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Meet today’s Guest Blogger – Denise Levenick.  Better known as The Family Curator, I first met Denise at the St. George Family History Expo last March, and soon came to appreciate both her expertise and her practical approach to preserving family memories and memorabilia.  Add to that her generous, affable disposition and there you have it – the perfect Guest Blogger!  Denise has made it her mission “to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their family treasures.”  It is a privilege to welcome her to Above the Trees!

Was your mom like mine, insisting that you include all your siblings or classmates when you played a game or planned a party? Did you really want to cross the class bully’s name off the guest list, but Mom made you include everyone? Take heart! When it comes to creating a first-rate photo collection, “It’s Okay to Play Favorites.”

Professional photographers have to master the business end of taking pictures. This means that photos cannot languish away on memory chips. They have to be uploaded to a computer, sorted, minimally touched-up, and then presented to a client for selection and (hopefully) purchase. Customers also want to see only The Best, after all that’s why they hired a Pro.

When the family photographer begins to think like a Professional, it becomes easier to realize that Playing Favorites is not only Okay, it is necessary to building a quality photo collection. Of course, the family historian has other considerations as well. An out-of-focus or poorly framed shot of Aunt Mildred may be the only photograph of her at all. By all means, this one is a Keeper.
These same techniques are useful if you are working with a shoebox of family prints. Any photo collection will benefit from judicious sorting. As a bonus, your family will come to thank you that the slide show features minutes of fabulous photos instead of hours of marginal memories.

So, your images are in front of you – either in a software program like iPhoto, PS Elements, or Lightroom, or spread out on the dining room table. How do you select The Best?

First, pull together the “Photo Shoot” or set. This would be the Rehearsal Dinner, the Birthday Party, or your walking tour of Paris. From this set of photos you want to choose the best, which also means dumping the worst. Why waste time and effort with bad photos? Some photo programs tempt you to use Star Ratings, but why? As Photo Pro Scott Kelby notes, do you think you will ever want to look at one or two star photos? Those should be the ones that are out of focus or have heads cut off. Even three star photos? The Star selection system is slow; pros would never earn a living if they spent their time deciding if a photo was worth two stars or three stars. If you think you might want the picture some day, there is a way to keep it without inviting it to the party. Read on.

Lightroom2 Compare Window Select Left or Right as Keepers

How to Play Favorites with your Photos

1.  Assemble Photo Shoot pictures

2.  Ignore typical Star Ratings; instead quickly select the Best, reject the Worst. Use stars (or flags) to assign one star Keep and five stars Reject. That’s it; two choices. Keep or Reject. (Using stars or flags allows you to create a group which can be easily selected later.)

3.  Can’t decide which of six is the best? Place two similar photos side-by-side (Lightroom2 and PS Elements allow this comparison view.) Choose the best of the two, reject the other. Bring a new photo in to compete with the winner. Audition each photo against the winner. Try to move quickly; don’t let yourself get bogged down in selecting; go with your instinct.

4.  Make a New Collection Set and drag all the Keeps into this set. Label it Rehearsal Dinner. (You could call it Rehearsal Dinner Keeps, if you like).

5.  Now, you have to make one more decision. If you want to get rid of the bad photos, select the Reject group and Delete. If you just can’t throw them away, make a second New Collection Set and drag all the Rejects into this set. Label it clearly Rehearsal Dinner Rejects. There, you saved them, but no one has to look at them ever again if they don’t want to!

Playing Favorites will eliminate bullies from your photo collection and give you the best and the brightest to work with for your slide show, album, or web page. You may even gain a reputation as the Family Pro Photographer.
For more ideas on organizing, editing, and sharing your photographs, visit The Family Curator.

Further reading –

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This Sunday, I attended my first scheduled “chat” in the GenealogyWise Chatroom.  Never having even entered a chatroom before, I have to admit that I was a little intimidated, but it ended up being a surprisingly great experience. The host of our little discussion was Jean Wilcox Hibben, of Circle Mending, who “spoke” on breaking into the genealogy lecture circuit.  I attended for a number of reasons, none of which had anything to do with becoming a genealogical lecturer.

