Oh Joy

how to create a portrait photo studio at home... 23 Nov 2015

how to create a portrait photo studio at home

Maybe you’ve decided you’d like to take a family holiday photo or some cute photos of your kids as gifts for relatives, but a professional photographer is out of budget. Or you simply waited until the last minute and need to take some photos ASAP. I've partnered with Olympus today to show you how easy it is to set up a simple backdrop within a small space of your home to take these photos yourself!

how to create a portrait photo studio at home

1. Make your own seamless backdrop. All you need is a wall in your home or garage that gets good natural light that you can temporarily cover. Depending on how many people will be in the photo, the width you need might vary from 5-9 feet wide depending on how many people will be in the photo. If you plan to do this often, it's worth getting one roll of seamless paper in either 5 ft wide to photograph less than 2 people or 9 ft wide for bigger families with 3 or more people.

If you’re feeling crafty, simply buy a giant roll of white seamless paper and go crazy with paint to create the backdrop of your dreams. Or, you can make it easier on yourself by using fabric that already comes in a great color or pattern. Find a bed sheet in a fun pattern or buy a few yards of fabric at a local fabric store.

To hang the background, simply use thumbtacks or blue painters tape to adhere the top and sides of the paper/fabric to the wall, then let the rest of it drape down to the ground with enough room for the subject to stand on it. You'll need at least 10 feet long in total regardless of whether you use paper or fabric. With either option, it's so easy to roll up the seamless paper or just fold up the fabric and save it for next time.

how to create a portrait photo studio at home

2. Lighting is key for taking a good photo easily. You want indirect, natural sunlight especially when taking the photos yourself. A professional photographer might know how to combat harsh lighting with diffusion techniques or with their camera settings, but you want to set yourself up for success. Usually the beginning of day and end of day are the best times to have indirect light, but it will depend on your location and where the sunlight comes through the window.

how to create a portrait photo studio at home

3. Sit, stand, dance, jump! Just because you’re in front of a backdrop, doesn’t mean you need to stand still. If you’re using the backdrop for a baby’s monthly photo, you can have them sitting in front of the wall or laying down on the same background. This makes for a great way to have consistent baby update photos throughout the year because you can use the same fabric as a backdrop and they can go from laying down when they are tiny to sitting or standing as they get bigger.

how to create a portrait photo studio at home

4. Use a remote shutter release. Often people feel limited because they don’t have anyone available to take a photo of them or of their family. So, if you don’t have a friend you could ask, you can do it on your own with your camera and a tripod. The camera we used to take these portraits, the Olympus E-M10 Mark II, lets you turn your smart phone into a remote shutter. So you can control when it takes the photo without relying on anyone else or having to run in and out of frame like a crazy person with a self-timer.

how to create a portrait photo studio at home

5. Add props! While props can get cheesy, it doesn’t have to be a mustache and silly glasses. When you’re taking photos in your home, you have less of an outside environment to work with, so make it fun for yourself and bring in a few quirky items that will allow you to let loose and show off your personality and spirit.

how to create a portrait photo studio at home

6. Family photos aren’t just for families with kids. If you’re a couple or a girl with a cute pup, your friends and family still want to see your face! So use this as a chance to make a great holiday card, framed prints for family, or custom thank you cards. 

You can create this at home studio any time of year especially when you always find yourself saying “I wish I just had a few really good photos of my family”.

how to create a portrait photo studio at home

Let's talk cameras for a second. We are always asked what type of cameras we use for Oh Joy photos. While we will happily share what we use, the quality of cameras we use is a higher end, professional camera that I wouldn't recommend to someone who needs a camera for personal use. So, I was pretty excited to get to try the Olympus E-M10 Mark II which is what was used to shoot all the portraits in this post. It’s a high quality camera at a price point that is more reasonable for personal use (under $600). It allows you to change lenses, you can shoot in manual (if you want), it has a mirrorless lens (which allows you to have a more precise focus), and it's small enough to carry around in your bag. It's a great compromise between a DSLR and a point and shoot and is an entry level camera that has features of a professional one and now I finally have something to recommend to the at-home photographer. Stay tuned for a giveaway tomorrow on Instagram where we'll be giving away FIVE of these cameras!

how to create a portrait photo studio at home

Regardless of what camera you use (you can even use your iPhone if you need to), hopefully this will help inspire you to take more photos of you and your family within the convenience of your own home.

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Olympus. All content, ideas, and words are my own. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that allow me to create new and original content like this for Oh Joy.

