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Blog with real life stories and inspiring content for memory keepers and life documentarians.

What's Your Backup Plan?

Kiera Slye

Backup Worksheet.png
 

What happens when Facebook, Instagram and website hosting crashes all in the same day? In most cases panic and hysteria! I mean after all, we live in a digital world and for most of us, our most precious and most recent memories are saved somewhere online or in the cloud. I have a system I use so that when things go awry I am not left in a panic. Today on the blog, I am sharing my backup plan with you!

Let’s Dive in!

I use my iPhone to take 80% of my daily photos. The other 20% are taken using my Canon 5DMkIII. Here’s a breakdown of the process I use to make sure everything is backed up in multiple places and hopefully safe and accessible in the future.

 
 

PHONE BACKUP SYSTEM

Google Photos not iCloud

After doing some research into my options, I chose to use Google Photos as my photo backup source on my iPhone. I was frustrated that my iCloud was constantly filling up and my hard drive was always full on my computer. I honestly never understood the whole iCloud business because it felt like there was never any way to actually view, manage and use the photos sent there. It is my understanding that the iCloud is really just a means of syncing and sharing your files across several apple products (i.e. iPhone, iPad, computer) and is not something you should rely upon as a main backup source.

I downloaded the Google Photos App on my phone and set it up using autosync to backup all of my photos on my phone. Here’s how to do it!  It may take a few hours (or in my case) days to get caught up initially, but every day now, my photos are backed up automatically.

If you are an Amazon Prime member or have a significant number of larger sized image files and videos - you can consider Amazon Photos for your backup source. I haven’t made the switch yet, but here is an article I found helpful when researching my options.

 

For more info on How I Organize and Manage Digital Files check out this blog post I wrote where I cover all the details!

 

IFTT

I have signed up to IFTTT (If This Then That), an online service where you can set up formulas for backing up your content. I use it to backup my Instagram posts and favorite hashtags I follow. These photos are automatically sent to a special folder I have on Dropbox.  

Chatbooks

I use Chatbooks to print my cell phone photos. I have set up a folder in my camera roll called Favorites. Using this folder, I connected it to a subscription with Chatbooks to automatically print a hardcover photo book every 60 images with my favorite images from my phone.

I take thousands of pictures a year, so these books get sent to print often. Chatbooks gives you a 3 day grace period to go into the app and select which of those favorites in your favorites album you want to print in the final book. It takes just a few minutes a week and I have an incredible backup catalogue of my favorite cell phone pics.

One other perk is you can create a schedule for your subscription so that you get 1 book / month or any other frequency you wish. I recently took advantage of their 40% off sale and caught up and printed 25 of my latest books. Their customer service is top notch, so if you have any questions or issues, always reach out to them to solve it! They can even pause your account for a bit while you get organized. You can also select to add up to 5 bonus prints (5x5” square prints) to your order if you’d like! I use these to add to my daughter’s baby book.

It feels so incredible to know these moments are saved not just in the digital world anymore. When I have time, I plan to handwrite captions in my printed Chatbooks so that my future generations can experience my world through my view.  If handwriting isn’t your thing, you have the option to type captions or print full page photos instead.

I also have a separate subscription setup to print my Instagram posts every 60 posts with the captions included from each post. This is a great way to make sure that Instagram is backed up as well. I will share a later post more about all of the greatness about Chatbooks, but if you want to know more now, check them out here! Using my link you can get $10 off your first book.

Tinybeans

I have a Lifetime Premium Subscription to Tinybeans, because I am basically obsessed with this family photo sharing app. I try to load my photos, videos and stories daily but sometimes do bulk catch ups for a few weeks at a time when things get crazy.  Using this app, my family and closest friends are signed up to receive updates when I post. On their phone or computer, they can log into Tinybeans and can view, comment and love on all of the memories we are creating.

My family is spread across the country and this app has allowed us to have an incredible relationship where they literally watch our daughter grow and experience the world daily, without me having to blast all of our private moments on Facebook or Instagram. I can’t scream from the rooftops loud enough about how much I love Tinybeans. Using my affiliate link, you can try Tinybeans Premium for 1 month free. I swear you’ll fall in love!

My favorite moments from my cell phone are all backed up here when I load them to the app. I could also load my “real camera” photos and videos from my desktop if I wanted to, but rarely do. Since this post is all about backing up - I try, at a minimum, to catch up and download an actual backup of all of my Tinybeans memories annually.

The backup exports as a .zip file organized monthly with the video and photo files and a separate export of all of the captions and family comments. The backup also sends a .html file with an interactive calendar view of my tinybeans account by month. You can click on each day individually and see the full day of memories as they looked on the App as well.

In the future, I’ll share more about the great features of Tinybeans specifically, but I am always happy to chat more about this wonderful product - so comment below if you’ve got any questions!  

CAMERA BACKUP

I am a professional photographer by day / mama taking an excessive amount of photos of my life by “all other moments of the day.”  I use my “real camera” to capture higher quality images and video clips that I ideally print annually in a yearbook and use to create annual family video reels. I have only done a few albums and videos, but hope to catch up “when I have more time.” So having a backup system is critical to ensuring the memories are there when I need them!

Memory Card

I use a Canon 5dMkIII to capture my photographs. This camera has a dual card reader that allows you to record your footage to 2 memory cards at the same time. I always do this as an instant backup to taking photos. I use SanDisk Extreme Pro Memory Cards (both CF and SD.) I have dozens of memory cards so that I can keep original images on the cards until I have backed up the final favorite keeper images on multiple sources.

