If you’ve ever wanted to improve your food photos (or any photos)

How to Improve your photos

I’ve been blogging for nearly seven years now.  I’m still not a great photographer, but I’ve come a long way.

(Most of this post focuses on food photography, but these basics are applicable to photographing any subject.)

Here’s one of the very first photos I took for the blog.  The recipe is still one of our favorites (I really need to shoot a new photo!).  The original photo probably wouldn’t convince you to try it.

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Now here’s a photo that I took more recently.  The recipe is based on the slow cooker version in the photo above, but it looks much more appetizing in this photo:

15 Minute Chicken Fiesta Skillet

 

I know others can take better photos.  But I try not to compare myself to others.

I want to see growth when I compare myself to myself – old work to new work.

Here are a few things I’ve done to improve my photography over the years:

1.  I learned to use my camera on manual mode.

After attempting to read the manual and learn on my own, I finally took a class to learn to use my Nikon D40 on manual mode.  The teacher got me up to speed quickly.  Much, much quicker than if I’d tried to do it on my own.

2.  I learned about lighting.

Good photographers are always chasing daylight.  In the beginning, I never did that.  I just shot the picture where I happened to be standing, usually at the kitchen counter under artificial light.

tripod photo

 

(photo above taken with iPhone and edited with PicTapGo)

Now I’ve learned a few tricks:

* I move the food near a window.  I’ve learned which places in my house have the best light.

* I use white foam core boards to bounce light on the subject.

* I use a tripod to keep the camera steady while shooting in lower light.

* I use special photography lights when I have to shoot in the winter.  There’s just no way for me to get enough light in the house during the darkest months of the year.

There are other things I’ve learned over the years, of course, but these are the things that have had the biggest impact on my photography.

I’d like to say that I never take a truly bad photo anymore, but that’s not the case.  I’m still learning.

In fact, I just took advantage of the chance to buy the Ultimate Photography Bundle.  It’s packed with 13 eBooks and 5 eCourses.  That will keep me learning for a long time!

I started with iPhone Only Photography, because that’s the camera I have with me most often.  I’ve already learned a few things that I didn’t know about the iPhone camera, in spite of the fact that I’ve been using an iPhone for years now.

(updated for iOS 8) iPhone Only Photography will teach you the three MOST IMPORTANT lessons to get UHHHMAAZZZZING photos every time with your iPhone: 1. How to take manual control of your iPhone camera. 2. How to create strong composition.  3. How to edit to recreate the feelings you felt when you took the photo.  Also you’ll get specialized teaching and tutorials for portraits, food photography, night shooting, landscapes, concert photography, and panoramas.

(updated for iOS 8) iPhone Only Photography will teach you the three MOST IMPORTANT lessons to get UHHHMAAZZZZING photos every time with your iPhone:
1. How to take manual control of your iPhone camera.
2. How to create strong composition.
3. How to edit to recreate the feelings you felt when you took the photo.
Also you’ll get specialized teaching and tutorials for portraits, food photography, night shooting, landscapes, concert photography, and panoramas.

I’m also looking forward to diving into Eat Pretty Things and Tasty Food Photography, so I can gather tips I can use here on the blog.

EatPrettyThings

Tasty Food Photography February 10 2015

And The Unexpected Everyday eBook looks great for capturing images of my family’s everyday life.
TheUnexpectedEveryday

The Photography Master Class: Your Complete Guide to Photography eCourse sounds like it will cover it all, and in a video format too.

This is an amazing deal at just $37.  The bundle is only available for a week, June 22-29.  The Photography Master Class alone is worth $199.

I’m excited to improve not just my food photos, but also photos of my family too.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

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Weekend Links – Fun things to read and listen to

It’s been forever since I’ve shared a weekend links post with you. The end of the school year is always a little crazy and these posts went on the back burner for a while. Now school is over and we’ve been to the beach for vacation and I’m feeling refreshed!

Here are some things that have caught my attention lately:

Happy Listening

PodcastHappierLogo

I’m back to taking morning walks.  I always listen to a podcast while I walk and my current favorite is Happier.   It’s a fun listen with lots of interesting info that can be applied to make your life happier.

Fun Reading

I’ve also started reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better than Before.  Her insights into personal tendencies and how those affect our habit making and breaking are really useful.

summer-reading-guide-cover

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s latest Summer Reading Guide came out a few weeks ago.  I’ve got several of her picks on my reading list, but I hit the beach with Love Walked In.  It’s got lots of old movie references, which was fun.    The story was breezy, but still had substance.

