Best Buffalo River in Idaho Photos

Taking photos of the Buffalo River in Idaho

Recently I went to Island Park, Idaho and took photos of the Buffalo River. Here are some buffalo river in Idaho photos that I thought turned out well! Bracketing is key for getting good sunset photos, so I did a lot of that.

Design & Photography by Rachel Buffalo River in Idaho Photos blue hour

This photo was taken at blue hour, when the sun had just set. Some of the best Buffalo River in Idaho photos are taken at sunset or just after! I did bracket to get this image, and blended the bracketed images together in post.

This was one of my favorites!! I love noticing details, and so I wanted a close-up of these flower-weed-things. I did bracketing for this photo as well, to get the flowers as well as the sky with good exposure.

Design & Photography by Rachel Buffalo River in Idaho Photos rock stack

Someone had stacked rocks near the Buffalo River, and I took a quick photo!

Design & Photography by Rachel Buffalo River in Idaho Photos rock

This was another bracketed photo, and it was taken with a really slow shutter speed which made the water look fuzzy!

I loved taking these Buffalo River in Idaho photos. This one is kind of similar, and I thought it was beautiful!

See more of my Landscape photos on my Fine Art page.

Expressive Portrait Photography

Why have boring photos when you could have expressive portrait photography?

I love to capture people’s personalities whenever I can, and so I try to get some creative faces during my portrait photography sessions. Some of those come from candid moments when they aren’t ready for the camera, and some are posed. Here are a few examples of expressive portrait photography that I took on a recent themed shoot in Yellowstone!

Design and Photography by Rachel expressive portrait photography eyes

This model wondered why no one was taking advantage of her eyes, so I said “let’s do this” and I think her result is ADORABLE. She’s got the prettiest eyes and such an expressive face!

Design and Photography by Rachel expressive portrait photography anguish

This model seemed to have the goal of achieving the most expressive portraits ever. All of his photos were very intense and dramatic, but this was one of my favorites. He has raw emotion on his face that I was thrilled to be able to capture.

Design and Photography by Rachel expressive portrait photography mischief

I liked this one a lot! This model wasn’t particularly expressive, but I think there’s more going on than what’s obvious, and this face makes that clear. Expressive portrait photography doesn’t mean crazy facial expressions, it just means they’re expressing something. In this case that something just might mean some planning and plotting mischief. Who knows?

Want to see some more cool examples? Go to this article.

See more of my portraits here.

Smoke Bomb Photos *insert heart eyes emoji*

Creating Smoke Bomb Photos in Island Park, Idaho

Picture this: a pine forest by a peaceful river, coursing through hills and mountains in southeast Idaho. The air is moist with recent and future rain, and clouds cover the sky. If you’re a photographer you may think, “It’s time for some smoke bomb photos!” At least, that’s what a few of my photographer friends and I thought. Here are some of the results.

Design and Photography by Rachel smoke bomb photos green smoke
Design and Photography by Rachel smoke bomb photos blue smoke

Smoke Bomb Photos are harder than they look

At first we tried to have our models hold the smoke bombs, but as I was looking through those pictures, not a single one turned out very well. We eventually realized that we needed to have someone else holding the smoke bombs and circling around our models, and that’s how we got the results I have in this post.

Design and Photography by Rachel smoke bomb photos golden vibes

Editing in Post

In post, I turned the vibrancy up on all my images to make the smoke pop, and I also went into my color mixer to specifically bring out the smoke without making the rest of the photo look weird. I tried two different edits for the model shown above. The first one is at the beginning of this post, and it gives off the vibe of a classy witch. The second one, shown directly above, I made more bright and warm and calm, and I really like how both of them turned out! It shows how much variety you can have with smoke bomb photos.

Design and Photography by Rachel smoke bomb photos blue smoke bomb

I loved how all the photos with the blue smoke and this model turned out. The way the smoke came up around her was just spectacular. I really enjoyed doing these photos, and would totally do it again!

If you’re wanting to do smoke bomb photography yourself, definitely read this post first. It talks about how to do smoke bomb photos the safe way!

To see all my portraits, go to my portraits page of my portfolio!

Still Life Light Painting Photography

Falling in Love with Still Life Light Painting Photography

Oh. My. Heart. I have found a new addiction, and I don’t want to recover. Still life light painting photography is new to me, but I LOVE it so much.

