Ask Photojojo: Photojojo’s Photo Pros Answer All Your Questions!

Have you ever wondered what Photojojo’s deepest dreams and desires are?

What does Photojojo think about in the wee hours of the night?

Maybe you’ve just wondered how to make the best DIY home studio or which DSLR is hot right now.

We went to Twitter to ask Photojojo fans what question you would ask us if you could.

Here are our answers! Amit, Jen, Billy, Kiran, Kelly, Julieanne, Laurel…

See the faces behind the names along with our expert photo and DIY advice!

[Have a question? Ask us!]

Our Answers to Your Questions

p.s. Wanna work with us? We’re hiring in and outside of San Francisco. Seeking web developers, product buyers and sourcers, photographers, and writers!

p.p.s. Come eat pizza and photo walk with us!


beforeLaurel is the customer service overlord at Photojojo. Her interests include neon Skittles and personalizing each and every Photojojo order with a miniature dino.

Q: @bubblegumzee I need to set up a cheap, easy product photography shoot…any tips?

A: My favorite lighting kit in the whole galaxy is the sun. Just head outside.

If it’s a very bright day, find an evenly lit spot in the shade. If it’s overcast you’re good to go anywhere. Tape a piece of paper to a wall/tree/flower-pot to make a seamless backdrop.

With a well shot product photo, you could even sell that half of a day old donut you never finished (coming soon to the Photojojo Shop! …or not).

Q: @thecannibal14 50mm 1.8 or 18-200 3.5-5.6?

A: Go with the fixed fifty! You’ll have to use your feet instead of your fingers to zoom, but the beautifully big aperture is totally worth it. I love that lens.


beforeJen is Photojojo’s store manager extraordinaire. Jen finds all the best photo goodies for the Shop! She also trains her cat Fuji to fetch film from the photo lab.

Q: @LizaDuron I want to know what techniques I can do to make the light leaks/expired film effect on my new 35mm film.

A: Open the back of the camera just slightly to expose the film, then shut it really quick! There are probably better ways, I usually just do this on accident. Also, I’ve never done this, but I hear you can put new film in the oven to give it an expired look.

Q: @jollygeek What are various ways to become inspired to go out and shoot?

A: Movies and colors inspire me. So does the ocean. I also try and check out other photographer’s stuff on Flickr or Tumblr often. It’s inspiring to see what other people are doing.

Q: @boodles64 If you could suggest one thing to start learning for a new photog, what would it be? I’m overwhelmed with settings!

A: Pick up a simple point and shoot film camera like our Ultra Wide and Slim or our Double Shot Camera. They both just have one button and take awesome looking photos. In fact, the Ultra Wide and Slim was what got me into shooting film (the beginning of an addiction).

Q: @originaljahn What would be a good beginner film camera to purchase to begin to affiliate myself with medium format film photography

A: I bought a Lomo Lubitel from eBay just for this purpose. You can find them for under $100 there usually.

Q: @karljohnston I’ve always wondered; where did you come up with the name “photojojo?”

A: Amit came up with the idea, he thought it just sounded cool. I would have to agree.


beforeAmit is the George Washington of Photojojo. He’s the founding father of this whole thing! (BTW Amit also comes in pixel form.)

Q: @pepperjess The best tiny digital point-and-shoot, one that rivals some DSLRs? Any suggestions?

A: Go with the Canon S95. It’s the same size as their popular Elph-like compact cameras but has a much larger sensor — the same one as the Canon G12.

That means you get much better low-light pics than other compacts. And it’s got full-manual controls with a ring around the lens you can use to adjust aperture, shutter speed, or exposure compensation. Fits in your pocket, takes excellent photos.

If you can bear something a little larger, you’ll get closer to DSLR performance with a Micro 4/3rds camera from Panasonic or Olympus. I’m a huge fan of the GF-1 (discontinued) but the updated version the GF-2 isn’t bad, either. The 20mm pancake lens is sharp and excellent. (If you can wait a couple months, the GF-3 is rumored to be just around the bend.)

Q: @mkoux Where can I get the best burger in NYC?

A: Shake Shack! Their cheese-filled shroom burger is the best veggie burger I’ve ever had, but I hear the regular burgers are pretty amazing, too. :)


beforeLisbeth is editor at Photojojo, and she is writing these very words (mind melt). If it were a toss-up between shaving her head and playing with cameras, she’d pick the cameras.

