How to train your eye to take better photos

There is a common saying among photographers that the best technical skills in the world will not make a bad photo good. Getting a good photo is more than simply understanding the features of your camera and a knowledge of lighting, exposure, and editing. So the question is, how does one train their eye for “seeing” great photo opportunities? It is the simple practice of shooting as much as possible. Training your eye to “see” photo worthy images is no different than training your muscles for sports, or your brain for higher thinking. Professionals shoot almost daily and each day their “photo eye” gets stronger and better. I call this “photo radar”. I have observed that most amateurs don’t shoot very often, instead they wait until they are on vacation or see something extraordinary like a rainbow or beautiful sun set. 

Once you start to shoot on a regular basis though you will strengthen your photo radar and start seeing photos where you never did before. Since I have been shooting for so long I occasionally have turn off my “photo radar” because I can be so easily distracted with seeing images. Remember that famous line from the movie The Sixth Sense, ” I see dead people”? Well, I see photos…pretty much everywhere. For example, I can see three or four different photo opportunities while walking to the apartment dumpster to throw away the trash! 

Rusting dumpster with rivets: Linda Holt Photo

It certainly wasn’t always like that though. When I first started photography school I used to struggle to find subjects to shoot for my assignments. I’d walk around Boston for hours looking for interesting things to shoot when in reality everything around me was an opportunity to create something interesting. It wasn’t until my photo eye became more developed that it became easier for me to see photos where most don’t.

 In order to train your eye my advice is to shoot everyday. Don’t think you can do that? Challenge yourself to try it for thirty days. Remember, your photos don’t have to be subjects of extraordinary beauty. Sometimes the most mundane things can make interesting photos. Think in terms of creating a photo rather than taking a photo.

One idea is to pick a different theme each day and try and find as many photos that fit into that theme as possible. For example, one day challenge yourself to only shot things that have texture. Another day only shoot things that are in your yard or limit your photos to shoot only subjects that have bright color. These are just suggestions but you get the idea. If you narrow down your “photo radar” to search for something specific it is much easier to find things to photograph. Try and come up with different assignments for yourself. No one will be judging your photos and only you need to see them.  

As I was halfway through writing this post I had to make a quick trip to Whole Foods. I realized it was a perfect opportunity to challenge myself and share my WF store images with you. I didn’t have much time (about 15 mins) but I wanted to find as many photos as I could while also grabbing food for dinner and a Birthday card for a friend. Side note* All these photos were taken with my iphone.

I started off super easy and snapped a few flower shots from the floral section on my way into the store.

Flowers at Whole Foods:Linda Holt Photo

I think it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo of flowers. Just get in close and fill the frame with the color and shapes.

Whole Foods Flowers:Linda Holt Photo

I then grabbed a cart, looked down and noticed the dramatic lighting and grid pattern that was created from the sun coming through the side window.

Whole foods cart:Linda Holt Photo

Onward to the veggie isle. 

Radishes: Linda Holt Photo

I feel the same way about beautiful fresh vegetables as I do flowers. It’s pretty easy to get a great photo as nature has done all the work already.

Then it got a little more challenging because I wanted to find more unexpected images than flowers and veggies. I spotted this display of wine bottles and liked how the back window light was coming through the wine and also the repetitive shapes of the bottles.

Whole foods wine bottles:Linda Holt Photo

I also liked the texture and simple graceful lines of this cropped in tight image of flip flops. What really makes the photo interesting is the string.

Whole Foods flip flops:Linda Holt Photo

My few minutes were up and I thought I was done but then on the way out I saw one last image and it is my favorite one from my self assignment. A bright orange metal chair tucked under a multi colored stained wood table.

Orange metal chair:Linda Holt Photo

Simply by changing the camera’s perspective and shooting down on the chair it became much more interesting than if I had photographed it from straight on. Plus, there were customers sitting at the table eating and they would have been too distracting. Piece of advice… simple is often better.

So I hope you take up my challenge and spend thirty days photographing every single day. I guarantee you will strengthen your photo eye and improve your photo radar. Please let me know if you are up for the challenge or have any questions or comments. Good luck!!

 

A master class in window treatments from three Summer show houses

Now that Summer is behind us and the kids are back at school I have been getting phone calls from new clients wanting to get their home ready for the upcoming holidays. The number one thing on their wish lists are new window treatments. Having just returned from visiting three different show houses I have to say, window treatments are taking on a main role in decorating. No more wimpy thin drapery panels that I remember from some of the show houses even just a few years back. Instead, I saw room after room of full luxurious panels and roman shades and the one thing they all had in common was some kind of embellishment. 

