Everybody wants it

I grew up in a family of 5. Two parents, three kids. Two boys, one girl. That’s me, smack dab in the middle of two rowdy (but wonderfully kind) brothers. The older one has this “thing” called Marching-To-The-Beat-Of-One’s-Own-Drummer. The younger one is The Party. Me? Well, I like to think I was the classic middle child peacemaker, but I was probably closer to the I-Think-I-Know-It-All child… This different-ness worked to our advantage as kids, rarely did we step on each others’ toes vying for the same kind of attention or affirmation in the same area. But life isn’t always that neatly compartmentalized.

Sometimes we find our “thing” and relish the adoration that comes with it for about 5 minutes, only to find that our spotlight is actually quite crowded with others who believe this is also their “thing.” Photography is a lot like that. But here’s what keeps us sane, even if our “thing,” our creative outlet, our livelihood, our passion also shows itself in the multitudes – no one shares our exact same story, perspective, history or personality. We don’t have to exclude others in our search for what makes us special because it’s not the “thing” that brings the special-ness. Everyone wants a “thing” that brings significance but it is the person that has the significance. The “thing” is just a thing. And we are already significant.

Your story matters.

Understanding Photography Chicago blogger


That One Blue Lego

Sometimes, my kids get bored. They pick fights over who gets to play with that one blue Lego. They play Minecraft and yell at each other for destroying the other’s buildings. And I feel my sanity slowly ebbing away… So I regroup. And usually this involves me speaking VERY LOUDLY; something to the effect of, “GET YOUR SHOES ON BECAUSE WE’RE GETTING OUT OF THIS HOUSE.”

It’s a big, big world out there and boredom really isn’t an option.
At least not around these parts.

I bet you’ve got a story too, come share it at the Storytelling workshop.
Visual Storytelling PhotographyVisual Storytelling Photography

Workshops & Dreams

I’m self-taught in photography.

This means that as close as I came to taking a credit course in photography was sneaking into the darkroom in college. It also means I’ve taken quite a few workshops over the years to try to figure things out. The first workshop I ever took was an intimate $1200 2-day seminar on how to photograph newborns. Since I am not made of money, this was followed sometime later by 3 or 4 online courses at about $150 a pop. Then I waited a couple of years and went to a large 3-day conference for about $650 where I was able to see several different presenters.

Education isn’t cheap and some of these investments weren’t quite what I was expecting. The presenters weren’t always engaging or maybe the attendees were clique-ish or the information was all geared towards Canon & Nikon & there I stood with my Sony. However, I did learn quite a bit about what DID work. I learned what it felt like to have a passionate teacher, engaging with students, offering feedback & speaking candidly. I learned what it looks like to be so impressed with a teacher that you have to write them a thank you afterwards and you feel compelled to send them a Starbucks gift card because they went out of their way for you.

This Storytelling workshop isn’t just about content (though there will be plenty); it’s about reviving the belief that learning photography is not merely regurgitating f/stops – it’s about me sharing my dreams with you and you feeling your own dreams bubble to the surface. 
Email me for more info, I’d love to share details with you: heather[at]heatherhartstudio.com

Visual Storytelling Grayslake IL

Understanding Photography | Cameras

What kind of camera do you use?

This is one of the top 5 questions people ask me when they find out I’m a photographer. In fact, I’m guilty of asking it too. But here’s the deal: the type of camera you shoot with doesn’t really matter. I’ve shot with Nikon, Canon, Sony & iPhones. Digital & Film. Professional & Consumer level. Vintage and Modern. Don’t let equipment dictate your skill set. A camera is only a tool. Yes, different types of cameras excel at different things – but is your vision that creates a compelling photograph.

The real question we should ask each other should be: Why do you love photography?
I love storytelling.

visual storytelling

Understanding Photography | Exposure

What is exposure in photography?

In general terms, exposure is how light or dark an image is. It’s controlled by changing one or all of three camera settings: ISO, Aperture or Shutter Speed.

On my free Manual Photography Cheat Sheet, I suggest using your camera’s light meter to help you set your exposure. By looking at your in-camera light meter and adjusting one of the camera setting mentioned above, you can change your exposure. Whether you prefer your photos lighter or darker than what your camera sets as “0” is personal preference.

Here is a shot I took last night, adjusted to show you over exposure & under exposure.

(This is my personal preference for correct exposure during this sunset.)camera exposure

(Over Exposure)over exposed

(Under Exposure)under exposed

Happy shooting!

Free Photography Cheat Sheet | Storytelling Workshop

The day has finally arrived for the launch of

Storytelling with Heather Hart, a photography workshop!

Imagine loving your camera,
because you can create the photos you’ve always wanted.

This video shows my family, these are my candid personal photos, this is our beautiful story. You can take amazing photos that share your story too; you can do this!

Let’s take one day to understand what creates the emotion of your life story and how it translates into your photography. We will discuss elements of story and narrative photography as well as simplify the often overwhelming options for equipment, settings, apps and prints.

All of this, with an intimate group of women, eager to learn and support you. And of course, let’s not forget the inspiring setting of Cacao Sweets & Treats and the delicious natural, organic scratch-made confections that will spark our own creativity.