External Hard Drives

I try to load my memory card photos to an external hard drive as soon as possible after shooting - usually at night after the baby has gone to bed. I am obsessed with the Lacie Rugged 4TB External Hard drives. I use these drives every single day. They serve as my “main” external hard drive for active files and then I have extra ones for backup purposes.  

For more about how I organize and use my images - check out my blog post here. Once my photos are edited and the favorite final images are exported, I will delete the images off my memory cards.

Dropbox & Online Galleries

I use Dropbox as my cloud based storage for my digital files and favorite photos. I have upgraded to a premium business account to have over 1TB of memory access. I am in the habit of sharing my “best of” personal photos to a folder I have created organized by year on Dropbox.

I also try to load all of my favorite images to an online gallery I have created for my family. I use Pixieset to deliver my professional photos to clients, and set up a gallery for our family to use as well. All of my “real camera” favorite photos are backed up here a few times a year.

Printing

The best back up to digital photos is hard copy prints. I try to print all of my favorite photos at the end of the year. I use Costco to load hundreds of photos and have them shipped to my house at the end of the year. In an ideal world, these photos get put into an album with sleeves and room for captions. I am very behind on this task right now.

I also try to print an annual press printed photo album with my favorite “best of” photos every year. I am a busy mama raising a 2 year old daughter and have only just made our first album through Blurb. I hope to catch up for previous years and vacations as time allows. But for now these images are all backed up and organized and are waiting for when I am ready.

Video

When I was writing this blog post, I basically inventoried my whole process and system for backing up my life. In doing so, I realized I haven’t created a backup of my video files captured on my “real camera.” Only my cell phone videos are backed up (on google photos and Tinybeans.) That freaked me right out because I have some incredible moments captured that I would be devastated to lose.

Luckily, it took just a few minutes to back these files up. For all of my video files, I put them in one folder annually. Inside that folder, I create separate folders by date of capture with a description of what we did in those videos. It was as simple as moving a copy of the Movies folder over to a new external backup drive that I purchased for 2019. Phew. That’s done!

PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS & MISC. SOURCES

If you have ever had your photos taken by a professional photographer or have received a link to download your photos from someone (i.e. school portraits, wedding photos, annual christmas card photos etc.), we need to talk!

Have you downloaded these photos from the link you got? Have you printed the photos? Do you know the password to get in? Can you access these files quickly if you want to?

I am only asking this because, yes I am a pro photographer who sends dozens of links to such galleries each year to my clients, but I am also a consumer. I have wedding photos and family photos sent to us from photographer’s we have hired to document precious moments of our lives.

I recently made my wedding album (5 years later.) I have my images from the wedding downloaded in several places and also backed up online through the Online Pass Gallery shared with me from our photographer. When I went to access my wedding images, I realized that the hard drives I have my photos backed up on use a USB or Thunderbolt connection. My new computer doesn’t have a port for either USB or Thunderbolt. It doesn’t even have a CD drive. This was ok, I thought, because my photos were backed up online in the cloud Pass Gallery.

I learned quickly, that although my photos were viewable online in the cloud Pass Gallery, I couldn’t quickly download the high res files. Since more than 1 year had elapsed since our initial gallery was created, these files were sent to “deep storage.” It took more than 12 hours to get the final link to download the files I selected. Luckily they were still available, but this seriously hindered my ability to just sit down and start making my album.

This leads me to my final Back Up suggestion:

Create an Annual System to Update Technology

Technology is literally changing every day. CD’s, USB’s, Thunderbolts, are all a “thing” of the past. It is important to make sure that you assess your arsenal of memories and create a system of backing up your back up every year using the newest technology. Also, try to remind yourself not to throw out all of the accessories to your old backups (i.e. cord connections and hardware.)

Luckily, you can get just about anything online now a days, so if you find yourself in a jam without a cord to connect your old external hard drive, search google for the cord you need or dongle adapter that will help you convert your old cord to the newer technology.

This was another huge post! Thanks for sticking through it to the end. If you haven’t yet - be sure to download your FREE Backup Plan Worksheet!

A Voyage Through the Storm of New Motherhood

Kiera Slye

Photo credit:  Karen Kelly

Photo credit: Karen Kelly

A Voyage Through the Storm of New Motherhood

I was a new mom with an 8 month old baby. I was sitting alone on a park bench while my daughter slept in her stroller beside me. I caught myself choking back tears as I begged the universe to just let me hit pause and take a second to catch up on all of life that had unfolded in front of my eyes in the last few months.

I was racing for the shores of a new world I didn’t quite understand.  Captain of a dinghy lost at sea during a category 5 Hurricane. The seas were rocky, the storm intense. I felt like I would be swallowed up by the next powerful wave. I had always wanted to become a mother. I knew I was a great mom, but I desperately just needed a chance to breathe, to pause, and to see the beautiful world that I had created. I needed to survive until the eye of the storm.

I learned an incredibly powerful lesson that day in the park. I could never be the mom I dreamed of becoming if I didn’t find ways to breathe through my own growing pains. I needed to work harder to find time for myself. To allow myself to grow into my new magnificent role as mother. To give myself grace. To nourish my mind and replenish the depleted cells in my worn down body.  To be loving and grateful for the time I had with my daughter.

The truth is, I was exhausted. Running on fumes, rarely sleeping more than 4 hours stretches of time. Our dream plans for our family where being overshadowed by the demands of intense work schedules, distance from family support, and lack of dependable childcare.

As a new mama and a small business owner, I had dreamed of finding this magical balance of working part time, while having a part-time nanny to help so that I could work on my business, go to the gym, get groceries, clean the house, and make healthy meals a few days a week. I had no idea how hard it would be to find dependable help for just a few hours a day, a couple days a week.

