Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide for Photography Lovers at Every Budget

Ciao,Chessa! Holiday Gift Guide

I love this time of year.  I don't know anyone who doesn't love to get gifts but I'm one of those people who loves to give more than to receive.  I'm always looking for the perfect present for my daughter, husband, mom, dad, sister, or best friend, and I love knowing that they are happy with what I chose.  This gift guide is for the photography lover and at so many different price points there is something for every budget.

1.   iPhone case $16.98 
I love the simplicity and whimsy of this iPhone case and it's perfect for a guy or a gal in black and white.

2.   ReVIVE Series Solar Battery Pack $27.99
What's more frustrating than running out of battery on your iPhone? Few things.
3.   Fingerless gloves $59
I want to stay warm this winter but shooting photos is a priority.  Now my fingers can be accessible, unfrozen and chic.  Plus, I love this cool blue color.

4.   Pinhole Press Portrait Notepad $12.99  
The perfect gift that you can personalize for anyone.
5.   Ciao, Chessa! Our City Lights 8x12 Open Edition Photograph $30
All of my open edition prints start at just $30 in my Etsy shop.
6.  Lomo Diana F+ Chrome Camera$91
This awesome retro camera has been on my wishlist since forever.
7.   iPad case $11.99
I love this color!  I'll never look at an iPad case the same way again.
7.   Camera Bag $31.00
This bag is equal parts fashionable and functional. And at this price you can't beat it.
9.   Color lens and flash filters $15
Imagine all the fun photos that you can take with these filter colors.  You can pretty much do anything.

See my first gift guide of the season here

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tips for Taking Photos During the Holidays

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
The *best* photo I could get of my daughter and niece together on their first Christmas two years ago.  Pretty much sums up how a lot of holidays go.

Two years ago, for my daughter’s first Christmas, all I wanted was a photo of her with her two cousins wearing their matching pajamas. But as with everything else, sometimes things don’t go as planned — when one baby was crying, the other was happy and when one was calm, the other was having a meltdown. Meanwhile, my then-two-year-old niece was going through what I like to call her “no! pictures! no!” phase. Needless to say, I didn’t get what I thought I wanted but looking back, it was perfect and hilarious.  This was the story that I was going to tell planning or no planning...and that's exactly what makes the holidays so fun, spontaneous and chaotic.

Thanksgiving has come and gone and the dizzying month of December, filled with holiday parties, friends, family, dessert, sparkles, traditions and champagne starts this weekend.   It’s hard to believe that the holiday season will soon be in full swing so, with that in mind, here's a very simple list of tips for taking photos during the holidays so you can relax and have a cocktail!

This tutorial was adapted by a guest post that I did for the Bon Bon Rose Girls last year.

1. Make a list, check it twice.

I always made mental list of the moments I wanted to capture at any given event.  Eventually I just started to write it down because let’s face it, the holidays are busy enough and I don’t need to have another 50 things to remember. The list helps to get me thinking about what I want to achieve and what I absolutely don’t want to miss like group shots, the food, the tree, the menorah, gifts, etc.  I keep my little list in my pocket or put it somewhere I can be reminded about it — like up on the fridge or next to the wine!

2. Tell a story

Your photos don’t have to be a play-by-play of the entire day but it’s fun when you get the big picture of the event and when you look back at your photographs you want to be able to remember all the big moments of the day as well as all of the details. Take picture of your dad asleep on the couch, take a photo of the kids opening presents, the look on people’s faces when they open your gift, your ornaments, the menorah, the food…all of these things are telling the story of your celebration. While you’re capturing all these fantastic details, try different angles and perspectives to create shots that are unique. Get down on the floor with the kids, stand up on a chair and take a photo of the room and all of the decorations, sit at the table and take a photo of the food. The possibilities are endless. 

You can check out how to create a narrative with your photos for more tips too!

