A Simple Tip For Improving Your Photography Skills


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Since I started blogging in 2012 there is one area where I can say I have improved by leaps and bounds; photography. I could also say I still have a long way to go to taking great photos 100% of the time, but improvement is improvement, so today I am going to share with you the number one way I have improved my photo skills.

How I improved my photography skills by leaps and bounds with one simple step

The number one way I have improved my photography skills:


Yep that is it…I have improved my photos is by observing great photography.

Where to find great photos to learn from and how to learn from them

There are 3 main places I like to observe great photography. All of these places will require you to clear 30 to 45 minutes of your time to do nothing but scroll and observe. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy browsing. Trust me, this time spent will play a key part in improving your photography skills.

1. Pinterest

This is best done on a laptop or a personal computer so that you have a wide screen to see a bunch of photos at once in your Pinterest feed. Instead of reading the pins I want you to first look at the photos. What drew you in to read the words related to the pin? Was it the colors? The contrast? The focus? Pin some of your absolute favorites to a secret board marked “pins I love” and take some time to just stare at them. What is it you love about them? My guess is that a lot of them are going to contain similar elements. Try to reproduce those elements you love in your own photos.

2. Instagram

First, take sometime to scroll your personal Instagram feed. Whose photos draw you in and make you want to pause and read the update included with the photo? What is attracting you? Is it the light? The way things are arranged in the photo? The funny faces the Instagramer makes? Do the photos evoke emotion? Why?

Now head over to the search area and scroll through the “explore” photos area. What photos draw you in even though you don’t know the person who took them? Why?

Take a few moments to note your observations and read them a few times  so next time you go to take an Instagram photo you can use the same elements your photos.

While your at it check out my Instagram feed and hit follow.

3. Unsplash

Unsplash is a great site for finding free stock photos you can use on your blog, but it can also help you take better pictures. For this assignment, browse Unsplash on your laptop or PC. First start scrolling the main feed. I prefer clicking the settings to “all” and to the 4 photos on the screen at once instead of 2.  Click on the photos you like and let them pop up in other tabs. When you have been browsing for 30 minutes or so, click through all the tabs you opened and pay attention to how the photo was taken. Was it close up? Far away? Full light? Straight on? From an angle?


Now that you have spent time observing great photography, go experiment with your camera–whether it be a DSLR or just the one on your phone.

You really can’t go wrong in this digital day and age. Take 100 photos of that cake  you just baked from different angles and on different backgrounds. Heck, take 1,000 photos if you want. Take action shots. Shove the cake into your spouse’s face (um, if  they are game for this) stab it with a fork, take a big bite out of it. Shoot pictures the entire time you do these things.

Now look through the photos. What ones did you like and why? Delete those you don’t like and repeat the process often.

Every time you want a picture for a blog post or for another photo project  and you feel uninspired spend some time browsing great photos. Note what elements you want in your photo and then try and create them yourself. It might not work the first time but slowly, at a snail’s pace, your photography will improve as you immerse yourself in great photography.

I am not suggesting you make rip off duplicates of photos you like. I want you to learn good photography. Learning by observation is a well known learning behavior that really works. From watching experts you will soon improve and add your own flare to your photos.

For more ideas of how to apply learning by observation to improve in any area of your life I highly recommend reading Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things About Creativity That No One Told You by Austin Kleon. It is a short yet inspiring read.

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Why My Thrifty Might Not Be Your Thrifty And That Is Okay


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I run into acquaintances all the time at Walmart or other stores and I can tell right away whether or not they read my blog. How?

why my thrifty might not be the same as your thrifty and that is okay

Those that have start making excuses for what they feel I would view as a “non-thrifty” purchase that is sitting in their cart. Truth is, they don’t have to explain to me that they only bought the Fruit Loops because it was Junior’s birthday and they got it on sale and are using a coupon and plan to upload the receipt to Receipt Hog the minute they get home.

Because I truly don’t care if they buy Fruit Loops. If it fits in their budget, they are reaching their financial goals at the rate they desire, and their daily bowl of fruit loops brings them daily joy then let them have fruit loops and let me have my bar of organic mint dark chocolate.

Gasp…Victoria…organic mint dark chocolate! That is much too expensive. Eh. Whatever. I have the cash to pay for it,  I am taking active steps to reach my financial goals, and to me a bar of expensive chocolate is 100% worth every penny I pay for it.

Do you see the common denominators in the above scenarios?

1. Your splurge fits in your cash only budget.

2. Your splurge doesn’t prevent you from reaching your financial goals at the rate you desire.

3. Your splurge brings you joy either short term or long term (although for these examples both offer short term joy)

Those are the three elements of a good thrifty splurge. What the splurge items are in each family are unique to that family. Some thrifty families might splurge on just short term splurges like favorite foods, others might splurge only on long term items like vacations, others–like our thrifty family–might do a mix of both.