First, I was curious about the chatroom.  At the St. George Family History Expo last week, I sat next to Gena Ortega at the Friday night banquet.  (Gena, by the way, has a wicked sense of humor, and she is now my new Geneablogger Princess-BFF.)  Gena, who manages GenealogyWise, was one of the banquet speakers, and the heart of her comments focused on the GenealogyWise Chatroom.  Turns out, the Chatroom is not the seedy underbelly of the genealogy world that its name might imply. (Please, no angry comments from seasoned “chatters.” I know that many chatrooms are the wonderful, joyful places full of rainbows and unicorns, and I am in no way implying otherwise.) Nevertheless, the GW Chatroom, Gena assured us, is a genuinely useful, entertaining means of getting to know some of your fellow family historians and learning a few things while you’re was at it.

My experience at Sunday’s chat bears that out.  Jean had prepared material which she delivered by typing one or two sentences at a time, and offered ample opportunities for “listeners” to ask questions.  The forum seemed to lend itself very well to the process, and the visual learner in me appreciated seeing all the comments in print.  Jean was thorough, without being pedantic, and offered additional help to anyone who emailed her.

The second reason I attended the chat was a bit more personal – I’m kind of trying to figure out where I fit in this world of researchers. Jean’s area of focus, outside of genealogy, is folklore and music history.  It is a passion that I share, and I like to get her take on things.  I’ll leave the data gathering to Scott, who loves it, and I’ll focus on the pictures and the stories that go with them. I want to know those people, and understand the “life” that happened between those birth and death dates.

Finally, I wanted to be able to share the Chatroom experience with you, here.  And the only way to do that was to go there and find out what it is all about.  The process is VERY easy.  Login to GenealogyWise and click “Chat” on the main menu.  You’re there!  If you are shy, or just want to “listen,” that’s fine.  But I encourage you to join the discussion.  The folks on the other end of the cyberwire are just like you – looking for a community they can trust, receive help from, and be apart of.  Give it a try – and maybe sometime I’ll meet you in the chatroom!

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We just returned from an amazing couple of days in St. George, Utah, where we attended the Family History Expo last Friday and Saturday. As one of a small cadre of “Bloggers of Honor,” I spent much of my time Tweeting and taking notes, but I also made it a point to get to know a little more about my fellow geneabloggers. Let me tell you – I’m in pretty great company.

The Friday night banquet offered me a good opportunity. Themed The Wizards of Blogz,** banquet attendees heard from a handful of bloggers who spoke on the amazing family history resources to be found via social networking – there has never been a better time to be researching the past.

“Where else [besides the Internet] can you reach 50,000 people in a few seconds?” Arlene Eakle (Arlene Eakle’s Genealogy Blog) reminded us of the days when folks would post a surname in the hometown newspaper and wait, just hoping someone would find it and take the time to reply. Now, finding long lost cousins often takes nothing more than setting up a Facebook page dedicated to that surname, and boom! Tons of distant relatives are out there, ready and waiting to help, and hoping you can help them. It is no hyperbole to say that the Internet has changed the face of genealogy forever.

Our Master of Ceremonies, Jean Wilcox Hibbin (Circle Mending) entertained us with altered renditions of Oz classics and told us all about the care and feeding of a genealogy blog. I have an affinity for Jean because, though she is a dedicated genealogist, her passion is preserving music, and I love that. We all record the data for one reason or another, but when we keep the music and the stories and the images alive, we save the heartbeat of our people to pass along. There is something pure and beautiful in that.

Blogger AC Ivory (Find My Ancestors) also spoke. In a crowd where even I end up on the younger end of the age spectrum, AC is a baby. But he’s savvy about genealogy and media, and he offered solid advice and encouragement to family historians about how to get started blogging and tweeting. (If you want to follow Family History Expo blogger comments on Twitter, just do a search for the #fhexpo hashtag.)

