Posts Tagged ‘Do It Yourself’

I’m not sure how many opportunities I will have to take more maternity photos, since we are now full term! While I plan on continuing to take more maternity photos right up until Zippy’s arrival, I’ve noticed my energy level has dipped significantly in the recent weeks.

I am really happy with how these turned out. I was able to capture the moment, and I’ll always have these for myself. Sure, it would have been nice to also have professional photos taken. You can never have too many photos in my book! But, to be honest, I’m starting to get way more excited for newborn photos than maternity photos.

The nice thing about maternity photos is you have several months to practice. I think I’ve improved a lot over the past five weeks. And I should have. In total, I took close to three thousand photos throughout my pregnancy! Of course, many of them are near duplicates, blurry, or posses that didn’t pan out, but that will just be our little secret. I also retook a few of my favorites as my belly continued to expand.

I’m strongly considering a professional newborn photographer, since there’ll be less time to practice. Part of the reason I took so many photos is because I was using a remote and tripod, and it’s really hard to get everything lined up and framed correctly what you can’t see what you’re doing. I’d take five or six before taking a break to notice my camera was auto focusing on the wrong thing, or I was being cropped in a way I didn’t like! I wouldn’t need so many if I was behind the lens instead of in front of it. I predict Zippy will be less patient with me while I fiddle with the tripod.

Phia (the unicorn) has been with me for over a decade. She pre-dates college, and maybe even high school. My favorite part about this photo? Zippy is giving me a good solid kick (on the left side). She wants to be in the picture too!


Belly!! This is my third post with my bare belly exposed. The funny thing? I don’t think I’ve ever exposed my belly button pre-pregnancy. I’ve never even worn a bikini in public. I did wear a mid drift once in highschool, but my belly was hidden under overalls.

And, of course, the classic bump shot, in front of the window for awesome light.

So new tips after weeks of practice:

– Experiment different levels of zoom with each of your poses. I read somewhere that amateurs (like me) tend to take photos from too far back, where pros will step in for a close crop. I ended up doing a bare belly picture a few inches closer to the tripod than usual, and I really liked that extra closeness, which led to the hands in the shape of a heart photo.

– Don’t be overly worried about being creative. As you can see, I didn’t shy away from clichés like hands in the shape of a heart, colored ribbon on the belly or even the picture frame. True, I wouldn’t expect to see them in a professional portfolio (at least not without a new creative spin), but they give you a good starting place. They also ended up being some of my favorites.

– Definitely take photos whenever you’re feeling up to it. Once I hit 35 weeks my energy level tanked. I kept waiting for good days with good sun, but my energy level and the weather never really cooperated, so I don’t have many outdoor pictures. I should have forced myself to go out more. I also have very few with my husband after 30 weeks, which is my one regret. Thankfully I have some time left to fix that!

(Past DIY maternity photography tips are here and here)

I consider myself pretty handy, but we’re not always the fastest when it comes to home repairs. I have a list of things I’d like to tweak around the house, but finding the time to get around to them is always hard. We had two leaks (that we know about) that we’ve been avoiding for over a year: the master bathroom sink, and the master bathroom toilet. I know what you’re thinking, that’s so bad for the environment. Actually, the leaks were both very slow. Our water bill shows our usage compared to households of similar size and we use significantly less water, leaks and all. So I never sweated it.

A few days ago I noticed the small leak in the toilet had turned into a constant flow. Not good! It was time to finally fix the problem. Trouble was we couldn’t figure out the location of the leak. Everything seemed fine. The tank filled, the water in the bowl looked undisturbed, there were no puddles. The most likely suspect was the flapper, but there were none of the typical signs of flapper leaks. No air bubbles rising up from the flapper, or water dripping down into the bowl. If I couldn’t hear the water running, I wouldn’t believe the leak existed. Since we couldn’t figure out what the problem was, we were left with no other choice but to turn shut the water off and call a plumber. Or so we thought.

