Sunday, December 1, 2013

New Christmas Tags in My Etsy Shop!

Hi all!  I just listed new Christmas tags in Jeanette's Crafty Place!  Check them out, and Happy Holidays!  If you leave a comment here, I'll send you a coupon code for Free Shipping!  Good until Dec. 15, 2013.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

7 Days of Being Thankful: Day 7

Today I'm thankful for my sense of humor.  It has helped me out of difficult situations and lessened the stress of a difficult day on many occasions.

I'm really glad I've kept up with this over the past 7 days.  It was good to reflect on some of the many blessings I have that I sometimes take for granted.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Monday, November 25, 2013

7 Days of Being Thankful: Day 6

Today I am thankful for having the best job in the world.  I am a technology trainer for older adults.  When I told them that I wouldn't be in on Wednesday, and that another trainer would be covering my class, they were disappointed but understood.  When I told them that the person covering was very good, they said, "He may be very good, but he isn't you.  You present the material with such warmth and patience that no one could take your place."  Seriously.  I'm getting all teary-eyed right now.

7 Days of Being Thankful: Day 5

Today I'm thankful for spending Sundays with my family.   Mom came over, and we worked on Christmas cards and tags.  We all ate downstairs together.  I'm glad we're able to do that.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

7 Days of Being Thankful: Day 4

Today I am feeling thankful for my health.  Other than some minor issues here and there, I am in good health.  I am grateful for waking up healthy and (relatively) pain-free every day, and for having healthy children and a healthy husband.

Friday, November 22, 2013

7 Days of Being Thankful: Day 3

I have to admit that I'm finding it very hard to be positive right now.  We had a very difficult afternoon and early evening with David.  I feel emotionally and physically drained.  But I can find something to be thankful for, even in the midst of all of this.  I am thankful for having the patience and endurance that I need to deal with the challenges and difficulties that I encounter in my life.  At least, for the most part.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

7 Days of Being Thankful: Day 2

Today I'm remembering how thankful I am for the special family members in my life.  We're a small group now, but we are strong.  We've been through a lot together, and we have been there for each other through it all.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

7 Days of Being Thankful: Day 1

Since Thanksgiving is a week from tomorrow, I thought I would reflect on my life and "count my blessings."  I sometimes get caught up in everyday negativity, and I think it's important to pause and think about all of the good things I have in my life.  This may turn into a Gratitude Journal of sorts, and it may not.  But I think it's important for me to do this, no matter what I decide to do.

Today I am thankful for my family.  Not one of us is perfect, but we make it work.  We love each other, and we support each other.  I have a husband who has been my source of strength and encouragement for not only the 24+ years that we have been married, but also during the years before our marriage.  I have a son who has overcome many challenges and difficulties with humor and love.  I have a daughter who is not only a "Mini Me," but who is also talented, smart, and beautiful both inside and out.  Yeah, we're pretty O.K.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

6 Handy Programs/Apps for Scrapbookers

How often do you use your computer for your scrapbooking?  Did you know that there are some very useful programs for scrapbookers that are easy to acquire and cost little to no money?  Here are six of my favorites that I use almost every time I scrapbook.
1.  Microsoft Word:  While the full version of Word isn’t free, most computers come with Microsoft Word Starter already installed.  This free version is more than adequate for basic word processing jobs.  I use it for journaling, titles, labels, lists, and some printable embellishments.  It is even possible to arrange a full sheet of photos in a Word document and print them out without using a graphics program.

2.  Photo Sheet (Photility):  Another free program that I find very useful is Photo Sheet.  This is a small but very helpful little program.  With it I can print two 3” x 4” photos on a 4” x 6” sheet with hardly any effort at all.  I use this option quite often for Project Life, as well as when I just want some smaller photos for my other layouts.  Photo Sheet also offers a number of other handy page and grid designs.  You can find out more about this program, as well as download it, at http://www.photility.com/photosheet/.

