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Thursday, February 25, 2016

5 simple tips on what to wear for a family photoshoot.

I get asked all the time, "what should we wear?", when preparing for a family portrait shoot.   My short answer is always, whatever you feel best in, but there is definitely more to it.

Here are my top tips for putting together the wardrobe for your family portraits:

1.  No busy patterns!  Stripes on one person, flowers on another, polka dots on a third....  you'll look like your having your pictures taken to apply to clown school, not for a beautiful portrait to put on your walls.  Solids always work best, or a subtle pattern.

2.  Think of the colors that are most flattering.  Many families like to wear white on top and jeans or khakis on the bottom, I personally like this look, it's classic, but it's not for everyone.  White can really wash out skin tones, especially when taken with artificial light in a studio setting.  Jewel tones are flattering to most everyone, and really give a pop of color to your portrait.

3.  Think long term, we've all seen those pictures from the 70's with the wild patterns and orange/gold/brown colors, or worse, the pictures from the 80's (can you say big hair and blue eye shadow).  Try to stick with the classics, and not what is "in style" at this very moment.  You don't want to date your portraits before they are even hung on the wall.

4.  This tip is mostly for the Mom's, since I find women are most critical of themselves in pictures (myself included), wear something that you feel good in!  If you have a color you love on yourself, dress the family around it.  If you have a top that you feel pretty in every time you put it on, then that's the one for you.  Put on your clothes and sit in them, make sure your happy with how your body looks in them, sitting and standing, you want to feel good.

5.  This may be the most obvious, but make sure everyone is wrinkle and stain free, if you've got a child that can't go more then 5 minutes without getting a stain, it may be best to bring the clothes to the photo shoot to change into.

And most of all, just have fun with it!  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Simple photography lesson, all about aperture mode (AV mode)...

If you've read your camera manual and looked up photography online, you must of heard of aperture.  If you have not, aperture simply controls the amount of light the lens allows to reach the digital sensor (how bright or dark your pictures will be, and the amount of the picture that will be in focus).

The most confusing thing about aperture is understanding that the higher the number (f-stop) the less amount of light that will reach your picture.  The lower the number (f-stop) the more light that will reach your picture.  It's kind of backwards in your thinking as you would normally think the larger number the more light, but thats just not how it works.  So bigger number = less light, smaller number = more light.  The number I refer to is called an f-stop.

If you put your camera mode dial into AV mode you'll be able to experiment with with the different settings and amount of light into your pictures.  AV mode will set all your other settings for you (ISO, Shutter speed, etc... more about those setting later).

So the question is what aperture do you need with what picture settings.  Many people like the look of the blurred background, to achieve this you will set your f-stop to a low number, the lower the number the more light there will be on your subject and the more blur you'll have in your background.

This picture was taken with the f-stop set at 2.8 (the lowest setting on the lens I was using):
You will notice how the background is blurred to the point that you can't even make out what it is.  Now here is an example with the f-stop set at 22 (the highest for the lens I was using):

The focus is still on the subject, but you can see the trees in the background.  

The next question is when would you use a high number f-stop.  When shooting anything other then a subject directly in front of you, you would want a higher number f-stop.  When shooting a landscape or a group of people it's imperative to use a high number f-stop to keep everything in focus and to showcase all the details.  

I shot at each f-stop of the same subject so you could see the difference, there is only a subtle difference between some of the shots, but a big difference from the ones at the higher and the lower end of the scale.

Those were all shot in AV mode, which means my camera did all the other settings for me, I personally only shoot in M (manual mode) as I like to have complete control over my images, but AV mode is fine and really helps you learn and practice what different apertures will do to your images.

One final note, lenses are rated on focal length (the magnification distance) and their aperture value.  If your lens states that it's a 70-200 5.6, that means your maximum focal length is 200mm, and the widest aperture is 5.6.  

The smaller the aperture value the smaller the depth of field (more blur), and the larger the aperture value the larger the depth of field (less blur, more focus on the entire scene).  

I hope this lesson was simple and gives you a better understanding of aperture, of course the best way to really wrap your had around it is to practice, practice, practice.  Many point and shoot cameras have an AV setting as well, so your not limited if you don't own a dslr.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tips for Mom for a great family photo.

So you finally booked a session with a photographer to have your family photos done.  Good for you!  There is nothing better then a portrait hanging on your wall of you and your beautiful family all looking  so happy smiling at the camera, a single moment captured frozen in time.  That sounds ideal, but the problem is that we (women) tend to look at any pictures of ourselves and immediately point out the bad.  We wonder why is my hair so frizzy?  Why did I decide to put on red lipstick (the circus isn't in town until next month)?  Why does that shirt with "horizontal stripes" make me look like a dump truck?  Could I show any more teeth when I smile (maybe a dentist could come by and give me a cleaning as I posed for that picture)?  The self deprecating complaints are endless.

