Keeping Your Computer In Top Running Condition

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I (Katie) give my computer a pretty heavy workout each and every day. I expect it to take me all over the world with lightning fast speed, store and edit thousands of images, and create digital masterpieces. Oh, and there’s banking, record keeping, blogging, bookmarking, researching…. well, I don’t have to tell you because I bet your computer goes through the same rigorous routine as well! We require a lot out of these machines and they are usually more than willing to deliver. When something does go wrong, it disrupts our life in many ways.

Like most computer users, I’ve been on the receiving end of a crash and it is no fun! I’ve become a firm believer in keeping my computer maintained and protected as much as possible to avoid potential problems. Regular maintenance also improves the speed of a computer’s performance and provides you with a more organized and productive workspace.

Here are some of my tried and true tips (and a whole lot of links!) to help you keep your computer in tip-top working condition. I use a PC (windows based) so some of these tasks might only apply to those with a PC. I have also asked a few of our team members to help me include some tips for MAC users as well.

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If you have never had a hard drive (or external hard drive failure) before, you will. It seems to happen to everyone. For a long time I heard that MACS never crashed. I can tell you from hanging out in forums and reading designer blogs that they do. I’m not sure there has been a crash-proof computer invented. Even if your hardware never fails you, there are other calamities that might intervene. Theft, fire, flood, or even a simple coffee spill can wipe out your system. Protect your data, photos, and digi supplies by backing them up! There are so many options for backing up files, that there really is no excuse to not do this.

Tips & Resources for Backing Up:

  • Make backup copies of anything you don’t want to lose by using your computer’s CD or DVD burner. You don’t even need a special program to do this as most systems will let you simply drag and drop your files into the desired drive. An external hard drive is another great method for backing up files. I use 2 of them so if one fails, I will have the other as a backup of my backup. 🙂 If you are storing your backup CDs or EHD in the same place as your computer, you still might lose those if something were to happen to that location (such as a fire) so it is a good idea to consider some online options or an offsite storage spot like a safety deposit box, or a trusted relative’s home.
  • Even though all my photos are saved on my external hard drives, I feel even better that they are also stored on flickr. Because I have a pro account at flickr.com ($24.95) a year, the full resolution size of ALL of my photos is available to me at any time. Read our post about flickr for more details. There are other online photo storage sites, but I haven’t found any that offer full resolution storage for such a low price.
  • Online backups are another great way to protect against loss. Steph loves Mozy.com (she picked it as her product pick in the PaperClipping Roundtable podcast episode 18). Online backup sites keep a copy of your computer’s files on their server so you can restore the items your own system if something goes wrong. You can subscribe monthly for $4.95 a month or save money by purchasing an annual plan. There are other online backup sites out there. I have tried a few that I did not like, and I know that Steph tried several others before finding Mozy.
  • Keep your desktop and files clutter-free. If you know where everything is stored on your computer, you will be more likely to avoid duplicates and keep things backed up.

Whatever method you choose for backing up your files, be consistent with it. If you only burn CDs every few months, you could easily lose precious photos if your computer crashes between backups. I suggest you add a regular task to your calendar or to-do list to help you remember to back up.

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Keep your computer clean and free of viruses and spyware. These are the most prevalent causes of malfunction, so protecting your system against them is very important. Unfortunately, there are cyber-criminals out there who make it necessary to use virus protection programs to keep our computers safe. There are new threats every day and new methods of delivery. I believe a facebook virus compromised my computer a few months ago. Be very cautious about opening suspicious messages on facebook!

How to Protect Yourself Against Viruses:

  • Check to see if your computer has any pre-installed virus protection programs. Sometimes a newly purchased computer will also include a subscription to a service such as McAfee or Norton. If you already have something like this, be sure you are using it! Check your system folders to see what’s installed and make sure it is enabled and functional.
  • If you don’t have virus and spyware protection, consider adding it. Browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox have some anti-virus tools built in to them, but they are generally not adequate enough to block all malware on their own. PC Antivirus Reviews is a good site to go to for comparing various programs.
  • As digital scrapbookers, we often download files from all over the internet. Be careful to use reliable sites for freebies and downloads. Free isn’t worth it if you pick up a bad file along the way. If something looks suspicious, don’t download it. If your virus blocker finds a problem with a file, let the poster know. We want you to know that we here at The Daily Digi are very careful about the links we recommend!

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With all that we put our computers through, it’s actually amazing they don’t act up more. I’m always amazed that I can move my laptop around the house and haul it through road trips and airports and it still performs beautifully. A little prevention and maintenance goes a long way in keeping a computer running smoothly.

Maintenance and Prevention for the Computer:

  • Use the built in system tools to improve speed and functionality. Empty the recycle bin (garbage) regularly. Run disk cleanups and even disk defrags if needed. This article from Microsoft at Work has some great tips for both tools.
  • Don’t eat or drink over the keyboard. Crumbs can get lodged into openings, and liquids can seep through and destroy hardware.
  • If you are packing your computer around (laptop), use a padded case with plenty of protection. Don’t drop it. 😉
  • Use the proper electrical cords and/or batteries for your computer. Use surge protector cords to protect your system from electrical surges.
  • Occasionally clean the keyboard and fan in your computer. After powering off the computer, use a small amount of compressed air to remove debris. Keeping the fan clear of dust will help prevent the fan from overheating. See this list of computer cleaning no-nos for more information.

