Berlin Turns Two

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Today you are two,
You’re two today
What can I tell you
What can I say

Can I tell you about the ocean
As blue as blue can be
It stretches for miles
As far as the eye can see

Can I tell you about the moon
With many different faces
It sneaks into your room
And hides in dark spaces

Can I tell you about stars
And wishes come true
They twinkle and they shine
Especially for you

Can I tell you about dreams
that flicker and ignite
they carry you through life
on a glorious flight

Can I tell you about music
Which makes you laugh and dance
It makes you wiggle your hips
Like there’s ants in your pants

Can I tell you about love
It’s a wonderful thing
It warms you at night
And makes your heart sing

Can I tell you about puppies
Hamsters and cats
Fish in a bowl
With names like Jack

So much to see
So much to do
Welcome to the big world
Now you are two

Poem by the talented Grandma (Jo-Anne) Bartz

 


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Kitchen Remodel: Part Two

After an intense 30 days, I’m thrilled to announce the kitchen remodel is complete! After months of researching, designing and planning I was terribly nervous the vision in my head wouldn’t become a reality. But in the end I’m more than pleased with the finished product and couldn’t have asked for a smoother, less hectic demolition. My contractor did an amazing job and was incredibly respectful of our space and an overall joy to work with. After hearing so many horror stories, I feel so incredibly fortunate for the seamless experience we had.

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There were so many things I disliked about this kitchen (its hard to know where to start), but first thing I knew I wanted to change, from the moment we stepped foot in the house, was removing the wall between the kitchen and living spaces.

You can see the former owners made a go at it by making pocket windows on each side, but it wasn’t achieving the open living spaces I was craving. We had several contractors and an engineer come in and give us quotes and options for removing the wall. Most were outrageously expensive and we were afraid we weren’t able to achieve the look we wanted.

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In the end we were able to eliminate one of the posts and open up the walls completely, and the result is a dream come true. The open space between the dining/kitchen/living room is perfect for our family and an absolute entertainers dream (my first dinner party can’t come soon enough!).

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So there it is, my white kitchen come true. I won’t be leaving the kitchen anytime soon, so expect a lot of recipes coming your way.




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Kitchen Remodel

When we bought our new home back in November I knew the first thing I wanted to do was renovate the kitchen. Ryan however, wasn’t sold on the idea. Understandably, he couldn’t stomach the idea of pouring our life savings into buying a home, then turning around and putting more money into renovations. So I started introducing the idea to him slowly, suggesting we paint the cabinets and buy new appliances. Then slowly as the months passed, I kept discussing my renovation ideas with him, and he warmed up to the idea.

Here we are eight months later, and in the middle of a full on kitchen remodel. I feel I can speak for both Ryan and I, and say we are very pleased with our decision and couldn’t be happier with the results thus far.

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Here is what the kitchen looked like pre-demolition; linoleum floors, tile countertops that were impossible to clean, and very dated cabinets.

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The first thing to be done was tear down the wall between the kitchen and dining/living area. This change done in the first few days solidified our decision to go for the remodel, it made all the difference in the openness and feel of our living space.

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In the original design plans, we expected to keep both posts you see in the image above. But luckily for us, we found only one post was load bearing in the demo. This was the first bit of incredible news we were to receive during the process.

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Things have been progressing right along in the few short weeks we have been remodeling. The contractor also discovered vented piping hidden behind the upper microwave cabinet, great news number two. This bit of information saved us a fortune!

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This is how it appears as of this morning. Its beginning to look like a real kitchen! I can’t wait to make the final reveal. Only a little over a week and we should be enjoying our new kitchen and amazing open layout!



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My Apologies

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I’m terribly sorry for things being so quiet around here (on the blog that is). Life has been a bit hectic lately, between traveling and getting ready for our up and coming kitchen remodel, I’ve had little time for myself, and zero time to blog.

Last week I got a much needed break by visiting the in-laws in Orange County. However with all the endless driving between LA and OC to visit friends, I found myself without the time (or the energy) to concentrate on writing.

I did, however, get the opportunity to finally meet a friend I met through the blogging community; Ashley from The Stork and the Beanstalk (you might recall from her very recent guest post). We enjoyed a morning of the kiddos running around on the beach, and later that week an evening bonfire filled with s’mores and sand.

