4 Tips For Making Awesome Hand Made Soaps

People make their own soaps for a variety of reasons. Some are just very particular with the products they use and want to make sure that they’re using all-natural soaps with no harsh chemicals or ingredients. Others love adding their own combination of scents and ingredients to personalize the soap they use. Whatever the reason may be, the art of soap making is being appreciated by more and more people – both young and old.

Soap making is a wonderful hobby that can also become a good source of income. There are now online shops or stores that specialize in organic and hand made soaps. While the process itself is not complicated, there are a few things beginners must remember about making soap. Here are the top 4:

1. Follow Exact Measurements

Soap making is similar to baking in the sense that quantities must be accurate. If you’ve been making soap for a long time then maybe you can trust your own instincts and add your ingredients by feel. However, if you’re just starting out, it’s best to follow the recipe to the letter.

2. Have the Right Tools

Make sure you have measuring tools such as cups, weighing scales, etc. Additionally, these must be earmarked solely for soap making – don’t use your baking cups to measure out additives. If you’ll just be measuring oatmeal, herbs, coffee, or cornmeal, that will be all right since these are ingredients that are also consumed at home.

When it comes to equipment, it will be best to have a separate set for making soaps. Tempered glass mixing bowls, enamel cookware, or stainless steel pots are recommended for the process. But unlike cooking, copper or aluminum pots are not ideal since they do react with the lye. Plastics, on the other hand, can melt with the high temperature. That’s why silicone molds are also the better choice. Lastly, you will also need to invest in a stainless steel thermometer that can read temperatures between 90 and 200 degrees.

3. Be Very Careful When Handling Lye

Hand made soaps are also made with lye. Expert soap makers swear that there’s no substituting for lye in the soap making process. They recommend using lye in its crystal form and not to use liquid lye because it may result to inaccurate measurements. People must wear gloves, masks, and protective eye gear when handling lye. When mixed with water, it heats up and fumes for a little while.

More importantly, always remember to add lye to water and not the other way it around. It must also be stirred immediately so it doesn’t clump up at the bottom. Lye is caustic and will react with the oil in your soap mixture; but don’t worry, the process of saponification ensures that no lye is left in the finished soap product.

4. Add Scents and Ingredients You Love

Some people enjoy hand made soaps because they’re able to create their own signature scents. For beginners, it’s safe to play around with scents and textures that you’re familiar with. For example, lavender and oatmeal, peppermint, or lemon and rosemary. Once you’ve become more familiar with different ingredients and their properties, you can start being more inventive with your choices.

You can use your soap creations to perk up bath time for the rest of your family by sending them bars of your hand made soaps as gifts. It’s a thoughtful gesture that is always well-appreciated no matter what occasion.

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5 Affordable and Creative Wall Décor Ideas

There comes a point in every homeowner’s life when he or she gets tired of staring at that blank wall. Painting the walls is always a good option, but it needs something to more to make the space look lived-in. If only it were that easy to call a decorator and give him instructions to fill the walls with priceless works of art.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have that kind of money to spend on wall decor. You can, however, be a little creative and decorate the walls in the different areas of your home based on your personality.

Here are 5 affordable and tasteful wall décor ideas:

1. Framed Maps

Maps aren’t boring and antiquated. You can use colorful frames with different textures to frame maps of places of you’ve been to or travelled to as a family. You can personalize it further by adding snapshots of your travels. You can display this prominently at the living room or by the staircase. It’s not only nostalgic; it also serves as wonderful conversation piece when you have guests over.

2. Coffee Filter Art

If your breakfast nook or den looks bare, you can have some fun with coffee filter art. Basically, you can color or paint coffee filters with different colors. You can choose to cover just the edges or the entire thing. The painted filters can then be arranged to make any shape or object you like. It’s fun to do, it’s colorful, and is relatively inexpensive. If you have kids, this can be a fun project to do with them.

3. Cork Board

The staircase wall is normally a neglected section of the house. It can actually become eye-catching and functional by adding a corkboard to the wall. It doesn’t matter if it’s being used as a study area or a small office, the corkboard is a great way to post projets, bills, reminders and other important lists for everyone. If you have a large family, you can divide the cork board into sections: to-do, to-buy, go-to etc.

