Unique Engraved Photo Gifts

November 30, 2009

TonjaAre you looking for the perfect gift? No matter the gift giving occasion, an engraved photo gift, creates the personal touch you are looking for. Once you start shopping for your gift, you will have a variety of items you can engrave.

Gift Items
Some of the materials you can engrave are wood, marble, granite, acrylic, crystal and even jewelry. A picture frame can be engraved to enhance the picture you want to put inside. Receiving a photo engraved on a plaque is a lovely gift but letting your imagination take over can create a distinctive gift. Your gift will become a family heirloom whether it is celebrating an occasion or person or a memorial in remembrance of a loved one. Photo gifts do not have to be thought of as woman’s gifts. There are plenty of items that a man can receive.

Men’s gift ideas
The men in your life can enjoy pictures engraved on items such as dog tags, “whiskey” flasks, lighters, key chains and even paperweights. You can have bar ware engraved or have his favorite car picture engraved into a sign.

Women’s gift ideas
Women can receive photos engraved on jewelry, key chains, luminaries, shadow boxes, and picture frames. Capture a particular occasion, such as a wedding memory, with an engraved photo album or DVD/CD case. The photo album cover is engraved and comes with empty photo pages ready to be filled. The photo album and DVD/CD cases that I have seen are made of wood with the engraving on one side.

When engraving you need to keep a few things in mind when picking out the photo and the gift you want to use. It primarily depends on the picture you select. The higher the resolution of the photo, the better the engraving you can receive. You also want to make sure you have contrast in the picture. If your subject blends in with the background then details will be lost in the engraving process. Engraving is accomplished by a laser removing layers of the engraving surface. The laser can be set to a variety of resolutions based of the quality of the original photograph. Most websites state that they can have your gift ready in about a week after you submit the picture you want engraved.

The person that receives this gift will know you took the time to create this gift just for them. Engraving is a way to make sure that your gift will not be forgotten.

Preserving Your Photographs

November 28, 2009

Many of you have asked me if I have any ideas as a child photographer for organizing and preserving a large number of photographs. This is part 1 of a 2 part blog on that subject for you. The first part is about printed pictures, and next weekend we will discuss digital photography archival storage.

All Photographs Deteriorate Over Time

As you all know everything involving photography deteriorates over time, and it will do so more rapidly depending upon the storage methods and devices that you use. Therefore, you have to make some individual determination of just what pictures are important enough to preserve for future generations, and then learn how to do that safely.

Leather Photo Albums

Leather Photo Albums

Most Plastic And Paper Destroy Photographs

Many kinds of plastic and paper actually eat and destroy your photographs chemically. In addition, sunlight and moisture will take their toll on your pictures, too. Therefore, you should choose acid free archival storage materials for your photographs whenever you can find them.

Start With Archival Leather Shoeboxes

Leather Shoe Boxes For Photographs

Leather Shoe Boxes For Photographs

You should start with the normal 4 X 6 inch pictures and put them into archival leather shoeboxes. These shoeboxes can also be made of paper provided they are archival safe. Archival safe means the material that these items are made of is the same materials that museums use to preserve important documents and papers.

Make Copies Of Your Best Photos

From the pictures stored in these archival shoeboxes, choose some of your best pictures to have copies made to put into regular sized archival photo albums with archival safe photo pages. Then, for some of the very special ones, have them printed as 8 X 12 inch pictures and put them into archival safe oversize albums (also with archival safe oversize photo pages).

Oversize Photo Albums

Oversize Photo Albums

Put Special Photographs In Archival Safe Picture Frames

If the pictures are so very nice that they could be displayed on the walls in your home, have those enlargements made and put into picture frames of various sizes. You will need to use archival safe materials here as well if there is any matting involved in framing these pictures. Sometimes it is a good idea to have button backs made for your frames so that you can easily change your pictures.

