Photo Book Embellishments: Learn the Basics

For those of us dabbling in the occasional Photo Book project, Embellishments seem like a new concept. In truth, Embellishments — those little designs and letters you can add into your book — are not much different than the buttons, brads, photo corners and colored tape we once added to homemade scrapbooks. (So addictive, remember?) If you still need an introduction to digital Embellishments, we’ll happily break it down for you in super-simple terms. Read on …

What are Embellishments?

Photo by Walgreens launched the Embellishments function this past spring. Embellishments are pre-designed shapes, labels, frames, sayings and doodles you can add to your Photo Book. They allow you to further personalize your story with graphic elements ranging in theme from wedding and family to Spring and Halloween.

Are Embellishments easy to use?

You don’t need to be a professional graphic artist to customize your book with Embellishments. (Whew.) But a few simple guidelines will help you streamline the process. Start by culling through and choosing your Embellishments in the style or colors of your book — sort of like an artist picks out a color palette before beginning a painting. To choose your Photo by Walgreens Embellishments, go to the Personalize Book function; click “get more” to add Embellishments to the left menu. If you change your mind, you can always add additional Embellishments at any time.

What do Embellishments look like?

Photo by Walgreens’ Embellishments print in the same high-resolution quality as your photographs. So they appear bright, crisp and seamlessly integrated on a page. You can place Embellishments to the side of your photos, on top of your photos or even partially behind them to create a layered effect. You can also rotate, resize, move and align Embellishments until you get the desired effect.

 

Can you show me an example?

Sure! Above you’ll find a page from a family history Photo Book and some of our favorite Embellishments. For more inspiration, check out these ideas for travel Photo Books and seasonal Photo Books.

Have any tips for Photo Books? Tell us!

 

Share Life’s Happy,

Madeline

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Four Ultimate Poses for Fun Family Photos

Family photo shoots are a great way to capture your life each year. More than just the customary group shot on Christmas or Thanksgiving, photo shoots are a way to create fun family photos that look more professional and capture everyone at their best. They become special family events of their own, and produce photos that are perfect for hanging over the mantelpiece or the wall along the stairs.

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But family photo shoots don’t have to be boring or traditional. Here are four unique poses for fun family photos:

The Anti-Pose

Sometimes the best pose isn’t a pose at all. The warmest, most genuine photos show families interacting with one another naturally, so relax and smile at each other instead of the camera. Give your spouse a hug. Tickle the kids. It may take longer to get the shot, but the result will be that much more memorable.

Lying Down

How much do you admire the shapes your child’s school marching band can make on the field at halftime?

Though not the quickest or easiest of arrangements, the result is fantastic. For this more calculated shot, get the family lying down in a circle with everyone’s head pointing toward the center. Then pull out the ladder and capture the star they make from your view at a higher height. Out of the house? Get everyone lying together on a picnic blanket, and snap the photo from directly overhead.

Taking a Walk

Stiff standing poses take all the fun out of family photos. Try snapping the picture while in motion — it’s a great way to keep the family looking natural. In a location with great scenery, have the group walk toward the camera. Let your child swing between the arms of two other family members, or sit on Dad’s shoulders for a goofier shot. For a more artistic version, capture the family as they walk away from the camera and toward the sun; this will create a silhouetted image.

The Jump Shot

A quick look at Facebook indicates that the jump shot is seriously trending among social photographers. Whether it’s under a basketball hoop or off a diving board, timing is everything, so don’t attempt it with kids too young to jump on cue. Figure out what everyone will do in advance, so it doesn’t look messy. Then: “One, two, three, jump!”

The warm weather is full of inspiration, so get out there and try something new!

Share Life’s Happy,

Suzanne

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Image source: Flickr

Lighten Up: When to Use Artificial Light for Photos

Light is what makes photography possible. Digital camera sensors, like film before them, create an image by recording the differing amounts of light reflected off the subject. Nature has been kind enough to provide a great source of light — the sun — but sometimes it just isn’t enough or creates awkward shadows. It is important in those situations to know how and when to use artificial light for your photos.

