Over five thousand years ago, in the region of the world called Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, human writing first appeared. The earliest forms of writing, however, were not letters or words, but pictures. The Mesopotamians used these simple pictographs to record trading – a picture of wheat with notches for the amount of wheat bushels, a picture of a jug with notches indicating jugs of beer. This was recognized as being extremely effective in organizing business, the first spreadsheet. Over time, these pictographs were, by necessity, made simpler, codified into a script called cuneiform. Thus, the first alphabet was formed.

    Something similar happened in China, where pictograms represented words such as man, sun, gate, mountain, river. The pictograms looked like a simple representation of the object, almost like what a child would draw, but they were standardized. An alphabet didn’t develop in China – instead, the pictograms gradually evolved into the complex characters used in China today, every word has different character. Chinese schoolchildren must learn thousands and thousands of characters in order to write.

    Chinese words are also comprised of combinations of characters – for instance, the word for good fortune is made up of characters, themselves symbolic pictures, meaning omen, heaven and a well tended-field. In other words, good omens happen to those who tend their field, who work hard. Or, as we say, heaven helps those who help themselves.

    This relationship between the visual picture of a thing and words describing it are, as we can see, bound together since their very beginnings. Over time, pictures accompanying words, or visa versa, were seen everywhere – in book, newspapers, magazines – and as photography and modern media developed, they have become inextricably bound as partners, in every form of communication – the internet, television, advertizing, graphic novels, coffee table photography books – and yet, for some reason, the modern photo album today is comprised of pictures alone.

    Photographers do an exemplary job of telling a story through their photos in the albums, and many photographers make a studied practice of incorporating this storytelling aspect into their work. There is an art and craft to the process. Pictures indeed tell a story, in the sequencing of photos, in the juxtaposition of one picture with another, in the mood created by certain photo combinations, a story begins to form. It’s a marvelous non-verbal story, and in the presentation of photos using this technique, a certain visual poetry is achieved.

    Yet the addition of the written word, in between such sequences of photos, adds to the dimension and drama in the telling of the story, now a visual and verbal story combined. It enhances the story, deepens and expands it. Then, as has been seen in their long relationship together, pictures and words work on one another symbiotically, in a back and forth play on the senses, the photo coming to life with the words, the words coming to full dimension with the photos.

    This is how it should be. PS I Love You Books is the first company to create this type of photo album which tells two stories at the same time – the story the photos show and the story the words tell. Woven together in a seamless work of publishing art, creating a book that is, in the end, one complete story. One story made greater by two.

    Posted By Bill Routhier

    Spring Cleaning

    April 11th, 2014

    The long, hard winter has passed, the first days of warm sun, birds chattering excitedly and grass sprouts poking their way up into life has arrived. People go out without their coats, everyone’s friendlier than they were, and the easy sigh of relaxation abounds. At just the beginning of spring, when the world, as e.e. cummings said, is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. The windows open, the fresh air flows, the curtains come back, the sun streams in and… you realize it’s time for spring cleaning.

    Ah yes, with the good, there’s always a bit of the bad. But, really, spring is a very good thing. Out with the cobwebs and dust bunnies, in with a fresh coat of paint and a new braided rug for the kitchen. .

    In spring cleaning, we also pack up all the stuff that’s accumulated in the basement, the garage, the closets. If you’ve got a three year rule, a lot of it might go the local charitable thrift shop, or, if you’re still undecided on keeping it, up to the attic. The attic, where old things go to rest. It always needs to be reorganized, more room needs to be made for the new old things.

     

    In it are more treasures: the handwritten vows you and your spouse read to one another on the altar, one of the wedding invitations, the black and white photo strip of the both of you, still in tux and bridal dress, from the photo booth you had at the reception... and there are more such things, and you sit and remember, all the stories you lived start coming back and so you keep looking, and not much cleaning gets done.

    As much as we love these kinds of moments, we at PS I Love You wish they were left less to the attic and to chance, and were instead kept more accessible, there for whenever you wanted to again experience those priceless personal memories. It’s why we created our Wedding and Lifestyle Photo Storybooks. For people to be able to have such remembrances, close at hand. To keep those precious memories as fresh as a home that’s just been cleaned for spring.


    Bill Routhier

    Writing Director
    PS I Love You Photo Storybooks

    Posted By Bill Routhier
    Timing is everything and photography is everywhere. Capturing life moments using a smartphone camera can sometimes work spectacularly, since the phone is always there in a flash, ready for when such moments happen. But more often than not, cameraphone shots leave a lot to be desired. Great photography usually requires a great photographer.

    The art and mission of the professional photographer is to capture a moment that snatches up a bit of life’s essence. Blues musicians, talking about recorded performances, have called this ‘catching lightning in a bottle.’ This means that a certain extraordinary moment, incandescent in its capture, is held for future presentation. The record of a precious thing, to be marveled at.

    Photographers are justly proud of this level of work, when a photograph they take embraces the soul of the subject they’re shooting. It’s what it’s all about for real photographers. This type of photo isn’t just a pretty picture. Uncle Rick can usually take those on the camera Ashton Kutcher uses in commercials. Rather, this is when in a split-second, the professional photographer has caught the personality, heart, humor, pulse, joy, pain, exuberance, calm, life-motion, love and true essence of their subject – the people, places and things they watch very carefully and click.

