Category / Blogging

regrouping for November | an Instagram essay

 

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Downtown, waiting to begin a family’s photography session.

In recent years, I learned of the phrase, “circling the wagons”. If you aren’t familiar, it alludes to regrouping and getting your game plan straight before proceeding. I feel like that is what November will be for me, and I’m looking forward to it. I have had SUCH a fun fall, spending beautiful afternoons outside photographing amazing families, and then twice as much time at home in my office, editing photos, blogging them, going through the motions of forming a business, designing collateral and launching the website, and reading/watching/learning from other photographers every chance I get.

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 Nighttime routine lately: Make tea, park it in front of the computer.

In the meantime, some things like this blog and workouts have fallen by the wayside. I have to remind myself that while I excitedly want to do it all, priorities have to be made and a realistic mindset is of value. 🙂 Not that I feel things are up and running, I feel like I can re-evaluate and enjoy a more relaxed pace as the early fall turns to holiday time.

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Checklist for a six-week photography business marketing course I enrolled in – very excited!

With the requests for family photos inevitably slowing down for winter time, I’m excited to re-focus on working on technique and learning more about how to grow this little business. I began a four-week course earlier this month centered on posing for various ages and group sizes but because things have been so busy, I’ve yet to start the coursework! I’m excited to have some free evenings again to dive into that information as well as the (intense!) marketing course pictured above.

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Waiting to have my head shot taken by a fellow photog friend!

Loosely related to marketing, I had my head shot taken last week for the website – this is me waiting to get started. I included this just because I know how much it annoys my brother when people take selfies. 🙂

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I’m planning to enjoy some more lounge time at home, reading and catching up on some fall TV with Pager. Having more time again means I can cook more at home – something I’ve been missing. And along with meal planning comes the workout refocus. I’m excited to get back to the gym (feeling READY!) and with a mix of elliptical and running, my mini-goal for the month of November is to attack my friend Robyn’s 30-day plank challenge. (Seriously, if you need a dose of inspiration, Robyn has it for you!)

And while it has been slower lately here on the blog, things are always in the works. I’m looking forward to collaborating with a fabulous company for a holiday neighbor gift DIY, working up a Thanksgiving tablescape, and before you know it, decking the halls for Christmas! Thanks to all for continuing to stop by and check in! Happy fall 🙂

Life In Yellow on BlogLovin’

peonies | life in yellow

As I posted about a while back, Google Reader is no more after July 1. If you haven’t tried it already, create an account with BlogLovin’ – I’ve been using this site for a couple of months now and it works JUST like Reader does – you can import your current blog feeds, and they have an awesome app to access from your tablet or phone.

To add Life In Yellow to your BlogLovin’ account (or to get started creating the account altogether!) just click this button below. I promise, you’ll love this site! All the blog content you love, all in one place!
Follow on Bloglovin

catching up.

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I’ve been MIA from blogworld the past several days. Nothing major is going on, we are just staying busy and maybe more so than usual. The stuff we’ve been doing isn’t exactly blog-worthy or exciting to read about, so what results is a bunch of crickets chirping here. 🙂

In short, it’s been a lot of:

  • cleaning out closets
  • taking Spring stuff (house and clothing) to consignment and Goodwill
  • organizing drawers and bookcases around the house
  • cooking healthier meals
  • getting to the gym more regularly
  • catching up with lots of friends
  • putting some time in outside – trimming bushes, sealing the deck, planning to replace a tree we lost over the winter
  • working
  • freelancing
  • rediscovering TV a bit, watching Breaking Bad and Mad Men
  • starting to clean out the garage
  • eating edamame by the bagfull
  • biking to work (Page, not me)
  • finally resuming a quilt project I started almost five years (yep, years!) ago to the day…stay tuned for more on that one!

I do have a list of things I want to get around to blogging sooner than later. In addition to everything going on, I think it’s the suddenly nice (albeit late!) spring weather that has been keeping me from the computer screen. Things may slow down a bit here for a while as I remember just what the sun feels like!

How to Start Blogging: Your Questions PART TWO

how to start blogging | life in yellow

[Yes, I’m a huge dork and trying some more “artistic” (??) shots lately, like the above. Bear with me.]

