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The 4 D’s That Keep Us From Accepting God’s Invitation

The 4 D’s That Keep Us From Accepting God’s Invitation

Was journaling this morning and started thinking about the things in my life that have kept me from pursuing a deeper relationship with God over the years. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a personal reflection that I think others can relate to too.

Distraction

We often don’t sit still long enough to get into God’s presence and build this essential relationship with him. There are enough responsibilities, entertainment options, and concerns/cares in life to keep us distracted for all eternity. We must be intentional and purposeful (or as some say, “mindful”) in our pursuit of God. He wants us to put all of our own distractions aside and come to him. 

Discouragement

Sometimes it feels like things are never going to change and we want to drop everything and quit. When things don’t work out, we can feel defeated and fearful and like we are ready to give up. But sometimes this is actually the best thing we can do – STOP 🛑 

We can stop trying to make things happen in our own strength and we can start pressing in to God. We can seek God first and look to him for the day by day guidance. This is the only way to prevent an 11-day journey from taking 40 years.  

Doubt 

We often doubt ourselves and our own abilities and gifts. But the beautiful thing here is that we don’t need to be able to do anything to serve God with our whole hearts – God is the one on the hook for doing the work. We just need to be available for him to use us. And to keep ourselves in a space of God-centeredness.

 

Disappointment

In relationships and life, none of us are short on having moments of disappointment and hurt. We don’t always live up to the expectations of others and we can say that others don’t always live up to ours, even those we love the most. These experiences can keep us from fully pursuing God and his invitation because we think He might let us down or we think he might disappoint us like people in our lives do. But God is not like men. When we get closer to Him he has a way of making crooked things straight. We can 💯 trust him and know that he will do what he’s promised and if he said it that it will come to pass. We can rest on his promises for our lives. 

I Need You (original song)

I used to write music a lot, sometimes with other people, sometimes by myself. Over time I’d gotten away from the habit, but more recently the love for music and songwriting has been stirring up again. Gonna start with baby steps and try to set aside time each week to sift through old files and to organize all the new voice recordings and ideas that I’ve added in the last few months – to at least gather them all and get them in one place. I hope to one day finish all of these songs that have been tucked away.

This one starts with this one long untraditional verse, then it grows into a bigger chorus with the many voices of a choir and beautiful harmonies (unrecorded, but it’s in my head!)

Original song snippet from 2004, “I Need You”. Guitarist, Eli M. @2004 Tamra Thomas (Iroku)

“I Need You” Lyrics:

I can’t make it on my own
I can’t do this without you
I need you more now
I Need You, I Need You

Your love covers my wrongs
It makes me feel complete
I need you more now
I Need You, I Need You

You’ll never let me go
You’ll never let me fall
I find rest in your strength
In this mixed up world, you give me life

Without you it’s not worth living
I praise you
I worship you
I’m in love with you, I’m in love with you

I Need You
I Need You
I Need You, Oh Lord (Repeat)

Infinite Creativity

Infinite Creativity

While walking down the street this morning, I started thinking about beauty. Specifically the places and the things that I consider to be beautiful. These random thoughts about beauty were sparked in me when I walked past a patch of bright yellow flowers growing on the 85th street sidewalk. Yellow is my favorite color, so when I saw them I immediately felt happy and energized and alive. They were beautiful to me. 

These blooming flowers set into motion a train of thoughts on God as the ultimate creator, one with infinite creativity.

I began to think of artists, specifically painters and their artwork. Some of the most inspiring paintings to me are those that show the beauty of nature, but even they are just capturing and putting to paper the beauty they see in the world God made. The greatest artists are able to capture God‘s creativity in such a way that it causes us to notice something we hadn’t seen before, or to feel something we hadn’t felt before. 

Ultimately, great artists have a way of noticing God’s beauty and sharing it with others so they can see the beauty too.

God has created countless beautiful things that spark joy, that make us smile, and that even inspire moments of creativity within us. His creativity is endless!  

