Dionne - Atlanta Makeup Artist (MUA)

Atlanta headshots

A couple of weeks ago, I photographed Dionne, an Atlanta makeup artist (MUA), in Inman Park in Atlanta.  Even though I hadn't seen her since she did my makeup over a year ago, it seemed like very little time had passed.  She just has that type of spirit that you immediately connect with.  It doesn't hurt that her smile is contagious.  Here are a few of my favorite photos from the session.

How To Get Pure White Backgrounds In Flat Lay Images

Flat lay image showing how to get a pure white background

From time to time, you might want to create an image with a pure white background.  Pure white backgrounds can come in handy when you are displaying a single image of a product; others can "clip" your image from the web and include it on a style board with other inspiration images or in a gift guide.  These types of images can also be used as the backdrop for magazine pages or presentation slides with text overlaid.  However, while desirable, a completely white background is often challenging to achieve for many people.  Since I often get questions about how to get a completely white background, I thought I'd share my process below.  Please let me know if this is helpful or if you have other questions related to flat lay photography.

How To Get a Pure White Background

1.  Start with a smooth, white background.  I typically use white foam core.

2.  Make sure that your flat lay set is evenly lit.  I typically use natural light from a large window, combined with a reflector.  If you don't have a room that gets good light, take your setup outdoors!  You can also use artificial light.

3.  Take the picture, making sure that it is properly exposed.  Expose for the subject, not the background.  The background will not be pure white straight out of camera (SOOC).

4.  Edit your photo in Photoshop (PS) and/or Lightroom (LR).  I typically make preliminary adjustments in LR, pull the image into PS for additional edits, and do any final touch-ups again in LR.  In PS, adjust the levels, using the white eyedropper on the white background.  This should turn your background pure white or pretty close to it.  If necessary, move the highlights level on the right to further brighten the white background, making sure that you don't wash/blow out the rest of the image.  Adjust the mid-tones and shadows as needed.  (If you have areas that still don't look pure white, use the adjustment brush in LR to clean up those areas by selectively adjusting the "whites" or "exposure.")

5.  In LR, check to make sure that the background is truly white by hovering your mouse over various areas of the white background.  It should read R: 100% B: 100% G: 100%.  This last step if very important because what looks white to the naked eye may not actually be pure white.

Was this helpful?  What other questions do you have about flat lay photography?

The Nook (01): 365 Postcards for Ants by Lorraine Loots

Flat lay image for book review of Loraine Loots' 365 Postcards for Ants

When I was a child, I loved reading everything I could get my hands on.  I started out with the Highlights Magazine (my parents recently bought a subscription for my toddler daughter) and graduated to chapter books.  My favorites were Choose Your Own Adventure books, The Sweet Valley High series, and The Baby-Sitters Club.  Do you remember your favorite books from childhood?  Fast forward (mumble mumble) years, and I still love reading.  These days, I lean towards business books and art books that provide a dose of inspiration.  I literally have tons of books (okay, maybe not literal tons, but you get the drift), so I'm starting a new series on my blog to share some of my favorites.

First up is one of my favorite art books.  A couple of years ago, I came across miniature art masterpieces on Instagram by South African artist Lorraine Loots.  Being a sucker for anything in tiny form, my first thought was, "Oh, how cute!"  But, when I really looked at them, I got beyond the darling size and was blown away at how detailed they were.  In full fangirl mode, I kept raving to my husband about how amazing she was and encouraged him to check out her traveling exhibit in person while he was doing a summer program in NYC.  He, too, was impressed.  A few months later, I was surprised by a package with a South Africa postmark that contained her book, 365 Postcards for Ants.