When preparing for a family picture I find that so many Moms are concentrated on what their kids will be wearing, and if they can get their husband (who is not happy about having to do this in the first place) to smile.  It's so easy for Moms to forget about themselves, to not be fully prepared, and in the end to not be happy with the result because they didn't give themselves the attention needed prior to the photoshoot.

So in an effort to get the best possible pictures to hang on your walls, I will give some suggestions for Moms to follow prior to their family photoshoot.  So here we go:

1.  Pick out your clothes first, then build outfits for the family around your outfit of choice.   99% of the time clothing for the children is picked out first and then Moms settle on whatever they can find to match for themselves.  I say pick out what you think looks best on you, what colors look best on you, and go from there.  Kids are easy, they look good in almost anything, and husbands, give them a button down shirt, t-shirt, or polo shirt in any color and they are done (must be nice to be a man sometimes)!  So take some time for yourself, go to the mall, try things on, and choose an outfit you feel confident in!

2.  Get your hair done right before the photo shoot.  It doesn't have to be the same day (although nobody can do a blowout quite like your hairdresser), but getting a trim and taking care of your roots will make a big difference in your photo.  Nobody wants to look at themselves on the wall for years to come and always wonder why they didn't get their dark roots colored, or take care of they grey that was peaking through.  Nobody wants to see themselves with dreaded split ends...eek!  So schedule an appointment at your salon preferably the week of your shoot.  And don't forget about styling the day of the shoot.  Don't go crazy, just be yourself.  If you look best with it up, then wear it up, if having it down is your thing, then go for it!

3.  Now is not the time to experiment with your makeup!  The last thing you want to do is look like Ronald McDonald or Bozo the clown!  Depending on what kind of shoot your doing will determine how you want to do your make up.  If your going for a more formal picture then you should wear your make up how you would wear it for an evening out.  If your doing a casual beach shoot, then less is more and your not going to want to over do it.  I would definitely do a practice day a couple of days before the shoot and take a few "selfies" with your phone or have one of your kids take a few pictures of you.  Make sure your standing in front of a window so you can see how your make up will look in natural light.  And one last tip about make up...  POWDER, POWDER, POWDER!  Especially for those who tend to have skin on the oily side, it's important to use a powder to soak up any excess oil.  Bring your powder to the shoot too, being in front of lights or out in the sun can cause you to sweat and get oily again, so you will want to touch up often (nothing looks worse in a picture then your face looking like and oil slick)!

4.  Lastly, you need to know how you look best when you smile.  When someone points a camera at me I tend to show all my teeth and squint my eyes like a shar pei.  After all the effort you put into finding the right clothes, getting your hair done, and your make up perfect, you don't want it all to go to waste by looking like a deer caught in headlights.  My advice is to practice.  Lock yourself in the bathroom (otherwise your family might think you've finally lost it and book you a one way ticket to the loony bin) and practice your smile in the mirror.  You of course want your smile to be natural and a good photographer will have you laughing and smiling on queue, but it's important to be ready to smile how you know you look best.  For me it's to remember to not show every tooth in my mouth and to not squint my baby blues.  Everyone has a smile that lights them up and makes them look beautiful, or sexy, or confident.  Whatever it is your going for it's in there, just spend a little time honing in on what not to do and the smile will come out perfectly.

There you have it, my four tips for perfecting the photo session!  Next time I'll discuss the importance of bribing kids and maybe your husband (Mr. Why do we have to get these photos done) too.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Overprotective or just taking care of my own….

I've been told before that I am overprotective.  I've never taken that as an insult and it's usually been told to me by someone who has a very opposite parenting style then my own.  Since the day my first child was born and we brought her home front the hospital I've felt this overwhelming sense of responsibility.  Not just for my children's safety and overall well being, but also that they are my responsibility and not anyone else's (other then my husband's of course).  When I was ready to send them out to play in the neighborhood I waited until I knew they were old enough to not only know when to not run out into the street, but also how to act when playing in someone else's yard.  I'm not saying they were perfect angels every time I sent them outside, but they were at an age when they knew right from wrong and didn't require much correction.

