Monday, January 30, 2012

Week 4 Photo Challenge of Self Portrait Leads to Online Photo Editing Sites

This past week's photo challenge was to take a self portrait.  I of course waited till the 11th hour, as I had a very busy week this past week, including a presentation on photo organizing at a local public library!  However, that's another topic altogether!

Pop art
I decided to try out Photo Booth to take my self portrait.  My daughter is on there all the time with her friends, and they are constantly playing with effects that range from comic book and pop art, to twirl, dent, stretch and more.  If you've played with this at all, you know that you can take a picture of yourself right at your computer and then change up your photo with some pretty interesting (and not so flattering effects).  I personally don't want my face stretched into odd contortions so I tried out pop art and comic book.  I can see why the kids enjoy this so much, although I don't see myself playing with this site all that often.
Original picture

Then I got curious about other online editing sites.  I googled "online photo editing sites" and quite a few came up.  One of the links that showed up was: 28 Online Photo Editing Websites To have Fun With!  Picnik was listed, so I took a photo of my kids (my Christmas card picture actually) and tried out some of their tools. There were a lot of different effects to pick from! I could definitely see myself using some of these sites from time to time. Picnik is moving its photo editing tools to Google + as of April 19th, but in the meantime you can still play with its site.  Check out a few of the effects I tried!  

Pencil sketch
Have you tried out any online editing sites? What did you think? Which ones did you like?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More camera toys for this gadget girl!

Writing my last blog about Photojojo's camera toys got me excited about adding another toy (or two) to my collection.  Although I go on Photojojo's site quite a bit, I haven't purchased anything new in a while.  Unfortunately for me, the Wide Angle & Macro Lens Adapter that I was planning to buy is no longer available!  Not to be dissuaded from getting some new toys, I found something else to try out.

I ordered the Photorito Lens Wrap, which I am thinking will be great for those times when I am without my camera bag, and I need to tote a lens in my purse.  That's a practical purchase though (I need to keep my lens safe), and I really wanted something fun to try out.  So, I also ordered a Lens set for my cell phone.  Now this looks like it could really be comes with a macro, fisheye and telephoto lens!  They attach with a magnetic ring.

Best of all, my order already shipped!  Along with my tracking number, I got this nice note.  "We hope our box of photo goodies brightens your day and brings you super photo happiness."  I hope so too!  What a nice way to end an email.  Photojojo does a nice job of customer service in addition to bringing photo happiness!  I'm even more excited now to get my next package.  I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fun with Digital Photography..."Toys" for your Camera!

When I am on Photojojo's site, I feel like a kid in a candy store.  I'm a gadget girl at heart, and I love my camera...and Photojojo's site is filled with wonderful "toys" for your digital camera!  I try to take the time to check it out at least once a week to see what's going on over at their site.  If you haven't visited them yet, you are in for a treat!

I'll tell you about a couple of my favorites.  The Pop-up Flash Bounce is a hood with a mirror that attaches to the flash of your DSLR after its popped up.  It directs the flash from your camera up instead, bouncing it off the ceiling to create a more natural light.  You can see the results with my before and after really does make a difference!  For $30, you get beautiful lighting without spending a lot of money for an external flash.

I'm also rather attached to the iPad Card Readers.  Plug one of these into your iPad and you can download your photos in a snap.  If you're traveling without your computer, this is a good way to make sure your digital photos are saved in more than one place.  On our last vacation, I downloaded my photos to my iPad every day, uploaded them to my favorite photo sharing and cloud storage app, Linea, and felt safe knowing my photos were backed up in the event something should happen to my camera.

I've got my eye on a couple new gadgets...the Super Secret Spy Lens adapter looks like fun, as does the Easy Macro Cell Lens Band, but I think the Wide Angle & Macro Lens Adapter might be my next purchase!  There are so many great "toys" to choose from!  If you enjoy digital photography, you'll have a lot of fun visiting Photojojo's site.

Have you tried any of Photojojo's products?  Let us know what you like!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week 3 of the 52 Week Photo Project: My Favorite Thing

When I signed up for this 52 Week Photo Project, I thought it was going to be easy.  I'd take a picture each week, and it would remind me to record some of those everyday moments that I missed out on last year.  This week's photo op turned out to be a little more difficult than expected.  I'm supposed to photograph my favorite thing.  To be honest, I don't even know where to go with that.  Each day is a blessing, filled with amazing and wonderful things.  How does one choose a favorite?