That’s when my dad suggested food coloring. A couple drops in the tank and we could see where the water was flowing. It certainly looked like the dye was pooling around the flapper. That’s when I noticed the green dye wasn’t running down the sides of the bowel, but coming out the siphon jet! Yes, the toilet was leaking at the bottom of the bowl! No air was being displaced, hence no air bubbles. No water was running down the sides of the bowl, so no water displacement in the bowl. What a sneaky flapper leak.

Domingo went to the hardware store and picked up a $5 flapper. He installed it, but now we had a new problem – the chain was too long for the toilet to flush. No problem, I got out my jewelry tools and shortened about 8 links.

So there you have it, jeweler’s pliers, food coloring and a $5 flapper saved us a call to a plumber.

Now that we’re at thirty one weeks (7 months) along I thought I would try some more interesting DIY maternity photography. My bump is pretty pronounced at this point, and while it will get bigger, I don’t (yet) have stretch marks or a popped belly button, so I thought I would take advantage of it! Don’t worry, there’s nothing risqué.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far is to remember where you’re light source is! Light is your friend! If you think of the camera, light source and you forming a triangle, I found it works best if the angle in the corner represented by you is not obtuse (either acute or right angles are fine). Otherwise I’m usually cast in too much shadow. I then face anywhere between the light source and the camera. My preferred light source is a window, but in a pinch a lamp can do.

I also strongly maintain that this is a time to experiment with your camera. You don’t have to share the photos you don’t like, so why not snap away and get as many as possible! I’m much more of a classic bump kind of gal, but it was fun to experiment.

Nothing but Belly!

This is a pretty standard maternity photo for a reason. It’s also super easy! I did this in front our living room window in early morning when the sun was streaming through, illuminating the curtain. If you have a tripod, set the camera height to be at about your navel. I’ve got a three quarters turn to the window (so the light is on the bump) and the camera is facing me.

One of the things that makes this shot so easy is you can easily lean over and see how the photos are turning out, and adjust the camera settings as need be. The sun kept going behind clouds, so I had to keep readjusting my exposure. I really like the overexposure in this setup.

If you don’t know how to do an over exposure, and easy way is to have your camera on ‘auto’. The camera will then select an appropriate f-stop and shutter speed. Next, switch over to manual and reduce shutter speed to have a longer exposure. You can always do several iterations of trial and error until you get the exposure you want.

I also did the overly cliché hands-in-the-shape-of-a-heart shot. You’re taking these shots for you, so who cares if you indulge in some clichés? Do whatever makes you happy!

Tips:

* If you’re going to do this with a bare belly, change out of any full or partial panel maternity pants in advance. That way you won’t get any clothing lines in your photos. I’ve found I often have to change for about a half hour first, just to be on the safe side.
* I sometimes forget I’m holding the camera remote and end up with a clenched fist. I find it works much better if I set the remote down, or hide it in my pocket during the 2 second shutter delay.

Setup

The layout for this picture. The yellow triangle shows the angle the camera sees.

Inverted Perspective

Not going to lie, this one was much harder than I expected. For this shot I’m lying on the bed and the camera is on a tripod. The problem is I’m not as spry as I was thirty weeks ago. It takes a great deal of effort to get up off of the bed, and change the camera settings. I also don’t particularly love this shot, since my bump is much less pronounced.

In order to reduce the number of “bad shots” and thus trips to the camera I recommend using a piece of masking tape to mark the spot for your head. Domingo also helped me by letting me know where the image was being cropped so I could readjust without needing to get up all.the.time.

Tips:

* Try not to tilt your head too far back when looking at the camera. At least for me, tilting my head too far back and an ear to ear grin caused my forehead to wrinkle.

Setup:

The layout for this picture. Again, the yellow triangle shows the angle the camera sees. For the photo where I’m wearing the pink shirt, the camera is about 8 inches to a foot higher than I am, pointing down. It’s about 2 feet higher for the second image. The camera and the window are on the same side of me, so the light from the window will illuminate the bump.

