From time to time I field emails asking all sorts of good questions. Questions like:
What's your computer set up? What kind of printer do you use? What kind of photo paper do you use? What kind of scanner do you have? What software do you use? Where do you get your stuff printed? What is your favorite cardstock?
Do you have a blog post about this stuff?
Well I do now!
Here are a some answers to common questions I get, and then some. Hopefully, if you've ever had a particular question, you can find the answers in this post.
What's your computer set up?
I currently use a 27-inch iMac. I upgraded in August, leaving the Mac Pro tower system behind. I ordered a pretty hopped up machine. For you tech geeks, it's got 32 GB of RAM, a 3.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7 processor, a 3 TB Fusion Drive and nice graphics card to go with it. It's surprisingly fast and I have been really happy with it thus far. I have it connected to a 3TB Airport Time Capsule, as well as to an old 17-inch Apple Cinema Display. I am a two-monitor girl. I like to keep my palettes for all of my programs on the second montior whenever possible. Another bonus of a two-monitor system? If I take an online class, I can watch on one screen and do the class work on the other. I use a wireless mouse and a wired keyboard. (Apple's wireless keyboard doesn't not have the numeric pad and I don't trust the fancy pants third party add-ons. The fact that I don't trust third party add-ons is a sure sign that I'm getting old! That, and using the phrase 'fancy pants.')
WHY APPLE?: It's what I started with in 1988. I have always felt you get what you pay for. Of course today, it's all about seamless integration and Apple products do this so well. That, and the business of design has always been heavily Mac-based, ergo, a career spent working with their products.
What kind of printer do you use?
I use an aging HP Photosmart 8750. It's an large-format ink jet printer and it was sent to me when I worked for Simple Scrapbooks magazine. Those were the days when editors got stuff for free JUST BECAUSE! Sigh. I miss those days. I have become a huge fan of HP printers because of this printer. Compared to my old Epson, this printer seemed to nail the color and the black and white every time. When and if this machine dies, I will most definitely look into purchasing an HP Photosmart machine. The only drawback to this model is that it's very clunky with how it handles 4 x 6 paper. In fact, I can't get it to print on that size anymore. I attribute this to age, because it used to handle it just fine.
Note: I always choose the best photo quality settings—both for printing on photo paper and cardstock.
I also use an Epson PictureMate Charm photo printer. This is a recent addition (December 2013) and so far, I really love the quality. It prints both borderless and bordered 6 x 4 photos. The borders print perfectly, which is important to my anal retentive eye. I'm currently using the matte photo paper and really love the quality.
What kind of photo paper do you use?
I have been using Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl paper for the past six or seven years. They recently started selling a newer version, called Prestige which I'm now using. I'm not sure if there is a difference, but what I do know is that I love this paper. It is a lustre-coated (slightly matte) photo paper and it's designed to work with inks from all lines of printers (Canon, Epson and HP). Yes, the printer companies all want you to work with their own papers, but I have not seen any quality degradation in the years that I've been using this paper. Your images are protected from light fading when they're in your albums. Beyond that, I use this for framed photos in my house that have been on the wall for years with zero issue.
If my photos don't last hundreds of years, that's okay. Neither will I.
What kind of scanner do you use?
I have a Canoscan 4400F. I did zero research on scanners. My old UMAX scanner died a number of years ago and I simply Googled "cheap scanner" to find a new one. I don't do a ton of scanning but this scanner does what it needs to do when the need arises.
I have a great tip for scans, regardless of your scanner make and model: always scan at a higher resolution than you intend to print. This will allow both better image detail and the ability to enlarge your image and maintain its integrity. I scan my images using VueScan, mostly because I can never get Photoshop to work with my scanner. I scan nearly every image at 600 DPI. Then I size it down to 300 in Photoshop.
In Photoshop Elements, you go to Image > Resize > Image Size and uncheck the Resample Image box. Then, change the resolution from 600 to 300 and you will see the size of the image increase. This is the best way to scan and enlarge any image. The larger you want it in the end, the higher the resolution scan should be at the start.
If you don't intend to enlarge, still scan at a higher resolution (and change to 300). Why? Better detail overall.
What is your camera set up?