To keep from getting too lonnnnng yesterday, it made sense to split this list of ten tips into two posts! You can read part one here, and picking up where we left off…

neighbor gifts ingredients

6. Take decent photos.

You don’t have to be Ansel Adams, and you can take them on your iPhone, but TAKE PICTURES! Blogs are very visually-driven. People who “discover” your blog will make up their mind in the first several seconds if they want to stick around and read on. Use photos to engage and break up long blocks of text whenever you can. It’s photos that get pinned on Pinterest as visual bookmarks, and photos that best describe the things you’re talking about. Photos make the content – and you – “real” to readers. No need for a fancy camera or mad Photoshop skills, just make it a goal to take clear (in focus!) photos that illustrate your posts and upload them at a decent size (readers hate thumbnail size pictures!). A final tip? Use horizontal / landscape photos (as opposed to vertical / portrait) whenever possible – they are easier to view on tablets and phones, and smaller computer screens, and people don’t have to scrollllll dowwwwn to see the whole image. Plus, they’re more Pin-friendly.

Note: If you are into the Photoshop thing, you can learn how to watermark your pictures here to further brand yourself and your blog, and protect your photo property.

 

Blog, Inc book

7. Read about blogging. 

This goes along with reading other blogs, but read BOOKS on blogging, as well! One of my recent favorites is Blog, Inc by blogger guru, Joy of Oh, Joy!. Whether you’re blogging just for you, or looking to make your blog into a business, this book is full of wonderful tips and advice from someone who has “made it” in the blogging world.

 

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8. Keep setting goals for yourself.

You can’t learn and implement every single thing you want to do with your blog overnight. I first worked on just keeping a regular schedule of posts. Then I added a facebook page to manage. Then I tried out Twitter. Then I decided to step up my photography skills. Along the way, I worked on the many aspects of creating a visual brand for my blog from the color palette to the logo, so it wasn’t so random. Most recently, I got on the BlogLovin bandwagon and opened an Amazon store. You can’t do it all at once, but make a list of the top few things you want to try out with your blog, then attack them, one at a time. Expand your blog into an Etsy shop. Start a photo contest on Instagram. The possibilities are endless.

My goals for myself and LIY this year include monetizing my blog by offering up ad space (and have been rearranging the design of the site to accommodate this). I also want to start working with video – of house tours, tutorials, and more. Setting goals keeps you moving forward and helps to keep fresh ideas churning.

 

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9. Consider guest blogging for others, and vice versa. 

Because I don’t claim to be an expert at anything (but have friends who are!) I have asked them to write guest posts for Life In Yellow in my Guest Blogger Series. This has been a great way to generate some monthly content that I wasn’t responsible for writing myself, it brought some fresh ideas to the blog, and it was good publicity for those who contributed. Take a quick flip through your list of contacts – there’s a wealth of people with great skills and information to share in there!

To get your own name and blog out there, offer to write guest posts for other bloggers. Pitch an idea, write the intro paragraph, and offer up some background info on yourself and your site. The worst they can say is no, thanks!

 

hawaii travel

10. Whether it’s opinions or personal information, find the line between keeping it real….and over-sharing.

Keep the drama to a minimum. There’s a “draft” option on your blog dashboard for a reason. Any time I’m considering sharing anything that errs on the more personal side of my life, I type it out candidly, as I’d say it to a friend. Then I save it as a draft and sleep on it. Sometimes I come back, re-read it, and feel totally fine to hit “publish”. Other times, I’m glad I waited, and I take a fresh pass at editing my words. I like to keep things real, and never want to come across as phony, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has read a blog where there is just too much drama, over-sharing, complaining, or just plain inappropriate content. Yes, you have the freedom to say what you like. But keep in mind, if you’re putting “journal” like content out there, it’s in a place that is anything but a lock and key diary environment. Think twice about the opinions you share and how you share them.

As for the people who appear on the blog, be wary of anything that might compromise someone’s privacy or safety. It’s been a weird lesson to learn, but even after not sharing our address or even our town directly, I’ve had well-meaning readers contact me to tell me, “Hey! We live near each other!” or I meet someone in person who’s actually read the blog and recognizes me (even crazier!).  It’s fun to hear this – and I know it’s totally innocent – but it’s a reminder to me that whoa, people are reading what’s out there, many more than I realize or know personally. Be smart. Sharing a last name or an address is not crucial to the story you’re telling. If kids should enter the picture some day, I’m still on the fence about how to share information about them. I’ve even gotten in the habit of sharing the party details in an entertaining post, rather than photos of the guests. In general, you just never know where someone’s comfort level is with being published to a wide audience of strangers.

