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Tips & Tricks

    Creative, Organisation, Stationery, Tips & Tricks

    Washi Tape Hack for Bullet Journals and Planning

    Are all you bloggers still using your bullet journals? If you are, I have a little tip to make planning and finding things just that little bit easier. I’ve been using this system all year for my blog planner, and I love the way it looks.

    Washi Tape Hack for Bullet Journals and Planning | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    How To Use Washi Tape Effectively in your Bullet Journal

    All you need is a roll of washi tape (or two, or three, or ten…) and your planner. Instead of constantly skimming through your notebook to find which section you want, or using a lot of different bookmarks and making the notebook bulky, washi tape can be used as an easy place marker.

    I have my blog planner set out with monthly sections, and random collections in between. To make it easier to find each monthly section, I’ve simply taken the title page and stuck a piece of washi tape along the top edge. You could use any designs here – maybe a different tape for each month – but I’ve just used this blue one on every month so far. I like the uniformity. You can see in the top image that the tape really stands out against the blank pages, making the months easy to find.

    This does add a little bulk to the notebook because the washi tape is in the same place on every page it’s used on, but it really is minimal compared to using a lot of actual bookmarks or clips along the edges.

    Washi Tape Hack for Bullet Journals and Planning | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    Then, using the same technique, I’ve just placed a few pieces of different washi tape along the edges of certain pages. These include my blog stats, idea pages, books read, and random notes. It means I can quickly check an ideas page, or jot down some stats without having to leaf through every page. As bullet journals are pretty much organised chaos by design it just makes life easier.

    These ones I place randomly (you can just about see on so the first photo) because it just means they’re easier to spot. I’ve used the blue sky washi tape for any ideas pages, a dark green for my books read and there’s a couple of peachy colour ones for my stats pages.

    Washi Tape Hack for Bullet Journals and Planning | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    If you feel like you need a little more organisation in your bullet journal, give it a go! And let me know if you have any other tips like this – I’d love to hear more ideas!

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    Photography, Tips & Tricks

    Tips on Creating a Flat Lay

    Ah the flat lay. Everyone loves a good flat lay right? I don’t for one minute think myself as an expert on creating this style of photo, but I figured I’d try to give a few pointers and show my methods. Also, don’t you just love the quote below mixed with Jon Snow’s unhappy little face? I do.

    Tips on Creating a Flat Lay | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    Photography is an art. Just having a ‘good camera’ will not get you good photos. Yes they may technically look good – meaning they’re in focus, they have good exposure, colours etc – but having an eye for composition and detail is what makes a great photo. You can’t just shoot photos without thinking and expect every single one to look good. Those instagrams with the perfect shots? It probably wasn’t the first snap, let’s be honest now!

    Anyway, hopefully these tips will give you a few more ideas of what to do with your photos and get a little more creativity in there.

    Tips on Creating a Flat Lay | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    Backgrounds and props

    The background is arguably the most important thing there. It gives you a clear canvas to start rearranging your items in the flatlay. I personally like to keep my backgrounds as simple as possible. I mostly use a white wooden background that I have, but I do like a good dark wood too. Pretty blankets or bedding also work really great for this.

    Depending on what you’re actually taking a photo of, props are super useful to have. I keep a load of random bits and bobs in a little box within easy reach. Polaroids, prints, quote cards, ribbon, fabric, papers, trinkets etc. My advice? Save everything! Any tags, pretty packaging, notebooks, ornaments, flowers – pretty much anything can be used as a prop. Just make sure that what you’re throwing together looks cohesive.

    Have a theme

    Which brings me to this point – have a general theme in the photo. Whether that’s objects all relating to each other, the same colour, the same concept… Just make sure they fit together. There’s nothing stranger than seeing a flatlay with REALLY random objects on there. Like sports wear and then a book on gardening. Random.

    Tips on Creating a Flat Lay | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    Get Above

    Yep. I usually take photos in my room for ease – it means I don’t have to drag everything out into another room in my house. The best lighting is obviously right in front of the window to get all that lovely natural light. My bed is in front of the window. This means I have to be a little creative. Most of the time I will lean over the side and try to get as above as possible, but sometimes I just need to stand on my bed. Like in the lovely post-gym selfie above. Excuse the mess, please. No, my bedding does not match. Bad blogger right? ;)

    Best results are really going to be taken using a tripod because then you can easily keep your camera in one place above the objects whilst you figure out the composition below. Effort though. Definitely make sure you’re taking the photo directly above the objects, and watch out for distortion from wide angled lenses.