 3.  Picasa:  This free program is owned by Google and offers quite a bit for traditional scrapbookers, digital scrapbookers, and anyone who wants to share his/her photos online.  It is a photo organizer, image viewer, and image editor.   I frequently use it to create photo collages for my scrapbooks like the ones below.  You can read more about Picasa and download it here:  http://picasa.google.com/


    
4.  Photoshop Elements (Adobe):  This versatile photo editing program costs around $119.99 ($79.99 to upgrade from an earlier version), and I use it several times a week.  Not only do I edit my photos with it, but it also helps me get the most out of digital scrapbooking elements, create digital photo collages, and print my photos at home.  I can get near-professional results when I use PSE to adjust the lighting, sharpness, and brightness of my photos.  I also crop, enlarge, and print my photos in non-standard sizes.  You can purchase and download PSE atwww.adobe.com

5.  Day One Journaling App (Bloom Built):  I Love this app!!  As a Project Lifer, this handy little journaling app is invaluable to me.  I can take a picture on my iPhone, add some journaling, and have everything backed up on Dropbox.  Then I can print everything from my phone using my wireless printer.  This app works with the iPhone and iPad, and it costs $4.99.  It’s the best $4.99 I’ve ever spent on an app.  You can purchase and download Day One from the iTunes store.

6.  Die-Cutting Software:  There are several different programs available right now that work with electronic die-cutting machines.  Some work only with a particular machine, while others are compatible with more than one machine.  I use Sure Cuts A Lot (Craft Edge), and I use my die-cutting machine on almost every layout that I make.  I cut titles from my computer’s fonts, shapes, journaling boxes, and other digital elements.  I never have to worry about running out of letters, and I can cut them in almost any size I want.  Other die-cutting programs include Make the Cut and Silhouette Studio (Silhouette America).  They all accomplish basically the same tasks, and they are relatively inexpensive (approximately $49.99-$59.99).  You can find electronic die-cutting machines in theScrapbook.com store.
These are only a few of the many software programs/apps that can be used in scrapbooking.   While not all of them are free, many are inexpensive and all are well worth their cost.  Since this is Computer Learning Month, why not give some of these handy apps a try when you create your next layout?  “Appy” scrapping!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Halloween Spider Web Earrings

Hi there everyone!  Glad you could stop by today.  This is just a quick post to show you the new Halloween earrings that are available on my Etsy site.  If you post a comment here by 11:00 p.m. (EST) tomorrow night (October 21, 2013), you will be entered into a drawing for FREE SHIPPING on any item in my store.  Here are a few photos of the new Halloween earrings:



Monday, October 14, 2013

DIY Gift Bag: Easy, Quick, and Inexpensive!

Here's a video (not mine) that shows how to use 12 x 12 (or other size) paper to make your own gift bags.  Very cool!


And here is the bag I made using two 12 x 12 sheets of scrapbook paper that I had in my stash.  I added some tissue paper that I cut with my Martha Stewart Fringe Scissors and a few other embellishments.  It was so easy!  Have fun making your own unique gift bags!



Sunday, October 6, 2013

Attention-Grabbing School Layouts


Please click on the link to read my latest article for Scrapbook.com.  Enjoy and Happy Scrapping!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Free Spiderweb SVG File from SVG Cuts

I love free cut files!  SVG Cuts frequently offers free SVG files that you can download from their site.  Here is a very cool Spooky Spider Web that will be great for all your Halloween crafts this year.  Tomorrow is October 1st!  Don't wait until the last minute to get started on your Halloween decorations and crafts.  I know - easier said than done.  Happy Halloween Crafting Everyone!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Project Life: How Are We Doing?

If you started Project Life back in January, then you are entering the “home stretch” of your venture now.  In just a few short months, 2013 will be over, and it will be time to start new projects and set new goals for the coming year.  So how are you doing with Project Life?  Have you stuck with it, or have you abandoned it?  Are you sailing along smoothly, or are you struggling to keep afloat?  It’s time to assess your progress.
I started Project Life last August, so I’ve already completed a full year in my album.  I do monthly layouts, and this system has worked very well for me.  I set aside one night, either at the end of the month or the beginning of the next month, and work on my two-page layout.  Using the right products is key to making Project Life flow easily.  I’m using the Jade Project Life core kit by Becky Higgins, but I’m also using other products that have been designed to work with Project Life.  For example, Echo Park includes a cut-apart journaling card sheet with all of their collections.  KI Memories has an adorable line for birthdays and other celebrations.  Using these coordinating pre-designed products has made it very quick and easy for me to create my layouts, while keeping them looking fresh and new. 
     