I also had no clue how unrealistic it was to think that I could do all the things.

Clouded in a fog that I now know was a combo of being the sole source of food for my daughter and an extreme lack of sleep, I found myself in a near inescapable vortex of doubt. Every decision I made had a consequence that I felt would be too hard to justify changing the current pattern.  Sleeping when the baby slept was always the worst option for me because inevitably every time I fell into a deep sleep, the baby would wake -- leaving me feeling worse off than I was before. Instead of sleeping, I purchased and read every parenting book on the planet and spent unintentional hours googling for answers of when things would get better.

Everything I read told me that my baby was growing and to wait to make changes, because this too shall pass. So long as I stayed firm and consistent with our book approved routines, things would be better in no time.

The truth is, things didn’t get better until I took control of me. Not one single book I read mentioned just how important it was for the mother to take care of herself. It wasn’t until I found Mother.ly, an online publication of stories and resources to encourage tired mamas like myself, that I started to see that I wasn’t as alone as I felt in my voyage through the storm of new motherhood. I started becoming more vocal to others about about the toll that the journey had on my mind and body.

It began registering in my brain when I heard my friends and loved ones encourage me to get more support. I found my village. I sought professional help through an incredible therapist who specialized in supporting women and mothers in transition.  I invested time and money into caring for myself and finding care that would help my baby grow more independent as well. The energy I put towards finding time to pause, breathe and process my new world is now finally paying off.  

As a two year motherhood veteran, I am in awe of my strength and proud of myself for pushing through the storm. I now know that every day I will continue to grow. New challenges will arise and storms will pass through. I have learned to trust my intuition and try very hard to not stress out when new patterns emerge that make me feel uncomfortable.

For it is through times of uncertainty and discomfort that the most growth occurs.

I am also so very thankful that I took the time to document nearly every day of my voyage through photographs and journal entries using an app called Tinybeans. The original plan was to use Tinybeans as a means of sharing updates about our daughter with family from afar. What it has turned into for me is a periscope into a whole world that I can barely remember. The images and stories now are weaved together to create a picture of purpose and growth. I encourage other mamas to try do something tangible to process all of your growth, whether it be journaling, taking photographs, or simply sending an email to yourself or child. Just pause long enough to document. You’ll be amazed at how far you come when you have a chance to reflect.

To all the new and veteran mama’s reading this today. You’ve got this. You always have. When in doubt, go take a walk and breathe in the fresh air. You will weather this storm. If you’re not a mama, you probably know someone who is. I’d love it if you shared this message with them. We all need a village.

xoxo-
Kiera



Quick Tips to Manage Digital Photos and Make Albums Quickly

Kiera Slye

This month, I am tackling some MAJOR projects on my dream list:

  • Photo Album documenting our journey from Boston to the Burbs: (the last 2 years of life documented by our Family Photographer, Karen Kelly.)

  • Our Wedding Album - It’s been 5 years!

  • A gift for Me: Updating and re-printing a photo album documenting my motherhood journey and comparing it with my mom’s journey with me; and

  • Our Family Yearbook from 2018 (and then 2017 - because I haven’t done that either)

I am a busy mama and I have had to come up with some systems to make organizing and tackling these photo projects simple, doable and fun.

Creating my to do list photo projects has never been easier since creating our Private Facebook Community where we provide each other accountability, support and inspiration as we tackle our dream photo projects. We’ve got a crew of great people already getting started as we speak and would LOVE to have you along to help support you through your journey as well! !

This is a hefty blog post with tons of tips and tricks for managing your digital image collections and to help making photo projects easy! Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine and let’s jump in to it!

COMPUTER BASED TIPS:

If you’re a visual learner, I have created a series of quick tutorial videos you can binge watch. These videos will show you what I am talking about below.

Organize Digital Photos in Folders by Year, then Month

This simple step allows you to quickly start identifying your universe of photos for photo projects. Within each month you can add separate folders for key events (i.e. birthdays, milestones or special events) but for simplicity sake a folder for year and then month is good enough to get you already so much more organized! Below is a quick 2 minute video of what I am talking about!

Make a “Best Of” Folder for the Most Favorites for the Year.

Within your Annual Folder, create a separate “Best Of” Folder. In this folder, anytime you take a picture and you instantly know it’s an iconic image that you will remember for all time or it becomes your favorite photo, throw it in here. You can separate this “Best of” Folder by month as well to stay even more organized. Being picky about selecting favorites will help you have fewer photos in the universe to consider at the end of the year.

Schedule 10 Minutes Each Month To Pick and Save Your Favorites

At the end of each month, go through your photos and pick your most favorites from each month to include in the “Best Of” folder. Some months will be more monumental and might have more moments than others (and that’s ok!) But as a general rule, I try to get myself to pick only the top 5-10. And yes… some months I have 50! But it’s still way less than 1,000’s at the end of the year, so I consider that a win!

Use Descriptive Filenames for Saving Photos [On a Computer]

You can customize filenames in many different ways on your computer: At import, export, or by renaming the files. Start file names with the date the photo was taken so that you can easily sort chronologically. Here are a few examples of good descriptive filenames:

  • 2019_01_07_willas_2nd_birthday

  • 2019_05_charleston_vacation

  • 2019_christmas

  • 2019_07_19_willa_tougas_farm

Using descriptive file names will help you search your files at a later date. You can also select to have the filename printed on the back of your photos with some companies simply by checking a box at checkout. Then you have an automatic date stamp and quick description on your printed photos without having to take an additional step.