    In viewing photographers’ websites, a word very common to them pops up again and again. Passion. They do it because it’s a passion for them. Sure, they make money at it, that’s the way of the world, but their real love of the art and craft of it is more than apparent, in what they say about why they do it.

    And for the greatest photographers, it’s not just about the photographers themselves showing us how spectacular their images are. It’s about the people and things they shoot. It’s about having the opportunity and privilege to practice an art they dearly love, and at the same time create meaningful images for others. Images that can uplift, inform, delight. Touch the soul. Images that have deep meaning for the people who are captured in them, where the photographer has caught their singularity, specialness, the best of their essence, that hidden human incandescence, like lightning in a jar.

    We’re proud to partner with such photographers. Likewise, our writing team is passionate about their work, proud of their art as professional authors, dedicated to capturing in words the essential story of the subjects interviewed. The mementos that clients can elect to incorporate into their books are actual touchstones to the time, place, and events being preserved for tomorrow, always there within the Photo Storybook. Our graphic designers swirl their magic over the entire project to produce what we finally present.

    Lightning in a jar. We like that, and applaud all those who likewise try to catch it in their own way.


    Bill Routhier

    Writing Director
    PS I Love You Photo Storybooks

    Posted By Bill Routhier

    Love and the "First Look"

    December 12th, 2013

    In days gone by, it was deemed bad luck for the groom to see the bride before she walked down the aisle. The superstition goes back to the days of arranged marriages, where the bride and groom wouldn’t meet until the wedding day. The idea was that if the groom got the see the bride before he married her, he might not like what he saw, and would back out. Today, some brides still prefer to not have the groom see them before coming down the aisle, thinking that it will be more dramatic and memorable that way.

    However, a newer tradition has sprung up in recent years, that of having a “First Look.” The bride and groom see each other before the ceremony, the bride all made-up, hair done, wearing her wedding dress, the groom in his finery. It allows the bride and groom to share a special intimate moment of seeing one another, they together have their “First Look.” Also, if they wish, if affords an opportunity for the photographer to capture those first moments of seeing each other, which are always filled with heightened sensation and are flush with emotion. Having that captured forever frames something that is indeed special – the look of love itself.

    A recent article in the Huffington Post, by Weddings Correspondent Kelsey Borresen, looks at “First Look” photos that were sent in to them by real couples, titled “12 Photos That Will Make You Believe In Love”.

    And indeed, the photos capture a range of emotions – anticipation, joy, tears, wonderment, adoration and yes, love.

    In our PS I Love You Photo Storybooks, we’ve written about “First Look” moments, in order to capture not only the image that the couple wants to preserve, but the story behind the image – what was going on in the bride’s or grooms mind in the moment, what were they feeling, what was welling up in their heart? The rush of emotion that can be adequately expressed only in words is caught and put down on the page, along with the photos, to engrave a complete picture, a nuanced picture, the entire picture of love, caught in their “First Look.”

     We’ve just recently completely a Photo Storybook in which just such a “First Look” moment occurred, and we’d like to share both the story and photos with you, here below.

    “At first we didn’t know where we were going to do the First Look,” Catie recalls, “but we decided to stand in front of this cute prop outhouse. It was really really hot that day, thank god we were standing in the shade, I was on the left side of the outhouse so Chris couldn’t see me, and he was walking toward us on the right side. I was nervous and really excited, because I didn’t know how he was going to react. I was full of joyful tears, I was holding my head up, because that’s what I do if I don’t want to cry, and I didn’t want to start bawling before the ceremony.”

     “Then Chris came to where I was standing, with a scarf tied around his eyes, so he couldn’t see, one of my personal attendants for the day was leading him to us. And like I said, I was really nervous, I don’t know why – why should I be nervous? – because I’ve been with him for three years, and I know he’d seen me dolled up before. But this was different, of course. I was wondering how he’d react, thinking, ‘If he starts crying then I’m going to start crying…’ I was full of joy at the same time… it’s one of those moments that you know you can never get back, so I thought, ‘Gosh, I hope this turns out the way it’s supposed to.’ And yes, it did!”





     When I took the blindfold off Chris, he didn’t say anything at first. I looked at himand laughed a little nervous laugh, like, ‘Are you going to say anything?’ He said he didn’t have any words, he was very overwhelmed and thought I looked so beautiful, he didn’t expect my dress to look like it did. It was beyond what he expected.”

     Chris recalls that indelible experience of first seeing his bride. “It was an incredible moment when I got that first look at Catie in her dress. I remember beforehand thinking to myself, ‘I wonder what she will look like.’ Then, when I did see her, I thought – The most beautiful woman I had ever seen will be spending her life with me – I’ll cherish that moment forever.”

     Catie continues, “Then we had the big kiss, and he was looking at me saying, ‘Whoa, are you really going to be my wife?’ Later on when he was talking to his groomsmen, he made the comment, ‘I can’t believe she’s marrying me,’ because he couldn’t get over how beautiful he thought I was… he literally told me that I was the girl in his dreams, someone he never expected to see in real life.”


    Posted By Bill Routhier

    What Makes a Modern Marriage?

    November 22nd, 2013

    If we look at marriages today, it’s easy to see that they’re light years away from the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ or ‘Mad Men’ depiction of marriage from generations past. One of the most noticeable differences we see is economic – there are relatively few full-time housewives to be found. Generally, it takes two salaries these days to successfully navigate the choppy waters of the ever-shifting economy.