Then there is of course the safety issues.  I don't wrap my kids in bubble wrap and not allow them to do anything that doesn't involve a soft surface, but I do adhere to basic common sense safety (which has also had others call me the over protective one).  You know the basics, a helmet "every time" you are on anything with wheels (you only have one brain and they bruise easy).  Staying in a car seat until you tall enough to not be in one, and then a booster until again your the correct size (both my kids started middle school in booster seats).  No sitting in the front seat of the car until your the correct age and weight (my son is small and the poor kid probably won't hit the proper weight until high school).  Then there are the really, really basic safety issues.  Don't touch a hot stove, don't go anywhere with a stranger, don't play in traffic, don't wear stripes and a print to school (okay, just kidding on the last one).  In my mind there are the basics that we can teach our kids and the just beyond basics (don't open the door when your home alone, always stay in groups, wear a helmet (that one gets mentioned a lot) that we can enforce on our kids, and that's pretty much how I live.  I don't see myself as overprotective, just as protective.

Few things make me cringe and want to throat punch people more then hearing the, "when I was a kid we used to ride in cars without a seatbelt with our heads out the windows while my Dad drank a beer.... and I'm fine" stories.  Of course your fine!  Your drunk driving Dad obviously never gotten into a car accident, because guaranteed if he did your story would of ended much different (or completely ended there).   Everyone can go around spouting these stories of the dangerous things they did as a kid that didn't hurt them and think that means it wasn't dangerous, when in reality they just got lucky!  Seatbelts were put in cars for a reason, helmets were made for a reason,  we don't give lollipops to babies for a reason.  The reason is that enough kids/babies/people were injured or killed from certain things and now we know how to protect ourselves (and our children) from hopefully having something terrible happen to them.  I will continue to protect my kids from what I can the best way I know how, but being smart and taking precautions when available.  I will not force them to live in a bubble and I will be sure they are out exploring the world and all it has to offer.  I cannot protect them from every bad thing that can happen to them, but I can make sure they are buckled properly, wearing helmets, and following basic life safety guidelines.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Never stop exploring.... why we travel as a family!

When I was a kid my family didn't travel at all, and when I say we didn't travel at all, I mean we went on zero vacations.  Not only did we go on zero vacations we never even stayed in a hotel once, not one night!  I knew when I grew up I wanted to travel.  I knew when I had kids I wanted them to see as much of the world as we could show them.  When my husband and I met we started going on trips almost immediately (our first was a trip to Florida 3 months after meeting).  We traveled as much as we could before having kids (we started having kids at 25 so we didn't get to travel as much as someone that waited longer to have kids).  We went to the west coast several times, traveled many destinations on the east coast, two cruises (got engaged on the first), and our favorite trip was Paris, France.  Once our first child was born we were determined to continue to travel.  We knew it would be more difficult with a baby, but we wanted her to see the world and get the travel bug from an early age.  Our son was born two years later and he too has been bitten by the travel bug.

Both are kids are great travelers and pretty much always have been.  It hasn't always been super easy, there were hours spent walking a toddler up and down the aisle on a plane while flying cross country, there were years spent with a child who got car sick and threw up on every road trip longer then 20 minutes, there was a cruise with two toddlers that got stuck in a country longer then it should of resulting in missed flights and super cranky kids.  But there were also huge smiles when my kids had their toes in the hot sand of the Caribbean in February.  There were smiles so big you'd think their faces would split when they saw their favorite Disney characters in a Disney parade.  There were days spent exploring new cities, new parks, new countries.  There were late nights spent in hotel pools swimming under the stars.  The list goes on and on.  Of course my kids don't remember the trips they took as babies and toddlers, but I do.  And we always took pictures and videos and they now get to watch themselves discover and explore all the places they saw.

As they have gotten older we let them help decide where we will go on our next adventures.  My daughter really wanted to go to Quebec, Canada this summer, a place we probably wouldn't of gone, but we all loved it.

I was recently listening to a radio interview with a singer who has children, he was saying how grateful he is to be able to bring his children to so many amazing places (having grown up poor himself).  Then he mentioned that travel opens up your mind, and that just hit the nail on the head for me.  You can definitely see a difference in people that have pretty much stayed in the same place their  entire lives, and those that have gotten out there and seen different places, eaten different foods, were able to see how other people lived, experienced different cultures.  Through travel you have such a broad understanding of the diversity of people and culture and I think it leaves you more open minded.

Of course the main reason to travel is it is fun!  Whether it's relaxing on a beach, spending the day in an overpriced theme park, visiting a national park, going to a different country, or trying something new that you could never do at home, it all comes down to fun for me!  

We are in the process of planning our summer travel now.  Not quite sure where it will take us, but I am sure that wherever it is (near or far), it will definitely be an adventure!  Where are you planning on traveling next?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I used to have to walk to school in three feet of snow… uphill!