4. Inspiration Quotes

Quotes are always great wall decor ideas. Nowadays, you can get large sticker-like ones which are very easy to attach to your walls. This is better than actually painting the quotes on the wall. You can also have them printed on a tarpaulin so you can add an image to the inspirational quote you like. Another place that would be good to have this would be your home gym or workout area.

5. Baskets and Hats

Straw or woven hats and baskets add a lovely touch to bedroom walls. You can make this more personal by hanging hats you’ve collected on your travels. Alternatively, instead of baskets you can also use colorful scarves.

There’s no right or wrong way to decorate your home. Some people like showing off deer or moose heads, and that’s perfectly fine. The important thing is to make the place all about you and what you stand for. Decorating is not about what’s chic or what’s expensive, it’s what makes you long to come back for home at the end of a long day.

Look for These Five Ingredients in the Best Dog Foods

Studies have shown that like people, dog health is dependent on their diet. There have been controversies during the past decade where dog food manufacturers recalled their products due to bad manufacturing practices. For every pet owner, choosing the best dog foods can be disorienting.

There are more than 3,000 different brands of dog food, and even listing the top 100 may not do justice to the dog. Each dog may have its own preference, however, the owner can choose which brand to buy. The basic composition, especially the ingredients and what labelling to avoid can serve as a guide to buying dog food.

Independent studies by consumer groups have shown that there are some things that an owner should pay particular attention to when choosing the best dog foods:

1. The main ingredient should be a whole protein.

The main ingredient on any label is usually the first one listed. This should be a whole protein ingredient like chicken, venison, fish, beef, duck, liver or eggs. Stay away from brands which mentioned unspecified proteins (e.g. “meat”, “meat meal” or “by-products”). Additionally, do not buy products which are labeled as having “rendered meat” or “dry rendered tankage.” These unspecified proteins could literally be anything including rats, roadkill, or even spoiled meat from the supermarket.

2. Whole grains like oats and quinoa are good for the dog’s diet.

Some dog foods contain unhealthy grain or fillers like corn, wheat soy and beet pulp. If the first ingredient listed is corn, that should be a red flag and you should stay away from that product.

3. Look for bonus healthy ingredients.

Dog food manufacturers, veterinarians and food formulators have only recently realized that adding micronutrients and fatty acids greatly contribute to a dog’s health. These include omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Dogs also need a healthy dose of Vitamins C and E.

4. Meaningful labels.

These include naming conventions which really mean something. “Certified organic,” for instance means exactly that: they have a certification to prove it. Going back to the example above, “rendered meat” may mean anything. In the same manner, stay away from dog food with ingredients coming from China or Thailand, or any other country where there are loose regulations.

5. Good fruits and vegetables.

Peas, sweet potatoes and carrots are good for dogs. On the other hand, dog foods with onions, garlic, grapes and avocados should be avoided. If these ingredients are not properly processed, it may still contain persin, a toxin which can be harmful to pets.

The above should be considered as basic considerations when buying dog food. There would be instances where the owner would choose between dry, wet, dehydrated, and raw food. The owner might even go to the extents of preparing a home made meal for the dog. These types of food have their own pros and cons. Dogs have different nutrient requirements from humans, and that not all dog food are created alike. Considering these and the above guide, the pet dog should be able to enjoy a healthy well-rounded diet.

Photography Articles

Tips for Grabbing a Toddler’s Attention During a Shoot

Taking snapshots is very different from taking artful photographs. Professional skill is needed to come up with great-looking photos that can be proudly displayed on frames on top of mantle pieces. There’s no problem when shooting adults. However, taking portraits or fantasy shots of young children can be doubly challenging.

How do you work around it? Any photographer worth his salt knows that making young kids at ease during a photoshoot is the first step to taking good photos. More often than not, photo studios do prepare kid-friendly sets to catch a child’s attention. Colors, shapes, animals or other fun themes are among the top choices.

