Tuesday, 24 February 2015
This post has been in the pipeline since New Year! I don't know how we've got so far through 2015 already. But here it is at last, the piece of jewellery I've been meaning to show you for so long. At the end of 2014 Jewlr asked if I'd like to pick an item and have it engraved. Of course I said yes, and just had to have this teeny bow ring. On the inside band I chose to have '2015' engraved to celebrate the beginning of the new year and also to remind me to make the most of every day.
It's 'easy-to-wear' and by that I mean you can pop this on every day, layer it with other rings or wear it alone. It's the perfect piece to add a little femininity to my otherwise simple and understated ring collection. Jewlr shipped this in a huge box, very beautifully wrapped and packaged. I'd recommend having a browse through their website especially if you're looking for a gift. They offer all types of engraving too (on nearly all items) so you can really make something your own.
Saturday, 21 February 2015
When you decide to go freelance, start a business or a blog - a website is an essential tool. For regular readers of This Fashion is Mine you will know I run my own photography studio, and have done for almost a full year now. When setting up the business I had a website that my brother set up for me. It was fantastic, I was really pleased with the whole look. But after some time I realised I didn't know how to alter things myself. There was lots of confusing coding involved and moving things around wasn't easy. It was important that I could have more control over my website and I'm so fickle, I want to change things every few months or so anyway!
I decided to move to Squarespace and re-invent my whole website. Squarespace is a website builder and blogging platform with lots of amazing features and it's super easy to use. I'm not being sponsored to talk about Squarespace, I just wanted to share my beginner steps with you guys and let you know how I got on with setting up www.photographybygwen.co.uk
When you sign up you get two weeks for free. You can use all the features of Squarespace and design your whole website/blog before you pay a single penny. This really helped because there's no way I'd consider paying for a service without getting to test run it first.
I chose a template (Wells) and got started. It was really, really easy to change the design elements of my website. I use Blogspot for this blog (even after all these years!) and it's pretty tricky to get things to look just how you'd like them but Squarespace does all the hard work for you.
You can change the way photos are displayed in the gallery settings, add 'blocks' which are just like Blogspot 'widgets' and then enter text, photos, social media links, the list goes on, into these blocks. It's actually a lot of fun and I spent quite a few hours at it the first night I signed up.
Paying for a Website
Why do we need to pay for a website? Well, you are paying for the server that hosts your site. Your paying for all those cool features that someone had to code. You also get a domain name included in your Squarespace package. You'll be set up with a '.squarespace.com' url at first but you can pick something unique once you sign up properly. I actually already had my domain name, with another host, but it was easy enough to transfer it over to my new Squarespace site.
How much? Squarespace is an American company so everything appears in dollars. But the websites are fully functional in the UK. I went for the first package (the cheapest) to start off with, which works out at about £5.25 per month, if you pay annually. It's a bit more expensive if you pay on a monthly basis. I think it's completely worth it for the ease of being able to control and design my own website that looks amazing. I also see it as a business expense that's unavoidable. I need a website for my business to run successfully, therefore it's a valid expense.
As I've already mentioned, the design tools on Squarespace are top notch! They have lots of templates to choose from and then you customise as you go. I went for a photography appropriate template which means large photographs and a simple menu on the left. I wanted to keep everything very easy to navigate. I thought about my target audience (which is actually very wide in terms of age but more limited in location) and I thought about what was important to say about my business. I wanted the photographs to speak for themselves and have nothing pull away from their impact.
I have one main page (Home) four gallery pages, a blog, a price list and a contact page. You glide through the photos by clicking on them to move to the next one. Or hitting PREV/NEXT in the bottom left corner. I have a thumbnail option which scatters the photos across the page in squares and you can click to enlarge one that catches you eye.
I made sure to include social media buttons! These are all ready to go, you just link them up to the correct places. You can change their shape and colour too. Adding elements to the page is easy - you add 'blocks' and then fill them with whatever you need. For example, text, a photograph, a video, links, etc..
With the first and cheapest package you can sell one item on your website. Squarespace help you set up the payment system and design the look of your online store. If you pay slightly more for your website you can sell many more items! I'm currently only selling photography gift vouchers online so I've no need for a bigger shop yet. I like this feature, I can direct clients here when they want to make a safe and easy purchase - then I simply ship their gift vouchers to them in the post.
I can't offer too much advice about using Squarespace as your primary blogging platform. I use the blog feature to occasionally add posts with behind-the-scenes photos and information about the studio. But the blog for me is not the most important part of the site. It is possible to import a blog to a Squarespace website so you don't need to start again from scratch. But the SEO options look a little limited to me, unless I just haven't figured it out properly yet - I'm sure there are people who have written far more in-depth articles about blogging on Squarespace.
Actually writing blog posts and designing the way your blog looks is really easy. You can import photos (even edit them) and Squarespace will size them up correctly and lay everything out neatly. I'm guessing there are blog templates to start with that are better suited to a blogger than my photography template.
Designing your own website can be daunting - I think my best piece of advice would be to look at many many websites and bookmark your favourite ones. Don't just copy ideas, you want your website to be unique to you. But you can note down why you like the website, what does it have that makes it a joy to use? Then use these positive notes to help you design your own! Sqaurespace makes it really simple. I'm sure there are many more website builders out there that work very well (please leave a comment if you use one that you love) but I can only speak from my experience.
Make sure you give www.photographybygwen.co.uk a visit and tell me what you think!
Thursday, 12 February 2015
So it's Valentine's Day this Saturday. And you've yet to think about what present you'll buy for that special someone. Maybe you've agreed to not spend much money (or any money) this year. Don't panic - today I'm putting together my favourite quick ideas for Valentine's gifts that you still have time to do. They're also really affordable. If you're single, why not give a fellow single friend a gift this year? If you hate the whole idea of Valentine's Day then treat yourself! You may as well make the most out of this holiday!