Here are just a few of mine:
  • I love that my teenage son still hugs me.
  • I love when I am going out for a run in the morning with the dogs, they practically dance with excitement.
  • I love that Oreo, one of our cats, smacks me with her paw when she wants attention.
  • I love my work, because I feel like I make a difference.
  • I love the colors of the fall.
  • I love the taste of a freshly picked apple.
  • I love my daughter's chocolate chip cookies.
  • I love picking vegetables at the farm in the summer.
  • I love that I was lucky enough to marry my best friend, who I can count on no matter what.
I could go on and on with my list of favorites, as I am sure most of us could!  

This morning we woke up to snow...not an unusual event here in Connecticut, but its a Saturday and all sports were cancelled.  So we had nothing we absolutely had to do...we had a completely free day!  In our household, that doesn't happen often.  My husband and I decided to go snowshoeing, which is one of my "favorite" winter sports.  However, I decided to take my picture for the week of one of my dogs, Clara.  Clara loves snow.  Watching Clara play in the snow is definitely one of my favorite things.  She gets giddy with excitement...she prances and jumps and in general looks like she is having the best time of her life!  Its fun to watch her, and it always brings a smile to my face.  

Its impossible to choose one is full of things that bring us joy, big and small.  What are some of your favorites? 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lost Lens Caps a Thing of the Past

How often do you lose your lens cap?  I've lost more than I can count.  After purchasing numerous replacements, I tried using those lens cap keepers with elastic that goes around the lens and an adhesive piece that attaches to the lens cap.  Those worked pretty good...until the adhesive wore off.  I continued to lose lens caps...just at a little slower rate.

The last time I lost my lens cap, I mulled over my options.  Should I order extra lens caps to have on hand when I lose them?  Should I order extra of those lens cap keepers with the adhesive?  I've gone through my fair share of both.  I really don't like being without my lens cap, but I also don't like wasting money.  Plus, when you're without a lens cap to keep your lens safe when you aren't shooting, you're risking damage to the lens.  What's a shutterbug to do?

Luckily for me, I discovered a company called Hufa.  Hufa makes a handy little lens cap holder that you can attach to your camera strap.  You can slide your lens cap in and it stays put securely.  We've used it out and about, as well as while skiing, and with several different size lens caps.  It works great!  I now have one on both of my camera straps, and I am going to be putting one on my daughter's camera strap as well.  As luck would have it, she just lost her first lens cap!  I'm hoping it will be her last.  I haven't lost one since I purchased the Hufa Lens Cap Clip!

Have you ever lost your lens cap?  Have you found a product that you like that helps you keep track of it?  Share it with us!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

No Time Like the Present to Preserve Your Family's Memories

Photos tell our the stories of our lives.  Yet we are often are overwhelmed by our photo collections. Many of us have shoeboxes and drawers full of photos, we have digital pictures on our computers in various places, as well as CDs and DVDs, multiple memory cards, and home movies in formats we can no longer view.  Your family's history is important and should be preserved so you can enjoy it today and pass it along to future generations!  Here's some tips to help you get started.  

Find a system that works for you.  The ABC’s of Photo Organizing© are a great place to start.  This is a method taught by photo organizers from the Association of Personal Photo Organizers.  Your A’s are the photos that belong in albums.  They are personal and cherished.  B’s are photos that you don’t want to get rid of, but they don’t necessarily need to be in an album.  They should be organized for long term storage into an archival box, or backed up. The C’s can go into the can, either the garbage can or deleted on your computer.  These are the blurry, or unflattering photos, the duplicates, and the photos you simply don’t need, such as extra scenery photos or people you no longer remember.  The S stands for stories, and this is the most important part!  Your stories will be told in your albums alongside your A pictures.

Make sure you are storing your photos in a safe environment.  Photos should be stored in a cool dark place where there isn’t much fluctuation in the temperature.  You also want to avoid humidity and direct sunlight.  Attics, basements, and garages are NOT good storage spots!  In addition to where you store your photos, you should also consider what you store them in.  Make sure you are storing your photos in a photo safe environment and use reputable products.  You probably have noticed that photos that you have in those old magnetic albums have started to yellow or fade.  You’ll want to remove your pictures from those types of albums.