Another reason this project has been going so smoothly for me is that I’m still doing 12” x 12” layouts for those memories that require a longer story or more details.  I find that doing this provides a nice balance for me, because there are times when I want to go into more detail or get a little more creative with my pages.  I see Project Life as a part of my scrapbooking, not my only method of scrapbooking. 
So, is Project Life working for you?  If it is, keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s obviously the right way for you.  It would be great if you would share your tips on Scrapbook.com to help out the members who are having a hard time.  What are your plans for next year?  Will you continue the project?  Will you try something else?  Will you add to it?
If Project Life isn’t working for you, you really should figure out why.  Is a weekly time frame too much of a burden?  Maybe you could “catch up” if you’re behind, by doing a few monthly layouts.  Perhaps you could use pre-made supplies and simplify your designs.  You also might want to re-think your approach for next year.  Keep what’s working and change what isn’t.  I think that if you’re struggling, you should also post on Scrapbook.com.  Tips on what didn’t work for you are just as important as tips on what did work.
My plan for next year is to keep doing what I’m doing.  It’s working for me.  There are only two things that I’m going to change.   I want to be in more of the photos.  I also want my family to send me a picture a week to include at the end of the month, so that it will become “our” Project Life instead of “my” Project Life.
If you’re behind, in a rut, or just aren’t motivated, please don’t give up.  You can change what isn’t working and do more of what is.  There are no rules in scrapbooking except the ones that we make for ourselves, and those can be broken or changed without any repercussions from anyone but ourselves as well.  Lighten up on the demands that you place on yourself, and enjoy your scrapbooking, whether it’s Project Life or any other approach that you take.
Other products that you might find useful for Project Life include:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Intro to Trick or Treat + a treat bag from start to finish

I had to share this adorable treat bag video from Lawn Fawn.  I'm definitely going to make these, and I have a whole bunch of Halloween stamps that I can use.  This set is very tempting, though....

And I found the perfect treat bags to use for this project on Amazon:




Sunday, August 25, 2013

Being Crafty With My "Little One"

Haley and I made these bracelets today.   She showed me how to make them with the rubber bands that are all the "rage" right now.  She also showed my mother how to make them.  I told her that I was very proud of how patient and helpful she was with her grandmother, and she said that she was acting the way I do with my older adult students when I teach.  That made me feel like I'm being a good role model for her.  It's a nice feeling!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Art Journaling Class

We had another fun class at Scrapper's Playground tonight.  We used some beautiful watercolor paints to create 2 calendar pages and a journal page.  I felt like a little kid playing with paint, and IT WAS FUN!  I love playing with different media and learning new techniques.  The best thing about this class is that, even if I don't particularly like a technique or medium that we use, at least I've tried it and have learned something by doing it.  It's all about the experience and experimentation.  I hope you all get to make something gorgeous this weekend!



Sunday, August 11, 2013

10 Summer Photos

Here's a short video I did for my pals over at Scrap 'n Yap.  They were talking about a free class at Big Picture Classes called 10 Summer Photos.  It's a short video, and it isn't the best quality, but you'll get the idea.  I hope to record a better video soon; but until then, I hope you like this one.

Monday, July 22, 2013

So You Want to Be Creative?


Here's how John Cleese does it.  This isn't a new video, but it applies just as much to creativity today as it did back in 1991.  His points are timeless and spot-on.  Grab a cup/glass of your favorite beverage, and settle down for 36  minutes of sheer genius.




Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My First Layout for Scrapper's Playground

Hi everyone!  Here is my first layout for the Scrapper's Playground Design Team.  

 



Supplies:

·         Stars & Stripes patterned paper by Doodlebug Design
·         Bazzill cardstock in blue, light blue, and white
·         Stars & Stripes Fancy Frills stickers by Doodlebug Design
·         Stars & Stripes Mini Doodle Pops by Doodlebug Design
·         Stars & Stripes Doodle Seals by Doodlebug Design
·         Star Spangled washi tape by Doodlebug Design
·         Baker’s Twine by Doodlebug Design
·         Candy Shoppe Ice Accents by Queen & Company
·         Wink of Stella clear glitter marker
·         Tiny Attacher by Tim Holtz/Ranger
·         White gel pen
·         Embossing folder with dots*

To put this layout together, I first arranged my photos into collages and adhered them to the layout.  Then I cut out my title with my die cut machine.  A comparable font for the Eclips would be Valentine’s Day & Happy Heart.  For added dimension, I used an embossing folder on the “Smiles” letters.  After adhering the title, I added my journaling strips and border strips/paper. 