The Coastal Living Idea House  that I blogged about HERE was designed by Mark Sikes and although I loved his use of blue of white and the many layering of patterns, my favorite design element in the home were his window treatments.

blue drapery with leading edge trim

Linda Holt Photo

Gorgeous wide trim on the leading edge was on every panel and most had top banding or trim as well.

Roman shades with trim

Mark Sikes: Linda Holt Photo

Sikes also layered his windows with natural fiber shades which added texture but also helps protect the fabric from the harsh sun.

blue and white floral drapes

Mark Sikes: Linda Holt Photo

Luxurious pattern matched blue and white panels had trim along the top that coordinated with fabric trim running under the molding. The home has so many amazing details like this in every room. Speaking of details, Sikes even covered his drapery pull wand with matching fabric. Now that is something you don’t see very often…if ever!

fabric covered drapery pull

Mark Sikes:Linda Holt Photo

Natural fiber shades and a wide band of decorative trim added to the charm.

drapery panel with trim

Mark Sikes: Linda Holt Photo

Last week I visited the Hampton Designer Show House and this year there were two homes to tour. Each was very different in look and feel but the one commonality were statement window treatments in every room. Even the bathrooms were adorned with statement drapes!

Linda Holt Photo

Unless you are looking at the above photo on a large screen you won’t be able to see but pink pompom trim runs down the leading edge of the panels.

These sweet roman shades were trimmed with little crystal beads. They were so pretty glistening in the sunlight.

roman shades with crystal trim

Linda Holt Photo

I love the way these shears mimicked the lines of the layered custom molding that was throughout the home.

White shears with black trim

Linda Holt Photo

Eddie Ross trimmed the Roman shades in his room with a contrasting nail head tape.

Roman shades with nail head trim

Eddie Ross design: Linda Holt Photo

Rather than a sewn on tape, these panels in Rajni Alex’s room had a geometric design embroidered directly onto the edge of the fabric. (notice the rug is also embellished on the banding cloth).

orange drapes with embroidery edge

Rajni Alex Design:Linda Holt Photo

When you add trim to a drapery panel you need to decide where it should be placed. Some designers like to put it right at the leading edge of the fabric but others prefer it inset a few inches like this drape below.

winow panels with decorative trim

Linda Holt Photo

I did notice that Mark Sikes placed his trims right at the leading edge of the fabric on all his panels.

patterned drapes with decorative trim

Mark Sikes design:Linda Holt Photo

The one thing I should point out is that these beautiful trims and tapes add considerably to the cost of the drapery. In some cases the trim is even more expensive than the fabric. It does make for a beautiful statement piece in the room though and often times that makes it all worth it.

Lastly, I want to share one more trend with you that I have been seeing in both magazines and spotted at all three show houses I visited. The table skirt is back!!

blue and white table skirt

Mark Sikes:Linda Holt Photo

The one above was in a bedroom at the Coastal Living Idea House and the one below is from the Hampton Show House.

table skirt

Linda Holt Photo

I had this exact same style of table skirt in my own home back in the early 90’s. It’s a great way to add some color and pattern and also doubles as storage underneath. One thing I will leave you with is that sparse rooms and minimalism seems to be on the way out and layered rooms with “more is more” is making a comeback.

After just having downsized and donating 70% of our belongings I am very conflicted about this trend. Personally, I am loving me new very edited small living….however those window treatments are beyond beautiful!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on embellished window treatments but also what do you think about table skirts making a comeback? Do you like the more is more look?

 

 

 

 

Coastal Living Idea House: Blue and White all over

Last week I visited the Coastal Living Idea House in Newport RI to see the house that Mark did. Designer Mark D. Sikes that is. It was everything I could have imagined and it came as no surprise to hear that the house has been sold along with most of the furniture, drapes and decor. The lucky new owner scored big and will take possession of a blue and white dream house.

Mark Sikes is known for both his love of blue and white and his use of stripes and the idea house has it all wrapped up in one beautifully designed coastal home. I took lots of photos on my iphone and in a few cases the lighting was not optimal (as in really terrible) but I think you can still see the rooms fairly well.

Blue and white cabinets: Linda Holt Photo

My friend and I started our tour in the kitchen and loved the on trend two toned painted cabinets in blue and white. Bright white quartz counter tops on the perimeter kept the kitchen light while the oak stained island brought in some warmth and an organic touch.