    Tips on Creating a Flat Lay | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    Spacing and layout

    This is the hardest thing to get right in my opinion, and honestly you just have to keep playing around and taking shots until the composition works. Generally, you need a main focus in there, but it doesn’t always have to be so. I like a mixture of flat lay styles. Sometimes I’ll go all out and include loads of little things and then others I’ll go very minimalist.

    The ‘Hello Spring’ photo is a prime example of the latter. I liked it because it reminded me of a scrapbook layout, and I just think it looks all neat! It’s a good blog post title photo. I used some patterned card stock, polaroid photos, bits of plant from the garden and a quote card.

    The photo below is one I was really happy with, as an example of a busier flat lay. I used lots of colour, I picked props that related to the main focus (the journals, right?) and I kept the composition balanced. Well, I think I did. In my opinion, angled items and things chopped out make a busy flat lay work. It views more like a table top then. ‘Artfully messy’

    The Art of Being Mindful | Tips on Creating a Flat Lay | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    Small movements can really make a different in your photo. In the ones below, just a slight change in the background position, and with the order of the books, gives it a more balanced composition. Having the two books with text titles on the outside definitely looks more balanced, and I also think the lines leading into the books works better than just flat across. What do you think though?

    Tips on Creating a Flat Lay | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    To be honest, you’ve just got to keep practising and moving things around. The more you do it, the more you’ll recognise what shapes or colours work together. Like I said, photography is an art form. Always new things to learn and improve.

    Well, that’s my thoughts on the magic of flat laying. Are you a fan? Too much effort?

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    Tips & Tricks

    How to Track Your Blog Traffic from Instagram

    During a twitter chat the other day, I noticed a lot of people saying that they really didn’t get many views from Instagram. Now honestly, neither do I. Since setting up this tracking method, I’ve had 6 people come to my blog through it – that’s in a couple of weeks. I don’t really advertise my blog posts on instagram much any more though, so I’m not really directing people there. However, it made me wonder if this was really a lack of Instagram click-throughs or whether it was just the way it’s tracked.

    On to the point – when someone clicks that link in your bio in instagram, it doesn’t show up on Google Analytics as Instagram. (Like it does with Twitter and Facebook!) You may have noticed that clicking on a link opens up your browser? Well this means that Google Analytics tracks this as a direct referral. Annoying, right? You could be getting a lot of views from Instagram that you just don’t realise, and luckily there’s something you can do about that.

    InstagramLanding Page

    Creating an Instagram Landing Page

    When looking this up, I discovered the idea of creating an Instagram landing page. Now basically, all you need to do is create a new page on your blog, and paste this URL in your instagram bio. If you look on my instagram, you’ll notice that my URL ends in /instagram. This page acts as a welcome page. I’ve put a few buttons on there so people can click through to a topic they’re interested in, but they can obviously just go to the homepage and read the blog that way. I haven’t put this link in any of the menus on my blog, so people should only be able to click to it from Instagram – unless they just type it in of course…

    Viewing Landing Page Views on Google Analytics

    To check up on this page all you need to do is go to Behaviour >> Site Content >> Landing Pages on your Google Analytics account. Once there, type Instagram into the search box, and it’ll appear with the stats. Easy right? It’s a simple change, but it’s a helpful one if you do want to track your clicks from Instagram. I think I’m gonna point my followers to the link a little more and see what difference it makes to views.

    As I said in the beginning though, I don’t really use Instagram as a main marketing tool. I feel like it’s just an extension of my blog with pretty photos and my feelings/thoughts of the day written down. More of a diary if you wish! I’d love to know if you’ve tried this out!

    Have you figured out another way to track readers coming from Instagram?

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    Tips & Tricks

    HTML Tips for Blog Posts

    From my head to yours… Here’s a little insight into HTML and what you can use on your blog. I am by no means an expert, but I have been using these things for a few years now and whilst my language is still basic, I can understand it! Hope it helps!