5 Things Our Thrifty Family Splurges On

1. A backyard that is probably more fun than most city parks (for the kids)

My husband loves making the backyard a place where our kids and their friends want to hang out–no matter what their age. A few years back we gave it a teen makeover and added an above ground pool, a trampoline, a fire pit, and most recently an outdoor movie screening area.

These are not inexpensive items but we invest in them because seeing our children building friendships and memories right in their own backyard means a lot to us.

2. Good Running Shoes (for me)

I spend right around $500 a year in good, high quality,running and walking shoes. Yep! you read that right half a grand on just running shoes each and every year –and honestly that is a conservative number; it is probably more.

For me running is my stress relief, my creative juice, my friendship building time, and truly my go to source for energy to refuel my tanks.

That $500 is worth every single penny.

3. eBooks that are not free (for him)

Although I rarely buy a book beyond one found for a $1 at a yard sale, my husband buys several a month in Kindle format. The books he likes don’t ever show up on Free Kindle listings and often our library is slow to obtain them, so he gets his bookworm fix using my point earned Amazon gift cards from places like Swagbucks and InstGC to buy a few new books each month.

Reading is to him what running is to me so I think this splurge is worth every penny.

4. Store bought natural cleaners

At one time I did make my own cleaners and they really are super inexpensive and work well, but I just couldn’t convert my husband over to them. My husband actually likes to clean so I don’t want to do anything that would stop him from doing it. So we compromised on all natural cleaners.

I also gave up making my own laundry soap and started buying a natural brand.

We do save money on our natural cleaners  by buying them through either ePantry or Boxed.

(psst, use my referral link for ePantry and save $10 on your first order. Or use my referral code 3W8LE at Boxed during checkout and save $15 on your first order)

5. Paper Towels

It might seem strange, but to me this is the hardest splurge to admit to publicly because I am afraid I will get blacklisted from thrifty blogging. I notice that big name thrifty bloggers pretty much all see paper towels as a pure waste of money, which might be true in their homes but isn’t in ours.

If you read about our families number 4 splurge you would see that I said my husband likes to clean, however he is particular about what he will and won’t use to clean. If I stopped buying paper towels his particular self would stop cleaning areas of the home where he uses paper towel to clean and then…well…I would have to clean and that would mean less time blogging, which would decrease my income potential, so to me paper towels are less expensive than hours of work missed.

Other Articles Where Thrifty Bloggers Admit To Their Splurges

This article has been brewing in my mind for quite sometime thanks to the inspiration of other bloggers:

Crystal Paine’s 6 Thing Our Family Has Chosen To Splurge On

Andrea Dekker’s How I Decide When To Save Or Splurge

starbucks & dishcloth giveawayA Thrifty Challenge With A Giveaway

I want to know what your thrifty family splurges on. One splurge that didn’t make my list above was Starbucks. Sure, I am pretty thrifty about how I obtain my Starbucks but it is still a splurge.

I am betting some other thrifty people out there might share my Starbucks splurging habit so I am offering a $10 Starbucks gift card as a prize and  to sweeten the deal I am throwing in a stack of 3 hand knitted (by me) dishcloths.

To enter leave a comment below that shares something your thrifty family or self splurges on.

For an extra entry share this post on Facebook with your friends (use the Facebook share icons at the top or bottom of the post) or click here to share directly from Facebook and tell me that you shared it at the bottom of this post on the blog.

The winner is …..shelleyb (congrats!)

point reward program sidebar Point programs help fund our splurges! Find out how they can fund yours too by visiting my points program page.

(post linked to Frugal Fridays , Sharefest)

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52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 28


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This weeks project is a small one, but it actually was one of those “kill 2 birds with 1 stone type areas”.

pink basket beforeBy cleaning out this basket I was able to fill it with a pile of binders I use for blogging that were sitting on the floor in another area of our bedroom.

It didn’t take long. Like last week most of the clutter was made up of old papers I no longer needed.

pink basket doneWhen I was done I had plenty of room to add in the binders which now means the spot beside where I blog in our master bedroom is also now clutter free.

What area of your home did you declutter this week?

52 weeks to a simplified homefree printable plan (small)










Grab the plan and join along as we declutter our homes one inch at a time.

You can also join The Snail Pacing Goal Achievers Facebook group where you will find  the support you need to keep decluttering one inch at time.

hotdeals (fb)If you are looking for the deals I use to share at the bottom of my simplifying posts they can now be found on my Hot Deals page. Make sure to like my Facebook page so you are notified when I add new deals.