Next I added foam adhesive to the backs of the banner sticker pieces and adhered them to a length of baker’s twine.  After stapling the ends of the baker’s twine to the layout with my Tiny Attacher, I tied two bows and glued them to the ends of the banner.  As a finishing touch on the banner pieces, I added dots of white gel pen.

The final step in assembling the layout was to add the embellishments.  I added the stickers, pinwheel, and washi tape; and then I made a medallion/rosette with some of the patterned paper.  First I scored a strip of 1 ¼” x 12” patterned paper at ¼” measurements.  Then I accordion-folded the strip and glued the ends together.  Using a generous amount of hot glue, I glued the medallion in the center, attaching a cardstock circle on the back for stability.  I then added some Wink of Stella glitter marker to the edges of the medallion and the circles in the embossed title. 


The last step was to add the cardstock sticker and Ice Accent to the center of the medallion.  Because this is a heavy embellishment, I attached it to the layout with hot glue.  (I believe acid-free white glue would work also, but I didn’t want it to fall off the layout while hanging on the wall).

I hope you like the layout and that you get a chance to stop by Scrapper's Playground to see them in person, and to check out the cool stuff in the store.

Happy scrapping!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Introducing ...

... MY NEW ETSY SHOP!

I've been really busy lately.  I've written a textbook, designed a new curriculum for a digital photography class (that's the textbook), and re-started my Etsy shop.  It's called Tocco di Bellezza (Touch of Beauty).  I design and create unique jewelry with an Italian flair.  Here are a few photos of my designs:




I hope you get a chance to stop by!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Celebrate the Funny Side of Life

International Joke Day: Celebrate the Funny Side of Life!


Knock Knock!
Who's There?
Justin.
Justin who?
Justin time for International Joke Day!
I know, I know.  That was a pretty bad knock-knock joke, but today (July 1) really is international Joke Day.  To celebrate that day, I decided to finally scrapbook some of my favorite photos of my children when they were little.  I have three Polaroidpictures of them doing goofy things, and I've been "saving them for just the right layout."  You know how that is, right?  We save them for years; and, before you know it, they're teenagers
When my children were younger, I kept a journal of the funny things they said, because I knew that I probably wouldn't remember them all as the years passed.  I was right.  I laughed until I cried when I read the pages in that journal.  Those quotes were perfect for my journaling.
Since the original photos were Polaroids, I didn't have any negatives.  So before I used them on my layout, I scanned them and saved a copy on my computer.  That allowed me the freedom to have fun with the photos.  Using my Cricut and some kraftcardstock, I cut Polaroid frames that I had designed.
 After wrapping some baker's twine around the photos, I layered them on top of some patterned papers from the Simple Stories Summer Fresh line.  The fun zig-zag/chevron and polka-dot designs worked very well with the happy, fun mood of this layout.
I like to mix old supplies with new ones; so for the journaling, I used a patterned paper that came with a kit that I've had for a few years.  I typed up some of the funny quotes and printed the journaling on plain printer paper.  Then I adhered the patterned paper on top of the printer paper, using repositionable adhesive.
The doily that is peeking out from behind the journaling was cut with a Lucky 8 Punch by We R Memory Keepers.  Because I'm a frugal scrapbooker, I cut the doily in half and saved the other half for another project.  I'll probably use it on a card.
Since I wanted a fun title for this layout, I chose a fun font for my Cricut and cut it out of kraft cardstock.  Making the word ‘funny' stand out with glitter was easy.  I ran the letters face-down through my Xyron machine.  Then I sprinkled some Martha Stewart glitter over them and ran them through my Xyron right-side up.  The polka-dots were an afterthought, and I drew them on with a white gel pen.  To make the letters stand out even more, I outlined them with a black journaling pen.
All that was left after that was to add a few embellishments:  buttons, phrases, punched circles, and baker's twine.  Those make just about any layout a little more fun, don't they?
I hope you decide to celebrate International Joke Day by creating a fun layout yourself.  Just grab those fun photos, a few funnysayings or a funny story, some fun products from Scrapjazz.com, and fun supplies from your stash.  Celebrate the funny side of life!
  

Friday, June 28, 2013

7 Tips for Better Cell Phone Photos

My latest article is up on Scrapjazz, and I've posted it here as well.  I hope you find it helpful.  If you do, or if you have any questions or other ideas, please leave a comment here.  Thanks!