When it comes to our property, I share just about every detail of the inside of our home from floor plans to detailed photos. So to protect our home, I don’t post anything ahead of time about going out of town. In photos, I blur out the brand of security system we have. I try not to show much of our surrounding neighborhood or landmarks. I don’t write all this to make anyone paranoid – and it’s no fun to read a blog where the author puts up a wall – but I would advise anyone writing a blog – for 2 people or 2,000 – that it never hurts to be more cautious than less.

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So there you have it! I’m sure none of this was earth-shattering, but hopefully it helped get you thinking about the blog you want to start and where to begin! If you have a blog already or are off to start one, share the link in the comments, I’d love to check it out! (And others can see it that way, as well!) Happy blogging! 🙂

How to Start Blogging: Your Questions PART ONE

tips for starting to blog | life in yellowA few of you have asked questions about how to start a blog, what to name it, and what to write about, so I thought I’d take a two-day post to share some of the things I’ve learned (at times, the hard or long way!) since first putting pen to paper (keyboard to screen?) six years ago.

I feel like there are two types of potential bloggers – those who want to start a blog just for them, and friends and family, as a way of record keeping and sharing family happenings. And there are those who have skills/expertise/stories to share with the world and want to reach a broader audience. No matter which of these categories you fall into (or maybe it’s both!) hopefully some of the notes below help get you on your way!

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1. Pick your topic(s) – and the name will follow. 

I’m not particularly great at any one thing. I like to cook, decorate, photograph, DIY, put together outfits, design logos, etc…but not enough to have a blog centered around any ONE topic and only that. I’d burn out, I’d run out of content, and I’m no expert – just someone who likes to dabble in a little bit of everything. For ME, it made sense that my blog became more of a “lifestyle” blog. Just as the term suggests, it’s a blog about our lives – the home we live in (decorating), the adventures we travel on (trips and anniversary adventures), the work we do (all things graphic and web design), and the projects we tackle (finishing the basement, anyone?).

My blog began as “Everything Yellow” – a name I picked in about four seconds because I loved everything yellow. I know – I’m bowling you over with my creativity. Ha! When I switched to WordPress from Typepad, I used it as an opportunity to update the name. You can read more about the Q’s and A’s of that switch here. At this point, I knew it was becoming about living our lives, joyfully, enthusiastically and completely out loud – many of the things I associate with my favorite color. The name kept floating to the top of my list, and the URL was available. Boom. Done.

To that point – pick a name brief enough that people can remember it to type it into their browser, and one that isn’t taken already by another blogger. Keep it short and sweet. Some of my favorite well-known blogs are “Centsational Girl“, “Young House Love“, and “Eat Drink Pretty“. Several of my friends’ have done creative things with their names/towns in their personal blogs using alliteration. (i.e. “Hanging out in Huxville”, “Daniels Ditties”, “Living Life Langston”, and “Journey with Julia”) – and yes, to protect their privacy, I’ve changed the names, in case you’re trying to look them up – I err on the side of caution when it comes to personal blogs. 🙂

Think first about what you’ll be blogging about, and the name might just present itself. Are you focusing primarily on living with a child with special needs, or as a military wife? Are you anxious to share your skill set with the world as a woodworker, or a pastry chef? Or are you just telling the funny stories that go along with parenting three crazy kiddos and the day in/day out life of your family? Try writing down what it’s about – the main topics, even schedule out a week’s worth of typical posts you might write…and a list of name ideas is sure to follow.

tips for starting to blog

2. A following of readers is great, so is a little pay. But don’t let it be the reason you blog.

I started blogging before I even entirely understood what it was. It was the month after we got married, and I figured it was a great way to post our wedding pictures, with a little commentary, for friends and family, and eventually re-cap our honeymoon adventures. That was it. That was the extent of my whole plan.

Fast forward six years and it’s still crazy to me that anyone besides my closest friends and family members want to read anything I have to say. But thankfully, after several years, I’ve found my stride in what I like to talk about and I’ve made a commitment to do it regularly. It’s all still ultimately for me. I love that people follow and participate with questions and links of their own. But if it all went away tomorrow, I’d still be blogging, because I love keeping a record of our life and reading back through this journal of our life together.

In my mind, blogging for any other reason than this is a recipe for disaster. I’ve seen blogs that are just there to regurgitate others’ ideas and sell ad space in the process – there’s no life or personality, and the whole site is clearly fake. It’s a turn-off. I’m not saying don’t monetize your blog – I plan to dip into that very arena yet this year – but don’t make the sole plan behind starting a blog to make money. For one, you’ll be very disappointed, because it takes a LONG time to achieve the readership numbers that will even interest potential advertisers, and two, any potential readers will see right through your fiscal motivation, be turned off, and move on.