Now that I’ve cleaned up my computer, I think it’s ready for some new digi supplies. Seems like a nice reward for a job well done. 🙂 I’m off to shop!

katie

P.S. Our apologies for not posting the winner from the Kitschy Digitals post sooner! The random winner for Danielle’s gift is KirstyB – she said “Ooohhh….lovely scrap goodies!! This months digi files is STUFFED WITH GOODNESS!! Love the Woodland Book Lovers stuff from Danielle too!!” Thanks Kirsty! Check your inbox for your gift!

P.S.S. We updated the original post on Kitschy Digitals with a coupon code that is good for both of Danielle’s stores so be sure to check it out!

How to Blog

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Many of our readers mentioned that they hope to start or keep a blog this year so they can share their projects such as Photo 365. Having a blog is a wonderful way to document the ongoing events and memories in daily life, and it comes in very handy later on when you are ready to recap those experiences on a scrapbook page. Last week in the first episode of the Paperclipping Roundtable podcast guest Stacy Julian talked about how there are many forms of scrapbooking these days (including blogging), and that every one of them “counts” (love that!) Blogging is simply another way to record your life experiences, and that certainly is an important form of memory keeping.

I (Katie) have been blogging nearly every single day since October of 2005, and now I’m a regular blogger here at The Daily Digi as well. 🙂 I have discovered a lot of useful tips along the way to help me become a better blogger. Whether you are a long time veteran of the blog world, or you are hoping to start one in the future, I’m sure you will find something helpful in this post.

Getting Started:

  • Find a site to host your blog. I would suggest you start with a free site like blogger to get the hang of it, unless you know you are opening a business related blog. Then you might want to hire some help getting a blog set up through wordpress or typepad that will integrate directly in with your own website. I have used all 3 of those services and feel comfortable recommending any of them. There are a lot of other options out there as well so you may want to do search on “blog hosts” if you are looking for something different.
  • Decide on a purpose and a name for your blog. Of course you can change this later one if you want (it’s your blog) but it’s helpful to have an audience and a general direction in mind from the start. If the blog is for family and select friends then you are fine to keep your posts centered around the daily thoughts and doings of your life. If you are hoping for a larger audience, you will find more success in having a broader topic as well such as; reading, crafting, scrapbooking, baking, history, traveling, etc. Are you hoping to make money on your blog? (it’s not easy to do that!) Or do you just want a forum for sharing ideas and connecting with others. These are things to consider.
  • Have a privacy plan. These tips also apply to posting photos and/or scrapbook pages on any online site. Don’t post information that would allow others to invade your privacy. Even on a family blog, you should never post your address (even in a picture of your house or mailbox). Be cautious about posting where your family works as well. Also, realize that everything that is put on the internet can stay there forever (even if you delete it) so be careful about bad-mouthing someone at work or sharing something really embarrassing. Of course a lot of these decisions are personal choices, but if you are blogging, chances are you would like at least one other person to enjoy what you are posting, so it helps to play nice and keep those you love comfortable and protected. If you are posting pictures and information about children, be especially careful since there are a few unsavory characters out there. Some sites do offer password protection for blogs. I have a password protected blog for my own immediate family, but I still follow the above guidelines. If something ever happened to the security of that blog, I won’t have to worry that I’ve given away to much specific information.

Creating and Keeping a Great Blog:

If you are going to take the time to post to a blog, you might as well make it something to be proud of. While you can customize your blog any way you want, there are a few tips that will increase readability and make it more enjoyable for you and your readers.

  • Busy backgrounds make it hard to read text and/or see the photos and content you are sharing. Another thing to avoid is light text on a dark background – it is very hard to read! Think of your blog as a giant scrapbook layout (or poster) that you are placing in front of someone and expecting them to read. Would you fill that page with a ton of blinking ads? Would you put all of your text on a wildly flowered background? Always keep the reader in mind (even if you are the only reader).
  • Blog regularly. It doesn’t have to be every day, but if you blog twice and then don’t post anything for 2 months, don’t expect anyone to be interested in your blog. Unless you are a huge celebrity, people generally aren’t going to take the time to visit over and over in hopes that you might have blogged.
  • Enable an RSS feed (your blogging program will have information on this). Be sure to make it a full feed so people can read posts in their readers. (See Steph’s post on subscribing to feeds) Some people think that by posting a partial feed it will force people to visit their website and click on ads. It just forces me to delete the feed because I don’t have time for that. Based on a recent poll on the epic edits photography blog, I have proof that I’m not alone in that opinion.
  • Don’t steal. Don’t take someone else’s content and claim it as your own (or repost in your own words). It’s common blog etiquette to link back to where you found the original idea. Feel free to borrow inspiration from other bloggers though, it’s a compliment, just like scraplfiting is in our community. Just be sure to credit the source.