Very recently, I’ve been feeling a tad worn out with the whole blogging thing, and wondering what the point of all is. But the opportunity it has given me to connect to other mamas around the world is invaluable. Whenever I contemplate taking a break from it all, I just remember all the amazing connections I’ve made and the friendships that have formed because of it all. That is all that is needed to pick up and carry on.

I failed to take many photos of our trip last week, but please check out Ashley’s post for beautiful photos of our evening on the sand.



 

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Part Four: Technology and Tots

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For my final post in the technology series,  I wanted to turn the focus towards us, the parents, and our relationship with technology. We all are aware of the implications technology has on our children, but what about the implications it has on us, the adults? In my opinion, we are the worst abusers of technology. How does our use of technology effect not only us personally, but our relationship with our children and our partners?

I believe its safe to say that parents (or all adults for that matter) are utterly obsessed with the abundance of technology. With the daily use of social media; Instagram, Twitter, Facebook…To the obsession with smart phones, and the hours spent hypnotized surfing on the web. There is not an hour that goes by that we are not sucked into these technological black holes. The minutes lost on these devices quickly turn into hours; hours that could have been spent enjoying our loved ones rather than wasted on such frivolous devices.

I am not immune to this technological dependence, in fact that is why I wanted to write this post. I realize my interest has turned into an obsession, not only for me, but for my husband as well. At times, ok let’s be honest, most times, Ryan and I are completely sucked into our computers, phones or iPads and go hours without talking to one another. If one of us were to strike up a conversation, the response would most likely be “huh” or even worse, complete silence. We both get so absorbed with our mindless surfing that all senses are turned off and we completely tune one another out, not even bothering to look up from the computer to provide a respectful response. Often times I find myself getting angry with Ryan, frustrated that after a long day at work he comes home and instantly turns to the computer, rather than engaging with me. But he could say the same thing about me, and he’s often expressed feelings of resentment towards my absorption in the computer as well. Its truly sad that the little time we have together is spent surfing on the internet, rather than discussing our day or being affectionate towards one another.

Then there is the relationship with our children that is being effected. How many times have you seen a parent completely mesmerized by their phone at the playground, paying more attention to their email when they should be playing with their child? I mean come on, we’ve all been there; the one handed swing, or the zombie response to our child, while we continue perusing our Instagram. I sadly even witnessed a child getting hurt at the playground, crying out for their mom’s attention, while the parent sat back oblivious, surfing on the web. Nothing like witnessing this event to question your own obsession.

Our children are craving our attention. These special moments spent playing with them are crucial, not only for our relationship, but their development as well. It is up to us to set boundaries, not only for the child, but for ourselves. How can we expect to to lead by example, when we are having trouble setting our own limitations?

Becoming aware of our addiction has been the first step in our family, just being conscious of how often we use our devices has help make us realize how much we truly need to disengage. We have been so diligent limiting Berlin’s technology use, but we have completely ignored our own obsessions.  For now we plan to put in place a few hours each night that are technology-free and designate parenting time as sacred, digital-free time. Berlin deserves my undivided attention {and so does my partner}.

My hope is that all parents will step back and reevaluate their technology use and enjoy the present reality that is in front of them.



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Kitchen Inspiration

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Image credit from top to bottom: One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight

Most of my days these past few months have been spent designing and shopping for materials for our new kitchen. The process began the week we moved into our new home (back in November) and is finally coming to fruition next month (or at least that is the plan!). My vision of the kitchen has changed and evolved so much (as designs often do) since this process began. I originally wanted walnut cabinets, until I realized the cost of custom made walnut cabinets {scratch that idea}, then it evolved into bamboo, and slowly over time I have fallen in love with the idea of an all white kitchen.

So if all goes as planned (which from what I understand rarely happens in contract land), we should have a brand new, spankin’ white kitchen by mid-August. Wish us luck!