Toddlers can be very temperamental and moody. Toys always help them be more cooperative during a shoot. Plushies are for younger children though, toddlers prefer toys that move, have lights, or sounds. One good choice would be wind up toys or mechanical ones. While you set up to take a picture, another person can hold the toy in front of the child to catch his attention. Normally, it’s the parent who does this while the photographer takes the shots.

Having a musical toy also gets a child to look at a certain direction, and can be more easily prodded to smile or pose. Alternatively, the photos can be taken while the child is actually playing with the toys. Playing danceable tunes can also work if the child likes dancing. Get other children or the parents to dance along for more fun, candid shots.

These are just some tips for sustaining a child’s attention during photo shoots.
 
Can you make money as an amateur photographer?

By definition, an amateur photographer is someone who engages in photography but is not paid for it, or who does not earn his daily living from taking pictures. However, you can still make money as an amateur photographer.

Compared to professional photographers, amateur photographers may or may not have the latest and the most photography equipment. Most amateur photographers who continue to develop their craft, develop their photography into a hobby. Hobbyists, by their nature, usually have as much knowledge, if not the experience as professional photographers.

Making money as an amateur photographer has gotten easier in recent years. This is due to the internet. The internet has created a level playing field for professionals and amateurs in the sense that they can both post their images online for everyone to see. This includes posting in online stock photo sites. The photographer sends his pictures to the stock photo site, and buyers browse the images and buy them for use online or for print. The pictures are not physically bought, but are licensed for use. A single picture can be licensed and used by different buyers.

The price per license may seem small at first, however, the way to go around this business is to send a lot of quality pictures. Stock photographers typically have thousands of pictures listed with stock picture companies. This ensures that they have a bigger chance of getting their images chosen by buyers. When you produce quality images, which the buying public wants, it becomes a numbers game: the more high-quality pictures you produce, the more fees you earn. An amateur photographer can do that, and he can continue adding to his portfolio.
 
5 Easy Photography Tips to Take Better Pictures

A recent infographic showed that based on the number of images taken each year, the number one camera in use today is the iPhone. This has resulted in pictures being taken by people who don’t know how to take a good picture. The following steps will help you take better pictures no matter what camera you use.

1. Avoid bright backgrounds. Whatever camera you use, you need to make sure that the foreground (the object you want to shoot) is brighter than the background. Check that the light is from the front pointing at the object, and not from the back. If it could not be avoided, use a flash instead.

2. Find the right distance. Selfies are the most common kind of pictures being taken speccially if the uses has a camphone. The problem with a selfie is that it is usually taken up close. This results in pictures where the face is slightly wider and distorted. This is called “barreling”. For cameras with small lenses, the only solution is to take pictures from farther away. You have to experiment with the right focusing distance to capture flattering selfies.

3. Capture the light and shadows. Another problem most users encounter is that they don’t pay attention to picture contrast. This results in images which are either too dark (not enough light), or too bright (awash with light).

4. Frame the shot. Use natural lines and curves to create a frame for the shot. The lines made by a room’s corners, or curtains, or the curve branches of trees can be made to frame an image.

5. Find lines to point to the image. Lines of objects can be used to point to the image you want to focus on. Using this method, the eye is drawn to where the lines are pointing to.
 
4 More Photography Tips for Beginners

Photography has never been so easy. A lot of cameras, including camera phones, allow users to point and shoot without worrying about the image they are taking. The following are some more photography tips for beginners to take better pictures with whatever camera they are using.

1. The rule of thirds. Beginners are usually intent on taking pictures where their object is at the center of the picture. This results in static images and limits the scope of the picture. Without going into the theory behind this rule, suffice to say that the best way to improve your pictures is not the center them. Instead, try to imagine the image as divided by lines into 9 equal rectangles (a 3×3 grid). Frame your image such that the focus is on one of the intersecting lines. You should see an improvement in the quality of your pictures when you start shooting off-center.

2. Candid shots. You would think that with a smaller camera (specially in a camera phone), that candid shots would be easier to take. However, since people know that your phone has a camera, they are always ready to pose in an instant. Capture candid shots of people who are not looking at the camera, but instead are doing something they are engrossed in.