Get Started with Catching Up for This Year First

Currently, it’s February. It’s a perfect time to have some content to get started with to create a system for making finding your favorite images from this year super simple and quick at the end of the year. If you’re reading this later in the year -- don’t worry! It is never too late to start this process! By setting up a file organizing structure for the current year, you will hone the skill for repeating it to address previous years and will be ready to rock and roll next year!

Taking the time now to create a system will help you get caught up so that each month you can take just 5-10 minutes to select your favorites from the month and move forward. At the end of the year, you will have a folder with just your top favorites and you will be able to make your Annual Photo album in no time at all! Ahh, doesn’t that already fill your lungs with air?

Once you’re caught up, you can go back and start organizing old photos.

Organize Older Photos Starting Chronologically from Last Year

Set realistic goals and tackle just one year at a time starting with the most recent. Use the same system, except it will be quickest and easiest to limit your folder breakdown to just the year (i.e. 2018 photos / 2017 photos etc.) Here is a link to a video I created to show you how I use Adobe Bridge to view, sort, and select my favorite photos each year.

Gather all your photos from your hard drives, cloud, or desktop and put them all in one place in a new folder that you have created for that year. Once you are certain they are all in that folder, I recommend creating a backup of this annual folder (on either an external hard drive or another cloud based service).  This is my favorite go to brand for external hard drives. I get a new one each year for my photo storage and backup.

You should also consider loading your annual folder to Google Photos or Dropbox or some other cloud based service like Amazon Cloud. Check into the paid subscriptions to allow for more storage space and higher resolution backup options. Backing up to multiple sources helps ensure your images are safe from disaster. I recommend having at least 1 full backup of your digital files before you start deleting and moving too many things around.

Once your images are backed up, create a “Best Of” folder on your hard drive. I suggest downloading Adobe Bridge - it is a software that is offered for free through Adobe Creative Cloud and is a great tool to use for quickly viewing, selecting and updating file info (including renaming files) of your favorite images from a bulk collection. Above is a link to a video I have created that shows my quick and easy method for selecting favorites, copying them to my hard drive, and bulk renaming files to ensure that they appear chronologically. This makes making an album super easy later.

ON A SMARTPHONE

Organizing Phone Photos:

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got 10x more cell phone photos than fancy camera photos. I bet most of your favorites images are even taken on your phone! Here are some helpful tips for organizing and backing up your smartphone photos and videos.

Cloud based backup

If you’re not already signed up for a cloud based service like Google Photos, Dropbox or Amazon Cloud, I highly suggest signing up for one (or all of these) services to help back up, store and organize your photos. These services each work on your computer and also have an app that you can download to use on your phone. There are paid upgrades you can purchase for more storage and higher resolution backup offerings that I would also highly recommend. If you have thousands of photos, this backup could take several days, so be patient as it loads in the background. Also make sure you’re logged into your wifi to help save cellular data!

Another super cool service to look into is called IFTT - it is a free platform that helps you connect and link your apps and devices for creative backup strategies. I use it to link my Instagram and Facebook posts to automatically be backed up to Dropbox. You can also select certain hashtags to follow that can be automatically backed up to Dropbox as well. I used this service to follow my wedding hashtag so all of my friends’ posts ended up in one place and I was sure to see them! There are tons more options available so when you have time to jump down that fun rabbit hole, check it out!

Utilize the “favorites” button to select your favorite photos each day (and delete the rest!)

On the iphone, you can select (“heart”) your favorite images. On an android phone or in google photos, you use the “star” button. When you add a heart or a star to the image, that image is automatically flagged and stored in a “favorites” default album on your phone. You can find this by clicking on the album view within your photos app.

When you view your camera roll in a grid view, you will see the heart or star symbol on your favorite photos. I use this as a guide for bulk deleting excess images that are my outtakes and save photo storage room on my phone. You can do so by clicking the select button, then selecting all of the images and movies that don’t have the heart symbol and then click the trash can to delete them.

In an ideal world, I do this daily at night after my daughter goes to bed and I inevitably end up going through the photos from the day to see her sweet face. It’s a great exercise to do at a minimum weekly though so that you don’t get too backed up.  

Create Best Of Album

On your phone in the camera uploads app, and in each of these cloud based services, you can create albums for your photos. Your photos will automatically be stored chronologically on your phone.

You can create albums to help organize your photos by event or by year. I suggest creating a “Best Of” folder on your phone and on the cloud based service for your all time favorite photos from the year for printing in photobooks.. Set it up by year (i.e. 2019 Best of) and put only your absolute most favorites in this folder.

Search photos

Your camera app, Google Photos and I believe Amazon Cloud all have built in face recognition and geolocation tagging and search functions now. You can click on a person’s face and create a name for that person. Then, later, you can type that person’s name in and search photos of only that person. I have tested out this search function using google photos and found that you can even find photos of things if you describe them! It was creepy for sure, but also super helpful! When you search photos, you can then create new albums for certain events or of certain people so that your photos are organized even further.


Print Photos Using Apps
Many printing companies have apps that will allow you to create photo books using your phone photos. They can also access your google photos, dropbox and often Amazon Cloud accounts to pull images. If you have created albums on your phone, you can elect to create books from just those albums.

I made a google photo book of my parents with my daughter for Christmas in less than 15 minutes just by simply using the Google Photos app and selecting the folder of images I created from a search of photos with my mom and stepdad in them. The book was super easy to make and cost $30!  I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to print and share your favorite cell phone photos.

Use Chatbooks for super cute decent quality for low cost photo books using cell phone shots. You can subscribe and set up for it to create photo books every 60 photos from a folder on your phone or google photos. I set mine up using my favorites folder on my phone.