3. Chase the light

Whenever possible, I prefer to use natural light when I’m taking pictures and during the holidays of course you want to be able to capture the twinkling lights of your tree or menorah or candles on the table. Chase the natural light, whatever or where ever it may be and you’ll get photos that are true to your celebration and the moment. If it’s just too dark to shoot without a flash and your photos are coming out blurry don’t worry — you can still get beautiful pictures using a flash. Most people, myself included, want to avoid that washed-out flash-look in their pictures (that doesn't look good on anybody) and you can diffuse the light of the built-in flash in your camera quite easily. All you need is a little piece of tissue paper left over from all that beautiful gift wrapping or even a tip of a white napkin — take the paper and secure it over the flash to get a more subdued light.  I would also consider investing in mount flash for your DSLR - they are worth the money if you're a person who doesn't like the look of flash - sometimes in certain low light situations you just can't avoid it.  If you already use a mounted flash and still have too much bright white, then you might consider picking up a flash diffuser (I like this mini softbox too).

You can also check out this tutorial about shooting in low light situations.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Do you have any tips?  Check out some more tutorials here.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide - Photography Books

Ciao, Chessa! Holiday Gift Guides for art and photography lovers!
I used a photo from my visit to the holiday windows at Bergdorf Goodman last year for my banner.  Their windows are my favorite every year.  Can't wait to check them out in the next few weeks!

I'm really excited to be sharing a few gift guides that I've put together for this holiday season.  Everything is for the art and photography lover in your life and I hope you enjoy!

I've been collecting coffee table books for years (if only I had the space to store them all in my apartment/office) and I think they make wonderful gifts.  It's no surprise that I love photography books and these five are among my favorites that anyone would love.  You can also see a few more of my favorites in my Ciao, Chessa! Amazon book store, if you'd like.

Gift Guide 2012 - Books

Many photographers (myself included) say that the first time they saw this book it changed their lives.  I first explored it at my public library when I was in high school and supposed to be studying for the SATs and I've been a Robert Frank enthusiast and student ever since.  Years later I was lucky enough to view some of the photographs from this book at the Met Museum as well as at the Robert Mann Gallery here in New York.  Any lover of photography, art, history, Americana, would treasure this book.  Jack Kerouac wrote the Introduction to this classic photography book and for me that's just the icing on the cake.

Gift Guide 2012 - Books
A couple of years ago, the photographic works of an unknown Chicago nanny named Vivian Maier, were discovered at an auction box among the contents of a repossessed storage locker. They were purchased in 2007 by a very lucky Chicago man named John Maloof. The lot turned out to contain some 30,000 negatives of images by Maier.  This woman, an incredibly talented, inspiring and evocative street photographer, has become famous the world over.  This collection of her images edited by Maloof is a visual masterpiece.

Gift Guide 2012 - Books
Part text book, part visual daydream and escape, this book of photographs is the perfect gift for anyone who is a fan of the magazine (I am! I am!)  Edited by Kathy Ryan, longtime photo editor of the Magazine, the volume is divided into four sections: reportage, portraiture, style and conceptual photography.  

Gift Guide 2012 - Books
Elliott Erwitt - Personal Best
Elliott Erwitt is one of my favorite photographers of all time and this retrospective of his work, carefully curated by Erwitt himself, presents what he considers to be his personal best.  The collection includes pictures of New York City, Marilyn and Paris so basically I get the goosebumps every time I look through this book.  It's amazing.  I love him so much that, Elliott Erwitt's New York is on my nightstand and I thumb through it almost every night before bed.

Gift Guide 2012 - Books

 I've been reading Vogue magazine since I was 13 years old.  I used my babysitting money to buy it when I went to the supermarket with my mother and my walls were plastered with photos by Richard Avedon and Herb Ritts.  I loved Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington.  And the clothes.  Oh my God, the clothes.  This book is an education in the evolution of style from a fashion editor's perspective and it shows just how much we are all influenced by what we see in magazines.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Instagram Weekend

photo 4(3)
We drove out to East Hampton after the holiday.  I looked out the window while we waited at a light and I spotted this beautiful, serene scene.  I've gone down this road thousands of times but it's never looked like this. 

