We are absolutely loving writing I Heart Snapping for you guys. We hope you’re finding the tutorials useful, the reviews helpful and that you are generally feeling inspired to take better pictures and to make your blogs more brilliant and more gorgeous than they already were.
But now it’s your turn. We are looking for some of our lovely readers to get involved with a new Monday feature. This will be your chance to feature your skills on the pages of I Heart Snapping and show off what you can do.
Each week three different bloggers who decide to join in, will be emailed a photograph. This photograph could be of anything, but it will be unedited. The challenge for those three bloggers is to edit the photo, anyway they like, using whatever software or apps that they like. Then email back the finished article explaining how they did what they did. Every Monday we will share the original image and then the three different takes on it and how they were achieved.
You don’t need to be a photo editing whizz to take part. In fact we’d love to showcase all sorts of different people’s styles and ideas. And don’t feel like you would have to do something completely amazing and outstanding and complex. We want instructions that other people can follow, so that our readers can learn from you.
Next week your I Heart Snapping team will be doing the first ever I Heart My Edit so that we can hopefully give you an idea of what we’re after. So if you want to wait and see what it’s all about, then check back on Monday for the post.
If you would like to be involved then let us know and we’ll be in touch. You can simply leave a comment on this post and we’ll use the email address you leave to get in contact. You can DM us via twitter letting us know your email address. Or you can let us know via our Facebook page (which is very new and feeling a bit lonely so come across and like us!)
We said it before when we were talking about giving your blog a ‘look’ and a brand image, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. Your blog banner, or header or whatever you want to call it, is your business card. It is the first thing people will look at when they visit your blog, and a lot of people will make the decision to stay and read on or leave, completely based on your banner. The whole look of your blog is important, but the banner should tie your whole blog together and tell people what you are about in a quick and visual way.
There are a lot of beautiful banners out there, and it’s really daunting to know where to start, so today I’m going to take you through a hopefully, really simple tutorial of how to make a photo banner. I’m doing a photo banner because that’s what I do best. I use a photo banner on my own personal blog because it is the best way of telling people what I’m all about; my blog includes a lot of photos and is all about a little boy. Thats what Dear Beautiful Boy does and so that is what my banner tells you.
I use Picasa to do all my blog making and designing. Its a free download software for your computer and once you get to grips with it, it’s brilliant for creating photo banners, grab buttons (which we’ll be talking about in a few weeks) and collages. It doesn’t cost anything to give it a try, so why not download it and see what you think.
The great thing with Picasa is that making a photo banner is easy because it automatically shows you all the photos that you have saved in various folders all over your computer. So on launching the software just go to the correct folders to find the pictures you want to use in your banner.
Directly underneath where the folder name and details are, you can see a play button. Next to that is a collage button. By pressing that you go through to the collage editing part of the software and it will automatically take the photos in that folder and place them in your collage for you.
To the left hand side you will find a drop down menu which gives you a selection of different sized boards on which to arrange your pictures. At this stage it doesn’t actually matter what board you use as you will crop it later, but I like to work on a board that has the rough proportions of the finished article so that it is easier to arrange things how I would like.
On the left hand side there is also a tab entitled ‘Clips’ which allows you to add and remove photos that you would like to include. By pressing ‘Get More’ you will go back to the original screen where you selected your folder and you can select more folders of photos to include in your banner.
Then it’s simply a case of arranging the photographs as you would like them. You can resize and angle them to your hearts content. For this design I wanted the pictures the same size and an equal distance apart.
You can change the background colour of your board here too. For a clean look on your blog, it’s a good idea to make sure this background colours is either the same as the background of your blog, or a contrasting colour to make it stand out. When you are happy with your background and photo arrangement you simply click ‘Create Collage’.
This takes you to a different editing screen when you can edit the whole collages as if it were one image, but you can always go back and change the collage around if you need to by clicking ‘Edit Collage’ in the top left hand corner. Once through to the editing stage you need to trim down and tidy up any uneven edges on your banner, using the crop tool. You can also add text and retouch anything you aren’t quite happy with.
You can manually decide the proportions by eye or you can use a preset crop, but with this design I needed to chop off the excess background board to the right of the design.
I left a space at the bottom of my banner to add my blog title. So you simply use the text tool to select your font, size and colour and then move the text into position. Then click ‘Apply’ to make those changes to your banner. The final thing left to do is to export your finished banner to a folder on your computer by clicking on ‘Export’ at the bottom of the screen.