3. Zoom out. Take the bigger picture. Bigger pictures also tell a bigger story. There is more context and explains the picture better.

4. Take landscapes. Most beginners use a camera phone, and they shoot pictures holding it like a phone. Turn the camphone on its side and start taking landscape oriented pictures. You would be surprised at the new pictures you take.
 
Digital Photography Tips

Digital photography is growing by leaps and bounds. Camera phones are trying to catch up with compact point and shoot cameras, while high-end DSLRs are becoming cheaper and easier to use. Here are some photography tips you can use when shooting with digital cameras.

1. White Balance. Setting the white balance to auto usually works for most occasions. However, when possible, choose the right white balance on your camera. This will result in correct color capture, and less color corrections when you edit.

2. Use a Tripod or a monopod. The smaller your camera, the more camera shake will occur. This also happens more often when you have a long lens. Camera shake happens when the camera moves while you press the shutter. The easiest way to prevent this from occurring, is to shoot with a tripod, or a monopod.

3. Go Wide. Wide pictures offer a different angle than zooms or normal lenses. The larger picture area also allows more light. In addition, there is more depth of field with wider shots. All in all, resulting in less blurred shots.

4. If possible, use RAW. If your camera supports RAW (like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus), use it to take your pictures. RAW has more image information which you can use when editing the picture.

5. Use sports mode for low light. Using night mode for low light sets the camera shutter speed for longer exposure. This results in ghost images and blurring. Choose sports mode instead. This means that the exposure is faster, less blurring but with more grainy pictures. To counter the graininess, resize from the full size to social media size of 1200×800 or 1800×1200.
 
More Digital Photography Tips for Beginners

Digital photography has taken over the internet and the professional photographt scene. It has made photography accessible to the ordinary person who could not afford expensive professional cameras, and film. Before digital photography, pictures were taken sparingly because of the cost of film and developing. Those who wanted to have good quality photos went to studios to have their portraits taken by professionals.

Fast forward to a few years and we now have young kids snapping pictures using their mobile phones. Selfies notwithstanding, mobile photography has given way to more interest in photography. DSLR cameras have since become more affordable and you would see people with no professional training readily taking photographs with their big cameras.

How different is digital photography nowadays and what should beginners remember?

1. Read or Watch Tutorials on Youtube

The internet has made knowledge easily accessible to anyone, and this includes photography lessons. Tutorials and tips are available on YouTube and they cater to different kinds of cameras: mobile phones, digital cameras, or DSLRs. These tutorials teach about lighting, framing, composition and other essentials.

2. Find Interesting Subjects

Cats, dogs, fashion, flowers, events and food are among the most common subjects that you can find today. Most bloggers take their own photos to accompany their blog posts, and most of them do these using their cellphone cameras.

The different between digital photography and traditional photography is that people now take photos to share via social media. It is more important for them that their friends and family like or react to the photos they post.

Tips for Improving Your Holiday Photos

 

The holidays are fast approaching. It’s a season of merriment, reunions, parties and of course – tons of photos. Whether you’re a professional whose shooting weddings and other important occasions, or the designated family photographer, here are a few tips you can use to make taking pictures more fun.

1. Have a Theme

Kick party planning up a notch with a theme. Have everyone come in costumes or color-code each family. This would make group photos easier and more lovely to look at. You can take photos of each family first and then take a photo of everyone together. The different colors will make a nice rainbow effect on the photographs.

2. Use a Backdrop

Christmas trees and fireplaces are overused backdrops. Create one for your party or reunion and have everyone pose for photos there instead. It can be a tarp with the family surname, or logo. You can also add graphics to it and make it more interactive with props – very much like a photobooth set up.

3. Use a Tripod and a Remote

The problem with taking photos during the holidays is that the person taking the pictures always ends up not in them. Add yourself to the holiday festivities by investing on a tripod and a remote. You can set the timer on your digital camera. This will give you enough time to walk into your desired spot or place in the family photo. You can take several shots using this.

Alernatively, you can also use a selfie stick with a shutter. Have fun and go as wacky as you want with friends and family during the holidays.
 
