Christene Schaaf, Photographer

About C.S. Photography, Inc.

C.S. Photography features the unique Home.Life.Art family sessions and Bébe Firsts sessions. What is Life Art? Well...Life Art is YOU! It is the relationship that is captured between family. A moment... a portrait created by me and turned into beautiful Life Art décor that makes you smile every time you walk by it and inspires your home to greet you.

My blog is filled with the inner workings of my photography passion. I will be featuring sneak peeks, tutorial tidbits, Life Art Décor suggestions, product offerings, client gallery designs and inspiration.

If you would like more information or want to schedule a Home.Life.Art or Bébe First session, please visit or email

Archive: ‘Tutorial’

A View From Inc 500 From a Military Entrepreneur | Virginia Beach Photographer

Monday, September 26th, 2011

So many thoughts, ideas, and actions ran through my head yesterday. I felt like a hamster on a wheel unable to stop my brain from moving. I’m glad I had the 3.5 hr car ride home from DC after the Inc500/5000 Conference. I needed to absorb, to let it resonate inside. I needed to feel that motivation, spirit and passion for a few more hours before I headed back into military life juggling preschool with phone calls, dinner and clients. I still pinch myself for being chosen among a small group of military spouse entrepreneurs to take part in Inc. Magazine’s 1st Mentorship Fair and then had the incredible honor to attend the entire conference as a special delegate. I hope to provide you with a few lessons that have given me a clear focus of where I want to take my business.

Entrepreneurs and specifically those CEO’s in attendance have an incredible ability to think big. One lesson that has resonated so clearly is to start in the future. All businesses start with an idea. The job of the entrepreneur to to visualize that idea as it exists in the future. What does success look like? Visualize yourself there, walking around and observing. Then map out how you got there. What did getting from point A to point B look like? What steps did you have to take? Who did you meet? Who did you hire? What infrastructure did you need to have in place? What about going from point B to C? The written roadmap is the key. With it you can align your strategic plan to support your vision. Without it you just have a jumbled idea lacking clarity and focus.

A few speakers touched on how to balance work and life, something I am constantly trying to achieve with little success. Russell Simmons said “Work should be like a prayer. You should be able to put your head down and enjoy it.” And Jessica Herrin, CEO of Stella & Dot reminded us to leave the right things undone. So many tasks in business can spiral into that time suck. Social media is one of them. Our task as business owners and entrepreneurs is to 1) focus on revenue creating tasks. 2) Focus on those tasks that directly align with your roadmap and vision. Do something everyday that gets you closer to the next point in your roadmap. Ric Elias, CEO of Red Ventures recommended the book Choosing to Cheat which discusses the idea that you are cheating your family if you are putting them 2nd.

On the discussion of social media, like the rest of your business strategy, it shouldn’t be tackled blindly. Find out how your customers are hearing about you. What are they thinking during the decision process? Why did they decide to hire you initially? Find out the answers to those questions and align your social media campaign to build value. One of the most comical speakers, Gary Vaynerchuck of Vayner Media made the analogy that “most companies are treating social media like a one night stand. Trying to close on the first interaction.” Create context in your social media campaign and shift to your customers emotional center. Have a real relationship with them. A survey is not human, a phone call or favor is.

Social responsibility and accountability is a prominent theme amongst successful businesses. There is a fundamental desire to give back. Ted Leonsis of Monumental Sports & Entertainment says to find the double bottom line. Make money and do good for your community because the journey in business is where the reward comes from. But on the subject of thinking big, Scott Harrison of charity:water highlighted his marketing tactics to take on the world’s water crisis. I was talking to a fellow milspouse at lunch who had missed the keynote and told her to imagine if you had it in your mind to go out and solve world hunger. And you did it. I feel like that’s the inspirational platform he sat from. More so than his ability to market such an inspirational cause and get people to take action, Scott Harrison taught me the value of one person and an idea. And when passion, discipline, and persistence is present one person can do extraordinary things. At the moment I am so excited to be working with a charity project that I’m not quite ready to announce. But it’s a big one. And I have so many ideas swirling in my head to make it that much bigger. So I’m off to map it out to present to the coordinating partners.