    HTML Tips for Blog Posts | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    What is HTML?

    HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It is a standardised system used for formatting documents, and can format format font, text size, color, hyperlinks, paragraphs, and much more. All web browsers read HTML and use the tags to determine how content within a website should be displayed.

    With most blogging websites, HTML knowledge isn’t really necessary. The post section will have buttons that automatically format whichever highlighted text you choose, and will add hyperlinks/images and whatever else you need. Most of the time. However, if you have a basic knowledge of HTML, you can take a look at the code and see what is happening. If something doesn’t look right, you can find that code and check it out. HTML knowledge is also helpful for when you delve into the world of CSS – something I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with, yet still google for answers a lot.

    Each part of the HTML code is called an attribute, and I’m going to link you to w3schools for this, because they can explain it far easier than I can. And in fact, they have all this stuff on the website – it’s where I’ve done most of my learning! Anyway, here are some basic codes that could help you with your everyday blogging! You won’t see any of the text in these < > when actually using the code, and just a note – if copying and pasting, you may have to retype the ” marks for it to work on some things.

    Writing in HTML

    Basic HTML Codes

    <p>paragraph</p>
    <br/> line break
    <strong>bold</strong>
    <em>italic</em>
    <il>underlined </ul>
    <s>strikethrough text</s>
    <center>centres text</center>

    These are the simple codes that you will use for your text. I personally always use the ‘text’ option when blogging through WordPress, rather than ‘visual’, as I just prefer to be working with HTML myself. If you do use the visual setting (or the equivalent in Blogger), these codes are perfect for if you want to change text anywhere else on the blog – for example I’ve used them in my sidebar. I think they are pretty self explanatory – just copy the code and insert your text in the middle of each one and you’re good to go!

    Heading Tags

    <h1> TEXT HERE </h1>
    <h2> TEXT HERE </h2>
    <h3> TEXT HERE </h3>
    <h4> TEXT HERE </h4>
    <h5> TEXT HERE </h5>
    <h6> TEXT HERE </h6>

    Heading tags convey a hierarchy to web browsers and search engines. You are most likely using headings in your blog’s formatting, but the difference between headings 1-6 mean more than just text size and font weight.
    Heading 1 should be used for the main heading of the document, such as your blog post’s title. Heading 2 should be secondary information, such as your sub-headings (on this post, ‘WRITING IN HTML’, ‘CREATING LINKS WITH HTML’ and ‘CREATING LISTS’). Heading 3 for sub-subheadings (the rest of my smaller headings), and so on through Heading 6. Also, you should have keywords in your headings to really get the most out of them, SEO wise. I do fail at this sometimes, admittedly.

    Creating Links with HTML

    Hyperlinks

    <a href=”URL” target=“_blank” alt=”LINK KEYWORDS”>HYPERLINK TEXT</a>

    To create a hyperlink this is the code you need and to begin with, ‘a href=”URL”‘ is where you would paste in the link that you want to lead readers to. The ‘target’ attribute is telling your blog how that link will open. I primarily have it set as “_blank” which opens the link in a new tab. Finally we have the ‘alt’ attribute. This is for alternative text, and it is basically a short description – useful to have because it helps with SEO. The HYPERLINK TEXT is basically the text that will show up in your post as the link.

    BOOKMARK:
    <h2 id=”tips”>Writing in HTML</h2>
    ADD THE LINK
    <a href=”#tips”>Visit What is HTML</a>

    If you want to link to a specific section of a page, you need to add a bookmark to that section, using the code above. So where you would usually have just <h2> you want to add id=”tips”. The tips can be any word at all. Then when you are creating your hyperlink, you use the second code that you can see above – just make sure that the id word is exactly the same. This should link to the What is HTML section.

    Adding Images

    ADDING AN IMAGE:
    < img src=”IMAGE URL” alt=”IMAGE KEYWORDS” width=”800px”/>
    ADDING A HYPERLINKED IMAGE:
    <a href= “LINK URL” target=”_blank”><img src=”IMAGE URL” alt=”IMAGE KEYWORDS” width=”800px”/></a>

    When I add images to a blog post, I’ve started to upload my images to Flickr. I’ve never uploaded through the ‘add media’ button on WordPress, and I don’t particularly like doing it that way. Once my image has uploaded there, I click the share option and then take the IMAGE URL from the BB Code section or use the Inspect Element option on Chrome. Long winded, sure, but it’s just how I work! Most of my images on the blog are hosted on Tinypic, but I found that the image URLs were being re-used and I’d have random photos appear. That’s a totally different matter though.