A Time To Share

A Time To Share

A close friend recently said I should share more. Actually, several friends have given similar advice, summed up in the words, “Tammy, you really should write more.”

“But, I’m not a writer,” I say.

“Plus, there’s not enough time in the world, AND there are already so many voices online that I can’t keep up with it all anymore, AND I like my privacy, AND it stresses me out to even think of having to keep up with creating content for my own site, but most importantly. . .I’m NOT a writer.”

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Even while writing that first paragraph I’ve squashed an argument between my (adorable) sons, watched my eldest son perform top secret fighting moves on his LEGO Ninjago game, been asked to pour a glass of milk by the littlest one, and listened to the Beyblade Burst theme song multiple times – it’s parenting in full swing.

How can I write and share my work when I’m busy working, creating, (over) thinking, parenting, sleeping, volunteering, cooking, cleaning and everything-else-ing? All I hear them saying is, “Tammy, you should really add one more thing to your to-do list!”

Plus, as if time limitations aren’t enough – I also do NOT like conflict. Some people love debates and being challenged, but that’s not me. Challenge is not something I intentionally set out to encounter or to incite in my everyday life, but writing and sharing opens you up to being challenged in your thoughts and ideas. There’s no way to put your foot in your mouth when you don’t say anything at all! You won’t be misquoted. You can’t be misunderstood. You’re never wrong (technically). Ahhhh, that sounds heavenly doesn’t it? For an Enneagram #9, INTJ, introvert like myself – yes, yes it does.

I like to think that adopting a non-sharing philosophy actually increases productivity by not inviting any unwanted elements into your work and life flow. There are no “likes” to tally, no comments to mull over, and no outside opinions to process beyond those of lovingly supportive family and friends. It’s simple really.

But is moving so far into productivity and progress that we forget to share/invite/connect the best path forward? I’m starting to think it’s not.

I’ve spent the last two decades helping people visually share their ideas, so I’ve seen firsthand how rewarding it can be to have an idea come to mind, then to see it be expressed. And it’s even more exciting when the idea inspires someone else, and they build on the idea creating an even better version.

In the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, he quoted another writer/consultant when he said:

The stupidest creative act is still a creative act… On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something. 

Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus

Ahhh, the gap between doing nothing and doing something is real indeed. Getting started is super hard and not as rewarding, especially when the early drafts and mock ups aren’t so great. But we ALL have to start somewhere. No one is born an expert or a professional.

So this is my attempt to start my journey of sharing. . .

I see the importance of freely exchanging ideas and expressing ourselves through journaling, creative writing, song writing, artistic endeavors – it all has value.

From silly social media posts, random tweets and viral TikTok videos to insightful Clubhouse discussions and informative podcasts, all of these modern modes of sharing provide us with a continuous stream of old and new ideas, old and new sources of inspiration, old and new perspectives.

Lately I’ve been finding unexpected sources of inspiration from the writings and experiences of others. I can pinpoint many times in my life where reading someone else’s stories of trial and error, flat-out failure, lucky successes or hard work were just what I needed at that moment to get me going. Sharing experiences inspires us.

Stories from the Bible teach us about life and give us hope. Personal testimonies from people we know can inspire us. Funny anecdotes entertain us and lighten the mood during a pandemic (thank you Kev On Stage). Stories with “imperfect” endings remind us of life’s unpredictability. Sharing stories connect us.

I may not be a writer, but it’s time for me to commit to making forward progress along my personal creative spectrum from mediocre toward good. I encourage you to jump beyond your impossible and make this your year to close the gap from doing nothing to doing something. Find the time to connect the dots, bring your ideas to life, share your journey, and encourage others to do the same!

How to Manually Generate and Install Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates with Certbot (Part 2)

How to Manually Generate and Install Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates with Certbot (Part 2)

In Part 1 we discussed the importance of having an SSL certificate and how to generate them for free with Certbot. As we continue the process, you’ll need access to:

  1. Terminal (on Mac go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal)
  2. CPANEL Admin access where you can access both
    • File Manager (you can also use FTP) and
    • SSL/TLS Manager

Generating the Certificates

In the Terminal app, type this command to create a new certificate (swap your own domain in both spots that say “yourdomain.com”)

sudo certbot certonly -a manual –rsa-key-size 4096 -d yourdomain.com -d www.yourdomain.com

You will probably need to enter your computer’s admin password to proceed, and then type “y” to allow your IP Address to be logged.

