Smug Mug Mari's World


Recently SmugMug invited me up to London to the Nikon School of Photography for a tutorial on taking photos of children, I was handed a Nikon DSLR and shown how to use the settings which have always baffled me and then take photos of a gorgeous baby girl who was our model for the afternoon. A wicked experience. Not only did I take away with me lots of great tips which I shall share with you (jump to the bottom of this post for 10 ways to take stunning portraits) but I also learnt about SmugMug. Sadly Nikon wanted their camera back but you can’t have it all eh? I’m definitely putting one on my Santa list this year. This was taken during my photo session.

Nikon baby photo shoot

What is SmugMug?

SmugMug is an online photo storage solution but not just that. It is used the world over by professional photographers as a photo sharing website. It allows you to store and share your images securely without stripping any of the details like Facebook and other online photo storage places do. It allows you to present them beautifully and keep all your images safely in their own place in the cloud.

Did you know that you should store your photographs in at least THREE different places?

SmugMug told me all about the 3:2:1 formula (see below) and I realise I am totally in trouble should a hard drive fail me or worse my laptop get stolen. You should have

  • 3 x copies of each image
  • 2 x different forms of storage, ie. hard drive plus 1 other
  • 1 x form of storage offsite like SmugMug for example

If you cherish your family photos or you use photography for your work then you really want to look into storage offsite like SmugMug.

Nikon photography session

What’s the UK Consumer site?

Where SmugMug originally was aimed at professional photographers looking for secure storage and a place where they could share and sell their images, today they have opened their doors to the consumer, ie you and me. What are they offering us?

  1. A fabulous home for our photos that looks like an art gallery. There are dozens of templates to choose form each one completely customisable allowing you to create a beautiful website in just one click.
  2. A safe home for our photos. SmugMug allows you to keep your memories completely private or share them with your loved ones. You choose the level of accessibility and security your photos receive. Both photos and galleries can be password protected and non searchable. You can right click protect, watermark or unlist your photos individually.
  3. An easy to organise home for your photos. It is deigned as a tool to enhance daily workflow and help users better organise their digital lives. The organiser tool allows users to easily access content and photos through their file system.

Smug Mug Mari's World

What are the key benefits?

  • Security and safety of storage
  • High quality of images and videos
  • Customise your site to suit you
  • Use the site professionals use
  • Option to monetise your work as well as buy merchandise and prints
  • Tailor the package to suit your needs choosing from four different products at different prices.

How private and secure is the service?

Privacy controls: SmugMug enables you to keep your images and videos completely private. You choose the level of accessibility and security, your site and galleries can be password protected, non searchable, have right button protection and watermarking.

Storage: The site allows you to keep your images safe from an unreliable PC, a dropped tablet or a stolen phone as your memories are all backed safely with Amazon Web Services, the gold standard in cloud storage.

What is the image quality like?

Images are stored on the site at the resolution that you’ve uploaded, SmugMug does not down res any photos. Photos are stored at a high resolution for ultimate quality. Power and Pro users get unlimited storage for 1080p HD video. You can save in multiple formats, embed them everywhere and replay them in every resolution imaginable.

Nikon baby shoot

What do I like about SmugMug?

  • Prices start from as little as $5 a month
  • There are no storage limits on SmugMug. None.
  • It’s simple to share with family only or publish to Twitter of Facebook or by email.
  • You can choose the privacy you want  for individual galleries or the entire site.
  • You can embed the photos for blogs and forums.
  • You can label your photos by typing in keywords.

Upload from your smartphone or tablet with the SmugMug apps

NIkon baby shoot

Also offered

A very quick email support with friendly human beings available all day, every day, all year round.

Take a look at my SmugMug site – it’s a work in progress but you’ll get the idea. I have set two galleries to public and other family shots to private which I can share with my extended family by password. This project should keep me busy for a while plus I can label all my snaps so if I need a shot of a cake for a post I search cake and voila! They all come up

nikon baby shoot

10 ways to take stunning portraits

  1. Alter your perspective – Change the angle, get up high and shoot down on your subject or get as close to the ground as possible and shoot up.
  2. Play with eye contact – A strong gaze will give a powerful impact and creates a connection between the child and the viewer. The direction of the child’s eyes can give character too. Staring off camera creates a story as hidden from the viewer, If child is looking at something inside the frame it creates a second point of interest.
  3. Look for a full range of emotions – Don’t just take pictures that are sweet, try fascination, tears, passion and even boredom.
  4. Experiment with lighting – Side lighting can create mood, backlighting and silhouetting your child to hide their features can be powerful. window light is very beautiful for taking photos indoors but use a reflector to put light on the shadowed side of your child’s face. Use a large piece of white card.
  5. Move your subject out of their comfort zone – head and shoulder shots are nice but making your child jump or doing something silly with their body might turn out to be surprisingly unique.
  6. Shoot candidly – Posed portraits limit your creativity and block your child to a standard ‘camera’ expression. Take photos when the children are in a space they enjoy, they will be more at ease, reacting naturally. Get them to have fun and be spontaneous. The photos will be full of life.
  7. Use accessories – The child must be the main point of the photo but by adding accessories to the shot like a hat or a pretty piece of fabric creates another point of interest adding enhancement and depth.
  8. Play with background – By choosing a dramatic, colourful or minimalistic background changes the shot a lot. Experiment.
  9. Go with a wide angle – A wide angle lens produces creative and memorable portrait shots. You just need to shoot in a slightly different way.
  10. Share your photos with the right tools – Use SmugMug! with secure photo sharing you can create an online photo album where you can store all of your photographs in a simple, safe and secure place.