SYNOPSIS

365 Postcards for Ants is the result of the ultimate 365 project.  Like many artists (e.g., photographers), Lorraine Loots decided to take on a daily creative project on January 1, 2013.  She vowed to create one painting each day of the year and share it online.  While it may seem that the tiny size was a way to be unique and stand out in the crowded market, Loots said that she "chose to paint in miniature for the practical reason that it would offer [her] that achievable goal."  This book contains each dated image from that first year, complete with a description.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE BOOK

One of the things that I love about this book is the diversity of the paintings.  While Loots started out with painting her own ideas, she also took requests from her followers on social media.  This knowledge makes it feel like a community project to which we can all feel connected.  I'm also blown away by how detailed the images are, especially when each is about the size of a dollar coin (see image above).  You need a magnifying glass to fully appreciate how talented she is, which makes studying her art feel like play.  While some may be skeptical about whether she really created these in miniature form vs. scanned them and reduced the size, a quick look at this time-lapse video created by Gareth Pon shows Lorraine Loots in action, using her finger nails as her palette. 

TAKE AWAY/ACTION STEP

Set big goals, but be practical in your approach to achieving them.

Pinterest image for 365 Postcards for Ants

What is your favorite art book?

Featured: The Everygirl's Guide To Atlanta

Picture of the best restaurants and shops in Atlanta.

Collaborations have been my jam this year! I was super excited to team up with Khristian A. Howell, Atlanta-based designer and color + pattern expert, to create an Atlanta City Guide for The Everygirl. The cover image above shows some of the spaces I photographed. If you are planning a trip to Atlanta or live here and want to explore some new shops and restaurants, be sure to check it out. Head on over to The Everygirl to see which spots made the list!

Featured: Belong Magazine Article on Tips for Successful Blogger + Photographer Collaborations

Flat lay image by Kimberly Murray Photography of Belong Magazine, glasses, and a blanket.

A couple of months ago Belong Magazine published an article I wrote sharing "Tips for Successful Blogger + Photographer Collaborations." True to the theme of the article, I collaborated with Brittni Mehlhoff of Paper & Stitch on the images.  ISSUE 07 was all about care and collaboration and featured several great pieces written by female entrepreneurs in various industries.  For example, Cyndie Spiegel, business coach and founder of The Collective (of Us), wrote about "Cultivating Business Relationships That Matter: The Pursuit of Genuine in a (Ridiculously) Social World" and Latasha Haynes of Ike & Tash wrote about the BLINK Conference.

In my piece, I shared the following tips in detail:

  1. Do your research.
  2. Come to agreement.
  3. Respect the art of both fields.
  4. Come prepared on shoot day.
  5. Follow general etiquette after the shoot.

If you'd like to read my article about my successes, challenges, and lessons learned along the way, click here to purchase the digital or print version.  After you've read it, I'd love to hear what you think!

Stack of magazines and books with glasses and Holestee Manifesto

My Flat Lay Tools

Tools and gear used to create flat lay images

Although I've started seeing more and more lifestyle images shot from different perspectives on Instagram and websites, it appears that flat lay images are here to stay.  I frequently get questions about how to style flat lay images or the best gear to use, so I thought I'd share what is in my toolkit.

1. Camera || I currently shoot with the Canon 5D Mark III.  I have no idea whether Canon is better than Nikon.  I've just always been a Canon girl because that is the brand that my wedding photographer recommended back in the day when I wanted to learn photography.

2. Lenses || The lenses that I most frequently use for flat lays are the 50mm 1.2, 35mm 1.4, or 50mm macro lens. I use the macro lens when I am going to photograph small objects like jewelry or when I want to get up close and personal to really show off details.

3. Lighting || In the majority of cases, I use diffused natural light.  I like the soft light it creates;  scenes look more like how your eye sees them.  However, natural light can be uneven, it may be unavailable (e.g., on a raining and dreary day), or I might need to photograph something at night.  So, I will sometimes pull out my studio lights.  The image above was shot at about 11pm with an Alien Bee 800 with an octobox on one side and a Canon 580 EX II speedlight with a white umbrella on the other side.

4. Various backgrounds || The backgrounds vary depending on the vibe I am seeking to achieve.  I might use a marble slab, small piece of slate, different color foam core or paper, fabric, etc.

