We DIY-ed our Holiday Card Photos & Lived to Tell the Tale

Take Your Own Holiday PhotosDecember always starts out so slow, you know? Thanksgiving ends, and you think (or at least I think), “Oh, I have several glorious weeks until Christmas! This year I surely won’t be rushed. That’s weeks to leisurely bake cookies, decorate the apartment, sing all my favorite Christmas hymns, watch ‘A Very Murray Christmas,’ go cut down a tree, and hand address a bajillion custom holiday cards while sipping the most delicious eggnog that I’ll buy from a local supplier.”

And then you find yourself, on December 12, realizing that not only do you have one more weekend until Christmas, but you have no decent photos to use for said custom holiday cards. If you’re like me, you then panic and put out a desperate call on Facebook to learn if there will be any holiday card-appropriate photobooths or if any of your photog friends are still doing mini holiday portrait sessions… and then in an act of further desperation, you decide to take matters into your own hands. After all, how bad can it be? You can always forgo the photo card for a nonphoto card if it doesn’t work out.

Lucky for me, our DIY holiday photo adventure worked out. So now I’m here with a few tips on how to take your own photos, whether it be for holiday cards (Y’all, if you can’t get it together in time for Christmas, NEW YEAR’S CARDS ARE NOW A THING FOR WE PROCRASTINATORS! Also, Christmas technically lasts ’til January 6, so we’ve still got some time.) or just your own personal enjoyment.

Check the weather. We technically had all afternoon to make this happen, but I knew that it was going to get kind of cloudy and hazy later on, so we opted to do it earlier in the day to catch the golden light before the sun ducked totally behind a dark, cloudy haze.

take your own holiday photos

I want to wear this skirt and this lipstick every day.

Wear something fun. Don’t be afraid to be over the top. If you decide you look awesome, it’ll show. And then all your friends will also want to wear a giant tulle skirt & really bright lipstick. They’ll ask to borrow the exact clothes you were wearing to take their holiday photo. No kidding, this really happened to us.

Take a whole bunch of pictures in different spots. You never know how the light or surroundings will look until you snap a few frames! Better to try more than you need than to get home and realize you’re unhappy with all of the photos.

Eat beforehand or bring a snack. Even though we experimented with a few different backdrops in different places, I think the photo we ended up selecting was one of the first five we took. I started to get hangry, and even though I can smile through it, I felt like I wasn’t projecting the same energy later on after I started feeling really hungry and grumpy. It was a bummer, cause I liked one of the other locations a little better.

Take your own holiday photos

See? Chad looks cute, but I look hungry. Angry. Hangry. I should have packed a snack.

Plan ahead. I wish we had done this sooner. I held out hope that we’d find a photographer for way too long, so by the time we took our photos it was getting to be crunch time for designing, ordering, and printing our postcards. Now that I have one DIY photoshoot under my belt, I’ll be so much less scared to do another one next year, maybe!

Order from Minted. Minted is a design marketplace of independent artists from around the globe. This is the second year in a row we’ve ordered holiday cards from them, and I love the variety. There are new designs being added all the time. They’ve got everything from new letterpressed, gold foil, and different shaped designs to simple postcards. I always have fun testing out my photo with the different designs. They’ve also got a ton of New Year themed cards (wink, wink, procrastinators!), and you can customize the text, backing, and colors of the designs. And, if you really, really love your shiny new photos that you took of yourself, you can get them made into wall art to enjoy throughout the year.

Think about what orientation of card you like. It might help to take a look at the variety of designs available so that you have a good idea of whether you prefer portrait or landscape orientations and how to leave some space for any text or design elements that will be layered on top of the photo.

Things I Wished I Had But Managed to Do Without:

A freaking remote. While I do think that sprinting from the tripod into the shot added a certain level of, ahem, energy to the photoshoot, I think it would have gone a lot quicker if we could have just taken a ton of photos with a remote surreptiously hidden behind my giant tulle skirt.

A fully functional tripod. Our tripod was a hand me down from a former coworker of Chad’s. I’m so glad we had it. We couldn’t have managed without it. But it is a little bit broken; it doesn’t extend quite the whole way. I would have liked to try moving the camera a little higher, but I think we got away with it.

This was our winner. I think we did a pretty decent job!

happy everything — love, Chad & Lisa 2015

Disclosure: Postcards were graciously provided by Minted. But like I said, I would have used them again this year, regardless. I genuinely support what they’re about, and I’m honored to collaborate with them on this post. Thanks, Minted!

