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Chic Critique is THE elite magazine, community, & resource for women who love photography (yes, we’re biased!)
Our mission: critique | confidence | community
Get your CHIC on with our Celebrity Photographers who inspire, teach, and critique to help increase confidence and improve your images!


Check out this amazing line up for February!    These critiques begin on MARCH 3rd!

Stephanie Piscatelli |  Bellini Portraits


Click HERE for Stephanie’s 4-week Critique

Active Seats are SOLD OUT!  Only 9 Chic Peek spots left!


Michelle Huesgen | Untamed Heart Photography

Click HERE for Michelle’s 4-week Critique

Only 10 spots left!


Brooke Davis | Blush Photography

Click HERE for Brooke’s 4-week Critique

Only 9 spots left!


Jackie Jean | Jackie Jean Photography

Click  HERE for Jackie’s 4-week Critique

Only 9 Spots Left!


Have your images critiqued by your favorite photographer and breathe new life into your pictures!




Guest Editor: Brittney Kluse from

Finding focus: 11 tips for tack sharp focus on every shot

I wish I could open this article by revealing the ONE super-secret photography tip that would enable you to change your camera settings and never have a blurry photo again. I also wish that pots of gold at the ends of rainbows existed. However, neither situation is truthful. The fact of the matter is, it’s important to realize it isn’t just ONE tip or trick that enables perfect sharpness on images. Instead, it’s a combination of camera and lens settings along with photography and photographer knowledge and experience that enables picture-perfect images.


With relation to photography, the term “tack sharp” describes an image which shows the main subject sharply in focus – with clean lines, crisp details – countered by the artistic blurring (e.g.: bokeh) in the background. Achieving this level of sharpness is one of the keys to a truly eye-catching and professional image.
Perhaps the first thing you’re wondering is, “why in the heck am I getting blurry images?” Figuring out what you’re doing incorrectly is half the battle in correcting it! The three main factors that can influence blurry photos are:
*Camera shake
*Your subject moved too fast for your camera/lens settings
*You focused in the wrong spot

So, now that you have a good idea where that blurry photo came from, the next step is applying new settings and logic to ensure it doesn’t happen again! Taking a tack-sharp image is all about reducing camera shake and extra “noise” in the image. There are several different ways you can do this. The more of these methods you can learn to incorporate into your “shooting workflow” the sharper you images will be!


Get the Good Glass. One of the best pieces of advice I received early on was, “The lens TAKES the photo, the camera RECORDS it.” This does not mean put the most expensive camera lens on the most juvenile of camera bodies and that’s how you get great images. If that were the case, why would Hasselblad camera bodies exist? [side note: If you don’t know Hasselblad, go Google that now!] Sink your money into great lenses and update your camera body when you can. In the perfect lighting conditions and camera/lens settings, I can nearly replicate a tack sharp image taken with an entry-level Canon Rebel XL with a 50mm f/1.4 lens as I can take with my Nikon D800 using the same lens. Will I be able to blow the image up as large? No. Will it have the same pixel resolution? No. But, will it share the same sharpness and focus? YES. And when you’re getting your business going … sharpness and professionalism is what sells photos, not what necessarily can be enlarged to a 30×40 print.

How Low Can You Go? The higher your ISO speed, the more digital noise you’ll get in your photo. This causes sharp details to appear fuzzy, affecting the overall sharpness of the image. Wherever possible, use your camera’s lowest ISO setting – typically around ISO 100-400 depending on your location and light.


