We all take pictures – of the kids, of landscapes, holidays, our meals and of course good old selfies! We live in a time where taking pictures and sharing them is a huge aspect of our everyday lives and it is wonderful to be able to share this part of life with others. Before getting into blogging however and calling myself “a blogger”, Photography was something I knew very little about. I am not particularly arty or creative (but do know what style I like) and I basically had a camera on my phone and would use it to snap a shot of my kids or our day, and then upload it to a Facebook album – I didn’t even have instagram!!

Nowadays though I have evolved, and like with all new things, with blogging has come new knowledge and skills. I haven’t only learnt about web design and basic SEO, I have also learnt more about photography too! And, whilst I haven’t yet committed to buying a fancy underwater camera for all of our beach and holiday snaps (or for when we go caving), I have grown in my ability to produce more beautiful and thoughtful images. So much so that this Summer I won “Best in the show” at our village show for my photography!

I am by no means an expert in photography and have never taken any courses either, but it is something I love and am forever learning. So here are a few very basic things (in no particular order) that I now consider when capturing things (and editing them), that take me away from generally just “taking pictures”, and into the realm of Photography!

Lighting

Lighting is something that I constantly consider when capturing moments and things, as it is so influential to how good the image looks. I try to make the lighting intentional to ensure that the object of the image is in the most light, and yet try to avoid the glare and awkward shadows of direct sunlight!

Pictures taken in daylight obviously look way better than ones inside or with a flash, and when facing the light (or having the light angled properly) will always give a much crisper look (avoiding a grainy or shadowy image). I generally prefer photo’s that have darker backgrounds but are light facing (if that makes any sense? like I say I am not a pro!).

Candid or not?

I had no idea what the word “Candid” even meant until a couple of years ago! If you are as clueless as me (which I am assuming you are not) it is photograph that is captured without creating a posed effect.

4 years ago – when I started out blogging, my pictures were often the whole “smile for the camera and say cheese” scenario. Whilst there are still times and moments in our adventures that merit for a selfie or posed image, I try where I can to capture the moments in the moment. I try to capture the candid moments because they create so much more feeling behind the image.

Levels & Angles

Before becoming a blogger I never really considered the angle at which I was taking my pictures. This of course meant that there was no real look or feel to any of my images! Nowadays however it is something I almost always consider and can often be seen on days out crouching down, kneeling on the ground or running ahead to get the perfect shot. I will stand on top of things or move around my object, so as to capture it at an angle at creates the look I imagine!

Editing

Yes you’ve guessed it – aside from a black and white or sepia overlay that came with the camera phone I NEVER edited a picture before sharing it. To me this is the point in photography that can take a mediocre image and make it amazing and whatever you capture your images with, using an editing app or programme can enhance them amazingly well – Its the process by which you can really set your photography style and put your stamp on it. I enjoy playing around and making the best of all of my images!

For people using camera phones then Apps such as lightroom and snapseed are amazing for tonnes of filters and editing tools, and I would recommend watching youtube videos, or pinning ideas too for inspiration (something I do regularly). I personally however swear by VSCO cam. It is my most loved and used app on my phone and I adore the array of free and cheap filters that are on there. They have a really arty feel to them and many create great moods to the image. I also love all of the examples of VSCO on pinterest – it is certainly the key to taking my pictures from being good, to looking more arty and “me”!

I also prefer to lower the exposure and contrast on my images, sharpen them and play around with the temperature and tints – the combination of which give many of my images the same feel/mood (useful for a nice instagram feed).

As I say, at present I do not own a camera and are not an expert here! My images are all captured on my Samsung Galaxy phone camera, which has great settings and a high megapixel too, but isn’t a fancy camera. I enjoy playing around with it and most of the images I produce these days. But I also look forward to a day when I am more confident and knowledgeable with photography generally and can own a decent camera to practise with!

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4 years ago when I started blogging I had no idea what SEO was, let alone seeing it as something important to do for every post I wrote. I simply wrote it and shared it! I definitely never imagined back then that a few years down the line I would actually be writing a post on it! But, here we are – we live and learn. And anyone who has a website and shares content online needs to know the basics of SEO if you want your site to perform well and to gain traffic from search engines!

So, in order to assist any newbie bloggers out there, or those who want to get into blogging, or simply bloggers and website owners that want their site to perform better, here are the basics I do on every one of my blog posts to ensure it has good, or even excellent SEO! Here are the basics to SEO in collaboration with https://www.click.co.uk/services/paid-search-ppc/ newest campaign – #SEOYourBlog!

