Tag Archives: Tips

2 Easy Ways To Take Better Mother’s Day Photos!

I love Mothers Day. I know it seems like a Hallmark holiday, but really, it’s a good excuse to stop and thank our mothers. And, I have a couple easy tips to make the most of your events full of snap shots…

1. Look At The Light

If you’re snapping photos in the sunshine outside, keep the sun at your back. This will eliminate harsh shadows and prevent such squinty eyes that you can’t see them anymore!

photo (4) photo (3)














2. Eye Level

If you want to avoid the double chin that happens to the best of us, keep the camera pointed at eye level. The only exception to this is children, the model thin folks, or people who want to look taller than they really are. For example, I shot this of my daughter aiming at her belly button. She looks taller and bigger than she really is. And, if you look closely, she’s got a tiny double chin going on, which in my mind adds to her cuteness;)


I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating your Mother whether you see her on Mother’s Day or not!



p.s. Shameless plug:

MDPostcard2Now that I’m expanding my photography business to include modern portraiture with a photojournalistic twist, I wanted to do something fun to debut my portraits. This Saturday, May 11th, I’ll be offering 30 minute, mini-portrait sessions for $50 at my favorite Nursery in White Center. Details here: Garden Mini Photos!

There are only 4 sessions available until Wednesday, May 8th.

Overcoming the time excuse

I used to say I didn’t have any time for Photography. Last week I sorted through my Photograph archives from the past 10 years. I captured thousands of images. The only thing I didn’t make time for was doing the kind of Photography I wanted. I’ve never stopped taking photographs, but I have let time stand in my way of using a lens to capture the things that strike me as beautiful.

This was captured with my purse camera while playing at the park with my kids, and is one of my most popular prints!

Now, don’t get be wrong here. I really enjoy photographing my son’s birthday party or a picnic with friends, but I’m usually pulling double duty – snapping some photos and serving a salad. But, what I really love is being totally focused on capturing beauty be it a Bride’s face when she first see’s her Groom, or a vividly colored Fall leaf on the ground.

As my life has grown, the things I wanted to photograph 7 years ago has expanded. Now it includes nature, and details and above all beauty I see every day. The sunlight touching a fresh new Fern is as stunning as the glimmer in a New Born’s eyes.

How to you make time?

Here is how I’ve allowed myself to “find the time” for photography…

1) Got a Camera?  I carry a camera with me all the time. I do not own an iPhone. Anyone who does, has no excuse not to take photographs on their lunch break. My phone camera is made by Microsof, ‘nuf said. So, I carry a Canon Coolpix in my purse every day.

2) Anytime, anywhere! Use your camera every day. I find some times at home to pull out my Cannon Rebel, and capture something staged in about 5 minutes to highlight a particular subject. The camera in my purse captures wonderful images, too, but is sometimes lagging. The point is to shoot often, and keep at it. You never know when you’ll walk into a stunning scene.

3) Schedule an appointment with your camera. Sometimes you really need more time with the camera to get into a groove or set up something ornate. I have found that just an hour is plenty of time for me to capture at least one or two images that make me smile.

4) Make time when it appears. I leave uploading images and editing to my spurts of free time – whenever I have it to spare, I use it on Photographs. Sometimes it is hard to wait for that window of free time, but usually I’m so busy with life stuff and kids that I have no trouble waiting a day or two.

So, what is standing in your way? Is it thinking about how little time you have to spare? Stop. I was there, and it didn’t help me find any time at all. I just had to start making time where ever the opportunity presented itself, then after getting into that mindset, the time became more abundant.

Learning Curve

Beach Wedding by Holli Margell

Wedding Photography was easy. It was a way to use my love of Photography in a straight forward way as a service. You hired me, I did my job, and got paid. There was more to it than that, but that was the basic bones of it.

Now that I’m entering the art photography world, I’m learning as I go, without feeling confident that I know some formula for success. You get to watch my learning curve.

Art Photography – Essentially, I’m selling a product. Art in all mediums is a product. You either love it or you don’t. I think that is why it scared me to try. I know I love my photographs, because I take them and keep them because I believe they are beautiful. But, the big question I face is, “Will others love it?” And, can I sell it?  Some people don’t and hire great business managers. Others never try, and their art rests like skeletons in their closet. I’m working to figure it out for myself.

The business of art – I’ve been reading a lot about how to make money with my art photography. One of the key pieces I read by Gwenn Seemel lays things out simply, “Making a living is like making a painting.” She explains some of the tools she uses, and the fact that things take time to evolve.

Money and art – One of the joys about being a Seattlite is that there are a variety of opportunities to learn. Last month I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of Chase Jarvis’ LIVE interview of Ramit Sethi (author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”). You should invest the 1.5hrs to watch it here. Chase and Ramit share the ins and outs of pricing your work and finding your ideal clients in a passionate and conversational setting. I was not bored for a second, and even got to ask a question! Chase shares a lot of valuable information for photographers who want to make a living.

I priced my work at the show to the comfort of my stomach – knowing a coffee shop show wouldn’t bring in art collectors, but also that I wanted to make enough to donate to a good cause. I’m still looking at what sold, and who bought to understand who my audience is – who loves my work and who will likely buy it. They actually suggested this in the interview, and I’ve read about it before. Some even recommend offering the work for free to learn more about your target market. I did this slightly by giving away cards for food donations. It is fascinating to look at which cards people took when money wasn’t involved.

So, what I’ve learned so far is that women are the ones who purchase my photography art, and I’m not the only one who thinks the photographs are beautiful.

Lessons from The Art of Food Photography class

My latest Salad Recipe: looks as delicious as it tastes!

Since I was 6, I’ve been taking photos. I had an eye for composition, and my Mom let me use her instant, film camera from time to time at family events. I learned at that young age to make every shot count, because each one cost money.

When I finally took an official photography class, it was Photojournalism. That was back in 2000, when we were still using 35mm Cameras and a Dark Room. I remember having so much fun, physically dodging or burning an image, making my own 4×6 or 11×14 prints. It was like watching magic happen. I used an old Contax Camera with a Carl Zeiss 85mm lens, it was sort of an inheritance from my Grandfather (since he’d passed away, my Grandma was happy to see me use it). Today, it sits in an old camera bag in the closet. I haven’t picked it up in 5 years.

Last Saturday, I took Ashely Rodriguez‘s The Art of Food Photography class. It was a very casual class with about 12 others set on a long dining table at The Pantry. We all introduced ourselves, explaining our level of photography knowledge and what we wanted to learn. Thankfully, the class covered pretty much what I recall everyone wanting]. For me, it was a refresher.

One of my first Salad photographs.

White Balance is key!

When I used a film camera, I used to check the White Balance all the time. I got so familiar with the settings for certain lighting situations, that I didn’t’ always need to check the White Balance first. Somehow going from using film with such ease and confidence to a DSLR, I simply forgot or merely assumed the camera was smart enough. During the class, I had a lot fun figuring out how to set the white balance with my Canon Rebel Xti, working with a couple classmates with camera’s a model up from mine. It was pretty amazing to see the difference.

Composition is everything.

Something Ashely said at the beginning is that it doesn’t matter what equipment you have, everyone can take delightful photographs. I agree, wholeheartedly. My food photography has been on the fly. I’m always snapping a few shots just before the food is devoured. Lately, I’ve taken 2 extra minutes to think about composition, and again, I shouldn’t be amazed at the difference.

Setting the WB helped - my new favorite photo.

Creative Camaraderie helps.

What I loved about the class was the physical ability to talk with class mates. And ask questions. I could have easily been reminded of these key lessons by reading around online, but there’s something powerful when you’re in a room with other people. I appreciated talking and learning from others in the class. It’s especially fun to look at their blogs, or see what they’re doing in a Flickr group.

I look forward to capturing more savory photographs of the recipes I create and food in general. If you’d like to see the, hop on over to Scratchtreehouse.com – this is where all the new content is going to find a home.

p.s. Huge Thanks to my friend, Karen, for recommending the class:)

p.s.s. Classmate’s blogs:

First Look, then Eat

Seattle Seedling (great to finally meet her in person!)

Bray Hayden

Why we adopted a garden

Cleaning up under the Apple Tree at Mrs. B's garden.

I have fond memories of wandering between my Grandma’s raised garden beds in the back of her city home.  The smell of sun ripened strawberries and Lemon Mint mingle in those memories. She even used raised planter beds after she moved onto a larger city lot where she and my Grandpa also raised dozen of chicken and two pigs. They retired to a small rural town in Oregon, and their “hobby farming” blossomed to include more animals and a garden yielding more vegetables and fruit than they could eat.

Unripe Apples fall from the tree and need collecting - Cooper like to throw 'em in a bucket.

About two years ago, I was missing my Grandma who had passed away, and coincidentally embracing the ideals of eating locally. But, we didn’t have room to garden aside from a planter with strawberries, and some pots for herbs. I was daunted by the waiting list for our city P-Patches (a program in Seattle where you can garden in designated Parks land). So, I asked my good friend, Google.com and found this locally produced site: Urbangardenshare.org– it was just beginning and included only two sites in my neighborhood. Neither one was suitable for me to bring my two kids under 3 years old.