{Photos by Casey Brodley, backdrops by Ariel Fulmer. Coco's outfit by Such Great Heights. Special thanks to Olive Brodley and Ariel Fulmer.}

10 of my favorite blogger books! 11 Nov 2015

My Favorite Blogger Books

2015 is the year of the blogger books! (I'm guilty of that one, too). With so many books out by many of my friends and colleagues in the blogging world, I wanted to share some of my favorites from this year with you...


a housewarming welcome kit... 10 Nov 2015

A Housewarming Welcome Kit

With so many of my friends, family members, or co-workers buying houses or moving into a new home recently, I wanted to come up something I could give them as a welcome kit for their new home. Yes, I could give them a fancy cooking appliance they'll never use, but instead I like the idea of giving them something that they can use during those first couple weeks when your house doesn't yet feel like home. 

I've partnered with Honest (a brand I love and have used in my home since they started 4 years ago), to make this Housewarming Welcome Kit which includes some functional things to get them through those first couple weeks as well as some celebratory things for them to bask in the glory of a new space!

Here's how to make it...


how to use a flower frog... 3 Nov 2015

Oh Joy / How to Use a Flower Frog

Have you ever wondered how florists and stylists make their flower arrangements look so good? Sometimes you can buy the prettiest flowers, but once you place them in a vase (especially vases that have a large opening), they just flop to the side and don't look like that glorious arrangement you imagined it would be. The simple answer to making an arrangement look totally legit is to use a flower frog!

Oh Joy / How to Use a Flower Frog

There are many different kinds of flower frogs, but here are three of the most common and our favorites:

1. Cage - metal or plastic holders formed like a dome or cage to keep stems in place.

2. Glass - a heavy glass piece with holes to hold each stem. They come in a variety of different colors and most commonly found as vintage.

3. Pin - a heavy metal base with spiky pins to hold stems in place. This is the most common type of flower frog and the easiest to find at a very reasonable price. We always have a couple of these on hand at home and at the studio for arrangements.

Oh Joy / How to Use a Flower Frog

Dropping fresh cut flowers in a vase can be beautiful, but flower frogs are necessary when you need something a little more elaborate or when you have a container with a wide opening. These types of vases (shown above) are the types where a flower frog makes a world of difference. We're showing you a few of these examples with a short, square vase and a tapered wide-mouth vase. So that instead of looking limp and lacking structure...

Oh Joy / How to Use a Flower Frog

...it looks like this! Here are a few tricks for using a flower frog like a pro:

1. Decide if this will be a centerpiece or if it will sit against a wall so you can decide how to build it. We like to start at the back for an arrangement that will be placed against a wall and start on the inside and work your way out for a centerpiece arrangement. (The example above shows a piece where we started from back to front).

Oh Joy / How to Use a Flower Frog

2. Fill the vase with the secondary (less expensive florals and filler) first to create the shape and height before you add the “wow” flowers (in our case, the peonies). Then use the more wispy elements to fill holes and add interest. For this square vase we used the cage frog and filled in the back with large secondary blooms including hydrangea and chrysanthemum. We cut the stems slightly larger for the blooms in the back of the arrangement to create an illusion of height and then tapered it down to the front.

Oh Joy / How to Use a Flower Frog

3. If you're using a clear glass vase, you can use extra greenery and leaves to wrap inside the vase to hide the stems and flower frog. Once the shape of the arrangement is there, we put in the fuchsia cockscomb and the pink peonies. We then camouflaged the flower frog with a fern leaf and several leaves from the hydrangea.

Oh Joy / How to Use a Flower Frog

For the tapered vase, we used a pin frog that fit right in the bottom of the vessel. We styled it as a centerpiece and created a first ring of chrysanthemums before adding greenery and then finishing with the peonies. Whichever way you go, the idea is simply to start with a base of flowers and add height, texture and points of focus as you build. The flower frog helps keep everything in place and if you change your mind, just remove it and place it somewhere else!

Oh Joy / How to Use a Flower Frog

More than anything, just have fun with it. We're not a professional florists over here, so there are surely other rules that others could tell you about arranging flowers. But these are some general rules that work for us for something quick, easy, and beautiful!

And ps. a quick tip since some flowers come totally closed up when you buy them—if you have a floral bud that has yet to fully open, use warm water in your arrangement and it will open faster.

{Photos by Casey Brodley. Styling and florals by Ariel Fulmer.}

behind the scenes / choosing an oh joy book cover! 2 Nov 2015

Oh Joy Book / Creating a Book Cover

I love sharing more behind the scenes stuff with you guys to show how designs evolve into the final product. So today, I'm sharing a bit about the cover of the Oh Joy book that came out earlier this year. That book was a labor of love between my entire team, and we spent almost year creating it from start to finish. I was also pregnant during most of that time so it felt like even a bigger feat to tackle last year. But we did it!

