Thursday, September 29, 2011

Every Day's a Special Day

Memory photos are great for more than just special occasions. Here is one I did for a mother of her young son with photos taken during a trip shopping at the mall.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How To Choose A Memory Collage Design Artist

I recently had the privilege to view a new local collage artists' work. While it was beautifully styled, I noticed a number of flaws in the workmanship that reduced the overall quality of the artwork. Yet I realized it would be easy to mistake the expensively displayed samples for high quality art pieces if one did not know what to look for in a professional digitally designed photo collage, or did not take the time to look closely at the photo manipulation in the designs. Because I feel so strongly that everyone's memories deserve the highest care I would like to give a few tips on what to look for when choosing a Memory Collage Artist.

To start off here are two almost identical memory photos, one is professional quality while the other is of amateur quality. Personally I don't care for the faded image backgrounds but for this example I decided to use the same basic style that inspired this post. You may or may not see the differences even after looking closely, don't worry I will point them out in just a bit.

All images in this post will enlarge when clicked on.
If you click on the enlarged view it will zoom in larger than print size causing some distortion.
Sample #1

Sample #2

When choosing a memory collage artists it is important to find out how your photo will be printed once they have completed the design. Some artists print in house on an inkjet printer, while others use local or online quick labs. To achieve the highest quality you want your memory photo to be printed at a professional photography lab that chemically processes the photographs using archival quality products.  This will ensure your memory photo has the longest possible life span and is the highest  possible resolution print.
You do not want it printed on an inkjet or at a quick lab because:
1) Quick lab prints are printed at a much lower resolution and will not be as sharp as those done by a professional photo lab.
2) Both quick lab and inkjet prints fade faster than professionally processed photographs. Thus the life span is much shorter than a professional photograph. Ink jet prints can begin to fade in as few as five years. Some quick lab prints are not much better, starting to fade in as little as ten years.
I am glad to say the artist I observed does use a professional lab. I'm even pretty sure it is the same lab we use.

Now on to the workmanship. Don't let expensive canvas print samples or fancy framed samples trick you into thinking the artist is experienced or that they are superior quality.

Look very closely at samples of the artists' work.

1. If you will be having some or all of the subjects fully extracted from the original photograph as in the above samples, look closely at how the subject has been extracted.
zoom of sample #1
 If the subject looks like the one above or has a dark smooth edge all the way around, it is a sure sign they have not learned the finer aspects of their craft.
zoom sample #2
In this second example not only has the subject been extracted smoothly and completely but the edges have been blended and given a natural looking shadow along the left side only.

2. Look closely at the different elements of the artwork on the samples, such as frames, fancy designs and any scrapbook style add-on. As for frames there are two things to look for, one is that photos should not extend past the edge of the frame even slightly. The second is that frames should not look like they have been painted or drawn on the flat photograph but should have some dimension to them.

With regard to fancy designs and scrapbook style add-on's it is harder to say what is good and what isn't because this is very subjective. While I prefer the look that is achieved by adding a bit of dimension to at least some of these elements you may not.  However, I do want to point this out because if it is not present in any of the samples you are shown then it is most likely not something the artist is able to achieve. These next two samples will show a little of what I am talking about.

In this section from sample #1 the design elements have just been layered over the photographs creating a flat image such as you would get by making a photocopy of a scrapbook page. Although you just might get a bit more dimension with a photocopy.

In this section from sample #2 you can see that each element pops as if standing out from the background image. So far I have not ran across anyone that prefers the flat look of the above sample over this more polished look, but that doesn't mean one way is right and the other wrong. However, if the artist you choose does not know how to make the style pop you may want to consider finding a different one.

The next examples I would like to show you deal with collages in which multiple photographs are blended together to make your memory photo. The aforementioned artist had only two samples of what I would consider blended collages and in both samples I noticed three of the four most common errors made by beginning collage artists.

In this example I have used the four most common errors made by beginners.
1st is cutting the subject out in an oval with a slightly feathered edge (top left) and placing it on the collage. While this is acceptable when it is part of the design asked for it is not a blended photo collage. 2nd is a sharp extraction of part of the subject. (top right) 3rd is erasing the outer edges with a feathered eraser but leaving an obvious transition between the top image and the background image. (bottom left and right) 4th is poor placement of images limiting ability to blend smoothly. (bottom right)

When the same five photographs are blended together properly the transitions are smoother and it is harder to tell where one photograph begins or ends. 