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Part Three: Technology and Tots

The third post in my technology series is extra special to me, as the guest is my younger sister. I asked my sister, Amanda, to be a part of the series, not only because she is an incredibly talented writer, but because she has made educated, decisive decisions regarding technology in her household. I have always admired my sister’s parenting values; she makes wise decisions based on her natural instinct, then stands behind them one hundred percent (and never waivers). I could only dream of being this decisive.
Now I’ll turn it over to Amanda…

Please read first: It really took me some time to write this article. I wanted to give myself time to truly evaluate the reasons why we choose to limit our son’s exposure to technology. And then that lead to more questions, like “what is technology?” And as you might imagine, that question lead to another and then another. For all intents and purposes, “technology” means the current technology of computers, laptops, Smart Phones, ipads, video games and essentially our cellular devices. My hope is that you will read this with an open mind and heart and know that my intention is to connect with you on some level. It is NOT my intention to bash your parenting or lifestyle if you happen to feel differently. I have a real love for children and if everything was going really well for children, than I would have no room to criticize. But in my heart of hearts, I don’t feel that all is well. Children are being abused, neglected, abandoned, ignored and becoming more disconnected. I have a deep love for humanity and my article is an attempt to open a discussion on the benefits and risks of the emerging technology. I hope you will share your thoughts whether you agree or disagree.

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It all started one afternoon, while my son, Nico and I were grocery shopping. As Nico perused the Lego section of the toy aisle, something caught my eye just behind him. It’s called an Apptivity and it is a plastic toy with a place to insert your smart phone. It comes complete with a splashguard to protect your device from unwanted drool and sticky fingers. The toy is designed for children ages 6 – 36 months. It unnerved me to imagine a 3 year old staring at an iphone, let alone a 6-month-old even access to one.

Not long after I saw the Apptivity, I saw a story in the Huffington Post in which the author gave reasons why hand held devices should be banned for children under the age of 12. While I don’t agree that the government should mandate any of a parent’s choices, I do believe that parents should limit their child’s exposure to this type of technology.

Since becoming a parent, I have operated mostly on intuition. Every now and then I will research a certain topic but I find that because there is so much reputable advice and so many statistics on either side of the matter, I become more confused than I was before I started my search. I have learned through the birth of my child and through important life decisions, that my intuition is a powerful and reliable guide. With that said, I am going to share with you the reasons why my husband and I have chosen to limit our son’s exposure to technology, based on a mixture of our intuition and life experiences. Occasionally, I will throw in statistics to support my argument, but if I have learned anything in my career as a doula and childbirth educator, it is that there is nothing stronger than a mother’s intuition.

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Reason #1 It is a distraction.
The Smart Phone has changed more than just our ability to communicate with one another; it has changed human communication all together. People are glued to these things. Just the other day friend of mine made a very interesting observation regarding the abundant use of the Smart Phone. Replace “checking the Smart Phone” with “spinning plates”. If you were to bear witness to this person pulling out their plate to spin it, as much as people check their phones, you would think that person was crazy or maniacal. All aspects of life are susceptible to Smart Phone interruptions. Basics like driving, eating, sleeping, riding our bikes, sharing time with friends or going to the bathroom with a Smart Phone in hand are now a cultural norm. More intimate events, like a nephew’s first birthday, the birth of our children, or the death of our parents, no longer seem so intimate when someone is texting or shopping on Amazon. Because the Smart Phone is so pervasive it does often take the place of conversation, interaction, observance and just good old fashion stillness.

Reason #2: We are too reliant.
The infatuation with these devices has taught us to be more reliant on it than ourselves. We don’t remember phone numbers, how to read maps or what it feels like to turn the pages of a real book. Take for instance the wide plethora of available apps. It seems as though they have created an app for every possible life scenario. Birth Buddy is an app that times the duration and frequency of your contractions during your labor. You even have the option of emailing the data to your friends and family. As a witness to this app in use, I can tell you that this woman would have much rather preferred her husband’s attention and the use of his hands on her back than his phone. The Fake an Excuse app conjures up an excuse by creating a noise of choice so that you have a reason to get off the phone. Really? The Cry Translator lets you record your baby’s cries and then translates what your baby needs. Here’s a tip and I won’t even charge you: put the phone down and pick up your baby. Becoming overly dependent on technology does more than keep us reliant on cell phone ranges and battery life, it questions our very humanness and the strength and innate capabilities that we possess.