The Right Light. Light is going to be a huge influence on achieving tack sharp images. Are you trying to take a photo in a cave at 10:00pm or outside on the beach at noon? Neither is right or wrong, but light will be a primary factor in your settings. Make sure that there is enough natural light (aka: the sun) or artificial light (aka: on/off-camera flashes, soft boxes, etc.) on your subject. My favorite time to shoot is during the golden hour so I get that beautiful rim lighting on my subject! []

Double Up. A rule of thumb I use for gauging shutter speed to ensure tack sharp photos is never shooting below TWICE the longest millimeter of the lens I am using. Say WHAT?! Ok, let’s back up. Pretend you are using a 50mm f/1.4 lens. This means I would NEVER shoot less than 1/100th of a second shutter speed when shooting in Manual. If I had on my 85mm f/1.4 lens, I wouldn’t shoot less than 1/200th of a second. Doubling 85 gets me to 170, because there isn’t a 1/170th of a second for shutter speed, I would bump UP and shoot no less than 1/200th of a second.


The F Stops Here. A “stop” is related to aperture and is the difference between one f-number (ex: f/1.8) and the next f-number in the sequence (ex: f/2.0). Lenses today use a standard f-stop scale based on the square root of 2. Ex: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and so on. The more wide open you shoot (ex: f/2) the sharper your focus area becomes and the more blur/bokeh you have in the background – however, the more spot on you need to be to ensure there is no camera shake or you mis-focused. The more closed down you set your aperture (ex: f/8) the more things you have in focus in the image and you have a little more wiggle room with your focus range.

The “Sweet Spot.” This is a common phrase among photographers. When I was starting out, I literally thought this referred to an amazing shooting location somewhere. WRONG! Here’s what it REALLY means! All lenses have an aperture setting, or range, that is called a “sweet spot” for sharpness. Each lens is different, but as a general rule of thumb, the sharpest images are taken with the aperture about two f/stops down from the widest opening. So, if your camera has a lens which is wide open at f/1.4, your sweet spot could be around f/1.8 or f/2.0.


Millimeters vs Eyes. A normal lens is considered: 50-55mm and in conjunction with what the human eye sees, this also means no distortion in the lens! Less than 50mm = a wide-angle lens (small focal length with a wide angle of view). More than 55mm = a telephoto lens (long focal length with a narrow angle of view). The wider the lens, the more light it brings into the camera and the more room you have to play with shutter speed. If you are using a telephoto lens, you may need to have a lot of light or a high ISO to enable the shutter speed necessary for capturing tack sharp images!

Are you Single? When focusing, most cameras will try to keep as much of the photo acceptably sharp as possible. This is fine when you want to see detail everywhere, but it does mean that no one object will be super sharp. Switch your camera into single point focus mode. This tells your camera to focus sharply on just one point. Before composing your shot, focus by aiming this point at your subject (preferably on the subject’s eye closes to the camera) and half-pressing the shutter button. This will keep your subject as sharp as possible.


Lean On Me. I make myself into a human tripod when I am photographing my peeps. Do I look a little crazy and awkward? Yes. Do their photos turn out super sharp? Yes. Is it worth it to look a little crazy? HECK YEAH! Essentially you want bring your center of gravity as close as it can go to the center of your body. Using my elbows, I tuck them tightly into my stomach and get into a somewhat crouching position. This locks my elbows into my stomach causing less movement on the camera. Then right before I take my shot … I hold my breath! Seems a little silly, but it’s a trick I picked up from a mentoring session during my photography journey and it has helped me immensely in capturing tack sharp images.

Check It Out. One of the great advantages of digital over film is that you can examine your photos immediately. After taking your shot, use your camera’s playback feature and zoom in and check out sharpness. Zoom STRAIGHT for the eyes and take a look … are BOTH equally in focus? If not, DELETE and reshoot. Why delete? Well, that’s just more culling time in the end. And remember, time = money. So if you’re just going to delete it anyway, why not now?