This weekend I ate way too much but enjoyed every minute of it.  Originally my goal was to control myself from now until January 1st but where's the fun in that?  I also did a lot of shopping between Black Friday (I did it online because I don't do too well in huge crowds) and Cyber Monday which is always fun too.  Speaking of shopping, my holiday gift guides are coming up this week and there's something for every art and photography lover in your life.  What's on your wishlist?

Here's a look into my weekend via Instagram (where you can see more if you'd like).

 Instagram - Monica L. Shulman
I made cupcakes and buttercream icing all from scratch.  And I think I may have cured myself of my cupcake addiction now that I know EXACTLY how much butter and sugar is involved.

photo 1(2)
I also made about a bajillion sugar cookies if anyone wants some. 

photo 5(4)

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

On giving thanks

Monica L. Shulman - Central Park
Central Park earlier this fall.

The best piece of advice I received at my wedding (over eight years ago) was to remember to take a few moments amid the happiness and chaos to just stop and breath in the day.  I took it to heart and it's become a regular practice to stop and recognize moments in life.  Sometimes they are a huge, like the day my daughter was born, and sometimes they are small, like the day my favorite jeans fit again (although let's face it, that's pretty awesome too).  But, they are all equally important.

I'm always wondering where the day, week, month went.  I think of the things that I accomplished within a specified time and when the list seems too short I'm hard on myself for procrastinating or not trying hard enough.  And then I remember all the big and little things that are worth remembering and it feels overwhelming to know that so much has happened in so little time and that no matter what, I feel thankful and lucky.  The good and even the not-so-good are worth it even if they exist only to teach a hard lesson and still I feel grateful (even if it's hard eventually I work on coming around).  So this thanksgiving day, and every day of the year, is worth a moment of reflection and thanks. 

 Monica L. Shulman - Central Park

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Print is dead! Long live print! What to do with your photos.

Monica L. Shulman - gallery wall

A gallery wall in my bedroom where I wake up every morning and go to bed every night looking at beautiful memories.

I've been thinking a lot about my photography and how best to archive, organize and save it.  Trying to keep a record of our lives and my work via prints has become somewhat of an obsession over the last few years and especially since my daughter was born.  I've lost count of the boxes of prints and negatives, and filled albums I have stored in my old room at my parents' house from high school, college, law school, vacations and just random, fun memories.

I've only been shooting digital for the last seven years or so and one of the things I miss about film, among the many, is knowing that you have 36 exposures per roll and that you're either going to choose which ones to print yourself or knowing that you're going to get all your prints in an envelope from the developer.  The anticipation, reliving the moments, holding the paper in your hand and passing it around - that experience just doesn't exist in the same way with digital photography.  I love shooting digital, instantly sharing my images online, via this blog or email with friends and family but the sheer amount of images that I shoot is daunting and overwhelming.  I'm always behind in reviewing photos of my personal work and projects and sometimes I don't even know where to start when I sit down to edit (never mind the 11,121 images that I currently have on my iPhone!)

A lot of people say they don't ever bother making prints.  Instead they keep their photos on their hard drive or their memory cards.  The cost of memory cards is so cheap these days that it makes sense to keep photos on them but what about having a physical copy of a photo to remember a moment?  This is hardly scientific but many of my friends tell me that they practically never make prints even though they load them on to sites like Shutterfly or Kodak to share them.  My parents have an entire closet at home filled with albums from my childhood and I never get tired of flipping those pages.  Obviously with the insane amount of photos that I take it doesn't make sense (especially financial) to print all of them.  Plus of all the photos I shoot at any given moment I usually only like two or three.

I'm not going to talk about my fine art work here because I'm always making test prints, trying new papers, printers, methods and it's just a different process entirely.  But, since I'm a photographer and a hoarder, and probably most importantly because I love visual storytelling, I make stuff with my pictures.  Here are my three favorite ways to enjoy my photos and ensure that my family will enjoy them for years to come: Prints, Books, Magnets

1.  Make prints

Every month (or every two to three months depending on how busy I am and how many images I shot) I go through my photos and load them on to  The print quality, paper options and customer service are amazing.  And, sometimes they have prepaid print sales that you'd be a fool to ignore (like 50% off your entire order).  These are my favorite ways to display prints (although admittedly a lot of my prints end up in boxes).