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#3 It’s going to fast.
When we first started to engage in the new generation of children’s movies, I felt uneasiness at the speed. Something about how fast it was moving gave rise to our concern about how that might affect a small brain since surely it was affecting our brains in an uncomfortable way. While I don’t believe that the speed of our technology is the root of such diagnoses as ADHD or ADD, I do believe, that information being delivered at such a speed is not helpful for an already overactive brain. Personally, I have found that my consumption of the increasingly fast technology consumes my brain, making it hard to sleep and hard to remember. Emails, Facebook comments and phone calls; any where, any time, make for a fast life with little time to enjoy the moment.

#4 It’s addictive.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen friends vow that they want to get off Facebook because they feel it is becoming too invasive in their lives, only to see them back on in a couple of days. I get it – I’ve done it myself. While I often get frustrated at the people who constantly check their iphones, I understand that it is an addiction and one that is not easily broken. If adults are having this much trouble controlling themselves, how can we expect kids to make sense of or balance the allure? Video games are a perfect example of the tremendous power of that addiction. Just the other day, I had a young man tell me that he was tired because he spent 12 hours playing a new video game. TWELVE CONSECUTIVE HOURS! But I get it, it’s addicting. How long did we sit in front of Super Mario Brothers trying to get to the last level? The only difference now, is that games today are designed to kill more than just man eating plants. The object today is to kill other people and it is very life like. I know there are educational video games but I would argue that for whatever video game they have for learning, there are more ways to teach the same lessons without it. How do these games shape our children’s minds, thoughts and feelings about the world and what will be the long term effects of these addictions.

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#5 What are the long-term health risks?
I am sure that this generation of people will be saying the very same thing about technology that our grandparents said about cigarettes. “I had no idea it was bad for me.” It is important to know that the FDA does not review the safety of radiation emitting consumer products such as wireless phones before they can be sold and when you read the health and safety information section located in the users manual of your cell phone, you will find that they are unable to say with certainty that using a cellular device is free of danger based on “conflicting studies”. Computers, ipads, cellular phones, televisions, microwaves, radios, baby monitors and so much more emit radio frequency energy (radiation) which is absorbed by the bodily tissues closest to where the devices are used. I had a difficult time trying to find conclusive results about whether or not radio frequency energy causes cancer or other health problems but like I said, my gut tells me along with my own personal experience that my body feels a lot better when I spend the day breathing fresh air and experiencing nature instead of a day in front of computer or with my cell phone.

As parents of the next generation, we have the most important job in the world – to raise vibrant, healthy, freethinking individuals who are compassionate, empathetic, aware and happy. It is important to my husband and me that our son is present in his environment and is aware of who and what are going on around him. By having awareness, children become more in tune with the energy of situations, making it easier to make good judgment calls. We want our son to be self-reliant and know the very basics of human survival so that given the most difficult of situations; he has the confidence in himself and his abilities. We want our son to slow down and know this pace as a way of life rather than trying to attain it through yoga classes and meditation retreats later in life. We want our son to have a balanced relationship with technology knowing its incredible possibilities and understanding it’s risk and limitations. We want our son to understand the importance of human connection and all of the joy, disappointment, laughter, heartache and love that accompany those experiences. We want our son to know that the world is a vast place with so many things to try, places to see, and people to meet but that time only moves faster as you get older, so you have no time to waste. Most importantly, we want our son to know that we love him, we always have time for him and that we are always doing our best. These lessons are easier to teach and live by when technology plays a small role in both his life and ours.




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Part Two: Technology and Tots

As a part of my technology series, I asked two others to share their views and discuss how they personally handle it in their homes.

My first guest is Ashley from The Stork & the Beanstalk. You may recall I did a guest post awhile back for her while she was recovering from back surgery. I really can’t say enough good things about Ashely. Her photography is nothing short of amazing and her wit and candor is truly refreshing. Now onto her thoughts regarding the “beast” that is technology.

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My mom had a friend when I was growing up that didn’t allow her daughter to watch any TV. I don’t even think they owned a TV in their house. I thought it was weird. I was around 8 or 9 years old and considered Zack, from Saved By the Bell, very much a part of my life.

TV never ruled my life. I was an active kid and my attention span for sitting in front of the tube was limited. In fact, from about the time I was 8 until I was 16, I spent 4 hours a day at the gym. I was a competitive gymnast.

When I thought about becoming a parent, I thought a lot about how I would raise my children. I pictured myself as a carefree parent who was relaxed about things like nap times and schedules. Admittedly, I frowned upon parents who plopped their kids in front of an iPad at restaurants. I thought about my mom’s friend who didn’t allow her child to watch any TV and suddenly she didn’t seem so “weird”; I understood where she was coming from.

