Entries Tagged as 'how to'

unusual ways to display flowers

I am more than a little obsessed with fresh flowers as they always brighten my day, no matter what.  I like to think of them as my happy makers.  At this time of year, fresh flowers are in abundance so I love to treat myself to a bunch as often as I can.  Many times it’s just a few daffodils or a single stem, other times it’s a full bouquet.  When I get my flowers, I’m always thinking about different ways to display them.  Just sticking them in a vase is fine sometimes but other times I like to play around with different displays.  Here are 3 of my current favourite slightly more unusual ways to display flowers:
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vintage kids room decor ideas

I’m not a fan of the vintage vibe for the whole home, but kids rooms with vintage touches can be so charming.   The best part is that creating a vintage bedroom can be very inexpensive and you don’t need to update too often as vintage never goes out of style.  Often, you can repurpose what you already have or else you can find fabulous bargains in junk shops and flea markets.  Vintage kids rooms can be seriously stylish and very unique too as you’ll see from all the gorgeous vintage rooms below:

Continue Reading "How to create a charming vintage kids room"

While I love Christmas, it’s all about the festive season everywhere so today for a change, I wanted to share something not related to Christmas.  As many of you know we’ve been through a house renovation project this year and now we’re decorating our home.  I’ve learned a lot in the process and I often get asked for advice especially in choosing colour schemes and styles.  The next room that I plan to focus on is Anya’s room and so I thought I would share some of my tips on decorating kids rooms especially tips that will help the room stand the test of time.  After all you don’t want to have to redecorate after a year or even two. These are very much the things that I am planning to keep in mind when I decorate Anya’s room so I hope they will help you too:

1. Don’t go for a themed room
With kids rooms, often the temptation is to go for a themed room especially if your child is really in to something at the time.  But even if your child is really in to a particular character or is crazy about dinosaurs, that can all change in months or even weeks.  So a themed room isn’t likely to grow with the child.

how to organise kids rooms

2. Buy practical big furniture pieces that will stand the test of time
The two biggest pieces of furniture in a room are usually the bed and the wardrobe.  You don’t want to be replacing these in a hurry so think your options through.  If your child is going to need a big bed soon, get one now or at least one that can expand in to a big bed when the time comes.  Also what kind of wardrobe do you need – do you really need a big closed closet that may dominate the room? Kids are constantly growing so they have a pretty high turnover of clothing and shoes for a long time.  Unlike us, they don’t grow their clothing collection year on year and hoard things from 1997 (or is that just me?!).  So really think through the closet options – will a chest of drawers and an open clothes rail work better than a big wardrobe and also end up saving space?

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photo styling tips for beginners

It’s Wednesday and that means time for more photography tips.  This week it’s all about styling your photos.  I will start by saying I am no styling expert but over the years of writing this blog I have learned quite a lot about styling.  I used to drool over the photos you find on pinterest and wonder how they did it.  Then I decided to see if I could teach myself through some basic courses and practice.  We all know one part of a great photo is the photography but the other part is how and where you place everything.  Ordinary, everyday objects can look stunning with just a few styling tricks.  As bloggers we all know how important our photo and styling skills are but also if you’re just interested in photography and want to learn a bit more about taking better looking shots, then these photo styling tips for beginners will help you create beautiful images.

photo styling tips

1. Get inspired!
Before you even touch your camera and start trying to compose images, gather lots of inspiration.  You can do this online or offline but with pinterest it’s so easy to do.  I have set up 5-6 different secret boards by subjects that I’m interested in learning to style like food, toys and beauty.  Any styled shot that appeals to me gets added to these boards and over time I have built up quite an inspiring selection of images.  The plan here isn’t to copy but to get inspired and get ideas of ways to style your shots.  In addition I write notes on each pin as you can see from the snapshot of my food styling board.  I write what I like about that shot or why it’s inspiring me – is it the colours or the positioning of something or an unexpected touch that brings the image to life.

2. Practice, practice, practice
Once you’ve gathered some inspiration, grab your camera pick a few objects and get styling.  The first few times you try, it may look nothing like you had hoped – I’ve been there!  But don’t give up.  As with most things, the more you practice the better you will get at it.  And by practice I mean take a few household objects and put them together and photograph them.  Move them around, put them on a different table, put them on the floor, on the bed, add objects, remove objects and just keep trying till you get a shot you like.  This won’t happen in a day but over time you will train your eye in to learning which compositions work and which don’t.