Scan your old photos.  If you’d like to have a digital copy of old photos, or would like to pass photos along to other family members, scanning is a great option.  You may find having a portable scanner like the Flip Pal that you can bring with you on the go is handy to have.  This is really useful when one family member has a photo that everyone wants, but doesn't want to "loan" it to you. 

Restore special photos.  You may have certain special photos you’d like to restore.  Perhaps they’ve faded, been torn, or even crumpled up.  There are many great types of photo editing software out there, but if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, you can work with a service provider that offers photo restoration. 

Digitize old media.  With technology constantly changing, it’s an ongoing process to archive old media. Your old home movies can be converted to current technology, but keep in mind, as technology changes, you will need to change with it, which most likely will mean re-recording again at some point.  If you don’t want to invest in the equipment to do this yourself, there are many services that can handle this for you. 

Back it up.  I always recommend having at least three backups.  I use a cloud based storage system, an external hard drive, and I print my photos in photo books as well.  One of the great things about photo books is you can journal your stories alongside of your photos and you can order multiple copies for family members (and reprint if needed)!  I also print special photos that I want an extra copy of and store them in a photo safe box.  Having a printed copy is a great backup because a print can always be scanned and digitized.  While it may not be realistic to print all of your photos, you may want to consider printing your most important ones. 

Share your photos with family members through a cloud based service.  Before choosing cloud backup storage, make sure it offers the options that you are looking for.  Some things to consider: Your viewing and sharing options, how easy it is to get your photos back, and whether you and others can comment on the photos.  Linea is a new photosharing app that I am now using.  I really like the fact that anyone I share my “line” with can add photos to it, allowing me to keep all photos from a certain event in the same place even when multiple people are taking pictures.  Everyone can comment on them as well, which is helpful when you’ve uploaded old family photos in which you’re trying to identify people or learn the stories behind the photos.  

Preserve your family’s stories now.  Unfortunately stories get lost through the years.  Consider sitting with older relatives with a recorder and documenting their stories, or using one of the many journals out there with writing prompts.  Check out A Grandparent’s Legacy, by Thomas Nelson or other similar type of journals.  Do the same thing with treasured family recipes…if there is a handwritten version of the recipe, you may want to preserve that.  There’s always a story behind those special recipes!  Don’t forget to write down your own stories as you are going through this process…not only are your family stories important to your family now, they will be treasured by future generations!

What are you doing to make sure your memories are preserved for future generations?  We’d love to hear your suggestions! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Week 2 of the 52 Week Photo Project: The Story of My Front Door

The assignment this week was to take a picture of my front door. Seems easy enough, right? I didn’t have to reflect on anything or make any big decisions. What was nice about this assignment is that it was a chance to reflect on where I live, and reminisce about the stories of my home. In this case, my front door actually does have a story!

Right now I have a wreath on my front door that I’m not ready to take down even though the holidays are over. Since it still fits the season, I am going to leave it up and enjoy it for a while longer. I'm not really ready to put the reindeer away either, but I'm going to do that later this week.  Usually my front door is completely undecorated, but this is not by choice, and the reason is birds. Don’t get me wrong, I like birds. Its just that every time I hang a wreath on my front door, it becomes THE spot for a nest. Before you say “awww, that’s so sweet” consider what I’m about to say.

The one time we let the birds build and keep their nest there, it was a complete disaster. One, we couldn’t use our front door. Every time we opened or closed the door we were terrified the babies would fall out of the nest. Sadly to say, despite our efforts a baby did fall out one day during a windstorm.

Two, when the babies hatched, they made a mess of our front door. Baby birds do what baby humans do, and it has to go somewhere. In our case, it went right down the front of our door. It was not easy to clean, and we had to wait until the babies flew away.  Needless to say, it was not a pretty sight.

Three, we have cats. Need I say more? I’d rather see the birds make their nest in a safer place.

However, every time I put a wreath on my door, I catch birds building nests. I’m not sure why they like my front door so much, but they do. Maybe it’s the close proximity of good nest materials. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a bit more sheltered there. All I know, is I don’t want them there. I dismantle their nests. I take down the wreath, and sometimes put it back up weeks later, in hopes that they will give up. It never works. They always come back. So I’ve pretty much given up on wreaths except around the holidays.