Q: @pepperjess Do you have any DIY ideas for what to do with undeveloped/blank polaroid/photos? Seems a waste to trash them

A: Yeah!! Here are some ideas:

  • Turn them into frames! Paste another photo on top and use it as a cool Polaroid frame. Kinda like our Polaroid Postcards.
  • Draw on them! Check out Elia‘s, daaams’, and Dan‘s Polaroid drawings. Also, have you heard of Homemade Polaroid?
  • Use them as reusable to-do lists that you can stick on your fridge. Just grab a dry erase marker. Here’s a tutorial on how to turn your instant prints into to-do lists.
  • Turn them into postcards! Find a paint marker to write on black and then put a stamp on the back. You can send it in the mail without an envelope! [Note: This was Jen’s idea!]

Q: @thejennydipo I want to know what lenses to rent/buy to take pictures of babies!!

A: My fave portrait lenses are a fixed 50mm lens (I use Canon, but nifty fifties come in all brands) and Canon’s 24-70mm lens and 85mm lens. Tamron also has sweet telephoto lenses in the same range. The 50mm is just the right angle — not too wide and not too telephoto, so there’s minimal distortion in the image.

The 24-70mm and 85mm are a little bit longer, so they capture shallow depth of field beautifully (good for bokeh!). When you shoot with a shallow depth of field, people (or any subject) really pop since the background gets all out of focus. Babies and other humans look pretty darn great through these!

BTW, the 50mm is affordable enough to buy. The 24-70mm and 85mm are a little pricier, so you might try renting those before deciding to get them.


beforeBilly‘s a customer service ninja. Is he in the store inbox now? Maybe he’s in the chat! One never knows where Billy may be, but one thing is certain: he probably knows the answer to your question.

Q: @wendyh777 Explain aperture in 140 characters or less

A: Small aperture (bigger number) = more depth of field, less light for exposure. Large aperture (smaller number) = less depth, more light.

Q: @pebble8 Why is it that some cameras are more fun to use (eg m9 or nikon d300) than others? What’s the difference that makes the difference?

A: You make the difference! Not every camera is a good fit for everyone, so keep looking until you find one that is juuuusssst right (channel your inner Goldilocks).

Q: @boodles64 If you could suggest one thing to start learning for a new photog, what would it be? I’m overwhelmed with settings!

A: Enroll in a drawing class (really!). I took a figure drawing class in art school and it provided a great insight into space, form and light, three super important elements for photography. Plus it’s a ton of fun!


beforeKelly writes many of Photojojo’s DIY favorites (she even co-wrote The Photojojo Book!). She eats DIY projects for breakfast, but not before she drizzles rainbow sprinkles on top.

Q: @joshua_cobb Where are the best places to take photos?

A: Anywhere you’ve never been before, because you see differently when you’re in an unfamiliar place.

You notice details more, and ordinary things pop out if you’ve never encountered them before.

I also like taking a camera along when I’m hanging out in my own neighborhood with friends from out of town. They notice things that I’ve forgotten about because I see them every day.


beforeKiran‘s a Photojojo PR and customer BFF. Sometimes Kiran dresses up like a zombie for fun, but just because he’s undead doesn’t mean he doesn’t kick ass at what he does.

Q: @missbmarie84 In your opinion, is it the gadget or the talent behind it that makes the photo?

A: Definitely the talent.

Although gadgets today make it easier to take great photos (and that’s rad), photography is still an art. There can be a lot of thought put into shooting a single photograph, especially when it’s another person.

There’s an awesome photography book called The Contact Sheet that goes behind the scenes on some iconic photos to find out what went into making them. Making someone comfortable enough to reveal their personality is a skill of its own!


beforeSarah is Photojojo’s photographer and crafty thing maker. She also writes amazing tutorials. Sarah loves rainbows, science, and dogs. She has a point there.

Q: @pepperjess Do you have any DIY ideas for what to do with undeveloped/blank polaroid/photos? Seems a waste to trash them.

A: I like to paint on mistake/blank Polaroids with acrylic paint, which you can buy at any craft store. It dries really fast and also comes off easily while it’s still wet if you make mistakes.

I also once used my blank and undeveloped Polaroids to make a calendar with fotoclips. I still use it!

Q: @boodles64 If you could suggest one thing to start learning for a new photog, what would it be? I’m overwhelmed with settings!

A: Put your camera in aperture priority (AP) mode. This will allow you to adjust the aperture to whichever setting you want, and the camera will adjust the shutter speed to make a correct exposure.

It’s my favorite of all the automatic modes, because it gives you a lot of creative control with depth of field (which is what the aperture controls.)

Q: @wendyh777 Explain aperture in 140 characters or less

A: Light sneaks into your camera through an aperture. If small (f/22), it makes a sharper image. If large (f/2.8), focus is more selective.