Better Photos

Speaking of the beach, I didn’t take one, single photo.  These days, most of my photos (other than food photos) are taken with my phone.  For vacation, I just wanted to put my phone down and not be tempted to check email or Facebook or blog stuff.  It made me wish I had a small point and shoot camera, because I now regret that I have no photos of our time together.

I love this free resource for learning to take great family photos.  It will help you capture everyday moments and special times with your family.  A lot of taking great photos is just being mindful of picking up the camera and learning to really see and notice the moments happening around you.  Guides like this one help us do that.

Good Watching

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My youngest daughter and I blew through the first season of When Calls the Heart.  We’re anxiously waiting the second season to be added to Netflix.

510H87W38RLOne of my very favorite movies is on Netflix right now.  Of course, I had to watch it again.  The book is better, but the movie is fantastic too.

Just for Fun

My parents shared this video with me a few weeks ago.  It’s a fun watch and it introduced me to some new music too.  Dustbowl Revival is now a station on my iTunes radio.  Good stuff!

I hope you’re enjoying summer!  What fun reads, watches and listens have you been enjoying?

This post contains affiliate links.

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22 Ways to Expand your Easter Menu

easter

I love Easter. Spring has finally arrived, and it’s a special day I get to celebrate with family–and good food of course! Easter dinner is so special for us, and I love having a table filled with a feast of good food! But sometimes planning an Easter Menu can feel complicated. Or sometimes I just want a fresh twist on the classic Easter Dinner ingredients to change things up a bit.

If you are looking for some ways to change up the usual Easter fare a little, or just need some good ideas to expand and round out your Easter Menu, I’ve got 22 easy recipes that are the perfect addition to any Easter Meal. From some main course ideas, to sides and some desserts, hopefully these recipes will give you some new inspiration as you plan your Easter Meals this year. And because you know I’m all about easy cooking, none of these recipes are super complicated or overly time consuming. But they are all delicious! Plus, if you end up with too much left over ham on Monday, two of the ham dishes are perfect for turning leftovers into some great dinners.   [Read more…]

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Eat at Home Reader Survey and $100 Amazon Card Giveaway

Reader Survey

I’ve been sharing recipes with you here on Eat at Home for over 6 years.  It’s important to me that the recipes and cooking tips and other blog posts you read here meet your needs.

To make sure that we’re delivering what you want, I do a couple of things.  I read every comment that gets left on the blog.  I read (and try to respond) to every email that I get.  I pay attention to the conversation that takes place on the Facebook page.  All of that gives me a better idea of what you find helpful.

Reader surveys are another way for me to get to know you and your needs better.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to fill out the survey today.  As a thank you there’s a chance at a $100 Amazon card in it for you.  The survey is only 12 questions and should take just 5-10 minutes to complete.

We’ll be back to recipes tomorrow and I’ve got some great recipes to share this week – Easter recipes, a new Ham and Asparagus Quiche recipe, Pineapple Dump Cake and a quick, easy, and healthy side dish idea!

Here’s the link to the survey.  A BIG thank you for helping me out!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/EatAtHomeReader2015

Giveaway will be one $100 Amazon card.  Winner will be chosen by random from the competed surveys and notified by email.

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A menu and shopping list for your wardrobe?

Have you ever heard the term “decision fatigue”? It’s a phrase used to describe the condition of a person after they’ve made a long series of decisions. After a whole day of deciding large and small things, we get tired. Our decisions become poorer. This is why we’re more likely to eat a whole bag of chips or a big bowl of ice cream in the evening, even when we’ve determined we’re going to eat healthy foods.

It also explains why we run through the drive thru instead of heading home to face what may or may not be in the pantry. Before we can cook, we have to decide what to make and often that’s one decision too many at the end of a long day.

I don’t like to shop, partly because of decision fatigue. Shopping involves too many decisions. Whether it’s for groceries or clothes, I just don’t care for it. Of course, it still needs to be done!

There are two ways to reduce decision fatigue in the area of shopping for clothes or food.  One is to eat and wear the same things.  Adopting a uniform or a rotating menu saves time and energy.

But sometimes you want to break out of the spaghetti, tacos, chicken casserole rut.  Both menus and wardrobes can use refreshing now and then.