"quick face cleansers for mums"

3. Keep it simple
This is key.  When you are starting to develop your styling skills, keeping it simple and small helps a lot.  So to start with take a vase, a jar of make-up, one toy or a book and start styling that object with a few props.  If you start trying to style a whole bedroom as a beginner it will feel overwhelming.  Styling entire rooms or big gatherings or anything on a big scale comes with a lot more time and practice.

4. What’s your style?
Styling is all about style.  As you practice, you will find that you are drawn to a particular style.  This could be bright and light or dark and moody, it could be minimal, monochrome shots or shots bursting with colour.  So choose your style and experiment with it.  You are much more likely to produce great shots with a style you are naturally drawn to.

"quick makeup for busy mums"

5. The props
Don’t go out and buy props – just look around you.  Regular household objects can make fantastic props.  The kitchen is my favourite place to go to find props  and another great source of props are Anya’s toys especially the smaller ones.  Also look in your garden (or a nearby park) – leaves, twigs, flowers all make great little props to add to a photo.

Speaking of props, if I buy something that comes in nice packaging or a nice jar, I always keep the jar once I’ve used up the product.  I never go out and buy props as styling isn’t my job.  Instead I collect interesting boxes, bottles, toy parts – anything that has a bit of beauty in it.  For e.g. in the shot above that little glass bottle was some hair oil I bought and after using the oil I hung on to the bottle.  I also went to a park next to my home and found a little flower to put in to it.  The little vase just adds a bit more interest to the shot but it’s still a very simply styled shot.

photo styling for beginners

6.  Backgrounds and backdrops
Props are one aspect of styling a shot and another is the background.  Look around your home – do you have a wall painted in a colour that would make a good background?  Do you have a wallpapered wall?  Do you have some interesting floor tiles?  Or even some fun wrapping paper that you can use as a background? A tablecloth maybe?  I use anything and everything that I can find in my home from walls to scraps of cloth that I can make a backdrop out of.  I also occasionally buy some pretty tissue paper or wrapping paper if I come across something that catches my eye.  Or else I just use a white wall as I love keeping my shots simple, white and bright.  For e.g.  In the picture above, I wanted to show some ingredients against a dark background to help them stand out.  I found a piece of slate I had lying around and it made the perfect background.  Don’t forget you will always crop your photo’s so the background doesn’t have to be huge.

photo styling for beginnershow to style your photos

7.  Play with your angles
You’ve set up a shot and you keep clicking but it’s just not working.  Of course you can move things around but instead try moving yourself!  Photograph from above, from below, from the side, straight on, go in closer or take a step back and just keep playing with your angles.  The same objects in a shot can look completely different when you change the angle just like in the example above.  I didn’t move the trees at all when I took those two shots, I only moved myself and you can see how different each shot looks.  The first just doesn’t work while the second is so much better as the little trees look like a forest which is the intention of the shot.

8. Just start
Nobody can become an amazing photo stylist in a day or a week or even a month.  And the idea isn’t to become a top stylist but just to lift your photos and make them more interesting.  You will see a huge improvement in you styling skills over a period of a few months if you practice often.  Remember to take your first styled shot and keep it hidden away then after six months take a look at it and compare it to your latest shot.  You will see a world of difference.  The secret here is to get started so why not look around you now and see what you can photograph today.

So those are my top photo styling tips for beginners.  For us bloggers it’s an important skill to have but also for anyone interested in photography or anyone who just wants to take better photos.  Once you learn how to style your photo’s it will become addictive and you will realise it’s not so hard to make an ok photo look amazing just by adding a little thought and effort.

There are lots more handy tips and ideas on photography in my previous articles which you’ll find here:
How to photograph your newborn baby
How to organise your digital photos
How to grow your instagram following
How to photograph moving kids
The best photo filter apps
How to photograph kids using an iphone only
A mini photobook

*I’ve linked up to Honest Mum’s brilliant blog posts.

best-newborn-baby-photography-tips-for-parentsProbably the most memorable day of my life was the day I gave birth to Anya.  How could it not be?  And afterwards Richard and I got to take this tiny bundle home and stare at it wondering what to do next?!  But as the days passed, we slowly learned to become parents as do most first time parents.  The one thing we didn’t do properly though and I sincerely regret to this day is take any great newborn photo’s.  In that crazy haze that is the newborn days (especially with the first baby) photo’s didn’t seem like the priority or even much of a thought for me.  Thankfully Richard took some but I wish someone had told us, warned us, advised us that don’t miss capturing those precious first few days.  So today, that’s what I’m doing for you – telling you that no matter how you feel, don’t forget to capture those incredible first few days of a new life.  And to help you today’s photography post is on the best newborn baby photography tips for parents by Suzi Bowles – an incredibly talented photographer.