I remember being a kid and listening to all the "old" people talk about how horrible they had it and how easy we have it.  There were always stories about how they had to walk to school, in the snow, up hill, without boots, while wresting a bear.  Okay, so maybe there was never really a bear, but the stories always seemed to get bigger and bigger and their hardships worse and worse.

Fast forward to 2015 and things haven't changed much as far as the older (I think that means me) generation telling the younger generation that they are all a bunch of whimps!  If I have to hear one more, when I was a kid we used to lay in the back of a station wagon unbuckled and nothing ever happened to me, I may have to throat punch someone.  That statement drives me crazy, yet every time someone talks about the importance of carseats, and how long kids should be in them, and the importance of keeping your kids in the backseat as long as possible, there is always some idiot spouting on about how they used to hang out the window of their parents Ford Pinto and nothing ever happened to them.  I of course always bite my tongue since there is no getting through to an idiot and I know I'd just be wasting my precious time on this earth to point out the obvious…  they never got into an accident obviously while riding shotgun on the highway with no seatbelt, because if they had, I can promise I wouldn't be listening to them ramble on about how "soft" kids are today because they would most likely be dead!  These people never think of the fact that so many other kids didn't get so "lucky" and thats why there are seatbelt laws and super safe carseats, I'm telling you, it's infuriating!

Unfortunately it's doesn't stop with just carseats.  Every time school is canceled due to snow or the few times it's been due to heat, just pop onto any social media site and you'll see all the self absorbed a-holes once again spouting on about how they used to go to school during blizzards and how they NEVER got out of school for heat.  For one I think people have long term memory loss or they have just been hanging out with the people that thought they went to school while wrestling a bear.  I started kindergarten in 1981 (back in the olden' days if you ask my kids), and school got canceled a lot due to snow.  I can remember several times they didn't cancel it in the morning and had us get out mid-day (early) during a raging snowstorm and it was dangerous.  I was even involved in a pretty bad bus accident due to the snow/ice.  

I wish these people would realize that perhaps some of us learned from mistakes that were made in the past, mistakes that caused injuries and undue hardships and that there is no reason to make those same mistakes with our own kids.  It's not about making kids "tough" or "soft" it's about realizing that certain things sucked for us and maybe we can make it a little bit better for our kids, isn't that what part of parenting is about, giving your kids a better life then you had.  I'm not talking about giving them everything they want, I am just talking about realizing things that hurt or could of hurt us as children and making it better for our own.  And if your one of those people that thinks we making things too easy on our kids then you either had nothing ever bad happen to you or you had a lot bad happen to you and for some reason think your kids need bad things to happen to them to be a strong person, which I don't think is true.

Friday, March 20, 2015

My favorite day.

Do you ever get that feeling that everyone around you is moving in a certain direction and you are just standing still?  I feel that way every year January - April, it never fails.  I know it's the weather that gets me down, it's so hard to stay in a positive mood for me when I am cold ALL. THE. TIME!  It's hard for me to stay positive when I look outside on the first day of spring and see more snow falling (seriously this has been the coldest and snowiest winter on record)!!!  I am generally a positive person, I am an optimistic person, I am the person that can  always find the silver lining in almost everything.  Unfortunately when I am cold and blah from the long winter days and nights, it's sometimes hard to see that silver lining.  It's sometimes hard to stay upbeat and enjoy everyday (a motto I so love).  I know winter is temporary, I know these feelings are temporary, and I know my most favorite day of the year is right around the corner…  The day when you walk outside and you can smell spring, the day when you can finally open the windows in the house and not be cold, the day when the trees have buds on them and flowers are popping out of the ground, the day when I will smile and be happy and truly enjoy, because I know I made it through another wretched winter, and brighter days are here to stay.

Dreaming of blue skies and green grass.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Florida.... flying vs. driving.

We just returned from a trip to Florida for our kids spring break from school a couple of weeks ago and now that I have finally unpacked the suitcases (two weeks to unpack is okay, right), I took some time to go over the credit card bills and our spending to see if spending four days in the car vs. flying (a short 2.5 hour flight each way) was really a financial savings and I was shocked that we didn't save much money at all.   Not to mention the time we spent driving was wasted time we could of spent on vacation or doing anything else other then sitting and staring out a window.

We visited Steve's Dad in Naples and tickets usually cost us around $1,000 - $1,400 for four tickets roundtrip from JFK.  Plus we would have to figure in a car rental which I usually get a good deal on or for about $200 - $300/week, plus parking at the airport which is about $100/week. With that said the low cost of all that would be $1,300 and the high cost would be $1,800.  After adding up our expenses for gas, tolls, hotels, and food for our 4 days of driving we spent $1,150.