Kitchen: Linda Holt Photo

There were thoughtful custom details throughout the house such as the pleated fabric shade on the kitchen chandelier.

custom lamp shade: Linda Holt Photo

and fabulous white pompom trim on the buffalo checked drapes.

kitchen window seat: Linda Holt Photo

Every detail was carefully thought out.

drapery detail

The living room is open to the kitchen and was designed with casual entertaining in mind. White sofas with blue welting and plenty of blue and white pillows signaled to sit down and relax.

great room: Linda Holt Photo

The patio and pool is just off the living room.

Linda Holt Photo

The hallways were decked out in navy blue and white stripes and iron lanterns.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

All the bedrooms were chock full of personality with lot’s of prints, patterns and gorgeous window treatments. Just like the kitchen and living room, they were all done in blue and white. 

Linda Holt Photo

Decorating a room with lots of odd angles and eves can be challenging. I loved that Sikes embraced the sharp angles and wrapped blue and white buffalo check fabric all around.

Linda Holt Photo

The girl’s bedroom was equally as energetic with navy and white trellis wallpaper and a roomful of blue and white botanicals.

Linda Holt Photo

I understand that all this pattern might be too much for some, but for a second home like a beach house I think it’s a lot of fun.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

The bathrooms were also blue and white and again, had interesting details. The stripes on the floral window fabric became inspiration for outlining the ceiling, walls, and even the tile floor with a matching blue stripe.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

The basement is all set for game night and the fabric  upholstered walls made it so cozy.

Linda Holt Photo

The landing between the second floor bedrooms was probably my favorite space in the house. It looked out directly to the ocean and between the art work, the sofa and the carpet it hit all the high notes for me.

Linda Holt Photo

It really is an amazing home and if you are local I urge you to check it out and see it before the new owners take possession.

How about you? What is your favorite room?

 

 

 

Coming clean about the ugly truth of downsizing

Now that we have downsized from our big home into a small urban apartment it seems that’s all anyone wants to talk about. All my baby boomer clients, anyone that follows my blog and all my friends tell me they are so impressed with what we have accomplished. They say they too want to downsize within the next couple of years but get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

Since it is (mostly) behind us, I can sum up the process of downsizing in two words…downsizing sucks! It’s a TON of work and seriously, the single most difficult thing I have ever done and that includes chemo. The process is obviously different for everyone, but for me, a collector of all things beautiful and meaningful, getting rid of things was at times downright painful. Imagine lining up all your friends and saying, “okay, I love you all but there is no longer room in my life to stay in contact with all of you so I am going to choose ten of you to remain in my life. To the rest… “it’s been nice knowing you..sayonara!”

Downsizing is different for everyone and to some it’s moving from 5000 sq ft to 2800 sq ft. What my husband and I did though I would call extreme downsizing. We are now living in less than 30% of our previous space, just over 1000 sq ft. The biggest lesson I learned is that downsizing is definitely a process and the more time you give yourself for the transition the less traumatic it will be. We also found there are three distinct phases in the downsizing process.

The first phase of downsizing is relatively easy. It feels great to get rid of old junk and to sell or donate household items, dated furniture, old sports equipment, linens and no longer worn clothes. Trip after trip to drop off items to various charities made me feel happy and lighter every time. 

The second phase of downsizing is harder (much harder). A baby bassinet that had been in our family for over a hundred years (tossed, no one wanted it), antique furniture passed down from my parents and my husband’s parents (donated or sold for pennies on the dollar), my husband’s prized collection of over 600 record albums including many rare live recordings (sold for next to nothing), ceramics and artwork dating back to daycare years with my children’s hand prints and handwritten sentiments like “best mommy in the world” (tossed…sorry kids) it all went. It is true what everyone says, once it’s gone you really don’t miss it but it’s hard to let it go none the less. 

Now for the ugly truth:

The third phase of downsizing is where we have stalled (failed). This phase involves getting rid of the most “valuable” or meaningful items you own, mainly, the family heirlooms. In our case it’s things like my grandfather’s World War I medical kit (he was a doctor during the war and served on the front lines). It’s oil paintings done by my artist grandmother, it’s a large sextant that was used to navigate the boat that brought my great grandfather from Scotland to Prince Edward Island, it’s family photo albums from the turn of the century and antique blue and white china from my husband’s grandmother….the list goes on and on. Over the years my husband and I have become the caretakers of all these family heirlooms.

old world master style oil painting of little girl at desk.