7 Tips for Better Cell Phone Photos

by Jeanette Giancaspro (Jun 27, 2013)
Lately I've been finding that I use my cell phone's camera more often than I use my regular camera.  That's probably because my cell phone is with me almost all the time.  It's easy to grab it whenever I want to snap a quick picture of something interesting, memorable, or just plain cool.  With the improved picture quality of today's cell phones, combined with some user-friendly apps, it's easier than you think to get lots of scrapworthy photos.  Here are seven tips that I have for you to help you get the most out of your cell phone's camera.
1. Know your cell phone and its camera.
Just like any other camera, your cell phone's camera has limitations.  There are things that you can and can't do with it, and you need to familiarize yourself with its capabilities in order to get the most out of it.  I highly recommend that you read the manual that came with your phone.  If you don't have a printed copy, you can probably find it online.
2. Take more than one photo.
In my previous article for amateur photographers, I suggested that you take more than one photo of the same shot. That way, you are almost guaranteed a good shot.  It's the same when you're using your cell phone's camera.  Take two or three photos, and choose the best one.
3. Print your photos at a smaller size.
Because the resolution of your phone's camera is lower than that of a regular camera, you will have to print them at a smaller size.  I find that 2" x 3" and 3" x 4" are good sizes for these photos.  Sometimes I can even get a good 3" x 5" photo.
4. Take a breath.
If you take a breath and hold it right before you are about to touch the shutter icon, this will steady your hand and result in a photo that is less blurry.  Just don't forget to breathe out again!
5. Use your apps.
I have an iPhone, APPLE IP416GBBLK IPHONE 4 16GB (Google Affiliate Ad)and there are a lot of photo apps in the App Store.  My favorite is Camera+, because it's very user-friendly, and the results are amazing.  Plus it was free! There are also a lot of apps available for other makes of cell phones.  Do a little exploring, and try them out. Here's a winter photo that I touched up with Camera+:
  
                 Before                                              After
6. Have a photo management system.
This could be as simple as going through your photos on the same day each month, backing them up and deleting the unusable ones.  A good photo management system is one of the keys to getting the most enjoyment from your photos.
7. Use a smaller format for displaying your photos.
Because you will probably be printing your cell phone photos at a smaller size, it makes sense to use a smaller-sized album to showcase them.  An 8 ½" x 11", 8" x 8", or 6" x 6" scrapbook, along with coordinating papers, would be a good size.  Another option is to use divided page protectors in a larger 12" x 12" scrapbook.
I hope these tips have motivated you to start taking more photos with your cell phone's camera, and have given you some ideas for improving the photos you're already taking.  Just remember to keep your cell phone with you at all times, and keep snapping those photos!
  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'm On a New Design Team!

I just found out today that I've been asked to join the Scrapper's Playground Design Team!  I'm really looking forward to working with the other talented ladies who have been chosen for the team.  SP is a very cool store.  If you have a chance, stop by and check it out.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Project Life: Incorporating the Holidays

Hi everyone!  Do you do Project Life?  Do you wonder how to include the holidays in your layouts?  I have some ideas for you in my latest article for Scrapjazz.

*********************************************************************************

One of the things I like the most about Project Life is that it frees me to document the common, everyday happenings in our lives.  Since I started Project Life, I've been able to capture moments like my son helping his sister with her homework, my children playing a video game without arguing, and seeing a package of cookies that took me back 40 years to when I was a little girl in my grandmother's store.  These are the things that I want to remember, and that I want my family to remember as well.  But what about the big events, such as birthdaysweddings, and holidays?

Like many other scrapbookers who are doing Project Life, I still scrapbook single events and holidays in separate albums; however, I do want to include some photos in my monthly Project Life layouts as well.  That can present a challenge for some of us, and here is how I've decided to handle this challenge.

 

The first thing I did was decide which pictures I would include.  Since I had already made the Christmas layout in our holiday album, I wanted to use some of the ones that I didn't use for that layout.  Then I chose some of the everyday photos that I had taken during December.  After trimming them down to (or printing them in) the sizes that I wanted to use in my layout, I moved on to selecting my papers. 
I decided on the Season's Greetings collection by Echo Park, and I added cardstock in matching colors.  Although the turquoise cardstock isn't in the patterned papers, I thought that adding a pop of blue would add a wintry touch to the layout without it being overwhelmingly "Christmas."  I love the contrast that it adds.

For my title, I used white cardstock and stamped "December" in a matching blue ink.  I used the same white cardstock, plus a scrap of vellum, for my journaling.  I added some of the stickers from the Season's Greetings collection, a few flowers from my stash, and a couple of strips of washi tape.

So there you have it:  my solution to the challenge of how to include the holidays in your Project Life layouts.  Combining both seasonal and non-seasonal supplies makes it easy to mix holiday and everyday photos smoothly, so that they complement each other and result in a balanced spread that is fun to look at.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Awesome Color Application!

Kevin from Stampscapes is a fantastic artist!  I just had to share this video with you.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Enjoy the rest of your week, and thanks for dropping in!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Splash of Fruit: Summer Color Combo

Hi everyone!  I hope you are enjoying the warmer weather, despite the "rain, rain" that doesn't want to "go away."  Well, scrapbooking is a great indoor activity for those rainy days, and my latest article is up on the Scrapjazz website.  I've posted it below also.
Please leave some feedback here on my blog about this article, as well as article topics you'd like to see in the future.  Are you interested in videos?  Are there specific products you'd like more information about?  Let me know, and I'll do my best to cover those topics/products.
Enjoy the article, and remember to be your crafty self!



A Splash of Fruit:  Summer Color Combo
by Jeanette Giancaspro



Fruit is a hot trend in the scrapbooking industry right now.  Several manufacturers are featuring both a fruit theme and fruity colors in their summer lines this year.  Although I’m not a trendy scrapbooker, I’ve always liked bright, fresh, fun colors. 





This layout is from a few years ago, but you can see how I used paper with strawberries and cherries, as well as fruit-colored papers.  I wrote the journaling on a strawberry die cut, and the flowers were part of the paper’s design.  I cut the title with my Big Kick (Big Shot), using a QuicKutz alphabet. The sunglasses, pail and shovel, and flip-flops are Sizzlit dies, and I cut them out of foam.

                   


                                                


This layout is more recent, but the color palette is basically the same.  There is more orange and blue, and a little less green and pink, but the colors are still bright and “fruity.”  Instead of die-cutting the title, I painted chipboard letters to match my papers.  This time I used my Cricut machine to cut the embellishments, and I stamped the fish and the smaller words in the title. 

As you can see in the second layout, these freshly-picked colors aren’t only for “girly” layouts. They work just as well with pictures of the men in our lives.  And they aren’t just for summer either.  The colors in this palette are perfect for birthdays, travel, celebrations, children, and many other themes.

There is an old saying:  “Everything old is new again.”  It certainly applies to the scrapbook industry.  Although the papers that I used are no longer available, the new lines of products have a very similar look and feel to them.  Here are a few of my favorites:








Now that the warm weather is finally here, I’m sure that many of you will be out and about taking pictures of the fun you’re having outdoors.  I hope you’ll try using some of these fresh and fruity colors on the layouts that you make with those pictures.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

10 Quick Photography Tips for Amateurs


10 Quick Photography Tips for Amateurs


I'm not a professional photographer. I'm an avid amateur. I don't own an expensive DSLR camera. I have a point-and-shoot that cost just over $200. I've never taken a photography class, but I've learned a lot through trial and error.  I won't be using a lot of technical jargon in this article. I'll leave the f-stops and aperture settings to the pros. What I am going to do is share 10 things that you can do right now, with just about any camera that you have, to improve your picture-taking skills.

1.  Get the best camera that you can afford.  If you're just starting out, you don't need all the bells and whistles of the higher-end cameras on the market.  All those features can be overwhelming, so keep it simple.
2.  Use natural light whenever possible.  If you're inside, try to position your subject near a window or other natural light source.  If you aren't sure whether or not you have enough natural light, take one photo with the flash and another without it. 

3.  Get in close.  If you want a close-up shot, the best thing to do is get as close to your subject as possible.  If you can't get close, you can use the zoom function on your camera, if it has one.  I know I said that I wouldn't get technical, but I'm going to make this exception.  (This is as technical as I'm going to get.  I promise.)  An optical zoom will give better results than a digital zoom.  A word of warning, though.  You need to have a steady hand when using the zoom function, because any movement will result in a blurry photo.  Here is where the next tip comes in handy.

