19 July 2014

Photography + Memory (Part 2) : Print, Share, Publish!

A few days ago I wrote a post about the important role that photos can play in our memories and our sense of self. I wrote about how they can be a reminder of past lives, a celebration of our adventures and progress; something to gather around or quietly contemplate. But they only do all of this if we get them off our hard drives and in to our hands. I'm really hoping you've been inspired to do just that, so here's some ideas to get you started.

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My husband is really, really tricky to buy presents for. He's one of those annoying people who doesn't need or want much and tends to buy whatever he needs or wants when he needs or wants it, which makes gift buying rather difficult. So back in 2007 I was searching desperately for something just right for him, when I came across Blurb - a site which allowed you to publish your own book. Brilliant! I thought, and proceeded to make the first of what is now an annual tradition - a photo book for the family that documents our adventures from the past twelve months

Each year the book gets bigger and better, partly because my photography has improved, partly because Blurb itself has improved and partly because I've learnt a lot about layout and design. When I revisit that first book I'm stunned by both how ridiculously young the step-sons look and how terrible my choices were when it came to photo quality and layout...

In the next post I'll outline some tips for making the best photo book you can, but in the meantime I'll share this page from our 2008 book as it's our wedding anniversary today (in case you can't read the caption it says 'Getting hitched'!).

I've also used moo to create postcards and greeting cards from my photos (I prefer the postcards, for some reason the print quality seems better). And once - in an act of desperation a few days before my husband's birthday and completely stuck for gift ideas (have I mentioned he is ridiculously hard to buy for?) - I used Moonpig to create a personalised birthday mug. It was so delightfully tacky I have a feeling this may become another annual tradition.

I also have some of my favourite shots framed and dotted about the house - a cluster of smaller prints in similar frames looks especially good, I think. In the past I've printed out single shots at home but unless you have a fabulous printer I wouldn't recommend it. Better to use a professional service; I've had great results using Snapfish (good value too). 

I recently asked my photo taking friends for some further recommendations and here's what they said: 

"I used Origrami and they were awesome. Very reasonable and you can choose from a fab range of borders and filters! And the box is super cute...
- Katy Dee (@shiztastic

"I recommend Genius Printing for consistently high level prints, great customer service and fast turn around times.
- Andrew Paranavitana (Andrew Parmi Photography)

Origrami is definitely on my hitlist, I've heard such good things. I'm also really keen to try Artifact Uprising - the quality of their products looks amazing and their website is so clean and pretty. And I'm even keener after reading this review by CZ Design

These days there are loads of photo printing, book making, product creating options around at all kinds of price points. You can go from a fill-in-the-blanks type book (like those offered by the Kindred app) to hard cover works of art printed on lux paper. Not to mention giant canvases or notebooks or calendars ... Film might be dead (I don't think it is but that's for another blog post!) but the printed photo sure isn't. There really is no excuse for not turning your digital images into tangible artefacts. Go forth, and print.

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Please do tell me if you've tried any photo printing services - good, bad and ugly!

16 July 2014

Photography + Memory (Part 1) : Some Thoughts

I've just got back from five chilly but beautiful nights in Tasmania with my good friend Shannon and my loan Olympus OM-D E-M10*. Five nights and I have 413 photos. Yep, you read that right - Four Hundred And Thirteen. Yikes. You see, this little Olympus camera that I've been playing with is much lighter than my beloved DSLR, so I've been taking it everywhere with me. I've even worn it around my neck, obnoxious tourist style. End result? I have taken a lot of photos. 

It does have built in wifi, which means I've already sent some favourites to my iPhone to edit and share them on the go (so nifty!). But it's going to take weeks before I get stuck into the rest of them with editing and sorting and tagging and publishing. And when I say weeks you know I actually mean months, right? It's ace but it's also all a bit overwhelming. And it got me thinking about memory and photography, and the role photos play in our memory, especially in this age of digital cameras. 

But first, some more of those Tassie shots...
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At my Mum's house there's a shelf loaded with photo albums. I have fond memories of flipping through them at various ages. As kids, my sister and I would cringe at all those crazy hippy camping shots of our folks (so much nudity!), and later I'd cringe at the hair cuts of my youth (I had a mullet, sob.). 

We poured over our parents' slightly kooky wedding photos - loving our Dad in his velvet top hat and Mum with her long, long hair. There were photos of my Dad's gentle old border collie; of my Step-dad building our house brick by brick; of my Mum and Step-dad's Grand European Adventure. Of me feeding baby goats in Nimbin and playing the ukulele in Queensland and blowing bubbles in our backyard with my sister. 