MAKING THE ALBUM

There are countless options for making an album online. BEFORE YOU GET OVERWHELMED, if you haven’t signed up for my FREE 3 day Make a Photo Project Challenge yet, I suggest you start here. In the challenge I walk you through this process step by step with simple manageable tasks you can do in under an hour each day.

I suggest spending just 30 minutes going through your options for album companies, picking one and sticking with it. Import your “best of” folder and start making your album. Your images should now be ordered chronologically and all of your favorites should already be selected. So the making of the album shouldn’t take you long. You’ll simply be dragging and dropping your favorite images into the template of your choice and then within a few minutes (or hours if you’re picky) your project will be complete!

This has been one humungous blog post and I know that there’s a ton to digest. I am always happy to answer questions in the comments or can be reached by email at frameoflifeproject@gmail.com. Better yet, let’s connect on Instagram or Facebook!

Creative Monthly Milestone Photography Tips

Kiera Slye

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I’m a mama who struggled to find easy and unique ways to document my pregnancy and daughter’s growth. Time simply flew by and taking cute photos of my little one was way harder than I imagined — and I am a photographer!
— Kiera 2019
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Does this sound familiar?

  • You’re expecting

    or

  • You recently welcomed a new little one into the world.

    • Your heart is pumping full of love.

    • You’re already nostalgic to hit pause and soak in all the things.  

    • You want to take creative photos to document and remember this fleeting time.

    • You’re overwhelmed by the options and you just want your pics to look cute.

I feel ya!

I’m a mama to a now 2 year old daughter (yes T.W.O! I can’t even believe it!) Time seemed to evaporate before my very eyes.  I spent countless hours late at night googling ways to pause time and to appreciate the changes that were taking place. I struggled to find easy ways to document my motherhood journey as well as appreciate all of the developments my daughter was going through. Plus, taking cute photos of my little one was way harder than I imagined-- and I’m a photographer!


My hours of research, professional experience and shooting by trial and error have resulted in simple takeaway lessons that I am happy to share with you today! This blog post will go into more detail, but I’ve created a FREE PDF Checklist you can use that outlines my 5 Tips For Creative Monthly Milestone Pics. Hopefully this helps you to avoid the stress and late night googling and sends you happily on your way to documenting your life milestones in an easy and fun way!

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1- Plan for fun

This is key! Taking these photos should be fun for you and if they’re not, don’t burden yourself with doing them! Perfection doesn’t exist in this world and there is no sense in trying to capture it in your monthly milestone photos! Some of my most favorite pictures came from my outtakes.

Keep your system simple and concentrate on celebrating the growth of your child.  Add some fun to your photos by incorporating your cravings from that month if you’re pregnant or your child’s favorite toy.

Take note of milestones that are happening. Create a “milestones” note on your phone, in a journal, or better yet send an email to your baby’s own email address and to the grandparents. Note new experiences and developments you have noticed each month.

  • Has your child learned to smile?

  • Did she figure out how to use her hands?

  • What makes him laugh?  

  • What are your favorite books to read together?

  • Does baby have a favorite song?

  • How is sleep going in your home these days?

  • Also take note of the specifics:

    • how much does baby weigh this month?

    • How many new teeth did they get?

    • What makes this month special.

Get creative and get specific. It’s amazing to look back on the changes that happen each month, especially when you feel like you’re living in Groundhog day over and over again during those first few months.

Share your photos with your friends and family. I love using Tinybeans- as a means of oversharing daily photos and updates about our family in a private gallery that doesn’t get blasted all over social media. Using my referral link will give you a free month of premium access if you decide to check it out. You (and your family) won’t be disappointed! You can also create free photo streams to share on your iPhone or share albums across different phone platforms using the Google Photos app.

If you’re sharing on Instagram -- I wanna see! Tag @frameoflifeproject or use the hashtags: #myframeoflife and #frameoflifeproject so I can celebrate your milestones with you!

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At the end of the year, print out your photos and string them together to hang on the wall for your child’s birthday. When you’re done - you can also add these photos to that baby book you’re dreaming of making! Better yet, create an annual family calendar to give as gifts over the holidays - it’s always a surefire hit with the grandparents!

2- Keep it Light

Use natural light when possible. It makes for more visually appealing photographs. You will have more accurate color cast and your subjects will appear more comfortable and natural. Avoid Direct flash or overhead lighting, this can create unflattering shadows, color casts, and inconsistencies between photographs over time.

You can edit your photos on your phone using the built in photos app or by downloading an editing software app like VSCO to change exposure and contrast settings to help lighten and brighten your images.

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3- Repeat Time, Place & Process

Choose a consistent time, place and process to simplify taking your pictures.

Do your best to shoot during daylight hours when it is the brightest in the space that you choose to use as your setup.

Search for a location in your home that is near a window where there is ample natural light. Position your setup a few feet away from the window and work on moving the angles to see which light flatters the subject most -- usually having the window to the side of the subject is best to avoid unflattering shadows.

Taking photos from above the subject helps eliminate distracting backgrounds. Using a plain wall as a backdrop is also a great simple alternative.

Keeping the scene as consistent as you can will help the focus be on the growth taking place and not changes in scenery.

Most importantly, pick a time when your little one is most likely to cooperate. This is typically after feeding or right after waking up when they are most content. You know your kiddo best, so just go with whatever works best for you (and accept that timing will probably fluctuate each month!)

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4- Burst Mode / Fast Shutter Speed

These little humans (and in my case pups too) move quickly and don’t usually like to sit still and pose for pictures as much as one would hope! The key to capturing their silly and cute faces is to utilize a fast shutter speed and to shoot in burst mode if you can.