I have yet to meet Suzi in person but I already feel like I know her through our many online interactions.  Suzi specialises in contemporary family photography including newborns, maternity and children.  Her style is distinctive, bright and very fresh.  The expressions and little details that Suzi manages to captures in newborns is second to none.  She snaps those exact newborn moments that you want to remember forever and so I am very excited to have her here today telling us exactly how she does it.  Now over to Suzi.

I love photographing newborns.  Those euphoric first few days of a child’s life are so very unique and special.  Capturing these moments to immortalise those special memories is one of my absolute favourite parts of my photography life.  There are so many magical new moments to capture with the arrival of a baby but there’s nothing more frustrating than snapping away only to find that your picture is missing the very detail that you were hoping to capture.  These ten tips should help you immortalize those memories of the days when your precious bundle was still tiny, fresh and very new.

1. The ‘best’ time to photograph
The best time to photograph is between 6 and 10 days.  In photography terms your newborn is only considered to be a newborn for the first two weeks – sounds crazy doesn’t it!  But some of the reflexes that they are born with, which make them all curly and new looking, disappear after that time.  Many babies develop baby acne for a while around the two week mark and they become more alert and aware of the world around them each day so achieving those classic newborn images are much more difficult after the first two weeks of life.  Having said that, there’s something delightful about a curious newborn stare and capturing those little eyes looking back at you so there are still plenty of other special shots that you can get after this time.

tips on how to photograph newborns

2.  Keep your camera close
Keep the camera close to hand so that you don’t miss an opportunity while you’re fumbling around around trying to remember where you last left it!

3.  Find the light
Pay attention to the light in your home.  Think about which rooms are the brightest and and which times of day they have the most light.  Daylight will generally produce a much prettier image than artificial light so daytime is your friend.  Turn your baby towards the light source to photograph her.  Diffused, indirect light consistently produces good results so having your baby facing towards a window but not in the direct sunlight is a great option.  Have her head nearer to the light than her feet as this will produce shadows that fall in a natural looking direction.

4. Keep it warm and toasty
Babies inbuilt thermostats don’t work very well and they can get cold really quickly. Also they love being bundled up all warm and cosy.  If you’re planning to photograph your baby au naturel, crank up the heating – a lovely toasty 28 or 29 degrees is what I recommend for my newborn sessions to keep them content while I’m shooting.  The parents and I are usually peeling off our layers but baby is cozy and content.

best newborn baby photography tips

5. Capture the details
As well as photographing the big picture, don’t miss those tiny details as babies change so very quickly! Make sure you capture tiny hands, feet, eyes, nose, rose bud lips and the top of their head so that you can always remember it exactly as it was.  These kind of shots of my kids still transport me right back when I look at them today; I can almost smell that newborn freshness!

6.  Think about family and friends
Who is visiting to meet the new arrival?  Document those precious first cuddles with grandma, those story times with siblings and those evenings when your baby barely moved from your other half’s chest.  And whether it’s mum or dad who is taking the lions share of the photographs, don’t forget to hand the camera over sometimes so that you exist in some of the pictures too.  You will really cherish these in years to come.

newborn baby photography tips for parents

7.  Keep it simple and let your baby be the focus
If you trawl through pinterest you’ll find a plethora of ideas for posing a newborn – dressing them up as Oscar the Grouch, covering them in lipstick kisses or putting them in a tutu.  Personally I’ve found that no matter which props parents bring to their session, the most treasured images and the ones that my clients usually choose from their gallery are the simplest ones.  Brand new babies are so very gorgeous as they are and props can often just distract from their fresh and captivating beauty.

how to photograph newborn babies

8.  Make your baby feel secure
Sometimes a newborn’s startle reflexes can go in to overdrive as they may not be comfortable with their arms and legs being free.  If your baby won’t settle while you put him down to photograph, try swaddling him as he is more likely to relax when he feels secure.  A bit of white noise can also help him relax – it will drown out some of the background highs and lows and send him right back to the womb.  There are a couple of great white noise apps that you can download on your phone – I like White Noise Lite on the iPhone.

9.  Print your images
Don’t leave those beautiful images of your newborn sitting on your phone or computer.  Print them out and put them where you can enjoy them!  Frame them, share them with family or have them made into a photo book like the quick and easy Pop Books that were mentioned in a previous photography article.

photographing newborns best tips for parents

10. Keep that baby safe
I’ve intentionally saved this point till the end because it is the most important point by far.  It may seem obvious, but I’ve heard of several unfortunate incidents where proper safety precautions have not been taken.  Always keep within reach of your baby.  If you are taking the photograph, have someone else as a spotter to give their entire focus to your baby’s safety.  Never place your baby near the edge of a surface which they could roll off or in a glass or ceramic bowl which could shatter.  Always carefully check any baskets, crates or other props you use for sharp edges, snags or anything which might hurt your baby.

