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Thanks so much for the input.   I appreciate it!

I’ve been shooting RAW since I got my rebel.  I figured if I was going to learn, it was best to learn properly by shooting RAW in manual mode.  I have Lightroom 5 as well as Photoshop CS5.  I usually use LR for batching, light corrections, straightening horizons and cropping.  I didn’t know that the Rebel viewfinder wasn’t 100% accurate, before.  It does explain certain things, though.  As for CS5, I prefer it for retouching.  I get a lot of lag retouching with LR so I’ve been using plearn.com and Julieanne Kosts videos to learn more about masking and colors.  It’s always a fear of mine, knowing where to draw the line with post processing.  I hate the idea of over-processed images but I’m not always sure about my choices.  Currently, my computer monitor is not calibrated.  I know it’s one of the stupidest mistakes to make with respect to color management.  I’m not sure what the best way to calibrate it is but that’s definitely on the agenda.  Some times I use my iPhone 5 to review the images because someone told me Mac products are more accurate.  They come out slightly warmer on the phone than in the laptop.

I have one inexpensive flash, however, I didn’t use it in any of the posted images.  For one, I’m only now beginning to understand the relationship of aperture and flash power.  I took some family photos over the holidays with the flash unit on my camera but it was pretty ugly looking and I don’t want to spend that much time working on light corrections in post.  I tried to use the on-camera flash to trigger the speedlite but my experiments did not turn out like Zack Arias’ on DigitalRev’s channel, haha!  I’m working on finding a good, inexpensive flash trigger.

I didn’t think about it, before, but I actually quite like the photo of my daughter that you pulled the exposure back on.   I didn’t realize how bright it was until I saw the darker version.  I was relying on my LR histogram to make sure I didn’t blow out the highlights but I definitely see the difference.  The eye strangeness is definitely genetic.  She inherited my good fortune of having slanted eyes that make it seem like they’re looking in different directions, under certain angles.  To be honest, I didn’t notice that right away, either.  It’s a good thing to start paying attention to.  I didn’t have studio-level control over that light.  It was a little beam of light that came through the window onto my front door.  I tried to expose for the highlights in her face and it seemed okay on my viewfinder but it was much brighter when I downloaded the image.

Thanks for the tip for testing lens sharpness.  I do have a tripod but I probably haven’t used it as much as I should have.  I don’t stage my shoots as often as I probably should.  I’ve been guilty of finding light and using the “stand right there for a sec” method.  That’s probably gotta stop.  My current lenses are not the best for quick focusing.  Often, even when the image is sharp I find color fringing during my 1:1 inspections.  I can’t stand that.  I’ve been thinking of getting the Canon 135mm f2 (when the money’s right) since I heard from a few sources about how sharp it is.  I’m a little intimidated about committing to that focal range.  I used my telephoto (with a lens hood) more often in the beginning.  I’ve enjoyed using the 50mm much more, lately, but a good 50mm is expensive.

Usually, I save low resolution copies for use on social media.  I uploaded the high quality ones on Flickr but maybe I was wrong to assume Flickr could handle that.  Do you recommend sharpening after saving the low res copies?

I’ve never seen Ansel Adams pre-dodging/burning images.  I think his images are amazing, especially given the technology he had available.   I think my comment about how many photos I take came across snootier than I meant it to.  If my paycheck depended on getting the shot, I suppose I would do whatever I had to.  Being a photography newb, I think it forces me to think more without justifying that I’ll fix things in post.  The other method definitely makes sense when you may only get one chance to get a certain kind of photo.  I do appreciate all the advice.  It’s definitely given more things to think about!