And then I became a parent and, well, I learned quickly not to judge and that – in real life – there are consequences for each parenting decision you make. Like if you chose to be relaxed about nap times, you must also be patient and accepting when your beautiful little child turns into a tantrum throwing monster because they’re tired. And now, when I see a child watching a show on an iPad at a restaurant, I don’t judge because I’ve been there and I understand the importance of having a last resort.

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You see, I approach parenting now with the notion that we all do the best we can and the best we know how to do. All of us. Even if we do it differently.

My grandma reminds me often that most things in life are okay, in moderation. And this is how I approach technology. Sometimes I have to chose between locking myself in the bathroom and slowly plucking each strand of hair out of my head – one by one – or putting on an episode – or two – of Curious George and calling it a day. Because I lost a lot of hair postpartum, I chose the latter. It’s what I need to do, some days, to keep my sanity.

And I don’t feel bad about it. Like I said, I do my best; we all do our best. I don’t strive to be perfect because that would mean setting myself up for inevitable defeat. What I do do is make an effort, often, to spend time outdoors; we throw rocks, we collect sticks, we run away from crashing waves, we climb hills, we jump off park benches.

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Unplugging isn’t only important for children; it’s important for all of us. The internet has (arguably, I suppose) made our lives much easier but regardless of all the things we can do online, sometimes I think it’s healthier to do things the old fashion way; like putting that good ol’ pen to paper and writing a letter and walking to the mail box to send it as opposed to writing an email. Or going to the mall or a thrift shop or whatever suits you as opposed to the isolated and tactile-less world of online shopping. Young or old, we all need moderation in our lives.

Looking for unplugged inspiration? Check out the Childhood Unplugged movement here and on instagram here. And in the meantime, throw yourself a bone; it’s okay to plug-in once and a while too.




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Part One: Technology and Tots

As a child growing up I had very few limitations on anything “technology” based. There were no rules around how many hours of TV we could watch, or how much time was spent playing mindless video games. Therefore, I never obsessed over either. I spent the better part of my childhood running around with my neighborhood friends; playing Barbie, riding bikes, or in my later years, spending countless hours daydreaming about the crushes I had.

But life was different when I was growing up. For better or worse, children today do not share the same experiences I once cherished in my youth. I believe this is due to the amount of technology present in our current society. When I was a child, there was only television or video games to be concerned with. There were no cell phones. There was no social media; no Instagram, no Facebook. In fact the computer hardly existed in my youth. It wasn’t until I reached junior high or high school that computers even entered my realm. Even so, it was limited to school classrooms or the occasional “chat room” that my friends and I would sneak onto at the library. Whereas today we are all victims of the tech world and are inundated with massive amounts of media encroaching into every aspect of our life. It is nearly impossible to go a day without using or being exposed to some form of technology.

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Now that I’m a parent, I’ve had to step back and evaluate the harm and benefits of it all, and really take a stance regarding how I want to raise my daughter, and decide what my comfort level is with her amount of exposure. I did my homework, I read the AAP’s suggestions, and quite honestly I’m still conflicted. On one hand I see the amazing opportunities technology has provided our society and the vast amount of information that can be accessed through the use of such devices. But on the other, I have seen the destruction it can cause and the breakdown of core family values it creates.

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As a parent, not only do I have to be concerned with the effect technological devices have on brain development in our young children, but also the lack of physical activity it creates and the sensory overload it provides. While there may be some benefits offered; mainly improving fine motor skills and allowing communication with our loved ones (through Skype & FaceTime). The benefits are highly outnumbered by the tremendous risks. While I’m not one to adhere to a “strict” parenting style, I have found myself limiting time spent on the iPad or watching television more and more frequently lately. This decision is not only a conscious one based on the ramifications technology and media can generate, but also a naturally occurring one due to the lifestyle we have created. Sure there are days when I just need a moment, and I assure you I will not hesitate to turn on the television and sit my daughter in front of an episode of Baby Einstein, but for the most part our days are spent outside exploring and enjoying the beautiful surroundings our planet has to offer.

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This post is part one of a four part series on technology. I do hope you join in and share your thoughts regarding technology and how you choose to handle it in your families.