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Iceland: Day 1

We woke up on our first day in Iceland prepared to wander around Reykjavik and get the lay of the land. Our apartment was in a really convenient location, right in the center of the 101 district, so it was in the heart of everything, including tourist shops, which usually aren’t my thing. Reykjavik is so small that they can’t be avoided though. It seems like touristy things are mixed in with everything else. We quickly discovered that the 101 district is completely walkable in a day.

We left our cozy apartment and headed up Skólavörðustígur to look for Mokka Kaffi, a cafe I’d read about in preparation for our trip. I wrote a preview piece for Dish Trip, so I’d done a little food research ahead of time, which especially made our first day easy. I am prone to get hangry, especially when traveling.

We were surprised to see that in the mid-40s temps Icelanders still enjoy sipping their coffee at sidewalk tables. 

Interestingly, I thought the whole city smelled like waffles. 
We spent the rest of the day wandering around Reykjavik and getting our bearings. I love wandering days in new cities.
I took a million pictures of this church, Hallgrimskirkja. It dominates the small city.

This is the organ inside Hallgrimskirkja.

Have you ever seen those TV specials about people who are in love with inanimate objects? I told Chad that’s how I felt about this rough mountain in the distance.

The Harpa Conference Center is completely built out of this beautiful honeycomb glass. It’s beautiful inside and out, and toasty warm inside. We stopped here for a bit to use the free wifi.
This street-side hot dog stand is the most famous (and oldest?) restaurant in Reykjavik. We returned countless times during the week so Chad could get his fix. Turns out the secret ingredient is lamb. The hot dogs really are delicious, and you’re supposed to eat them with a special blend of toppings. Like a true 5 year old, I ate mine with ketchup only.

For something like $5, you can take a teeny-tiny elevator with 8 or so of your new best friends to the top of Hallgrimskirkja and appreciate stunning views of the city from all sides.

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Thoughts for a Tuesday

I’ve been having a hard time integrating The Artist’s Way into my days, aside from the Morning Pages, which I have been compartmentalizing. So I thought I’d make something out of a quote I pulled from this week’s chapter. I hope the act of creating something with the content of each week’s chapter will help me integrate it more fully into my consciousness throughout the week.

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Dairyland Antiques: Documenting a disappearing treasure

It’s hard for me to say how long I’ve loved this place. Since high school, at least. I would wander through looking for vintage scarves, bags, and costume jewelry, admiring furniture I had nowhere to put and no money to buy.

I once dragged Chad through it, stopping to show him a ring I really loved. We were 18. “I think this would be the perfect engagement ring,” I told him, totally without agenda.

He went back to Dairyland the spring I was in Spain, with his parents. The ring was still there. Marked down by now, just waiting. He bought it and brought it with him the second time he came to visit me. He carried it with him from State College to Philadelphia to Madrid to Salamanca to Granada to Barcelona, where he gave it to me. I then carried it from Barcelona to San Sebastian to Madrid, back to Philadelphia, and with me ever since. That was almost six years ago.

Later, I went with my mom to Dairyland during a winter break. She hadn’t bought me anything for my birthday yet, so I asked for a $17 full-length vintage wool coat. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of clothing. Some of the jewelry I found there is among the most-complimented things I own.

A few months ago, a fire broke out in part of the building. The antiques were all okay, but there was structural damage to the building and the owner decided to demolish it. The antique co-op’s last day is December 15.

I made it home a couple weeks ago and spent some time in the musty old space. I plan to go again over Thanksgiving.

It is huge and inviting. It used to be packed full of old things, but looks more sparse since the announcement. If I’m able to manage to tune out Rush Limbaugh’s incoherent babbling in the background, Dairyland is a totally delightful, almost meditative experience for me. I’ll miss it a lot (but not so much the talk radio that the vendors listen to all day).

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Week 1: Writing

So, what in the world am I doing now that I quit my job? A lot. 

I got a bit of a slow start last week, with all of the hurricane excitement. Chad couldn’t get to his office in Manhattan, so he worked from home with me all last week.

I did manage to write and take photos for an article that was posted to Chestnut Hill Dish today. It’s a brunch review of Heirloom. Just thinking about this review makes me really hungry for French toast and cheesecake. Chestnut Hill Dish is part of Town Dish, a network of hyper-local foodie websites I’ve been contributing to since the spring. I was even able to write a preview and recap of the food we ate in Iceland for their travel site, Dish Trip!

I’ve also been working on some things for APIARY, a Philly print and web literary magazine. Takes me all the way back to Problem Child.

I’m hoping to keep sharing what I’m working on! In the meantime, enjoy some brunch photos and feel free to read other things I’ve written, mostly for the Town Dish sites.