On your cell phone, you can simply hold down the shutter button and take a “burst” of photos at one time. Then when you review the photo you can select which image within the burst you like the best and delete the rest. It is the secret to capturing the best shots!

If you are using a “big camera” i.e. a DSLR to photograph your child, choose a setting that will allow for a faster shutter speed (something over 1/500th). You can also change your shooting settings to allow for high speed shooting where you can take several photographs in rapid fire succession just by holding down the shutter button. Check your camera’s manual for High Speed Shooting settings or for more information on burst mode.

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5- Be flexible

I found that photographing my own daughter was incredibly challenging. Despite my best efforts to pre-plan our shoot, she’d always get hungry when I was close by taking pictures. The old wives tale is true that babies are able to smell their mothers when they are near. Without fail every time I picked up the camera to photograph my daughter, she’d get hungry again (even if I had just finished feeding her!) Being flexible and having a clear plan of action helped make taking these pictures quick and easy.

Success came when I changed up my shooting plan. I originally had planned to photograph my daughter on a blanket with a her favorite stuffed animal each month. I learned that she quickly outgrew my shooting space, wanted to roll, sit, eat the stuffed animal, and eventually get up run away (all before her first birthday.) Shooting multiple variations of a milestone pic for the first few months helped me have options to pick from in the end and kept me entertained.

I decided to get help with my monthly photos by adding my husband into the mix. I had taken weekly self portraits of my body while pregnant, and I thought it would be super cute to watch my husband grow as a daddy while simultaneously documenting our daughter’s growth and personality development. This plan had the additional benefit of giving me an extra set of hands to baby wrangle and coax smiles out of our little wiggly one.

The downside to this plan was that my husband was traveling a ton for work during this time and often we wouldn’t be together on the exact milestone dates. I took this as an opportunity to get creative and learn to be more flexible and less perfect.

Some months, I took the monthly photo using people who were visiting and helping me care for the baby (like my friends or mom). I would also take the photos in different locations, but pick a plain wall as a backdrop if we were out of town.

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I eventually learned to use setting as a cool time and date stamp for my annual photos as my daughter got older and more mobile. In the winter, I photographed her playing in the snow. In the summer, running through a sprinkler for the first time and playing on the beach. In the fall, she jumped in her first huge pile of leaves. If I was a few days late or even a week or two off, that was ok!

Life is unpredictable sometimes.

  • Kids get sick;

  • you forget;

  • you’re traveling;

  • the weather is gross;

  • you don’t feel like taking pics;

  • the house is a disaster.

Give yourself grace and permission to be flexible in your journey towards documenting the beautiful gift that is your life.

Showing up and taking note to be present in creating memories of your precious life is the true gift of this project. Enjoy your time together and have FUN! I hope this post creates a safe space for you to imagine the possibilities and get creative.

I’d love to see what you capture! Stay connected by liking @frameoflifeproject on Instagram. Got something out of this? Share the Frame of Life Project with your friends, comment below, or shoot me an email with your favorite takeaway!

Happy memory keeping friends!

xoxo-

Kiera






Documenting Holiday Memories

Kiera Slye

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...there are little nuggets of magic and joy all around you. Sometimes, you might not feel them right away, but time has a magical way of helping your mind see through some of the pain and find the light in hindsight.
— Kiera Liu 2018

Is there one Christmas that sticks out in your mind where all the magic just came together and it is one that you will always remember? Do you have certain family traditions that you do every year for the Holidays that you never want to forget? Or, are you in a period of growth and change and the Holidays just suck and you wish they weren’t happening right now? If so -- I hear you and I get you. I’ve got some insight I want to share.

One photo can spark a handfuls of memories. This photo is one of those for me. This is an image from the first Christmas I can truly remember. Christmas 1989. It was the year I received the gift I had wanted most from Santa and is one that I still have to this very day! My light up sparkly princess doll! This wasn’t just a battery operated doll with plastic glowing lights, it was a symbol of light and a beacon of hope for the future.

Christmas 1989 Rochester, New York

Christmas 1989 Rochester, New York

At 5 years old, I was in the middle of a transitioning through the turmoil of having my nuclear family break up. My mom and my biological father divorced the year prior. It wasn’t an easy or fun time for our family, but we were doing the best we could to find ways to be silly and find joy in our new life.

I remember that my mom was trying desperately hard to make Christmas magic for us again. As a 5 year old, I asked all the questions one would expect:

We had just moved so “How would Santa find our new house?”

We didn’t have a fireplace so “How would Santa get into our new house?”

“Was Santa really watching all the time-- because that’s kinda creepy?”

“Will he even hear my wishes for the magical light up princess doll?”

All of these questions were answered when I woke up Christmas morning hugging my magical Sparkly Princess Doll. Santa had found our new apartment and had come down the paper chimney that my mom had hand drawn on the wall with wrapping paper. It was a Christmas Miracle and I am so glad my mom documented this moment for me to be able to share with you almost 30 years later!

With my Nonnie proudly showing off my Sparkly Princess Doll - Christmas 1989.

With my Nonnie proudly showing off my Sparkly Princess Doll - Christmas 1989.

One key thing I have learned through photographing through all of the good and hard times in my life is that there are little nuggets of magic and joy all around you. Sometimes, you might not feel them right away, but time has a magical way of helping your mind see through some of the pain and find the light in hindsight.

I am sharing this story with you in hopes that whatever you are going through this holiday season, you can take a second to sit down and document it.

Use your cell phone or Camera and photograph what your home looks like right now on the surface level.

Did you decorate your home this year?

Are you traveling to see family or friends?

Are there special traditions you do every year that you don’t want to forget?

Is there a story about your year this year that you want to be able to share with your future generations?