What is SEO and why is it important?

SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and it is very important if you want your blog content to rate well on search engines. It refers to the methods used (which I will explain) to increase a sites position on search engines!

People trust search engines and the sites you see at the top of the pages, that contain the key words you have searched for, are the ones most likely to get clicked on, and therefore the ones most likely to have increased traffic. Therefore having good SEO practice on your blog or website, means that you will appear in a better position on a search engine and consequently are more likely to have extra traffic to your blog.

Here’s how to do that…

Word Count

First and foremost is word count. As I am someone who always has a lot to say, this is never an issue for me! But also too many words can be an issue for Google when directing to a landing page with a lot of content!

As a minimum I would say 300+ when creating content, but I always try to stick between 500 to 1500! Some of my posts have been lengthy, but content is often less about how much or little there is, and more so focusing on the core topic and key words within what you are writing.

Key Words 

Once your post is written/as you are writing it, think about the key words of it. If it is about “Family Holiday’s” or “Marriage” do these words appear firstly in the title? In the Snippet review for search engines? The first paragraph? And then periodically elsewhere in the the post?

If the answer is “YES” to theses then the likelihood is that your post is on track to having good SEO!

Alt Text on Images

The Alt Text on images is there first and foremost to improve web accessibility (Visually impaired people using screen readers wont pick up on images, but can pic up on Alt Text to understand what the image is of). I am really rubbish at this part of content creation, but if done well, it will not only help your readers, but will also improve your blog or websites SEO.

When you a apply Alt text to your images, it creates an HTML attribute for it, which means it is a text alternative for search engines to find. This will positively impact your search engine performance.

Internal Linking 

In almost all of my posts I will find key words or “Anchor words” and insert a link to a similar blog post(s) relating to that phrase or word. The reason I do this is because internal linking (or hyperlinking) pointing to other web pages are important for creating a strong internal structure to your blog/website!

Getting links from other sites or linking to other sites, again increases SEO performance too as it helps your blog perform better.

Tagging 

Finally, before publishing a post, I always add Tags to it. Tagging it, again is about focusing on the key words within the content and focusing on the topic of that post.

Here are the tag examples I am using for this one:

  • SEO
  • Blogging
  • Blog
  • Traffic
  • Tagging
  • Key Words
  • Internal Linking
  • ALT Text

Each tag is a key word about what I have written about within that post and they make the post indexable and therefore rankable on a search engine.

Whilst all of this may sound quite baffling to you, stick with it! – #SEOYour blog and I assure you that it will get easier. It is now just habit for me and second nature. The majority of my posts SEO comes out as good or excellent!

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Last week I decided to have a social media fast! Aside from Facebook messenger to communicate with the youth I work with at church (and Nath at work), I abstained from Twitter, Blogging, Instagram and Facebook for a full week – It felt mint! Initially this was hard, but after realising how often I go on it for the sake of it, and after realising how much thought I gave to others lives as a result, I suddenly became more refreshed and free! I felt grateful for the time I had to live my life in the moment without feeling the obligation to share every moment.

During all of this I began to reflect on how I could have a better balance in my life and what changes I could make to ensure the therapy I was doing would have optimum effect in my life and healing from the trauma of loss. I wondered how I could find more peace and how I could break the cycle of reliving the trauma so much. I love social media, photography and blogging and see a lot of goodness in it, but I also became aware of things I could change to remove triggers and toxic experiences online.

The answer that came to me (and that felt right) was to stop blogging about my loss.

A scripture I have always loved since Poppy entered our lives is the one in Ecclesiastes 3 – it begins with “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven“.. it goes on to read…”A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”. 

I love it…And I love how all things have a purpose, but sometimes only for a season. I love how birth and death are described as being moments that come at the right time, and whilst this is hard sometimes, there is purpose beyond what we understand at why these seasons come when they do! I really love that there are seasons in life that are filled with sadness and mourning and that that’s okay – because there will be other seasons of laughter and joy.

For the last 4 years I have been in a season of life that has been incredibly hard and painful. I felt inspired at the start of it to blog – write it out and share what was going on. It was cathartic and helped me write the words I could not speak. It helped others too, and connected me to people that got it. I found angels all over the world that could have those difficult conversations and they helped me through. I found and loved that the focus of living a “hearty life” and looking for “hearty moments” in the days and weeks that only felt bleak, helped me massively to survive and stay afloat – they helped me to see the hand of God in each day. And, even though I had no idea (and still don’t) as to why he needed my child home so soon blogging has helped me navigate through it.

