Posts Tagged ‘tips’

DIY: Ikea Hack Photography Studio Lighting


Dear professional photographer friends, don’t hate me. I hope we can still be friends even with my ghetto lighting ways.

Sometimes I have to burn the midnight oil in order to get any blog posts up. We’ve been a busy family this fall! It’s nice to finally have a way to take decently lit photos without having to wait until the perfect time of day to shoot. Usually that perfect time of day lands during lunch time or mid-morning when I’m still in pajamas, sans makeup or shower.


There are a few things that I do to allow for more photography time. I have the 35mm prime lens which allows for a 1.8 aperature. It’s slightly wider than the 50mm so it allows me to park my tripod only 8 feet away from me for a comfortable head-to-toe shot, without too much distortion. But a 1.8 aperature can only get me so far.

Let’s talk artificial lighting.

I took the above photo at midnight. I boosted up the ISO and lowered the aperature, but the light is still too harsh. That’s where lights come into play. Professional lighting systems can be expensive, so I made a hack to see if a pro lighting system was something that I should invest in. I’ve been asked by a few people what my solution is, so I figure I’d share it for all to see.


I’m using two Ikea LERSTA lamps. They’re cheap, portable and effective. I think I’d get a third lamp or a fourth if I were doing more night-time style shots, but the two lamps are great for small objects and for fill-light when the sun’s not doing what it’s supposed to.

Here’s how to do it:


Step 1

As you’re assembling the lamp, wrap the inner part of the lamp with tin foil. Make sure the foil is sort of crumpled so it will bounce more light around.

Step 2

Buy a daylight fluorescent bulb. They’re on sale at my local Home Depot. We’ve changed nearly all of our indoor lights with these. And they are awesome.


Step 3

Get a large bowl and cut out a circle from some white (like white, white) fabric. I’m using a white quilting cotton.

Step 4

Measure the circumference of your lamp’s opening, cut a length of thin elastic just shy of the circumference.

Step 5

With your sewing machine on zig zag stitch, stretch the elastic as you sew it onto the outer edge of the circle of fabric. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll look sort of like a shower cap.


Fit that over your lamp and done!


Now you can illuminate basically anything.


I used the two lamps and my room’s overhead light to light up the above outfit. Not bad for a 10:30 pm photoshoot, right? And since you’re using daylight bulbs to illuminate the room, there’s no need to adjust white balance. BOOYAH. Mic drop.

Was this DIY helpful? What will you light up?

Sponsored: Holiday Prep and Shining Shoes

Inspired by this month’s entertainment theme for the Fiesta Movement, how do you prep for the upcoming season’s parties and festivities?


Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching. Besides decorations and gifts, how do you prepare for all of the parties, caroling, strolling and eating? Growing up, my dad made sure to teach me how to properly care for my shoes so they’d last the whole winter without getting destroyed by mud, snow and salt. I was in constant awe how he could make a pair of old shoes look brand-spanking new.

He taught me the importance of keeping my nice things nice.


I know a lot of people out there have different opinions about buying and using leather. I don’t disagree with those feelings, I think leather is a great material that should never go to waste. It’s incredibly strong and durable. The real shame in my opinion is if someone just neglects to take proper care of his/her leather goods and destroys it beyond repair.

My dad literally has shoes older than me. You wouldn’t know it, though. Leather can last forever. It’s a matter of protecting, cleaning and polishing regularly.

For my suede babies, I just prevent with Nikwax and call it good. If I spray every couple months, it doesn’t seem to go bad.


Now these babies. I was at a photoshoot a month ago and we were stomping around in some serious mud. They’re filthy and just about destroyed from all that mud and salt!

I use a leather cleaner (we got a bunch when we bought our house) to get most of the mud off. It works like a charm.


So much better, but it’s still not quite there yet.


I don’t know if other people use this method, but my dad taught me to put a sandwich bag around my finger and cloth on top for polishing shoes. It’s a great way to spread polish and keep it from getting on my hands.


You can see a huge difference between the polished shoe (left) and the cleaned shoe (right). Now I can go trudge around town looking polished and put together (pun not intended). After polishing, I shine the shoes with a brush. DONE. All it takes is about 15-20 minutes.

Frankly, if you don’t get the results you’re looking for, take your shoes to a cobbler. I’ve had boots re-soled with a winter tread, zippers fixed and leather repaired. What can’t a cobbler do? Really. They’re not terribly expensive (certainly not more than buying a nice new pair) and they can save your favorite shoes from the dump.

This is a sponsored post and I was compensated for my participation. The opinions expressed are my own.