Consider taking short video clips of the sounds on Christmas morning or the sound of clinking forks on plates at Christmas Eve Dinner. Those sounds will fill your mind with memories years later.

Take one simple step and document your life NOW.

If you’re up for it- go a step further and hand write yourself a letter about right now or email yourself about what life is like right now. Print out that photograph and that email and put them in an envelope together to save for the future. Over this next year, I’ll share more ways you can work on your Time Capsule and ways for you to access your memories for years to come!

Merry Christmas and Happiest of Holidays to you all!


xoxo-
Kiera


P.S. I know you’re dying to see what Princess Sparkly Pants looks like today!

She was stored for 30 years and literally fell apart the second my toddler tried to touch her! Poor Sparkly Princess! Luckily, my father in law was here to help put her back together! I just don’t think she’ll be sparkling any time soon!

The Story Behind My Journey as a Photographer

Kiera Slye

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The detective in me has always been drawn to photographs and evidence of the past. I have been fascinated with photographs and stories behind images since I can remember. And that goes WAY back -- I remember life through images. Whether hand drawn illustrations in storybooks, photographed in print or digitally -- or even just a mental capture in my mind, all of my memories are centered around an image.  


I am the “documentarian” in my family. I would take disposable cameras with me everywhere and would capture snapshots of things I loved in life before I knew that being a photographer was even an option for a career.


I got my first “real”  film camera as a gift when I started taking photography classes in high school. I found great joy in using my camera to manually focus and frame an image of the world I saw. I was fascinated that you could play with light and focal length and shutter speed to stop time and tell a story. I was even more blown away by the quiet darkness of a darkroom and the thrill of watching the combination of time, light and chemicals expose the images that I captured. Everything was so much more deliberate back then and you had to wait for the moments to unveil themselves again after your initial capture.  


Pre-digital era and even dare I say Photoshop - I would spend hundreds of hours in a darkroom developing my images and singling out just a handful of particularly favorite moments. For my 17th birthday, I was given the greatest gift by my mom -- a darkroom in my basement.  Hand processing the film and images I captured gave me time to sit with the images and the stories and emotions I felt around each of them. It was such a peaceful and meaningful way for me to give a nod to time. I was hooked.


I was an average student in high school with no formal extracurricular activities other than working, hanging with my boyfriend, and occasionally taking pictures of pretty things. Traditional four year college wasn’t in the plans for me due to my grades, finances, and unwillingness to flee far from the nest.


I decided to attend a local community college while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. It was there that I learned that my determination and hard work could set me up to accomplish any goal I set my mind to. I continued to take photography classes, worked several jobs at a time and went to school full time. I found a passion for helping people through my internships at the District Attorney’s office and still had a burning passion for documenting life through my photography. At the end of my two years in community college, I decided that I wanted to be a prosecutor AND a photographer.


My high GPA during my first two years of college and simple but decent photography portfolio set me up to get into my dream school / photography program at one of the nation’s top photography schools, Rochester Institute of Technology. I was one of only 9 students to be admitted into the accelerated Advertising Photography program that year. In this program, I spent 60 hours a week in class and in the darkroom. Over the summer I completed a full year of work within 3 months time!  It was my hope that by majoring in something unique, I would be an ideal candidate for law school.


What happened instead was my ego and passion for pretty pictures was challenged through harsh critique and below average grades. I was told that I lacked life experience and the chutzpah that was needed to take my images to the next level. Living in my parents basement, commuting to school and living in a little bubble of life was holding me back. My writing skills were also not developing.


Photography school taught me how to handle intense deadlines, subjective critique, and determination to stand my ground to defend my art (and heart). I firmly believed that the world would appreciate my pretty pictures one day and I had a hard time accepting the push to conform to producing more “arty” (read more provocative self portraits and abstract images.)


My line with photo school was drawn when I made the “extra effort” (:: cough :: cough::  conformed ) to instigate getting an A on an assignment. My grades hadn’t been failing because of technical application, but were flawed due to subject matter. I was determined to get an A, so for the final self portrait photo assignment I went big. I created a storyline where I would find my brother and mom killed in a drunk driving accident. It was quite possibly the worst scenario I could imagine, so I figured the teachers would love it.


I went to our local fire station (where my boyfriend at the time had volunteered) and staged a horrific car accident. I splattered ketchup all over my mom and brother, laid them on the ground, and covered them under a yellow tarp. I captured a series of 5-10 images for the story and voila — Instant A. I was done. I couldn’t believe I had been pushed to this extreme and it worked. I didn’t want whatever art school was selling me. I needed to focus on getting into law school.


I transferred to the local state college and began the next major transformation of my life — growing my life experience. Within the first year, I had gotten to fly out of the country and spent 10 days in Europe with classmates traveling and pretending to be members of the EU for a European Union Simulation club. I made life long friends on this trip and learned that there was a world far outside the confines of my parents basement.


My writing skills improved, as did my determination to become a budding young attorney. I applied to all of the local law schools and was denied or waitlisted to them all. I took a shot in the dark and applied to the last law school still accepting applications — a tiny private law school in New Hampshire. I got in and began my next big transformation.


Upon  graduation, I moved out of my parents basement (finally)  and on to law school in New Hampshire. I was still in a small town, but started meeting people from all over the world, from different backgrounds and life experiences. I suffered the heartbreak of breaking up with my high school sweetheart and learned that there was MUCH more to life outside of where I grew up.