Monica L. Shulman - prints

Albums - I don't make them as often as I used to but occasionally I love filling big, leather albums with pictures and it's pretty fun to watch Lucia go through them.  Plus the plastic cover protects the prints from tiny, baby hands.  I really like these from Crate and Barrel and have collected quite a few over the years starting from when I registered for a couple for my wedding.

Monica L. Shulman - Prints

Gallery walls - If you read this blog you probably know I'm a bit obsessed with gallery walls and I only wish I had more space in my New York apartment to make more!  The bottom line is that they're a great way to display your personal photographs and they're really not difficult to make.  Of course you can also just put them in traditional frames and display them around your home.  Here are just a few posts if you'd like to see. 

How to make a gallery wall, an Instagram gallery wall, my daughter's nursery, my living room, and a gallery wall in my kitchen.

Monica L. Shulman - Gallery Walls
My workspace.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman - Pinhole Press Calendars
My kitchen.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
The nursery.

2.  Make books

One of the reasons I don't make albums as much as anymore is because I love book-making.  It definitely takes a while to select the prints that you want to use but it is so worth it and for me it's an exercise in editing (which I'm terrible at).  My goal is to make one big one every year and then to also make smaller ones of trips or big events but it's definitely a fantastic way to record your memories.  Adorama has beautiful book options but I love Pinhole Press.  The quality of the paper as well as all the book options are all beautiful...I love that site.  They have a ton of photo gifts but the books are my favorite.  You can see one of my books here.

UPDATE: By the way, Pinhole Press is having a sale of 25% off holiday cards through Sunday, November 25th with the code: TURKEY

Monica L. Shulman

3.  Make magnets

Pinhole Press makes awesome magnets but I also LOVE Stickygrams.  You can make tiny square format magnets of your Instagram shots and they're perfect to preserve fleeting memories captured on your mobile phone.  What's not to love?

UPDATE: Stickygram is having a sale where you get three sheets of magnets for the price of two with the code: STICKYYAMS  The sale ends Friday, November, 23rd. Plus they have free worldwide shipping.

Monica L. Shulman

I'm curious, what do you do with your images?  Are they collecting proverbial dust on your hard drive?  Do you order prints or make books?

Also, on a side note, I read this moving article in the New York Times this weekend about this Facebook page where lost photos found after Hurricane Sandy were posted. The page is called “Union Beach — Photos and Misplaced Items,” and it shows photos of newborns, birthday parties, weddings and family gatherings started by Jeanette Van Houten and her niece.  The page is helping victims of the hurricane reconnect with their memories even after their homes and belongings have been destroyed.  So many people have lost so much and these women are helping them to at least hold on to their memories.  The article talked about people storing their photos online and fact that few people print their images anymore but it's interesting to see how these women are using new technology to connect individuals with older methods of preserving memories.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Instagram Weekend

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

This is a short week with Thanksgiving coming up but I have a habit of reminding myself to be grateful and remember how lucky I am all the time.  It's nice to single out one day a year to celebrate a day of thanks but isn't that something that we should practice on a daily basis?  This weekend I watched my ever-independent and endlessly curious baby (I'm in denial that she's not really a "baby" anymore and she reminds me by constantly telling me "I'm a big girl, mommy") run on the beach toward the ocean with the same excitement that she did last summer and we collected so many shells that she held and turned in her tiny hands and shoved in her coat pocket for safe keeping.  Nothing brings me more joy than seeing and feeling her happiness.  I hope you had a great weekend and here are some photos of ours via Instagram.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Riding at the supermarket in style. 

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
After Hurricane Sandy, the dunes, what is left of them, were pushed extremely far back.  Those rods were once covered with sand to create them.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

 Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Almost home .

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