• Twelve Easy Steps to Facilitate Selecting Yearly Portfolios

    Tip Tuesday Header


    Imagine you just met someone who asks you what you do. It happens all the time, right? But, how many people follow-up with interest in seeing an example of your work or what you what you are currently working on? Not that many, am I right? So, if they are interested enough to make that extra effort to ask about your work, can you reward their interest by showing them examples of your current project, or a prior body of work, in an organized, professional presentation? Yes. I am guilty too, so no judgment here. I am working on finding the right “virtual” portfolio platform myself. I have experimented with a few options but, in general, I have not found a platform that seems like a “fit” for me, so that part is an ongoing process.

    However, while I don’t currently have a mobile/virtual portfolio, I do have a system of selecting and thinking about my top contenders for portfolios. First, I want to say that I use Adobe Lightroom for organizing, keywording, and managing my images into collections. I know there are many other software options and I suspect you could organize a similar system of selecting in any of the other programs too.

    Basic Infrastructure

    I have a main Collection Set that I named “PORTFOLIO”. Under “PORTFOLIO” there is another Collection Set -“TOP TEN BY YEAR”. Inside “TOP TEN BY YEAR” is yet another Collection Set “2018 Portfolio. Then, inside “2018 Portfolio” are Collections for “2018 YEAR”, “2018-01”, and so on through “2018-12” for each month.




    2018 Portfolio

    2018 YEAR


    2018-02 …



    At the beginning of the month, I take a few minutes to add at least 5-10 images I created during the prior month. Most of the time, I have already added the images throughout the month as I work on them. In which case, most of the work has been done and it is just a review process to make sure I did not forget a favorite and do any other “housekeeping” with keywords, titles, attributions, etc.


    At the beginning of the new year, it is time to review the monthly folders and select images for my yearly portfolio. I find this little bit of organization each month narrows my focus and helps me select the top images for the year.

    Of course, the portfolios for bodies of works, or series of works, have a  “Collection” all on their own and I do not include them in this process.

    So now it’s your turn. How do you select your portfolio for the year? AND, do you have a way to share your work that you find easy and convenient to use? Do tell.

  • Quick Tips for Time Management

    While I may not have always been a goal setter, I have always been a time management fan-girl. I have always made lists, maintained follow-up systems, etc. Over the years, I had a system that I loved using and worked well for me. This system relied heavily on Outlook to set reminders, maintain contact information, … it synced with my smartphone… BEAUTIFUL. However, recent software updates rendered all the work setting up my beautiful system practically useless. And, apparently, since customer needs are low on priorities these days, it left me looking for ways to sever my dependence from that system. Enter (cue the trumpets) – my lovely little bullet journal, and a few bonus tools.

    Bullet Journal:

    If you are looking for a way to organize and track your daily tasks in a customized way, the Bullet Journal is your friend. You can learn how to get started by clicking HERE. One of the many positives of this system is that you do NOT need a special journal or tools to get started. However, the journal I use is a Leuchtturm 1917 you can find on Amazon , as well as other places. I selected the journal with grid pages because I feel like I can “decorate” and make the pages a little more graphically pleasing. A little eye candy always makes me happy and, therefore, I look forward to showing up to populate my journal each day. I also like that I can choose what I’m tracking, like daily water intake, weather, social media, etc. There are so many ideas on the internet for pages and subjects to include in a bullet journal. I love, love, love my bullet journal.

    Follow-up/”Tickler” System:

    I worked in offices where reminder systems are referred to as Tickler Systems. This solution is an old-school, low-tech, solution I have personal experience using. And, since I have little faith in relying on a modern, technology-based reminder system after Outlook has repeatedly let me down, I returned to my old-school tickler roots. Folders. Yep. You read that right. Folders. I have twelve, beautiful, decorative, colorful folders labeled for each month. I also have thirty-one plain white folders labeled 1 through 31. Each monthly folder holds a checklist for that month (more below). The current month folder is at the front of the cabinet with the numbered folders filed behind it. I file anything time sensitive (like hotel reservations, doctor appointment reminders, call for entry information, course registrations, etc.) in the folder for that day. The next month starts all over again. Again, it is low-tech but it works for me right now. HERE is a full description of the folder tickler system if you are interested.


    As I mentioned already, I created checklists for the tasks and follow-ups that I routinely needed to do, which is another post entirely. But, for the folder system, I created a quick and easy spreadsheet for each month.  The spreadsheet has the name of the month with two columns below. The column on the left is numbered for each day in that month. The right column includes things that need to be done on that particular date year after year; like birthdays I want to remember, due dates for quarterly tax reports, domain name renewal deadlines, reminders to change your copyright date (hint, hint)… you get the idea.