This is a portrait of my mother when she was three years old painted by her uncle. I have the bracelet she is wearing with the three pearls on it. My grandfather added a new pearl for each birthday until she turned seven when the great depression hit and he lost all his money. It’s desperately needs to be cleaned and is not our style but I also can’t imagine getting rid of it.

Treasures are different for everyone but I guarantee when you downsize you will have items you simply aren’t ready to let go of. These treasures have huge value to us but sadly little to no value to anyone else. We tried out an online auction site and gave them a $700 signed vintage art print that we gifted ourselves on our tenth wedding anniversary. Here is a photo of the commission check.

EBTH commission check

My EBTH commission check

In case you can’t read that number on the check it is sixty cents! Yup, our much loved framed and signed art print sold for one dollar. 

So I’m coming clean to everyone who says how impressed they are with what we did. My dirty little secret is that we have not one but TWO storage lockers full of family heirlooms and things we simply don’t know what to do with. My kids might want some of it someday but they have no interest in it now and no space in their tiny Boston apartments. Now in fairness to us, one of the units is very small and almost empty and we have given ourselves a deadline of Sept to clear it out completely. The second one though seems like there is no clean out date in sight. There has to be an end though because everyday with these units feels like a loudly ticking clock and every month the storage fees are equal to a new car payment. As much as it’s causing me stress to store these items I am equally as stressed and conflicted about getting rid of these family memories. Sadly, there are no other family members to give them to beyond our immediate family.

So now that I’ve shared my ugly secret I would love to hear from you. Have you downsized? if so, was it easy or challenging. What did you do with your family heirlooms? 

(side note: I’ve read Marie Kondo’s books about “tidying up” and many more downsizing articles so I am well aware of what the experts say so please don’t tell me to take a photo of it and “thank it” for being in my life).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matisse and his “actors” of inspiration

Don’t you often wonder when you look at a beautifully designed room or a stunning piece of art, what the inspiration was behind the creation? “What inspires you?” has to be one of the most asked questions of any creative. The answers vary but often times it’s things like art, travel, nature or even other creatives. 

So it was great anticipation that I made my way to the Matisse exhibit at the Boston MFA just before I left on vacation. The paintings were curated around the objects that inspired Matisse. He referred to his favorite objects as “actors” and used them over and over again in his work. 

“The object is an actor. A good actor can have a part in ten different plays; an object can play a role in ten different pictures” Matisse

I have had a love affair with Matisse since high school. In fact, this framed poster below has hung in every apartment and house I have lived in since college. I have had it for close to 40 years and although it has little to no monetary value, I just couldn’t bring myself to part with it during the downsizing purge. 

Some of the more interesting “actors” used by Matisse were African figures and ethnic textiles.

 Matisse was intrigued with the simplicity of the sculpture and the fact that it was stripped down to just the visual essentials.

Preliminary sketch for portrait below.

Matisse also was inspired by textiles, especially those from Northern Africa and Islamic cultures. He loved the rich saturated colors and the patterns of the hand made cloth. This Egyptian cloth in the exhibit hung in his studio and was used over and over again in his work.

Here it is on the right side of the painting.

The exotic Islamic culture fascinated Matisse and became a favorite subject to paint.

This is a detail shot of another antique textile from his collection.

Matisse used it for his inspiration in the painting below.

One of the more interesting facts I learned at the show was that it was these Islamic textiles that became the inspiration for Matisse’s cut outs which he is so well know for.

He studied the play of light on the mirrored glass inserts and the “movement” it gave to the pattern.

African Kuba cloth which is so on trend today was also a favorite of Matisse.

He collected samples from many different tribes and was taken by the fact that the pattern seemed to have no beginning and no end. The painting below shows his Kuba cloth interpretation in the background. Notice how the pattern climbs out the window seemingly going on forever.

Later in his career Matisse became captivated by Chinese calligraphy and collected samples that he hung in his studio.

The fluid movement of the characters inspired this work called The Acrobat.

He also collected Chinese pottery

Which became inspiration for the tree painting below. 

I found the exhibit so fascinating because it was almost like being inside Matisse’s head. I could look at the object and then see how it inspired him to create his work. 

It also got me thinking about what inspires me. It’s probably cliche but for the most part it’s travel and nature. We were on vacation last week in the white mountains of New Hampshire. The vibrant greens of the forest against the beige/taupe colored rocks became inspiration for a color palette for a new space I am working on.

Here are a few images of what I was surrounded by last week.