All camera types and all experience levels welcome. Participation is open to women high school age and above. Weather-permitting, we will conclude our time together with a photo walk through historic downtown Grayslake. Participation in this workshop also includes 6 months of membership in a private FaceBook group, a perfect place to share your story & continue your photographic exploration.

Workshop Pricing: $250 per participant
Saturday, May 2nd – 12:00PM-3:30PM
Cacao Sweets & Treats located at 122 Center Street, Grayslake, IL
Dessert table & beverages included
Buy Now Button

ATTENDEE REFERRAL BONUS! Here’s the extra-awesome part: Because this workshop is all about you, the participants, we are offering a $50 CASH bonus for EACH additional paid attendee you refer! Want to attend for FREE? Simply refer 5 friends! Contact Heather for full details: heather [at] heatherhartstudio.com. Storytelling with Heather Hart PDF As a gift in honor of this fabulous day, here is a FREE Manual Photography Cheat Sheet for all of my favorite people! Learn Camera Settings Happy shooting!


Date Night Rebels| Boltwood Evanston

My mom offered to take the kiddos, I polled friends for suggestions & I read the Chicago Magazine‘s Hot List – we were officially ready for a DATE NIGHT. We even had grown-up attire; I wore white pants, throwing caution to the wind. Rebellious for the night.

After kissing our two bundles of energy good-bye, we buckled into the Jeep and enjoyed 40 solid minutes of adult conversation while on the highway. It was magical. We talked about work, the house, travel, hobbies… all sorts of things that little ears find completely uninteresting.

And then we arrived in Evanston and set about remembering how to use a parking meter and cross walks. Things easily forgotten in suburbs with yards. We sauntered into Boltwood, smiled at the hostess and gave her a mild heart attack when we announced “No, we do not have a reservation.” We are rebels, remember? Date Night Rebels.  She quickly recovered and whispered, more to herself than to us, “Well, it’s still early, we can do this” and ushered us to our table.

Being the woman that I am, I immediately asked where the restroom was. The hostess pointed me towards a hallway next to the bar and off I went. Yes, I’m human and I regularly need to use the restroom (especially after drinking a Smart Water in the car- am I smarter now?), but more importantly I am a woman and I must check out the bathroom decor and note the level of sophistication. And yes, I did love the cowhide rug as a table covering and yes, I did announce that on social media. Because everyone needs to get on this trend. I need a hide somewhere in my house, surely.

Upon returning to the table, my husband of 8 years ordered me cocktail, something citrusy & minty because he knows me well and understands my adoration of mojitos. He’s an IPA man himself, and well, I have had about 2 beers in my life so I don’t have much to say about that.

The delicious drinks arrived and we told our waiter the salmon roe toasts sounded appealing… but THEN we threw down the GAUNTLET. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I like to think of us as the Date Night Rebels, remember? We told him to ORDER FOR US. At my husband’s suggestion, we’ve started doing this on our foodie date nights and I must admit I love it. It makes the evening a bit of an adventure and always provides entertainment. Sometimes the waitstaff shrinks back with a petrified look on their face, other times a glimmer sparkles in their eye and you can see them already planning your courses. We are adventurous eaters and convey that message which helps ease the tension. It’s amazing how placing your trust in someone bonds you to them. The times we’ve done this, I’ve felt like we were good friends with our waiter by the end of the night. They always stop back frequently to see how we like their choices and share stories about why the food is personal to them. And they ALWAYS pick food that I wouldn’t have ordered but nearly embarrass myself eating because it’s so good (don’t mind if I lick the bowl, OK?).

Upon our throwing of the gauntlet, our waiter calmly picked it up, looked us over, gave a knowing smile and confidently said “I’ve got it.” That’s what I’m talking about people. We need more waiters like these. The menu at Boltwood changes frequently based on mostly locally sourced items, which enticed me in the first place. I love changing menus, it’s the whole adventure foodie thing for me. He brought us a roasted beet salad, an item not on the online menu I’d eyed prior to our little evening out. My impression of beets generally revolves around those gelatinous looking slices you see on a tupperware-themed salad bar. So yeah, I really did not eat them. Like ever. But these roasted little bundles of goodness made me want to start buying beets on a regular basis. So sweet and tender, but not mushy, and perfectly combined with some micro greens.

AND THEN he brought us spare ribs. And I love me some ribs but I never order them at a ‘nice’ restaurant. For two reasons: 1) Ribs are BBQ to me, so I order them at places where they provide paper towels as napkins and 2) Eating ribs generally requires picking up your food with your HANDS (& I was wearing WHITE PANTS, REMEMBER?!) As the food runner set them down on the table, I had my own heart palpitation and used my fork & knife to place one on my plate (note: the hubs and I share all the portions on these adventures). Thankfully, the waiter stepped right over to tell us about the dish & I nervously laughed “Is there a graceful way to eat these?” With a mischievous twinkle in his eye he replied, “You just gotta dig in.” And he smiled. And then he left me to eat with my hands and my white pants. And it was glorious. And messy. And I told him whoever was in charge of the ribs in the back was doing something right. And later on in the evening I saw TWO other ladies sitting in my line of sight eating ribs with their HANDS and I felt as though we had an unspoken club. Maybe we need t-shirts.

The rest of the meal was delicious and unexpected too- however, I’m not going to describe any more of it in detail because that would dampen your own dining adventure. I expect you to jump into the fray and try Boltwood and tell me about your own foodie exploration.