sessions during this time of year.

Here are a couple other examples of my wildflowers sessions.

Children’s Session

Maternity Session

If you would like to book a wildflower session you will want to book your spot by the end of February.  Wildflower sessions are usually late March-April or September-October depending on the type of flower and how well the bloom is that year.

Visit www.melissabeach.com to book your session today.



6 Month Portraits – Antelope Valley Children’s Photographer

One of my favorite things about being a children’s photographer is when a client comes back to me for their family pictures as their children get older.  Its amazing to be a part of documenting the beginning of a new family.  I photographed this adorable boy’s newborn portraits and now I am back for a 6 month session!  I love that they included the grandparents in the session this time.  That is so important!



Fall Family Session – Santa Clarita Family Photographer

I went out to Placerita Canyon near Santa Clarita, California to photograph this beautiful family.  I loved this park!  There were beautiful oak trees, fall foliage and stunning light which helped make my job so easy!  I am not used to photographing teens so this was a fun challenge and I love how it turned out.  I think this is the perfect opportunity for you to see what a full family session looks like.  This one ended up being 46 images, which is on the larger side, but it was mostly because we were having fun and there were so many wonderful photographic opportunities.  If you would like to book your own family session please visit my website or Facebook page to contact me.