Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cutest Christmas Photos EVER

I love getting Aisley's photos done professionally, but quite frankly, with her smiles being as rare as they are, I feel like its a waste of money that we just don't have right now.  Even with the nicest photographer EVER, we never got through a session without a meltdown, and never got a single smile.
So for Christmas, I'm doing her photos myself, and here's how you can too:

1. Be realistic- Aisley is particular about her sleep.  She would not sleep here or there.  She would sleep in a box or with a fox.  Not in a house or with a mouse.  As much as I'd like to catch her snoozing with Santa or cuddled up by the fireplace, I know it won't work, and I know it'll be a waste of my time and a huge frustration to try.  As tired as she gets, no photoshoot naps for Aisley.


2.  Use what you have-  I bought NOTHING for these pictures.  I used a soft couch blanket, an extra strand of light, a few extra ornaments, and our actual presents and tree.  Its great to use stockings as well.


3. Pinterest is a godsend- I'm pretty creative, but why not put a few heads together?  Pinterest is full of ideas you can do yourself.  I even have a whole board dedicated to Aisley photography here.  I even did a couple (sort-of) look-a-likes.

4.  Break it up- One of the biggest advantages of DIYing your photos is that you can set up, set your camera up, and leave it.  Its easy to take a break, get the kiddo a snack, or put the beebs down for a nap mid way through.  If I'm being honest, Aisley's Christmas "session" took about three days...because things like this kept happening.

Really, kid?  Tape??

5.  Know your lighting- I prefer to use tons of natural light.  I HATE my cameras flash, and I'm not willing to shell out the big bucks for a new one, so I simply shoot next to one of the two convenient WALLS of sliding glass doors in our house.  All of the pictures are cropped in to have more of a "backdrop" look, but in actuality, its just in a corner of the living room.

6.  Know your camera basics-  For Christmas pictures, I like to use a low aperture to give the Christmas tree lights a nice, soft glow.  I usually photograph a jumpy, roll-y baby, so my shutter speed is always pretty fast.  Then, I adjust the ISO as low as I can to reduce as much graininess as I can without getting too dark of an image.  From there, I fiddle here and adjust there taking a few pictures in between, until I get something I'm happy (enough) with.  To me, using decent manual settings are always better than "auto" mode.  I use this camera, and while its not a professional grade camera, its a great and inexpensive option for what I use it for, and I really recommend it.  There's even a version that includes Adobe Lightroom, which is what I usually use for editing.  Right now, its even cheaper than the version I have here.

7.  Lightroom is easier than Photoshop-  I always start in Lightroom, usually up my exposure and contrast a touch, fiddle with my colors, and add a little noise reduction, among other things.  It can make photos look great with no filter.  But that being said.....


8.  Filters are your friends-  I'm not a professional.  I know that.  I don't expect my photos to look professional.  However, on those almost-perfect shots, I might as well throw in a nice filter or black and white tone to make it look just a touch more finished than it really may be.

9. Remember to just make memories-  Sure, you can find the exact same pose over and over in magazines and all over the internet...but is that really YOUR child?  I much prefer the pictures that leave the ordinary behind, and let my daughter's unique personality come through.

These. Eyebrows.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Doing Christmas on a Budget-

How we're doing Christmas magic on a believable budget-

Those who know us know that our financial situation has changed, and in a BIG way.  We realized that even with it being Aisley's first Christmas, we needed to budget ourselves to really make it work. We wanted to fill her world with magic and our memories with joy, but without going overboard or bankrupt.

Those who don't know me should know, I tend to be a little more of a baby minimalist.  I just dont think that kids really need alot of blaring and bleeping plastic pieces of crap.  The more they have, the more get left in a corner un-played with.  My kid thinks this too.  Her favorite thing for the longest time was a king size sharpie.  Seriously.  She didn't want anything else.  So when it comes to holidays, I don't want to go overboard.  I saw something on Pinterest where parents were encouraged to buy their children one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing they wear, and one thing they read.  That's it.  Four gifts.  While I'll definitely go past this and also get one thing she'll watch, and a pair of pajamas on Christmas (in addition to what she gets to wear), it's not a bad concept.  I've doubled this while she's so small, and might continue to do so.  Her wear for the year is $6, so why not get her two?

Two things she wants:

This year, Aisley has asked for mama....and bacon.  No such luck, little girl, no such luck.  Instead, we've picked her two toys that are great for her developmental age, one catered to gross motor skills, and the other to fine motor skills.

B Kids Roll Around Shape Sorter- $11
          Aisley is at a perfect age to put things into and take things out of a container.  She's a little young to do the shapes perfectly, but she'll grow into it nicely, and in the mean time, it rattles and can be manipulated in five or six other ways around the outside.  I bought this on Zulily on a great sale.  Its comparable to other shape sorters in price, but once again, offers many more options than the classic hammer-the-block-in-the-hole.
Fisher Price 3-in-1 Elephant- $23
          I picked this up at a phenomenal price at Target.  I used a $5 off coupon from Fisher Price, as well as a 25% off coupon from Target that made this an unbeatable deal.  For now, she can sit on or next to it and play with it, and later, she'll be able to bounce on it, push it as a walker, or ride on it. 

Two things she needs:

EasyPouch Independence - $9 
          Aisley loves pouches.  She looooves them.  She loves that she can feed herself and suck the food out at her own pace.  She also loves to squeeze the living daylights out of them until they make a mess everywhere.  Enter EasyPouch.  Aisley can now feed herself again.  Mommy's happy.  Baby's happy.  Need=met.

Melissa & Doug Grasping Toy-  $7
          Aisley needs all kinds of crap like this.  Yes, I said it.  Crap.  This is the kind of thing she'll carry around forever and happily sit with in her car seat.  It's great to manipulate with her little hands, not to mention natural wood and colorful.  She likes little things she can take with her.  It's exactly why she loved that sharpie for so long.  It was just her size.

  Two Things She'll wear:

I picked her out 2 rompers in size 12 months for $6 each.  Why?  I like rompers.  Romper + Shoes = Full outfit.  Not Onesie + pants + socks + sweater + redo it all each diaper change.  Busy mamas don't have time for that.  She has all the clothes in the size she's in, so I picked 12 month clothes that'll fit just in time for late spring (she's always a couple months behind in sizes).  Besides.  They're adorable.  

Two things she'll read:

Baby Signs - $4
          We sign with Aisley. She has all the classic books, so we love to integrate signing in with this cute board book.  There shouldn't be a book for babies that's made of regular paper.  Just Saying.

          This is a trick.  Aisley hates reading books, but loves eating them.  Trick's on her because this book is vinyl.  It's meant to be wet.  She can literally chew on it all day and nothing will happen.  Bonus: the fish change color in warm bathwater.  I'm setting her up to read books and drink wine in the tub in her adult life, but if that's wrong, then I don't want to be right.

So that's a well rounded Christmas for a baby, all for $70.  So where did the other $30 go?  To the normal Christmas Traditions.  Pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve (that I scored for $2.80-seriously), an outfit to wear on Christmas (that I scored for $7.44), and stocking stuffers.  For Aisley, it was a few Ella's kitchen pouches, some fruit, some travel size lotions, and her favorite snack puffs-its a perfect baby-friendly version of what we always had as kids!