    The Emmy award winning television series ‘Modern Family’ reflects the other prominent aspect of the changing face of marriage – its growing diversity. The show features three families – one is the traditional white suburban family, three kids, perfect when viewed from the outside but in fact neurotic and fraught with dysfunction. The second is the marriage of a successful businessman in his fifties, married to a sassy, savvy, Columbian bombshell a couple of decades younger, who’s love for her husband is pure-hearted and sincere. The third family is two gay men, polar opposites, (one the son of the businessman, who’s daughter is also the suburban mom, which ties all the characters together) who have adopted a precocious Asian daughter.

    The show is smart, goofy, hilarious, and typical of sit-coms, the characters all end up in wacky situations they have to work their way through. Everyone lives in the same town and are often at odds with one another, besides having their own intermarriage problems, but by the end of the episode, situations resolve, usually bringing both the individual families, and the larger family they’ve created together, closer. It’s a sharp, insightful show, and cuts to the heart of what makes a modern marriage work.

    But when it comes to defining exactly what that modern marriage and family consists of, the show’s answer seems to be that there’s no real definition. In the same way that marriages and families have done it since there were marriages and families, they’re making it up as they go along.

    Which brings us back to the original question, what makes a modern marriage? It could be the aspect of diversity, but isn’t necessarily. It could be a traditional marriage adapting to and accepting a changing world. It could be understanding the fact that even if it looks odd from the outside, it’s what’s in the heart that matters. Here at PS I Love You Books, we celebrate those unique qualities found in every marriage.

    In the final end, there seems to be a simple, universal, time-tested, hard won definition – if it works, and most importantly, if it lasts – it’s earned the right to call itself a modern marriage.  

    Posted By Bill Routhier

    The Disappearing Love Letter

    October 29th, 2013

    Love Letter 

    In this hectic modern life we communicate like crazy. We Tweet, we text, we message, we chat, we post our daily comings and goings to Facebook, we put our credentials up on Linked In. Which is all great, social media brings us together, we catch up with people we haven’t seen since high school, we keep our friends closer that it’s ever been possible in the past – updating them on our lives, our children, grandchildren, likes, dislikes, whatever minutia of daily living we want to share – it’s all there!

    PSILY Love Letter But… as Joni Mitchell said, “Something’s lost and something’s gained in living every day.” In Ken Burn’s classic PBSseries ‘The Civil War,’ one of the most striking things that came to light was the sheer beauty and eloquence of the letters that were written back and forth between the soldiers and their loved ones. Have we lost so much of our sense of literacy between now and then? Perhaps some, but the greater reason they wrote so well back then was more likely that communication wasn’t as instant and immediate as it is now. A letter took weeks, maybe more, to reach the soldiers out in the field. Life and death was a daily occurrence. They deeply realized this, those at war and those at home. So in that single letter, so much was at stake, so much had to be expressed. And in the writing of the letter, the writer, not necessarily well educated, expressed their heart and rose to the occasion. The result? Beauty and eloquence.

    Couples about to get married also have a lot at stake – they’re planning to spend the rest of their lives together. As a ‘soon to be married’ couple, you naturally want to express your deepest and most profound feelings for one another. In thinking about this, would you do it in a Tweet? No, of course not. In an email? No.

    A letter, a love letter, is permanent. It takes thought, it takes sitting down and writing it, it takes a direct contact between your hand and your heart. The love inside your chest makes its way down through the arm to the hand and is inscribed forever. That’s a love letter.

    Something so simple and precious should never be allowed to fall out of practice, to get lost in the flash of technology. The love letter isn’t a difficult thing to write. It needn’t be poetic allusions or fancy words. It only needs to express what you feel for the person nearest and dearest to you. If you say those things simply and directly and honestly, your partner will love you for it.

    Which is why they call it a love letter.

    And the best thing is this – any time is a good time to write one.  

    Posted By PS I Love You
    You’ll be looking at your wedding photos for the rest of your married life, and what you do not want is to have to say, (or think) every time you open the wedding album, “The pictures are ok, I guess, but I wasn’t 100% happy with the photographer.”

    You want to LOVE your wedding photos! You want to point at one after another and say, “Ohhh, I just adore this shot!”

    Choosing the right wedding photographer is of paramount importance. It’s not a question of whether one photographer is ‘better’ than another, it’s a question of how good the photographer is for you, for your wedding. Like Goldilocks, you can find a photographer out there who’s ‘just right,’ but before deciding on which one that is, take a read through the following steps to help you decide who is the best choice.

    1) The Right Style

    All good photographers feature a certain style that they like to work in. For instance, some prefer staged shots, a glamorous approach, or traditional poses. Some specialize in more candid, carefree, or humorous photos. Some favor rustic weddings, some city, some DIY fun and funky, some chic upscale – there are lots of photographers out there with lots of styles, something for everyone. Get online and do your research! Start checking numerous websites. The photographer’s website reflects on the photographer, so you should be looking for an attractive website that functions well, easily shows you lots of great photographs. Remember, the photos that the photographer has put on their website are the cream of their crop, so judge accordingly.

    2) The Right Consistency

    Most Photographers will feature a series of photos from a particular wedding as part of their online portfolio. When you look at those photos, do you get a sense of continuity, a feeling for the personalities of the couple, does the entire day come to life? A good photographer creates a set of wedding photos that look like they totally belong together. If you see a sample wedding photo collection and a number of the photos seem random or disjointed, even though you might like some of them, you may want to reconsider.

    3) The Right Services

    Decide what you’ll need first, then see if the photographer offers those services. Do you want the photographer just for the wedding day, or should the services include the rehearsal dinner, a formal bridal portrait, pre-wedding shoots of the couple, etc. Does the photographer bring an assistant? Good to know in planning what gets photographed when. Is your photographer happy to work with a short list of requests for shots? Can they mix black and white and color photos? If you’re choosing a photographer from a larger company, will you know which photographer you’ll be getting? If so, you’ll want to see that photographer’s work.

    4) The Right Credentials

    Does the photographer you’re interested in have lots of glowing recommendations? That’s fine, but even better is when a photographer has an award on their website. Best of The Knot, Wedding Wire, Bride’s Choice – these awards mean you’re getting a photographer who’s proven him or herself time and again. Local awards are great too. Not having an award doesn’t mean they aren’t a good photographer, but awards are definitely good. Websites like The Knot and Wedding Wire can often tell you what other couple’s experiences have been with the photographer you’re considering. Also, even in this age of search engines and apps, good old word of mouth is still a wonderful thing. Ask your married friends who were happy with their photographer who they used.

    5) The Right Budget

    A rule of thumb that wedding planners will give you is that the photographer’s services should be around 12% of the wedding budget. If you love a certain photographer and they’re beyond what you want to spend, this lets you start crossing candidates off your list early on and zeroing in on those photographers you’ll finally be choosing from.

    6) The Right Chemistry

    After you’ve whittled your list down to the final few you’re considering, after you’ve called the photographer and confirmed they’re available for your wedding date, make an appointment to meet the photographer in person and bring your future spouse. Photographers are used to this. This is, after all, someone who is going to be an integral part of your wedding, interacting with the bridal party, family and guests, making requests, etc. You want to be completely comfortable with your photographer. If there’s something that doesn’t feel right when you meet face to face, if any radar goes off, seriously reconsider. You do not want to do be saying for the rest of your lives, “It was a perfect wedding, except for the photographer.”

    7) The Right Timing

    Brides-to-be often ask when they should start looking for a photographer. A good rule of thumb is to begin the day after your wedding proposal. But seriously – start right away! Having to book a year ahead of time for a good photographer isn’t at all unusual, especially if you’re planning the wedding in peak times.

    There are so many good photographers out there, you can be sure to get one who’ll be just right for you, if you do the research, remember to keep a sharp eye on the details and lastly, follow your heart.

    Posted By Bill Routhier

    Fun Wedding Mad Libs

    October 9th, 2013

    OK - go on and admit it – you know loved doing Mad Libs as a kid, and still have a soft spot in your heart for them. We’re all kids at heart, or should be anyway, so here at PS I Love You Photo Storybooks, we decided to create something entertaining and useful to add to your wedding experience.

    Adult Wedding Mad Libs! A cheeky, fun idea, easily downloadable and printable. Just click on the graphic to download the image.

    We hope you like and use them… when you do, write us to let us know how it went!

    Graphically yours at PS I Love You,

    XOXO

    Bill Routhier

    Madlib PSILY PhotoStorybook Madlib PSILY PhotoStorybook Madlib PSILY PhotoStorybook

    Posted By Bill Routhier


    Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Album, Ask What Your Album Can Do for You.

    As a photographer partnering with PSILY, you are offering your clients something truly unique and exclusive - a product they'll get excited about because the Photo Storybook is a totally new concept. For you that meansan additional profit stream for your business. The Photo Storybook can be sold in lieu of a traditional wedding album or as a complement to it (with the Photo Storybook as the regular, old album's much cooler cousin). If you're the only photographer offering the Photo Storybook in your area and people find out about it and love the product, you’ll gain a definite competitive edge. This is a product people are eager to share with others. We all know how powerful word-of-mouth is in the photography industry, and the Photo Storybook is the only of its kind.

    On top of that, all Photo Storybooks are 100 pages and feature at least 75 photos in addition to the custom layout, story, and optional mementos. Compare that to a traditional album, look at the costs, and see the value that emerges. If you register as a pro on our website, you can download our sales booklet and find out more about costs, the process, and possible profits you can make in selling a Photo Storybook to your clients.

    Enough About You Already, Let's Talk About Us (tongue inserted firmly into cheek).

    PS I Love You's Photo Storybooks began with a simple, yet radical plan – to re-imagine what the wedding album could be. Our parent company, Marilyn’s Memoir, creates personal biographies, which inspired the idea of marrying wedding photos with the couple’s professionally written love/wedding story. The combination of these two elements, words and images being a natural fit, fashions a completely new style of wedding album.

    Inspired by one-off, incredibly expensive and insanely creative fine art books, we decided to include the option of having actual mementos (from the wedding day or previously shared keepsakes) incorporated into the pages in imaginative ways. Love letters, invitations, written vows and the like are affixed to the page, bound into the spine or made removable via pockets, bands, etc. so that the Photo Storybook tells a truly unique, meaningful, and custom story. One client put it like this: “I think of it as a really awesome, elegant, 3-D wedding album.”

    What You Really Care About...

    If you have a career in photography, it goes without saying you're creative. Imagine what a collaboration with PSILY could bring - your photographic art plus our design, writing, and bookmaking talents. An exciting thought, isn't it? “What can we make together...?” Win one of the three $500 credits to spend on our site and find out. (Plus, enter to win a sweet $500 gift certificate to B&H for the gear of your choice). Even if you don't win, we've made our studio sample books as affordable as possible. We know when your clients see the PS I Love You Photo Storybook, they'll want one for themselves (after all, who doesn’t want to relive the most amazing day of their life in an incredible way?).

    Go ahead, enter the contests and maybe we'll make it rain for you. Find out a few weeks from now, October 18th, if you're a lucky lady or guy.

    xoxo,

    Liz

    Posted By PS I Love You
    PS I Love You, in creating our initial Photo Storybooks, reached out to a few select photographers, to query them as to whether they might have any couples to recommend who would be interested in having their wedding photos and story made into their own PS I Love You Photo Storybook. We found an interested and interesting couple in Ava and Neal, and asked them how the overall experience was for them, and what they thought of the results.

    PSILY – We were very happy to be introduced to you both by your wedding photographer, and pleased that you agreed to do your own PS I Love You Wedding Photo Storybook as one of our sample books. You guys have a really wonderful wedding and love story. Can you tell us what the experience of creating your Photo Storybook was like?

    Ava – Sure. We were both curious when our photographer told us about it.

    Neal – It sounded very unique.

    Ava – He told us it was a new company, showed us a brochure and explained the different features. I was struck by the idea that it was a company that could put your wedding story and love story into a wedding album, along with the photos. I’d never heard of that before.

    Neal – That and the mementos. I was impressed with that feature, how it preserved your wedding mementos but it was playful too. You could slide an invitation out of the book and look at it. I think of it as a 3-D wedding album.

    Ava – (nods) I loved that. It makes it such an interesting experience to go through the Storybook. I’m sure kids would really love that part too.


    PSILY – How did the ordering process go for you?

    Ava – Well, first I looked over the website. Everything there in the ordering section is spelled out and pretty easy to understand, but before I made my final choice, I talked to a customer service person, just to be sure. They were very helpful and when I went to go through the choices on the website, it took less than a couple of minutes.

    Neal – We knew we wanted to have mementos, and I thought they looked great when we got the book.

    Ava – We chose the large size, twelve by fifteen. What I like is that it’s an impressive book. It's very striking.

    Neal – It feels good to show it to people, it’s large, thick, the cover feels great and when you open it and start looking through, the interior layout keeps changing. In a regular wedding album, it’s just page after page of different photos, which is fine, but this so much more fun to look at.

    Ava – Yeah, the way the designers did it, how the photos follow the story, the pictures on the whole page, the collages, large quotes, the mementos, everything looks interesting together. Each page is something new.

    Neal – It’s obvious that it’s been custom designed. Compared with what you get in a standard wedding album, I think you get much more value for cost with a Photo Storybook.

    Ava – I agree.


    PSILY – You had to send in the photos and mementos. How did that go?

    Neal – We just chose which photos we wanted to include in the book from the DVD disc our photographer gave us, wrote down the numbers, then we made a copy of the disc with the list and mailed it in along with the mementos we wanted to be included, in the shipping materials you sent us. That was it.

    Ava – We thought we might need our photographer’s help, but we didn’t.


    PSILY – Part of the process for putting together the story involves one of our authors interviewing you. How did that go for you?

    Ava – I thought it was surprisingly easy. We filled out the form with our basic information by email, dates and names and places, etcetera. Then we did a phone interview, it took maybe an hour and a half, Neal and I were both on the call. Afterwards, the author wrote back an email that he had a few additional questions to fill in some things in the story. So we answered those by email and that was that.

    Neal – I was impressed by how the writer got our personalities onto the page.

    Ava – I felt he got that too, us as real people with a real story.

    Neal – A story our kids can read someday.

    Ava – Exactly. That’s also makes it special.


    PSILY – Are you planning a family soon?

    Ava – Yes. It’s past the planning stage. (laughs) I’m three months.


    PSILY – Congratulations!

    Ava and Neal – Thank you!


    PSILY – What was your reaction when you finally got the book?

    Ava – I started crying, to be honest. Neal came home later that day and I ran up to him with it, and we sat down and looked at it for what must have been a couple of hours at least.

    Neal – I’m used to having nice things, high-end things, and this didn’t disappoint. The print quality is spot on, the craftsmanship of the book itself is top-notch. I saw on the site that you guarantee it’ll last a lifetime.


    PSILY –As long as it’s treated well, it’ll last at least a lifetime.

    Ava – It’s nice to know that we’ll have it as an heirloom.

    Neal – Yes.


    PSILY – We’d really like to thank you for talking with us today.

    Ava – Our pleasure.


    Posted By Liz Hilton

    Confessions of a Photo Shoot

    September 4th, 2013

    I think most photographers have an idea in their head of what a shoot is going to look like, and how it's going to go. For me, my vision is rarely (if ever) actualized. Does anything ever go according to plan? I may think I'm going to have enough time to shoot in certain pre-designated places (and then don't), or I might envision a particular pose with a specific emotion but it doesn't happen, or the light isn't quite what I hoped. For example, I'm picturing a glorious sunset for an engagement shoot, only to find myself in a requested location that is in full-on shadow with no sun (or sunset) in sight. All of these things happened to me just last week in various shoots! Luckily, I adjusted as necessary and all turned out well in the end. I'm guessing I'm not alone in this scenario.

    So what happens when a fully staged shoot throws me curveballs even when I have a backup plan? What we all do. Deal and do the best we can! I'll tell you about our product shoot for our PS I Love You ad in the September/October Issue of Click Magazine (pictured below). Perhaps you can commiserate.

    I find shooting products, especially books, challenging. I'm far more comfortable with people (is that weird?). Although, I must say, I'm getting increasingly comfortable and creatively challenged by photographing the Photo Storybook. But let me tell you about the Click photo shoot. It was interesting (and exhausting).

    First, I got ahead of the game (or so I thought), and sketched out the staging. See said sketch:



    Uh huh. Now look at a picture of the actual set - a shot taken that evening before tear down. Quite a bit different. (It looks so simple, but a lot of work went into it!) I had some...er...challenges...in the execution of my sketch.



    1) The beautiful branch I planned to use was not long enough to give me much space to shoot between the ladders I had planned on propping it up with. Had I gone with this set-up, it would have severely restricted the angles I could shoot from. I would not have been able to get the variety of shots that I ended up getting with it. So, I decided to change locations to a tree farm where they had made some awesome birch branch structures that would work well.

    2) The morning of the shoot, I was still waiting for permission from the tree farm owner to shoot on his land. Nerve-wracking, but I did have my limited branch-suspended-by-ladders back-up plan and an alternate place to shoot... Next time, logistics will be hammered out well in advance!

    Did you see the props I had planned on in the sketch? I already had: the fold up chair, shag rug, branch, and mason jars but I needed to fill those mason jars and get materials to hang them, plus make a PS I Love You framed chalkboard sign, and directional sign. Not too bad! Well...

    3) Then I went shopping (the night before the shoot, might I add)...'til midnight! I bought a TON of stuff, not knowing what I really wanted. Not a very efficient use of my time - but I did find some cute stuff that I hadn't originally planned on. I was exhausted by the time I got home. Shopping the night of the shoot for props is not recommended. :)

    4) The next morning, the day of the shoot, I still had to make my props. (Also not recommended!) First I did my hanging mason jars and simplified their contents by floating flower heads in water and putting votives in others. Next I started on the lace crown (tutorial in the previous blog post), which if you read the diy I wrote, you know this was a very bad idea. The crown held enough shape for the shoot, but it definitely could have been firmer! Then I made my PS I Love You sign, which was pretty straight forward. Then I got an idea for a flower wand... I also made pink lemonade with berries frozen in ice. All this in the morning! So...

    5) By the time I got to the shoot location, it was 2pm. And very, very bright. I gave myself a whopping half-hour to set up (are you chuckling at my folly yet?) and the model, her mom and brother arrived fifteen minutes early. (This was the only time of day that worked for them). So I had fifteen minutes of actual set up time! No good, but I rolled with it. As I struggled with the lace fabric that made up my tent cover (not pictured), I fielded questions from the kids and soon became red-faced and sweaty as I baked in the afternoon summer sun. (Good times!)

    6) And, oh yes, it was windy. A fact a hadn't counted on. Of course I had no clamps for the lace. I hurriedly threw it up so we could start the shoot and used available rocks to hold the lace down at the ends. But, because I draped the lace so hastily, it kept getting blown out of place and I kept having to fix it!

    7) I mentioned it was mid-afternoon and very, very bright. My beautiful model Aubrey was squinting uncontrollably even in the shade of my tent. The sun was at the side of the tent and there was nothing we could do about the direction of the tent because the big, heavy birch logs that gave it it's structure weren't going anywhere.

    Poor girl, we did our best to close eyes and then open them to get some squint-free shots. Aubrey was so cute, she and her brother wanted nothing more than to eat the cupcake in the cloche and try the lemonade (that now had grasshoppers from the field floating in it) but she did very, very well for the shoot.

    People kept telling me I should use my daughter for the ad. But, (am I alone here?) I have a harder time shooting my own children than other people's. I strongly felt that she would not behave if I got her in that tent to look at the Photo Storybooks. So...

    8) I planned on two shoots in one day. One in the afternoon with Aubrey, and one in the evening with my daughter Ashlyn. Ashlyn did better than expected. She also wanted to drink the lemonade and eat the cupcake but her grandmother and I told her they were icky and had sat out all day...so she didn't. She also jumped, and played in the pillows. I conjured my inner zen. I asked her to look at a Photo Storybook and tell me what she saw. She liked looking at the pretty pictures, conveyed the couple's emotions, and thoroughly surprised me. She did well overall!

    Afterwards, we walked a path through the tree farm, and I took pictures of Ashlyn at sunset. They turned out very pretty. Ashlyn and her grandmother went home, and I was left to the tear down the set. I took a couple more product shots, then packed everything up and went home. I was beyond exhausted. I had done all the staging, made props, set up, did two photo shoots with models and also shot the books separately followed up by an impromptu evening shoot of my daughter and then took everything down and hauled it home.

    It wasn't until the next day that I looked at the photos. I picked out six possible ad images of Aubrey and only one of my daughter. Four-year-old Aubrey, with her beautiful long hair that fit the fantasy of what I was trying to create versus my sweet-but-sassy three-year-old who likes to do the opposite of what her mother says. This is Aubrey:





     
    I polled my team individually and every single person hands down chose the picture of Ashlyn. Were they biased? They claim not to be, but it doesn't even matter. I felt like an idiot. It should have always been my daughter. Not only because many of the Click readers are also momtogs, but because I'm leaving a legacy behind and she should be part of it. She should have the ad as a memory, and I'm glad my team showed me the light.

    For better or worse, I made it through the ad shoot and ended up with an image of my daughter that I love. But next time, I will unequivocally do a better job with time management...busy or not!

    xoxo,

    Liz



    Posted By Liz Hilton
    Last month I created what was (for me) a fairly involved and stylized shoot with a hut made of birch trunks and lace draperies, shabby chic bedding and some various diy props including hanging mason jars with votives / rose heads floating in water, a flower stick-wand, a framed chalkboard sign, and an (ultra shabby, ha) lace crown.

    While lace crowns aren't new to the photography prop world, they are so charming and adorable - not to mention highly customizable and inexpensive - they are still relevant and are soo versatile. Lace crowns are as sweet on a four-year-old as they are on a newborn. The crown I made for the aforementioned shoot is now hanging in my daughter's room as decoration - so even when I'm not using it as a prop it makes for a fun home decor piece.

    Here's the low-down on these:

    1. Lace crowns are easy to make, but time consuming due to drying time.
    2. Lace matters. You get a different look and also the stiffening process will vary depending on material.
    3. You don't have to use store bought lace. Make a crown pattern on an old piece of lace and cut it out.
    4. To firm up the lace you can use either Modge Podge or fabric stiffener. (More about this later)
    5. Do not try to make these the day of a shoot like I did (the first time)!


    Materials:



    • Lace (straight edge with a fancy top edge) of desired width
    • Stiffener: Modge Podge or Fabric Stiffener
    • Any desired embellishments (rhinestones, ribbon, flower, etc.)
    • Fabric Glue or Glue Gun
    • Glitter/Metallic/Colored Spray Paint or Acrylic Paint
    • Scissors, Wax Paper, Plastic Cup, Painter's Brush (optional)


    Step 1:

    Cut the lace to your desired length: larger to fit around the head, smaller to sit daintily on top (may need to be affixed with bobby pins if for an older child using a small crown). Sample sizes are 15 inches for a large crown (child), 12 inches for a medium (toddler), 8 inches for a small (baby), and around 5 inches for a newborn crown.



    Step 2:

    Pour Fabric Stiffener in a plastic cup or mix 4 parts Modge Podge to 1 part water and dunk lace.

    Give it a minute for the lace to soak in the stiffening agent and then lay it out flat on wax paper to dry. Use a hair dryer to speed up drying time. Flip to dry both sides. (I stretched my lace in clips on a child's hanger for easy drying with a hair dryer). Repeat the process 4-6 times or to desired stiffness.

    Tip: Especially with Modge Podge you may need to remove excess medium and pop any bubbles trapped in the lace during the drying phase. A painter's brush works well for this.

    Have any heavy starch lying around? After three applications of the Fabric Stiffener, I sprayed the lace with heavy starch and ironed it - very helpful for the type of lace used for this tutorial as the top points tended to bend. They probably still could have used one more application of the stiffener.





    Step 3:

    Paint with acrylic or spray paint to desired color. I used a glitter spray paint for a subtly luminescent effect, and it was fast and easy. For a more dramatic result, use a base color under the glitter such as a metallic paint. Allow to dry.



    Step 4:

    Affix the lace ends with a couple of dabs of glue; press and hold until the glue has dried a bit.



    Step 5:

    Glue or sew on any desired embellishments. Ribbon, rhinestones, and/or fake flowers can add a lot to the look of the crown. Keep the weight of the embellishment versus the sturdiness of your crown in mind. Not all embellishments will work well. (For my photo shoot crown, I wanted a simple, plain, handmade look, so I didn't add an embellishment.)

    Voila! That's it. Even if the outcome is a little less than perfect, nothing can beat a handmade prop in photos.



    Check out these gorgeous creations by photographer Ashley Mickelson of Rifle, CO:

    Photos Courtesy of Ashley Mickelson Photography







    Posted By Liz Hilton

    There’s something within me that needs to create. My mind is always spinning…conjuring, considering. I have a lot of interests and a natural curiosity, and because of that, I feel a bit like a jack of all trades, master of none. If there’s anything I truly desire to master in life, it’s photography – and I know it will be many, many years before I could ever consider myself a pro. There is so much to learn, and I’m humbled by all of the amazing artists out there.

    In college I studied art (and marketing followed by English). I spent my free time creating art with paint, charcoal, and pen and ink. I’ll never forget a particular design class. My professor and I didn’t always see eye to eye. She said I had the talent but not the patience. (Hmm…maybe she did know what she was talking about…) At that point in my life, photography never crossed my mind.

    By my senior year of college, I had artwork, poetry, and a professional paper published. My mom, a middle school teacher (from whom I inherited my artistic predilections) cheered me on and made me feel like I had real talent and a future of limitless opportunity. Much of what I achieved by that point was mostly for her. A self-confessed people pleaser, there was no one I wanted to please more.

    In June 2003, the day after Father’s Day, my mom was killed in a car accident. A childhood fear that I prayed about daily from age ten into my early twenties had come true. The night before her passing, she reminded me of how, when I was younger, every time she left the house I’d watch her drive away from the space between the dining room shade and window and then immediately pray for her. I prayed that she’d remember to wear her seatbelt and that she wouldn’t get into an accident.

    On the 16th, my mom left mid-morning for a four hour drive. I hugged her. I told her I loved her, but I didn’t watch her go. And I didn’t pray. Forty-five minutes from her destination, she fell asleep at the wheel, hit a ditch, and rolled her car. She wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. My brother, sister, and I got the most horrifying phone call of our lives on what was otherwise a lovely, sunny, summer day. My beautiful, classy, funny, smart, strong, enigmatic light of a mother was gone.

    It goes without saying that her death turned my life upside down. It knocked the wind out of me. I didn’t write or create for nearly a decade. It wasn’t until an impromptu photo shoot with my children that I realized I had a natural eye for photography. I captured them from unique perspectives and at moments most people might not think photo-worthy. I was a bit astounded that I’d never tried before…that I never thought of photography as a creative outlet for myself. From that moment on, I couldn’t drive anywhere or do anything without thinking of how the landscape or people around me could potentially be captured. In fact, I still do it constantly and naturally without any forethought. (I have to be careful driving because I get totally caught up and forget to pay attention to the road!)

    As a tribute to my mother, my brother searched for a company to create a book about her but could find none. That led to the creation of Marilyn’s Memoir. Then, later, my love of both the written and visual story, and the combination thereof, led to the idea of PS I Love You Photo Storybooks. (Who says a wedding album should be images only? The focus, yes, but the written story can enhance the traditional album for a truly meaningful memory of, not only the wedding day, but what laid the foundation for it). An incredible amount of work and various talents went into the product’s creation and now we are bringing something, I feel, is very special to the world. My mom would be really proud.

    Eventually, we’ll offer memory books and other types of albums to coincide with lifestyle photography, so if you are a lifestyle photographer, you may want to register on our site now so you will hear about those products when they start coming down the pike…

    Today, I’m in a good place and happy to be creating again. I’m learning, sharing my developing skills with friends and family, and am generally obsessed. I look forward to posting about these things from time to time on the PS I Love You blog, mixing it in with product info and PSILY news, and I hope you’ll speak up if you’re inspired to share.

    Before I go, I’d like to share a few pictures. First, a photo of my mom in one of her favorite places to be...her garden, followed by the standard teacher headshot (she was an outstanding language arts teacher), and, lastly, a portrait of her as a little girl. (It's so vintage and classic, I just love it!) While I do miss her all the time, I am who I am because of her and she is with me in everything I do. If she were here today, she’d be one of my favorite subjects to shoot.

     

     



    Xoxo,

    Liz

    Posted By Liz Hilton

    PS I Love You Launch

    June 20th, 2013

    Well, hello there. I'm Liz Hilton - founder of PS I Love You Photo Storybooks. I'm writing this introductory blog post with a mix of emotion on the eve of our launch (FINALLY!). I feel as if I could pop - not as in pregnant pop (been there, done that), but burst, rather, with excitement and anticipation.

    The Photo Storybook that we are putting out into the marketplace is the first of its kind. And, I wonder, why is it the first of its kind? Photos tell a story but words fill in the details. Indeed, as a photographer and writer, I see the importance of both, how they go hand in hand. They're the perfect marriage (ahem) of memories.

    And what about all those irreplaceable little mementos you have stashed away? (Mine are in a mini trunk in my closet). Can you imagine having them right there at your fingertips with your personal story and your pictures? Where you will actually look at them?? I'm guessing most people are like me - every once and awhile I haul out my mementos, having no idea what's even there anymore, but when I read through them, I become enamored with my husband all over again. Sometimes I forget where we came from and how 'we' came to be. So to have those things within a custom design I think is pretty incredible. I hope you think so, too.

    You may note that on our website we use words like 'incredible,' 'amazing,' and 'gorgeous.' Truly, it's not loose talk, or worse, hype. They truly are those things. The Photo Storybooks we've created to date are not based on my wedding, but from my reaction to seeing the finished samples, you'd think they were. I. am. so. proud. They are GORGEOUS. And I can't wait until you can see one for yourself. I wish I could give them out for free - I want everyone to have one!

    It's been a long journey, but the end result has made it all worth it. This is a product I will gladly put my stamp on. Many, many thanks to all who helped make PS I Love You and the Photo Storybook happen. We've got some amazing talent here, and I can't wait to share those talents with the world.

    Before I go, I just want to say that we want to hear from you. I hope our site offers enough/not too much information, and if you have any questions or feedback, please do reach out. We'll all benefit.

    Thanks so much for reading the first installment of the PS I Love You Blog. Stay tuned for the announcement of the Photo Storybook winners! Have a wonderful weekend.

    xoxo,

    Liz


    P.S. Visit Marilyn’s Memoir sometime if you can. The Novoir (novel/memoir) in many ways inspired the Photo Storybook. (I love you mom. Miss you.)

    Posted By Liz Hilton

    Through the lens you capture the moments that matter.
    On the page we reveal the heart of the story.