4.  Hold your breath. Seriously. Try it. You can breathe out after you've snapped the photo.  It works for me almost every time.  It helps you to keep the camera steady.

5.  Take more than one picture of the shot.  If I know that I want a really good photo of someone/something, then I take four or five of the same shot.  Now that most of us use digital cameras, we don't have to worry about "wasting the film."  We can print only the pictures that we want.

6.  Be aware of your background.  You know those photos of Uncle Joe that look as if he has a plant growing out of his head?  We all have them, don't we?  When you're taking a picture, take a quick look around to make sure that there isn't anything in the background that will make your photo appear strange.

7.  Smile - you're on Candid Camera!  (OK, I might be giving away my age here.)  Honestly, though, the best photos I've ever taken are candid shots.  Sure, you want to snap those family photos of the whole gang together; and they do have their place, of course.  However, try taking some photos when your subject isn't aware that you've got a camera pointed at him/her.  You'll be able to capture expressions and moments that just can't be posed.


8.  "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be JPEGs."  Don't keep your photos trapped on your camera and other devices.  Print them on a regular basis.  Even if you pick only a few each month, get them printed.  Then they will be all set to go when you're ready to scrapbook, and you will have a "hard copy" of your photos, just in case something happens to the disk or camera.

9.  Back up your photos on a regular basis.  You don't want to lose all those photos if something does happen to your equipment.  Although you will have printed the best, it's still a devastating experience to lose hundreds of photos because of an accident or a lost disk or camera.  What I do is create a back-up file on my laptop at the end of each month, and I put all of my photos in a monthly folder.  Every few months, I burn them onto a disk.  Plus I have them stored on "the Cloud."  (More on that, as well as cell phone cameras, in a future article.)

10.  Take it off "Autopilot."  I use the Auto setting on my camera for most of my shots, but I do like to experiment with other settings as well.  I'm getting pretty good at using the Portrait and Action settings.  I'm still having a little bit of shake with the Macro setting, but it's all about practicing.  Try taking the same shot using the Auto setting and another special setting that your camera has.  This is where reading the manual that came with your camera will be useful.
I hope that these simple tips will help you take better photos.  Remember that you don't have to have professional quality photos to have good photos.  Try to take the best photos that you can, and keep experimenting.  Oh, and here are two simple bonus tips that I learned the hard way:  1.) Always carry an extra set of batteries with you.  2.) Make sure that you have a memory card in your camera before you leave home.  Happy snapping!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Autism Awareness: Finding Your Voice in Journaling


Autism Awareness Day: Finding Your Voice in Journaling


Autism spectrum disorders affect approximately 1 out of 88 children, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control.  They are more likely to affect boys (1 out of 54) than girls (1 out of 252), and these disorders are found in all racial and ethnic groups.  Our son, David, has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction. 
Since Autism Awareness Day is April 2, I've been thinking about how important our scrapbooks are to David.  He has always enjoyed looking at the photos, but it's the journaling that he comments on the most.  I think it's because of the way I journal in our books.  I find journaling about my photos to be easy, but that isn't the case for many scrapbookers.  In fact, there are many scrapbookers who don't do journaling at all, because it's too difficult.  I hope this article will help you to "find your voice."
I'm not talking about being more outspoken or finding the right words.  What I mean by "finding your voice" is determining who will be reading your journaling.  For whom are you creating the layout?  Is it the people in your layout?  Is it for grandparents?  Is it for you?  (That's okay, you know!)   When you know your audience, then you can determine your voice.
For example, in my children's scrapbooks, I address them in my writing.  I use first-person narration, such as "We went to our favorite park," and "You looked so cute in your Halloween costume."  If I'm creating a layout for my own personal scrapbook, I might use these words:  "My children are growing up right before my eyes," or "I married my first love."  It's still first-person, but I'm speaking about them, rather than to them.
 
Scrapbook companies have made it very easy for us to include journaling on our layouts.  Most scrapbook lines include journaling boxes or lined papers that can be cut up into any shape you like.   Here is a list of some of my favorites:
That's all there is to it.  The key is consistency.  If you begin speaking TO the subject of your layout, continue to do that throughout the entire journaling section.  Try to do it throughout the entire scrapbook.  The result will be something everyone who looks at your scrapbook will want to read, because it will sound natural and genuine.  Give it a try, and let me know if it works for you.