But now I feel I have come to the end of the line. I feel like that season and chapter of my life has been written and I am entering a new season – one where I don’t need to write about my loss any more. One where mourning will be lessened and her memory and place will be treasured within our family. A season where the things I have learnt from losing her, will be used to bless people through my work and maybe even a book one day!! But her legacy and influence, I am seeing now, lives through us and how we choose to remember her. Her story is told in each sacred moment we have, and each memory and story the kids share with her name in it. We will continue to talk of her, remember and think of her, and we will continue to celebrate her birthday each year and send her balloons to heaven. We will hang a special decoration and keep the traditions we have forged to include her in our family moments and celebrations.

But now, as I look to heal from PTSD and as I hope to gain all I can from my therapy, it feels right to no longer write of the grief, the mourning and the imagery of losing a baby and having a stillbirth. It feels right to share of the things that bring me joy and create and build memories of cheer. As a result I have removed the “Baby loss” section from my header menu (it can still be found in “blog categories” in the sidebar) and from now my blog will be purely family and lifestyle – our adventures and travels, my thrifty loves and passions and my semi-cool modest style!

I love blogging and wouldn’t want to get rid of something that means so much and tells our story/journey, but now I want my writing to be focussed on something else. I want it to be fun and chilled and reflect my loves and passions.

I am moving forward from the person that needed to write and let it out – not forgetting but remembering – in a way that is more healthy and gentle on my mind. And in that “The Hearty Life” takes on new meaning – The Hearty Life is wholesome, Jovial and filled with vigour, cheer and devotion. I look and I think “Oh what a life to live and love! Oh what a life we embrace and seek for daily”!

It is that which now becomes our story and blogs! A new season…a new road…a new chapter to write!

Please note I am always happy to talk to and listen to anyone who has experienced baby loss at any stage – just drop me an email or message in social media. I will always talk to you and I will always acknowledge and count your baby, just as I do and will do with Poppy in our family. I will continue to talk of her periodically I am sure (it’s only natural). But blogging about it all has come to an end and this is simply a step to healing and gaining balance as I enter a different chapter of my life! 

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I have felt for a while that I probably need a desk to work from. My blogging jobs are becoming more and more frequent and most days I feel flustered when I have to keep moving from room to room to find a suitable work space. I have commented to Nathan on several occasions recently that what I really need right now is an area to call my own, with space where I can lay out my planner and if needed leave my laptop mid writing. It would also be great to sew on too!

I recognise that it’s impossible to have my own room for all of this, and so the idea is that we find a discreet place in another room to create a space for working and as this years main interiors goal is to do the lounge, we are thinking of finding one that can nicely slot in to the design of that! The last thing I want is an eyesore of a desk taking focus off what the functionality of that room is.

There are 3 I have my eye on that are all really affordable and that I found via Lionshome – a great website where you can search for many furniture items and accessories from various stores all in one place. I loved looking on it because I could easily compare prices from competitors and therefore know I am getting something I love for a reasonable price. Both very important things to me and discovering this site saved me a lot of time too.

So the ones I am considering right now are…

First – the cheapest one at £65.99 (sale price) from VidaXL is this lovely contemporary grey one. I love it because its really simple and stylish and will totally do the job! Its very different to other furniture we have and would be a nice statement piece in our tropical themed lounge! When not in use for work, my stuff can be stored in the 2 little compartments, and it can be used to display pictures and plants on! This one really does appeal to me and at the moment is my fave.

Secondly – This Bel Etage desk from Wayfair at £123.99. I like because its white, simple and would go with other furniture we already have. It’s a rather safe option as isn’t too different and the drawers look useful. It looks as though it wouldn’t take up a huge amount of space either so therefore would blend into the room nicely.

Finally – The more expensive of the 3 and yet one that would be super practical being in the lounge too. I like it for all of the extra storage it would bring to the room, and the fact that it is white, means it will fit in most places. It’s £230.99 again from Wayfair, but my only reservation is that perhaps it will look too overpowering and therefore become a bit of an eye sore to me!

 

I am looking forward to finally getting out lounge done, and finding the right desk for me. Whilst we have other rooms that need touching up and finishing, In some ways the lounge will certainly be the biggest of jobs. Mainly because we would like to fit a wood burner, and are contemplating taking the porch down in order to make the room bigger and better use the space with a corner sofa, and hopefully a desk for me too.

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