Thursday, March 5, 2015

5 Basic Photography Tips from a non photographer.

Photography seems to be my family's sport. My father and grandfather before him manufactured  photographic lighting, and were keen photographers. My cousin is a proffesional photographer, and I have many aunts, uncles and cousins who are just a bit better than your average amateur photographer. I do not have that gene, sadly. (I am also the only one in the entire extended family that doesn't ski, but that is a story for another time)

So, my camera of choice is an iPhone. If I had a different camera I might be inclined to know how to use it properly, but I don't, so the iPhone is it. I have an iPhone 5, with a blue case if you wanted to know. Here are the 5 tips I have been given that have made the biggest impact on my photography skillz.

TIP 1 Take lots of photos. What are you worried about, wasting film?

We live in a digital age now, and don't have to conserve expensive film like we did in the olden days. You can literally take 100 photos of your cup of coffee (or family on the beach), then delete 99 crap ones until you get to the best one of all. If you take just one or two, they might turn out to be blurry, or have a dirty napkin in the background, or some other ghastly photo bomb situation and then where will you be? Safer to take the extras and delete them later.

TIP 2 Lighting is important.

First of all, don't ever use the flash on your phone. Like EVER. It's so yellow and bleached out and ugly, just pretend it isn't there and forget about it. Try and take photos in natural, bright sunshine. Don't stand in the way of that sunshine and take a photo of your shadow, that would be dumb. If you take a lot of photos in your kitchen or dining room or whatever, find the best place for light in that room and stick to it. But what if it's not the time of sunshine, I hear you ask? What if I want to take a photo right now and the sun is not out?? Here is a game changer that I learnt about from Absoluteleigh - buy an inexpensive LED camping light. It's like having $15 worth of sunshine in your handbag. It makes a MASSIVE difference if you are taking photos at night or in low light. The LED gives off a clear white light, that gives a nice, clean, non yellow light in your photo. I love it. I was embarrassed about pulling this UFO out of my bag the first time, for about 3 seconds; now everyone wants to borrow it! Seriously, the only difference between the photo on the left and the one on the right is the gadget in the middle. Find it online, or at camping stores.

TIP 3 Style Your Images.

What are you taking a photo of? What can you place, or remove from, around the object to make it more interesting? You don't have to be Rachel Zoe and you don't have to pretend you are taking photos for a catalog, but it's not hard to make the background appealing - rearrange the table slightly at a cafe, place a handbag behind those shoes, put the kids in front of a mural or a nice tree, get rid of the laundry basket, clean the edge of your plate where the sauce has spattered. Think about the law of thirds, you can turn a grid app on your phone to show you where things could look better. Think about perception - most things photograph better from directly above, taking a photo from an angle might cast shadows that you could love or hate. Try it! See tip 1; if you don't like it, it can be deleted. Styling You recently posted about taking flat lays, and there are some excellent tips there for styling images, as well as the law of thirds.

TIP 4 Try not to Shake It Up!

I have the worst shaky hands. It's not DT's, I promise I'm not an alcoholic! I think it might be Ventolin that makes my hands shake.....anyway. Shaking hands do not make for lovely photos, they make for blurred, wobbly photos. What I do is try to rest my hand or elbows on a pile of books or something, or hold the camera (and the hand pressing the button) with my other hand, just for a bit of stability. Holding my elbows into my body helps if there is no handy table or pile of books around. Taking a deep breath to centre myself also helps. And finally, see Tip 1 - take lots of photos, they won't all be blurry.


Don't just whack your unpolished photo up there, there are opportunities to edit all around you! You can edit on your phone, it comes with editing functions. Go to the app store and be amazed at the free editing options available to you there. On Instagram, you can edit. On your laptop, you can edit. On the internet, you can edit. There are NO excuses for not making your photo the best it can be. Here are the basic edits I do for photos that go on the blog. (Remember I do not carry the photographers gene, so be kind) In Microsoft Office Picture Manager, I do an auto correct. I then crop wasted space or ugly backgrounds out, keeping in mind that a bit of 'white' (blank) space is good to frame your subject. I then compress the image so that it doesn't eat up all the memory. THEN I upload it to PicMonkey, where I might turn it into a collage or add some text or other effects. Sometimes I edit it in Canva, which has some really lovely banners and text options. Finally it gets to go on the blog! If an image is for Instagram, I crop, apply a filter and straighten up the horizon in Instagram. Uneven horizons are a pet hate of mine, especially for photos of the sea. Look out! The ocean is draining away!! RUN!

So, there are 5 basic edits for non photographers who only have a smart phone. Are you in the same situation? What tips would you add?


Monday, March 2, 2015

Egg Free Banana Cake

You might have noticed me talk about my middle child having an egg allergy. Luckily he isn't anaphalctic, but eating eggs gives him an unpleasantly itchy mouth and if he's eaten enough, it will come back up again. Gross! This situation is a bit sad for The Gentleman, especially when it is someone's birthday at school, and he has to go without cake. I played around with this recipe over the weekend, and it's a winner! The Gentleman loves it, and polished off 4 slices in no time. 

Egg Free Banana Cake 

  • 2 and a half cups of plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarb
  • 300g of chopped pecans
  • half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 400g tin of sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 bananas, ripe (2 of mine came from the freezer, which made them easy to mash)
  • 250g melted butter
  • NO Sugar! That's not a typo, there is enough sugar in the condensed milk.


  • In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, bicarb, pecans and cinnamon.
  • Melt the butter in the microwave, then combine with the sweetened condensed milk and 2 of the bananas (mash them first).
  • Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stir well. Pour into a lined baking dish or tin (I used a 20cm x 30cm Pyrex dish, but it doesn't matter)
  • Slice the remaining 2 bananas length ways and lay across the top. If you like, sprinkle the top with a bit of raw sugar, this is entirely optional but it does give a nice crunch.
  • Bake in a medium oven for about 45 minutes. 