Perfectly Even Cookie Balls


I’m sure everyone else figured this out a LONG time ago, but while I was making my favorite (and chewy) Molasses cookie recipe I discovered how I could make the perfect, perfectly round cookie balls. - Perfect Cookie Balls

I had a small ice cream scoop at one point, but it would always get gummed up with the dough. I’ve also used regular kitchen spoons, but I don’t ever get the perfectly consistent amount every time, and it seemed to take forever to round out those balls perfectly.

My little ah-ha moment last week was to use a round table spoon as my scoop, and a small teaspoon to pop the dough out. I got those cookies onto the cookie sheet in record time and they all cooked evenly.

BOOM! Mind blown, anyone?

How do you get cookie dough onto the cookie sheet? Or does it go straight into your mouth like half of this recipe did into mine?

Handmade: Girly Christmas Gifts


I love making leather crafts and accessories, as you may know (1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12/13/14/15/16/17/18/19). It’s a great material for long-lasting goods that look better with wear. It’s not terribly expensive, and especially affordable if you’re picking up scraps from a local upholstery shop (doing that is also very environmentally friendly – keeping good scraps from the trash).

But there’s no way to cut out leather quickly or perfectly without a few tools in your arsenal. I’ve found that cutting it with nice scissors, nice-side down gives a much nicer edge than cutting it regularly.

I was curious to see how the Epic 6/L Letterpress would handle leather, so I gave it a try using their knotty and nice kit. It’s pretty good. You need to work with 1.5 ounce leather or thinner, but that kind of leather isn’t too hard to come by. You’ll want to search for garment weight. Here are some suggestions:

pig splits | economy suede | gold lambskin | minelli sides | sheepskin

You’ll also want to remove the squishy padding from the die and add a piece of cardstock on top of the leather. It helps cut the leather all the way through. Even if it didn’t cut the leather all the way through, it was easy to finish my job with scissors. At least the die left a nice embossed edge along the top.

The top leather is a lambskin and the bottom is a cheap decorative suede that I found for 99¢ per square foot. It’s pretty ugly as a hide, but after making it into a bow, I’m liking this a lot more. I love how the gold peeks out of the inside of the bow.

With the one die cut I made a pin, a hair clip, a fascinator and a pony holder. I’m pretty stoked about using these. Penelope is, too.

I was unsure how a necklace would work or if the bow would stay in place, but because it’s made out of a heavier leather, it lays quite nicely. I made 7 bow-related accessories in about an hour. A great bang for your time/buck if you’re doing gift swaps this year, or planning out a bunch of girlfriend gifts.

I couldn’t resist putting this bow in Penelope’s hair this morning. She loves it. She also loves her new thrifted “saved by the bell” glasses.

Or is that an Erkel reference? I can’t quite remember. But they’re hilarious and awesome.

Now to figure out how to make my own custom dies.

*This post is not sponsored. Product provided by Lifestyle crafts.

Redesigned: Simply Modern Mom


I can’t tell you how excited I am about this design. Chris keeps telling me that this is possibly the best site design I’ve done to date. Chris is great at boosting my ego.

Fellow blog friend, Tiffany, approached me a few months ago to see if I could rebrand her site for her. Her previous branding wasn’t bad, but it didn’t really say anything about her personality or her style.

I modified her color scheme slightly by adding warm grey tones and a couple of pinker maroons in the mix. There’s a lot more dimension than a typical monochromatic scheme. I had fun lettering items for her and I love how the lettering combines with the slab serif font used in her titles. I couldn’t be more thrilled about how it all turned out. Check out Simply Modern Mom to see all of the little details. I’m not taking on any new freelance projects at the moment, but please check out the designers featured in the ad section of the sidebar. They’re all incredibly talented and available for work.

Design Tip #7: Fonts, Fonts!

Most sites these days allow for Google Web Fonts or TypeKit. If you’re unsure what these options are, you need to head over and check them out. Stat. It’s nice having lots of options, but PLEASE choose wisely. Just because it’s available to you, doesn’t mean you have to use it in every instance. It’s great to have custom fonts, but try to avoid using more than two (three MAX) on your blog. Having multiple fonts keeps your readers from understanding hierarchy of information and it’s hard to read!

Pick one font and stick to that. If you are going with one font, make sure it’s readable. DO NOT USE SCRIPT OR HANDWRITTEN FONTS FOR PARAGRAPH TEXT. Can I emphasize that any more? Sans serif and serif fonts are the best for one font choice. If you’re going with two different fonts, choose one font that will be your title font (this can be more ornate, but don’t go crazy!) and one for your main text. Google Web Fonts allows for multiple views when looking for the right font, so you can see how readable your font is in a title instance and in a paragraph instance. Take advantage of that tool.

Also, with web font accessibility, there’s no reason to image your text. For wordpress users, get rid of your TTF titles plugin you downloaded  3 years ago and use web fonts! Your site will load faster and your site’s SEO will thank you.


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