1. Date Nights in a Jar
This is a DIY idea that I've seen all over Pinterest. You note down as many 'date night' ideas as you can think of on pieces of paper, fold them up and pop them inside a jar. Decorate the jar with a ribbon or write your dates on colourful paper to jazz things up a bit. You could choose inexpensive or free dates (such as a Netflix marathon) and pop in some ideas you've always wanted to try (such as go-karting.) You and your other half can pick out a date idea every so often so you're never stuck for interesting ideas. It's the gift that keeps on giving all year.
2. Bake a Treat
I love baking and Josh is always keen for me to bake for him more often but I struggle to find the time/energy these days. Even if you're not a whizz in the kitchen anyone can knock up some Rocky Road bars! You need chocolate to melt, crushed biscuits and mini marshmallows (you don't even need an oven so technically these are a cheat-bake.) My favourite recipe to follow is this one.
3. Frame a Memory
An old classic. Still a sweet present. You could frame one of your most flattering photographs together (or a really silly photo instead) and edit your image to perfection using free online editing websites such as PicMonkey first. Or choose a souvenir from a recent trip or event that meant a lot and frame that! It could be a concert ticket, cinema stubs, postcard, flyer, album cover or anything at all that holds a lot of good memories for you both. I like using deep box frames that are so popular at the moment and framing an object with lots of white space to really give it some importance.
4. Burn a CD
Of music, photographs, videos, a mix of all three? Maybe a collection of all the things you did together during 2014 since the last Valentine's Day? Steal their Instagram photos and use your own. Download favourite tweets or Facebook statuses. You can go as romantic and cheesy as you like, a digital memory box! Check out my easy DIY heart-print sleeve design to hold your CD.
5. Mini Food Hamper
You can make up a hamper of their favourite chocolate, sweets, or even pull together the ingredients of your favourite meal to cook together. Dress up a cardboard box (paint it, use wrapping paper, add ribbon, cellophane wrap, tissue paper and confetti inside) and fill it full of their favourite things.
6. Photo Magnets
I made these back in August with some magnetic printer paper I found in a Home Bargains craft section for just 99p. Have a look at my DIY, they're so easy to make! Choose your favourite instagram photos and make square magnets or go for extra mini teeny magnets and make loads more!
7. Paper Flowers
Flowers on Valentine's Day can be so expensive. If you want something that's going to last longer try making your own from tissue paper! A bunch of hand-made paper flowers would make a beautiful present that will last for years and years to come. You could even put small individual flowers into glass jars or empty wine bottles. This tutorial is for huge paper flowers but just start with smaller pieces of tissue paper, the technique is exactly the same.
8. Valentine's Treasure Hunt
Post-it notes all around the house! Each one holds a clue as to where to find a hidden treasure (chocolate, sweets, little messages, a rose, or any of the gift ideas mentioned above) and then your partner has to seek out the prezzies. A great one to keep going all day. Be really sneaky and put presents in the most unusual places!
9. Photoshoot Gift Vouchers
Ok - you got me, a bit of shameless self promotion. But a photoshoot day can be such a unique gift to give! It doesn't have to be a couple's shoot. What about a makeover portrait session for her? Or a family-group shoot including the dog of course! I offer gift vouchers starting from £35, if you're in the Greater Manchester area have a look at my website and you can purchase your vouchers online. (But because Valentine's Day is only a matter of days away, if you drop me an email I'll get you set up with a e-voucher to print yourself!)
What will you be doing this year and which is your favourite from the ideas above?
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
It's time to have a nosey through my iPhone 6 to see what apps are lurking on there! I've recently downloaded a few new ones, so skipping past the boring weather apps and the obvious social media heroes.... I'll jump straight in at the apps that you may not have downloaded yet. I love discovering new apps to use on my phone and tablet so if anyone has any suggestions please leave me a comment...
For making to do lists and keeping yourself organised. A much more advanced version of Apple 'Notes' where you can sort your lists into folders and tick off tasks as you complete them. The app makes a very satisfying 'ping' sound when you complete something too!
An app to help you achieve your goals! Add up to 5 challenges including how often you want to complete them and Balance will remind you and keep you on top of things. For example I'm trying to get to bed earlier so I have a 'have an early night' task set up for 3 nights a week. You can skip goals or delay them but I find this app keeps me on track.
I love my photography apps. I prefer the simple, easy to use editing apps and I have nine different ones (including video editing) downloaded on to my iPhone. Aviary, Picfx, InstaCollage, Afterlight, Whitagram, VSCOcam, Hyperlapse, BokehCamFX and PicPlayPost. My favourite ones for editing photos for Instagram are Afterlight and VSCOcam. I can alter and tweak photos exactly to my liking and it's almost like having mini versions of Photoshop installed on my phone. InstaCollage and Whitagram are used to prepare photos for Instagram, or make collages. I don't use these apps all the time but if you don't want to square-crop your images Whitagram is a very quick editing app to solve that.
BokehCamFX is an interesting one. You can add fake bokeh to your images just by tapping on the photo where you'd like a soft 'bokeh' fairy light and you can change the colour and shape of the bokeh. I can't say I've used this one much but it's a fun app and I'd like to think one day I'll a photo to jazz up in this way!
We all know and love Pinterest. I did prefer to use the app on my iPad but now I've upgraded to the iPhone 6 and the screen is sooo much bigger, I find Pinterest looks amazing. It's such a time waster though and I can be lost for a few hours looking at pin boards.
Flixster is a great app if you're a cinema fanatic. It's possible to set up an account on Flixster and create a 'need to watch' list of new films. I use it to read up on the latest releases, and see what's showing and when in my local cinemas. You can watch trailers and read reviews too!