In your web browser, follow the steps for creating the two verification challenge files in .well-known/acme-challenge on your server. (For me, it’s significantly faster to use the File Manager tool within CPANEL instead of FTP. )

CPANEL’s file manager tool is helpful and often faster than FTP.
Certbot asks users to create two verification files on their server.

You will do this two times – adding separate files with the verification data to your server.

Once the files are verified your certificate will be created – Congratulations you’re ready to install an SSL certificate onto your server!

In the confirmation message, Certbot tells you exactly where your full chain and private key files are saved. You’ll use a new command (vi) to open these files.

Copy the fullchain.pem file path starting with “/etc/…” (Your file’s actual location may vary.) Type “sudo vi” and paste the file path, then press enter.

sudo vi  /etc/…/fullchain.pem

Copy everything from the starting “—–BEGIN CERTIFICATE—–” down to the last dash in the “—– END CERTIFICATE—-” line. Ignore anything that comes after the top certificate ending.

Example of an SSL certificate file in the visual editor window.

Now, head back to your browser window and open the CPANEL SSL manager. You’ll find it further down in the security section.

Then click “Manage SSL sites”.

In the far right column of the row for the certificate’s domain, click “update certificate”, then scroll all the way down to the section called, “Install an SSL Website.”

Paste this entire fullchain.pem contents that you copied earlier into the space for Certificate: (CRT).

Switch back to your Terminal window and type the command “q:” to close the previous fullchain.pem file.

Next, copy the second file location – the one for your private key. It also starts with “/etc/…”, but ends in “…privkey.pem”.

Type “sudo vi” and paste that second file’s path, then press enter.

sudo vi  /etc/…/privkey.pem

Again, copy everything from the starting “—–BEGIN PRIVATE KEY—–” down to the last dash in the “—-END PRIVATE KEY—-” line.

Switch back to your SSL Manager in the browser window and paste this super long string of odd text and numbers into the Private Key (KEY) box.

Click the blue button to “Install Certificate”.

If everything has been entered correctly you’ll see a pop-up window confirming the new SSL certificate has been installed and is now active and accessible via https on yourdomain.com.

Certbot will send a renewal reminder via email 30 days before the SSL certificate expires. Follow these instructions step by step again to generate and install a new certificate before the old one runs out and you’ll have no issues with the pesky browser warnings.

How to Manually Generate and Install Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates with Certbot (Part 1)

How to Manually Generate and Install Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates with Certbot (Part 1)

What is an SSL Certificate?

In the simplest terms, SSL certificates allow the secure transfer of data between a browser and a server. The SSL certificate itself is installed at the server level. When a site is secure, it will load in your browser over https (<– the “s” is for “secure”) and you’ll see a padlock icon in the URL bar like this:

Do I need an SSL Certificate?

SSL certificates are essential for websites that handle sensitive user info like email addresses or credit card numbers. But even if your site isn’t collecting “sensitive” information, it’s still a good idea to use SSL for visitor confidence. Some web browsers will display a warning to visitors if the page is loaded over https, but an SSL certificate is misconfigured or not installed. The warning I see most often looks like this:

How do I get an SSL Certificate for my website?

I’m glad you asked! Some hosting providers offer support for Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates with their website hosting plans. They’ll typically use an automated version of Certbot (Let’s Encrypt) to handle the certificate creation and renewals on their servers. If your host does not have this option, then you can still add Let’s Encrypt certificates to your server manually using tools like Certbot or ZeroSSL.

In this tutorial, I will be using Certbot on macOS to get Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates.

Let’s Encrypt certificates are provided free by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and they expire after 90 days. The manual process I’m outlining here works great for securing a handful of domains, but if you have lots of websites to manage, then it can be a burden to have to repeat this process every 90 days.