So, I called my mom and told her how I found this new site, but there wasn’t the right fit for us on there yet. She in turn introduced me to her High School friend, JoAnne. She just so happened to live in my neighborhood and have a Mom who was willing to share her garden, Mrs. B. She is a sweet lady who is kinda like my Grandma in her knowledge and passion for gardening. We enjoy the fruits of her years of labor through the bounty of strawberries, blueberries, grapes, Peaches, Apples, Pears, Plums, Garlic, Broccoli, Collards and Raspberries. And in turn, we try to help keep up with weeds and tend our own part of the garden.

Fresh strawberry!

We’re getting a late start this year, but are excited to continue our “Adopt-A-Gardening” as I am going to call it. It is a mutually beneficial way to garden in the city. If you’re like me, and want to garden but don’t have the space, take a look around your neighborhood. Are there any elderly folks who can’t keep up with their garden? Or a neighbor with a yard just waiting to be used? Taking a good look online, I’ve found some other useful resources that might help.

Here are some handy links:

Urban Garden Share: started in Seattle, the site now a few cities in California, Kentucky, Idaho and Georgia.

Gleanit: A Seattle organization also known as The Community Harvest of SW Seattle, they coordinate ways to share excess harvest or neglected fruit trees to food banks. The also provide classes and opportunities to volunteer.

Garden Share: resources for gleaning or sharing your harvest in and around New York.

Do you have a similar program in your city? If so, please share the info!

Shared on Monday Mania – recipe, real food link party.

How to perk up your cut Herbs

Perk up your Parsley by placing in a cup of water.

I just figured this out and wanted to share my discovery to perk up fresh herbs. If you have fresh-cut parsley or cilantro or another type of freshly cut herb getting “droopy” or “floppy” while waiting for you to use it up, try this:

Cut the stems a tiny bit, about a 1/4 inch, then place in a cup of cool water. Give them about 30 minutes, and you’ll see them perk right up!  I have had success with Cilantro and Parsley, and believe this could work for any other stem based leafy herb, like Mint or Sage.

Do you have another tip to perk up herbs? With the summer’s yield, I am not wanting to waste a bit of them.

Picky Eater Solutions: Kids and Vegetables

Iris picked a pretty Green Pepper in Grandma Mary's garden.

Yesterday our family met Elizabeth Pantley of the “No-Cry” Parenting Books. She’s working on a new book called, “The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution,” and needed families who were wiling to try her methods and be interviewed about them. So, we got an advance section of the book to try out for 4-6 weeks. She came with her talented daughter/ videographer, and filmed our kids being cute in the kitchen and then interviewed my husband, Casey, and myself.

They’ll only need a few seconds to create a short video for the book launch, so we’re not feeling like movie stars around here. We’re just glad we can help encourage parents to get their kids to eat vegetables!  While that’s not the whole purpose of the book, it’s certainly a struggle with Picky Eaters.

The interview really made me think about what has worked for us and where we still need to put in consistent effort. Her book outlines some really helpful tips and provides insight into the challenges parents face. For example, a child may need to try a vegetable up to 10 times before they can make up their minds about liking it. This is something I had read before in “Disease Proof your Child:Feeding Kids Right ” by Joel Fuhrman, MD. My friend, Karen, a speech pathologist also told me this in my post, The War on Vegetables.

Many of the concepts in Elizabeth’s Pick Eater book, we have learned the long, hard way over the last 10 months.  So, I found the material affirming and encouraging – like we’re on the right track. Many of you may have read my post, Children: Will You Eat Kale and Beets? back in March. Thanks to advice and persistence, our family eats vegetables at every meal. But, we still have those moments of resistance:

When our 5-year-old suddenly decides at one meal that he doesn’t like Carrots, we know it’s normal and not a sign of failure on our part.

What we have learned:

1) Vegetables are super important for overall health. Our daughter’s constipation problems have been “cured” in large part to eating vegetables at almost every meal in addition to  eliminating hard to digest foods, giving her some herbs and abdominal massage. The rest of the family has benefited through weight loss or weight gain (or skinny boy isn’t so thin anymore).

2) Getting kids to eat more vegetables takes time. Depending on the kid, it can take only a few meals, or several months. Our Picky Eater isn’t our daughter, it’s our son. He turned 5 last month, and spent almost 3 years of his life eating a normal “healthy” diet. He loved cheesy crackers, Bread, PB&J sandwiches, meat, yogurt, bananas, apples and any sweet treat he could get his hands on – notice what’s missing? Vegetables! I thought since I was buying “natural” and “organic” stuff he was a healthy kid. And he was healthy, but he was also quite thin. Since he’s been eating vegetables, his body has filled out more, and he’s gaining weight consistently. It took him a month to start eating Broccoli and Carrots. We’ve spent the last 8 months getting him to eat other vegetables. Our daughter took about 2 months to start asking, “More Kale, Mama?”