Knowing when to use artificial light in your photographs can make the difference between a snapshot and professional-looking results.

When There Isn’t Enough Light

The most obvious reason to use artificial light is because there isn’t enough available light to get the photo you want. Low light can result in a number of consequences. For example, if the light level is too low, your camera’s shutter speed may become so slow that moving subjects appear blurry; blur from camera shake can also be a problem. Your camera may try to compensate for the lack of light by increasing the ISO, or sensitivity, but this can result in noisy or grainy images. Finally, it may just be so dark that the camera is unable to capture an image at all.

Avoid Harsh Shadows

Sometimes it’s a good idea to use artificial light even when there’s more than enough available light to take the photograph. Often, when photographing people outdoors, direct sun can leave harsh, unflattering shadows on one side of the face or under the eyes and nose. They won’t produce the sort of results you’d want to use for family portraits or Photo Cards that you plan to send to family and friends. Adding a little light by using a flash, reflector or any other light source can soften those shadows for more pleasant portraits.

Take Control of Your Light

With some experience, you can use artificial light to take total control of your exposures. For instance, you can avoid pale, blown-out skies by setting your camera to expose for the sky and the flash to expose your subject correctly. You can use artificial light to create dramatic shadows on and around your subject. You can even use a flashlight or other handheld light source to “paint” with light at night or in a darkened room. Once you have the basics down, only your creativity will limit what you can do with artificial light in your photography.

Share Life’s Happy,

Andy Warycka

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Image source: Andy Warycka

Four Tips for Better Beach Photos

There’s nothing like a day at the beach. The combination of water, sun and fun means you can capture some great photos of friends and family. Here are four tips that will help you take your beach photos to the next level.

1. Use Early Morning or Late Evening Light

During the middle of the day, the direct sunlight can affect the quality of your images. However, if you shoot your pictures in the golden hour, you’ll capture great natural light that will add a softness to your photos. The golden hour is that period in the early morning (just after sunrise) and early evening (two or three hours before sunset) when the sun is traveling through the atmosphere at a much lower angle, meaning the light isn’t as harsh. You’ll be treated to much more vivid colors, and you won’t get that washed-out effect from direct sunlight. Shooting during these periods also gives you a chance to play with the long shadows cast by palm trees, sand dunes and rocks.

Waves breaking on the sand

2. Don’t Shoot the Horizon Straight On

It’s tempting to point your camera directly at the ocean, but the problem with shooting the horizon is that you rarely get a straight view. It’s also such a standard photo look that it’s becoming boring, particularly when all you’re showing is sand and water. Instead, try shooting the shoreline at an angle to capture the majesty of the waves breaking on the sand. Experiment with interesting and different compositions to capture that fabulous photo that will look especially great when showcased on a Canvas Print.

3. Use Flash to Eliminate Shadows

When you’re shooting people on the beach, use a flash. It may seem odd to use a flash in full sunlight, but the “fill flash” effect will eliminate face-obscuring shadows and ensure the smiles you capture come out bright and clear. This is helpful when the people you’re photographing are wearing caps and hats, or are in the shade of an umbrella or beach tent.

4. Use a Tripod and Leveler

It’s hard to get a steady shot when you’re standing on the sand, especially if you’re on a dune or rock formation. Using a tripod with a leveler will help you capture steady shots no matter what the terrain is like. Even if you’re just using your phone’s camera, there are plenty of inexpensive tripod options available.

You don’t need to be a professional to take great beach photos. Use these simple tips to capture some beautiful images during your next trip to the ocean.

Share Life’s Happy,

Amanda Kondolojy

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Image source: Flickr

How to Make Sun Prints in Your Backyard

You don’t need a camera to make pictures this summer. Head outside, harness the power of nature and highlight objects found in the yard with some artistic sun prints.