Another option for low-cost SSL certificates that renew yearly is SSLMate. These start at $15.95 and you’ll only have to update once per year instead of every 3 months.

Getting Started

Before we begin, you’ll want to make sure that you have access to:

  1. Terminal (on Mac go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal)
  2. CPANEL Admin access where you can get to the
    • File Manager (you can also use FTP)
    • SSL/TLS Manager

Using Terminal & Command Line Basics

Terminal is a command line interface for Mac. For those of us old enough to remember the days of DOS or checking email through Telnet portals back in the late 90s, using Terminal may bring a feeling of nostalgia. Command Line may feel intimidating at first, but once you learn a few basic commands you’ll gain confidence. Here are some commands that are essential to know when starting out:

Command Line Basics

pwd = print working directory (directories are folders)
ls = listing (this command lists all of the contents in current directory)
ls -al = more detailed listing that includes hidden files
clear = clears the screen
cd = change directory
.. = move back up in the directory
../.. = move back up 2 directories
cd~ = move back to the home directory
man (insert any command i.e. – pwd) = get help
sudo = used to temporarily move into super user role
vi = enter visual editor for command line
:q = quit

If you’d like to learn more about this powerful tool, here’s a helpful article on command line usage from Lifehacker.com.

STEP 1: Install Certbot via Terminal

Open Terminal and install Homebrew by running this command:

sudo /usr/bin/ruby -e “$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)”

Command for installing Homebrew in Terminal. It will take about 5 minutes to run.

After Homebrew installs, use it to install Certbot by running this command:

brew install certbot

Installing Certbot using Homebrew.

Use command line navigation to enter the directory where you installed Certbot. On my computer, it can look a bit like this:

pwd (I do this first to see what directory I’m in to start)
ls (I sometimes list the directory contents right away to see what’s inside. You’re looking for the certbot folder. If it’s not there, you’ll want to do some more navigating around until you find it…)
cd certbot

Once you’re in the Certbot directory, you’re ready to jump to Part 2 and start generating certificates.

Working Smarter Not Harder With Dubsado

Working Smarter Not Harder With Dubsado

Where would I be without all of the smart folks who have gone before me? Where would I be without the brave ones who’ve made their mistakes both publicly and privately, and who have lived to tell the tale? I’d be lost in a sea of subscription apps trying to manage my business the hard way.

So, where am I going with this?

I’ll back up and start by sharing that I build websites and design stuff for a living and have been doing it for over 20 years. I don’t often share about my business directly when I’m talking to new people (I’d much rather listen to what others have to say and learn from them). But sometimes, it’s good to be more open and share too. So here it goes:

As a “creative” person, I didn’t think much about business systems when I first started my design and web company. Client on-boarding, workflows, automation – these terms were foreign to me. Over the years I read a lot, listened to an insane amount of podcasts and used trial and error to build what pretty much required about 4+ paid subscription apps to manage. Here’s what my process looked like:

  • New client reaches out to me through email or phone (always unscheduled)
  • We’d chat for a few, I’d take some notes and promise to send a proposal/estimate soon.
  • I would stop everything else I was working on to spend the next few days writing the proposal and laying it out via my InDesign template to make it look pretty.
  • After drafting the perfect proposal, I’d convert this proposal to a PDF and upload to Adobe eSign. Sometimes clients still preferred to fax the contract or print, sign, and snail mail it back to me.
  • Then I used Freshbooks to accept the deposit, manage payments, and track project time.
  • To make things even crazier, I was also in the process of building my very own client portal with a custom meshing together of a WordPress database and Dropbox.

My system worked, but it wasn’t the smartest way to do things. It drained valuable time and energy because every single step of my old system required me to stop the real work of creating and doing what I enjoyed doing. I spent more time managing my business subscription apps than actually growing my business.

That all changed when I found Dubsado!