    Time Management Tools:

    I am sure you have heard the adage: “Work smarter, not harder.” I agree with this moto and often have those “slap your forehead” moments when I discover ways I could simplify and streamline my processes. Thanks to my bullet journal, I have an idea of how I need to break down my day. For example, I may spend an hour each day writing, an hour post-processing images, …  But, I rarely adhere to that kind of schedule and usually push through until I complete a task at the sacrifice of other tasks on my list. Since the Pomodoro Technique time management topic was a common reoccurrence in courses, reading materials, etc. I decided I needed to check it out for myself and I skeptically took the idea out for a test drive this past year. (I have linked the website that explains how the blocks of time work. Just click on Pomodoro Technique. ) I admit that my skepticism was misplaced and I honestly think I am more productive on days I set my timer and work in blocks of time. At first, I used a kitchen timer. You know the magnet type that you can get at any box store? I put it on my file cabinet and set it for my blocks of time. I was using a lot of batteries and did not always take the time to reset the timer for the next block of time, so I  started exploring other options. There are several apps for your smartphone, but I like using the Focus Keeper app. You can set the block of work time for a longer amount of time (like a 50-minute block rather than 25-minutes), and the timer automatically sets itself for breaks, etc. No resetting once you get it going. Yeah! As an added bonus, I find that I actually get up out of my chair and add more movement to my day.


    I highly recommend Sebastian Michaels’s course “21 Days to  Creative Abundance“. I have a reminder set to go through the course every 6 months. And, every time I go through the course, I always get something new to put into practice.

    Now, it’s your turn. Do you have a favorite system? AND, if you use a bullet journal, please share some of your favorite pages. I would love to see them.

    Tomorrow let’s talk about blogging and how an editorial calendar can be your friend.

  • Summer Watermark

    Digital Photography, Copyright
    © 2016 SuZan Alexander

    I have been working through some tutorials lately, and while I never managed to achieve the same results, I took things in a new direction and created a watermark stamp for summer photos. (It’s all an exercise in learning my friends…no failures, just opportunities to learn.)

    I tested the summer “watermark” on one of my images that didn’t make it past quality control. But, I love these tulips and their lovely design patterns, so I was happy to put them to use. If you are interested in applying this watermark to some of your summer memories, HERE is the link to the png file.

    Stay cool!

  • iPhone Photography Tips

    We ALL take photos with our iPhone. We ALL want to take better photos with our iPhone. It does not matter if you want to post them on your social media channels, or simple preserve a memory for yourself. We can all benefit from better images. Julia Kelleher, a talented photographer, wrote a great blog post on this very subject, which she graciously shares with us. Thanks Julia!


    Your iPhone is with you at all times, right? It’s like your right hand — always there, always ready to help you muddle your way through the day and kill boredom when the need arises. But that phone of yours can be oh-so-frustrating when your darling child chooses a particular moment to do something photo-worthy and your phone chooses that time to revolt.

    Well, when you learn the inner and secret features of your iPhone camera, your days of being “slow on the draw” will be over. On top of that, your camera skills will improve 10-fold and your images will too, making your memories print and wall worthy.

    So let’s look at some of the tricks and features inside your iPhone that will make you shine at the next family get together!


    Don’t miss ANY moment. To get to your camera lickety-split do one of two things depending on if your iPhone is locked or not.


    Locked Iphone-Open Camera

    1. Hit the home button
    2. Locate the camera icon on the lower right corner of the screen.
    3. Swipe up & the camera will open.


    Unlocked Iphone_Open Camera

    1. Swipe Up
    2. Tap the camera icon & the camera will open.


    Activating the grid will place a “tick-tac-toe” box on your screen as you shoot. What’s the benefit? Where the lines cross is called a “power point.” When you place your subject on of the four points you create images with a little negative space and better, more artistic composition. A little pro tip that will make your images that much prettier!

    Grid Activation

                TO ACTIVATE:

    1. Go to Settings > Photos&Camera > Grid > Turn it On


    Professional photographer know light like the back of your hand, and every lighting situation poses different issues, especially of you camera. A camera cannot see light and adjust the way the human eye can. So, it’s important to be able to tell your camera how to behave when you need it to in order to get a good “exposure.” The classic scenario that may drive you crazy is shooting a darker subject on a bright background. Your camera will want to make the background look good and your subject will be dark and ugly! ARGH! The way around this? Use the hidden feature in your iPhone that lets YOU control how bright an image is.


    1. Open the camera
    2. Compose your shot
    3. Tap and HOLD on the screen where you want to focus. The yellow box will blink and set focus.
    4. Swipe up or down to make the camera brighten or darken the exposure
    5. When you’re happy with how it looks, take the shot!