I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II. My lenses are as follows:
I went with Canon several years ago because my friends were getting better color than I was getting with my Nikon. Times have changed, however, and it seems like both Nikon and Canon and other companies are getting it all very right. My only real requirment was to have full frame digital. I have been really happy with this bad boy. It was expensive and worth it.
That said, lately I seem to take more shots with my iPhone 5 and most of the time, those images make me just as happy.
What software programs do you use?
I use Photoshop CC for nearly all of my digital scrapbooking work and for all of my product design work. I upgraded to the Creative Cloud in August. The nice part about the Cloud is that I get the most current versions of all the programs I need for my work. I use InDesign for print and production work; Illustrator for product design and other projects.
That said, I teach all my classes using Photoshop Elements.
I currently have version 11 installed on my computer. PSE 11 had quite a facelift from previous versions, but it essentially works the same. Here's my take on full Photoshop versus Elements. If I didn't do the work I do, I would have no need for full Photoshop. Yes, there are some really amazing things about Photoshop CC, namely the refined typographic controls that you just don't get in Elements. But overall, most of what a digital scrapbooker will want to do they can do in Elements for a fraction of the cost. It's a tremendous bang for the buck.
WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU HAVE? I truly believe that PSE is an awesome program that can handle much of the scrapbooker/crafter digital needs.
Do you do any special post-processing to your photos?
Yes! I use RadLab on pretty much every photo that I use for any of my scrapbooking and memory projects. In fact, wild horses couldn't stop me from using RadLab. (I don't think I'm using that phrase right…) In any event, I love using Rad Lab to enhance my photos. You can do a little. You can do a lot. You can settle somewhere in the middle. It is seriously a rad plug in (zero pun intended) and it works with Photoshop Elements. Learn more about Rad Lab here.
Note: I shoot in high JPEG settings, never RAW. Why? I don't know. RAW files are so big and honestly, I'm not that picky.
Where do you get your digital pages printed?
I'm printing my digital Project Life pages at Persnickety Prints. I find their quality and service to be stellar. I have no plans to try anyone new at this time. I always order their Premium Matte paper and opt for the Regular versus the Faster upload option.
Otherwise, if I'm doing a hybrid or traditional layout, I print all of my photos at home. This lets me print exactly the sizes that I want, which I set up and print multiple photos on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of photo paper.
What's that cardstock you seem to print EVERYTHING on and why does it always look so good?
I use Bazzill Basics Orange Peel (OP) Texture in white. This slightly textured paper is just awesome. It's a very subtle texture and it takes ink really well. I always print using photo quality settings to ensure rich color. While every printer is different, usually you have the choice to print at the best possible quality. Always choose the best when printing to cardstock and you get better results. This is one of the only cardstocks I buy these days. I order about 100 sheets at a time and burn through it like crazy. This paper? Yes, I would marry it.
Note: I recently tried out Bazill's Coconut Swirl cardstock, which is part of their Smoothies line. It's super thick and smooth and also takes ink like butter.
How do you organize your digital photos?
I use iPhoto to import and organize my images. I keep it very simple. I create Smart Folders for each month and then compile those into Year folders. That's it. I do not tag my photos.
My one regret with this approach? Not tagging my photos. I hope to start doing this in 2014 with more regularity, or rather with ANY regularity.
How do you organize your digital scrapbooking supplies?
Oh man, you had to go there? I don't have a great system right now, truth be told. This is exactly how I have my files set up, but this doesn't include my own products. My own line is broken up like this:
• album templates
• page templates
• journaling cards/printable cards
• brushes and stamps
• digital paper
Another goal for 2014 is a better system, especially for finding stuff. Again, tagging needs to be part of my digital life.
How do you handle all the shots you take with your iPhone?
Every day I plug my phone into my computer, open iPhoto and import any photos taken that day. Then I delete the images from my phone. I don't need to use my phone to keep or store photos. I can always access the most recent 1,000 images in my photo stream if I need to, but I bring every photo I take into iPhoto and there it resides.
Note: I do not use Photo Stream on my computer, however. It bugged me that the photos were automatically added to my iPhoto library. I like to pick and choose what comes off of my phone and into my library.
Speaking of your phone, what are your favorite photography apps?