Some of the poses that newborn photographers create such as the baby leaning up on his elbows with his head in his hands, or hanging from a branch in a muslin hammock, aren’t what they first appear to be. Some are composites – that is, they are made by stitching together two or more images in Photoshop to create the final picture and others are shot from above with baby lying on their side to give the illusion that they are suspended in mid-air.  This is absolutely vital for safety – babies necks aren’t strong enough to hold up their heads at this age, they shouldn’t be placed anywhere that there’s a possibility of them falling, and certain positions will require a hand to hold them at all times.

Thank you Suzi for these very helpful newborn baby photography tips for parents – I just wish I had these when Anya was a newborn.  But you have them now so once again I say don’t miss capturing those precious first days of your babies life with these helpful tips.  Suzi has also recently started photography workshops in Surrey for beginners, bloggers and intermediate photographers so if you’re interested in learning more check them out at A Happy Capture.

There are lots more handy tips and ideas on photography in my previous articles which you’ll find here:
How to organise your digital photos
How to grow your instagram following
How to photograph moving kids
The best photo filter apps
How to photograph kids using an iphone only
A mini photobook

how to organise your digital photos

It’s Wednesday and that means the next dose of my photo series.  We live in a time where taking photos could not be easier.  We click away several times a day creating thousands of memories on our phones, cameras and other devices.  On the one hand it’s quite amazing that we can photograph anything, anytime, all the time but on the other, what do you do with all those photo’s?  Do you have thousands of memories sitting in one big horrible mess on your phone, on your laptop or even on your facebook?  Do you spend hours trying to find photos?  Do you wonder what to do with all those thousands of photo’s you’ve taken?  If your answer is yes, then todays photography article on how to organise your digital photos will help you get on top of this mess.  These tips are easy to follow and with a little effort you will have a very organised photo library.  I’ve put these tips together based on what I do (when I’m organised!):

1. Download those photos
This is the easy bit because if you’re anything like me, I can’t wait to see the photo’s I’ve taken after an event or holiday.  So whenever I take photos I always download them usually on the same day or within a day or two.  Never leave photo’s on your memory card as your card will eventually get full and you may not have room the next time you need to take photo’s.  This could leave you furiously trying to scroll through your camera and deleting photo’s in a hurry to free up some space.  And besides it’s also possible to accidently delete your entire memory card.

2.  Delete, delete, delete!
As soon as you download your photos, start deleting.  And be ruthless.  Blurry shots, duplicate shots, random photos – you know the ones I mean.  And then delete some more.  Only keep the shots you really love and often you’ll find that more than half can be deleted.  This also helps keep more storage space free.  My best advice (which I try to follow) is to delete photo’s as soon as you download them.  This will make putting them in to folders a much easier job.

3.  Create folders
That brings me on to the next point – creating folders.  It doesn’t matter what software you use or even if the photos are stored directly on your PC but creating a folder system is essential to getting your photos organised.  The simplest way to do this is chronologically –  by year, then month, then by the subject or occasion.  The best way to stay on top of your system is to place photo’s in to folders as you download and after a while this will become a habit.   But if this isn’t possible you can also set aside a little time the end of each month and spend an an hour or two dividing the photos for that month in to folders.  If you do this regularly, imagine how organised your photos will be and how easy they will be to find!

None of us have photo’s just on our camera’s anymore.  In fact many of us have more photo’s on our phones than anywhere else.  We definitely don’t want to forget these so do the same with these – download to your computer (or wherever you store your photos) monthly or weekly (depending on how many you take), delete unwanted ones and put in to folders with the rest of that months photo’s.

4.  Mark your favourites
I’ve recently started flagging my favourite photos in each set of photos that I download.  This is easily doable in many photo management tools like apple iphoto or windows live photo gallery.  This has helped me so much especially when I take photo’s for my blog.  Before I’d trawl through 100 or more photo’s to choose the best two or three and then forget which ones I liked so I’d keep going back and forth and wasting far too much time.  Now when I download them, I immediately delete the hopeless ones and flag the best.  This will also help a lot if later you decide you want to print some or make a photobook – no more spending hours choosing.

5.  Storage
If you take a lot of photo’s then keeping these on your laptop can start eating away at your computers storage.  So instead you could use an external photo storage site like flickr.  There are many such sites that are free to use so it’s just a question of finding the right one for you – here’s a list that will help.