    Exposure_Focus Lock_Adjust


    Flash from your camera almost never looks good. It produces a harsh, flat light that doesn’t always need to be there, yet the camera seems to want to use it all the time. Turn it off when you can for more pleasing light in your images.


    1. In the camera app, tap the lighting bolt icon in the upper left corner.
    2. Choose and tap “Off.”
    3. Shoot as you like!


    Did you know your iPhone can shoot 10 frames per second in burst mode? WHAT? My iPhone has burst mode? Yes it does! And it’s great for catching your toddler on the run.


    1. Press and HOLD the shutter release button on your camera app.
    2. Voila! 10 frames per second.

    Burst Mode


    Taking the picture is just half the process in the Pro world. Editing and enhancing the image is 50% of the process. Yes, even when you shoot with your iPhone you can make your images stand out even more by using a good editing app.

    Here’s a few fun suggestions to try out:


  • Storm’s a Brewin’

    I visited New Mexico for a few days in May. The only thing I asked was to get some time to photograph White Sands at those times when the light is “magic”. It happens twice a day – sunrise and sunset. My scheduled day came and, boy oh boy, was I excited. However, driving to the park, the skies became more and more threatening. That was okay by me. I could try my hand at photographing the lightning. It was the whole making lemonade out of lemons thing for me. I was driven to take photos and practice getting the images I wanted and a little bit of rain was not going to stop me. In fact, the sky would be fabulous, I reasoned. It will only make the sunset colors better and the sky more interesting.

    The car was barely in park before I bailed out with my camera in hand. Notice I said camera. No tripod. No cable release or remote triggering device. Just me and my camera. As I bolted (and I use that term loosely) up the first dune, I was using my legs to climb, but not really getting far in the sand. I stopped to laugh thinking I must look like a comical cartoon character, but, reality made me sober up – I was loosing precious light and opportunity. Finally, I made it to the top of the dune! The wind was blowing like crazy and it was everything I could do to hold myself upright let alone hand-hold a camera still enough for a chance at a tack-sharp image. Tears were streaming down my face from the sand in my eyes, so I couldn’t see much, but I was still determined to get an image, or two – or three. I managed to capture a few images before the Park Rangers made rounds through the Park using a loud speaker to warn everyone a severe storm was approaching and we should return to vehicles and take cover. Yep. Fifteen minutes, the cost of the entry fee, and dust on my camera sensor for a handful of pretty much unusable photos. But, boy, do I have new respect for those Park Rangers and the job they do.

    I debated if I should share these because (1) they are NOT tack sharp, and (2) I probably shouldn’t admit that I was this foolish (or stubborn). Yes. I think I should share them as a cautionary tale.

    When the sky looks like this, you should be concerned and take cover people. Don’t walk around with a little computerized piece of equipment wishing you had not left the 3-legged metal lightning rod tripod in the car. But I’m still convinced they would have been some great images. Just kidding.

    Exhibit “A” Stormy Sky at White Sands © 2015 SuZan Alexander

    Exhibit “B” White Sands Lightening © 2015 SuZan Alexander


  • Sketching and Traveling Tip for Tuesday

    I recently took a trip to one of my favorite places in the WHOLE world – Northern New Mexico. (Insert SIGH here) But that’s another post all together. Today, I wanted to tell you about this nifty “Sketch Folio” that my friend, Eve, gave me a while back that I used on the trip.

    Sketch Portfolio

    Sketch Portfolio

    It is designed to help you travel light and have all your sketching supplies at the ready for those quick sketches. This thing was great! It holds all the essentials, it weighs next to nothing, is pretty inconspicuous, and it made me feel more organized. Thanks Eve!

    And, tip number two, I’m usually pretty frugal, but I PAID to send all my art supplies via FedEx to the hotel where we stayed our first night. This was really a life-saver for me instead of lugging art supplies or, even worse, CHECKING art supplies on a flight. I called the hotel before I sent them to myself and gave them a heads-up. I can’t say enough about Hotel St. Francis‘s staff and, of course, FedEx. Customer service is not a thing of the past with these folks on your team. Then, when our trip was over, we stopped off at FedEx on our way to the airport and sent the art supplies on their way back home to me. Everything arrived in great shape. Not even a crease on a piece of paper; and no lifting. Worth every penny.

  • Tuesday Tip for Colored Pencils

    For those of you who want to use every bit of those colored pencils we spend our hard-earned money on, have I got a tip for you! I’ve tried the old glue trick and ended up with probably just as much glue on my fingertips as the pencil I was gluing. To make matters worse, some of the pencils were not exactly aligned to my “standards”. Well, Ann Kullberg is a colored pencil artist, author and also publishes a magazine for colored pencil artists. She recently started selling these handy-dandy little tools called Glue-it To-it on her website. Genius!