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3. Pick a platform – and spend a little time getting your geek on.

I began blogging with Typepad, a paid monthly service that allowed me a variety of customized templates. It was great to start with, but I’ve since become a bigger advocate of WordPress and Blogger – both of which offer many templates/services, but for FREE. Both WordPress and Blogger also have a large community of users who are very active in sharing tips/tricks for improving the look and functionality of your blog. Do a quick search on Pinterest for either and you’ll be bombarded with information and tutorials to get you on your way. I personally use WordPress, and my web designer hubby is a huge advocate of it, but I think you can be equally happy with either platform.

Start by simply creating an account with one or the other and put up a post. Then play around with one thing at a time, whether that’s creating an archive of your past posts, filling in an “about me” tab, or a number of other things. Try not to be overwhelmed – these things don’t get created in a day!

 

BlogLovinSubscriptions

4. Read other blogs. And speak up.

There is no better research than to seek out and subscribe to other blogs. Take note of the topics, the photos, and the voices of the writers. Don’t copy – but be inspired. See what they’re doing that resonates with you as a reader, and try the same with your own spin in your own way. Support others in the blogging community by leaving comments that add to the conversation. Plus, commenting is a great way to generate interest in your own name/site and find new followers!

 

5. Building an audience takes some work. 

If you’re expecting to start writing and people magically find you, well, let’s just say that’s a bit overly optimistic. Once you have a few posts, share a link to your blog with Facebook friends, post it on LinkedIn if you feel it’s appropriate, or via your Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts. Add your blog’s URL address to your email signature. As people who already know you follow, people they know may follow as well. You can create a Facebook fan page for your blog to further cultivate a following – it’s a great place to post sneak peeks of upcoming posts to generate interest, or to foster more casual conversation between you and the people who take the time to read your posts. I get a lot of post ideas from the comments and questions people leave on the LIY facebook page!

Make it easy for people to share your content. Most blog platforms have a built-in functionality to add “pin it”, “facebook this”, “tweet this”, and other buttons to the footer of each of your blog posts. Make it as simple as possible for people to post about something of yours they read and spread the word about your site.

Other ways to find readers include pinning some of your content (make sure it’s yours, originally, and don’t OVERDO the pinning) on Pinterest, comment on other blogs with a link to a post of yours on the same topic, and get your blog registered on BlogLovin so others can discover it.

Here’s a fun thing to try: Enter the following URL in your browser, but insert your blog address in place of where it says “lifeinyellow.com”:

http://pinterest.com/source/lifeinyellow.com

…You can see the most recent items other people are pinning from your site!

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Stay tuned! More to come tomorrow 🙂

How to Watermark Your Photos

How to Watermark Your Photos | Life In Yellow

I’m a big advocate of watermarking your photos if planning to publish them “out there” in the internet world. Once you post photos to your blog, you lose possession of them to a certain extent. Anyone who really wants to, can copy/paste/download the image and use it as they please. Watermarking won’t stop this from happening, but it might deter someone from trying to pass off your photo as their own. At the very least, it makes it harder for them when your name/business is part of the image!

The beauty of a watermark is that it’s subtle. Your name is still on your work, but it doesn’t distract as much as simply laying straight text or icons over your picture. I recently updated the look of my blog and needed a new watermark for my photos that would reflect the new logo. Following are the steps that I think are the easiest way to create a watermark image…

You will need Photoshop to follow along with this tutorial. I use version CS6 but previous versions will work just the same. I believe the steps are similar if not identical in Photoshop Elements if you have access to that program in place of the full version.

Watermark Your Photos | Life in Yellow

Step 1. Whether you’re using an image/logo of some type, or just text with your name/blog name, create an image of it in black and white. If you don’t already have any type of logo, simply open a new document (200 x 200 pixels will be plenty, at 300 dpi) and pick a font and type the text you want, in solid black.

Watermark Your Photos | Life in Yellow

Step 2. In your layers palette, double-click on the layer with your logo/text. The above “layer style” box will pop up. Set your blending mode to Normal, Opacity at 60%, and Fill Opacity at 0%.

Watermark Your Photos | Life in Yellow

At this point your image/text should be looking sort of like the above…

Watermark Your Photos | Life in Yellow

Step 3. On the left hand side of the window, check the “Bevel and Emboss” option, then adjust the Depth, Size, and Soften numbers to 100%, 1px, and 0px. Click “OK” to close the box.

At this point your image/text should be looking sort of like this...