Archival Picture Frames

Archival Picture Frames

Avoid Direct Sunlight Where You Display Your Photographs

Display your precious pictures on the walls which are not directly exposed to sunlight, because over time sunlight will bleach your pictures out. Or, you can have an extra copy made of the picture and keep it in your archival safe photo album. Do remember, that moisture and humidity are also enemies of your photos. You should store your pictures where you live, and not in your basement or attic.

How Can You Protect Against Fire?

What about a fire in your home? Most people feel that other than their loved ones, who are most important, the only other things they would miss in case of a fire are their photographs. However, if you get copies of your favorite pictures into the hands of other people, you will always be able to see them again.

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer


More Tips For Great Group Photos With A Digital SLR Camera

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!
To make the most of the holiday don’t forget to take some wonderful group photos of your family to remember this day. Read the photography tips in the first article and then keep going with these ones. And get out your digital SLR camera and enjoy recording this special occasion for your family.

6. Use a Tripod
Using a tripod frees you up a lot when taking group photographs. You can set up the camera, so that it frames the group well in the location you have chosen and is correctly focused with the aperture selected. You can do a test shot and know that everything is ready before getting everybody together. You can also look directly at the group and talk to them, releasing the shutter at just the right moment without having to check your framing and settings each time.

7. Be the Director
Taking a group photo can feel a bit like directing a movie. You have to take charge and keep communicating with everyone, coax smiles out of them, get a good vibe going, so that a happy atmosphere comes over in the finished photo. As it’s a family occasion with kids around, you also have to make it fun, as well as short and sweet, because the focus of the day is not the photo, it’s the meal and get together. So create some reasons to smile, or cheer or wave. Perhaps there are absent members of the family that you’ll send the photo too, so have everyone wave or smile at them as you take the shot.

8. Look out for the Light
If it is a sunny day avoid positioning your group so that the sun is shining in their eyes and making them squint into the light.
Flash can be harsh, especially for small children and babies, so if you have to use it, try to bounce it off a low ceiling or a white wall, and if at all possible use it as fill in combined with natural daylight. Practice using your SLR flash and these techniques beforehand, so that you feel confident on the day.

9. Position the Camera
When photographing a group, you want the camera to at least be on a level with the faces of those in the middle row if you’re creating a formal tiered group shot. You also need to make sure that it is in the middle of the group, so that the group is square to the camera. Of course you can be informal and create a fun group shot with everybody looking up at you, as you stand up on a ladder or halfway up the stairs – in that case make sure that children are standing on chairs or are lifted up in parents arms, so that their faces aren’t lost from this angle.

10. Choose the Right Lens
Avoid using an extreme wide-angle lens, or the faces at the side of the group will be distorted. The best lens for a group photo is a standard lens that gives you a reasonably small aperture, so that you can get as much in focus as possible.

Whatever you do, just make sure it’s fun. Smile lots yourself and your family will smile back at you and your camera!

Mum and Photographer

Mum and Photographer

Tips For Great Group Photos With A Beginner Digital SLR Camera

November 24, 2009

With the holiday season upon us, you probably have at least one family gathering planned. Perhaps you only meet up together once a year, or maybe you get together more often, but it’s always great to commemorate a special occasion with a photo of the whole family together. Even if you’re a beginner photographer with a new digital SLR camera you should be able to get some great pictures, but here are some essential tips to help you take a really successful group photo.

1. Preparation
Get everything ready before you call the whole family together. If you want a relaxed and happy picture you don’t want to keep everyone hanging about, as you change batteries and fiddle with the exposure, while the turkey needs basting and the cooks have a hundred other things to do.
•    Check your camera batteries, that there is room on your memory card and that you have your flash attached and charged if you need it.
•    Decide on a good location to take the photo in advance
•    Give everyone a five minute warning that you want to take the photo soon.
•    Pick your time well. You want everyone present and relaxed, so don’t drag the cooks out of the kitchen five minutes before the meal is due to be served, but you also don’t want to wait till the end of the day when the children will be tired and parents trying to get them off home. Try and find a good time near the beginning of your day when all the kids still look fresh and tidy and tempers haven’t worn thin!