Tips for Photographing Your Pet

Pet memes, GIFs, and other photos are very popular on social media, especially Instagram and Pinterest. Some pets, in fact, get a large following and their owners are obliged to take more and more photos each day. Sharing photos of your pets is also a fun way to ineract with other people online and gain new friends. There are online groups that exchange photos, stories, as well as tips and advice on being a pet owner.

Here are three tips to take better photos of your pets:

1. Natural Environment

Posing pets or dressing them up may be fun for a few pictures, but not all the time. It is the best to take pictures of your pet in their natural environment. Take the shots indoors, while playing or walking at the park, or while eating. It will also be fun to take pictures of them while they goof around or interact with other pets and members of your family.

2. No Flash

Bright lights can hurt your pet’s eyes so be very careful when taking photographs with the flash on. You can adjust the lighting by drawing back the blinds or curtains before taking the pictures.

3. Get Action Shots

Take pictures of your pets running, fetching, jumping or doing some other activities that they do so adorably. You can adjust the settings on your digital camera or mobile phone to take action or sports shots. Doing this will ensure that there is no blurring in the photograph. For DSLRs, you can adjust the shutter speed to take photos of animals while moving.

Have fun and keep shooting those photos!
 

5 Tips for Photographing Your Dog

Everyone loves dogs! The abundance of dog pictures online just goes to show how many people have a deep love for these four-legged creatures. Dog photos can brighten someone’s day or cheer you up when you’re particularly low. Most singletons display photos of their dogs on their desks at the office, here’s how you can have a great photo of man’s best friend as well.

1. Wait for the Perfect Time

Action shots are not easy to capture. It takes a keen eye and perfect timing to make this happen. If you want portrait type pictures, wait until after your dog’s daily walk or run. He or she would have already expended a lot of energy by then.

2. Let the Dog Get Used to You with a Camera

Dogs will see the camera as an alien object if he is not used to you taking his photos. For starters, you can use your mobile phone and take some pictures. After he has warmed up, switch to a digital camera or a DSLR for better photos. Don’t stress your dog out by yelling commands while taking his photos.

3. Take Lots of Pictures

More photos means plenty more to choose from. Experts say your chances of getting that one amazing shot increases the more pictures you take. When shooting photos of your dog, it would be good advise to bring extra batteries for your camera, or bring an extra camera if you have another one.

4. Time Your Shoot

Since dogs don’t like camera flash, it would be best to schedule your photo shoort in warm, natural sun. The best time for a photoshoot would be mornings; or in the shade if the day is sunny or bright.

5. Go Down on All Fours

Here’s a great tip to avoid cookie-cutter quality dog photos: go down and be at the same level as your dog’s. Most of the photos online are of owners looking down on their dogs. So being at the same level as your dog will give the photos a different perspective.

These five tips are certain to bring out the pro in you!
 
Top cameras to use for at home photography

Whenever home photography is discussed, there are some limitations which also have to be defined. The following are what I consider as delimitations for home photography:

  • A handy camera. That means that you can leave the camera lying around and ready to take a picture at any time.
  • Low light capability. The use of flash is optional, but it has to be able to take pictures indoors. Using flash sometimes creates flares and unexpected bounce backs which you want to avoid.
  • Tripod might be necessary. The camera might need to be placed at odd places where you cannot see the viewfinder. Or you might want to take a picture of yourself lounging on the sofa.
  • Remote control capable or a timer.

With the above in mind, there are only a few cameras which fit the bill:

  • Samsung Galaxy S6. Samsung camera phones are noted for their image quality. The Galaxy S6 is not exception.
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus. It has optical image stabilization which results in less camera shake. The low light capabilities are also some of the best among camera phones.
  • Canon 760D. This is an entry/level camera for the beginner/enthusiast. Easy navigation and a great learning curve.
  • Nikon D7000. This is one of the oldest camera models on the list. However, it is noted for the fast focusing, and low light capabilities.
  • Sony Cybershot R100V. This is a compact camera that may be more expensive than the Nikon and Canon DSLRs listed above. However, the form factor, and size makes this a very handy camera to have around the house.