White Mountains NH

Linda Holt Photo

Galehead trail NH mountains

Linda Holt Photo

river stream in White Mountains

Linda Holt Photo

This is my color palette inspired by the mountains.

My mountain inspired color palette: Linda Holt photo

Inspiration is different for everyone. I would love to hear what inspires you?

Aviva Stanoff: My latest designer crush

I recently meet a designer who’s creativity and innovative work is so inspiring I wanted to share her designs with you. Her name is Aviva Stanoff and her back  story is as interesting as her one of a kind designs. Aviva grew up in California, in a small town nestled between the beach and old growth redwoods and then spent Summers tending flowers in her grandfather’s Buddhist Temple in Japan. These two dramatically different worlds became the “best of both worlds” and developed within her a deep reverence for nature.

Below is a photo I took while at High Point market last Spring in Aviva’s showroom.

Aviva Stanoff showroom: Linda Holt Photo

Aviva works a lot with crystals and has some spectacular lighting that she created for Currey and Company, one of which is hanging above the bed. The photo below is from Aviva and shows her painting the 700 lbs of Selenite wands she hand fitted together to make that one of a kind head board. Can you imagine??? It totally blew me away.

Aviva Stanoff High Point market

Besides lighting design, Aviva’s signature is pressing real objects into fabric. Sea fans, corals, minerals, lemon leaves, and crystals are among the many objects she uses. Aviva’s fabrics celebrate nature’s imperfections and things like bug bites on the plants become a cherished component of the final product. 

Aviva Stanoff : Linda Holt Photo

Aviva Stanoff: Linda Holt Photo

Minerals and crystals are pressed into the pillow fabrics below.

Aviva Stanoff: Linda Holt Photo

 Each pillow is unique and a work of both art and science.

Aviva Stanoff:Linda Holt Photo

Aviva Stanoff Design:Linda Holt Photo

Aviva has a lot going on and just recently introduced a line of outdoor pillows using her same signature process of pressing objects into fabric. 

I am totally smitten with her and if you want to see more of her work you can check out her website Here. 

Of course one of my first questions was “how do you do this?” but her lips are sealed and I can understand why.

What do you think? Aren’t her designs amazing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Downsizing update and how to use Instagram like Pinterest

It’s over. We have now officially downsized and are living in our new apartment. The location is fabulous and we love being so close to everything. I had hoped to post before now but frankly, I have been a bit overwhelmed. There have also been internet problems…as in we had it, lost it, had it, lost it (you get the point).

Looking back, it’s really been a wild six months. It was January 1st that we made the radical decision to sell our large family home and move into a 1,100 sq. ft apartment that is within walking distance to my husband’s job. Thirty five years worth of collecting, inheriting and accumulating had to be dealt with in less than four months. 

We are far from settled and we still have a full storage locker to deal with, but right now I am focusing on trying to make our small white box feel like home. There are so many challenges, one of which is that our furniture is really not appropriate for the space. It’s the wrong scale and when your living room, dining room and kitchen are all one room, things need to work together and what we currently own falls short. Buying all new is not an option so I am doing my best to figure it all out creatively. I will share photos of our new space as soon as it gets out of the “hot mess” state.

Having finally arrived on the other side of the downsizing process I can report that we are slowly adjusting to our “new normal” and I can once again focus on my blog and design business.

Today I want to share with you a new feature that Instagram recently implemented. IG has now made it easy to save photos and keep them in inspiration folders similar to Pinterest and Houzz. This is how it works.

OPTION #1. If you want to save a photo, simply tap your finger on the inverted flag on the bottom right of the photo you wish to save. 

House Beautiful IG photo

The image will then be saved into a collection of all other images you choose to save. They will be saved in the order in which you saved them. To see all your saved photos simply go to your own profile page and touch the inverted flag.

My saved images on my Instagram

OPTION #2. If you would rather be more organized and have your saved photos in style specific folders then you can do that too. Simply hold your finger on the same upside down flag for 2-3 seconds.  A window will appear with a Plus symbol in the upper right. Just hit the + symbol and give your folder any name you choose. 

My Folders on Instagram

You can set up as many folders as you like and save the image in the appropriate folder. This is so handy for finding inspiration photos later. I have only recently started saving images now that the craziness of the move is behind me. I need to start a folder for small living because once we are a bit more organized it’s time to start getting creative with design.

 I hope you found this helpful. Did you know about this new IG feature?

 

 

Page 1 of 5512345...102030...Last »

Subscribe to my blog

Browse by Category