2. Location
Choose a location that goes well with the occasion and has enough space both to fit everybody and for you to stand back from the group. A shot using a combination of natural light and fill-in flash works well. Perhaps you have steps outside the front door, with holiday decorations on each side, which would make an ideal spot to pose the whole family, or a porch with plenty of natural light.

3. Pose the group
It may seem obvious to put tall people at the back, kids at the front, but you are the one who has to make sure that you can see everyone and that no-one is peering over somebody else’s shoulder. Steps make a great natural stage for a group photo, but you can also create your own stage using chairs and tables for people to sit and stand on to get several levels. It is important not to make your photo too deep – i.e not to have too great a distance between the front and back of the group, as this makes it more difficult to get the light even and to have everybody in sharp focus.

4. Get in Close
Get as close as you can to the group without cutting people out of the photo, so that you get plenty of detail in the faces. If people are standing in too long a line, bring some of them to the front, creating several levels to your group photo. Get everybody to lean in close to each other, link arms and get children to lean in close to seated parents or sit on laps, so that you create a photo with an intimate feel of a close family.

5. Take Lots of Shots
Take far more photos than you think you need to. Once everybody is grouped, start taking photos as you talk to them and keep their attention on the camera. Then just snap away, one photo after another. Professional photographers will usually take at least twenty shots or more to get one that is just right with a happy, relaxed feel.

More tips on photographing groups will be posted on Thursday. Happy Holidays!

Mum and Photographer

Mum and Photographer

Tips for Buying a Compact Digital Camera

November 23, 2009

Why compact? Because it’s not as bulky as a full-size one and is easier to carry. Why easier to carry? Because if it’s easier to carry, you’ll take it with you more often and take more pictures—the very purpose of a digital camera to begin with.

The size will not affect the quality of your pictures. Just make sure it will fit in a pocket or comfortably in your handbag. It’s also better if it’s light in weight. In deciding what is too small, just be sure the screen is wide enough (at least 2.5”) to adequately show you what you’re shooting and reveal enough detail to assure a good shot. After all, an important reason for having a digital camera in the first place is that you can preview what you’re shooting. Also, try it for ease and convenience when you are ready to shoot. Make sure the shutter release is easy to use, even if you’re holding the camera with one hand.

You will see a wide range of pixels in the models of pocket cameras you will look at. It’s wise to go for at lease 8 megapixels and no more than 10. On the other hand, if you plan to produce really large prints, you might want to consider at least 10. If you want to make poster-size prints, you’ll be disappointed with the quality that comes from a less-than-10 megapixel camera.

Zoom is another consideration. You’ll probably want to shoot very small things like a bee as well as larger things like a landscape. To shoot both of these with the best fidelity, be sure your camera has a 4x zoom. There is also such a thing as a macro facility available if you want to take close-ups of smaller objects.

Look at the Canon Powershot. This is an extraordinary camera and has even more features than are listed above. Consult reader reviews to find out what is really pleasing to users. Also, while a camera shop won’t let you try one before you buy it, you can at least test its feel in your hands.

A better choice might be the Canon Rebel Xsi with a detachable adjustable flash unit to create great photographs which you can use for gifts for the upcoming holidays. You can use one or more of the best photographs to create personalized photo gifts for family and friends.

Once you own your little gem, try it out by shooting a lot. However, be sure to keep plenty of batteries on hand. You might even look into rechargeable ones. Another thing you’ll want to stockpile is memory cards. There’s nothing more disappointing than to have the absolutely most desirable photo in your sight only to discover that you’ve run out of power or space on your memory card.

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer


Tips For Photographing A Newborn

November 21, 2009

If you are now expecting or have just given birth to a newborn, you understand the pressures that are now upon you. Everything that you try to do now gets interrupted! You find yourself very sleep deprived, which makes it difficult to do even the things that were very easy before the baby came. And to add to all of this, what I am going to tell you won’t help your mood at all: The first two weeks of life outside of the womb are the best time to get pictures of your infant as a newborn. After that, they have grown so rapidly that they don’t look much like a newborn anymore.

Plan Ahead

I suggest that you plan ahead for just one kind of newborn picture that will be really special for you. Think about just what you want. A picture of the baby alone: Just the head & face, or a full body picture of the baby? A picture of the mother & the infant being held closely or nursing? A picture of both the parents with the newborn? Don’t try to do too many things, because it will exhaust you as parents. That’s why I strongly suggest that you choose only one kind of pose.

Pick A Special Pose

A Wide Awake Baby

A Wide Awake Baby

If you are thinking about a mother and baby picture, mothers should pick a very special nightgown and if it is sleeveless, do not wear a bra with straps under it as this will detract from the picture. If it is a nursing picture, a bra will also be a distraction. Have your hair fixed simply but nice, and if it is long pull some of it forward on your neck. Keep your make-up light and gentle. Plan to bounce your flash off a near white wall or ceiling, and be sure to watch your histogram to make sure the exposure is good. Have the mother hold the baby’s hand or do something natural as she gazes into the baby’s face. Be sure to frame both her face and the baby’s body in the picture. If you can place mother & baby near the soft light of a window to one side, that would add a lot. Don’t let your flash be too over powering. You might have to use flash exposure compensation to knock the power down. Most of all, mom should be well rested for the picture, so pick the best time of day for her.

Picture The Baby Alone

A Sleeping Baby

A Sleeping Baby

A picture of the baby alone is very special too. If the baby will be completely undressed, make sure the room temperature is comfortably warm for the little one without any clothes. Infants cannot usually hold their heads up at this age, so you should plan on some kind of support. Daddy’s strong hands would be great! A great place for the background is over a bed with a white sheet, and it can act as a safety net too! You always want to be considering the baby’s comfort and safety; don’t try to be too fancy.

Three Are Better Than One?

If you are interested in having both parents in the picture with the baby, you will need someone else to take the pictures for you. Use this option only if you have someone in mind who genuinely has an interest in photography, otherwise, you could be very frustrated trying to be both the subject and the director of the picture.

Try A Close Up

The picture should be a close-up that includes the entire body of the baby and at least the faces of both parents. Have the parents gather round the baby (you don’t want any straight lines here) and have their focus be on the baby with a touch of endearment noticeable between the parents. Something like if the mother is holding the baby, have the father gently touch the mother’s hand too!

Use An External Flash

All of this information will be easy for you if you have a digital SLR camera with an external flash. This means that you will have a lot of control over the picture that you are trying to create, and can evaluate almost immediately whether or not you have what you want. One last thought, keep the focus on the eyes; especially the babies!

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer


Put Stunning Pictures Of Your Kids On Canvas For A Special Gift

November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving is just around the corner with the mad rush to Christmas in sight, but there is still time to be creative with your gifts this year. All too often the last minute rush of Christmas shopping has us buying gifts for our partners that are uninspired, and that a year later have either been forgotten or worn out already. If you want to give your husband or wife a really special and lasting present this Christmas, why not put one of your best pictures of your kids on canvas, as a meaningful gift that will last forever.

A beautiful canvas print isn’t cheap, but it is far better value for money than an electronic gizmo or a few shirts that might not ever get worn. Displayed on the wall of your living room or in your bedroom you will both enjoy looking at it every day for years to come. Good quality canvas prints will last for many years, long enough to be handed down to the next generation, so you can even look at your gift as a family heirloom in the making!

You may already have a perfect picture of your kids in mind; one where you have captured a happy moment, when they are full of life and energy smiling and with eyes sparkling. It could be a close up portrait just showing head and shoulders, or one showing them busy and active in a picturesque landscape, perhaps at the beach during the summer or running through the gorgeous fall leaves.