Unsharpen To Sharpen.  What’s this you say? I must use an UNSHARPEN tool in Photoshop to SHARPEN my photo? Yeah. This concept was lost on me too. Let’s chalk this one up to gravity. We don’t need to understand the scientific mechanics behind Newton’s Universal Gravity Theory, but we can all agree that if we drop an apple, that sucker is falling to the ground right? So trust me on this. When I say UNsharpen to SHARPEN, just do it. (see attached image for this)

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 2.31.58 PM







Brittney_Kluse_155_px_x_210_h Brittney Kluse is a stylized lifestyle portrait photographer specializing in natural light photography that brings out the fresh, fun, and colorful side of life. Brittney’s contemporary and candid style mixed with her signature bold and colorful imagery, set her apart in the industry. She has published articles and interviews in numerous blogs and magazines and is frequently sought out for online or in-person mentoring from photographers around the country.

Brittney Kluse Photography / Facebook





Chic Critique is so excited to have Michelle Huesgen of Untamed Heart Photography return as a Celebrity Photographer in March!

Huesgen chic logoA copy chic forum Sign up to have your images critiqued by Michelle this March!  Only 10 seats left!

Michelle Huesgen of Untamed Heart Photography has been making memories for her clients since 2007. She has taught individual workshops and spoken at many other educational conferences. Her love of teaching has combined with her love of photography to create the best of both worlds for her and her students. Untamed Heart Photography has been published in the new Design Aglow book on posing families for Photographers, as well as the Knot Magazine, Get Married Magazine, Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, Elizabeth Anne Designs, Brooklyn Bride, and Rock N Roll Bride.


A WELCOME from Michelle:

Helloooo! Do you want to know how I learned? I broke apart every.single.image I ever created, to figure out how I could make it better. From lighting, to composition, to photoshop, to posing. Now that I’ve polished those skills, let me use them on you! I will give you honest, creative feedback that WILL help YOU create better images. 



Michelle, what camera do you use and what is your favorite lens?

Nikon D4 and a 50mm lens & a Contax 645 MF film camera


Do you edit mostly in Photoshop or Lightroom?

Photoshop and Lightroom

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Why do you think honest critique on your images is important?

No one…and I mean no one, who is anyone, got there without some honest , sometimes hard to swallow, feedback on the work they were producing. You can not get better without someone, with a trained eye, pointing out what could use improvement. 


It was really long ago, but the gist of it was…you suck…of course, I was so proud of the image I had just put up. Once she pointed out that it wasn’t even in focus…I knew I had… “some splanin to do”…and a whole lot of work ahead of me.


What 3 words would you use to describe your style?

emotional, straight-forward, timeless


Where do you pull your inspiration from?

my clients, the wind, the trees, the light, the water…organic places that don’t have to be forced into my photographs.

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What is one specific way that you balance work and family?

I put in a minimum purchase a few years ago. This has been the best business move I could have made. Now I work for clients who value my work, and that has freed up a tremendous amount of time.


Best biz/photo advice?

Run your business like a business and place real value your time and your work. You and your business will be better for it!


What have you learned the hard way?

Everything! I honestly don’t think there is an easy way for anything, when running a business. I am the Alpha and the Omega when it comes to Untamed Heart Photography, and I must do it right errry day…


How does your business deal with the rise in photographers. What have you done to standout and compete?

I’ve just come to terms with the fact that I can’t compete with someone who doesn’t value what they’re doing. They will either burn out, their business will fail, or they will come to their senses and start placing value with value is due…none of which I can control…so as my yoga instructor says….”embrace the things you can change, and let go of the things you can’t…” “the light in me salutes the light in you”…yadayadayada. ;)


Where have most of your 2013/2014 clients come from (besides WOM)?

Referrals from happy clients and colleagues, and advertising on some wedding blogs has paid off.


What has been the best workshop or convention you’ve attended so far?

I’m going to have to say Chic Critique Forum’s Seattle workshop last year. I felt so honored to have been a speaker (although I totally got sick and lost my voice) and to have gotten the chance to work alongside and with so many lovely and talented ladies!!


What is your most popular product?

Finao albums


Want Michelle Huesgen to critique your images?  

Sign up for a 4-week Critique and  have your images critiqued by Michelle this March!  Only 10 seats left!