I have learned that having meals all planned out and printing a grocery list ahead of time makes the whole process better. The shopping goes quicker. The decisions of what to fix at the end of a long day is taken care of. (For years I menu planned for my family so we could enjoy the benefits of it. Now I do it for you too.)

eah weekly meal plans 3

 

Like having a menu and grocery list – for your wardrobe!

I’m excited to tell you about a service I stumbled on last year. Through the rabbit trails of the internet, I found the website, Get Your Pretty On. My timing was great because Alison was just starting her very first Spring Fashion Challenge. I signed up and have since done her challenges for every season of the year, plus her Basic Wardrobe Challenge and the Men’s Challenge (great for having a list to shop for my husband).

Just like the Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans has everything planned out so you can hit the store knowing exactly what you need, Alison gives you a printable shopping list for seasonal clothing.

And just like Weekly Meal Plans gives you main dishes and sides to go with them for each day, Alison gives you outfit ideas combining the items on her shopping list.

You end up with 21 days of outfits. I save the outfit ideas to my Evernote and refer back to them all the time. In fact, our weather warmed up last week and I pulled out the ideas from last year’s Spring challenge to wear again.

Registration for this year’s Spring Style Challenge opens today.  Early bird registration (with its lower price of $29 ends on April 2).  Click here to register.

Why is it important to reduce decision fatigue?

Using a pre-planned service for clothes shopping or grocery shopping frees up valuable energy. That means more mind power to focus on helping one of my kids work through an issue. Or having the energy to plan family time together. Or even just to be fully present at the dinner table.

And it’s fun to get new ideas and try things I might not track down on my own.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I only share things with you that I truly love and that I think you will too.

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It’s Virtual Freezer Cooking Day!

Virtual Freezer Cooking Party

 

Pop in and visit us while you get some freezer cooking done.  We’ll be chatting on the Facebook event page all day today.

Even if you aren’t cooking today, feel free to pop in and gather recipe ideas.

And if you are cooking, we’d love to hear what you’re working on!

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Virtual Freezer Cooking Party on Facebook

Virtual Freezer Cooking Party

 

We’re having a party!  It’s the best kind of party too.  You don’t have to leave your house and you can join in while wearing pj’s.

Or maybe it’s just me that likes that kind of party.

The other thing about this party is that it gives you a chance to stock your freezer with all kinds of food to make dinner, breakfast, dessert and snacks easier.

Here are the important details:

  • When – February 21 Eastern.  I’ll be popping in and out all day.
  • Where – On the Eat at Home Facebook Event page and in your own kitchen.
  • What – Freezer cooking!  You choose any recipes you’d like to prep.  I’ll have plenty of ideas for you in posts next week.

We did this together several years ago and it was a lot of fun.  Everyone shared what they were making, asked questions, visited etc.

Look for posts next week on all things freezer cooking.  I’ll be sharing lots of freezable recipes.

In case you’d like to have grocery lists and plans done for you, we’re running a sale on 12 Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plans.  Click the image  below to find out more and use the code PARTY to save $2.

200 lp12 slow cooker freezer meal plans

 

And here’s the link to the Facebook event page.  Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

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Lemon Pepper Parmesan Peas (plus a Pyrex giveaway and ideas for dressing up canned vegetables)

Lemon Pepper Parmesan Peas

 

I’ve shared before that I often forget about side dishes until it’s nearly too late.  I’m a big fan of keeping the sides simple.

Canned veggies are one of my go-to sides, especially if I’m running short on time, which happens often!

Peas are one of our favorites.  I usually serve them with butter, salt and pepper.  But this time I decided to dress them up a bit.

Libbys Lemon Pepper Parmesan Peas ingr

Lemon Pepper Parmesan Peas (plus a Pyrex giveaway and ideas for dressing up canned vegetables)
Ingredients
  • 15 oz can Libby’s Sweet Peas
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1 Tbs. shaved Parmesan
Instructions
  1. Heat peas in small bowl in microwave for 1 - 2 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning and stir gently to blend.
  3. Top with shaved Parmesan.

 

 

Libbys canned vegetables

 

Libby’s vegetables make wonderful, quick side dishes.  Here are a few ideas for dressing up the veggies, while keeping things quick and simple:

  • Add herb seasoning to any variety of Libby’s vegetables
  • Sweeten Libby’s Sliced Carrots with a bit of honey.  Add a bit of butter too!
  • Top Libby’s Sliced White Potatoes with bacon bits and shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Add a little salsa to Libby’s Sweet Corn and serve with Mexican food.