Sun print

These papers are coated in a special film that reacts to UV light, according to UC Berkeley. Because there are no chemicals or expensive photography gear involved, the kids can help, too. Let’s get crafty.

1. Collect Nature Objects

Look for leaves, blooms, grasses and other items that have an intriguing shape. The best choices lie flat and have a lot of detail. For example, try holly leaves with rough edges or a flower blossom complete with petals, stamen, pistil and stalk.

2. Prepare a Rinse

Fill a shallow baking pan with cool water and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. You will dip each print in this solution to set the images, similar to the method for developing photographic prints in a darkroom.

3. Set Up a Work Station

Lay a flat piece of sturdy cardboard on an even surface outside in direct sunlight. Use a few rocks to secure the corners if there’s a breeze. This will be where you create the prints.

4. Prepare the Paper

Use light sensitive sun print paper from a craft or hobby shop. This is different from darkroom printing paper for photos. Open the outer package, then open the inner resealable plastic bag containing the paper. Don’t let the paper get exposed to direct sunlight until you’re ready to make your first print.

5. Make a Picture

Remove one sheet of the light sensitive paper from the pouch. Reseal the package. Place the paper with the blue side facing up on the cardboard. Quickly — in just a few seconds — lay the nature objects onto the paper. Cover the items with a piece of clear plastic or glass. Most packages of sun print paper include a piece of heavy, clean plastic to use for this purpose.

6. Expose the Sun Print

The sun creates the image in a minute or two. To your kids, it looks like magic. When the paper turns very light blue, almost white, the print is ready to move. Remove the plastic and nature objects, and quickly submerge the paper in the rinse. Let the print sit for one minute, then remove the paper and place it on a towel to air dry.

7. Flatten the Artwork

After the print is dry, remove the wrinkles by placing it in a protective clear sleeve and flattening it beneath a heavy book for a few hours. Then, let your creativity go wild. You can work with the image much like a photograph.

Have you ever made sun prints? What objects did you expose? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Share Life’s Happy,
Angela Tague

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Photo Source: Angela Tague

12 Days of Summer Instagram Sweepstakes  #HHSummerSweeps

We’re celebrating Summer 2014 with our Instagram fans by hosting 12 days of photo challenges starting on July 28 and running through August 9. Everyone who participates will have a chance to win a daily prize. On the last day of the contest, we will also choose three Instagram fans to win our grand prizes!

Intro

 

How to Enter

Your challenge is to post a photo using the hashtag #HHSummerSweeps based on the day’s theme, shown below. Each theme is open to your interpretation, so let’s see your creativity shine!

7/28 – Summer Fruits

7/29 – Music

7/30 – Summer Fun

7/31 – Something Pink

8/1 – Summer Sun

8/2 – Treat

8/3 – Splash

8/4 – Something Yellow

8/5 – Workout

8/6 – Summer Selfie

8/7 – Smile

8/8 – Summer Style

Each day of the contest, we will review all the photos that are submitted using hashtag #HHSummerSweeps and choose our favorite. We’ll announce each day’s winner and notify them via direct message on Instagram. The winners will receive free photo prints to best capture their summer memories—and also see their photos shared on the Walgreens Instagram page!

On the last day of the contest, we will choose three grand-prize winners. Each will have a chance at a $250, $50 or $25 gift card from Walgreens! We’ll direct message winners and announce their photos on the Walgreens Instagram page.

Remember to use the hashtag #HHSummerSweeps and participate as often as you can. We’re excited to see your best pics of summer on Instagram!

Click here for official contest rules.

How to Take Fantastic Flower Photos

Flowers are a popular photo subject because they’re inherently pretty, and they’re easy to make look beautiful in a photo. If you’re looking to take your flower photos to the next level and turn them into works of art for your wall, check out these eight tips for fabulous flower photos.

Turn flowers into art with these tips for fantastic flower photos.