I learned about Dubsado through another designer who’d used it for sending proposals. Since it was free without a time limit, I decided to test it out for an upcoming project proposal. I’m not going to lie – setting it up was almost like having a second job. But I love how the Dubsado team is always there to help, their tutorials and videos are easy to understand, and the users’ Facebook Group is very active and supportive.

I took a few months to convert all of my proposals, contracts, forms and questionnaires into the Dubsado platform, and after about 6 months of juggling multiple apps I fully downsized to two – Dubsado and Acuity Scheduling. (Dubsado recently released a scheduling feature, so once that’s in place for me I’ll be able to cancel my Acuity account too!)

Now I no longer cringe when an organization reaches out to me about a new project. I no longer have to stop EVERYTHING to build a proposal or send an estimate because I’ve already done the work up front in creating my master templates. And it makes it easier for my clients too because they can do everything in one neat client portal – accept contracts, make payments, view delivered files, review agreements, reference project documents and more. It’s truly a game changer for me as a solo entrepreneur.

If you’re curious about Dubsado and want to give it a try, here’s a sign up link that will get you 20% off your first month if you decide to upgrade to a paid account. (I’ll also earn a free month so it’s a win-win for both of us!)

You can either click the link to sign up, or sign up from their main site with my code ‘panoramicweb’ to get 20% off.

Once you’ve tried it out, please let me know how it changes how you manage your own business. Enjoy!

Clutter Decluttered (Part 2)

Clutter Decluttered (Part 2)

When it comes to staying on top of the latest TV shows, entertainment news and music – the 15-20-year- ago Tammy would have been able to blurt out random celebrity facts, song lyrics, liner credits. . .you name it – all without needing to Google it. But things changed for me over the years (new interests, 2 kids, LIFE) and now I’m usually the last one to hear about EVERYTHING! So when it came to this topic of tidying and neatness, I was proud to be the first of my friends and family to discover Marie Kondo and her books about organization.

When I heard last month that Netflix was releasing a new series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”, I was thrilled! It’s been fun sharing this excitement with friends who have been Kon-verted after hearing of my own tidying adventure of how we downsized from a 4,565 sq ft home in NC to our amazingly awesome (and compact) 975 sq ft NYC apartment.

I stumbled across the the KonMarie method of organizing when researching a better way to organize our stuff that survived the first purge of the relocation. After watching a few of her videos, I quickly learned the most efficient ways to fold and store clothes. Then, I picked up her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” because I NEEDED to learn more.

As a lover of strategic planning, including developing and implementing systems, I was drawn to the fact that the KonMarie method was more than series of tips for organizing and cleaning. She gave me a plan to follow: Start with clothes, then move on to books, then papers, then Komono (miscellaneous stuff), and then tackle the sentimental items last. Simple enough. I also liked the idea of storing things by category, to me it made perfect sense.

Armed with a plan of action, I began my tidying adventure full of optimism. I survived parts 1-3 and wrote about that journey in my original post on decluttering. This post you’re reading now picks up my adventure with organizing Komono items.

Before we moved back to New York City, I worked for weeks to clean the attic and sort through all of the closets in the house. I was most proud of having whittled my growing Christmas décor collection that once took up an entire side of the attic down to 3 plastic storage bins. With storage constraints, I knew I couldn’t bring much to our new home. We’d gotten all of our belongings down to only what could fit in the 12 foot Penske moving truck. We decided that if it didn’t fit in the truck, then it didn’t need to go.

Our NYC apartment has a very large walk-in storage closet and by the end of the 2nd month in our new space it was filled to the brim. I couldn’t even take out a coat or stroller without first emptying out what was stuffed in the front, and then I’d jam it all back in wherever things would fit. It was a mess. I never thought that I’d have the capacity to get rid of even more stuff after getting rid of so much already, but the need to free up more space was evident.

BEFORE – The walk-in storage closet filled to capacity. Sigh!