3) You need a team – seriously, if it’s just one parent trying to shove vegetables into a kid’s mouth while the other is eating Ice Cream and Bacon, you’re trying to swim against the current. You need your partner and the whole family to start eating better.  Other ways to get support: Ask friends and family to serve your kid’s favorite veggie at dinner or a party. Or, you can ask someone your child admires to eat a new veggie in their company.

4) Start Small – don’t try to change your diet drastically. You can ease into eating more vegetables as you have the time, resources and will power. Try just introducing vegetables at snack time and dinner. Then, as your Picky Eater starts to enjoy them, add them to more meals.

5) Make new vegetables cool – we had dinner at a Japanese restaurant where everything was new and exciting. Guess who ate their Broccoli, carrots, and edamame? Our Picky Eater Son! He had an Udon Noodle dish and didn’t complain about all the vegetables, or the fact they they were touching. The “new” veggies on his plate were perfectly acceptable to him. We think it’s because the food was new and the meal exciting.

6) Try, try again – if one idea or suggestion doesn’t work, try something else. Seriously, there is no magic solution or proper steps. Try things out until you find something that works for you. Read, talk to other parents and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Elizabeth Pantley’s “No-Cry Picky Eater Solution” book is due in October and will include recipes and tips from parents. Stay tuned for a book give-away!

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday #51

Top 3 Wedding Photography Tips

Our family attended a wedding on Holmes Beach in Florida last week. My older brother (a.k.a. Cousin) married his sweetheart. As chance would have it, their professional photographer had to cancel at the last-minute.  I used to be a Wedding Photographer and honestly adore capturing the joy and excitement of a couple’s special day. My camera with me, I loved filling the role. I created this collage just for you to share just a slice of the beautiful ceremony (I used this tutorial). The delightful day reminded me of some key tips anyone can use even with a Professional Photographer.

Top 3 Wedding Photography Tips – these are really to help the Bride and Groom handle the precious details of capturing their special day. But, even guests can pick up something helpful.

1) Digital Paparazzi – everyone with a phone will want to take photos of the wedding ceremony, with the bride and groom, of family groups, or simply of the beautiful place. Here are some suggestions for how to help them do a great job without interfering:

– Set aside a place for your personal paparazzi crowd to snap away without crowding out the rest of your attendees.

– Have a Planner or Volunteer Director play body-guard and discuss ahead of time where you’d like the paparazzi to have coverage and where they need to keep their distance.

– Standing on the Red Carpet – enjoy the spot light and be sure you’ve got snacks and water nearby, because everyone will want to get a snapshot with you or congratulate you before the reception or before you get to sit down and actually eat.

2) Posing like a Model – did you know part of the reason models look so thin and perfect is because they practice how they stand, smile and brush their hair? Well, they may not actually brush their own hair – stylists do it, but you get the idea.  Here are some keys for everyone posing in group shots:

– Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Practice this at home – stand at a 45 degree angle from the photographer, then twist at the waist to face them directly. This can make you look 10lbs thinner. Try it out at home and find a stance that feels comfortable and makes you look good. While you’re at it try out your smile and head tilt. Pulling your chin way from your neck just a little can eliminate the double chin shadow effect.

– Click like a Professional Photographer: The professionals take loads of photos at rapid fire shutter clicks, because even the slightest shift in a stance can create a better photo. Take lots of photos. Don’t shoot just one of any pose. And then, delete for the best later. Really, deleting later is easier than missing a perfect shot, and with digital cameras it’s easy.

3) Photo Flooding – How to you deal with all the photos your personal Paparazzi took at your wedding? There are many, many options. Let me share a few of my favorites:

– Free Group: You can set up a free group on Flickr.com or Facebook.com where members can share photos and you get to look at them all in one place. I know there are many others, but these are the ones I use, because they allow tagging and are free.  If you’re not sure how to set them up, ask a technically inclined friend or relative. They might even be willing to set it up for you. Then, you can print up a little slip or post a little sign by your guest book asking the Paparazzi to share their files in that specific location.

– Set up a Print Share Site: Many Online Printing companies allow you to create an album where folks can order prints or upload their own files. This can be a wonderful way to outsource the hassle of getting prints for Mom, Dad, Great Aunt Jane and Cousin Eddy. Flickr.com and Facebook.com offer links to printing services, but I personally use Shutterfly.com. They offer reasonable prices, and I’ve been happy with their service for over 5 years. I once met a Professional Photographer willing to add guest photos to their site. So, don’t hesitate to ask your Professional Photographer if they offer this service.