During the dinner, I had a lot of fun sitting with Gena Ortega (of World Vital Records and Gena’s Genealogy Blog). She attended dinner with her two boys, and between them and Scott, at least a gallon of pink Kool-aid was consumed! Among her many responsibilities, Gena maintains GenealogyWise, a site she described in her remarks to the banquet crowd as “Facebook for genealogy.” That intrigued me, so one of the first things I did when I got home was join and set up a page for Photoloom. The site is very easy to use, and a nice alternative for family historians who want to avoid the Farmville/Mafia/Pirate crowd (which, by the way, you will only understand if you are already involved with the Farmville/Mafie/Pirate crowd). One of the cool features of GenealogyWise is its Chat Room, where you can ask questions, visit with fellow family historians, or attend a scheduled chats on a variety of topics and hosted by experts in the field. This Sunday I’m planning to attend a chat hosted by Jean that will focus on breaking into the genealogy lecture circuit. (Click here or on the sidebar to join the Photoloom group on GenealogyWise.)

One final blogger I wanted to be sure to mention is Denise Levenick, of Family Curator. What a nice lady! Like me, she’s a writer in her real life, and “slips on a hat and veil and may be found writing classic tales of romance and suspense as Miss Penelope Dreadful (for the Shades of the Departed online photography magazine.) The focus of Family Curator dovetails nicely with Above the Trees, so if you are reading us, you may want to check it out. I’m hoping to persuade Denise to write a guest blog for us.

That’s it for today. In the coming weeks, I’ll be making some big announcements about new Photoloom features and affiliates, adding a couple more installments to follow up the St. George Expo (On the Vender Floor; Class Notes), and gearing up for our first National Genealogical Conference, which happens at the end of April in Salt Lake City.

** The banquet couldn’t have been a more suitably themed – by the time we arrived in St. George, Holly Hansen and her crew at Family History Expos had survived a doozy of a twister – a fatal server failure that brought their website and email to a screeching halt just a week before the event. And yet, Holly emerged from the storm pressed, polished, ready for a world filled with interesting characters and face new challenges.

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About a month ago, I attended the Salt Lake Family History Expo as a “Blogger of Honor” (cue the Baroque trumpets) and had the opportunity to attend a number of exceptional classes, taught by the cream of the family history crop. I returned home to Oregon all fired up and ready to start shooting out one blog entry after another detailing all the great information I gathered. But then…

…September started, and for anyone with kids at home, you know that what that means. Some days, I can’t find half an hour to call my own.

This all led me to an inspiration: At the Family History Expo, I attended a class called 15-Minute Family History, presented by Kim Woodbury & Deborah Lambert, both of FamilySearch. Kim & Deborah focused their combined knowledge on attacking family history one chunk at a time, and offered practical advice for breaking down this overwhelming lifetime project into achievable bite-size tasks.

That’s just what we need!

So, for the next couple of months, I’ll be exploring this idea, and particularly how it relates to photo-history, in a new weekly series, “15-Minute Family History.” (Can’t improve on that title.) Here’s a little incentive to stay tuned: If you use just one 15-minute idea once a week, at the end of the month, you will have completed a whole hour of practically painless family history work. What if you devoted fifteen minutes twice a week? Or every day? Think of the possibilities!

Want to get started right now? (Prepare for a shameless – but extremely relevant – endorsement of Family Photoloom.) In just fifteen minutes, you can open a free Family Photoloom account, upload a five or six pictures, tag the faces, set all the relationships in the relationship setter, and invite your family to share in their family history. Boom! Family history – 15-Minutes.

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Geneabloggers all over the globe are celebrating the opening of voting for Family Tree Magazine’s Top 40 Genealogy Blogs. And truth be told, I am downright gleeful that our blog, Above the Trees, is among the nominees! The field of geneablogs is rich and broad, and the geneablogger community is an amazing group to be a part of – generous with time and talent; willing to help and mentor at the mere notion of a need. It is an humbling honor to be counted among them. Thank you so much to all the loyal readers who nominated us!!

To vote for your favorite geneablogs, use the Voting Ballot at Family Tree Magazine. Of course, we hope you’ll vote for Above the Trees – you can find us listed in Photos/Heirlooms (Category #9), but there are many other great blogs to check out. You can vote for as few as one, or as many as forty.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to visit a couple of new geneablogs today – you’ll be amazed by what you find! FootnoteMaven put together a complete list of all the nominated blogs, organized by category. (If you visit a blog, be sure to leave a quick encouraging comment – we all love comments!)