  • Get close: Flowers have lots of interesting, intricate details that you aren’t going to see unless you get up close and personal. Use your camera’s macro setting, if it has one, or combine zooming in with getting as physically close as you can.
  • Use a tripod: When you’re zoomed in all the way or extremely close to the flower, the slightest movement may cause blur or adversely affect your composition. Use a tripod or other support for crisper flower photos.
  • Crop creatively: Keep the rule of thirds in mind — you don’t have to center everything in the middle of the frame. Use petals as leading lines to invite the viewer’s eye to move across the photo or to create interesting negative space.
  • Focus selectively: Get close to the flower and use a large aperture to create a very shallow depth of field and focus on one small part of the bloom. The rest will become a beautifully abstracted blur, which lets the viewer concentrate on the portion that’s in focus.
  • Let your light shine: Sunlight is the best light source, but it isn’t always shining in the direction you’d like. Use your flash or a reflector to fill in shadows. A reflector can be as simple and cheap as a sheet of white poster board, or use gold to add warmth to the photo. Reflectors can also double as a windbreak, keeping the flower from blowing around.
  • Boost saturation: Flowers are colorful things, so show off that color. Increase the color saturation either by changing your camera’s saturation setting or by using a photo editing program on your computer after you’ve taken the shot.
  • Try black and white: On the opposite end of the spectrum, try something different: Convert your flower photos to black and white and let the shapes, lines and forms showcase their beauty without the distraction of color.
  • Add dew drops: Professional photographers don’t wait for that perfect morning dew to shoot flowers; they make their own. Bring a spray bottle filled with water and spray it on the petals to create perfect dew drops any time of day. For bigger drops, mix a little glycerin with the water.

Almost any of these tips can be combined together to make spectacular images and even better one-of-a-kind wall decor. Try a close crop with selective focus and boosted saturation for a knockout abstract image. You are limited only by your own creativity. Before you know it, you will be the envy of all your green-thumbed friends.

Share Life’s Happy,

Andy Warycka

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Image source: Andy Warycka

Your Child’s First Camera

To a new parent, there’s no such thing as too many family pictures. Every moment is a photo opportunity. But every parent also knows that kids are copycats, and eventually they’ll want to start taking their own pictures. So, when should you give them their first camera?

Luckily, good cameras are no longer major expensive purchases. There are plenty of options out there for parents who want to introduce their children to the world of photography.

Giving your child a camera could start him on a fantastic creative career.

Smart Photos

For many kids today, their first camera actually comes attached to a much more significant first: a mobile phone. Even the most rudimentary handset features a small digital camera, and it is something kids will inevitably play with. Smartphones are especially helpful in this regard because they will also come with in-camera editing features that let your kids crop, recolor and fix problems such as red eye. If your child is too young for her own phone, let her use yours. Mobile cameras are a great way to get kids excited about photography’s potential, and they allow them to spend time practicing.

Budget Cameras

If your child is showing more than a passing interest in photography, you can start them out with an inexpensive budget camera. These disposable cameras have limited capabilities, but they’re cheap enough that it doesn’t matter if your son drops it in the river (trying to get a photo of a passing fish). Their real purpose is to develop your child’s interest and skill level, and prepare them for the responsibility of owning a camera.

High-Quality Cameras

If your kids show a persistent interest in photography, with the ability to care for sensitive equipment, they may be ready for a “real” camera. Start with an ultra compact or even a waterproof camera with a wide range of options for the novice photographer. It should be small enough that it can fit into young hands, and little pockets and backpacks.

Higher-quality cameras, such as DSLRs, typically cater to users with advanced knowledge about photography. Before getting your kids this kind of equipment, you should enroll them in some basic photography classes.

What’s most important is ensuring that the cameras your children eventually use play on their interest in photography. Don’t stifle their interest with gadgets they’re not ready for. Don’t forget to let them choose their favorite images to develop as Prints that they can show to friends and family. No matter what you decide, promote the artform so they can find the right balance of encouragement and personal discovery.