If you haven’t got a picture you are happy with, then grab your camera and your kids on a dry day (it doesn’t have to be sunny, you can get some gorgeous photos with the soft light of a cloudy day) and head out somewhere pretty; it could be a park or the beach, a mountainside or a the steps of a fine city monument. Take loads of photos of your kids, from close-ups to action shots. Keep shooting more and more pictures and think of fun activities that your kids will enjoy; jumping off rocks, peering into rock pools, hopping down steps, playing hide and seek behind trees. Catch natural shots as they play and set up a few more formal poses in between, while they are full of energy from their games.

You only need one picture for your canvas print, but you will end up with a whole series of fun pictures that you could use to create an album with later too. The hardest part will be choosing which picture to use for your gift. It doesn’t have to be technically perfect, it is the emotion of the picture that is important, so choose one that really conveys a happy feel.

So now you have one of your most important gifts sorted for Christmas and can relax a little, knowing that your canvas print will be delivered to you soon, saving you that last minute frenzy of the mall on Christmas Eve.

Mum and Photographer

Mum and Photographer

Colorful Boxes Make A Great Photo Storage Solution

November 17, 2009

Our digital cameras free us up to take more photos than we ever did on film. Our children grow so fast that we photograph them at every opportunity to preserve memories of them for ever. But the problem is, will those photos last forever? Digital photos are even more vulnerable than film used to be. A computer can crash losing all your files, and even if you have backed up all your pictures on to CD, those CDs can be corroded over time if not kept in optimum conditions. This is why it is so important to find a good long term photo storage solution, to protect all those precious memories that you’ve been collecting.

Backing up your photos on to archive quality CDs and DVDs is only the first step. Those CDs need to be protected from dust, humidity and great temperature fluctuations. Just sealing them in a plastic storage box isn’t the answer. Plastic can give off corrosive vapors that will gradually deteriorate the surface of the CD, affecting the pictures stored on them. CDs and DVDs need an acid free environment and then they can last for as much as 100 years with picture quality intact.
An ideal storage solution is to keep your CDs in a box storage system made from acid free paper, in corrosion proof sleeves.

Exposures have a great range of acid free boxes in perfect sizes for CDs and prints and you can choose from several color ranges, to match your home décor. In fact the boxes will look so good stacked on open shelves that you might be tempted to get more boxes to store other things in too. I can’t decide if I like the Brights collection or the Autumn Spice warm colors best, and then there is the Beautiful Baby Collection in pastels for all your baby photos.

The great thing about having safe storage boxes for your prints is that if, like me, you haven’t got around to making the definitive family album yet, you can keep collecting prints and know that they will be kept safely until the day you eventually do get around to putting them in your album. And if that day never comes you still have your photos neatly organized to look through and enjoy the memories just the same.

A selection of these boxes would make a great gift for an enthusiastic photographer too.  Print off a few special pictures to go in the box as part of the gift and you will be giving them the gift of memories lasting a lifetime.

Mum and Photographer

Mum and Photographer

Why Should I Buy a Digital Camera?

November 16, 2009

Just what is so special about a starter digital camera? Well, first of all, there is no film to take to Wal-Mart or a photo shop to be developed. As soon as you take a picture, you can open it up and look at it on your computer if you have installed the software that comes with the camera. Your camera should also have instructions for transferring the photos to your computer. However, it’s simpler to use a viewer, which you can get at a computer store or online. Viewers interface via USB. All the money you regularly spend on having film developed will be saved as well as the nuisance of taking film and leaving it and going back to pick up the pictures, many of which will not be what you had hoped for.

Secondly, you can see what you are going to shoot on a small screen built into the camera. You can also look at it again after you shoot. If the shot isn’t what you want, you can shoot again immediately. Both of these features make it possible to get photos that satisfy your wants and desires. Most people take many more pictures after they discard their non-digital cameras in favor of a digital one.

Take the time to organize your computer files so you can find the photo you want when you want it. It’s a good idea to label a photo with what is in it, so you don’t have to open all the ones with the original number codes in order to find just the one you’re looking for. An example: front of Tennessee house with flag.