I’ll think I’ll enjoy my wreath for a little longer…soon enough we’ll be back to an undecorated door.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week 1 of the 52 Week Photo Project

The assignment for last week's 52 week Photo Project with LensProToGo was a self portrait without you in it...something that represents you. Actually tonight was the last night to upload the photo to Flickr.  I've been thinking about this for the last few days. You wouldn't think this would be such a difficult decision! But there's so many things that define us.

I'm a mom and a wife...
I'm a huge fan of my kids' sports...
I've been a runner for close to 30 years...
I love to read and I love to own books (and have an overflowing bookcase to show for it)...
I'm a sucker for any animal that needs a home and so we now have 6 pets...
I enjoy taking photos, and creating photo books and gifts with them...
What to choose?!

In the end, I went with the cameras.

I am definitely a shutterbug.  I take pictures of anything and everything.  I love taking photos of scenes around town, and I make a calendar of those photos every year.  I enjoy taking pictures on vacations, and at holidays, at the beach and on the ski slopes.  A camera goes with me pretty much everywhere.  I love sports photography...much of the time I find myself watching a game from behind a lens.  And I take a lot of photos of my kids' friends and their teammates as well.  

Some months back I was driving the soccer carpool with a car full of preteen girls and I asked them a couple questions about what they liked about having photos.  The girls were really quick to respond that they love having photos and really like looking back through old photos of themselves too because then they have fun remembering things that happened.  The one comment that really hit home though was..."When I grow up, I am going to take lots of pictures of my kids, just like you do."  
WOW.  That comment made my day.  Kids may not always appreciate the pictures at the moment you're taking them, but they will appreciate them later!  And you will too!  

So for me, choosing the cameras made the most sense.  They seem to be a part of my life more days than not, and taking photos gives me joy!

If you're doing the 52 Week Photo Project, what did you pick to represent yourself?  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Photo Gifts are fun all year long!

There’s a lot of ways to enjoy your photos.  This year my favorite Christmas gift came from my middle child.  She spent countless hours working on a photo slide show for me, using digital photos from throughout the years as well as text highlighting the important activities and events from 2011.   I have to say I was pretty amazed.  She even got the thumbs up from her older brother, which was a pretty big compliment coming from him.   And the whole family enjoyed watching and reminiscing!

But there were lots of photo gifts to go around this year.  Each of my children received a journal with a custom designed photo cover, from Paper Coterie.  This is a really fun site that I recently have discovered. They offer a diverse and unique line of photo books, cards and gifts.  If you haven’t checked out their site, take a look!  One of my favorite products is the Memory Keeper, which I’ve used for stashing trip momentos I want to hold on to.  Right now they are offering 50% off of all planners, journals and memory keepers for orders placed before January 23rd.  Just enter the code WELCOME2012 at checkout!

I also made photo Christmas ornaments at Personalization Mall.  They came out really cute and were a huge hit with the grandparents.  A friend of mine used mpix for hers and was really impressed as well.  Both of these sites have a lot of fun photo gift items.  

But photo gifts aren’t just for the holidays!   There’s so many times throughout the year that a photo gift says “I love you.”  And Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it…

What’s the most unique photo gift you ever made?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What stories do your photos tell?

A good photo tells a story.

One of my favorite pictures from 2011 is one of my daughter and her teammates hugging after winning their semi final soccer game in penalty kicks against a Canadian team at an international  tournament we traveled to this summer.  It’s not a great picture that stands on its own, but there is a story behind it. 

This team started out as a group of players from all over our state, most of whom had never played together other than some practices.  Prior to this trip, they’d never played a game together.  None of the parents knew each other either.  We watched their frustration as they struggled through the first half of the tournament as they learned how to play with one another.  But by the second half of the tournament, a change had taken place…they were truly teammates, and they’d also become friends.

The game in which I took the picture I am talking about was a hard fought one, with the other team leading by one until the late in the second half when one of our players scored to tie it up.   They then went into penalty kicks to decide the game, and after some pressure filled moments, emerged victorious.  The girls then went on to win the final against a Swedish team.