There are all kinds of possibilities to make your quick side dishes stand out.

Giveaway!

Libby’s is giving away a variety of their vegetables, along with a glass 14 piece Pyrex Storage set to one reader of Eat at Home!

To enter, leave a comment answering this question:

What’s your favorite Libby’s vegetable and how would you season it?

Giveaway will be open until noon EST on February 17.  Winner will be notified by email.

You can find Libby’s on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 4.13.33 PM

 

Libbys_f&v80x80

 

Disclosure:  I have been compensated by Libby’s for my time, however all opinions are my own.

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How I’m Trying to Kick My Migraines – 1 Month Update

How

 

 

A month ago I shared with you how I’m trying to kick my migraines this year.  There was a huge response, so I’ve decided that I’ll do periodic updates.

As I said last month, I don’t know if I will be able to get rid of my migraines and headaches.  I don’t know if any of these ideas will work for someone else either. (Read all the way to the end so you don’t miss the irony of this…)

But I’m determined to try this year.

I do a lot of driving during the week.  One of the ways I pass the time is listening to podcasts.  And one of the podcasts I really like is Zig Ziglar.   Mr. Ziglar has passed away, but his son carries on the legacy.  In the podcasts they play an old clip of Zig Ziglar speaking and then discuss it.

One of the clips I’ve heard several times goes something like this:  Zig asks the audience if there’s anything they could do right now that would make their life worse in the next few weeks.  Of course, everyone laughs and raises their hand.  We can all think of things we can do that will make our life worse.

But then Zig tells the audience that whether they realize it or not, they just admitted that there are things they can do right now to make their life better.  Things that will make their relationships better.  Their jobs better.  Their health better.

That’s how I’m viewing my attempt at getting rid of my migraines.  I may not kick them forever.  But I can make active choices that will make me feel better.

And it’s working!

As I type this, I’ll tell you that I am fighting a migraine.  I’ve applied several essential oils (more on that below).  I’m hoping to avoid taking the big meds, but get this…

I went a week and a half with no headaches or migraines at all!

That is huge for me!

When I first started my efforts, I continued to battle headaches for several days each week.  But after about two weeks, those headaches were more easily managed.  I even got rid of one entirely just by using essential oils.   And then I was able to have 1 1/2 weeks pain free.

Here are the steps I’ve been taking and an update on how each one is going.  I’ve made a few tweaks to several.

1.  Going to bed on time

I’ve been doing pretty good with this, but I have pushed it the last few nights.  There have also been weekend nights that I stayed up later and it hasn’t caused me a headache.  I think the key is to regularly get enough sleep (and sleeping in to catch up doesn’t seem to work).  Then those occasional later nights aren’t such a problem.

No more pushing the bedtime for me. I think that’s a large reason why I’m battling the head pain now.

2. Yoga

Stay at Home Yoga

 

I’m still doing the poses for healthy neck and jaw that are part of the Stay at Home Yoga program.  (I’ve logged more than 40 days in a row so far.  My goal is at least 90 in a row.) I also do one of the classes or at least a few more poses each morning.  I’m really liking this program.  It’s gentle, but it works.  And I don’t dread it like other exercise programs.

3.  Essential Oils

peppermint and stress away

 

 

Peppermint and Stress Away are still my go-to oils for head pain.  I did order M-Grain, which is a special blend for migraines.  I use it but, I like the peppermint better.

I also ordered Valor to use for TMJ and clenching of my teeth.  I really like this oil.  I use it at night.  And I use it when I start to get a headache.  In fact, the thing that has worked best in using the oils for head pain is to use several of them at once.  Stress Away on my shoulders and neck. Valor on my jaws and back of neck. Peppermint and/or M-Grain behind ears, on temples and at base of skull.  And then reapply frequently.

You can find out more about how I use essential oils here.

4.  Taking vitamins daily

I’m still doing this.  Nothing new or miraculous here.

5.  Magnesium oil cream

I started by making a magnesium oil spray.  That was messy, because it sprayed everywhere, not just on me.

I’ve since tweaked this by making a magnesium oil cream instead.  I apply this to my feet and legs at night before bed.

  • 1/2 cup magnesium flakes
  • 3 Tbs. boiling water
  • about 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • Lavender essential oil
  1. In a metal or glass bowl, whisk boiling water and magnesium flakes together until the flakes dissolve.
  2. Whisk in coconut oil.  Keep whisking until it blends together to form a white cream.  This will take several minutes.
  3. Stir in several drops of lavender oil.

