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5 Preschooler-Approved Rainy Day Outings in Baltimore

5 PRESCHOOLER-APPROVED RAINY DAY OUTINGS IN BALTIMORE

Are you flat out of ideas for rainy-day activities for your preschoolers? We've had what feels like the rainiest start to summer ever here in Baltimore, and it would not surprise me at all if you've already exhausted your old-standby activities and are now completely out of ideas...and patience. Have no fear! I reached out to Jen Aumiller, a Baltimore-based preschool teacher and mom to three, for some parent and teacher-approved activities that are sure to easy those rainy-day blues. So, when staying home all day with a little person is about to drive you insane and you're already sick of the library and the Chick-Fil-A playground, check out one of Jen's recommendations

1. Regal Summer Movie Express

 Looking for a cheap, easy, but crowd-pleasing activity for a rainy day? Look no further! During the summer months, Hunt Valley Regal Cinema offers $1.00 movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Two options are shown each week and movies are preschooler-appropriate favorites like Curious George, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Paddington 2. Films begin around 10:00 am and concessions are open! It's the perfect opportunity to introduce your little ones to the big screen!

2.  Storyville

Located at the Rosedale and Woodlawn branches of the Baltimore Public Library, this kid-size interactive village is a hit for all preschoolers. Featuring a grocery store, post office, construction zone, puppet stage, and baby garden, you'll be sure to find developmentally age appropriate books, and interactive toys and activities for children 0-5. Both branches are open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Best of all, it's free!

3.  Maryland Science Center

Head downtown to enjoy the fun activities at the Maryland Science Center. You could spend an entire day here and never see the same exhibit twice. There are IMAX movies that change periodically as well as many other great interactive exhibits.  The best part of the Maryland Science Center is the kids room which is strictly for children ages 0-8.  Let Your children use their creativity and run wild.

 Maryland Science Center

Maryland Science Center

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If your children are anything like mine, then the rain can make us all a little grumpy.  Turn that grumpiness into positive energy with some jumping at Sky zone. Sky Zone has special "Toddler Zones" that are designated for your little ones and also has special Toddler Time which is designed specifically for children ages 0-4.  Come burn off some of that excess energy and get some exercise while you are at it! Two area locations are Sky zone is located in Timonium and Columbia.

 

5. Turkey Hill Experience 

Do your kids love ice cream? Silly question, of course they do! Why not spend the afternoon experiencing what it would be like to be a Turkey Hill Ice Cream maker for a day. Your little ones will learn how ice cream is made and they can sample their favorite Turkey Hill flavor.  What can be better than a tour with ice cream at the beginning, middle, and end??  Turkey Hill is located an easy one hour drive from Baltimore in Columbia, PA. (Lancaster County) and makes the perfect day-trip for your youngster. You can have day's worth of fun and be home for nap time!

 The Turkey Hill Experience

The Turkey Hill Experience

We'd love your input! Do you have any favorites you feel should be on the list? Or did you take Jen's suggestion and visit one of the attractions? We'd love to hear all about your visit in the comments below!

About the Expert: Jen Aumiller is a Baltimore-based preschool teacher. She resides at home with her husband and 3 children, Will, Gavin and Emmy and her French bulldog Rocky! 

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7 Must See Museums for Families With Kids in Baltimore

As the school year winds down, my mind turns to the summer and how to get my kids off their devices and out and about! Here's a list of 6 family-friendly, must-visit museums in Baltimore to add to your summer activity checklist! 

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1. The Walters Art Museum

    The Walters offers free drop in art activities for children every Saturday and Sunday between 11-4 pm. Thirty minute, drop-in family tours are also available every weekend during this time and are a great way to introduce your children to the museum through programming designed just for them! Additional special programming is also offered for babies, preschoolers, young children and teens. Visit HERE for additional information.

 2.  Historic Ships in Baltimore

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    The Historic Ships experience in Baltimore includes visiting up to three ships: the USS Constellation, the USS Torsk (and the nearby Lightship 116 Chesapeake) and the USCGC Taney (and Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse). Children love experiencing the living history offered by exploring these ships first hand and imagining what life aboard them must have been like. All ships are open daily throughout the summer and admission for children 5 and under is free!