Make it Fun and Interesting:

  • Share stories and experiences. One of the greatest things about reading blogs is finding out that others out there have the same joys and struggles.
  • Post photos or images when possible. Make your blog visually interesting as well. You don’t have to be a professional photographer, but take a little time to learn about your camera and put some effort into capturing good photos. Explore the photography section here on The Daily Digi for tips and ideas. You may want to consider editing your photos a bit as well (here’s where those digital scrapbooking skills really pay off!) If you have ever seen a really spectacular photo on a blog, chances are it’s been tweaked a little in photoshop. That’s what great photographers do – they use the tools available to them to make their photographs shine. (Read about a simple trick Janet uses to make her photos and layouts really look great on the web using the Scott Kelby approach.)
  • Be yourself. Don’t try to be something your not. Remember that a blog is another way to express yourself and document your life. Keep it real and you will be happier in the long run. So will your readers.

Finally, I just wanted to say how fun it is when you include links to your own Daily Digi inspired projects on your own blogs (or in forums). It’s so fun to see what YOU are creating with the amazing kits available each month in The Digi Files! Thanks for all your support and inspiration!

katie

Katie and I will be presenting a beginning digital scrapbooking workshop at The Casual Blogger Conference this spring. If you are a blogger or would like to start a blog, you would enjoy this conference. Here’s what the site says about the conference:

“The Casual Blogger Conference was born late one night, when we were lamenting the fact that we couldn’t go to those big conferences. We’re “just the mommy blogger” we thought, and we will never fit in with all those famous people, and we don’t have much to offer.
We realized that there were probably a lot of other people just like us who wanted to learn more about their favorite hobby, but just couldn’t justify the expense–the ticket, the babysitters, the hotels– and were a little intimidated by the whole idea.

We understand the power of the casual blogger. They stay home with their kids. They juggle a full time job and soccer practice. Sometimes they’re married, sometimes they’re not.

But they ALL find time to fit blogging into their lives.”

You can read more about the purpose, the services they will be offering, and the really cool facilities on their site.

The Casual Blogger Conference is giving away one pass to a lucky Daily Digi reader. Leave them a comment in this post telling them why you want to go to the conference by Monday at midnight EST. A random winner will be chosen from the comments and posted on Tuesday! 🙂

P.S. Congratulations to Candice W. who is our random GIFTaway winner she was chosen from those that have purchase THE DIGI FILES so far this month!! Candice won a $10 gift certificate to Digital Design Essentials, check your email Candice!

Digital Scrapbooking Ergonomics

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Digital scrapbooking has so many perks and advantages to enjoy, especially in the areas of space-saving benefits and great portability. The extended use of a computer can cause some ergonomic issues however; specifically stresses and strains on the back, the neck area, arms, and wrists. Even legs and feet can suffer if you sit for too long. Anyone who uses a computer will benefit from following a few tips to stay healthy, and digital scrapbookers will find their creating time to be much more productive and enjoyable if they are careful to work in an ergonomic environment.

What is the right way to work at a computer? This is not an easy question to answer as it may be different for everyone. I (Katie) have learned through a lot of trial and error that certain chairs, tables, and sitting positions can easily wreak havoc on my body and end up causing me a great deal of pain. I have a few tricks that I have learned as well as some great links to share with you to help you feel healthier and happier while you are working on your computer:

  • Screen level – Pay attention to your posture. If you are slumped over, or straining in any way, your body will pay the price for it. I was so excited to get a laptop computer, but I soon found that I was hunching over to see the screen. One of the big advantages of a desktop monitor is that you can adjust the screen height to be closer to level with your eyes. I found that using a laptop stand for a good portion of my computer time has helped ease my neck strain. The laptop stand is something I picked up at Costco, but I know you can find them at just about any office store. This does cut down on my portability, but I can also lift my laptop out at any time and move to another location.The ideal setting for a screen is within your line of vision (and slightly tipped back is even better). See this link at office-ergo.com for a full range of tips like this one.

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  • Mouse & Keyboard – My laptop stand also came with an extra wireless keyboard. With as much typing as I do, this comes in very handy for me. I wouldn’t be able to type on the laptop while it was on the stand. Our family desktop computer has a cushioned and curved keyboard which is even more comfortable for lengthy typing sessions (once you get used to it). The biggest key to comfort when using a mouse or a keyboard is having adequate wrist support. Your wrist should be straight and not feel strain when you are working. Some people find that a wrist rest cushion really helps. I actually have to wear a brace to keep my wrist from hurting. I injured my wrist by tearing about 400 fabric strips for a church project and it has never been the same since. If I wear my brace though, I don’t have any problems.

One of the most frequent complaints from digital scrapbookers is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This can get very serious and require an extended break from the computer (gasp!) and even surgery (double gasp!) so this is something to take seriously. Women are much more likely to suffer from Carpal Tunnel. After browsing through some online forums, I found some innovative computer mouse designs meant to help with Carpal Tunnel symptoms. Logitech has a Track-Man wheel mouse and Evoluent specializes in ergonomic equipment. Many digital scrapbookers swear by the pen and tablet system over using a mouse so that might be a good option to explore as well.

  • The right chair – I have tried several different chairs over the years and I found one at Office Max a few years ago on clearance that seems to give me the right amount of cushioning and back support. It is not an expensive chair, but it works for me. I can’t work sitting at our dining room table because the chairs don’t have arms and the table height is uncomfortable. The very worst position for me is sitting at a high counter or bar. When my legs are not resting on the ground, I end up with a lot of knee pain. My back also suffers in high chairs. I need to have back support so a stool would not work for me. I would encourage you to pay attention to your own body’s signals when determining what chair and table combination works for you. The chair doesn’t have to cost a lot, but you usually will do better if you invest in a nicer chair instead of using a folding chair. If money is not an object, you might want to check out Herman Miller. They are supposed to be the most amazingly comfortable work chairs!
  • What about the couch? If you are like me, you want to move around a bit. One of the best things about having a laptop is that I can sit and watch tv with my kids or hubby and edit photos. The best thing to pay attention to is making sure your back and arms are supported. Prop up a few pillows on each side of yourself to create some arm rests. Make sure your back feels comfortable and supported. You might want to consider using a portable lap table to keep the heat from the laptop away from your legs. I still use a cordless mouse wherever I sit because the touchpad causes me wrist and finger pain.
  • Take breaks – Medical experts agree that the best thing you can do to avoid repetitive stress injuries is to be cautious about not overdoing it. Our bodies are not built to do only a few movements over and over. Variety in movement, and taking regular breaks will extend the life of your muscles and joints.

Each person will find that they have different needs so be sure to pay attention to what works for you. I also asked some of our team members if they had any advice on this topic and here is what they said:

Jacki Oh, dear, I need to do better at this. I do have a really good office chair that swivels so I can lean forward and backward as needed and my screen is big so I don’t have to be quite so close to the computer. I rest my feet on a box so they don’t swell up (I don’t have air conditioning and it gets really hot!). I also use a cordless mouse so I can move it around as I sit in different positions.

Steph – I have a bad back and my husband was convinced it was caused by me sitting on my couch (I sit in the recliner part, with my feet up…lol). The Physical Therapist said that sitting in the recliner would actually be better for my back than sitting hunched over at a table or desk. I have since found this to be true, sitting with my feet up relieves a lot of the pressure on my back.

Janet – I found that changing the height of my chair made a huge difference. My mouse arm was getting really sore and once I raised my chair so that my arm goes with gravity — so that it is above the desk rather than at the same height, I feel much better.
I know a lot of people choose to use a tablet…I could never really get into them. I should though…maybe I wouldn’t have a callous on my hand where my hand hits my desk Cheesy

For some wonderful resources on how to create an ergonomic work space, be sure to check out the following links:

katie

P.S. Kelly is our winner in today’s GIFTaway. She was randomly chosen from the comments left in yesterday’s post about Michelle’s products, here’s what she said: “I’m a long time Michelle fan too! I have to agree with everyone that the Vintage Holiday Memories kit would be my first choice but right behind that would be the Trendy kit. I really enjoyed the sample layouts using Michelle’s kit too! Thanks again you guys!”

Thanks Kelly and thanks to everyone who is taking time to submit comments, we read them all and truly appreciate it!! 🙂

Taking Screen Shots

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One of the things that I needed to learn immediately when I started THE DAILY DIGI was to take screen shots.  It was imperative that if I was going to give  tips and tricks that my readers be able to see what I was doing.  Many of my posts relied heavily on you being able to see what I was doing in Photoshop. Take this post for example: there were six different screen shots for you to see how I make eyes pop in a photo.

Many people have asked me through emails and comments how to take a screen shot.  So today, I thought I would share. Well really, I will just share where I got my info since I learned the way I learn most things these days: I googled it (don’t you love how “googled” has become a verb?)

Here are two very helpful articles:

TAKING SCREENSHOTS IN MAC

HOW TO TAKE A SCREEN SHOT IN MICROSOFT WINDOWS

And I know I am biased, but Mac really rocks for screen shots, giving you lots of different options. With different keystrokes, I can take a capture of my entire screen (Command Shift 3)

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Or just a portion of my choosing (Command Shift 4)

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Or just a window (Command Shift 4, then space, then click on window)

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Taking screen shots can come in really handy, and not just for showing off some mad Photoshop skills.  You can use it to show proof of Paypal  transactions, show webmasters when their site looks wonky from your end, when you want to share some crazy error message with your ISP, and more.  And if you get really bored, you can go crazy with screen in a screen in a screen…

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Happy picture taking 🙂

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The Portable Digi-Scrapper

When I (Katie) first started digital scrapbooking back in 2005, I used the desktop computer that everyone shared in our house. Soon, we found ourselves battling over computer time and I developed a longing for a laptop of my own. It seemed that everyone in the forums posted about how they could take their laptop anywhere and scrap all the time. This motivated me to start selling my own digital designs and idea files so I could save enough money for a laptop of my own. By 2006, I had my very own laptop and I was thrilled to finally be able to scrap somewhere besides at our home office desk.

Over the years, I have learned a lot about what it truly means to be a portable digi-scrapper, and I can honestly say it isn’t all about having a laptop (even though that does help). Oh, and I will let you in on another secret… no one can really lay on a tile floor (like the model in the above picture) and work comfortably! Even if you are working on a laptop, you will need a place to sit and a few other basic supplies.

IF YOU ONLY HAVE A DESKTOP COMPUTER:

You aren’t going to be very mobile in general. Most of your digital scrapbooking, photo editing, online shopping, and other computer related activities are going to happen on that desktop computer. If you want to take your work to another location, you will need to have supplies backed up on dvds or cds, SD cards, flash drives, or an external hard drive and use another computer. If you are traveling to visit a friend or relative and want to bring these things along, you should be sure they are ok with you using their computer and check to see if they mind you hooking up a device like an EHD into their system. Understandably, some people will not like this idea.

It’s ok to take a break from online activities and your computer once in a while anyway (yes, I actually do believe that!) so if you don’t have a laptop, consider it a great way to force yourself to take some time out for other things. If you really want to use someone else’s computer for scrapbooking related activities, consider editing photos online with a website like picnik or photoshop.com. You can also upload pictures to online sites such as flickr or post entries to your blog for future inspiration.

IF YOU HAVE A LAPTOP:

Not only can you work in different areas around your house, you can also take your laptop on the road for ultimate flexibility. The amount of mobility often depends on the type of technology and accessories you possess. A lighter laptop will be easier to pack around. If you have an extra battery on hand, you won’t be tied down to an outlet for charging as often. If you have a lot of free memory space, you can keep a good amount of supplies right on the hard drive of your laptop. If you are reliant on an external hard drive, that can also be packed up and moved around, or you can use a selection of your supplies that are backed up to a flash drive or SD card. I rarely pack my external hard drive because I find it cumbersome, but if I were going on a long trip where I would have a lot of scrapbooking time, I would certainly consider it.

If there is a wifi internet connection around, most laptops will be able to hook you up to the internet. If you are staying in someone’s house you might need to see if they have a router that you can tap into with their password. This might not always be possible. I’ve stayed in plenty of places without an internet connection and I often find that I can get a lot more scrapbooking done without the distractions of hanging out online.

PLANES, TRAINS, & AUTOMOBILES:

I have actually digi-scrapped in a moving car, in an airport, in the waiting room while my car was being serviced, as well as several other unusual locations. I have been able to do this because of some advance planning and organization. If I have a folder loaded with kits and templates I want to work with, that is a big help. Also having a folder of photos to use makes it easier to get down to the business of scrapbooking on the go.

Once your laptop leaves your house, it is a good idea to use a protective bag or case of some sort. Avoid dropping the laptop of course, but if you do, then hopefully a padded carrying case will decrease the damage. I use a Swiss Army computer backpack when I travel with my laptop because it is so easy to carry. This same backpack is the carryon I take on airplanes and it holds everything I need to travel, even my camera(s). There are plenty of fashionable laptop bags in office supply stores, Target, Walmart, and even on Etsy. Be sure you pick a bag with enough room to add a few other important essentials (like a mouse and power cord).

PACKING LIGHT:

When I travel, these are the things I always bring (unless I will be without electricity):

  • laptop
  • laptop power cord
  • wireless mouse
  • point and shoot camera
  • extra camera battery
  • wrist brace (I have wrist issues)
  • iphone and charger

When I’m going on a bigger trip, I pack accordingly. I still only use my computer backpack to carry everything that I need.

  • laptop with power cord and extra battery
  • wireless mouse with extra batteries
  • point and shoot camera with cord, extra battery & charger, extra memory card
  • dslr camera with cord, extra battery & charger, extra memory card
  • dslr macro filters. I did not bring the extra lens I have in this case
  • dvds for burning pictures to share and a sharpie for writing on dvds
  • flash drive and SD card loaded with digital supplies
  • iphone with charger cord

I actually took these photos while on vacation at my Mom’s house so I can tell you honestly that these are the things I pack when I want to scrap and take photographs. No matter if I pack light or pack up all my goodies, I always feel a little nervous about carrying such an expensive bunch of gear around. Of course, it’s nothing compared to what professional photographers pack around, but it’s a lot to me! I’m careful to keep my backpack on my body or I lock the strap around my leg when I’m sitting in the waiting area of the airport. I also try to be aware when I’m going through the security lines since that is where a lot of theft can occur.

I do realize that I’m lucky to have such a great collection of electronics and gadgets to help me digi scrap in almost any location. It has taken me several years to collect this gear and not all of it is essential. Please don’t feel like you have to have a lot of “stuff” to be a successful photographer and/or digiscrapper.

Here are a few great tips that are helpful:

  • Photographer’s Travel Tips from Photofocus
  • Travel Photography Tips from Digital Photography School
  • Packing Tips for Travel Photography from photo.net
  • One last reminder…Don’t miss out on the places you are going to by spending the whole time with your head buried in your laptop. Enjoy the scenery, the experiences, and of course, the people!

    katie5

    Scan It!

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    If you think back to origins of the word “scrapbook” you quickly remember back to your mother or your grandmother saving scrips and scraps of paper and other items and adding them to a book. When I was a child I used to love looking through my mother’s wedding album…looking at all the newspaper clippings, wedding invitations, napkins from the reception. I just loved that the little details of her day were preserved for me to look at. As I grew older, I was a pack rat and saved everything — every movie theater ticket stub, every note from a boyfriend, every receipt from a fun day. Seeing this little scraps made the memories come to life.

    As digital scrapbookers, we often miss the opportunity to include these pieces of our story. We are so devoted to our kits and element packs that it is easy forget about the real thing. Now I don’t know about you, but one of the things I love most about digital scrapbooking is that my pages lay flat. Adding in “real” items to my pages will make everything big and bulky. And sometimes, I want to keep the original so I can’t just add it to a scrapbooking page (think college diploma!) So, in order not to miss out on the “real” things, I scan them!

    Early on in my scrapping days I scanned often. One of my very early pages included the covers to my daughter’s “potty books” — the books we read together while she “waited for the potty to come.” The books are now old and falling apart (four kids later) so I love that I have them forever saved through scanning. That and the fact that I still have them both memorized! Oh, and please excuse the poor design of this page…I made in over four years ago!

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    Since we have moved house a lot, I have also gotten good at scanning in kids artwork so that it doesn’t all have to move with me! Again, an older page.

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    I was so inspired by some of the pages from our team that now I want to scan everything!

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    This layout, by Ana, includes her daughter’s hospital bracelet from when she was born.

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    This layout, also by Ana, totally blew me away! She scanned in the hair from her daughter’s first hair cut! Isn’t it AMAZING?? Ana had this to say, “Although I feel that in this case the real hair would be better (of course I still have it kept in a keepsake box!), I did this layout about the first haircut my daughter had. I scanned the plastic bag in which the hairdresser put her curls. It was a bit hard to do the extraction and recreate the transparency of the plastic, but anyway, I think the result was nice.”

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    Rachael has also been scanning stuff in for a long time. This layout, from 2006, includes the ticket stub to a Red Sox game.

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    Dúnia made this gorgeous layout with a scanned letter from her family. What a precious keepsake!

    Jacki is a scanning queen! She says she uses her scanner all the time — from ticket stubs to artwork. Check out these incredible layouts!

    mika_gr2artwork_09_webLayout by Jacki — daughter’s artwork

    mika_toothfairy_09_webLayout by Jacki — letter to the tooth fairy

    jo_honorcourt_08_webLayout by Jacki — boy scout badges

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    Here are some ideas of things that would be great to scan:

    • ticket stubs
    • birthday invitations
    • special cars or letters
    • covers of favorite books
    • pregnancy tests
    • diplomas
    • recipes with mother/grandmother’s handwriting
    • theater programs
    • packaging to favorite foods
    • pieces/cards from favorite games

    Want some tips on scanning? See THIS SITE.

    Happy scanning!

    janet_sig16

    Doing the Happy Dance {reading unread messages in Gmail}

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    I feel like the woman in that picture.  Yes, I certainly do.  I have found success at my computer today.

    MY EMAIL BOX IS AT ZERO.

    You read that right.  ZERO.  I haven’t seen my inbox at zero since oh, I don’t know…OCTOBER??

    Here was my problem.  It is so secret that I love, love, LOVE Gmail.  Here is a whole post on it. However, I have had one major issue with them.  For as long as I have used Gmail, I have never been able to find a way to view all of my unread email at once.  Now, in a perfect world, I wouldn’t have any unread email, but this is not a perfect world and I have maintained a steady number of 30 on my inbox at all times. I get thousands of emails a month and I just did NOT feel like wading through a year of email to find those little suckers.  Gmail, though great in every other way imaginable, has totally dropped the ball on this one.  However, once again, the internet came to my rescue.

    picture-79

    After thinking, “phew, my email box is empty” and then seeing that 30 still glaring at me, I did a quick Google search: “viewing all unread emails in gmail.”  And ladies and gentlemen, I found a solution!  WOO HOO.

    The first site that I read said that to view your unread emails, type

    label: unread

    into your search box

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    I was excited as I saw my unread email all sorted together.  Unfortunately, there was another problem.  This filter gave me all my unread messages, including automatically archived emails and folders.  So I was having to wade through tons of “So and So has placed an order at THE DAILY DIGI” emails that normally don’t go to my inbox.  I sifted through them for a while, catching a few little buggers who weren’t TDD orders and was able to widdle my inbox down to about 25.  About to admit defeat once again,  I decided to look at what other results my Google search yielded and I found the golden nugget:

    label: (unread inbox)

    And then faster than I could blink, the last 25 of my unread emails were all right there in front of me. A few quick glances, one star and archive, lots of delete and voila! EMPTY INBOX.