And finally, since Above the Trees focuses on “the visual” part of family history, I wanted to share this with you: Vickie over at BeNotForgot created this beautiful Wordle Poster of all the nominated blogs. (Above the Trees can be found in the very top upper left corner.) Simply outstanding!
Good luck to all the nominees and remember to vote!

Sincerely,
Renee Huskey

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In less than 72 hours, the doors of the Salt Lake Family History Expo will swing open, and the fun will begin. If you plan to go, here’s a few booths to put on your “Must Do…” list:

PHOTOLOOM [Booth 313] (Well, of course you need to stop at our booth!)

We love to meet people at the Family History Expos. We learn so much from the folks we meet, and are inspired by their experiences. This week, we will be rolling out a couple of exciting new Family Photoloom features, and we hope you’ll stop by to take a look! Our Premium Start-up Kit is the perfect way to get started with Family Photoloom, and includes:

  • One full year of Family Photoloom Premium (including unlimited image uploads & unlimited guests)
  • Tutorial DVD
  • Start-up Guide
  • Friendly, Personalize Tech Support


Save even more! Buy a second Start-up Kit to give as a gift and get both for just $30! At that price, you can even get one for your favorite Aunt.

Can’t attend the Expo? Tweet or email me (renee@photoloom.com) and I’ll reply with a code that you can use use online to get same great price of just $19 for one year of Family Photoloom Premium. (Online offer does not include Start-up Guide or DVD.) Offer good Aug. 28 & 29, 2009.

Be sure to mention this blog when you come by our booth to receive a cool free gift!

I’m excited to announce our Expo Special – we will be offering our Family Photoloom Premium Start-up Kit for just $19! (Reg. $39)

Jean will be presenting a number of classes at the Expo, including “To Zion in Song,” which documents the Mormon trek from Nauvoo to Salt Lake with the songs sung by the early Saints. According to Jean, “One of the most interesting songs we present is one that was written in 1946 by Myron Crandell. Crandell titled his song “This is the Place,” after the prophetic statement Brigham Young made when he viewed the Salt Lake Valley for the first time. In its original form, this song consists of 7 verses which detail just about every major event from the departure from Iowa to the settling of Salt Lake City.”


GENEALOGY GEMS PODCAST [Booth 104]

Lisa Louise Cooke, the producer and host of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, is one of the warmest, most generous people you can hope to meet. Lisa provides genealogical resources and education through a variety of mediums, including video podcasts, and Genealogy Gems News blog.
Photoloom founder Scott Huskey talks with Lisa Louise Cooke at the Mesa FHExpo.

Lisa is also a “Blogger of Honor” at the Salt Lake Expo – be sure to follow her on Twitter, and tune in to her blog Genealogy Gems News for live updates from the Expo.

Stop by the Genealogy Gems booth ask for your free “I Listen to Genealogy Gems” badge ribbon to embellish your Family History Expo name tag. Then keep an eye out for others wearing the ribbon and give them a shout out as a fellow listener.

FLIXIFY [Booth 319 & 321]

Flixify is dedicated to helping people preserve, watch and share their home movies and digital photos. They don’t sell software – instead, they teach you how to get control of your stacks of home movies by showing you how to capture, edit, and burn them onto DVDs or share them on the web, all from your own computer. The entire process down has been broken down into easy, bite-size pieces, making the overall process very simple. Flixify is offering a great Expo special – stop by their booth to learn more!

CIRCLEMENDING [Booth 621]

When I met Jean Wilcox Hibben awhile back, I was taken first by the fact that she holds a Ph.D. in Folklore (why didn’t I think of doing that?), and second, by her amazing dedication to preserving the music and traditions of our ancestors. As a collector of traditional folk music myself, I was fascinated by the depth and breadth of her knowledge, and I am looking forward to learning more from her at the Expo this week. Jean, together with her husband, Butch, will be doing short demonstrations of the music of our ancestors, and offering a variety of great CD’s for sale. They also have something new this year: downloads of MP3 files onto a CD (or your own flash drive) so you can purchase just the songs you are most interested in.

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