Torsk Submarine in Baltimore
Sleeping quarters aboard the USS Torsk in Baltimore

3. The Fire Museum of Maryland

    The Fire Museum is one of the largest fire museums in the country and is filled with firefighting trucks and equipment. Children can climb on trucks, dress up like firefighters, and learn fire safety. Special programming throughout the year, including an antique car show scheduled for August 4, can enhance your visit. The museum is open year round on Saturdays from 10-4.

4. College Park Aviation Museum  

    An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the College Park Aviation Museum is a family friendly museum that exposes children (and adults!) to the history of flight and innovation of aircraft. Special, child-friendly programming is offered, including “Afternoon Aviators” on the first Saturday of every month and a preschool storytime the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month. Visit HERE for more information. Open Daily 10-5, museum admission is a steal at $5/adult ($4/seniors) and $2/child (children under 1 are free).

front of a streetcar mural at Baltimore Streetcar Museum

5.  The Baltimore Streetcar Museum

    The Baltimore Streetcar Museum is a little slice of Baltimore history, showcasing not only the history of streetcars, but of amazing city at a crucial point in its history. In addition to the numerous streetcars exhibited, the museum supplements visitors' experiences with a exhibits, photographs, and even streetcar rides. The museum is volunteer run and open weekends throughout the summer. 

historic trolly located at Baltimore Streetcar Museum

6. The Baltimore Museum of Industry

    The Baltimore Museum of Industry offers children a different perspective on museums, celebrating both innovation and the common working man. This museum’s mission to be “a rally cry for anyone who is ready to be just as industrious, just as brave, just as innovative, and just as dedicated to doing the things that turn a great city into something greater” is inspiring for all. The summer Calendar of Events is found HERE. Scroll down for child-friendly offers every week throughout the summer. And be sure to check out the Farmer’s Market held every Sunday from 9 am-1pm through November 24, 2018.

7.  The Baltimore Museum of Art

    The BMA welcomes families and children of all ages. Admission and activities are FREE, including special child focused activities every Sunday from 2-5 PM throughout the summer as part of their Free Family Sunday programming. Visit any day of the week (except Monday, they’re closed) and pick up a free gallery-focused activity booklet for your child. There’s  There’s even a family-friendly audio tour you can download on your iphone or pickup at the information desk. And don’t forget to visit the Sculpture Garden! Kids love it!

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Summer 2018 Ultimate Photo Bucket List

Ultimate 2018 summer photo checklist

SUMMER 2018 ULTIMATE PHOTO BUCKET LIST
 

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THE CHALLENGE

  1. Print out the checklist and place it in a convenient spot. Keep a copy on your phone for easy reference on the go.
  2. Capture images that interpret each of the words. Be as literal or as creative as you like.
  3. Post your photos to social media using the hashtag #2018SBLIST.
  4. Organize your photos in one folder or name/tag them for easy access. At the end of the summer, create a photo book of your family's photos!

BONUS:

Have each family member create their own bucket list set!

TIP:

Plan your for checking a word or two off the list as you review your calendar for the week!

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6 Pro Tips for Planning the Perfect Baby Shower

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6 Pro Tips for Planning the Perfect Baby Shower

6 Pro Tips and Tricks for Planning the Perfect Baby Shower From Event Planner Lauren Corrigan | Baltimore Family Resource Spotlight

Planning a baby shower can feel like a daunting task. With so many things to consider and options available, you may not know where to start. I reached out to the amazing Lauren Corrigan of LCEvents, Baltimore wedding and event planner, who has so kindly shared her favorite tips and tricks to help you plan the perfect celebration!

 Photo Credit: Kimberly Florence Photography

Photo Credit: Kimberly Florence Photography

PLANNING

1. Designate a Host and Draft the Guest List

Designate the host. Will it be you alone or will you share duties with a cohost? While tradition states that a shower should not be hosted by a close family member to avoid the appearance that the family was on a mission to collect gifts, this rule is not as strictly observed today.

Determine the guest list. Guests lists can be tricky. A few tips to guide you:

  • Consult with friends and family of the honoree to ensure that you have included everyone important her. And so long as the shower is not a surprise, consult the honoree herself for her wishes for the guest list.
  • These days, spouses and male friends and relatives are increasingly common to include on the guest list. Before deciding whether or not to invite the men, get a feel for whether or not the mom-to-be would prefer the traditional “female-bonding” shower or a more co-ed experience. The  dad-to-be may have a preference, which should not be ignored. Even if a the traditional girls-only route is taken, the expectant dad traditionally makes an appearance towards the end of the shower to thank everyone for their generosity and share in his bride's excitement.

2. Set the Date, Time and Location

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  • First and foremost, consider the baby's due date. Typically, showers are held 1-2 months before baby is expected so that the honoree can comfortably enjoy her shower without worry. 
  • If the shower must be held after the baby is born, wait at least a month or two after the birth to host. This will ensure that the honoree is feeling comfortable again and can enjoy every minute of her day.
  • Be certain to consider any religious or cultural restrictions on when/if you should host a baby shower. In Jewish tradition, showers are not typically hosted prior to the birth. In this case, the shower might be held after the baby arrives. Other families, cultures, or religions may have their own traditions, and taking a moment to inquire will avoid uncomfortable moments or unintended offense.
  • If the honoree is choosing to learn the gender of her baby, she may wish to have the shower after finding out, allowing her time to select gender-specific items for her registry.
  • If out-of-town guests will be invited, try your best to select a date when the majority of these traveling guests can be present. The modern-day tradition of FaceTiming guests that are unable to attend is always a fun and easy way to include important but absent friends and family.
  • Select a location. Showers can take place almost anywhere--a home, a restaurant, or a catering hall. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Even the most unlikely of places can become beautiful event venues if you are willing to think outside of the box!

3. Pick a theme.

You can go the traditional route, with baby-related décor and games, or create something unexpected.

A few of Lauren's faves:

  • Vintage Garden Party 
  • Peter Rabbit or Velveteen Rabbit
  • Welcome Aboard! New England Nautical
  • French Countryside
  • A Hundred Acre Wood
  • Oh the Places You’ll Go

4.  Send out Invites

  • Invitations go beyond merely informing guests of the event. They offer a preview of the theme and style of the shower and promote anticipation and enthusiasm. Be sure to include an address and directions, as well as an RSVP deadline giving 4-6 weeks to respond. 
  • Consider creating a website. Shower sites are the perfect way to provide guests with additional information that is not convent, appropriate, or possible to include on the invitation. This includes phone-compatible directions, dress code details, and online RSVP management. Websites are a great place to include the mom-to-be's registry information and shop links, since this should not be included on the formal invite. Websites can also share personal information about the parent's to be's story and their pregnancy journey. Lauren highly recommends using Minted’s customizable website templates, which are as simple to set up as they are beautiful.

5.  Select the menu.

  • If you are doing the cooking, plan dishes that can be made ahead of time and frozen, or prepped the day before to save time and stress on the day of the shower. Consider dishes that reflect the theme of the shower. A vintage garden party, for example, might offer smoked salmon tea sandwiches, cucumber canapes, or dill spiral bites. 
  • Save yourself (and your dishwasher) by buying disposable plates and flatware. Believe it or not, there are some beautiful, high quality options available. Lauren loves Posh Party Supplies for their incredible selection. 

6. Plan for how to get her gifts home.

  • Have on hand shopping bags and some cardboard boxes for easy transport. If the dad-to-be will be attending, ask him to bring a larger vehicle for transport and to do the heavy lifting getting when the gifts into the car (another bonus of having a co-ed shower!) 
  • Ask for help! Do not be afraid to ask others to arrive an hour or so early for set up and food prep. This is a large task for one person alone. 
 Photo Credit: Kimberly Florence Photography

Photo Credit: Kimberly Florence Photography

DURING THE BIG EVENT

1. Assign a photographer.

It's wonderful to hire a professional photographer for the shower who can ensure the day is captured perfectly without tasking guests with the chore or worrying that important people or moments will be missed. Hiring professional also eliminates the concern that photographs taken by guests won't make their way back to the guest of honor or will miss important people or moments.  