3. Make sure the artist will include ALL the photos you wish to be in the artwork not just the ones they want to use. Some artists will limit the number of photos because they personally think more than their limit doesn't look good. This is a personal opinion that you as the client should have the right to decide. The artist should let you know however if the quality or number of photographs you are submitting will reduce the overall quality of the finished artwork. They should also let you know how you can get the best quality using your choice of photographs, such as a larger print size or applying special photographic or image effects. Then they should let you decide on whether to included the photos or not. Take for example the center photo in all of the samples to this point. The photo is somewhat blurry, and while a sharper photo would look more like a professional portrait shot and add to the quality of the overall photo the little girls mother still wants that photo as the background. I did add some image effects to the photograph that slightly improved the blur, but only so much can be done to improve a blurry photo.

4. Make sure they will allow you to pick all the elements of your artwork if you should wish too, not just the general theme and color scheme, or in what room you plan to display the artwork. You may be thinking "I'm not an artist, shouldn't I let the artist decide?" I am not saying you should or have to tell them exactly how to do their job. But you should be allowed to say I would like this photo as the background and these ones put in frames or blended or the little girl taken completely out of this photo, or if you want swirls or other added elements. The artist I observed is like many I have seen on line that give the client only minimal say in the overall design of the finished artwork.

These are YOUR MEMORIES and so should reflect YOUR STYLE not the artists' style, unless of course you happen to love the artists' style. To accomplish this the artist should be willing to consult with you about the overall design of your memory photo.  And to ensure your satisfaction the artist should provide you with a proof (either print or digital) and be willing to make at least one change if not more to that proof without additional charges before printing your artwork.

Most memory collage artists' offer only one or maybe two styles of designs and if you know what different styles are available and you like the style they offer then that is great. However, it is good to know what other styles are possible so you can decide which meets your needs best.

To make the styles easier to distinguish between we have created samples using the six basic styles we offer at Artistix Network LLC. A memory photo can be all of one style or can incorporate a number of different styles.

There is one more style I would like to share because although I consider it a blended collage it looks quite different from the traditional blended collages. In this type of blended composite photographic collage some or all of the photographs are merged together as if a double exposure has occurred.

There are many digital collage artists both locally and on line that do beautiful professional high quality work. However, there are many more who produce only amateur quality work and try to pass it off as high quality.  It is my hope that this information will help families and individuals seeking to create a memory photo get a long lasting high quality photo.

I want to thank you for sticking with me through this long post. I considered making it a two part post but breaking the information up just didn't feel right. If you have any questions or need help with a memory photo I am here to help.

If you have found this information helpful and informative please share this with others.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Strength of Time

When Beth at Daily Journey posted a beautiful photo of Crater Lake and asked if anyone had been there I was reminded of this poem.  In the late 80's and early 90's our family had the pleasure of living in southern Oregon, during which time Crater Lake became one of my favorite places to spend a relaxing afternoon. I hope you will enjoy my photo and poem of this gorgeous place.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Test Run

My sister and I want to take a trip to the Black Hills with her two children and my youngest daughter. Eleven year old B and eight year old D both have ADHD and have never been on a trip over an hour long so I thought it best to plan a test run.  The question was where do we take these two monkeys to find out how they will do on a long road trip? The trip to the Black Hills will be a six hour drive so we wanted a drive that would be about half that time. Luckily for us the Omaha Zoo is just about three hours away.

 I do not have DVD players in my van so this was going to have to be somewhat of an old school style trip. With coloring books, crayons, notebooks, pencils, pillows, favorite stuffed animal, lap blankets and few modern amenities [MP3 players and Nintendo DS's] we were just about set. Throw in some snacks and drinks and we were on our way.

The first hour went pretty smooth, but by the hour and a half mark both kids were getting whinny and restless. Thankfully we were just coming into an area that I knew had a small interactive museum just off the highway, so I decided to pull off for about a half hour to give the kids a break. Unfortunately the museum was closed for cleanup after the extensive flooding in the area. So instead of visiting the museum we wound up just letting the kids run around for a little bit. In retrospect this was probably better than going through the museum even though it is an interactive one.

Not long after we got back on the road it was apparent the kids were tired of the items we had brought with us and it was time to fall back on the ever faithful road games. The last hour of the trip we played various games such as the alphabet game and the car color game [each person picks a color and counts the cars or trucks of that color, the first to 20 wins].

The trip home proved to be more challenging as it was dark and although we thought both kids would fall asleep neither did and neither were easily entertained in the dark. So we have decided we can make the long trip to the Hills, but we will need to remember a few more easy road games and definitely not drive after dark. Of course we had the added benefit of spending a fun filled day seeing all the different animals at the zoo. Here are a few of the kids favorites:
wrapped around the branches is a snake

Hey it is Pumba!

What are you staring at buddy?

It was Love at first sight!

We're off to see the wizard . . .

Okay, so maybe this was one of my favorites.

Wait! photograph my good side!