    Next up here we have the ‘alt’ attribute. If you use pinterest or pin an image straight from a blog post, you should be able to see whether the blogger has used an alt tag. The alt tag is important because it provides information about your image. If, for example, the image isn’t showing up, the alt text will appear instead – showing the user what that image would have been. As I mentioned above, using this attribute helps with seo and google searches.

    I discovered quite recently that my photos were not responsive like my theme was. This may have been because of my old theme, but now I will just determine the set ‘width’ of an image, and then the height is automatically proportioned. Since changing to that method, my photos have reduced in size correctly on smaller screens.

    To create a hyperlinked image, you are simply just surrounding the original image html code with the link code. Instead of adding HYPERLINK text, your image html code works instead. If you hover over the photos below, you will see in the bottom left corner of your web browser that the image on the right leads to another page, whereas the one on the left doesn’t. Clicking on the image will open the page up into a new tab.

    My ALT text is: Healthier Snacks 2016 Filofax Set-Up

    Creating Lists

    All lists have two parts to them. The first part is either <ul> or <ol> depending on if you want it numbered or not. The O basically stands for ordered, and the U unordered. Easy to remember right? Now for each item that you want to list, the <li> code needs to be used with the </li> closing that line. Then we finish with </ul> or </ol> depending on which type you choose. You can add as many lines to a list as you’d like. You can even add a list within a list, as shown on the first. Just add <ul><li> Item 1.1 </li> /ul> underneath the bullet you want it, and then carry on with the rest of the code. Because the /ul tag has been used, this adds a complete list item in that section.

      <ul>

    • <li> Item One </li>
      • <li> Item 1.1 </li>
    • <li> Item Two </li>
    • <li> Item Three </li>
    • </ul>

      <ol>

    1. <li> Item One </li>
    2. <li> Item Two </li>
    3. <li> Item Three </li>
    4. </ol>

    ——————————-
    Hopefully this helps some people – I’ve noticed that HTML is always one of those things that is mentioned on twitter chats. If there is anything in particular that you’re stuck with, let me know and I can try to help you or get a post up about it!

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    Christmas, Creative, Tips & Tricks

    How To: Get Different Bokeh Shapes

    How To: Get Different Bokeh Shapes

    Beautiful bokeh is something that a lot of people aspire to get in their photos, even if they’re not entirely sure why. At Christmas, with all the extra lights dotted about, bokeh is something easily gained in the background of photos. To add even more interest, why not make it different shaped? It is so simple to create shaped bokeh; all you need is some card, tape and ideally a lens with a wide aperture such as the 50mm 1.8 (something I know a lot of bloggers have!)

    Keep Reading!

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    Creative, Tips & Tricks

    7 Ways to Find Blogging Inspiration

    It’s that time of year again. Dark nights, cold weather and the sudden urge to just do nothing all day except curl up in bed armed with my tablet, a good book and chocolate. Sadly, I can’t just laze around and do that all day!

    Finding blogging inspiration and motivation on these really dull days is something I’ve been really struggling with lately. It’s always just too dark for good photos, and I’m someone who likes to have photos when writing a post – it helps me to really visualise and think about what I’m writing. Well, luckily for you guys, I had a little brainstorming session, looking at different sources for inspiration and trying to think up some new posts for myself!

    7 Ways to Find Blogging Inspiration | lifeofkitty.co.uk

    #1 Get outside

    Doing something interesting obviously gives you something to talk about. It doesn’t have to be anything costly: go for a walk in the park; see friends; visit a free museum/gallery. You may be hit with a sudden burst of inspiration whilst walking about. I actually think up a lot of my ideas when I’m at the gym, because obviously I have nothing better to think about whilst running on a treadmill… Taking walks is good though, and if it doesn’t give you some ideas, well, at least it gave your eyes a rest from the bright computer screen eh?