This window will pop up and you need to resize the image to however many pixels wide your blog is. This will differ from one blog design to the next, but is generally somewhere between 800 and 1200 pixels. You can check this first or export a few versions with different pixel sizes and see which one fits best.
And voilà! One simple and easy photo banner for your blog. I would like to apologise for the unexciting and unoriginal banner and blog title I’ve used in my example. It’s simply to give you an idea of how you might go about making a photo banner for your blog.
And remember that this is just a basic idea. Once you’ve got to grips with using Picasa in this way, the restrictions are only on what your head can come up with. Try more pictures, or less pictures. Text at the top, the side, over the pictures, in the middle of a circle of pictures. It’s just a case of letting your creativity flow. You could change your title font and back ground colour each month or season for a different look. You can swap pictures in and out to keep it up to date.
Just keep in mind at all times what your blog is about and how your banner represents that. This is probably one of the reasons why photo banners are so versatile, because you can simply include some of your best blog pictures and you are automatically representing the blog as a whole in your banner. Just take the I Heart Snapping banner; it tell you what we’re all about.
So you’ve got yourself set up with a blog? And now, if you’re like most new bloggers, you will quite happily spend hours and hours of your life making your blog pretty. As a newbie it seems like everyone’s blog looks so gorgeous and you have no idea where to start. Well we’re here to give you tips, ideas and some tutorials on how to make your blog look totally lovely, but today we’re going to just talk about some general tips for blog design; those absolute blog design basics that every blogger should consider.
Picking a Colour Scheme
This is the most obvious thing that people see and the easiest thing to change and adapt when you’re setting up, picking a main colour or colour scheme for your blog is more than likely the first attempt you will make at any form of blog design. Certain colours are known to be very popular in cyberspace; have you ever noticed that the biggest sites on the web tend to use a lot of blue? Facebook and Twitter both have blue logos. They use plenty of blue for one reason, they know our brains like it. For some reason we find blue appealing, calming, professional, authoritative; so it’s hardly surprising that big companies use it… a lot.
We’re not saying use blue on your site and you will be a big player, but do consider the effect of colour on your site. Red for example makes things seem urgent, yellow is energetic and happy, green is natural and chilled. Choose a colour or colour scheme that reflects what your blog is about, and which you like because you’ll be looking at it for a while. And try not to choose too many colours either, stick to one or two main colours and then use different tones to keep it all matching. Take I Heart Snapping for example; everything is in shades of pink and grey, the header, the buttons, the logo and all the text. It makes it look clean, professional and easy on the eye.
Having the Right Header
Call it a header, call it a banner, call it a title; whatever you want to call it, the top section of your site is the most important part. Try to think of the header as your business card, it’s the first bit of you and your blog that people will see and people will make all their initial judgements based on it. Make sure that it is really you and that it tells potential readers what your blog is about.
Katie’s banner says; girly, cute, family. The hearts aren’t an accident; they read as love and affection. The house tells you that you’re going to get everyday life experiences and memories. And the three bird are most definitely not an accident; family of three anyone? Look there’s even a particularly teeny pink one for the baby girl.
My own banner is simpler and has less elements to it, but it says just as much. Photos, photos, photos and all of a little boy. Did you notice that as you read left to right he gets older? Again, not an accident. It says this is a blog about a little boy growing up. And the handwriting font says that it’s personal.
Getting a Good Layout
Our brains like white space between text, it helps to break it up and allows us time to breathe and think. Now this isn’t to say that your background must be white, but remember to not make your blog one big wall of text. And while white isn’t a must, it does tend to be easier to read dark text on a light background, so it’s probably better to stick with a paler background and a darker text if you want people to stick around and actually read what you’ve written.
Remember that people don’t see your entire site when it opens in their browser. The term that is generally used is ‘above the fold’ but it refers to making sure you say something on that opening screen before anyone has to scroll. Put important links like your Twitter and Facebook pages towards the tops so that people can find you easily. And if you want people to follow your blog make it easy for them to find the links to email subscribe or sign up for RSS too. I know that I don’t like to have to search around for these and if I can’t find them quickly then I don’t sign up.
Simple and clean blog designs never go out of fashion and are also far more pleasing on the eye than a busy site where you aren’t sure where to look. So think carefully about your layout and try to streamline it if you can. I like to have a tidy up of my sidebars every couple of months to make sure I’ve still got all the most relevant stuff towards to top, where people are more likely to click on it.