Gotta love the invention of the zoom lens.
All in all it was both a fun and educational trip for both the children and us adults. We made lots of great memories and now know that we can take long trips and keep our sanity at the same time. I am excited to say we will be taking that trip to the Black Hills at the end of the month!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Everyday Moments

Our lives are made up of a few major events which generally we preserve through photography. Such as birthdays, graduations and weddings. No one would ever consider not photographing such special occasions. Even in economically tough times such occasions are photographed if not professionally then by a friend or family member. Now I am not saying that these events are not photo worthy. On the contrary I believe it is very important to preserve these joyous occasions with photographs.

Yet it is the everyday moments that keep us going and bring us lasting joy. Those special moments when we wish we could stop time. Those moments when we feel so grateful to be alive sharing our life with those we love. It is these everyday moments that often get left out of our photographic history. The very moments that define who we are and what we love most in life. Such as the moment this couple appears to be experiencing. I doubt they will have a photograph of this beautiful moment. I was lucky to snap this of them while I was taking a nature hike. Had I not been on the other side of the river I would have gotten there address so I could mail them a print.

All to often these important moments get suppressed when times are rough, for there is no visual reminder to snap them back into our memories when we need them most. Yet when we take photos in places that hold special meaning for us even if we don't take a photo of the special moment, that photo can act as the catalyst our minds need to pull that memory back to the present. This photo of my brother and his boys is just such a photo for me. This was taken during one of our many trips to Dark Canyon near Idylwilde, CA. For my husband and I Dark Canyon holds some very magical times. We were just starting our own family and we had many heart to heart talks as we enjoyed the beauty of this special spot.

Back then we took fewer pictures as it could get expensive developing film.  Today it is easier than ever to record such special every day moments. There are digital camera's, cell phones with camera's and even some DS systems have camera's. With so many ways to capture photographs don't let the special every day moments slip away. Sure all the photos may not be the best of quality, but they are probably better quality than those old 110 camera's.

The ease with which we can preserve our memories has increased astronomically but as with most modern day inventions this does not come without it's own set of complications. If you have already embraced the digital photography age I am sure you have already discovered its' main complication. Too many photos!  So many in fact that the special photos get lost in a sea of photographs on your computer. It saddens me to say that I have actually been told this problem is the main reason for a person not using their digital camera except for Big Events. So I thought today I would share how I manage to preserve everyday moments without getting overwhelmed by too many photographs.

These are the steps I use with my personal photographs. The steps for my general photography and professional are very similar to these.
  1. When uploading photos set the upload to create a new folder using the date for the folder name. If the photos are all of a particular event, such as hiking in palisades, I will put the location after the date in the folder name.
  2. Go through the uploaded photographs and delete those that are too blurry, too dark, too light or oops shots of my pant leg. Yes I do get these types of shots, especially when playing with the settings on my new camera. Move general photography photographs to the general photography folder.
  3. While going through the photos I will change the file name on any photographs I know I am going to want to print or use in a memory photo. The new file name always includes the number of the month and year followed by the subject name, if there is more than one of the same subject the name is followed by 1, 2, ect.. These photos are then moved or copied to my "To Be Printed" folder.
  4. At the end of each year I create a year folder to put all different monthly folders into.
  5. Every month I go through one of the folders that is at least six months old to see if any of the photos jog a special memory and if they do I will rename that image file and move it to the To Be Printed folder. I do this because sometimes it is the least expected photograph that jogs your memory of a special everyday moment. 
Please don't forget to back up your digital image files on a regular basis. My previous post Preserving Digital Photo Files has a great deal of information to help you safeguard your precious memories.

So go out, embrace the moment and for goodness sakes as my four year old grandson would say PICTURE IT!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Trust Your Heart

This weeks photo prompt at 52 Photos Project is to add words to one of your photographs. Since that is something I like to do and share here on Artistic Composition I have added it here instead of my photography blog. I hope you enjoy this inspirational image quote. As with all my inspirational image quotes you are free to snag and use.
If you have enjoyed this you can find more on this weeks 52 Photos Project meme.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Versatile Blogger

I am honored and excited to have received my first blogger award. I am not sure that I am all that versatile, but nevertheless I am pleased to accept the award.

By accepting this award I am bound to abide by the following rules:

1) Thank the blogger who awarded you and link back to them.
2) Share 7 things about yourself.
3) Pass the award along to 15 other newly discovered blogs.

The first rule is the easiest one to follow as I am very grateful to Khush for passing this award on to me. So I send a big thanks to Khush at Journey for choosing me to be among the wonderful bloggers she has chosen to receive this award . I love reading Khush's blog about her your Journey through life. Her kind heart and sweet sense of humor shows through and always adds a smile to my day. So if you if you're up for a treat pop on over and visit the Journey.  Keep up the great work Khush , may it be a very long and rewarding journey.