Share Life’s Happy,

Joshua M. Patton

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Photo source: Flickr

Photographing Children: Not an easy feat, but worth it!

Wanting to photograph our dear, darling children and actually getting them to sit still long enough for a picture worthy of a Photo Card — well, sometimes our great ideas don’t match reality.

KidsLayout_July05_Layout

To pick up a few pointers (and an extra dose of patience), our crew here at “Snaps!” brought back professional baby and children’s photographer Sher Sussman. Earlier this month, Sher divulged her awesome tips for photographing babies. Now here are a few of her thoughts on conquering toddler and children photography …

On toddlers:
“Toddlers are hard; they might need warm-up time to get comfortable. Bring them to the studio space or the photo’s location beforehand to make them comfortable. Just don’t continuously talk about the shoot in the days leading up to it. It causes a pressure to perform.”

On older kids:
“Parents have high expectations of older kids, but they get tired of smiling after 15 minutes. Older kids look more natural in a comfortable environment — outside or lying on the bed in their room.”

On kids that won’t sit still:
“Let them run around! With high energy kids, use it to your advantage. I have them jump, run toward me, make crazy faces, and then I ask them to give me one serious expression. That’s always a good shot.”

On uncooperative kids:
“If they’re not cooperating, they’re testing you. Try reverse psychology — say ‘don’t show me your teeth!’ Or be silly with them so they feel more comfortable. Sit and talk to them, ask them a few questions. They become more calm, more pensive.”

On getting kids’ personality to shine:
“I talk to them about school or camp. Eventually they start telling me everything. I give them a little direction, but I prefer not to tell them anything.”

 

On lighting kids:
“You don’t want squinting or shadows on their faces. Here’s what you do: Shoot outside from shade and put sun behind you. Try to shoot before 10am or after 2pm — or even later in the summer. Both times of day are great. Morning light is nice and cool, and afternoon light warms skin tones.”

Share Life’s Happy,

Madeline

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Photo Props That Add Pop

Photo props are a great way to add a healthy dose of fun to your photos. It doesn’t have to be hard: There are loads of props that you probably already have around your home. Here are a several great choices to add some pizzazz to your snapshots.

Balloons

Balloons on a string add color and height (with the help of some helium) to photos. If you don’t have helium, a big pile of balloons on the floor still makes for a great seated shot. Use all one color for a more sophisticated look or many colors for a fun shot.

Empty Picture or Mirror Frame

Empty picture frames and mirror frames have been trending as photo props for wedding portraits, but they’re also great photo props that work for portraits of friends, couples, kids and families. The frame within a frame instantly adds a professional level of composition to the image. Pick a size that’s big enough for everyone to fit comfortably, but small enough that the whole group is close together. Be sure to make enough Prints for everyone in the shot.

Umbrellas

Rain should never ruin a photo. Just bring out colorful umbrellas and galoshes as photo props. Let your subjects splash in puddles, and get muddy and wet. You may need a shower afterwards, but the images will be amazing. You can bring umbrellas or parasols as props on a sunny day as well.

Umbrellas are a fun addition to your next photo

Anything That Spells Out a Message

Photos are a popular way to announce news on Facebook, such as “It’s a Boy” or “She Said Yes.” Instead of adding digital type, get creative with photo props. Blocks, handwritten signs and oversized letters are all creative ways to spell out a message. If there’s no news to report, consider spelling out a word like “Love” or “Friends.”

Your Kids’ Favorite Items

If you want to get a smile out of your kids, there’s no better way than integrating a favorite item into a photo of them, whether that’s a Batman cape, a doll, a stuffed animal or a princess crown. It puts them at ease in front of the camera and brings out their personality. You’ll also look back on those images and remember fondly the moment in your son or daughter’s childhood when he or she couldn’t leave the house without that particular item.

There are no limits when it comes to photo props. Just look around your home, see what catches your eye and get creative.

Share Life’s Happy,

Suzanne Klein

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Image source: Flickr