5. Reflector || My backgrounds sometimes double as reflectors.  For example, I often use a piece of white foam core to bounce light back into the scene and further reduce shadows.  (Although, some shadows are pleasing to the eye because objects naturally cast shadows.)

6. Tripod || I use the Manfrotto MT055XCPRO4 tripod with a MH055MO-Q6 head and love it.  What I love most about the tripod is the horizontal arm so that I can shoot overhead.  It is also sturdy.  I recommend that you invest in a good tripod. 

7.  Simply Tacky || Removable putty that keeps objects in place.  Pull off a piece and stick it to items that are prone to roll away or that refuse to stay in place.  Be careful, though.  It can create oily stains on your foam core.

8. Spritzer Bottle of Water || I primarily pull this out when I am photographing fruit that needs a little boost or plants that need a little life.

9. Risers || Washi tape, a small piece of wood, small notebooks, you name it.  Anything that you can put under something to prop it up.  This works well when photographing stationery, if you want to create soft shadows under the stationery or make it pop off the page to stand out.

10. Tethering Gear || Tools (cords and computer software) that allow me to see what I am shooting so that I can make styling adjustments in real time.  More on this in an upcoming post.

11. Props || Need I say more?

What tools do you use in your flat lay photography?  What questions do you have about my toolkit?

Do Tell // No. 01

Black and gold fashion flat lay by Kimberly Murray

At any given time, I have at least 10 tabs open on my computer and probably about 5 times more on my cell phone. Every time I see an interesting article or recipe on social media or in my email, I click the link and vow to read it later. But, then later never seems to come, so I keep the tab open as a reminder that I still want to read it. I later started emailing myself the links so that I would always have them, but who really wants yet another email to read? (I miss the days when I used to get excited by those three magic words, "You've got mail.") So, I finally decided to start this blog series where I share the helpful, educational, inspirational (you get the idea; insert your adjective of choice) links that I've come across for both you and me. If you check any of them out, let me know what you think!

1.  I love pizza. I love chicken parmesan. Together, they sound like the perfect combination. I'm going to make What's Gaby Cooking's Chicken Parmesan Pizza this week. Oh, and I'm excited that she has weekly meal plans to make life easier.

2.  Apparently, Netflix's new series, Abstract: The Art of Design should be on the must watch list for every entrepreneur, and this is why.

3.  From taking "movement breaks" to practicing gratitude, here are 10 habits that will change your life...and they only take 2 minutes. Who doesn't have 2 minutes in their day?!

4.  Do you mind your manners when you send emails? How many of these 19 email etiquette mistakes are you guilty of? (I maaaay be guilty of putting one too many exclamation points in my emails. I can't help it! I just get so excited sometimes!!!)

5.  What if Disney princesses were revolutionaries? These are the signs that Illustrator Amanda Allen Niday thinks they would carry. Thanks, Teen Vogue, for sharing this with young women.

Balancing Motherhood and Business: Bringing Baby to the Job

This post is sponsored by Carter’s; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Since becoming a mother 11 months ago, I’ve been trying to figure out how to achieve that coveted work-life balance I always hear about.  There are so many books and articles on the topic.  Some say that true balance is a myth; one aspect of your life will always take priority at any given point in time.  Others claim that you can achieve that balance if you just follow xyz steps.  Try as I might, I haven’t seemed to make it work.  But, I am getting closer and am determined to successfully run a business, spend quality time with my daughter, and continue to excel at my 9-to-5 job.  Oh…and get adequate sleep and maybe exercise, get back to practicing by guitar, and go out from time-to-time, too!  Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?!

Baby in lemon and denim Carter's romper

With these thoughts in mind, something clicked during a meeting with a successful businesswoman last week.  She recalled how an acquaintance of hers used to bring her child with her to her meetings.  That reminded me of my friend, Tash, a fellow photographer who always has her daughter, Wisdom, in tow.  After that conversation, I truly had an a-ha moment.  I started thinking more about how I want to be as a mompreneur.  I never thought of it as a real option for myself, but bringing my daughter with me to some of my consultations could absolutely work.  Now that I’ve started thinking about the business part of my so-called work-life balance, it is on to the family side next.  Here are some things I have in mind.  I’d love to hear what you think!