We probably looked at hundreds of versions but for the sake of not boring you guys with every single tweak and revision, I've narrowed it down to the main sets and groups of what we designed/looked at/reviewed with Harper Collins (my book publisher)... 


four cool kid's rooms... 15 Oct 2015

Room by Project M+

One of my favorite spaces to see and be inspired by (in real life, on the Internet, or in magazines) are kid's rooms. They are always more fun, more whimsical, and have less limitations design-wise than a grown-ups bedroom. Why don't I have animal wallpaper in my bedroom or a giant mobile hanging over my bed? So, today I wanted to share a few of my favorite kid's room design by the Emily Henderson

If I had to turn to anyone to help me decorate and style my house, it would be Emily (and it has been her). We met five years ago when I auditioned to have our house made over on her Secrets of a Stylist show. We quickly became real life friends thanks to a mutual love of design, The Bachelor, and Ryan Gosling. I've been lucky to have her help me with many rooms of my home and my studio as well. She has an impeccable eye, she's funny, and she's having an amazing year with so much success both in her professional and her personal life (her 2nd baby is due any day now!).  

Ok, so back to these rooms that Emily design...what I love about all of them is that the nurseries don't feel too baby. Like you could see a kid growing and getting bigger in these rooms for years until they become a tween and have a lot more opinions on what they want in their room. Here are some of my faves...


from doodles to works of art... 29 Sep 2015

Ruby Painting

A few months ago, Ruby made a really fun painting while visiting artist Kim West during one of our Career Day trips. Now, we have so many pieces of Ruby's "art" that I don't keep (I just can't keep) every single piece. But this one was so large and vibrant, that I couldn't part with it...


party planning... 28 Sep 2015

10 Favorite Party Pieces / Oh Joy

With two kids born in October, next month is turning out to be a party-packed month for us! Ruby is having a Fruity Dance Party with just a handful of her closest friends while Coco is having a Confetti Wild Animal Party filled with mostly our friends (you know how 1st birthdays go). Since I've been all over the web looking for various party ideas and decor, I wanted to share some of my favorites I've come across recently...

1. Little Cat Design Co. cake toppers, 2. Poppies for Grace feather garland, 3. Fuji Instax dotty film, 4. Poppies for Grace honeycomb fancy, 5. assorted animals from Michael's, 6. fruit honeycomb from Oh Happy Day, 7. jumbo confetti from Urban Outfitters,  8. cake toppers from Anthropologie, 9. Poppies for Grace gold candles, 10. scalloped gold bowls from Oh Happy Day shop.

P.S. Ruby's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd birthday parties...

10 {classic} tabletop pieces... 14 Sep 2015

10 Classic Tabletop Pieces / Oh Joy

I have a serious love of tableware. My husband complains that we have way too many dishes, glasses, and bowls in different sizes, shapes, and colors. That's partially because I have collected a lot of little sets over time...and partially because a couple years ago, our cabinet that holds our dishware came crashing down leaving us with random odds and ends from my years of collecting. It's been a goal of mine to (someday) restock our cabinets with my dream tabletop collection.

While I love the hodge-podge mix-and-match thing for some areas of my home, for tableware lately I just want to have a classic and chic set that goes with everything. It's like painting your walls white, having wood floors, and putting in some accents of marble or brass. Once you have that, you can add color and pattern as you wish for each occasion. As I dream about having a fresh set of these basics, I thought I'd share with you 10 of my favorite classic pieces to help create a dream tabletop set...

1. Duralex Gigogne tumbler, 2. Duralex Picrdie tumbler, 3. Anthropologie copper flatware, 4. Anthropologie gilded stemless wine glasses, 5. Doma serving set, 6. napkins by Native Organic, 7. wire bowl by Menu, 8. Dansk dinnerware, 9. Morandi pitcher, 10. bread serving tray from Leif.

P.S. See more of my favorite on my Tabletop Pinterest board.

how i decluttered my house... 10 Sep 2015

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

I'm one of those people who is generally clean and organized. But I am also one of those people who has a lot of stuff. I wish I could have one pair of shoes, one simple, classic tee shirt that I could wear 25 ways, and that I could have my kids play with just 3 toys. But when I get things, they accumulate. I get attached, and I have a hard time letting go...especially if it's a thing that I can use to make something (you know..."Oh, I can use that if I'm ever making a Cleopatra costume" sort of thing). Our home has been feeling smaller and smaller everyday after adding a second babe in the mix, so I just needed to declutter and dehoard to feel like I could function and live in a space that was getting filled up with too much stuff.

So, I enlisted my friend Beth from B-Neato Bar to help me. Could I do it myself without help? Yes. But would I have kept putting it off week after week if that was the case? Yes! When there are things I don't really like to do, I need accountability to get those things done (ie. like getting a friend to meet you at the gym otherwise you won't show up and instead you'd sit on your couch eating a bag of chips and watching reality TV instead). Once a week for the past couple months, Beth has been coming over help me go through every room of my house. Sometimes we worked for six hours, sometimes it was only a couple hours. The point was that I learned a lot about how to really get rid of stuff (it's not just about throwing it away), and now I'm much better at decluttering on my own.

Here are a few things I learned...



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