    #2 Read other blogs

    This goes without saying really. Reading is always good for inspiration, and other blog posts may inspire you or remind you about something you can write about. Be friendly and comment, create a discussion. Even that could inspire you. It’s also a good idea to look back on your own posts. Is there anything you can add to or improve on? I’ve got a couple of posts that I want to recreate and add better information, so I’ll be doing that over the coming weeks!

    #3 Communicate with bloggers

    Get yourself on the various social medias (but mostly twitter I guess) and see what everyone’s talking about. I’m not really a big part of any, but I imagine facebook groups are good for this reason too. Even being part of a group related to your hobbies (and not just blogging) will help as you’ll see new topics every day. I find twitter chats a brilliant source for inspiration myself because the conversation really gets your brain thinking in blogger mode.

    #4 Keep notes

    When I have ideas, I like to write them down. If I’m out and about, I’ll use the Any.do app on my phone, but if I’m at home I will use my pocket filofax to jot down notes. I also have an excel spreadsheet and will take all my notes, put them in the document and attempt to plan when they could be posted. I don’t always manage to stick to the schedule that I plan, but it’s still a good place to keep everything together.

    #5 Writing Prompts

    There are plenty of books around that you can buy with writing prompts and they’re great for when you’re really stuck. The one I have, The Pocket Muse – Monica Wood, is mostly for creative writing, but it’s still great for inspiration. You could even choose a photo, either one of your own snaps or one you found online. What does it make you think of?

    #6 Google autocomplete

    This is something that I saw mentioned last week. Start typing something into google, for example ‘Why are books’ and you’ll see a few different topics come up. Maybe there’s something you want to discuss, or maybe there’s a question that doesn’t seem to have many answers in the search. It’s an interesting way to see what’s being talked about anyway! You make this even more helpful by narrowing down the search time period and seeing what is top in the search in the last month using the search tools.

    #7 Tidy your blog

    If I’m really stuck with inspiration, I find it’s because I’m not really happy with my blog. Little tweaks like changing the text in my sidebar or changing the way things are set out really helps me. It makes my blog feel fresh, and new again. You could also sort out the SEO in your posts, make sure each image has alt tags, fix broken links and whatever other maintenance you can think of – even going back and proofreading posts to check everything reads okay!

    ————-

    Hopefully these have been a little helpful for those days you lack inspiration, and if you can think of anything else I’d love to hear it! I’m sure you guys have your own ways of finding ideas for new posts eh?

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    Creative, Tips & Tricks

    How to use a DSLR: Understanding Exposure & Shutter Speeds

    This week I’ve got some information on exposure and shutter speeds, and why you should know what they do on your DSLR. If you missed my last post – Understanding Aperture – you can find it here. (Worth checking out before you read on!)

    How to use a DSLR: Understanding Aperture

    What is Exposure?

    Exposure is the unit of measurement for the total amount of light that is permitted to get through to the sensor when taking a photograph. So from my last post, we already know that the aperture controls the hole that the light can get through. Well the shutter speed controls how long or short that hole is opened for, and together these two control the exposure of the final photograph. Getting the exposure right needs a balance between the aperture and the shutter speed. Too much light will result in over exposure, and too little will result in under exposure.

    Long/short Shutter Speed?

    Okay so your shutter speed number will look like a fraction on your camera. These numbers are basically fraction of seconds, and the higher the number, the faster the shutter speed will be. This just means that the shutter will only close for a tiny amount of time, say 1/80 of a second. These numbers will roughly double as they go on, so, starting from the slower speeds, you’ll have 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500. As you move to the slower end of the shutter speed, your numbers will just be normal numbers, and measured as seconds. My canon shows “2, “10, “30 and so on. You will also have a bulb (B) setting, and this just keeps the shutter open for as long as you hold it.

    As a general rule of thumb, 1/60 is a good speed to shoot at with a regular lens, say a 50mm or your 17-55mm kit lens. However, the focal length can affect the shutter speed you need because of the camera shake that you’ll get from handheld shooting. Longer focal lengths – for example a 200mm lens – will accentuate the amount of camera shake you have, so a faster shutter speed will be needed. A good ‘rule’ to stick to is to choose a shutter speed where the number is larger than the focal length. So with that 200m lens, shooting at around 1/250 will give sharp photo.