With practice, most people become quite proficient with their starter digital cameras. Being able to share family photos online with all their friends and relatives at absolutely no cost makes the price of a digital camera extremely attractive and reasonable. In addition, the purchase of an inexpensive photo printer expands the possibilities.

You can afford to buy attractive frames when you spend so little producing a special picture for Christmas presents. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and other friends and relatives love to collect a wall of pictures of family they do not get to see all the time. In fact, even if they get to see them all the time, they will treasure gifts of special pictures. For example, you see how cute and enchanting your toddler is in his everyday activities, so if you use your digital camera to take a lot of shots, you will come up with just the right one or ones to make the grandparents very happy.

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer


Hand Them The Camera!

November 14, 2009

Teenager in the family?

Hand them the camera!

One late summer day in September when I was a teenager, I was asked to watch my little sister, Ruth while my parents did something unusual for them; enjoy something that was not work. They were going to get a free airplane ride from Klein Fertilizer Company to view their farm from the air as a “thank you” for their business over the years. Because I wanted to see the airplane that my parents were in and when it flew over photograph it too, I decided to dress up my little sister and “chase” her around the yard of our farm and try to get some good pictures of her.

Don’t Know Much About That

I didn’t know much about photography at all; I only knew that things were changing before my very eyes and it was not being recorded in pictures for my family to remember. Dressing up when you are a farm kid is not something that happens very much or by accident. Some farm animal or some thing is always getting your clothes dirty or torn. In addition to that, in order to make ends meet in a business with small profit margins, the kids wore hand-me-downs from other people’s kids or their older brothers and sisters most of the time.

Sister and family pet - Click to Enlarge

Sister and family pet - Click to Enlarge

And so, with my parent’s permission I found a cute outfit for little Ruth to wear for the pictures I was going to capture of her and we combed her hair and wiped her face and hands off so that she would look her cutest and best!

Take Advantage Of Unexpected Opportunities

I let Ruth keep the comb in her hands as she was not willing to give it up just yet; no harm in that being in the picture, I thought. Almost immediately the pet dog, Sport, wanted to get in the picture too! That would be a good one I thought as I studied the scene for the best angle. You can see that I didn’t do too badly as the light is coming over her left shoulder. I can see today that I should have moved in closer though, because there is a lot of wasted space around her and the pet dog.

Holding Up A Tree - Click to Enlarge

Holding Up A Tree - Click to Enlarge

Look For Props

Then there was a black walnut tree nearby, and with the comb still in her hand, I asked her to put her hand on the tree as I took another picture. That one turned out good too, especially since fill flash was almost unheard of in those days. However, I didn’t understand the rule of thirds then, so that composition understanding was not applied to show the benefit of how that would have contributed to an even better picture.

Some Things Are Too Hard To Get

Soon, the airplane carrying my parents was flying over head. You know that it’s the right one because the pilot comes down to about 500 feet over the farm and circles it. Quickly, I snapped a picture of the airplane! However, I did not have the option of using a telephoto lens to bring the airplane closer, therefore the airplane is just a dot in the sky!

Parents Take To The Air - Click to Enlarge

Parents Take To The Air - Click to Enlarge

Finish The Shoot

With the airplane now gone, I took one last picture of my little sister sitting on her haunches beside the box of my prized little Kodak Starmite camera. The light was right and showed her little face well, but as you will notice, no artful rule-of-thirds was applied and there is more picture of the green grass than there is of my baby sister!

Capture The Moment - Click to Enlarge

Capture The Moment - Click to Enlarge

Mission Accomplished!

That was it! I took only four pictures! Remember there was only 12 pictures on the roll, and I was paying for the film, and the developing, and the printing, and all with just money I made from baby-sitting for other families children.

Ah For The Good New Years!

Today, all of that is different! With your digital SLR camera, your teenager can study the results of their photographing almost immediately. They can take many pictures without incurring additional expense. And if they are interested in art and recording memories, your family will get the benefit of at least a few very beautiful portraits!

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer


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