Baby girl in trench coat

1.    Dress my daughter for the part.  I think of my daughter as my mini-me.  After all, people like to tell me that we have the same haircut.  In truth, she is every bit of her dad, too, but he isn’t as particular about what she wears.  I get excited about all of the outfits I see for little girls.  They often look like miniature versions of what I would wear myself.  So, when I bring my daughter with me to a consultation, it will be easy to find stylish outfits to dress her in.  My go to shop for baby clothes is Carter’s because they have such a variety of options from which to choose, from rompers and outfit sets to bodysuits and sleep & play clothes.  They also have little extras, like baby shoes, to top off the looks.  When I meet with a client face-to-face, in addition to learning about my services, they are trying to get a sense of who I am and what I like (and vice versa) to determine whether we are a good fit.  Since I am bringing my daughter with me, I want to make sure that she reflects my style and is representative of my brand.  That is, until she is old enough to decide for herself what style she prefers.

Carter's baby shoes and sandals
Baby girl in pink floral dress

2.    Choose activities that provide inspiration for both of us.  Now that my little one has started to walk, I’m looking forward to getting out and about with her more.  She is in that exploratory phase where she loves to look around, “talk” to other people, and examine things with her hands.  Spring is right around the corner, and I can’t wait to take her to the museum, botanical garden, and zoo.  Also, my friend recently reminded me about a theatre production Atlanta has for young children.  These activities will be a win-win because I get inspired by both art and nature; I get new ideas for styled product shoots and personal projects. I got my daughter the cutest outfits from Carter’s spring collection for these outings.  Carter’s latest fashions are on trend, featuring lemon and denim combos, eyelet ruffles, indigo knits, and dip-dyed fabrics.  I personally love to add a pop of color with my neutrals, so I immediately added the romper to my cart, and I love a floral dress and trench.  They just scream springtime to me.  If you are interested in shopping for baby clothes or baby shoes for your little one, Carter’s has an upcoming baby sale that will run from 2/21 to 3/6.  Plus, the coupon below can be used from 2/9 to 3/6 both in store and online for added savings.

Little girl in field with pink flowers

3.    Block off family time.  Having set office hours is my goal for 2017.  The key will be not just setting the hours, but actually sticking to them…and not trying to throw in a mini photo shoot along the way.  When I’m out on the town and stumble upon a cool location, I have a tendency to want to stop and take pictures, especially if I have a cutely dressed baby with me.  I’m trying to be more intentional these days about experiencing life instead of always documenting it and missing out on real moments.  So, that means that I will be leaving my camera at home on my family days so that I can focus on spending quality time and appreciating the everyday activities as well as planned events.

Baby girl in Carter's dress and coat

So, those are my ideas so far.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Do you believe that work-life balance is achievable?  What are your thoughts about bringing your child to work with you or showing up to a meeting as a client and discovering that a child is part of the consultation?  Do you think it is professional or something to be frowned upon?

Cute baby girl in sundress and seersucker trench
Carter's coupon

Interior Inspiration: Nontraditional Baby Girl Nursery

Have I ever told you about the time we had a TV crew of 20+ people in our home to film our nursery makeover? No? Well...it happened.

blue and teal nursery for a baby girl

It all started back in April 2016 when my husband and I STILL had not started to decorate (or furnish for that matter) our baby girl's nursery, even though she arrived (as planned) in March. We had all of the best intentions, but, somehow, the time got away from us. We had a general idea of what we wanted, but we decided that the first thing that needed to happen was for us to figure out the flooring...and that is where things got stalled. There were too many options! Because this was our first child (read: overprotective first time mom and dad), we wanted to make sure that we chose the safest material possible. Of course, each option we researched (e.g., carpet, laminate, hardwoods, bamboo) had pros and cons. The next thing we knew, the baby was here, and we certainly didn't have time then!