I want to thank Inc. Magazine, specifically the President Bob LaPointe and the Event Director Courtney McNeese who had the idea of partnering with Joining Forces after she watched an episode of Oprah highlighting the Bravest Families in America . I watched this episode myself and distinctly remember the questions Tom Brokaw asked viewers which was: “Do you know someone fighting on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan? How about a family in your town that has a loved one serving?”. Another quote that hit me hardest from the episode is when he goes on to say “less than 1 percent of the American population is bearing 100 percent of the burden of battle…I, as a political reporter, believe very strongly that this democratic republic cannot have something that involves our blood and treasure assigned to only a very small part of our population, and nothing else is asked of the rest of us. That’s not just unjust. In a way, it’s immoral.” If you hadn’t watched the episode you can read the highlights here at . Thank you Courtney for watching this episode and making such an invaluable impact in my life and the rest of the military spouses and vets who were also in attendance. And thank you to our awesome host Natalie Thomas and Bridgett. You two were amazing in your own right and I feel so incredibly blessed to take park in the event you helped create. Thank you to General Stanley McCrystal for taking time after his inspirational speech on leadership to meet with the military spouses, vets and Pat Tillman Scholars. My incredible mentors were Steve Richard of Vorsight and Scott Dudelson and Eron Zehavi of Prodege who all gave me a different angle to view my business. An unofficial mentor for me was Matt Zemon of American Support whose company is uniquely aligned to offer work at home jobs in rural areas near military bases. Milspouses, sound enticing?! And thank you to my hubby who took leave from work so he could stay at home with the kids.

As we were leaving there were talks from Inc. magazine about offering this opportunity again next year. If you are a military spouse or vet who owns your own business, or even if you just have an idea, apply and give all of your attention to the opportunity.

Thank you for letting me share. :)

PSD ~ Boudoir, A Lesson on Beauty | Virginia Beach Photographer

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

I almost didn’t go to this session with Marta and Tiffani who together make up Blush Boudoir, but the allure of natural light in a hotel room grabbed me. I decided to par these down a bit, mainly because I’m not a boudoir photographer and I don’t have a separate site to post these on. Boudoir photography has taken off in our culture. Brides are gifting albums of their session to their husbands. Women who have lost weight want to remember and celebrate. Boudoir is a celebration of being woman, curves and all. What I took away from this session is how to make women feel confident. How to recognize their insecurities and help to overcome them. How to build trust with female clients, how to accentuate and pose in ways that flatter. All lessons that extend beyond the realm of boudoir. If you are a photographer thinking of getting into boudoir, I highly encourage you to have a session done for yourself. And if you are in the Virginia Beach area and are thinking of having a boudoir session done for yourself, Persuasion Boudoir specializes in this area. :)

These next few images were shot on the USS Wisconsin.

PSD ~ A lesson with Light | Virginia Beach Photographer

Monday, April 25th, 2011

David Beckstead was one of the instructors I was so excited to see at PSD. He has such a unique way of thinking and approaching photography as an art. I know his style and mine are complete opposites but I wanted to stretch myself and soaked in all that he was able to give in the short 3 days. I had to chuckle when David shared that he considers the bride and groom secondary to a photograph. Not what you’d think right? But do take a look at his work. I hope it inspires you to think outside the box. There’s a reason he is a sought after international wedding photographer. There’s a reason he is able to charge what he does versus what an average wedding photographer charges. If you take a peek at his work, you’ll understand. David loves opposition. Whatever rule you are supposed to follow, you can guarantee that he will be running in the opposite direction to break it. So my first experience with David was on the first night at PSD. It was late and I was looking to find a group that wasn’t involved in the studio workstations and David grabbed me and asked if I wanted to shoot something different. So he brought me and a few other photographers into a dark room and we wondered what we were in for. Then with a video light he started explaining how to manipulate light. How to use it directionally to add drama and life to a photo. How to tell a story. And I came out with this image. Remember just one light, in a dark boring hotel banquet room.

My next experience with David was on the 3rd day. His regular session was cancelled from rain, so he had a model glammed up and we again played with light and experimented. The coolest steel tables were just lying around the hotel so we quickly grabbed them and made them our stage. These were just playing around with silhouettes and texture.

And then finally taking the same model and just moving her to a different part of the room and utilizing our video light again, he showed us how to manipulate light by using objects and shadows.

What I will remember most from my time with David is his lesson on trying things out. Try it out and see what happens. It may be terrible. But that’s the beauty of digital. No one has to see it. All it takes is the delete button. But sometimes you will discover something incredible. Something worth sharing…worth teaching. During his wedding shoots, he’ll shoot about 50% of the time for the bride and groom. He’s getting the shots: first kiss, first dance, dad giving the bride away, the tear rolling down his face, but the other half of the time he shoots for himself. He experiments. He gives something to the bride and groom that knocks their socks off. And his one word of advice was to do the same. During a shoot, take some time to shoot for yourself. It doesn’t have to be half the time. Start out with a vision of just one shot. One shot during your next session, shoot for yourself and not for the client.

Tomorrow I will be featuring my time spent with Marta Locklear and Tiffany LaNeave during their boudoir session so check back!

Photo Fun with a Campfire

Monday, April 18th, 2011

A trait that you’ll learn about me is I love the outdoors. So when deciding where to stay on our way up to the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. our first choice was camping. But with 2 small boys and some forecasted cold weather, we couldn’t exactly “rough it”, so we opted for a simple cabin in the woods. My 3 year old was crushed though when we pulled up and started unpacking into the cabin. Tears were flowing as he tried to blubber out that he wanted to go camping and kept pointing to the empty fire pit. In between sobs we finally understood what he was trying to explain. Somehow he learned to associate camping not with the whole experience of sleeping outdoors, playing in the woods, etc., but he thought camping was just roasting marshmallows by a raging fire. So a little bit of explanation and a fire later, he was a happy camper. I thought I’d play a bit with my camera and came out with this effect. I didn’t have a tripod with me though, so I used the park bench to prop the camera up towards the sky. My settings were ISO 2000, f/7.1, 30sec. Hubby and I slowly leaned in over the fire for a smooch during the exposure and left this ghosting effect in the shot.

Twinkling Lights Repost | Virginia Beach Children’s Photographer

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! And don’t forget to take those Christmas tree pictures tonight instead of tomorrow morning when the kids are rushing to open their gifts! I thought I’d repost this tutorial from last year so you get those twinkling lights in your pictures!

This picture didn’t go exactly how I had envisioned it. The layout of our living room was a little awkward to get the shot I wanted, but I thought I would share how to get the twinkling lights in a picture like this one. You know when you squint your eyes and look at a street lamp the lights turn into a starburst? Well, the same thing happens when you close up the aperture. Think of it like your camera is squinting. I took two pictures for this shot, both from a tripod. The first I set the aperture as high as it would go, to f/32 and got the twinkling lights effect. Then we brought Logan over to the tree and he started pointed out the lights and ornaments. The second shot was taken using bounced light off the flash, I angled it towards the top of the wall directly behind me and set the shutter speed back up to around 125 so it would freeze Logan’s small movements. Then I merged the two photos in photoshop and came out with this final product. Try it on your tree and see what you come up with!

Importance of White Balance | Virginia Beach Photographer

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

We all have that problem…or at least I’d like to think the rest of you are also juggling photo shoots, editing, marketing, sales, phone calls, and travel with LIFE! I am blessed with a wonderful husband who will be home for the next 3 years! (Hello shore tour!) And after two back to back deployments the last thing I want to do is busy myself with so much work that I can’t enjoy creating those early memories for ourselves and OUR kids. I’ve come to find out that there is this “thing” called the “start-up suck”. As in… suck you in to this computer abyss so life passes you by. Whether it’s social media, editing, blogging, etc, I think a lot of photographers, me included get sucked into this vortex when trying to make it in this industry. So, one of my goals this past year has been to get it right in camera so I’m not spending hours and hours in front of the computer after a photo shoot. One tool that has helped me is the custom white balance. This is one of those things that once you start, you’ll wonder why the heck you weren’t doing it before. I use this handy tool called the ExpoDisc. Yes, it’s expensive. You could go the old gray card route too or I’m sure there are other useful methods or tools out there that work just as well.

To set my custom white balance, I use my ExpoDisc as a filter to take a picture from where my subject is. This just involves me coming right beside them and taking a picture of something, anything with the ExpoDisc over the lens. A gray picture will come up on my LCD screen. Then I go to the menu on my camera. (I shoot with a Canon 50D). Under White balance, make sure Custom is selected. Then go to Custom WB and that gray picture I just took will come up and my camera will ask if I want to use it as my custom white balance setting. I hit yes, and voila! The whole process probably takes me about 20 seconds and I’ve saved myself the headache of color correction in Lightroom or Photoshop. If the lighting changes, I’ll have to do a new white balance reading. I’ve found the custom white balance makes the biggest difference indoors where color casts are prominent. And there are times when I don’t use the ExpoDisc, such as sunset when you want that golden sunset glow.

Here’s an example for you to see what a lifesaver it has become for me! The picture on the left is what my camera originally gave me on Auto. I was taking some pictures of my beautiful niece in our hotel room and there was this lovely cast thrown on her to make you step back and say “Yuck!”. The picture on the right is my results after I did a custom white balance reading. These were taken with natural window light. Nothing else changed and both images are straight out of the camera without any processing done to them except resizing. Her daddy is Guatemalan so she has this gorgeous creamy skin that wasn’t being portrayed in the first picture. Did this help anyone? Or am I blogging to the internet abyss again? :)

{Dress Up} | Virginia Beach Children’s Photographer

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

I’m playing catch-up on the blog! Would you believe me if I told you these pictures were taken with the noon day sun?! It’s true! Let me introduce you to my little friend called the fill flash :) I strapped on my Canon 580 EX II (on camera), put a diffuser over it and using the high speed sync mode started shooting away! High speed sync allows you to use your flash at higher shutter speeds than 1/250 sec. (Were you ever wondering why it never let you get your shutter above 200 or 250?) The trick is to have your subject face away from the sun, so they aren’t squinting, and you aren’t getting that horrible mix of flat/shadowed light casting over their face. Shooting in manual, expose for your background and use enough fill flash to bring the light back into their face/skin, etc. I adjusted the flash’s power right from my camera. (You can consult your camera’s manual if you don’t know how to do this). Or just leave me a comment below and I can try to walk you through it!

ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/3200sec

ISO 100, f/2.2, 1/1000 sec

ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/3200sec

ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/2000sec

And this one was taken in the shade but I had to include it because they are going to have a beautiful 20×20 gallery wrapped canvas hanging on their wall! Love it when clients go BIG!

ISO 200, f/2.2, 1/250sec

To schedule a children’s session, please visit my website for more information or email

Twinkling Lights | Virginia Beach Children’s Photographer

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

This picture didn’t go exactly how I had envisioned it. The layout of our living room was a little awkward to get the shot I wanted, but I thought I would share how to get the twinkling lights in a picture like this one. You know when you squint your eyes and look at a street lamp the lights turn into a starburst? Well, the same thing happens when you close up the aperture. Think of it like your camera is squinting. I took two pictures for this shot, both from a tripod. The first I set the aperture as high as it would go, to f/32 and got the twinkling lights effect. Then we brought Logan over to the tree and he started pointed out the lights and ornaments. The second shot was taken using bounced light off the flash, I angled it towards the top of the wall directly behind me and set the shutter speed back up to around 125 so it would freeze Logan’s small movements. Then I merged the two photos in photoshop and came out with this final product. Try it on your tree and see what you come up with!

Blog Assignment: Add some flare!

Monday, October 12th, 2009

I’m starting to love working with couples more and more. There is always a spark, a justifiable passion that interconnects the two and places them in their own little remote bubble miles removed from where I stand with my camera. Jenn and Nate were the lucky ones who responded to my request for a local couple to model for this particular blog assignment and they definitely brought out their love and appetite for each other during our shoot. This past week was spent learning about lens flare. I know I’ve done it in the past, but I’ve never just sat down and played with the exposure and location of the sun flare for use artistically.

A few things I learned…

Always work on fully manual exposure. Use your display screen and histogram to determine whether you nailed the exposure correctly or not. Most of the time I was going against what my in-camera meter was saying was the proper exposure.

Block the sun either with your subject or your hand to let the camera focus on the subject, then bring in the light. The camera has a hard time focusing in such bright conditions.

Try to pay attention to where the sun trail is falling on your subject. A couple of shots I wasn’t able to use because there was a overly bright sun spot right on my subject.

Avoid looking directly at the sun. I’m sure this type of assignment takes it’s toll on your equipment as well, but I always tried to keep the sun behind my subject until the last second and then step out and frame the shot.

Here are a few shots. If you like these and want to see more from this shoot, head over to facebook and join the fan pages! You never know when I’ll need another local model!

Blog Assignment #4…Ghosting

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

This weeks assignment wasn’t nearly as fun as I was expecting. I was all geared up for playing with double exposures when I realized DSLR’s can’t do double exposures! It’s the first time I think I’ve noticed its limitation. Film cameras definitely have the upper hand here! You can still get those ghosted images, but it has to be done in an editing software (unless your camera has a double exposure feature!). Photoshop made it very simple to get that “double exposed” image, but it just didn’t have the same amusement factor of trial and error with the camera. So to do this technique in photoshop, I placed one image on top of another, changed the opacity of the top layer and deleted around everything but the hand in the foreground. Simple enough!


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