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    Please imagine my giddy dance.  I just did it again. Maybe I will video my happy dance and we can all reminisce about this guy

    janet_sig16

    An Easy (and yet Realistic) Frame

    I have had so many people write and ask about the frame I used for this canvas (the frame is totally digital). Did I create it myself? Where did I get it? What shadow settings did I use? Tons of questions and one easy answer!

    Picnik

    You will remember that I did THIS post on the cool online photo editor called Picnik. I did the entire frame there and it took all of about 2 minutes and looks totally real.

    forcanvas

    First I uploaded my full size image (already cropped the way I wanted it)

    picture-19

    Then I clicked on the CREATE tab

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    Then I scrolled down to MUSEUM MATTE (it’s a free one)

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    I played around with the settings and ended up with the largest size frame and matte

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    When I was done I clicked SAVE and SHARE

    picture-23I saved at 100% at the highest quality possible

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    And ended up with this.

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    Most canvas printers only need 100 – 150 dpi for crisp canvas prints so I could make this baby BIG (mine is 50 inches long).

    And now I smile every time I walk in my room

    (except for the fact that I have no bedside lamps…anyone have an in with IKEA and can tell them that Jakarta really needs a branch?)
    janet_sig16

    Get Published!

    Today’s post is from team member Kelly. Kelly is an award winning scrapper and has been published in countless magazine issues.

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    I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a pat on the back, a “job well done”, or just to be told that you rock. Most of us crave a little recognition every now and then. And while the majority of us would say that we scrap for our families or to preserve our memories, the truth is we’d like to share it with the rest of the world too. Nothing wrong with that, friends. Think of how dull the scrapbooking life would be without inspiration from magazines, idea books and online galleries. I shudder at the thought. And if you’re like most of us, you’d like to share the goodness. And so you should. Today, let’s talk a little about submitting your work for publication. All of the magazines that you love to look at, have editors who all love to look at new and fresh pieces to grace their pages. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking to submit your pages for publication.

    • Be Yourself. No sense in trying to re-create who you are. It’s much easier to consistently turn out great work when you don’t have to try and be something you’re not. If you’re a “simple” scrapper, work it. If you’re the “layer girl”, go for it. Be yourself- no one does it better.
    • Submit within the guidelines. Size your layout according to the submission requirements. Don’t submit more than what’s asked for. Keep a thorough and neat supply list. If you’ve got a new technique or idea on your layout it never hurts to point it out.
    • Think ahead and look back. Most magazines are working about 6 months ahead of the “real time” that we’re in. So, it’s August which means while most people are thinking about heading back to school and such the scrapper submitting for publication is pulling out the great pictures she took at Valentine’s Day last year. The best part about this? It’s ok that you’re not all caught up with your pictures! Just think, you can create the perfect Valentine layout with great new product for that call that’s out there. It also means that you should be thinking ahead about the pictures you’ll want to work with in February and you should be making sure you get the shots of the back to school supplies and fun shopping trips for new school shoes while you can. Always be prepared.
    • Submit consistently. If you’re scrapping consistently, look for pages that will work with the calls that are out there and submit them. Don’t pre-judge them. Seriously. I cannot tell you how many times the layout that I had deemed “not anything they’d want” would get an email request. You never know what’s going to strike a chord with an editor so if it fits the request, send it.
    • Don’t force it. In the end, you want to look back on the pages you’ve created and be happy with them and know that you’ve accomplished what you wanted to for those pictures. Tell your story. Create your art. Hopefully someone else will want to share with the rest of the scrapping world but if not, at least know that it’s done and it’s there for you and your family to enjoy. Not getting “a call” is not the end of the world. It can be something as simple as them needing a page with green and you’ve got orange. Or they want a picture of a boy and you’ve got a girl. Just because your layout isn’t chosen does NOT mean that it’s not amazing. It simply means that it didn’t fit all the tight parameters of that editor’s needs this time.

    Check out these links for current page calls and hit the send button. Go on. Put it out there.

    I can’t wait to see what you’re creating!

    http://www.creatingkeepsakes.com/submissions/index.html

    http://www.scrapbooksetc.com/magazine/submit.html

    http://scrapbooktrendsmag.com/submissions.html

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    You Asked…We Answered {part 2}

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    We’re back to answer some more of our great reader questions…I love that we are able to (imperfectly) answer some of your burning questions. There are so many digi scrappers out there, at so many different levels, and everyone has different struggles and questions. Even those of us who have been around for a few years sometimes learn something new (and something we wished we had known all along!) If you missed {Part 1}, check it out HERE. And now for Part 2:

    We are going to answer questions about:

    1. Lining up elements on a page
    2. “Snapped” and “Scrapped” dates on a layout
    3. Albums
    4. Keeping a group of people all in focus

    YOU ASKED…

    I love this site and check it out every day. I could use a tutorial on using the alphas in kits. I can’t figure out how to make the letters in a word the same size or how to make them equally spaced.