Now for SEVEN things about myself, this may be difficult to come up with interesting things that are not on my About Me section. But here we go:

1. I have 4 children ages 28, 25, 21 and 18. and 4 grand children ages 4-9 yrs old. I am also an honorary mother to 3 daughters 39, 26 and 25 and honorary grandmother to 5 grandchildren ages 1-12 years old.

2. I am the primary care provider for my husband and my 18 year old daughter. My husband lost both his legs at the knees due to an accident and both my husband and daughter suffer from Bi-polar disorder.

3. Due to a neuromuscular problem I am at times legally blind.

4. I look for the positive in everyone and everywhere.

5. I went back to college at 36 and would go back again in a heart beat.

6. My favorite animal is the male lion. Gotta love that hair!

7. I love the outdoors and dread housework, unless I am angry then it is very therapeutic.

Now for the final step in accepting this award, it is time to pass the award on to 15 recently discovered blogs. Let me first just say a big thanks to ALL of my readers and that I wish I could pick each of you but I guess I had better follow the rules.

Here is the criteria I used in picking which of the many fantastic bloggers I follow to receive this award.
1) Have less than a year in their archives [thus newly discovered]
2) I find the blog fun, entertaining or inspirational

Hope I haven't put you to sleep or scared you away. Here is my list of 15 'newly discovered' blogs. I would like to thank them all for providing me with hours of enjoyment. Please do hop over and visit these terrific folks.

1. Michelle at The Space Between Raindrops
2.  Tracy at The Next Half of Life
3. Niki at Sunflower Web Journal
4. Kate at Her Little Mister
5. Alice at Alice Becomes
6. Bethe at Daily Journey
7. Jessica at Happy Pretty
8. Sarah at Just Another Day
9. Heather at Notes From the Nelsens
10. Elise at One Woman, Reinvented
11. Bonnie at Pixel Dust Photo Art
12. XLMIC at Taking It On
13. Annabelle at   VIVA LUXURY
14. rennet at The Project
15. Misty Dawn at Through A Photographer's Eyes

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/2001 Tribute

I created the following two composite art pieces as tributes
In remembrance of 
the lives cut short 
the tireless out pour of aid
the horror that gripped our nation
and our ability to survive

May we never forget the devastation intolerance wrought.
On this day all my blogs will contain this post.

May each of you find peace and tolerance wherever your life may take you. ~ Nita

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Vision In My Head

Image compliments of
Creativity can be rewarding and sometimes so very frustrating. Take now for example, I have been focusing the lions share of my creativity towards preserving memories in a fun and artistic way and all of a sudden a vision for a photographic art piece pops in my head. I know what I want the finished art work to look like. I have the exact location picked out for the photo shoot. I have lined up the four models for the shoot and now all I need is their outfits! 

These are the materials for the four outfits
I said to myself 'no big deal, I know exactly how I want the models clothing to look and I know how to sew.' After a week of searching every fabric store and thrift store I finally have all of the materials needed to create the four outfits. The models have been measured and styles have been sketched and the first one is in the beginning stage of production.

Image compliments of
So what is so frustrating? To stay true to this vision in my head the photo shoot needs to take place before too many of the leaves turn color and begin to drop. That is right Autumn is fast approaching and my time to put together the outfits is very limited. Once upon a time that wouldn't have phased me, however it has been some time since the old sewing machine has seen much use. So wish me luck, because I am going to need it!
Do you ever find yourself starting a project only to realize once you start that it is going to take a lot more work than you thought?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Indoor Racetrack

When my boys were little they loved their Hot Wheels, but no way near as much as my grandson. It would not surprise me if he had at least two if not three of every current hot wheel made.  When he plays with them he generally gathers up a Tonka Truck load and drives it to one of the doorways in their home. Once at the door way he empties the cars and lines them up before choosing which ones he will drive. At any given time there may be cars lined up from wall to wall across every door jam.

Most often the kitchen becomes the race track, probably because the cars roll faster on the linoleum. The hall way is generally where he lines up the cars that don't fit across the door ways. The hallway is also where he builds his car wash and gas station out of Jenga blocks. The living room serves as the main part of town with his house in one corner and play rugs in the center. You know those rugs that look like streets, with parking lots and buildings. He will spend hours playing in his City, driving from room to room.

I will be totally shocked if when he grows up he does work with vehicles in some way. His father also loves cars, so a few years ago when I was putting together a memory album of our visit with his family I decided to use automobiles as the theme for one of the pages.
I like the idea of incorporate things that each person likes into the photos for our memory photo albums. It is one way of not only preserving the actual photos but also showing a little more about the individuals.