    How to use a DSLR: Understanding ApertureNow, let’s look at exposure. Here you can see three different exposures. The photos have not been edited at all, so these are straight out of camera (SOOC).

    When looking in your camera’s viewfinder, you will see a little graph. This is also visible on the screen, so you could use that one too if you’re using a tripod and have the subject in frame and set up. This graph shows what your exposure is like. Ideally, you want the little moving line to be right in the centre – that is the perfect exposure as far as your camera is aware. This is decided on the whites and blacks in the photo, checking that none are too dark or too light. In the photos on the left, the middle photo had perfect exposure.

    To overexpose the photo, I slowed my shutter speed down 3 places. So I went past 1/200, 1/160 and stopped on 1/125. As the number has decreased, it means that the shutter is left open for longer when taking the photograph. This lets in too much light, and you can see that it is quite bright. Now a lot of bloggers like this ‘white’ look in a photograph, and to get the bright white background overexposure is the way to go. I would just give the photo a little contrast and perhaps add a little more shadow in photoshop and then it’d be done. You have the brighter photograph that you want.

    Underexposure is a different matter. It can work for some things, but I would say very rarely used as a technique. Now for the last photo I moved the shutter speed up 3 places. I went past 1/320, 1/400 and stopped on 1/500. You can see that this photo is pretty dark, but it’s not too bad really. If the shutter speed was any faster, it would definitely be too dark.

    Now to get the perfect balance, your aperture will need to move as the shutter moves. Let’s take the perfectly exposed photo in the middle. It was taken at f1.8 and 1/250. If I wanted to have a faster shutter speed, say one up at 1/320, I would need to widen the aperture because the shutter is staying open for less time. So I would move that to f1.4. Say my perfect exposure was at f6.3 and 1/80, I would move the shutter to up 1/100 and the aperture down to f5.6 to get that same exposure. This is the same if you want to change the aperture, the shutter will need to either be made faster for a wider aperture, or slower for a narrow aperture. I would try shooting in shutter priority to see how this works (Tv on a Canon, and S on a Nikon).

    When shooting in RAW, exposure can be an easy fix, depending on how much you’ve over/under exposed. The photos above would be easy to fix, but when your highlights are completely white they’re blown out and there’s nothing you can do to bring those back. Same with the blacks, if they’re too dark then there won’t be any detail to recover. I am going to do a post on shooting in RAW and the fixes you can make.

    I would always recommend getting the exposure that you want in camera. Too much fiddling with editing can really ruin the file, especially when editing jpeg. The quality will decrease, and we don’t want that do we?!

    Examples of slow/fast shutter speeds

    I’ve found some old photos that I’ve taken where I’ve experimented with the shutter speed so you can see what kind of effects you can get.

    If you’re using a fast shutter speed, your only aim really is to freeze motion. Here you can see that I’ve managed to completely freeze the Robin. A fast shutter speed is pretty necessary if you’ve got a fast moving subject (such as a child or an animal!) or if you have a really shaky hand and bad lighting available.

    How to use a DSLR: Understanding Exposure

    Here you can see the difference between a fast shutter and a slow shutter. On the left I’ve managed to catch the movement of the Starlings, and on the right the birds are completely still.

    How to use a DSLR: Understanding Exposure How to use a DSLR: Understanding Exposure

    This one was part of my major final project in college. All I did here was set a slow shutter speed – I’m sure it was around 1/4 or 1/8 – and moved my camera upwards (as straight as possible!) quickly as the photo was taking. You’ll probably need to do it a few times to get the lines perfect, but it gives a cool effect right?

    How to use a DSLR: Understanding Exposure

    Another scenario where you might need a slow shutter speed is when doing night photography. For landscapes, a slow shutter speed doesn’t matter for focus because you generally won’t have a moving subject – camera on tripod, set the focus and you’re good to go. The photo on the left is lit up by just the street lights, but if I had used a fast shutter speed, those lights wouldn’t have been enough to light the scene.

    How to use a DSLR: Understanding Exposure

    So you can see that the shutter speed is a great tool for experimentation. Of course, for blog photos you will generally be wanting all movement frozen, so a fast shutter speed is what you’ll need.

    I hope this has been helpful for you and please let me know if you have any questions!

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