Otherwise, find your most talented friend/family member and assign them to take photos and videos. Ask more than one person, just in case a phone dies or you have overestimated their abilities! Have a plan in place for returning the photographs to the guest of honor. This can be a Drop Box or other shared file set up in advance. And don't forget to plan for printing the photographs. A small album of images from the shower makes a wonderful baby gift!

2. Plan for thank you notes.

Prepare for thank you notes by printing out the invitation list, including guest addresses, to give to the honoree. During the shower, help her keep track of the gifts by writing down the gifts given by each guest next to their name on the list. Perhaps even go the extra mile and gift her pretty pre-addressed thank you cards. She will be forever grateful for this small luxury.

Enjoy! You given a priceless gift to the mom-to-be. She will be forever thankful for the time and energy that you put into celebrating pregnancy and arranging her special day.

A few bonus ideas for subsequent baby showers:

For baby number 2 and beyond, consider throwing a different kind of shower--one that will make the lives of mom and dad easier. Gestures like stocking their freezer, subscriptions to meal-delivery services, gift cards for date nights, and promises to babysit are all great ways to show them you care and celebrate a new addition to their family. 

Thanks so much to Lauren for offering these amazing tips and strategies! Visit her website for more details on her talented event planning services and learn her contact info. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook

Do you have any tips or tricks of your own? Please leave them in the comments! 

Resources: 

Popsugar “65 of the Best Baby Shower Themes”, Martha Stuart “The Best Baby Shower Ideas”, Parents “A Quick Etiquette Guide to Baby Celebrations”, Real Simple “Baby Shower Planning Checklist”

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BALTIMORE FAMILY RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT | HEATHER BROWN AND THE WOMB ROOM

FAMILY RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT | HEATHER BROWN AND THE WOMB ROOM

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This post starts a new series on the amazing and valuable resources for young families found here in Baltimore. I'm starting with one of my favorite people, Heather Brown, co-owner of The Womb Room, a community space dedicated to childbirth and family support. The Womb Room is co-owned by Heather and her partner, Carmen Calvo of The Nurturing Root, both Baltimore based doulas who created this amazing space here in Baltimore to help moms and their families easily and enjoyably gather the information and resources they need. The Womb Room offers yoga classes, childbirth education, support groups, and parenting classes and is a must visit for pregnant and new mothers! 

Heather is a true modern mom, a homeschooling mother of three fantastic daughters, doula, yoga instructor, teacher, and business-owner, who is truly dedicated to supporting the health and happiness of women and their families. Here, Heather share with us a little more about herself, her experiences as a mother and doula, and all about the services offered by The Womb Room. 

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and The Womb Room. What is your mission?

I am a mom of three daughters and have been teaching yoga for over 15 years. My experiences of pregnancy and birth were the most inspiring, transformative experiences of my life, and through that process I began to focus my work in the areas of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. I am fascinated by the way becoming a mother is simultaneously a vulnerable yet powerful experience - one of the most difficult yet rewarding things a person can do. A pivotal time of personal growth and development. And I love to support other women going through it.

I created a unique childbirth class called Yoga Birth, using the philosophies and practices of yoga as the foundation for understanding and preparing for birth and have been teaching that for over a decade. The Womb Room came about when I joined forces with another local mom and entrepreneur, Carmen Calvo of The Nurturing Root. Together, we pooled our complimentary knowledge, experience and services to create this space for families to benefit from community, support, education and wellness.

Our mission is to be a community of non-judgemental support for all moms and all families and to create connection where they could be isolation, empowerment where there could be fear and to hold space for the full experience of motherhood - the joyful and the challenging parts.

2. What types of classes and support does The Womb Room offer?

We offer a wide variety of classes with more being added to our roster all the time. Prenatal, Postpartum, Mommy/Me and Family Yoga and various types of childbirth education classes, breastfeeding classes, infant massage, sleep education, pregnancy yoga teacher trainings, etc. We offer birth and postpartum doula support and placenta encapsulation services. We also have support groups around various topics including breastfeeding, working moms, motherless moms, we have a dad’s group, etc. We are growing and expanding our offerings all the time.