Seeing our younger selves reflected back at us, seeing our family and what they'd done, kind of helped us tell a story, create a story, of who we were and where we'd come from. Memories help create that narrative of identity, of self. And photos can help us remember

But here's the thing - how many photos are sitting on your phone, your hard drive right now? And how often do you pull them out and look at them? How many have been printed or scrapbooked or archived in a real, tangible way? How often do you sit around flipping through a collection of photos and laugh and talk and tell stories and ask 'remember this?'? 

Photos are a great reminder of your adventures, the things you've shared as a family (whatever 'family' means to you). They document past lives; they can show you how far you've come (even if it's just in dress sense...). They remind you of how young your kids once were, how time flies past so quickly and why you really should cherish the moment, the now. 

They can be our touchstone, our collective memory bank, our shared history. Something we can gather around and laugh about, or contemplate quietly. But - they can only do all this if we get them off our phones and our hard drives and out in to the world

Consider this a call to action, a rally cry! Print, share, publish, document, archive. Revisit and reflect. Don't just capture moments - create beautiful, tangible memories you can share.

(ps. If you come back for part two and three I'll share some practical ways you can turn your digital images into real life ones, including some tips on putting photo books together...)
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*Disclosure: As part of Kidspot's Voices of 2014 competition I've been lent a super awesome Olympus OM-D EM-10 for a few months. I'll be writing three challenge posts during that time and have a chance to win some really awesome stuff. I'll be telling you a bit about the camera in each post. I promise I'll tell you both the good and the bad.

Here's my initial thoughts: 

Switching from DSLR. To be honest it's taken me a little while to adapt to this compact camera. I have grown quite attached to my trusty DSLR and it's lovely fixed lenses, so embracing a new camera was always going to be tricky. Although the OM-D EM-10 has all the settings to give you the same freedom and control as a DSLR, the fact that it's mirrorless means looking through the view finder is a slightly strange experience - the light looks very different in the view finder compared to the end image. Having said that, I've found using the LiveView screen works pretty well for me. I've also changed the settings so that the image is displayed for a few seconds longer after shooting, which means I can do a quick check of the end result and adjust things as needed. If you're upgrading from a compact you probably won't notice this, but if you're switching from a DSLR allow a little adjustment time

Loving the light (x2). As mentioned the Olympus OM-D EM-10 is super light (just under 400 grams apparently) which means I do take it everywhere with me. I can throw it in my backpack and not even notice it's there. Being compact means it is perfect for travel and street photography, and candid family shots

In Tassie I also put the camera through it's paces under all kinds of light conditions - sunrise, sunset, night, high contrast, indoor, outdoor - and it performed admirably under all of them. The clarity of the image is consistently blowing my mind (more about this later!). 

Wonderful wifi. Through some kind of magic (pretty sure that's what the product specs say) the camera can talk to my phone. Built in wifi plus a free app means you can download photos directly to your phone (or tablet) and edit and post them on the run. I've been doing this for July's Photo a Day challenge and I reckon my Instagram feed has never looked so good! I'm thinking this feature is a dream for bloggers, especially those of us who travel a lot. 

That darn lens cap. The one thing I'm not so keen on so far? There's a teeny tiny lens cap that's not attached to the camera body in anyway. I'm amazed I haven't lost it yet and am taking this opportunity to preemptively apologise to Olympus Australia and Kidspot for losing it in the next month. It will happen. 

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I'd love to hear your thoughts on photography and memory - how do you manage all those images? Do you think it's important to create an archive, to share and reflect on your photos? And is there anything you'd especially like to know about my new toy?




09 July 2014

IGEC : Hong Kong


Hong Kong is a ridiculously photogenic city. Yes, there's the neon and that iconic skyline and those incredible views. But there's also the clash of old and new, and the rush of such a densely populated place - it's a street photographers dream, really. And then there's the surprisingly beautiful spots far from the skyscrapers; lakes and waterfalls and mountains, and such lush green. 

There seems to be a thriving Instagram community in Hong Kong (and yes, I live vicariously through them all). Here's three of my favourites. 

First up - @jesso, a Londoner living in Hong Kong who has a real eye for colour and composition.
Next - @lielaine, who knows how to work a square. Elaine also seems to enjoy celebrating Hong Kong's skyline by scouting out rather high and rather frightening locations. If you suffer from vertigo you may not enjoy this feed quite so much (and you should definitely stay well away from the #chasing_rooftops tag...).
And last but most definitely not least - @swyh_44 (aka Charlie Chan). My favourite thing about Charlie's IG feed? Everything is shot on film. No filters needed here.
I'd also like to thank the HK IGers for leading me to one of my favourite tags - #residensity

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Instagram is chockfull of the some of the most inspiring, creative, hilarious, clever people I've ever had the pleasure of encountering on the internets. IGEC is my chance to share some of those inspiring, creative, hilarious, clever people with you! Oh and you can find me on Instagram here.