As you choose your colour scheme, decide on your layout and create a blog header that is really you; you are starting to define your brand image. No, your not a big business but you can learn from them. And it isn’t difficult. It’s all about having one continuous image all over the web.
As you go about cyberspace using Twitter, Facebook and the like to promote your blog, consider how you build your brand image. The easiest way to do this is to make a small square ‘button’ in the same style as your header. Use it as the profile picture on all your different social media and it means people will get used to the ‘look’ of your blog. We are a visual breed and pictures often stick in our memories long before names do, so make sure that your image is there backing up your name as people get to know you.
Essentially, it’s easiest to keep it simple; so choose a couple of colours, a couple of fonts and a couple of pictures or images and stick with using them everywhere. It doesn’t take very long for people to see them and think of you. And look around the blogging community you’re in and make sure your brand image is really original and really you.
And if you’re sitting thinking that you really want to implement all this but have no idea where to start, then worry not. Over the coming weeks we’ll be showing you how to design some of the basic blog elements so that you can make your blog lovely.
Here at I heart snapping, we love taking photos. And we love editing our photos even more. Over the next few months we will be showing you how to edit your photo’s and make them look awesome using some of the most popular packages including Picasa, Pixlr, Photoshop, as well as iPhone apps too. After all, it is important to have knowledge of different editing software, as they can all bring different dimensions to your photos. We decided to start with PicMonkey as it is the one that most bloggers seem to find the most accessible at the moment and which a lot of bloggers seem to be turning to. One blogger who is particularly passionate about photography is The Boy and Me and she has written another informative review on her take on PicMonkey.
PicMonkey first came to our attention after it was announced that another firm favourite of ours Picnik was being stopped on the 19th April 2012. Picnik was fab for it’s easiness and convenience, so we were interested to hear about PicMonkey while mopping up our tears over Google’s decision. The main question is does it compare?
First of all it is worth noting that PicMonkey has been created by some of the original folk behind Picnik so that means we have high hopes for it.
The first screen we are greeted with is the home screen…
It may be shallow to say…but it looks prettier than Picnik. Surely that means it will do good things to your photos?
When you upload your photo ready for taking, you are greeted with a really easy to use and sleek looking menu sidebar. From here you can do lots of editing to your chosen photo- from the basic touch up’s such as resizing, cropping and rotating, to more advance options such as adding text or using some of their chosen filters.
Here are some examples of some of the filters which we really like- there are 37 in total which are free for the time being, and they can make even the most boring photo look a bit more interesting. Love them or loathe them, these filter effects are everywhere at the moment, and you can literally change the effect of your photo with the click of a button.
At the moment there is no way of doing a collage, like the one above on PicMonkey but it says on their home page that is coming soon. This one was done on Photoshop, but for bloggers who don’t have the technical know how (or money!) to buy an expensive package like Adobe Creative Suite, the collage option will be a welcome addition to make your photos look great as I always think collages look fab on blogs.
Another excellent feature of PicMonkey is the touch up menu. Want to look a little thiner around the face? Have less wrinkles? Whiter teeth? Just come on this menu and you can instantly change the way you look at the click of a button. As with all of PicMonkeys menu’s, it is very easy to use and very straightforward. While I think that is the little imperfections that make a photo and a memory, this screen is handy if you did want too change slight aspects of a photo. It has a red eye reduction option which is handy too. Here is an example of me slightly tweaking a photo of myself and my sister- you don’t want to go to OTT and end up not looking like yourself.
The touch up tool is great, I personally wouldn’t use it, but I can see how it may appeal to some people.
Finally there are a fun and wide range of overlays, such as hearts, speech bubbles, symbols and labels which you can add to your photo, as well as lots of different fonts and textures.
Overall we were really impressed with PicMonkey. It is really sleek to look at, enjoyable and fun, and above all it delivers great results. It is easy enough and straightforward enough to encourage even the most technophobe person to give photo editing a go. While more experienced photo editors may want more, it is a perfect go between when you want a quick fix.
Here at I heart snapping we love the new PicMonkey and think it will be around for a long time yet. We will be using it for some of our tutorials over the next few months so stick around if you want to learn more about it. Why not give it a go and you will soon find your photos and blog posts will be looking fabulous!