First, let me explain a little bit about what I mean when I say “light painting.” Light painting is a form of long-exposure photography that has largely been pioneered and given a name by Caryn Esplin, a master of light in photography. The idea is the same as most long-exposure photography in that it takes place in a dark room, and you manipulate light. The idea with still life light painting photography is that you use a flashlight to create interesting highlights and shadows during a long-exposure photo. I’ll show some examples, but you should go read Caryn Esplin’s webpage on the topic for more on the technique!

Manipulating Light

Design and Photography by Rachel Still Life Light Painting photography seashells
f/8 – 15 sec – ISO 100

I’m starting off with one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. Over 15 seconds, another photographer and I took this photo while he danced a flashlight over the objects in our still life. He took a couple extra seconds on the clear glass objects to make it look like light was coming from them, and put a little less light over everything else. This is the result, and I’m honestly in love with it.

Design and Photography by Rachel Still Life Light Painting photography football
f/8 – 15 sec – ISO 100

This was one of my favorite examples of creating shadows with light painting. Believe it or not, this photo was taken in a bathroom, with a fancy cloth over the toilet. It was a long 15 seconds for my hand model, and it required some Photoshop work in post, but it turned out with the dramatic flair I was hoping for. Some of my Photoshop edits included a basic black paintbrush taking out parts of the background, and adding exposure masks on parts of the image to bring out shadows and highlights more.

More Examples of Still Life Light Painting Photography

Design and Photography by Rachel Still Life Light Painting photography fairy castle
f/22 – 15 sec – ISO 200

This was one of my favorites! I decided to focus on the tower of this fairy castle, and in post I added an exposure mask to make the windows look like they’re lit. I had tried to light them up more with the actual still life light painting photography, but it didn’t quite work so I did it in post.

These next few photos are some more examples of still life light painting photography, using similar techniques!

Design and Photography by Rachel Still Life Light Painting photography vegetables
f/8 – 15 sec – ISO 100
Design and Photography by Rachel Still Life Light Painting photography grandma's jewelry
f/8 – 10 sec – ISO 200
Design and Photography by Rachel Still Life Light Painting photography soda bottles
f/8 – 10 sec – ISO 100

I had SO much fun with this light painting. I loved using lights to create interesting highlights and shadows on these still life setups. If you want to see more light painting outside, go see my other light painting post!

Idaho Nighttime Light Painting

My First Time Doing Idaho Nighttime Light Painting

I’ve had some experience with long exposure photography, and I’ve always found it fascinating. But until now, my long exposure light painting had been done in dark rooms, never at night outside. So I want to share a few photos taken on several nights recently that I find super fascinating! I’ve found a new obsession with using light, and I’ve learned that prime photography hours do not end when golden hour ends. Here are some recent examples of my Idaho nighttime light painting photos.

Light painting in Tetonia, ID

I recently went on a photography excursion and one of our stops was Tetonia, Idaho. On a random, sketchy, dark street we found some old trucks and a quiet gravel road to do light painting. These are the results:

Design and Photography by Rachel - Idaho nighttime light painting old truck

An old, abandoned truck in a truckyard. This Idaho nighttime light painting was done with a small flashlight. We had someone light up the truck, spending extra time on the headlights. This made it look like they were lit up. We also got a really cool sky behind the truck, which only shows up due to the long exposure because it was pretty much dark when we did this.

Now for the sketchy gravel road photos:

Design and Photography by Rachel - Idaho nighttime light painting light tubes silhouette

LIGHT. TUBES. Light tubes. Listen. If you find a nice, quiet, sketchy, dark gravel road, you stop, set up your tripod, and get out a light tube. Pete DeMarco has some FABULOUS examples of this nighttime light painting technique.

To get this photo, we had a model pose for 25 seconds (you will usually do 20-30 seconds for these) while another person waved a light tube around like a light saber to create the design. We set our cameras to f/8 with ISO 400.

In post, I added an exposure mask in Photoshop to get rid of any extra light that was picked up, giving me this final result.

Design and Photography by Rachel - Idaho nighttime light painting light tubes portrait

This was another example, this time with three models. This time the exposure was a 30 second shutter speed.