I have pared down the photography apps in recent months to be just the apps I actually use. In order of use, they are:
Instagram (for photo sharing)
PicTapGo (for photo editing)
KeyCam (for self timed shots)
Diptic (for creating multi-image collages)
Big Lens (for creating depth of field effects)
Facebook Camera (For posting to Facebook only)
Finger Focus (for creating depth of field effects)
AU Mobile (for making photo books)
How do you back up your digital photos?
Yes! My favorite subject. Okay, it's not really my favorite, but I will tell you this: if my house burns to the ground, my photos are safe and here's why:
I use two back up systems: one on-site, and one—and this is key—off-site. First, my on-site solution, the Apple Airport Time Capsule.
This baby kills two birds with one stone. It serves as my wi-fi delivery system as well as my hourly back up of my content. I chose a 3TB model because I've got a lot files to back up. I back up everything to this. All of my photos, music and day-to-day work content. It has replaced my former system of two external hard drives. So far, it has been a seamless product.
Next up, my off-site system, CrashPlan.
CrashPlan backs up only my user information on my Mac (my settings, my email, my photos and my music). I like to think of this as my Photo Insurance Plan. If all Hell were to break loose, I would still have my photos. Honestly, that's the only thing that really matters to me in terms of my digital life. I pay roughly $60 annually for this service.
If my system ever crashes and truly burns, I'll let you know how glad I was that I chose an off-site back up.
Note: I had to use their Seed Drive service for my initial back up. If you have a lot of files, it can be exruciatingly slow (as in months) to get a full back up over the internets. Because I had over 40,000 photos, I paid extra to have a hard drive delivered to my doorstep, I loaded all my content onto that drive, then shipped it back to CrashPlan. It has been running smoothly ever since.
What about your pre-digital photos? How do you store and display those?
All my pre-digital photos are in photo albums up through 2003. I recently did a post about my photo album goals that you can read here. I keep the negatives (remember those?) in boxes in my closet. I use one type of album, the Kolo Hudson. I buy a few every so often to keep on hand so that when I finally get around to printing more photos, I have a place to put them. My blog post covers this in detail, but my goal is to print about 100 (okay, maybe 150) photos for each year, starting in 2004, to put into albums. That might seem like I'm going to miss a whole lot of photos, but honestly, I don't think every photo needs a home in an album. It's all about culling and summarizing.
How do you store files related to individual page layouts?
Since I started scrabooking back in 2001, I've included some form or another of a digital process. Usually, it was the base of a page—titles, journal blocks—and then the photos that went along with it. For the first handful of years, I simply scanned every finished layout, regardless of the amount of digital or hybrid process that went into it, and saved the scans by year.
Then starting in 2007, I created a folder for each layout I did during the year, complete with all pertinent files. I have done this for every layout since then, whether it's hybrid or digital.
I include the final scan of the page (if it's hybrid) in the folder, as well. I think of each layout as a job. Graphic designers archive their jobs with all the content in one folder. This is the approach I take with my scrapbook layouts. Do I need to keep all of the working parts of any given layout project? Probably not, but I do it anyway.
How do you organize your day/time/work?
This question was posted on my Facebook page. Monday through Friday I drive one or both kids to school every morning. (They start at different times.) Ideally, I'll exercise first thing. Ideally being the operative word. Right now, it's been walking on the treadmill with the tiniest amounts of running mixed in. If I exercise first, I usually sit down ready to work at 9:30. I use iCal to keep on track with what needs to happen each day. I generally work until Noon or 1, then take a lunch break. Then it's back up to the office.
During this time, I mix in laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping and meal prep, granted not every day. I try to take one morning a week to just clean the house to free up time on the weekend.
I usually stop working around 4 p.m. most days, to get dinner ready, or ferry kids to and from wherever it is they need to be.
Which leads me to weekends. I do work nearly every weekend, usually in the mornings. Now before you think, "Dude, bummer!" it really is part of the self-employed process. Sometimes I do my best work on the weekends, especially doing product design. Working on the weekend will also free up other chunks of time during the regular work week. It's always a give and take that I'm grateful to have.
Are there any areas I coulda should woulda covered? If so, leave a comment and I'll try to add it to this post to make it as comprehensive as possible.