Q: @jollygeek What are various ways to become inspired to go out and shoot?

A: Look at tons of other photography! You don’t have to go out to a museum or gallery to see great photography these days, and there are so many awesome photographers online that inspire us every day when we’re looking for photos to post to our tumblr.

One of my favorite ways to get inspired and see new work is to go to a blog I like, find the one photo I like most, track down that photographer’s website, and look at all of their work.

I find so much great stuff that way that I wouldn’t have seen before, plus seeing other photographer’s portfolios always makes me excited to go out and work on my own.


beforeJulieanne (or Jules!) is a tutorial writer and customer service agent. People say she looks like Scully from the X-Files. We agree. The way she knows the answer to every one of your questions is supernatural.

Q: @pepperjess For someone who doesn’t have the dough to drop on Photoshop, what is the next best alternative? or free alt? (picnic, picasa)?

A: GIMP. There is a learning curve, but it’s free and does a whole mess of Photoshoppy things.

Q @hilbelmont How does one manage to take photographs and still enjoy the moment…sometimes I struggle to.

A: This is a hard one! I’ve found a few things that have helped me (but I’m still figuring this out too).

  • Have some set times when you take some photos (beginning, middle and end perhaps) and have some set times when your camera is packed in your bag and you just enjoy the moment. Switching back and forth can help you keep it in balance.
  • If it’s possible to have someone else at the event who is also a photog it can really take the pressure off. Try not to be come the only photographer for your entire group of friends… if they want pictures they’ve got to help you out from time to time. If you’ve got a buddy who loves to shoot too, you can plan it out with them to switch back and forth – that way you won’t miss any photos but you’ll also get to be part of the party.
  • Start shooting film. If you can’t take a bazillion photos you’ll be more selective and more engaged in what is happening.
  • Know that it’s okay to not have a photo of every piece of your life. Sometimes life is just for enjoying in the moment. Don’t beat yourself up for not getting a picture of this or that. If it was something super special that you missed you can always write about it in a journal once you get home.


beforeLiz writes many of our finest DIY tutorials. She has a magical way of making fancy projects easy to do! We think she might have a pact with a leprechaun. So magical.

Q: @jennjenn Can I be you guys when I grow up??

A: Sure! Why not? However, I still have yet to grow up, so I’ll let you know when I do. :)

Q: @howlingwolves What’s in your bag?

A: A lot! I have a rather large bag & like being prepared for anything that could happen!

  • Sweet leather wallet that my parents got for me from Spain
  • Keys (that always manage to get lost when I’m looking for them)
  • Burt’s Bees Replenishing Lip Balm (with pomegranate oil)
  • 250GB portable hard drive. I hardly go anywhere without this!
  • Micron pens &/or Pilot Razor point pens
  • Post-its
  • 3G iPhone. Sadly, it’s quite the dinosaur nowadays. But that’s okay, I think dinosaurs are neat.
  • Orbit gum in strawberry mint &/or wintermint
  • Metal card case that holds all those membership cards & whatnot
  • Ideas Log notebook
  • Measuring tape
  • Mini utility knife
  • Tums
  • Coldeeze
  • Eyeglass repair kit—with mini screws & all
  • Oil blotter sheets
  • Bandaids
  • Hand wipes (pet peeve of mine = greasy hands after eating fried foods. Not cool.)
  • Q-tips
  • Face powder
  • Travel toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Domo pouch that holds earphones
  • Random SD cards and bonus!—an SD card reader
  • A jumpdrive
  • Pop-up inflatable raft—just kidding!!

On some days I also carry my dad’s old Canon AE-1 Program with a Canon FD 50mm 1:1.8 lens in my bag, too. :)

Q: @missbmarie84 In your opinion, is it the gadget or the talent behind it that makes the photo?

A: Definitely the talent. Doesn’t matter if you have the newest, swankiest, shiniest camera toy on the block, if you don’t have the eye for creativity & patience to think outside the norm, your photos won’t be anything exceptional or interesting.

Same goes with any photo-editing program; I do use Photoshop & I love Instagram, but I don’t believe the use of either (or something similiar) makes a photo particularly fabulous.

In fact, I think what makes a photo should be the thought behind it as it was being shot—how somebody composed it, what angle was used, etc., not necessarily what effects were applied to it afterwards—whether by Photoshop, Instagram, or the like.

I also don’t think you need to be able to travel the world or have access to cool places to take the most awesome or interesting photos. Check out Abelardo Morell’sHome” series, which feature some fantastic still life photos that use no special props or settings—just everyday household objects beautifully composed and shot inside his house!

Photo credit: Kelly by Terry Chay; Kiran by Mike Brown