Other Examples of Idaho Nighttime Light Painting

I recently took a stab at astrophotography, and I really want to try it again because I am not thrilled with how it turned out. My main issue was getting the focus to be on the stars, but I didn’t notice they were blurry until I was finished! *sad face*

Design and Photography by Rachel - Idaho nighttime light painting astrophotography

My plan is to try more astrophotography nighttime light painting tomorrow, so I’ll have to give you all an update after that happens! Fingers crossed. The above picture also included some light painting done with a flashlight on the trees. I blended 3 images together to get the final result, bringing in highlights of the trees from each image!

Original picture specs: f/3.5, SS 25 seconds, ISO 6400

The final technique I tried is a classic example of rural Idaho nighttime light painting: a trestle bridge.

Design and Photography by Rachel - Idaho nighttime light painting blue hour trestle bridge

This picture’s story is an example of true dedication as a photographer, though I do say so myself. I waited under the bridge as it rained (yes, my poor camera *cries*) until I got the perfect blue hour lighting. And then, as it was still raining, I went out from under the bridge, put my scarf over my camera to keep it dry, and took a few 15-second exposure photos. Someone else “painted” the bridge with a flashlight during those 15 seconds so that I could have a lit-up bridge as well as the blue sky. It was freezing, wet, and totally worth it.

Now, these have been some of my favorite examples of Idaho nighttime light painting outside, and now you should go check out my indoor light painting examples!

Creating a Creamy Vintage Photography Vibe

Design and Photography by Rachel - Creamy Vintage Photography branding layout


As a photographer, it’s important that I create an identity for myself that sets me apart from other photographers. I love vintage things, and old-fashioned books, and all things like that, and I love to make my photographs fit into a creamy, vintage photography vibe. I also really love the color red, and I wanted to make sure that was a part of my branding.

To begin, I made my logo similar to an old-timey camera to be in line with the vintage feel I was going for. I’ve included a couple mockups, but I’ve decided to mainly use the image on the left.

What does creamy vintage photography look like?

In creating this look for my brand, a huge thing I considered were colors. As I mentioned, I want a creamy feel, and I also wanted to incorporate the color red. So these are the colors I came up with.

Fonts are also super important. I used Corbel in my logo, and I use Zilla Slab Serif for the body copy of my marketing materials.

Design and Photography by Rachel – Your Favorite Vintage Photographer

With a logo, colors, fonts, and products, I’m finally all ready to go! If you’re looking for pictures that have a creamy vintage feel, reach out to me!

I love to do edits that create the creamy vintage photography that I’m going for, but if you’d like a little help on creating that feel I would recommend this video.

I hope to see you around!

Out of the Ordinary Spot Photography

Seeing Something in an Ordinary Spot

Design and Photography by Rachel Ordinary Spot Photography apartment
Design and Photography by Rachel Ordinary Spot Photography side of the road
Design and Photography by Rachel Ordinary Spot Photography weed patch

These are some examples of ordinary spot photography. We see my apartment building, a road in the middle of nowhere, and a weed patch. The main thing I’m noticing about each of these pictures is that they have some super bright sunlight, but other than that, the main thing they have in common is that they are really quite ordinary.

But I’m a photographer, which means there’s really no such thing as an ordinary spot.

Extraordinary Shot, Ordinary Spot Photography

Lizzy Johnson wrote a blog article about the concept of an Ordinary Spot, Extraordinary Shot. It’s all about taking super cool pictures basically in your backyard. The photos I’m about to show use the same principle.

Design and Photography by Rachel Ordinary Spot Photography apartment
Design and Photography by Rachel Ordinary Spot Photography cactus
Design and Photography by Rachel Ordinary Spot Photography side of the road
Design and Photography by Rachel Ordinary Spot Photography wheat
Design and Photography by Rachel Ordinary Spot Photography weed patch
Design and Photography by Rachel Ordinary Spot Photography portrait

The last picture is from the photo shoot I did for the movie poster I created, and I was thrilled to find that the weed patch made such a great example of ordinary spot photography!

Seeing the Little Picture

For me, it’s all about seeing beyond the big picture, and seeing the little picture. I know that sounds backwards, but it’s so true! Details are something that I try to pay attention to. When I saw the sun shining on my apartment, my eye was drawn to how it made the fibers on the cactus light up, so I took a picture. When I saw the weed patch, I noticed that the sun would come behind the weeds just enough for them to filter out the harsh light. When I was driving in the middle of nowhere, I noticed the wheat grasses on the side of the road. It’s all about seeing the little things in the big picture!