Therefore our savings for driving vs. flying were between $150 - $650 for the week.  The drive itself really wasn't that bad, the kids were great and we made it there and back safely, however, for the cost difference I just don't think it was worth the time we gave up and don't see us doing it again anytime soon.  I would much rather spend those four days sitting on a beach then in my car.  I am not really sure what the savings would have to be for me to justify the drive again, perhaps if we had a couple of weeks to spend in Florida it would of made the drive not seem as though it took up so much of our vacation, but next time I'll see you 30,000 feet up!

We did however have a great trip.  We visited Naples and spent a lot of time just relaxing.  Tyler thoroughly enjoyed the hot tub and Juliana loved all of the extended family time.  We went to the beach, the pool, and the best day was our trip to the Everglades.  We took an airboat tour of the Everglades and everyone had a blast.  Juliana said it was one of the most fun things she has ever done.

Steve's family and I:
 The kids and Papa:
 Speedys Airboat Tours:
 Handstands in the park:
 Florida Gator (eek):
 Ty with neighbor dog Sophie:
 Juliana and Sophie:

 Day at the beach:
 Thumbs up for the airboats:
 Handstands at Papas:

After Naples we stopped in Orlando on our way home for a couple of nights.  We decided to spend the day at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  We've been to all the other parks many times and had never visited Animal Kingdom.  It was a smaller park and didn't necessarily have the "Disney" feel the others had.  We did have an enjoyable day, although I don't think we will be in a hurry to return to this park.  The safari was really great and we got to see some really cool animals.

Overall it was a great trip, I just don't think we will be driving again anytime soon...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Two rules for marriage and hopefully 50 more years to use them.

I am not by any means saying I am a marriage expert.  I have learned a lot over the past almost 15 years of marriage, and if all goes well I am hoping to learn a lot more over the next 50.  Steve and I have always used two rules that have been quite helpful over the years.  I am sure everyone has their own ways of doing things and rules, but these have worked very well for us so far...

1.  The Diametrically Opposed Rule!  We started using this when we were dating and it seems to have worked well for us.  I think in a marriage it's important to let each other have their own lives, make their own mistakes, and basically do what they each want.  However, it's also important to compromise, to think of the other person before acting on something, and to sometimes make decisions together.  The only way we could think of to blend the ability to do what you want while also making compromises was to institute the diametrically opposed rule.  Basically if a spouse wants to do something and the other is absolutely 100% against it (diametrically opposed) then it cannot be done.  This has worked fabulous in our marriage and really it's only something we have used a handful of times.  If it was used all of the time it would never work out, it's saved for only the things that we feel so strongly about we wouldn't be able to sleep if it wasn't invoked.

2.  Rock, Paper, Scissors!  You know that game where you throw out a certain hand gesture (rock, paper, or scissors) and there is a winner.  We use it all the time when making decisions on who has to do what.  Most often it's used for things like, we are sitting comfortably watching a movie and the dog has to be let out, or a kid needs a glass of water.  It saves a lot of arguments and resentment.  We don't keep track of who does more in these situations, because the rock, paper, scissors game is in control.  Steve did try to cheat by studying the psychology of the game online, but it didn't help him one bit.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Christmas 2013... The good, the bad... and the early!

As I do every year, I promised myself I would get Christmas shopping done early (I bought my first two gifts in October, I was so proud of myself), unfortunately once again I failed.  Other then the first two gifts I bought in October, nothing else was purchased until after Thanksgiving, and even saying that is a stretch.  I really didn't plan ahead at all! I didn't know what I was buying anyone, how I was decorating, or what I was cooking for Christmas dinner.  I actually wasn't that far behind at first.  I had done some shopping, ordered some gifts online, and had gotten the Christmas tree up and then it happened, I GOT SICK!  It started as a cold and then it just kicked my butt.  I ended up with a horrible sinus infection and my asthma was flaring up, basically getting off the couch was a chore for the 1.5 weeks leading up to Christmas.  Thankfully I was able to pull up my big girl pants (aka Mom jeans) and with the help of my best friend Amazon, I was able to get "most" of my shopping done.  And also thanks to antibiotics I had a day or two where I could stand up in the morning without my head feeling like a bowling ball and was able to wrap my gifts (even though most of them lacked bows and looked like my dog had wrapped them while blindfolded), I got it done.  And finally thankfully my husband agreed to go to the store two days before Christmas and purchase everything I needed for the Christmas dinner I would be preparing for 15 people on Christmas day.  So even though I was sick and behind, and kicking myself for not getting everything done sooner (lesson learned), I am happy to say we all had a wonderful Christmas... even with my kids getting up at the ass crack of dawn!  Next year I will definitely going to start early (hahahaha).