I like that this recipe can be versatile. Take out the bananas and nuts and replace with grated lemon rind and poppy seeds, or a cup of desiccated coconut and a cup of raspberries or blueberries, or half a cup of cocoa powder. Very handy to know if you are cooking for someone allergic to eggs! Also delicious if you don't have an egg allergy.

Do you cook for someone with an allergy? What sort of foods do you cook? Any hot tips for a mum with an allergy kid?


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

5 great tips for managing your time.

Like lots of people, I have a lot of things to do and not a lot of time to do them in. I find it easy to be swept up in enormous plans to take over the world, but then don't have the actual time to do that. Bummer! Reminding myself of these tips alleviates a bit of the crushing dissapointment of realising I'm not superwoman, and gives me some direction on moving forward, so I thought I'd share them with you. Hope you like them! First lets take a few cleansing breathes and look at the nice blue ocean. Better? OK then! Lets go.

Be realistic with my to-do list(s)

Good God I love a list! Sometimes it's tempting to put everything - every little thing - on my to do list. But is this productive? NO. I find it really disheartening to look at a list knowing I'm never going to tick everything off. There is no need to set yourself up for feeling like a failure, so take another look at that list and be realistic. Things that are major projects deserve their own list, with time-lined action plans, so scoot them off to a different list. Some things might need to be crossed completely off - if that goal is no longer valid and there is no point in doing it, why give it space on a list? Put a line through that baby and cross it off! How good does it feel to get rid of it completely?! I have a few lists going at any one time, and although that sounds confusing, (and suspiciously like someone who needs to be in List Makers Anonymous) it's actually simplified things a lot. I have a daily list that goes in my diary, for things that must be done today. I have a monthly list in a separate notepad of things that I'd like to do this month, but it's not necessarily life threatening if I don't. Then I have separate lists with headings like Blog, Business, House, Garden, that hold the things that I absolutely plan on doing at some stage, but they haven't quite made it to the level of monthly or daily urgency. Is this too many lists? NO! I like it a lot, it works for me, and it's fantastic to clarify your thoughts and off load niggly things out of your head. Of course, the danger is that you spend so much time on your list making that there is no time to do anything, but in reality, investing a bit of time into getting organised is worth it in the long run. Think of it as a nod to mental clarity.

Be realistic with my time.

Everyone is only given 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week. Everyone! Sometimes I hear someone say that they will 'make time' to do something, and you know what? They can't! They DO NOT have a magical time machine that creates hours for them! NO ONE can make time. The only thing you can do is manage it the best you can. I look at my diary (I like an old school paper one I carry around, you might like a digital version. It doesn't matter, as long as you use something) and block out the time that is not negotiable. Exercise, study, work, volunteering, childrens sport, any other commitments should go in. I probably won't forget them, but putting them in black and white makes me accountable for the time that I have, and then I'm much less likely to waste time disappearing down rabbit holes like facebook . It should be really apparent that the time I do have left over needs to be managed well to fit in all the things I want to achieve. There isn't likely to be much time, so whatever you have is precious. It's OK to be selective about what you do with it, and it's OK to say no to other people trying to take it. Guard your time.

Cut myself some slack.

All this talk about making every minute count tends to make me feel guilty for time spent lolly gagging around, but that time is actually really important for my soul, and needs to be scheduled in so that nothing takes it's place. If it feeds your spirit to grab a paintbrush or a box of crayons with no planned outcome, or walk on the beach at whatever pace the ocean allows, or wander through some shops with no agenda, then you must do it. This time is an investment in you, your inner calm and your core of strength. If I think back to the times I didn't allow myself to do this stuff, I remember that those where the times I depleted my inner stores and ran on empty so long I could hardly get out of bed in the morning. Setting objectives and achieving goals is important, but remember to fill your own tank. No one can run on empty, and it's false economy to think you can. Be kind to yourself.

Set goals

A goal is a specific thing you want to achieve, and you need to make a plan for how you are going to achieve it. This is where most new years resolutions come unstuck, there is no plan for how to get it done, just a wish thrown drunkenly to the moon at midnight. (I love the woo, but this approach doesn't even work for me!) I can visualize all I want, but a wish is not the same as doing the work. Break the goal down into actionable steps that you can do every day or week to achieve your outcome. A generic 'get fitter' goal is unlikely to be successful, but a 'Walk every day for 30 minutes' goal is great. Allocate that time in your diary so it gets done. Are there any resources that you need to gather? (walking shoes, exercise clothes) Is there any information you need to achieve your goal? (local walking tracks?) Are there people you need to give you a helping hand? (a local walking group, a personal trainer?) Great, add all of those things to your diary, and set aside time to get them organised. Remember to be realistic about how much time you can devote to your goal - 30 minutes walking a day is great, but 2 hours is probably not great - for your time management or your legs.

Multitasking, is it for you? 

I would say no, it is not. It's certainly not for me. Sure, there are some things you can do successfully at the same time; folding laundry, drinking wine and watching TV seem to go really well together, but then none of those things take a lot of brain power by themselves, so it's easy to combine them. It's up to you to choose what you multitask, my experience is that if I set aside a specific time to do something and devote all of my attention to it, then I have a better chance of completing it and being happy with the outcome. Cooking the dinner and helping the children with the homework? OK, most of the time. Cruising through facebook while working on a deadline? Nope, that is a complete waste of time - I'm better off scheduling time for the work, then scheduling time for social media shenanigans.

What do you think of these 5 tips? Do you think they will be useful to you? What is your best tip for managing time? Do you have a plan to take over the world and do you wish you where superwoman?


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