In Category: ‘Helpfulness’

There is a pretty clear line dividing the photographers who choose to feature music on their sites and those who don’t. It’s a bit of a heated debate easily found on various community forums. I understand both sides pretty clearly and think that both have their valid points. But in the end, as it does with almost everything else, it comes down to a personal decision.

For me, it’s like adding the music to a movie – personality, let’s say. After all, I’ve said it many times that I looove music, and my everyday life is hardly ever without its soundtrack. — As it happens, right this very moment it’s moving to Ingrid Michaelson’s The Hat.

Why should my website be any different? After much self-debate I opted to include music on my site. But there was a smidge of a problem.

Going back to said photography argument, one of its key points of argument centers on the difficulty in obtaining permission or rights to legally feature music. Many websites out there routinely post music illegally without any regard to artist rights. As an artist myself, I wanted to avoid doing this to anyone at all costs. It is a bit ironic that many photographers out there have no qualms about doing so, which sparks the debate on and on.

So I started doing some research to adhere to my personal principals. At first, I went the route that most people go. I tried contacting Indie artists via their websites/social networks to request permission or info on obtaining a license. But I quickly found that it is as difficult to garnish a response from these artists as it is from the big label ones. After a lot of online reading, I found the answer: BMI.

BMI’s licensing service offers folks the ability to feature music from countless artists – big names and newbies alike – for a fee roughly starting at $350 annually. It’s relatively easy to set up an account and the quarterly reports are simple as well.

If you are thinking of featuring music on your site, BMI is a great solution. The moderate cost is well justified by the wealth of music available, and the peace of mind that comes from doing the right thing and respecting the work of others.

There’s a slew of great information out on the web. But I came across this really cool site called Elegala that I thought was exceptionally awesome at providing information to brides. It has time lines, checklists, advice for everything from budgets to etiquette, unique gift registries, a vendor directory, giveaways, and a whole lotta details that can really come in handy.

Their motto is Elegant Galas – Made Simple. And they live up to it with a very user friendly, easy to navigate, nonsense-free website. This is what originally caught my eye. As I looked around, I also found some great articles that explain very clearly the many questions that arise when planning a wedding. It’s just a fabulous tool for any bride wanting to get some solid answers and creative ideas, regardless of budget or location, or anything else.

And I simply loved their advice/ideas section on Wedding Photography. As a wedding photographer, I’m certainly of the idea that your photographs are incredibly important. I also recognize that everyone has different needs and Elegala is great in that sense as well. So I was honored when they granted me a spot on their vendor listings.

So there, that proves how amazing they are! ;) But don’t just take my word for it. Check them out for yourself!

I’m in love! Every once in while I find something that really knocks my socks off! This is one of those times!

I joined Etsy’s community of artists a few months ago, and have found within a playground for inspiration as well as a minefield of temptation. I could get lost in there for hours, at the detriment of my pocket book and my time. Yes, I can be a shop-a-holic!

If you are looking for creative ways to decorate your home, a means to add to your art collection, or for some thoughtful, one-of-a-kind ways to shop for your bridesmaid and wedding party gifts, you HAVE TO check out Etsy!

Of particular interest is Homestudio, run by Mark (a painter/furniture designer) and his wife Stef (a jewelry designer). Together they produce one of the funnest, most unique pendants imaginable — made of scrabble pieces!

scrabble+pendants Bridesmaid Gifts   Unique & Inexpensive

Each pendant is shipped in a dainty little organza bag accompanied by a card with more info on the artists and care instructions. The four above are my first in what I can only hope will be a growing collection. Best of all, Mark & Stef accept commissions for custom pieces, making the possibilities endless and perfectly suited for your specific purpose! Shipping is quick and Stef is super responsive to any questions that you ask.

As beautiful and eye-catching as they look on your shiny computer screen, they’re even better in person. It’s no wonder they’ve sold over 2100 of them in just over three months! I can’t say enough about these little squares of art. I just love them!

This month, I decided to include some tips for taking better photos in my newsletter. Here is a copy of that text:

Simple Changes for Improved Shots
We all do it, even me. We’re so excited to get started with our brand new camera that we forget the most important thing: reading the manual. I know all-to-well how easy it can be to feel intimidated by all the jargon in these palm sized books. So, until you find yourself with the extra time/courage and can remember where it is you stashed your manual, here are some simple tips for some of the most frequently asked questions.

Why are my pictures blurry?
Many times, lighting situations are less than ideal when you click that button. Even with your built-in flash turned on, sometimes the dreaded “camera shake” creeps in and ruins your precious photo. Using a flash should, in most situations, remedy this problem. But what can you do when using the flash fails?

Move closer. Using the zoom, is not always the best option. Moving closer helps your flash illuminate your subject more fully, something that your zoom can’t achieve. The “camera shake” phenomenon is much like trying to make your way through a poorly-lit room without sacrificing the bruising of your shins. That’s because a camera lens works much like our eyes do. It needs light to interpret details; without this it gets harder to focus properly and avoid that poorly placed ottoman. Unless you can put a larger flash on your camera (only available for cameras with an external flash mount) your best option is to inch a little closer.

Have you ever noticed that right before you take your photo you see a little light turn on at the front of the camera? Most cameras have this “assistant” to help your lens achieve better focus without fully activating the flash. Just hold the button HALF WAY down while you focus on your subject. This gives your camera a few more seconds to read and interpret the information…much like one would do before plunging into a darkened room.

But how do you make it look professional?
While I’d like to say that my photos are solely the result of 15 years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree, the truth is that with just a couple of modifications you can have a more professional looking photo, too.

The easiest trick to implement: Move closer.

Nope, it’s not a typo. This works great for improving your composition as well! Those adorable freckles, the glimmer in your subject’s eyes, that dewy complexion, these are all details better captured from a closer angle. The other advantage is that you will, at the same time, be cutting down on distracting backgrounds or objects in your image.

Composition is what sets most pictures apart. The Rule of Thirds is a basic principle that will make a great deal of difference in your picture quality. It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Basically, it is based on the concept that perfectly centered subjects make for uninteresting shots. This is because it leaves very little to be discovered. A good photo will guide your eyes throughout, delivering the story little-by-little and culminating in visual delight.

You can achieve this by imaging that your image can be split into 9 equal sized boxes, 3 across and 3 down, like tic-tac-toe.

Based on this tip, every time you compose a shot, the main subject of your photo should be located primarily on one of these “third” lines.

Another great and easy tip is to pay attention to the colors that make up your image. If your subject accidentally stepped into an 80′s time-warp and their clothing colors resemble the stylings of the Cosby Show, there is a simple solution: change the image to black and white. Clashing colors can radically affect the quality of an image. If you are unable to guide your subject before they decide on their wardrobe or if, through no fault of their own, the backgrounds clash with your subject, minimizing the distractions is the best way to resolve this issue. The fastest way to do this is to cut out all that color with your camera’s black and white editing option.

Armed with these simple tools you can take more professional quality pictures. So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather, blooming flowers, and the simple joy of the great outdoors with a camera by your side! And if you want to share your handy-work with us, feel free to shoot us an email at

info@plumtreestudios.com. You may just see yourself featured in an upcoming newsletter issue!