succulent and hippo bookend in nursery and globe decor

Serendipitously, I had recently joined the Atlanta Mocha Moms, and the President shared that there was a casting call for a nursery makeover. Score! After a multi-step process, we were selected. That's when we learned that it was an HGTV makeover sponsored by American Family Insurance. You don't know how overjoyed we were!

bright girl nursery

One of the things that I appreciated most was that Leigh Ann, the interior designer, really listened to my likes and dislikes. For example, I mentioned that I envisioned a bright space with white furniture and that my favorite color is grey. I was also adamant that I did not want a pink nursery! Gender stereotypes kind of drive me crazy. (I must admit, though, that pink has since grown on me; baby girl seems to like it.) I loved that she went with teal, mint, and blue with feminine touches, like the gem mirror, unicorn lamp, and subtle pink accents in the blanket, mirror, and print. I also appreciated the special touches, like the constellation string art for her space-themed nursery.

constellation string wall art

At the end of the 12-hour shoot day, we had a beautiful place for our baby to grow and a 2-minute video to share our story and dreams for her nursery. Because I love it so much, I decided to do an interiors photo shoot to provide inspiration for other parents who are seeking inspiration for a feminine yet nontraditional nursery for their little one. You can see more photos in the gallery below and check out the video here by clicking on "A Place to Grow."

What do you think? What kind of spaces do you most enjoy?

teal and blue girl nursery

Why BLINK is the Only Photography Conference I Attend | BLINK Conference Recap

Flat lay image of BLINK Conference 2016 items

4 days.  22 speakers.  61 pages of notes.  5 reasons why the BLINK Conference is the only photography conference I attend.

Since starting on my photography journey seven years ago, I've taken my fair share of photography workshops, attended numerous blogging and photography conferences, and purchased a number of online courses.  Each of those activities was meant to help me grow as a photographer and be a better business woman.  While I learned a little something from each of them, I found myself growing wary of the photography conferences.  Why?  Because many of them had the same speakers over and over again...the so called "rock stars" of the photography industry.  Some of them were humble and eager to share what they've learned over the years and how they achieved success.  Others seemed to revel in their "rock star" status and came off as unapproachable and guarded in the amount of information they shared.  Regardless of whether they were in the former or latter camp, I often walked away from the conference or workshop feeling like I received the same information that I got in their book(s) or other course(s) that I purchased.  When I attended the first BLINK conference 4 years ago, I knew I had stumbled upon something different.  I've since abandoned the other photography conferences and decided that the BLINK Conference is the only one that I will attend.  Here's why...

Palm Springs Saguaro Hotel during BLINK Conference

1.  A mix of practical tips and inspiration

I don't know about you, but when I go to a conference, I want to walk away with action items.  Sure, I want to be inspired (and there were tons of inspirational talks that encouraged us to find our voice and pursue work that we love), but I want to be able to get to work improving my business as soon as I get back to my hotel room or while I am on the plane.  At other conferences, I often found that speakers mostly talked about their unique photography journey and how things work in their city without any practical tips that are universal enough for attendees to apply to their own business.  That is not so at BLINK.  Some of my favorite takeaways from the BLINK Conference were:

  • When blogging with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind, it is important to think like a client vs. a photographer.  We also learned the importance of and the steps to take to get the most out of our posted images by properly completing the title, alt-text, and description portions on our blog platform. (Feuza Reis)
  • When mapping out your brand, it is important to determine your Unique Selling Proposition (i.e., what makes you unique from the next person) so that you are at the forefront of clients' minds when they are seeking the service you offer. (BLKPRNT.)
  • How to use the sales funnel (moving from awareness to sales optimization) to psychologically motivate higher sales.  We learned how to use sneak peeks strategically and how to get higher sales during in-person ordering sessions by "loading the lap." (Amanda Holloway)
  • Great businesses tell great stories by helping you live the story through vivid descriptions and also sharing bits of the creation process. (Amy and Jordan Demos)
  • When pitching a collaboration to another business, you must have an authentic connection to the business, be specific with your ask and what is in it for them, and be clear on the terms of the collaboration via a written agreement. (Cyndie Spiegel)
High school senior girls in Palm Springs desert