Studio Quality Background Lighting–In a Classroom

Studio Quality Background Lighting can be produced (almost) anywhere

Design and Photography by Rachel - Studio Quality Background Lighting setup
I took this picture in a lobby area of a building on campus, but it has what we call studio quality background lighting. As you can see, there’s a fire extinguisher almost directly behind her, and harsh fluorescent light coming in from the side. Using a speedlight, we were able to take the following photo.
Design and Photography by Rachel - Studio Quality Background Lighting portrait

Lighting is everything in photography. If you’re using natural light (like these photos), getting the right time of day and using shadows is important. When you’re using flashes, knowing how to use them changes everything. If you’re using continuous light, any setting can change into a good photo opportunity. Today I’m going to talk about creating a studio quality background just by using the right lighting. In this case, I used a flash. To achieve a more focused area of light from the flash, I put a rogue flash bender over my flash, which I set independently from my camera on a tripod. I set my camera to f/13 and 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 100, cloudy white balance. I set the light at about a 20 degree angle (ish); almost directly to the side but a little to the front. Then I took my photo.

The direct flash and the fast shutter speed, low ISO, etc. meant that the only light my camera picked up was what came from the flash, leaving the entire background black. Some people call this technique SQIBB, which stands for Studio Quality Invisible Black Background.

More examples of studio quality background lighting

I took the last photo indoors with typical fluorescent lights, but something I found to be impressive is that the same technique works outside with full daylight. That’s right–you can achieve a black background when there’s that much light coming into your image.

Design and Photography by Rachel - Studio Quality Background Lighting fine art, jewelry pieces

I wish I’d taken a picture of our setup here. We had a black cloth draped over a wall outside, and I set up these objects on it. I set my camera to f/11, 1/125 SS, cloudy white balance, and ISO 100. My light source was the same, a flash with a Rogue flash bender over it to “snoot” the light, but this time coming from a more direct angle. The result is a picture with studio quality background lighting, taken outside during the day.

Design and Photography by Rachel - Studio Quality Background Lighting globe, hourglass, and compass composition photograph
Design and Photography by Rachel - Studio Quality Background Lighting globe and compass composition photograph
One last example, taken with similar lighting to the first image in this post.

Basically, lighting is everything

I learned a lot about how to use lights as I experimented with studio quality background lighting! It’s amazing what manipulating camera settings and lights can do for a photo.

If you want to learn more about how flashes can affect how your background looks, this video might be super helpful!

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it as interesting as I did! Hope to see you again soon. 🙂

Cool Smartphone Photography from a Professional Beginner

Cool Smartphone Photography Doesn’t Require a Fancy Smartphone

Smartphones have come a LONG way in the time they’ve been invented, and now it’s possible to do some WAY cool smartphone photography. I recently experimented with a few photography techniques using a smartphone. My phone is a pretty basic Samsung phone, with a 13 megapixel camera but not a lot of fancy features. I took most of these pictures with this basic phone, proving that cool smartphone photography doesn’t require you to have a fancy phone!

Well, some cool smartphone photography does.

Photo Design by Rachel - Cool Smartphone Photography waterfall
Photo Design by Rachel - Cool Smartphone Photography long exposure

These two pictures are the only pictures in this post that were taken with an iPhone, using the long exposure feature. What I did was take a live photo, and then afterwards I went in to the photo and changed it from “live” to “long exposure.” It took the footage from the 3 seconds of live photo footage and combined it into one image, just like a more fancy camera will do with a 3-second shutter speed. This long exposure technique always produces “fuzzy” or smooth water, as shown in these photos.

Lens compression: Possible on any smartphone

Photo Design by Rachel - Cool Smartphone Photography no lens compression
Photo Design by Rachel - Cool Smartphone Photography lens compression

For these next photos, we’ve gone back to my basic Samsung smartphone camera. This is something I think is a SUPER cool smartphone photography trick: lens compression. I took the first image standing fairly close to the tripod and camera, about the distance you’d expect based on looking at the picture. Maybe a foot, foot and a half (not sure though; I’m terrible at judging distances :D). The second picture is me standing several feet back, and zooming in on the camera. The result was that the background now looks much closer. Only a small part of the background shows up compared to what it showed in the other picture. This is a result of lens compression, which is something cool that any smartphone can do by standing back and zooming in.