3. Can you shatter any myths out there related to doulas and/or childbirth education and support?

I think there is a myth that doulas are only for those who want to have a natural birth, and that is absolutely not the case. Every woman and family can benefit from the type of holistic, personalized support that a doula provides. When it comes to childbirth education, most of the mainstream messages we receive about birth are that it is a horrible, scary, painful thing that should be dreaded and numbed as fast as possible. And while of course it is difficult and challenging, it can also be rewarding and empowering. They say knowledge is power and I love it when my students attitudes change from one one of existential dread to confident excitement that they have the strength and internal fortitude they need to rise to the challenge.

4. Share one of your most valuable experiences from your work.

I recently had a client who welcomed the first rainbow baby (baby born after a loss) I’ve experienced, so that was amazingly special - especially given she caught her own baby in a birth tub at home in the nursery. But truly my favorite part of every birth is that moment when the look on the mom’s face says “Wow - I did that!” and I know that the mother has been born into a new aspect of herself as the baby was born. There is this thing they didn’t think they could do, and they did it! I love that awakening to a new level of power within - a power and confidence we need to carry to us through the hardest parts of early motherhood.

5. What was the hardest part of early motherhood for you?

The hardest part of early motherhood for me as learning to trust myself. You have so many new, big decisions to make, so many things to figure out for the first time, so many friends and family and experts telling you the best way. Learning to tune out the noise and tune into my instincts and listen to my baby and trust myself was the hardest part. But learning to trust myself was the most important discovery I made and it continues to guide all my decisions.

6. What is your favorite thing about motherhood now?

I loved having babies and toddlers and the profound closeness that that stage brings, but now that my kids are a little older (12, 9, 6) I revel in being a witness to their process of becoming who they are - discovering their gifts, passions and truths. I love basking in their growth and development and evolution into who they are meant to be and I marvel at the fact that I grew them in my body and try each day to create the conditions at home where they can feel safe, unconditionally loved and free to be who they are.

7. What are your 3 favorite family activities in Baltimore?

We are definitely a nature family, so we like to get out into nature when we have time to play. We love Sherwood Gardens and all the various areas of Patapsco and the Gunpowder. We homeschool as well so my kids love trips to the science center and aquarium. We love live music too, so we try to get to as many concerts as we can. We recently enjoyed the Baltimore Bluegrass Festival, where The Womb Room had a tent for nursing/feeding and diaper changes. We can’t wait to do that again next year!

8. Do you have any words of wisdom for mothers to be or brand new mothers?

My wisdom would be two-fold: First, as I said earlier, trust yourself! You know your baby and family best. Take all the “expert opinions” with a grain of salt, but keep coming back to your inner compass to guide you! And second, find a community! They say it takes a village for a reason. We are not meant to parent in isolation, but our culture is set up in such a way that often becomes our experience. Seek out other new moms to trade babysitting, commiserate about challenges, share in joys and developmental milestones. A mom tribe is so crucial and that’s what we aim to provide at The Womb Room!

Thank to Heather for sharing her insight with us. If you're a new mom in search of pregnancy, childbirth, or family resources, please reach out to Heather at The Womb Room. She'd love to hear from you! Feel free to ask questions in the comments, and don't forget to check back soon for the next Resource Spotlight. 

 

 

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6 Tips for Easy & Awesome Back to School Photos

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6 Tips for Easy & Awesome Back to School Photos

6 Tips for Easy and Awesome Back-to-School Photos

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We all want to capture the perfect back-to-school photographs of our little (and not-so-little) ones heading out the door on their first day of school. Here are a few tips to making this year's photographs the best yet!

1.  Plan Ahead--If a beautiful headshot is what you're after, consider shooting before the big event! The first morning is filled with energy and excitement, and kids are much less likely to cooperate. Plan a time before the big day and motivate your child by allowing her to wear her new dress or carry her backpack for the first time! 

2.  Find the Right Spot--Great light is almost always found in your doorway. Have your child sit or stand just under the door frame. If you have a covered porch, ask your child to sit or stand just under the edge where he is covered from above but the light hits them perfectly. 

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3.  Include All the Important People--Include siblings, friends, grandparents, bus drivers, and teachers in the photos! These are the faces that lend context to your photographs and who your child will enjoy seeing in the photos many years from now.

4.  Capture the Details--Don't forget to capture the little details that make both this day and your child special. This might be the perfectly packed lunch for your picky eater, the new sweater she HAD TO WEAR despite the fact that it is going to be 95 degrees, or the perfect pencil case that took an hour to pick out. 

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5. Look for the Moments--Moments are what make photographs. In the image above, the bus driver's caring glance at my daughter perfectly tells the story of his kindness and its affect on her difficult transition to kindergarten last year. Greeting friends, hugs goodbye, or a final glance back towards mom as a child enters the school building are all common moments. Be patient and wait for them. If you know what you're looking for and are patient, chances are you will capture it!

6. Get in the Frame--Hand off your camera or phone to a neighbor or use the timer to get in the frame with your child. This day is about you, too! (Stay tuned...I'm determined to get one with me in the frame this year!

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6 Tips for Storing Your Digital Photos

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6 Tips for Storing Your Digital Photos

6 Tips for Storing your Digital Family Photographs

Archiving and protecting your family's digital photographs does not have to be complicate. Stop procrastinating and sleep easy by following these 6 tips!

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1. Keep it Organized.

Take the time to define a system for organizing your digital photographs and stick with it. The most obvious method is by date, but you could also organize your photographs by subject (event, holiday, child, etc.). Once you have a system, stick to it as you are importing or otherwise organizing your images. When you digital files are organized, you will be able to find them easily and working through your printing and backup systems (what we'll be talking about in a second) will me much easier. The easier all this is, the more likely you are to stick with it. I import all my digital images to files organized by date. There is a master folder for the year, monthly subfolders, then daily sub-sub folders. Daily folders are titled by date (year-month-day). If the day is special, I will follow the day with a word or two that makes that file easy to recognize, ie. 2016-12-25-christmas. If you are looking for a great tutorial for organizing your iPhone photos, check out this awesome video.

2. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Take the time to get rid of the bad photographs. The really bad, out of focus, kids got my iPhone photographs that clog up your memory and make the task of printing and archiving the keepers much more daunting, making it much less likely that you will do it.

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3. Print your Photos.

This is the most obvious (and fun!) way to preserve your digital files. Print your photographs either as prints or in albums, and display or store them appropriately. It's important to make printing part of your routine, be it once a week (every Monday), once a month (on the 1st of the month), or even once a year. There are plenty of online sites that make it easy for your to upload and print your photographs or create albums and other products. (I like mpix.com for prints, Artifact Uprising for prints and albums, and Blurb for albums) If your images are organized (see Tip 1), this should be a pretty painless process. Plus, who doesn't love receiving a package in the mail! Also, there are some fantastic options for printing your social media photos. A great article details some options is here. The great thing about printing your social media images is that they have already been curated. No culling through the bad shots, as you hopefully didn't post them!

Tip: Order doubles, like back in the old days! Put one set in your archives and let your kids manhandle the second set.

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4. Back it up. Right Away.

When you download your images, back them up right away. I use a program (PhotoMechanic) to import my photos and have it setup to save them to two separate hard drives. Lightroom allows for immediate backup as well. But even if you can't automate the process, it only takes a moment to copy the file to a separate hard drive or upload it to the cloud. There are a million alternatives these days. AppleAmazon Photos, Dropbox, and Google Photos are a few options that are either free or low cost and easy to use. I also have my entire computer backed up with CrashPlan. Having your images stored in the cloud protects from the perils they face in your home, be it flood, fire, or theft.

Another plus is that some cloud backup platforms, like Amazon Photos, offer print services, making it that much easier to print your photos!

5. Get Photographs (and Videos) Off Your Phone.

If you use your iPhone for taking photos, schedule a time to get the photos backed up and off your phone. I'm not an iPhone expert and am terrible at making sure photos are off my phone, but rarely use my phone for photographs, but if I did, this would be a priority. Your phone is much more likely to get lost or irreparably damaged than your computer. As with the images on your computer, the important thing is to have a system that works for you and to schedule a regular time for the task. Culling, deleting, printing, and backing up should all be part of your system. For a great information on options for backing up your iPhone photos, check out this article. Look for a cloud backup option that offers printing services which will streamline your workflow!

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6. Don't Forget Your Kids' Devices.

Don't forget that your kids have photos on their devices that are just as important as yours. Take the time to print and back-up an their photos too, or teach them how to do it and charge them with the chore of managing yours as well! 

Organizing and backing up photos sometimes feels like one more chore and the endless options can feel overwhelming. But if you take a little time to put together a simple system that works for you, you will sleep easy knowing that these important memories are safe. We all know someone who has lost a phone or whose computer has crashed and lost all their photos. This loss is always more devastating than the device itself, and it is so easily preventable. So take my advice and backup photos. You will thank me one day!

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Happy 4th of July | Quick Tips for Great Fireworks Photos

This year I set out to capture some great fireworks photographs. Here is a list of the quick tips that achieved sharp, colorful images this year.

1.  Use a tripod:  I know it is annoying, but slow shutter speeds work best and the only way to get sharp images with slow shutter speeds is with a still camera, preferably mounted to a tripod.

2.  Set your aperture to f/8-11 or so.  

3.  Set your shutter speed somewhere between 2-6 seconds.  

4. Manually focus to infinity if your lens allows.

5. Set your white balance by kelvin to somewhere between 5200 and 5800.  If your camera does not have a kelvin setting, use sunlight.

6. Play around with these settings as you are shooting to get proper exposure. Keep your blinks on to make sure you are not blowing things out, as fireworks are obviously very bright.

7. The lens I used was a Canon 24-70 2.8 II lens, and I shot primarily @ 24 mm. Wide lenses work great, but play around with different focal lengths for different looks. I zoomed in to 70mm a couple times and it yielded cool results.

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When I pulled my images into Lightroom, I found that minimal editing was required. After adjusting the exposure, if necessary, I pulled the blacks and the highlights down and then adjusted the whites and shadows, if necessary, to remove any smoke that happened to be in the background. I added a pop of clarity (+5) and a touch of saturation (+10). 

After making these basic adjustments, I played around with the temperature and tint. This will dramatically change the colors of your image and can turn a semi-boring monochromatic shot into something much more fun. Here are some examples of how playing with temperature and tint affects fireworks. Keep in mind I was starting from a fairly neutral kelvin of 5600.

Finally, one more fun thing to try is to bring several images together in a composite, which is what I did with the lead image on this post. It is actually several images stacked together in Photoshop, blended together in lighten mode. 

So the next time you are headed to a fireworks display, grab your tripod and use a closed down aperture with a low shutter speed. Then spend a couple minutes in Lightroom. I guarantee you will love the results!

 

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8 Tips for Styling Your Family Session

You have booked your family session and set a location. You are psyched to finally capture some awesome photographs of your family (which you've put off way too long!). 

Suddenly, a wave of panic...what on earth are you going to wear? 

There's no way around it. When it comes to family photographs, clothes matter. A LOT. Not only do their colors and tones contribute to the look and feel of an image, but their styles play a role in sharing your family's personalities and in conveying your story.

So what is the best way to go about selecting your wardrobe? I reached out to Bridget Stickline, clothing lover, styling expert and owner of Baltimore's fabulous children's boutique, Wee Chic, for some helpful tips to ease the process of selecting the perfect clothing for your family's photo session.

1.  Visualize your session and do some research.  Stickline first suggests visualizing your session. Consider the look you want for your photographs. Is it playful and energetic or soft and gentle? Once you know this, give some thought to how your clothing might work with the colors of your selected location to contribute to this feeling. Both colors and fabrics can communicate mood. A soft pink flowing dress set among glowing fall foliage creates an entirely different feel than jeans and a bold red sweater. "Pinterest and polyvore are fantastic for this part of the process and are a great resource for ideas."

The three photographs below each depict a young girl running in a similar autumn location. How does the color of their clothing affect your overall sense of the image?

 Girl running through field among golden leaves in white dress.
 Young girl in blue coat and grey dress running by a fence in Hunt Valley, MD park.
 Girl in pink top and boots running with father and brother in background watching.   

2. Pick a starting point.  Once you are armed with some direction, Stickline next suggests picking a starting point. Often, its mom's dress or outfit, but it could be any favorite piece that you know you want to try to include. 