2.  Diverse speakers and attendees

One of the things that I love most about BLINK is the diversity of both the speakers and attendees.  I'm not just talking about diversity with respect to race, ethnicity, and gender, but also with respect to the size of their audience or length of time in the industry.  For example, there were speakers with 75k followers on Instagram and those with just 1k.  There were attendees who have been in photography for over a decade and those who were just starting out.  The beautiful thing is that we were are all embraced and respected equally.  We all have something to offer. 

3.  Sense of community

Imagine walking into a room where you don't know anyone personally, but you recognize them from FB so you call their name and are immediately wrapped in an embrace.  That's BLINK.  The reason that this is possible is because of the heart of the conference, founder Latasha Haynes of Ike & Tash.  She truly believes in each one of us, encourages us, and prays over our lives and businesses.  Another reason that this family environment is achieved is because of the boutique nature of the conference (this year there were 100 attendees) and the fact that there is a FB group where attendees have the opportunity to connect all year leading up to the conference.  It's a special feeling to know that no matter at which table you sit, you belong.  There were a number of times when there was someone standing outside by themselves or sitting by themselves and someone called out, "What are you doing for dinner? Are you heading back to your room?  Come join us!"  This is so welcoming to introverts like me and others.

Atlanta senior photographer in Palm Springs desert

4.  Access to speakers

Throughout the conference, the speakers stay at the same hotel, sit at the same tables, and walk around during the breaks.  Because there is such a laid back and communal vibe, it's easy to grab (well not literally, but you know what I mean) one of the speakers to chat during a break.  This year, we also had the opportunity to purchase 1:1 mentorships with some of the speakers to get personalized guidance.  I purchased mentorships with Ale Vidal, an amazing director for brand and campaign films who creates the most moving films I have ever seen and CreativeSoul Photography, brilliant photographers who have the awesome ability to capture the natural beauty of children through their unique lifestyle and fashion editorial images.

5.  Print Salon/Competition

Finally, attendees had an opportunity to enter their images in a competition to be displayed in the Print Salon.  We could share one image per category and dropped off our prints during registration to be hung by the conference staff.  The judging was anonymous and blind; those who entered did not write our names on our images and all attendees were given stickers to post on their favorite images in each category.  It was helpful to see what types of images have the broadest appeal.  I was overjoyed that the image below won for the "Best Lifestyle Image" category. 

Atlanta interiors photographer in My Style Vita's home

So, that's it in a nutshell.  Yes, there were also styled shoots (some of the images you see here were captured during my styled shoot with Jen Sosa), amazing giveaways (e.g., free seat at next year's BLINK conference, camera bags, gift certificates, Polaroid camera, audio speakers, etc.) and swag (e.g., BLINK t-shirt, magazines, travel mug, etc.), but it was the actual content and vibe that I valued most.  I seriously took 61 pages of notes filled with concrete tips, scribbled to dos, and inspirational quotes.  I'll end with the quote below from Kirth Bobb who challenged us to be intentional when we create images and to recognize that "there is an art to everything," as his grandmother Magnel Amelia Millington taught him.

"Relish in your growing pains.  You won't be happy at the destination if you can't be happy on the journey." (Kirth Bobb)

Registration for BLINK 2017 opens at 12:00pm PST on Tuesday, November 29, 2016.  It will be in Seattle next year for its 5th anniversary and is already 1/3 sold out!  Follow along on the BLINK Instagram page to see sneak peeks of the speaker lineup.  Also, check out this video created by Jackie D. Palmer Films to get a glimpse into the spirit of BLINK and the fun we had.

Not sure if you are ready to sign up and want to hear other perspectives?  Check out these posts from this year's attendees: