a year of digital scrapbooking

One of my goals for this year was to create a digital scrapbook.  It’s been two months so far and I wanted to report back on how it’s going.

It’s going awesome.  I’ve really been enjoying this process – it’s a great chance to look back at my pictures, and a good chance to use some of the ones that aren’t “blog-worthy” or “facebook-worthy” but really just tell a great story.

How I started: I opened up Photoshop, created a new 8.5″ x 11″ page, and designed my first page.  I decided I wanted to keep two things the same on every page, but other than that it was free game.  The title is the same, and each page has a colored bar across the top and bottom.

The rules: There aren’t any rules.  I use pictures from my digital camera, my phone, and instagram to tell the story of what’s been going on.  If I miss a week, oh well, if I make more than one page another week, that’s okay too.  Also, the fact that there’s no templates lets me decide how creative I’m feeling that week.  That’s the fun of this, there’s no way to do it wrong.

Something I would do differently: Honestly, I just didn’t have enough motivation to do this right from the start.  I should have figured out how I was going to print the book before I started this so that the template would be correct, but I’ve decided to give that problem to Future Ted.

Where my inspiration came from: I started reading CZ Design.  She makes and sells digital scrapbooking pages.  Her designs are so inspiring it reminded me of being in yearbook in high school.  You should check out some of her pages here if you’re interested.

2015-03-11 Digital Scrapbook Example 001 2015-03-11 Digital Scrapbook Example 002 2015-03-11 Digital Scrapbook Example 003 2015-03-11 Digital Scrapbook Example 004

Have you ever done something like this before?  Do you have any suggestions?

2015 calendar photos

This is my last shameless plug for the Chrystina Noel 2015 Calendar (this week). Last year’s calendar had locations listed on each photo, but this year I didn’t. The locations weren’t as impressive as Munich and Bangalore this year, but each photo has a story of its own that I feel like is worth sharing.  So here goes nothing.

01 January
January’s champagne photo was taken at Moshulu while brunching with Jai, Marie, and Claire for our 2014 Christmas celebration.

02 February
February’s photo was taken at The Bakers Jar, a recently opened Philadelphia dessert restaurant. Highly recommend checking it out.

03 March
March’s photo was taken behind the Philadelphia Art Museum during the second photoshoot I did of Ryan.

04 April
April’s photo was taken while camping through Bryce Canyon, Utah with on the 13-mile hike where I pooped in the woods.

05 May
May’s photo was taken at Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, Louisiana while my parents were visiting to see the Baton Rouge Chorus concert this past summer.

06 June
June’s photo was taken at my dad’s cousin Tree’s house. The colors and textures of the rooms in her house are all so natural & comfortable.

07 July
July’s photo was taken while I was taken photographs for the what to dunk in a chocolate fountain post during a party at Johanna and John’s house.

08 August
August’s photo was taken at my friend Kevin’s house on my first trip ever to Denver, Colorado taken last January.

09 September
September’s photo was taken at the Good Karma located at 22nd and Pine, one of my go to coffee shops in Philadelphia.

10 October
October’s photo was taken while up in the Poconos with my senior design group.

11 November
November’s photo was also taken while up in the Poconos with my senior design group. The first morning we woke up there were lots of deer hanging out right outside.

12 December
December’s photo was also taken  while up in the Poconos with my senior design group. This is Michelle and Kevin, they’re engaged to be married next year.

Those are all of the stories behind the calendar. Definitely worth sharing, right? We’ll have to see how my focus on experiences this year affects the 2016 calendar. I’m sure everybody would love a calendar with pictures of my family sitting around eating dinner, right?

PS. Here’s the link for the calendar if you happen to need it.

photography lessons learned

Last weekend I finally got the chance to take pictures of my friend Ryan again.  You may recall that Ryan was the first person that I took pictures of during my summer photo project.  I decided the only way to know exactly how much better I got was by doing the same shoot I did the first time again.  It’s actually crazy how much more confidence I gained in just a few months.  I wanted to share with you some of the photography lessons learned I experienced throughout this process.


Fun fact, I didn’t read my camera manual until the third or fourth photoshoot that I did this summer.  Big mistake.  I was missing some super key facts like – how to focus, the difference between taking pictures in video-mode and photo-mode, how to use the touch screen – really simple things that made a world of difference.  I shot the entire summer using my 50mm f1.4 lens and I absolutely love it.  Next I’m going to work on mastering a zoom lens, I still need to decide which one though.


The first time I took photos of Ryan, we ended up in a park – a small park where every place you turn it looks busy.  I had no idea how to handle this then, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with it now.  I did learn that I really like shooting with a more city-esque background.  The lines are cleaner.



This is a two part one.  The first time I took pictures of Ryan I wore a just-above-the-knee length skirt.  BIG mistake.  I couldn’t get into any position gracefully to take a photograph.  This time I wore jeans.  MUCH better.  The second part of this has to do with what Ryan is wearing.  I didn’t bring up attire beforehand because he didn’t ask.  Other people have asked what they should wear.  I learned really fast not to say anything along the lines of “whatever makes you feel pretty/sexy/insert-good-looking-adjective-here”.  I still don’t exactly know what to say, but I do know what not to say now.  Oh, and lucky for me, Ryan decided to wear something that awesomely complimented his eyes and skintone this time, as opposed to bright yellow…



Oh goodness, lighting.  I haven’t been doing this very long, but I can almost safely say is every photographer’s most loved and hated technicality.  Constant, not harsh lighting is wonderful, the golden hour is delightful, shadowy harshness creating all sorts of shapes all over your subject – horrible.  The first shoot Ryan and I kept aiming for wherever we could find light, even if that light was spotty.  This time around Ryan actually said to me “I feel like you’re trying to keep me in the dark” – he was just being a pain in the butt.  Being in the “dark” creates a much more smooth looking photo though – where you can actually see the person’s face.  And by dark, I mean well-lit shade.


Black and White

I don’t know why it took so long for me to remember that black and white photography existed, it’s a good way to cover a number of sins. I actually didn’t make any shots black and white last time for some reason, but I got a few good ones this time around.  Here’s an example of this time:

Black and White new

Here’s an example of one that I would have done from the last batch.

Black and White

Posing Ideas

Goodness gracious, guys.  Posing is hard.  Not only is posing hard, but figuring out how to tell people to pose and to make them feel comfortable.  I’ve spent so much time reading posts like this, and this, and this.  It’s still going to take a lot of practice, but I’m getting better.  Oddly enough, me making funny faces always seems to work.  The first time I took pictures of Ryan, he was pretty much in the same pose the entire time.  The second time I figured out three easy poses and them tweaked each one slightly, but overall the whole reel looked a lot different.



I didn’t realize when I said I was going on a Photography mission that I was also going to be going on a Photoshop mission.  There have been a handful of resources that have been priceless to me.  Photography Concentrate is absolutely wonderful.  They offer a bunch of different tutorials that are very well-done and easy-to-follow.  Two that I have bought and loved so far are Extremely Essential Camera Skills to get better at understanding manual and Really Easy Retouching.  I also love getting their newsletter every month – so informative, with such good tips.  Here’s a before and after done on Photoshop skills alone.


Keep Learning

This one is a lot of fun.  In the past few months I’ve gotten the chance to be other people’s models to learn what it feels like to be the posee (as opposed to the poser), I’ve been reading Click Magazine (affiliate link alert) to get ideas for capturing great moments, and I went to an all-day conference.  Each of these experiences has made me a better photographer and has taught me something about what I like and don’t like in my own photography.  I realize I’ve been holding out on you about the all-day conference, but it wasn’t the experience I expected so I’m still trying to figure out how to relay that information on the blog.

Have Fun With It

Ryan is a goofball.  I absolutely love that about him – and it made for some great moments while I was taking pictures.  Remember to laugh and smile, because at the end of the day, that’s how you’re going to capture the greatest pictures.  Here were some of our “have fun with it moments”.

Fun Times1

Our Shadows.  In that last picture he’s actually making a halo.  I couldn’t figure out what he was doing.

Fun Times2

Ryan being The Thinker

Fun Times3

Ryan being The Flash, aka Ghost Ryan

So there you have it.  I would definitely say that I made some progress over the past few months and I’m excited to see what happens next.

WITCH HatToday’s WITCH number is 62.

my portrait photography adventure

My goal this summer was to take pictures of a different friend every week in order to learn more about portrait photography.  For me, summer went from Memorial Day to Labor Day and that means my adventure is over.  And you know what?  I learned a heck of a lot.

Here was the first post that I did on the first four friends that I took pictures of.  I posted about what I learned from each one of the shoots.  And even after a total of NINE photo shoots, I still believe that what I learned at the first one was the most important.  (How do you like that teaser?  Go click the link to find out.)

Here’s how this round went.

Photo Session #5: Karyn

The goal: After the last shoot, I had finally read my camera’s manual – so my goal of this shoot was to learn how to better focus on the subject.

What I learned: Always check the weather.  Actually, I did check the weather, but it still surprised us.  Karyn and I actually got rained on before the shoot even started so we went to grab brunch and then we took pictures.  I also learned that I like having some kind of one on one time with the person that I’m shooting beforehand to get to know them a little better or catch up with them and hear how life is going these days.  It’s all about the experience.  Also, Karyn’s a musician – so it was great to get her into some poses that mimicked things she would do on stage.  Always think about a person’s passions while shooting them.

ChrystinaNoel Photography - Karyn2 ChrystinaNoel Photography - Karyn1

Photo Session #6: Steve

The goal: Find poses that work for males before doing a photo shoot of Doug.  Note: this shoot was on a Thursday night and Doug’s was on a Friday afternoon.

What I learned: Go to poses for men mostly involve (1) arms crossed or (2) hands in pockets with a few variations.  Also, if you’re going to photo shoot in the late evening, make sure that the location you shoot in isn’t in the middle of a bunch of buildings and trees blocking all possible light.  Also.  Goodness gracious, you would have thought I’d have figured this out by now – but if you’re going to back up more than 5 feet, remember to turn the f-stop above 2, otherwise everything will be a hot mess of blurry.

ChrystinaNoel Photography - Stephen2 ChrystinaNoel Photography - Stephen1

Photo Session #7: Doug

The goal: Don’t mess up.  Yes, I know this sounds simple, but sometimes you’ve got to keep it simple.  Doug was my professor in college, so I felt like the pressure was on a little bit.  Please note that it was actually the chillest shoot ever and we walked around the University of Pennsylvania’s campus and he humored me by trying random photos.  Made me feel silly for ever being nervous.

What I learned: If you’re really nervous about something, prepare the best you can.  I checked out a lot of websites beforehand about posing and actually showed up to the campus early to scope out possible spots to take pictures in.  It made me feel more relaxed and ready for the shoot.

ChrystinaNoel Photography - Doug2 ChrystinaNoel Photography - Doug1

Photo Session #8: Marie

The goal: Make sure Marie knows how awesomely pretty she is

What I learned: When I started this adventure I thought that I was embarking on a skill that involved a camera.  What I learned along the way was that it involves a camera, it involves posing, and it involves psychology.  There are so many things.  Being a photograph subject is about feeling pretty by giving them confidence and the tools to be great.  (or handsome, or sexy, or hot, or beautiful, or cute, or dreamy – please see this post if you have no idea what I’m talking about)  At the beginning of the photo shoot I found a few key pictures of Marie that she looked stunning in and showed them to her.  Definitely gave her a little bit of a pep in her step for the rest of them and made the shoot a lot of fun.  Also, direct sunlight can create some harsh shadows, I’m going to try to avoid those from now on.

ChrystinaNoel Photography - Marie2 ChrystinaNoel Photography - Marie1

Photo Session #9: Carly

The goal: Take a professional headshot

What I learned: There are some poses that are powerful and there are other poses that aren’t so powerful.  If the pose is something that someone standing in the corner at a party would feel comfortable doing, it’s probably not a powerful pose.  Also, this was the first photo shoot where props and outfit changes were used.  It was surprisingly easy to go between looking casual and professional with the addition or removal of a blazer.  She also brought a really fun hat for some of the more casual shots.

ChrystinaNoel Photography - Carly1ChrystinaNoel Photography - Carly2

What’s Next

I’ve got a list going at this point.  I’m in the process of putting together a price list for photo shoots in the future if you should find yourself interested or in the Philadelphia area.  I’ll let y’all know when this service is available.  In the meantime, there’s a few more types of shoots that I want to do for free in order to get a better handle on including: newborn photography, family shots, and engagement shots.

Also, I’m going to photo shoot Ryan (my first subject) one more time to see the difference between the first and last shoot to make a total of 10.  After I do that, I’ll post about my top 10 tips about what I’ve learned.

I also want to get more comfortable using props and learning about how to better use them.

I also may have signed up for this one-day photography conference on a whim.  Oops.