6. Print them!
Seriously, how often do you print your photo’s?  I am really bad at this but since starting this photography series I’ve realised that there is no point learning to take fab photos only to have them sitting on a hard drive somewhere.  It’s so much nicer to hold a book or album and flick through the pages than it is to stare at a screen.  With all the easy printing options available, there really is no excuse not to print photos.  And once you’ve spent a bit of time organising your digital photos, choosing ones to print should be easy.

Some ideas on printing – You could print a yearly photobook.  I did this when Anya turned one showing the first year of her life and it is such a wonderful memory.  I did it again when she turned two but since have given up but plan to re-start.  Another idea is to make mini little photobooks of instagram photos or phone photo’s that can literally be done in minutes.  Yet another idea is to make real prints and create a gallery wall in your home.  You could refresh these every couple of years and older ones can go in to an album.  There are so many easy and quick ways to get real copies of your photo’s and once you start, you’ll love the physical memories you are creating and memories that can be handed down for generations to come.

7. Don’t feel overwhelmed
If you have done nothing to organise your photo’s over the years and have thousands upon thousands stored on your laptop and phone, don’t panic!  It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and not know where to start.  You can either start with your latest photos and work backwards or the other way around but most importantly, start with bite sized chunks.  So consider tackling a months worth of photo’s each week and slowly you will start to see your digital photo library looking very organised.

8. Back it up
You knew this was coming, you know you should do it but are you doing it?  Even if you end up doing nothing else to organise your digital photos, at the very least you need to back them up.  I use an external hard drive that I plug in to my laptop around once a month and job done!  But there are so many ways to create back-ups, the important thing is to do it – not say you will do it, not plan to do it but do it today! Here is a simple article that lists some photo back-up options.

So that’s how I like to keep my photo’s organised.  It’s a shame to have so many gorgeous memories lying in a huge mess somewhere.  With my tips on how to organise your digital photos and a little consistent effort, you will have the most organised photo library ever.  And once you get in the habit of doing this, you will save so much time because you won’t ever have to look through thousands of pics to find the one you want.  And don’t forget to print and back-up those amazing memories.

There are lots more handy tips and ideas on photography in my previous articles which you’ll find here:
How to grow your instagram following
How to photograph moving kids
The best photo filter apps
How to photograph kids using an iphone only
A mini photobook

"how to make ribbon plaits"

When Anya started school last year, she immediately loved every minute of it much to mine and Richards joy.  That is everything except PE days.  PE days were a nightmare simply because she hated her PE kit and still does.  She is such a girly girl who only wears dresses and skirts so the idea of wearing a tracksuit is awful for her.  Of course I can’t change her uniform but I also know that I can’t go through another year of tantrums and tears twice a week.  So recently I came up with an idea which I hoped would work.  I bought some pretty satin ribbon in her school colour and told her she could wear ribbon in her hair on PE days.  She is delighted and it’s been working really well.  It’s such a simple thing but the ribbon makes her feel girly and I guess also takes the focus away from the tracksuit.  We’ve been trying out a few styles with this (life-saving!) ribbon and Anya’s favourite has become these ribbon plaits which my mum used to do for me as a kid.  So I thought I would share how we do these:

"how to make ribbon braids easy"

Start by making two ponytails.  I prefer lower ponytails as they fall better once made in to plaits.

"how to easily plait ribbon in to hair"

Cut a piece of ribbon and slide it in to the hair tie making sure to adjust the ribbon so that both sides are of equal length.   The length of the ribbon should be more than double the length of the ponytail.  This is so that you have enough ribbon left over to make a bow later.

"how to braid hair with ribbon"

Separate the ponytail in to three sections as you would do when you plait hair.  The left strand of ribbon should be held with the left section of hair and the right strand of ribbon with the right section of hair.  The middle section of hair has no ribbon.

"how to eaily plait hair with ribbon"

Then plait hair as normal making sure that the ribbon is plaited in too.  Try and keep the both the strands of ribbon on top of the sections of hair – like in the picture above.

"ribbon braids for kids"

Using a hair tie, tie the plait making sure the ribbon is tied in too.

"how to plait your hair with ribbons"

Do the same with the other ponytail and then tie the leftover ribbon in to bows. And you’ve got pretty ribbon plaits.

"how to braid kids hair with ribbon"

This is the easiest and fastest way I could think of doing it as time is always running out in the mornings before school so I wanted something that doesn’t take longer than making regular plaits.  Anya adores her ribbon plaits and now demands it everyday, not just PE days!

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