I traveled abroad for my first summer in law school and spent that summer studying e-commerce law in Ireland. I also started building a new relationship over Skype dates with this incredible man from NJ (who would eventually become my husband.) I had met him a few months before at a law school party. He started filling my heart back up with joy and I started taking photographs of my adventures throughout Ireland so that I could share what I saw with him. There were tons of rainbows, bright green pastures, and many pretty pictures shared. From that point on, I started documenting my journey throughout the remainder of  law school with photographs and short video clips of what I was experiencing.


Graduation from law school coincided with the crash of the legal market. My big dreams of becoming a prosecutor were not coming true. Instead, I accepted a job as a criminal defense attorney, making about as much money as I did delivering pizzas in college, but riddled with an incredible amount of debt from law school. Yet still, I was determined to help people and make the world a brighter place. I firmly believe that everyone deserves to be treated fairly. I spent the next 2 years giving my all to defending the rights of indigent people accused of crimes. I quickly burnt out when I realized that despite my best efforts, my positive attitude and faith in humanity wasn’t going to be enough to reform the entire justice system.


When my light began to fade, that’s when that incredible man I had fallen in love with during law school stepped in. He encouraged me to remember what brought me joy and reminded me of the talent that I had that was being suppressed. With an incredible leap of faith (and support from my future husband), I decided to “retire” from my career as an attorney and jump feet first into the world of photography.


I started Kiera Slye Photography in 2011 and spent a few months being bold and taking any photography opportunity I could get. Within the first two months, I had photographed Betsy Johnson with her private vintage collection of clothing, an American Idol finalist, and a gaggle of newborn babies and pets. I watched people light up when they viewed my portraits and pictures of pretty things. I felt alive again.


My photography style has developed into a candid and documentary based approach — with a focus of capturing images that embrace life and the little stories that happen within it. I am fascinated with storytelling and helping people catalog and document the chapters of their unique lives.


Within two years of marrying my law school sweetheart, my mother in law and sister in law passed away unexpectedly. I was also pregnant and expecting our first child. Life took some pretty crazy huge turns for us in a very short period of time. My photography was one of the main ways I was able to process some of the grief, joys and unexpected growing pains that I experienced during that time. I learned to embrace the imperfections of life and to celebrate the everyday moments that occur.


Realizing how precious and unpredictable life can be has been the impetus for me creating the Frame of Life Project. Since my daughter was born in 2016, I have spent every spare moment exploring ways to document and preserve the memories of our days together. My relationship with my family has been strengthened as I share stories of what I go through and learn from my parents and grandparents that what I am experiencing isn’t entirely new. They have had similar experiences in life.

The birth of my daughter has given me the gift of seeing the world through a new lens. I am more conscious now of my past and how the present day may impact her future. I feel like I notice the speed of life and how fleeting memories can be when I don’t take time to pause, feel and reflect upon the moments. I am working every day to be more aware of the here and now and to be grateful and present in the moments.


I am captivated by learning new ways to share life lessons, family history,  inspiration and dreams for the future. Through sharing my stories and desires to document life, I have realized that there is an entire community of like minded memory keepers and life lovers out there that also find the same joy as I do in preserving and creating a living legacy of their lives.

It is my hope that this Project helps people become more present, grateful, and inspired to make memories, share stories, and connect with life on a greater level.








The Story Behind the Frame of Life Project

Kiera Slye

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I found this contact sheet a few years ago when going through my Portfolio from my photo school days at RIT. The images on it are from a Self Portrait Assignment where I had to photograph a "Day in the Life of Kiera"(circa 2004.)

Honestly, the images are pretty silly and not exactly what I did everyday, but they are so powerful in bringing up so many memories of my childhood. I don't have the negatives from this shoot anymore and never printed any of the images. 

There is only this one contact sheet with a few dozen snippets of what my old life used to look like. These simple images bring up so many more in my mind: 

// The smell of arm and hammer pet odor reducing powder -- our vacuum would puff smoke from this every time we vacuumed the rugs. 

// The sound of one of our 3 cats' claws pulling on the furniture. 

// The creek of the front door when it swung open. 

// The mailbox, how I never could see in but only could reach over. How it sometimes was about to fall off the wall. 

// The hole under the porch where my cat would hide when he wanted to get attention. He’d pretend to run away for weeks at a time. 

// The wood with misaligned nail holes tacked to the tree in the front of the house between our property and the neighbors forming stairs to climb up into the strong limbs. How high and free it felt to climb up that tree. The view of my bedroom window from the tree. 

// The texture on my bedroom wall from the suede paint my mom hand painted. 

The way the closet door would never would shut because I had shoved too many clothes in it. 

// The feeling of safety and home that I got every time I stepped inside. Even though I was terrified of the basement and ‘ghosts” that seemed to haunt the place. I can remember sleeping on the floor by the threshold of the door while my brother did the same so that we could see each other and not be scared.

All of these images flare back just by looking at this contact sheet. Simple images that tell a much bigger and fuller story. But who is going to know any of this unless I type it out and share it. It doesn’t have to be online socially, but can be typed or handwritten down on the back of the image and saved with other images to survive on for years to come. I want to encourage others to do exercises like this and teach them how to create an organized space and  simple plan for doing so. 

Have you ever come across old photos from your family and had no idea who the images were of or what was going on? Imagine being able to leave your legacy behind full of stories and images to help set the scene. Times change quickly and memories fade. You could not be here tomorrow and those memories would just evaporate forever unless you do something about it. Instead of looking back on how to catch up, focus on starting here and now.

This program will help you get set going forward and once you catch up you can go back and work on organizing the rest. We’ll start small and I promise you’ll notice amazing results. 

 

What you can expect moving forward:

// Community

// Newsletter with Inspirational Content

// Tutorials

// Real Stories

// Workshops

// Community

// Product Raves and Reviews