The magnesium cream is much neater than the spray.  It tingles and burns a little more too  when I apply, which means I’m getting more magnesium.  I’ve heard that it will tingle/burn if you’re low on magnesium.  As your levels come up, that will stop.  I have no real reference to site for this though, so I don’t know if that’s true or not.

6. No sweets until after dinner

I’m still abiding by this personal rule.  At least most days.  There have been a couple of exceptions, but not many.

Update – the day after originally writing this post

That headache I told you I was battling?  I lost.  Big time.  I ended up with a doozy of a migraine that wouldn’t respond to my meds.  I think I waited too long in hopes that the oils would work.  Lesson learned.

And I felt stupid that I wrote this post about how “it’s working” and then immediately ended up with a killer migraine.

But I do think it’s working.  I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.  It’s going to take time.  I’m not ready to give up on all of this yet.

In hopes of another pain-free week in the future…Onward…

This post contains affiliate links.

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Reading Digital Books, a 28 Day Challenge and More

Reading digital books and a book recommendation

A while back I shared that I thought one reason I hadn’t been finishing books recently is that I’d been reading on my phone.  My theory was that reading on the phone, or even Kindle, made it too easy to ditch the books.

It’s been a while since I started any books on my phone.  I used to buy books fairly regularly.  Kindle books, that is.  But for the last several months I haven’t been doing that.  In fact, it’s been so long that I forgot why I stopped.

But looking back, I remember thinking I would give more paper and ink books a try instead of relying on my phone and kindle to read.

The trouble is, I ended up quitting on the paper books just as easily as on the Kindle.  And I forget about the very few I did buy.

Obviously, I have a quitting problem.  Or at least a quitting habit that I need to come to terms with.  I do think that I read more when I read on my phone.  It’s handy.  It’s convenient.  And even if I don’t finish a book, I definitely start more when I give myself the option of reading digitally.

This week I bought Lisa Terkeurst’s book, The Best Yes.  I’ve heard so many good things about this book, but I was skeptical.  I thought it would be a lot of the same things you hear everywhere.

I’m only a few chapters in, but this one is really good!  It’s thought provoking in a way that has already caused me to take action.

I’ve been so scattered and distracted lately. My schedule has gotten completely out of control and I’ve let some bad habits creep into how I manage my time.  I’m not sure where the rest of the book is going, but the third chapter was worth the purchase price for me.

Rediscover Me – a 28 Day Challenge

rediscover-me-header

You may remember me sharing the fashion challenges that Alison has done before.  This time, she’s pulled together a 28 week journey to help women rediscover themselves.  Sometimes in the midst of mothering and working and all the other things that pull at us, we forget to take care of ourselves.

This program won’t be for everyone. In Alison’s words:

This challenge might be for you if:

  • You’re ready to regain your confidence and a sense of who you really are.

  • You’re stuck in a rut and not sure how to get out of it.

  • You’re wanting to rediscover a sense of your identity outside of your typical roles of mom and wife.

  • You’re an empty nester ready to reinvent yourself.  You may have a vague sense of what’s next but aren’t really sure.

  • Most importantly, you’re ready to dig deep and DO THE WORK.  This course is called a challenge for a reason.  It’s intensive and life changing.  I only want women who are 100% committed to it.

I’ve signed up and here’s why – It’s not so much that I feel stuck in a rut, but I do sometimes feel stuck in the gray of winter.  Sometimes just a little change is enough to perk me up.

And I’ve done all of Alison’s fashion challenges.  The programs she puts together have been top notch.  And the community that she builds around those programs are also amazing.  I expect the same to be true of her Rediscover Me challenge.

The challenge starts on Feb. 1 and the registration closes on Jan. 30.

Freezer Cooking – Virtually and in your own kitchen

I’m in the process of planning a Virtual Freezer Cooking Day event on the Eat at Home Facebook page.  Right now I’m planning on Feb. 21.  More details to come!

And in case you’re in the mood to get a head start on stocking your freezer, the 12 Slow Cooker Meal Plans ebook is on sale through the end of January.  All the details about the book and the sale can be found here.

200 lp12 slow cooker freezer meal plans

 

I’ve also got another video that I’ll be uploading next week.  This time I show how to assemble the meals for the February Slow Cooker Weekly Meal Plans freezer week.  That video will go up sometime next week.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

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