At this point I’m almost seven months pregnant! I’ve been taking sporadic photos of myself starting at around 17 weeks (I didn’t really feel up to it prior, and my bump, while existent was not obviously a baby.) I love the idea of a maternity photo shoot, but it is one more expense that I just can’t justify right now. I consider myself a budding photographer, so I thought I would try my hand at some classic maternity bump shots. I figure if I love them, I’ve saved myself some money, and if not, I can always do professional maternity photos later.


One of my favorite maternity photos

Through trial and error – both playing with the camera, tripod and remote, and giving the camera to Domingo and insisting he practice before the baby comes – I think I’ve gotten a few good ones. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way.

First, some general photography tips

  • Take photos frequently throughout your pregnancy (or at least as frequently as you can.) Don’t worry about having a once a week photo to chronicle your pregnancy journey, or whether you’re looking your best and well rested. I felt really guilty at first since I didn’t have weekly photos, and the guilt made me even less likely to pick of the camera.
    You may not love the way you look now, but at some point down the line you’ll be happy to have them. This happens to me all the time. I’m such a perfectionist that I’ll take 50 photos and hate them all because my hair is slightly out of place, or my shirt isn’t straight, or it’s cropped a different way than I want. A few weeks later, when you’re bigger and look even less rested and you’re suddenly glad you have them, messy hair and all. You don’t have to share the ones you don’t like, save them for YOU.

  • Take lots of photos every time you pick up the camera. Every photographer on every shot will have some excellent shots and some stinkers. The more you take, the more likely you are to have some were every aspect, from lighting to smile, lines up perfectly.

  • Don’t overlook the stinkers either. Sometimes weird angles, or accidently cropped photos can have a nice artistic effect. In fact, now is the perfect time to play with different angles and cropping. You never know when you will strike gold, and memory cards can hold an awful lot of photos.


    Happy Accident: Unintentionally crop

Tips specifically for maternity

  • Face the light source, so the light is on the bump. Whatever is light will be the focus of attention. If you’re like me, you want that to be the front – baby bump, boobs and face. We don’t need people focusing on my derriere! I like to shoot in the middle of the day, when there’s the most natural light possible, and supplement the natural light with an artificial light source if need be.


    Another Happy Accident: Unintentionally exposure that emphasizing the light source (and also an unintentional crop)
  • Have the camera pointed at your profile rather than your front for a more flattering angle that emphasizes the bump. A 3/4s turn where you’re not quite profile but not facing the camera either also works nicely. It also helps to bend the knees slightly rather than have a straight leg. A bent knee emphasizes curves and can help mask extra lbs.
  • Don’t look at the bump, look about six inches in front of it, especially if you’re not sticking out too much yet. Another good strategy when looking down is to give three quarters face rather than look straight at the camera. Looking down while facing the camera makes your nose and forehead prominent.


    In this one Domingo is looking at my bump and I’m looking a few inches in front of it. I’m also turned three quarters while Domingo is closer to facing the camera. I think it’s a more flattering angle on my face then his. If you look very closely, you can tell I’m not looking at the bump. I just wish my hips were turned a little more so my butt doesn’t look so big.
  • Pick a top that’s at least a little form fitting. The shirt in the above photo wasn’t very form fitting and hangs off my chest, hiding the shape of the bump. In a couple of the photos (like the one to the right), my bump is completely absent from the photo. It’s not so bad in the above photo with the placement of Domingo’s hand on the top of the bump to reveal its shape. But if you compare that photo to the ones with the light pink tank top (or the other photos from other posts) you’ll find the more form fitting ones a bit more flattering.
  • It helps if you stand in front of a simple surface like a blank wall. If I was more serious about this, I would get a backdrop. I plan on getting one before the baby comes so I can do newborn photography, but these days I’m just a little too busy with other chores. For now it’s not too big of a deal, it’s easy enough to edit out the background.