One chilly Saturday afternoon when a good friend was in town staying with us (hooray for free babysitting!), my first order of business was to take everything out of the closet and to start attacking it KonMarie style. Going through each item one by one created an even bigger mess in the kitchen and living room, but at least there was a method to the madness. After many, many hours of opening up containers, sorting through items, and figuring out what sparked joy and what did not – I managed to discover a truckload full of items to donate or throw away.

Dropping off donations to Goodwill.

That night we took the donations to our local Goodwill. I tried to get rid of the larger stroller too, but it wouldn’t fit in the SUV with all of the other stuff so it survived the cut this time and stays parked in our building. It felt so good to come home to a closet that now looked like this:

AFTER – The walk-in closet has space to walk in!

Having attacked my clothes, books, papers and now the household Komono items, I feel so much lighter. This whole process is one I recommend to everyone, even the most organized.

Improving Your Website’s Page Load Speed

Improving Your Website’s Page Load Speed

I’m old enough to remember having our very first dial-up connection to the internet with AOL. The idea of having an ongoing connection to the internet wasn’t even something we could fathom as teenagers. We had a greater level of patience with connectivity issues – including when someone in the house needed to make a phone call and they kicked you off line in the process. Everything was slow and the internet was all one big magical mystery.

Fast forward a few decades and now we not only have constant access to the internet, because of our mini pocket computers (aka cell phones) the world is literally at our finger tips.

We’ve become more savvy with navigating the internet, and less patient with slow loading websites. According to a recent Think With Google article on Mobile, Data and Measurement, “53% of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.” No one likes traffic.

Embed from Getty Images

Page Speed matters to Google and is factored into their rankings for mobile searches. So if optimizing for search engines is your thing, you can’t discount the importance of fast-loading web pages on your site.

Every second counts.

So how can you tell if your site is a slow poke online?
There are tools like Google’s Page Speed Test and GTMetrix that let analyze your own site’s performance. They also give recommendations of what you can do to improve your site’s page speed.

Before doing my own site’s optimization, I ran a quick analysis for this site using GTmetrix to show you what you don’t want your score to be. . .

Yep, that’s right! A big fat red “F”! The page took 5.2 seconds to load which is crazy. So now that we know the unfortunate truth, what can we do to speed things up?

The first two items under the recommendations column tell us that serving scaled images and optimizing images will give us a boost. So let’s do it!

Serve Scaled Images

It’s not uncommon to take a photo, upload it to the WordPress media gallery, and then use the WordPress built-in resize tool and CSS to make it fit the space.

The problem with this method of resizing after uploading is that the web page still loads the full-sized image along with its extra data. The resize action all happens in the twinkling of an eye, but when the same action happens 10x, 20x, 30+ times on a single page – that’s a lot of unnecessary data being transferred just to display a smaller version of the image!

One solution is to use an image editing tool like Photoshop (or even Canva) to resize the image to maximum 1920px wide before saving. If your image won’t be used in full screen, then you can size down the width even more.

The page speed report can be a useful starting point for images that need to be resized, saved again and re-uploaded at a smaller size. But, before you get started with resizing to serve scaled images, let’s also look at how we can also optimize images with compression.

Optimize Images

When I say “image optimization”, I’m essentially describing a process where you get your image file size down to the smallest it can be without sacrificing the quality. The smaller the file size, the faster the images will transfer from the host server to your browser window, and the faster the web page will load.

Saving optimized images through GTmetrix

The beautiful thing about the GTmetrix tool, is that in your report it will give you a link to view (and save) the optimized version of the image. You can manually save the new images and swap them out on your site and voila!

A savings of just a few kilobytes seems small, but when compounded over tens and hundreds of images throughout the site it begins to add up!

Saving optimized images with Photoshop

If you want to do this manually and have access to Photoshop, then I’d also recommend converting any PNGs to JPGs if you don’t need the transparent background to reduce your file size even more. In my own example, I was able to reduce the image size from 307KB down to 88KB by adjusting the file settings to JPG, Quality: 70%. TIP: Anything in the 60-80% quality range will be safe for most web images to compress them with little to no noticeable difference.

I was able to reduce the image size from 307KB down to 88KB by adjusting the file settings and image type.