There was so much emotion built up into the last moments of that game.  (By contrast, the final was not nearly as stressful…they won 5-0).   When they won the semi final,  the girls in the penalty kick lineup immediately grabbed each other into a hug and their other teammates came running over to join in.  I was caught up in the moment as well and didn’t capture the emotion on their faces when they realized they won.  But I did get their backs folded into a group hug and for me, and them, that was an important part of the story.  It was a moment of glory that I am sure they won’t forget.  That group hug has a prominent place in their photobook!

Do your photos tell a story?  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Photo a Week

Every year I think about doing a Project 365, where you take one photo each day to document your year.  While I love the idea, realistically I know it won’t happen for me.  I’ll forget one day and then be disappointed and give up on my project. So I decided that a better goal for me to start with is one picture a week...Project 52.

Most weeks I take more than one picture; some weeks I take hundreds.  But when I look back at my photos from 2011, most of them revolve around my kids’ sports, holidays, vacations, or fun activities.  It definitely adds up to a lot of digital photos!  But I’d like to have more photos of our “everyday” life. 

I took tons of “everyday” life photos when the kids were little…as they’ve gotten older, I find myself documenting less of those moments.  So my New Year’s Photo Resolution is one photo a week, motivating me to take photos of moments that might otherwise be forgotten.

My plan is to store these photos on Linea, and add my journaling in.  At the end of the year, I might just do an album of my 52 “everyday” moment photos!

Anyone care to join me and document more of your "everyday" moments?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Photo Resolutions

Photos are powerful...they're key to memory preservation. kick off the New Year, I thought I would suggest a few "Photo Resolutions!"

Don't forget your camera.  The best camera is the one you have with you.  Make sure you have a way to record memories as they happen, whether its with your camera phone or another camera of choice!

Use your camera manual.  Your camera manual is a wealth of information, including how to set your date properly!   Knowing the date the photo was taken may be important when you are telling "your stories" as well.  Understanding your camera's functions can also help you become a better photographer. If you've misplaced it, I highly recommend going online and printing yourself a copy.  I refer back to mine all the time!

Download those photos.  Interestingly enough, many people see the memory cards as storage and don't actually download their photos.  Memory cards can fail, and aren't considered a good way to store your photos.  It also can get expensive to continually buy new memory cards.  Download your photos as soon as possible after taking the pictures.

Delete the bad photos right away.  Take the time for a quick run through and delete the duplicate and bad photos right away.  If you wait till you have months worth of photos (or even years), it then becomes an overwhelming task. Plus, there's no point in saving pictures you don't need on your computer, taking up valuable space.

Back up!  Backing up is an often forgotten step until your hard drive crashes and its too late.  I suggest backing up in at least 3 places.  Of course your printed photo is your best backup, but other great choices include external hard drives, Picture Keeper or cloud storage such as Linea. 
  • Picture Keeper is a USB device with software already installed that simply goes and finds your photo files on its own.  Future backups are easy, because it only copies your newly added photos, or those you have made changes to. 
  • Linea is a photo organizing and photosharing app that allows you store your photos in the cloud (and retrieve them at any time) and share them with family and friends safely and securely.  Your family and friends can even add photos to lines you have shared with them, allowing you to keep all your photos from the same event in one place!

Make your memories part of your everyday life!  Resolve to enjoy your memories more.  How many of us take the pictures and then just let them sit on our computer, never to be looked at again?  Print some out and put them in frames, make a photo collage or a photo book, or even a calendar.  We just got Apple tv and we let the photos scroll on our television during the day sometimes.  The kids love walking by and seeing themselves on the screen!

Take a class.  If you'd like to improve your photography skills, consider taking a class like the ones offered from Big Picture Classes.  Here's one that recently caught my eye! Get Great Photos with Any Camera 

Get help if you need it.  If you are struggling with what to do with your photos, memorabilia and other media, consider hiring a personal photo organizer.  A PPO can help you find the right solutions to meet your needs, whether its simply sitting down with you and teaching you the steps to get organized or actually creating keepsakes for you.  Check out The Association of Personal Photo Organizers to find an organizer near you.  If you're the type of person who is always helping others with their photos, you may want to consider a career as a photo organizer.  APPO offers training, support, a well developed website, individual profile pages for its members, marketing expertise, and more.

Here's to enjoying your memories in 2012!  Happy New Year everyone!