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iPhoneography 101

For the past three weeks I have been taking an online iPhoneography course exclusively for mother’s wanting to capture their stories through the lens of their iPhone camera. These few weeks have been invaluable to me as it transformed my relationship with my iPhone camera. Beforehand, for various reasons, I was fearful of using my smartphone camera. I was worried of being unable to capture good quality images (as I could on my “big girl” camera), and I was under the assumption the camera on the phone held too many limitations, but mostly I was just clueless on how to use it properly and lacked the energy to try.

But in a mere three weeks, all fears have entirely subsided and I understand the amazing potential I have by simply using the camera I carry in my pocket every day. The saying holds true, “the best camera is the one that’s with you” -Chase Jarvis.

I really only became interested in photography over the past year (and bought my first camera exactly one year ago this month). Within this year I taught myself the ins and outs of the camera and basic photography all through the internet; reading blogs and watching hours of YouTube videos. While learning this information was extremely helpful for teaching me the basics, I have since discovered that there is nothing more important than practice. Practice is the only true way of advancing one’s skills, it takes hours upon hours of time behind a lens (and a  natural talent comes in handy) to become a solid photographer. While I have spent much time trying to learn my skill through using my DSLR camera, I have realized the potential I have through simply practicing phone, its always on me, its lighter than a real camera, and in most cases, much cheaper.

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Now I am in no way saying that I’m an expert photographer-far from it! I am absolutely aware that I’m a total novice with much more practice to be had and skills to be learned, however these are few simple tricks I have learned in just a few short weeks that will help other beginner iPhoneographers, such as myself.

1. Turn the grid option on in your camera to compose better images using the rule of thirds

2. Don’t use the zoom function when taking a photo, instead either move closer or crop the image later in editing to uphold the quality of the image

3. Keep the camera very still to eliminate blur. You can use your body as a tripod, holding your arms steady to your body, or actually use a tripod Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

4. In addition to the above, you can use your volume up or down button to snap your photo or use the volume key on your headphones to eliminate blur further (also helpful when taking self-portraits)

5. Use the burst mode by holding down the shutter button (built into the 5 models) to take multiple shots at once, this is great when photographing your active little ones

6. Play around with the filters in your iPhone camera to see if there is one you like (the overlapping circles on the bottom right of the camera). I’m personally a fan of the tonal filter

7. Use the AE/AF feature to lock focus and exposure by tapping the object you want on focus on your screen, then holding down your finger for a second to trigger the AE/AF lock. You can then move and recompose your image and your object will remain in focus

8. Download a great camera app, such as Camera + or VSCO Cam. Camera + has a variety of great camera options including, a stabilizer that takes the picture when the camera is most still, a timer that allows up to 30 seconds-this is perfect for taking family or self-portraits, burst mode-which is ideal for those that have older model phones, and finally, a separate focus and exposure square that allows you to really dial in each individually (I love, love this feature!). VSCO Cam also has the separate focus and exposure lock, a level and tilt option to straighten photos and has amazing filters, with an option to buy 49 more at only $5.99

9. Follow the light, try taking your photos only in the daylight, using natural sunlight. Find the room in your house that has the best natural light and practice taking photos there. A soft, filtered light makes beautiful light for portraits. Also try using harsh light and shadows by playing with your exposure square to take moody shots. Lastly, please, please don’t take food shots in low light situations, nothing bothers me more than a feed of poorly lit food shots on someones IG accountBerlin&Me.2

10. Always evaluate your surroundings when composing your image, look through the camera and decide, is it the best angle? Are there distracting elements in your photo (toys on the floor, a chair in the background…)? Remove all distractions from view for a clean, well composed shot.

11. Lastly and most importantly, practice, practice, practice. Play with your camera until you feel comfortable. Look at others photos and get “inspired” by what you see. I say its ok to “copy” until you find your own way, you will eventually learn your own style through lots of practice. I know I am still working on gaining a style, but I’m ok with this and know I have lots of practice ahead of me until that skill is developed.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

All images above were taken with my iPhone in the past few weeks, not amazing, but not bad for someone that was so frightened of their phone camera!

If you’re interested in taking a great online iPhoneography class, please check out Define School, I took the Mother’s Story course with Soud Thammavongsa and loved it.

Good luck and keep taking photos!




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