By now, your image should be looking more like this. Depending on how you started, you may have a “background” layer in your layers palette – if so, click on it and delete it:

At this point your image/text should be looking sort of like this...

Voila! You have your watermark! At this point, name the file and save it as a .PSD file (saving it as a JPEG will ruin the whole effect and add a white box to its background).

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 10.06.56 AM

To use your new watermark, open a photo and use the “Place” command to set your watermark PSD file on top of the image. Use Ctrl-T or Apple-T to add the border box you see above which will allow you to make it larger or smaller, and use the arrow tool to move it around the image to place it where you like it best. Once you have it where you want it, flatten the image and re-save it (or save a copy) so you now have your watermarked photo ready to upload!

 

 

 

No more Google Reader…Follow on BlogLovin!

Like many of you, I logged into my Google Reader this morning for my daily dose of blog love, to find the following message: “Google Reader will not be available after July 1, 2013.” I admit, I felt like doing anything BUT clicking the “okay” button!

Worry not about the phasing out of Google Reader…you can follow Life In Yellow on BlogLovin, a site I’d heard of before, but never thoroughly explored until today. It works JUST like Reader and it’s a one-button-click move to import all of your current Reader feeds. It was like moving to a new house, but the moving men and boxes were totally invisible. 🙂

Just click the button below to add Life In Yellow to your BlogLovin list (and if you aren’t yet a member, clicking it will just prompt you to create your account – super fast process – and continue on with your uninterrupted blog-reading life!).
Follow on Bloglovin

a new look…

When I first began blogging more than five years ago, I started with Typepad and an off-the-shelf template. As my interest in blogging grew, and my hubby’s knack for web design developed, I had the luxury of getting to customize a bit more. When I made the switch to WordPress (and “Everything Yellow” became “Life in Yellow”) I wanted to stretch myself and employ my branding/design background. And the current logo, color palette, and custom scheme was born.

blog logo

In recent days, you may have noticed some subtle changes happening here. I’m playing with a couple of elements and trying things out as I finalize a new look for the blog. While the cardinal rule of branding is to never stray too far from yourself, I do feel the blog has grown and evolved since I began this new look more than a couple years ago, and I am ready for a more sophisticated look to reflect that.

Okay, and there’s another reason.

When I first put together the logo for Life In Yellow, I swear on my marriage it was completely my own idea. But within a few weeks of the new design going live, more than one person said, “I love how you used The Game of Life in your logo!”

Huh? I’d never even played the board game, so I googled it. Hmm, not a replica exactly, but also not totally different either. The letters were a block style similar to mine, each a different color, and hello – spelled out “LIFE” of ALL words.

gameofLIFE

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So pretty much from the start, I’ve sort of had it in the back of my mind that people might assume I copied the concept. But Page had done such a wonderful job of implementing all of my ideas and I didn’t want to change the look yet again right away, so I stuck it out. And I have really liked playing with the speech bubbles (blogging is a conversation after all!) and making the most of the current look.

I’m clearly locked into the concept of yellow, but wanted to streamline the color palette so it’s not going in quite so many directions. I wanted to introduce a more styled, feminine typeface, and overall, still communicate vibrance, but toned down enough that the post content can truly shine through without distraction from the rest of the blog.

But enough chatter…how about a sneak peek? Starting with my inspiration photo…

inspiration palette

 

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At this point, I have only a mood board of elements I’ve drawn and want to incorporate, but I’m excited to see it all come together in the coming weeks. I’m also immersing myself in some WordPress training so I can start relying a bit less on the handout from Page, who has plenty of (paying!) clients who must come first.

I’m really trying to dig in right now beyond just the visual aspects and figure out where I’m headed with the content for Life In Yellow. It has always been about us, our home, our travels, and some trials and errors in the kitchen, in design, in fitness/beauty/style, and in entertaining. When we bought our house, it went full-out decorating blog for a while. As I’m getting more into photography and beginning to take photos for others, I’m sure it will go in that direction a bit more. It would be fun to do more on consulting on others’ home decorating, or maybe start a side gig assisting with event planning – all of which would show up here as well. In short, I believe what I have here is what they call a “lifestyle” blog…a little bit of everything. I might as well embrace it because I can’t seem to narrow it down much more than that and I think that’s okay. I like too many things and I don’t claim to be an “expert” at any of them – at least not enough to base a whole blog around a single topic. So the plan is to keep on keepin’ on…living life (in yellow!) and documenting (whatever the topic) along the way.

 

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Keep checking back…the new “look” should be up and running soon! 🙂