    WE ANSWERED…

    Great question! Lining things up (alphas, text boxes, photos, etc) on a layout is often really important. Thankfully, our photo editing programs make it really easy. These instructions are for Photoshop Elements, but Photoshop and other programs have similar steps.
    Here is a layout I did that I really needed some help lining stuff up on. It was really important to me that the numbers and all the text lines were perfectly straight.

    everything

    PSE has a feature called a grid which allows you to easily line up elements, alphas, and more. In order to see your grid, go to View>Grid

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    Turning this feature on allows you to view lines on your page so that you can see where things line up. These grids are for viewing purposes only and they will not show up on your printed layout. You can turn your grid lines on and off as you like. You can set you grid to any amount that you want. In order to change your grid size, go to Photoshop Elements > Preferences > Guides, Grids, and Slices.

    picture-12

    Then, you can set two amounts: one for your grid lines and one for the subdivisions within those grid lines. The default color grid lines will be a darker color than the subdivisions, but you can set them to be any color that you want.

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    Once your grid lines are set, you have one more important thing to do in order to best help you line things up: Snap to Grid. When you select snap to grid, the grid lines become “magnetic” and things close to the grid lines get pulled up right next to the grid. This allows for perfect lining up. Go to View > Grid > Snap to Grid.

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    YOU ASKED…

    Why do people note the “snap” date and the “scrapped” date? What is the purpose of making the distinction-other than showing how far behind you are? 😉

    WE ANSWERED… (I wrote back to the reader right away and this was my response:)

    Hi Michelle —
    I can’t speak for everyone but for me, I sometimes make a distinction if there is a reason for one. For example, sometimes I use a newborn picture of one of my kids but I am journaling NOW, thinking back to when they are little. Something along the lines of, “I can’t believe that three years have already gone by since I held this tiny litlte baby in my arms...” In my albums, which I arrange chronologically, that page is telling a story about NOW, so it would go with the other 2009 pages. So distinguishing the snapping and scrapping dates makes sense and if someone who was looking at my page saw it, they would know when the picture was taken versus when it was journaled.

    Does that make sense?

    Janet

    P.S. On a side note — my personal philosophy is that you can never be “behind.” No one says you HAVE to scrapbook and many people don’t. So for every page you do, I think you are one ahead 🙂 I still have stories I want to tell (even some big ones) but when I see my albums and the last four years of my work, I don’t feel behind. I feel that I have saved 800+ stories that wouldn’t have otherwise been saved.

    YOU ASKED…

    albums1

    A bunch of people have written to ask me about the albums I showed it {Part 1} of the You Asked…We Answered series.

    WE ANSWERED…

    Yes, those are my actual albums (which, by the way, I will someday add the date to). They are all 8×8 albums (I like 8×8 because they are cheaper and because my kids can actually hold their albums. Also, since I often do one photo layouts it just makes more sense). I have different colors for different years (and I sometimes go into a second album for one year). I use the 8×8 linen albums by We R Memory Keepers. I ended up using this brand because about three years ago they had a sale on 8×8 albums for just $5 (they were normally $25). I ordered 8! Then, as I have needed more, I have purchased them. I ADORE them. LOVE them. Would marry them if I wasn’t already taken 🙂 I love the quality, the color choices, and they hold SO MANY PAGES! When I first purchased my albums, I used all post bound (because I love two page spreads). But I have to admit that the hassle of the post bound albums is rather annoying and my more recent purchases have been D-Ring binders.

    You can check out their 8×8 albums HERE

    and their 12 x 12 albums HERE (and I got a reader tip that you can get 12 x 12 albums on sale for $19.99 HERE)

    YOU ASKED…

    What is the best way to take portraits of multiple subjects (especially kids..) with the low aperture on your camera thus having a blurred background but having ALL your subjects focused? I have the Nikon 50mm 1.4 and obviously it is gives amazing portrait shots with the blurry background I like but when I take photos of more than one child in it..it’s hard to keep them in focused and sharp without losing the blurry background?

    WE ANSWERED…

    This is a GREAT question. I spent almost a year shooting everything at 1.8 and wondered why anyone wouldn’t want to do that? And then I learned. Without going into all the technical details (that have to do with depth of fiend, focal length, distance from subject, etc. etc…) a great rule of thumb for keeping everyone focused is this:
    Your aperture number should never go lower than the number of people in your photo.

    For instance, if you have a family of five in your photo you should set your aperture at 5.0 or smaller (high number = smaller aperture). This will keep everyone in the photo (assuming they are all together in one spot) in focus. Any lower than this and you are going to get some people in focus and others not in focus. In order to maintain the blurry background (otherwise known as bokeh), you should move your subjects away from the background (ie don’t have them standing right in front of a group of trees…put some space between them.) Again, there is a lot of technical info involved and obviously doesn’t apply to super big groups, but for every day shooting it is a great tip to remember.

    Until next time…

    janet_sig16