Latest MAC Palettes

MAC Palettes

I know I wrote about amazing makeup palettes last month – and I try my best to diversify – but I couldn’t help licking my lips over the latest range of goodies from MAC.

They’re gorgeous! I especially love the packaging. So indulgent!

Anyway, I’m ALWAYS on the look out for absolutely beautiful, dazzling, quirky, unique, clever, tasty, or eco-friendly products you can buy on the internet, or even great online shops – jewellery, clothes, beauty products, designed goods, anything!

If you have any suggestions, please please please email me and let me know!

How To Take A Great Photo!

Last week I introduced the topic How Busy People Take Great Photos and how you don’t need an expensive professional camera to get outstanding results.

This week I’ve written up some tips to help turn an average photo into a great photo!

1) Get in close to the object – fill the picture with the object, play with the camera’s macro setting.

Example 1

Example 1 : During our recent camping holiday, we stopped by the side of the road to take a picture of a termite hill. It was bigger than I was! It was huge!

In the left photo, I stood some way back and took a standard profile photo of it. Very plain. In the right photo, I’ve gone right up to the object and stooped down low, resulting in a more dramatic photo. I also wanted to bring out the texture of the mound, so I made sure the sun shone at an angle that allowed the lumps to cast shadows.

2) Lighting – as a general rule, natural diffused lighting is always best. Look at how the way the light falls on the object carefully in order use it to your best advantage. Try not to use the flash. I wrote about turning off the flash here.

Example 2

Example 2 : Left photo with flash – harsh shadows, too bright and lots of glare. Right without flash – crisp and natural image.

3) Composition – Try interesting angles, don’t always put your object in the centre, add some depth, be mindful of how your eye will move through the image.

Example 3

Example 3 : Again, during our holiday, we stopped to take a picture of this amusing road sign.

In the left photo, although the subject fills the whole frame, it looks very plain. In the right photo, I put the main subject in the bottom left of the frame and added depth by including the striking perspective of the long straight road.

4) Focus on the essence of the object / story – whether it’s the texture, or the strange form, or the eyes, choose one and run with it.

5) Design your photo – Before you take the snap, try rearranging some objects, change the background, add props, or change the position to change the shadow and light.

Example 4 and 5

Example 4 & 5 : The other day, I wrote about Sean’s New Bike and wanted to take a picture for my post.

It was a very sunny day, and after taking a few photos of the bike – by itself – I realised that a boring photo of a bike won’t actually ADD anything to my story. Plus the sunlight was too strong, making lots of distracting shadows, and the colour of the bike got lost against the green grass and the pattern of the brick paving.

So I brought the bike to the deep shade (ie: indirect, diffuse lighting) of my gazebo, set the bike up against a light and plain coloured insect screen, and sat my smiling son on top of it! Although only half the bike appears in the photo, I believe the photo focuses much more on the essence of the image and narrative.

6) Know When To Stop – Sometimes too much changing, experimenting and playing with this and that, can distract you from the essence of the image and make it look fake or staged, rather than capture the natural beauty of the moment. Plus it take a lot of time.

In my experience, I’ve often found that my first or second photographs were the ones I end up choosing, even if I took a hundred snaps!

Tips for a Stay At Home Mum – How To Stay Sane!

I get lots of emails asking me –
You’re a mother, how do you cope with it all?
I’m expecting my first child… any advice for a first time mother?
Don’t you get bored being a stay at home mother?
How do you make it all work?
How do you keep such a balanced life?
And what do you DO ALL DAY?

I decided to write up a list of all the stuff that I do to keep my life balanced and sane. Most are painfully obvious, but a list is a list, and I do actually stick to every single one of them!

1. Get a hobby. Something to dabble with for one hour a day. Blogging. Reading. Stitching. Gardening. Something easy to pick up and put down. Do some night classes. Don’t let your brain turn into mush!

2. Keep like-minded friends. I believe you need to regularly hang out with people with the same values on parenting and life interests.

3. Join a mother’s group. There’s nothing like being able to bounce the intricate details of child rearing off other mothers who are going through exactly the same thing.

4. Create a routine. I keep to a weekly routine which I try to balance with varied activities, for myself and for the kids.

5. Break the routine! Don’t be afraid to drop the routine everyone once and a while. When things get tough, don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t be so rigid all the time. Relax!

6. Keep a full schedule. I know it sounds weird, but I even need to schedule in playtime. My worst days come about when I’m feeling unmotivated to organise a playdate or activity. I end up letting the kids dictate what to do and… it ALWAYS goes bad.

7. Find some alone time, weekly. This is an absolute must. Organise to have someone look after the kids – husband, grandparents, neighbour, a paid babysitter. Go shopping. Sit in a cafe. Get your hair done. Meet up with girlfriends. Anything that doesn’t involve kids.

8. Find alone time with your partner, weekly! This is another absolute must. Organise to have someone look after the kids for a couple of hours – grandparents, neighbour, a paid babysitter. Take a walk. Sit in a cafe. Go out to dinner. Watch a movie. Look into their eyes, and remember why you decided to have kids with this person in the first place.

9. Be active. Get out of the house at least once a day. Kick a ball around. Ride bikes. Water the garden. We get the boys out of the house just before dinner, to get the energy out of them!