 Baby's dress leaves no room for doubt that she is the focal point of the image and this family's center of attention.

Baby's dress leaves no room for doubt that she is the focal point of the image and this family's center of attention.

 Twin boys in blue plaid shirts sit on a stone wall with their adorable sister. All are smiling at the camera.

3.  Consider coordinating but not matching.  While there is something to be said for the "classic" family photo, where everyone is posed and wearing the same outfit (think white shirt and jeans on the beach}, Stickline suggests that coordinating outfits that don't perfectly match can create a more meaningful photograph. 

By selecting a color scheme, you can achieve a cohesive look while still allowing individual personalities to shine through. And isn't this the essence of family--where everyone belongs together, but brings their own personality to the party? Adding variability to the shades, tones, patterns, and/or textures of your clothing helps maintain a feeling of connectedness among the individuals while highlighting individuality.  Plus, your kids are much more likely to cooperate and be comfortable in clothes they like.

4.  Consider your colors. "Make it easy on yourself and use colors that look great on everyone," Stickline suggests. " Blues, periwinkles, blush pink and eggplant generally work with all skin tones. If there is any variability in complexion or coloring within your crew, sticking with these colors and everyone will look great. Also, Strickline suggests we don't worry to much about colors matching exactly and points out that, "close is often good enough for photographs." In fact, varying tones slightly can help achieve a greater sense of depth in your photographs.

5. Be cautious with patterns. In family photographs, the people are the subjects, not their clothing. Patterns are great, but bold patterns can overpower a photograph and draw attention from the beautiful faces. Since mixed patterns have the potential to clutter the image, Stickline suggests selecting patterns carefully. "Play with lighter plaids and pinstripes and make sure bold prints and patterns do not compete.  When shopping, consider collections, such as the popular Tea collection, whose colors and patterns are designed to mix and match."

 The bold pattern in mom's dress looks lovely, and her husband and son's clothing do not complete with the attention it deserves.

The bold pattern in mom's dress looks lovely, and her husband and son's clothing do not complete with the attention it deserves.

And just to show rules were made to be broken:

 Complimentary oxfords in bold colors bring both energy and cohesion to this portrait of a brother and sister.

Complimentary oxfords in bold colors bring both energy and cohesion to this portrait of a brother and sister.

6.  Use layers, textures, and accessories.  Using accessories and layers is a great way to add style while staying within a color scheme. Scarves, vests, hats, jewelry, hair accessories, and even ties and shoes can be used to add cohesion, detail, style, variability, and comfort to your session. The right scarf can give add just the right pop of color. A jacket or vest can create separate looks...one with the jacket on, one off. Jewelry and hair accessories add personality without distracting attention away from faces. All of this is especially true for quieter, monochromatic palettes where texture can be used to add visual interest in the absence of bright colors or prints.

 A jacket and hat help showcase this young girl's fun personality and individual style.

A jacket and hat help showcase this young girl's fun personality and individual style.

7.  Think ahead.  Don't wait until the last minute to decide upon your wardrobe. Items may need to be cleaned or altered, and allow time to purchase any new pieces. Stickline also reminds us that if you plan to shop for any pieces, keep in mind that stores showcase seasons six months in advance. Spring and summer items tend to hit stores in February and fall and winter items appear mid-summer. Depending on the season, waiting until the last minute to shop may limit your options.

8.  Enlist the help of a professional.  When in doubt, consult a professional. Local boutiques are there to help. When working with clients, Stickline loves it when clients bring with them any clothes they have already decided upon along with inspiration photos. She also suggests leaving the kids at home, at least on your first shopping trip.

Enlisting the help of a professional, even if you aim to work within the wardrobe you already own and don't plan to purchase more than a piece or two, can take your styling to the next level with a polish that will shine through in your photographs.

Many thanks to Bridget Stickline of Wee Chic for her helpful tips! If you have not yet had the opportunity to visit the shop, it's a fantastic mom-owned boutique specializing in clothing for girls ages newborn to 16 and boys newborn to 8. Wee Chic focuses on selling quality, modern yet age-appropriate clothing and providing the personalized shopping experience of a high end store with realistic price points. 

 

Interested in learning more about scheduling your family's session?

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