At this point you may be wondering if this image optimization process will take 5 months or 5 years because you already have hundreds of images saved to your website. If that’s you, then wonder no more. I’ve saved the best for last 🙂

There is a web app called Imagify by WP Media that helps with image scaling and compressing all in one! There is also a WordPress plugin that will bulk optimize your site’s current images and auto-optimize images directly on your website as you upload them to the media gallery. The free version has some limitations, but it’s a good place to start if you have too many images to tackle the issue manually.

Once you get it all cleaned up, remembering to resize and compress images before uploading will be the key to keeping your website at top speed.

The page load time went from 5.2 seconds to 3.5 seconds,
and the page size went from 12.4MB down to 1.89MB. Whoo hoo! But we aren’t done yet. . .

After optimizing most of the images on my site, I was able to bring my score up to a C+! I’ve never been one to accept average, so next we’ll get into making some caching adjustments and a few other tricks to bring the final page load speed to an A+!

Until then, happy image optimizing!

Behind the Scenes: Editing the Family Christmas Photo

Behind the Scenes: Editing the Family Christmas Photo

Behind the Scenes: Editing the Family Christmas Photo

Christmas cards make me smile. I LOVE receiving cards and postcards from friends and family, sharing them with my husband and kids, and displaying them around the room as a reminder of how blessed we are.  Over the years it has become one of my favorite moments of the season. 

And as much as I love receiving printed Christmas cards, I also enjoy creating our family’s card so that we can share updates and holiday wishes too.

This year’s card was special for me because our family recently moved back to New York City. I wanted to take a family photo that had an urban vibe to it.  Fortunately, the rooftop of our building has a fantastic view of downtown Manhattan + my mom came to visit us for Thanksgiving, so I had an ideal photo shoot location and a designated photographer to help out this year. Being able to avoid the need to find and hire a photographer at the last minute was a huge win!

On a cold and cloudy Sunday afternoon, I set up a tripod and adjusted the settings on my Fuji XT-1 camera so that my mom could just take the shot. It took a lot of trial and error to get the positioning and the settings correct.

Initially, I used the 18-55mm zoom lens, but this early photo was too wide.  Even though I shot in RAW with the image size setting, when I cropped the photo close enough to where you could see our faces, the picture was grainy and too small to be used in print. 

I switched to my 35mm F1.4 lens, repositioned my mom and the tripod, and we shot another round with the photo background framed a little better so that I would need to do less cropping. This time we took a ton of close(r) up pictures, but I still didn’t like how we were standing because of various heights and visual focal points.  It looked too busy and still wasn’t quite right.

After more trial and error out on the cold and windy rooftop, we finally figured out that it looked best to have the little guys standing in front on top of the outdoor stools to add little more height.  A few more frames later and we got a picture that I was excited to share!  

Final camera settings on my Fuji X-T1 with the XF35mm F1.4R lens: ISO 800, f 8.0 1/60 sec.  No flash.

The next task was figuring out which card we liked. I’ve used Shutterfly for years now, so out of habit I checked there first and came across this design which would fit nicely with our landscape photo. 

But when I dropped in the photo, it didn’t “feel” complete or ready to share.

So I decided to make some color adjustments and tweaks using Photoshop and Lightroom.  First, I used a fun photoshop action to add a snow effect because falling snow makes everything look better.

Then, in Lightroom, I used a Cinematic Lightroom Preset to give the photo an antique look that I thought would go well with the gold foil lettering on the card. 

After editing the photo, I uploaded the new version to Shutterfly and this was the final result. 

I couldn’t have been happier with the design and feel so excited to share the cards with our friends and family this Christmas season!

Hello! I’m Tammy and I am so happy you’ve stopped by my little corner of the internet.  I’m a website developer, graphic designer, and so much more: mom, wife, entrepreneur, and worship leader. This online space is where I share designs I’m creating and give you a glimpse into my many interests. I’ll also occasionally post little things that simply make me smile. I hope you’ll feel inspired as you browse around. Enjoy!

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