    Left is the original photo, right has the background edited out with a slight filter to look like a vignette. It’s not perfect. You can tell the wall has been digitally removed (the strands of hair are the giveaway.)

I really do own more than 2 maternity tops. I promise.

February 2, 2012

Gender Reveal Jewelery

With our anatomy scan a few days away, I’ve been thinking about creative ways to reveal baby’s gender to the world. I wanted to do something fun and quirky, but also subtle, that I could keep with me over the following twenty weeks. Since I’ve been itching to start another jewelry project, a mother’s pendant was the perfect fit.


A birds nest pendant with Swarovski pearls I made in 2010.


Completed mother’s pendant using rosaline and light blue swarovski pearls and silver wire

The pearls and jewelry wire came from Fusion Beads. Fusion Beads is great for this kind of project because they allow you to order just what you need. Their per-bead prices for these small projects are excellent. At any other craft store I’d have to buy a package of pearls, even though I only need three in each color.

I ordered 8 mm pearls in rosaline, powdered pink and light blue. Rosaline is closer to what I normally think of as baby girl pink, but I tend to prefer darker, dusty pinks. The pearls were on sale for 13 cents a piece when I ordered, but even at 23 cents (the current price), it’s not too costly to purchase a few extras if you’re not sure which color you want. I splurged on the wire and got non-tarnish 24 gauge wire for $4.16 (current list price is $4.90). Total cost of the project $5.33.

To make this pendant, start out with with about five feet of wire. Insert three beads onto the end and make a loop to end the wire.

Wrap the wire around so the three pearls are nestling tightly together.

Continue to wrap the wire around the pearl cluster. You’re going to want to periodically string the wire between the pearl cluster and wrap it around the loops to help hold them together. Chris cross behind of the pearl cluster as you go, it will help keep the loops from getting too unwindy and fill in some of the gaps. Don’t worry about being neat; messy is more bird like anyway.

Keep wrapping and looping the wire until you get a nest of desired size. I find it tends to look unfinished and sloppy for quite a while, and doesn’t look much like a birds nest until you get to the last foot or so of wire. When done, tuck the end of the wire behind the pearls.

I used three pearls so it would be more obvious that it’s a bird’s nest, but I’ve also made it before with singleton pearl. If you’re having multiples, you could easily adjust the pearl cluster to match the number of babies, or if you have children you could have each pearl represent a different child.

Team green? How about a pea pod necklace?

September 18, 2011

DIY Wedding Invitation Ornament

I still can’t shake the Christmas feeling I’ve been having lately. I am also missing all the wedding related craft projects (Weddings are great excuses to craft!), so I decided to make a wedding invitation ornament. I’ve seen several of these on the internet lately, and it was too cute not to give it a try. Total cost was only $3.24, not including materials I already had on hand.

I only had a couple left over wedding invitations, so I decided to print a new one. Originally I purchased white metallic card stock with the anticipation of printing all the invitations myself, which I never ended up using. The metallic sheen reminded me of snow, it was perfect for this project.

I used a paper cutter to get nice, even strips. The strips were then wrapped around a pen to make loose curlicues, and inserted them into a clear plastic ornament from Micheal’s ($0.99). Once cut and inserted into the ornament, the metallic paper reminded me of a satin ribbon. It looks very delicate.

Don’t worry about getting every strip into the ornament. I had more strips than room in the ornament, so I kept only the strips with a non trivial number of words. I had a poem on my invitation, and one of the lines had only two words. The resulting strip looked blank, so I passed on it.

Insert some small curlicues first. I made the mistake of putting our names in first, which were on much larger strips. They blocked off access to the bottom of the ornament. A pair of tweezers can be used to maneuver the ribbons a little, but it’s a bit like making a ship in a bottle, and very time consuming. I couldn’t get the smaller curlicues in behind the bigger ones. I ended up pulling all the strips out of the ornament and trying again.