10. Be a proactive mother. Teach, talk, sing, dance, cook, play with your kids!

11. Balance and vary children’s activities throughout the week. From a concentration activity (like puzzles, reading) to active outdoor activities, to creative activities (craft), to imagination play (dress up), to construction (lego, blocks), to helping mum (cooking, baking, tidying). The list is endless!

12. Look for things to do in your community. Find cool parks, cafes, playgrounds, play-gyms, book libraries, toy libraries, kid’s art classes, story telling time.

13. Don’t be too fussy about having a clean house! The only chore I’m particularly anal about is having a clean floor – I sweep my dining room and kitchen 3 times a day. The rest I’m really relaxed about, if there are 2 days worth of dishes on the sink and I’m feeling tired, meh, they’ll get done soon enough.

14. Look after yourself! Exercise, keep up your dental and hair appointments, buy new clothes. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of dressing sloppy when you go out. But it’s so surprising what something so simple – like new underwear – can make you feel!!

15. Find a regular babysitter! I strongly believe that this is a worthy investment. Find someone who can regularly babysit the kids one evening of the week. It’ll force you and your partner to actually plan ahead to meet up with friends, or book tickets to a play, or just spend the time walking in your favourite places.

16. Invest in outdoor toys! Sandpit, tricycles, water buckets, balls, basketball ring. We’ve found that there’s something about the outdoors that soothes and unwinds the kids.

17. Invest in age appropriate DVDs! I always thought I’d be the super conservative parent, who only lets my kids watch very little or no TV at all. But ah, the reality is that they simply love watching children’s TV programmes, so I let them have about 30 minutes to an hour each day. It gives me just enough time for to brush my teeth and change in the morning!

What do you do to keep things sane? Let me know, and I might add it to the list!

How Busy People Take Great Photos

Lots of people email me to ask, how do I take my photos? What kind of camera do I have?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some techniques I use for getting great images, and also tips and tricks in Photoshop to enhance dull photos.

If you have any more photography questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them in my upcoming posts.

Firstly. I do have a professional design background, and having an indepth understanding of photography is part of the job – so I know about lighting, shutter speeds, apertures, composition etc. That helps a lot.

But, I’m also a mother – a busy one! Everyday I rush about here and there, carting around two boys, so I don’t have enough room in the pram for expensive, bulky camera gear, lens and tripods, not to mention time, or extra energy or brain space. When I’m too busy to take photos, I call www.graceandknots.com to take professional photos of me and my family.

So how do I go about getting cool shots that defines THAT beautiful moment?

I’ve had to come up with various photography methods that work for me.

1) Find a camera that works for you!

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on pro camera gear and gadgets. I use a cheap, simple, compact camera, and carry it everywhere. So when the mood takes me, or a magic moment happens, the camera is there. If you’re looking for the best battery at cheapest price, CR2032 battery is your best choice.

I currently own a Canon Powershot A700 which I throw into the bottom of the nappy bag. It rattles around with the water bottles, sun cream and sandwiches. It does get bashed around a bit, so owning an expensive pro camera is completely out of the question for me.

It’s also nice and compact, so when I’m out at a party I can pop it into my handbag.

The previous camera I had was a Canon Powershot S45 – but it mysteriously stopped working one day. The repair guy said that it had been “subject to wet conditions” so I presume my kids must have spilled something on it. The repair bill was more than a new camera.

My current camera was 6 weeks old, when I smashed the front of the lens casing. But it still takes pictures and it works just fine!

2) Turn off the Flash!

This is my number one tip for good looking photos. Most flashed photos produce a stark, over-bright, red-eyed, dark-background look.

I recommend going with natural, diffuse lighting. Pro photographers spend a lot of time getting strong diffuse light. Of course, when I’m out and about, I don’t have a strong diffuse light, so my images may blur a little.

For example – this is one of my favourite photos.

It was an overcast day (producing a nice diffuse light). I was panning the camera with the boys on the bike, so they are quite sharp, but Callum’s legs are blurred, as is the background. But it works, because you get a great sense of speed, and the effort Callum’s making. Flash would have ruined the moment.

This is a more recent photo.

I simply passed the camera (with flash already turned off) to my friend, with clear instructions “TRY not to move when you press the button!” Plus we stood very still.

Since the flash wasn’t set, the camera shutter had to be open for a long time. So the people moving past ARE blurry, and we were not. It has a nice soft light, and a cool effect in the background. This would have been a very ordinary picture with flash. It doesn’t always work, but I love the results overall.

To be continued…

I’ll be writing more about How To Take Great Photos – The Basics of Photography and Photoshop Tips and Tricks, and more! If you’re looking for a great maternity photographer, I highly suggest that you check out Jasmine Marshall Newborn Photography.

Icy Poles

Icy PolesWith summer around the corner and the warm weather on it’s way, I like to throw the kids outside with some homemade icy poles.

They are always such a hit! Usually I use unsweetened fruit juice or fruit yoghurt or if I’m feeling particularly energetic, I’ll make up some Berry Smoothie to freeze.

This time I used a spoonful of peach + mango fruit compote, vanilla yoghurt and blackberry juice – using all the unsweetened and natural varieties.

It’s better than ice cream!