Portrait Depth Mode

Photo Design by Rachel - Cool Smartphone Photography not portrait mode
Photo Design by Rachel - Cool Smartphone Photography portrait mode

This is an example of how not all cool smartphone photography tricks are possible on a basic phone camera. This was an experiment in portrait mode, which my camera doesn’t do very well with. I think both pictures still turned out pretty well, but I don’t feel like there is a lot of difference. I know a lot of nicer phone cameras these days take some FABULOUS portraits with the background blurred out! But my phone didn’t do too well. And that’s okay! That’s one reason I have a “real camera” too, because I love portrait photography! The first image is without any special mode, and the second is with portrait mode.

Panorama: The classic cool smartphone photography

Photo Design by Rachel - Cool Smartphone Photography panorama

Sometimes, you just NEED to capture everything around you, and fortunately nearly every smartphone camera these days has a panorama feature. This picture was taken at Yellowstone, while the sun was setting, while geysers were going off. I wanted to show the sunset and the steam, and how wide the expanse was. The scene called for some this cool smartphone photography technique: the panorama. The result? This beautiful image, which almost makes me feel like I’m there.

I love having a camera with me everywhere I go because of my smartphone, and I’m always looking to learn new cool smartphone photography tricks. I’d love to try some gadgets like this one by Lensta, but I haven’t yet. Have you? Let me know in the comments what you think, and tell me some you’d recommend!!

Fake Hallmark Movie Poster Defies Stereotypes

The Fake Hallmark Movie Poster

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to present the fake Hallmark movie poster…

fake Hallmark movie poster design by Rachel Nielson, movie title "It Wasn't a Man"

That’s right–Rachel is starring in a movie, and this is the movie poster.

Well, she wishes. Really, this was just a nice excuse to take some new profile pictures for social media, but here’s the cool thing:

The Images Behind the Fake Hallmark Movie Poster

While the pictures I used in this fake movie poster were of me, I also took the pictures! That’s right, this was a self-portrait session. And it was so much fun!!

To create this fake movie poster, I used two different images in Photoshop. Here are the images, and I’ll explain a little bit more about how it all came together:

self-portrait by Rachel Nielson for fake Hallmark movie poster
self-timer portrait by Rachel Nielson for fake Hallmark movie poster

The Story Behind the Fake Movie Poster Idea

First of all, I came up with the idea for this movie poster based on the fact that a lot of movies, especially Hallmark movies, about girls my age tend to center on them finding a romantic relationship, and I thought I’d change that up a little. I had fun with the title and subtitle, with them coming together to say that she was looking for something and it wasn’t a man, and she found it. I wanted an old-fashioned, vintage sort of a feel so I chose the lace dress and flowers. The final result was very Hallmark-style, which is what I was going for! The Hallmark vibes are definitely there…only this time, it wasn’t a man 😉

The Process

I live in an apartment complex that’s in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and we have this giant weed patch right by our apartment, so I went there to take the pictures. It was golden hour, and the weeds were a perfect, lovely golden-tan color. I set up my self-timer and my tripod, and got to taking pictures for the movie poster. I took some up close, and some far away, as shown in the pictures above. The light was perfect, and even my SOOC (straight out of camera) pictures weren’t half bad. I was thrilled, because I’m rarely satisfied with pictures of myself.


After shooting several angles and facial expressions, etc., it was time to edit. Now, I LOVE editing. It’s my passion. I think it’s so cool to see something with your eyes that’s BEAUTIFUL, take a picture which doesn’t quite do it justice, and edit that picture to be what you actually saw with your eyes. That’s one of my biggest goals with editing, because our eyes catch so much that our cameras don’t always! My basic edits for this fake Hallmark movie poster shoot included making them much warmer by changing the temperature/white balance, darkening the shadows and raising the highlights, and sharpening the images.

Here’s a before and after:

self-portrait by Rachel Nielson
self-portrait by Rachel Nielson

Ummm yeah, I LOVE editing! (If you want to see more of my editing on YOUR pictures, reach out to me!) Then in Photoshop when I actually went to create my movie poster, I selected and masked myself from this image and put it over the other image (included earlier in this post). One thing I didn’t love was that I got the half-constructed building in the background, and so I wanted to put this image on top of another one.

I don’t know if this will ever become a movie, but it was fun to be a movie star for a day. And the movie poster? I’ll have THAT forever. 🙂

Rachel Sevy | Photographer | Graphic Designer | Web Designer | Lover of music and books | Friend to everyone | Photo editing addict