The invitation needed a little something extra to make it unique. I still had my wax seal for the invitations, so I bought some sculptey (a bankable clay) in order to create our very own monogram charm. The sculptey was $2.25, and I have a lot left over for future projects.

This is where I lucked out. There was a miscommunication when I ordered my custom seal and I ended up with two: one with the circle border and one without. I had only intended to order the borderless seal, which was the one I used for the invitations. It looked really nice with the faux wax (not from waxseals.com), but when working with the clay the missing border looked sloppy. I described it to my husband as “Dog Collar Like”. The seal with the circle looked just a touch more finished.

After working with the clay to soften it up, I pushed the seal down as hard as I could. I used an exacto knife to trim the edges. I found it easiest to pick up the seal, sculptey still attached, and trim the excess sculptey with a pealing motion. Lastly, I used a pin to puncture a hole above the “D”, and baked the charm for 15 minutes to harden.

But the ornament still didn’t feel complete. The monogram pendent was a nice touch, but the sculptey doesn’t have the same finishing touch as, say, a real charm. We had a subtle wine theme at our wedding. Our favors were wine charms. I made TONS of charms. We wanted to have enough that every couple or family could take home a complete set. Of course, not everyone wanted one, so we had a few left over. I found one of the blue ones (to match our wedding colors). Call me crazy, but it actually reminds me of a vineyard label. I think I have a new favorite ornament.

* I did buy the ornament hook this weekend ($1.50 pre 20% off coupon at JoAnns). Since I’m working on multiple Christmas ornaments, I figured the hook would make the work easier. It’s not necessary. Pre-ornament hook I used a wine glass, which worked just fine.

I just have to start off by saying what a difference a year makes. Compare my Anniversary photo to the photo of me in the “About Sarah” section of the side menu. The bathroom scale might not report much of a change, but I see a world of difference. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I have been wanting to do a family travel map for a while, so when our anniversary was coming up I thought it would be a fun project to do together. I loved the idea of working on a project together, that’s also practical in the sense that we’ll hang it up and love to look at it rather than something that gets stored away. (Like our wedding album. Sad, but true.) We wanted to combine the traditional first anniversary wedding gift, paper, with the modern anniversary gift, clocks, so we added a series of world clocks to the map.

I’m very happy with how this turned out. I ended up using just traditional rubber cement to mount the map onto a foam core backing. Most people recommend spray adhesive for an even spread, but I had so much rubber cement left over from a wedding project that I wanted to use up. Rubber cement worked fine for this project because the map was on thick matte photo paper: no wrinkling or bulging. It’s not perfect, but it works well enough.

The frame came from Walmart (about $18 + tax). I could have gone a little cheaper, but I liked the look of the frame, and the dark mahogany brown color. It matched the map perfectly. The frame had a plastic shield over (ie fake glass) but it was fairly easy to rip out and make room for the pins. Once I pulled out the plastic, I realized how flimsy the frame was. The foam board backing is necessary to help it keep it’s shape, as well as provide a place for the pins to go.

We used medium black tacks (purchased on amazon since they were cheaper when you factored in shipping – $9). The tacks have a tendency to disappear when you stand a few feet back because the map is so dark. We decided to pin places we had been to together, including before we were married or even engaged. Other options include having pins of different colors for each family member, or pins for with kids and sans kids.

The wall clocks are of important locations to us. We met, married and honeymooned in three different time zones which happen to move West to East. The progression works very well with the concept of world clocks. The time is set to the time of our ceremony, 5 o’clock Eastern Standard Time. I suppose, if we hadn’t, I probably would have had one large clock for where we were married, and several smaller ones indicating either places we had been, or wanted to go. I printed the clocks on photo paper which gives them a bit of a glossy shine, kind of like the glass on a real clock.

I want to keep up the tradition of an anniversary craft project, but next year will prove to be a challenge. The traditional gift is cotton, and the modern gift is china. I have no idea what I will do.

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