Nikon baby session


IKEA shoe storage

When I received an email from IKEA asking me if I needed any help with storage solutions and could I send some photos? I nearly fell off my chair laughing, they wouldn’t know what’s hit them with my photos – could IKEA have a storage solution for my family’s mess?

cupboard under the stairs


They did have a couple of solutions and IKEA designer Marie Tenglund drew up plans to help me sort out the girl’s craft/homework/play area which will also be my office – post to follow on that one.

She also sent me a shoe cupboard to house the pile of shoes after seeing the state of my cupboard under the stairs. Please tell me mine isn’t the only cupboard that ends up looking like this needing a complete pull out and re-tidy on a regular basis.

The flat pack boxes arrived, 2 for this model and I set too one afternoon to assemble it and start making lifestyle changes to my messy cupboard.

It was really simple to make, I did it on my own with the use of my trusty electric screwdriver and before I knew it the problem had been solved.

flatpack DIY IKEA

Top drawer stores dad’s shoes, middle drawer for my stuff and bottom drawer for the the twins. Each shelf has two compartments so the twins have one each.

So now my porch is looking like this and is coping very well with the added storage solution for shoes and the cupboard under the stairs is a shoe free zone which makes for a lot more space. I can walk in now!

IKEA shoe storage

Disclosure: I must thank IKEA Lakeland for the shoe storage cabinet sent to me for the purpose of this post. A second post is to follow concentrating on a craft, homework area and office for me. It’s a bigger project which requires decorating too.

black and white bathroom

We watched the 100K house last night on BBC and admired the end results of the families who had pulled out all the stops to renovate their homes on the smallest possible budget. It was really inspiring and the tips that Piers Taylor gave were really clever and beautiful. As I sat their watching I was tempted to go online and sign up – I would LOVE Piers to come and tell me how to sort out my downstairs project.

I too want those ‘Bring your garden inside sliding glass doors’. I too want to add light to my downstairs, I want to create an open ‘heart of the home’ kitchen/living area and I am patiently waiting for the day we can start my dream project.

An initial quote for knocking down walls and moving the bathroom came in at around £10,000 but watching these shows tells me there is always the unknown and somehow quotes have a nasty tendency to rise, a lot. Add on new bathroom suite, new kitchen and other items to finish the room and it’s probably more in the region of £20,000 so I’m not holding my breath yet.

Alongside all of this renovation work our downstairs bathroom will get a much needed facelift too. I loved the bathroom I saw last night which was black and white and chrome. The lady had cleverly used the rectangle black tiles for the shower area in an otherwise white sparkling bathroom. The end result was very chic and one I’d like to base my future bathroom on.

There’s no  need for a bath in our downstairs bathroom but I would like a shower. I’ve been having a look at the shower enclosures from Mira too and there are some beautiful ideas. I like the rainforest head that hangs from the ceiling. After 20 years in Italy I am a converted shower person and it’s my morning start to the day taking me from bed person to day person, it’s important that I enjoy the experience and start my day well.

Large shower, glass doors and lots of light.

Black floor, white walls and black shower enclosure.

Chrome to finish for taps, and etceteras and I can add ‘pops’ of colour with towels and furnishings.

Only a few more years to go!

What dream project are you holding on to dearly?

Disclosure: This post is brought to you in collaboration with Mira

HP ENVY 5530

We are all set up for summer with a brand new HP ENVY 5530 printer and it is utterly amazing, let me tell you why.

I will admit to having the printer in its box for over a week before I actually set to and set it up. It was niggling me as I was imagining it would take forever and having been so super busy recently I thought I’d wait for a bit of calm before tackling the job.

Today I started the job and it was done in minutes, the easiest set up ever.

What’s more it’s connected to the WiFi and so there are no plugs and leads over taking the desk which makes for a nice neat look.

I went online to download the software and it was a simple pain-free process. My next step was to set my self up for HP Instant Ink.

HP printer set up

HP Instant Ink

One of the beauties of the HP ENVY 5530 printer is the new feature HP Instant Ink which makes sure you never run out of ink again delivering it to your door before you run out.

You can choose from three rates of monthly payments to set up, £1.99 is perfect if you print up to 50 pages a month. £3.49 for up to 100 pages a month and £7.99 for up to 300 pages a month.

HP Instant Ink price range

You connect your printer to your online account and it will detect when you’re running low. You can switch plans if you find you need to and should you have any unprinted usage they will roll it over to the following month.

They’ll also send through recycling envelopes for the empty cartridges too.

For busy parents this is a great feature as you can print till your heart’s content and never be without ink. Plus it’s such reasonable rates.


Another amazing feature that comes with the HP ENVY 5530 is the Printables. By logging in to your account and clicking on services you can access lots of different apps that provide printables.

For example Family Activities include Comics To Do, To Do Lists, Playmobil and Disney. A section on puzzles includes mazes, crosswords and Sudoku.

HP Printables

There are recipes, Travel notes, news, forums, education and so much more. What’s more you can set that they print off automatically too so you find them beautifully printed waiting when the new pages come out.

We’ve tried and Kids Activities to start with and will add more as we go along.

HP printable settings

Photo printing

This is an exciting one and I’m so pleased to find there is a SD card slot too so you can pop in your card and print away on HP Advanced Photo Paper.

HP touch screen


Already used this as had to sign and return a contract, works perfectly and sends it direct to the computer making emails dead easy.

Quick forms

Another great feature is Quick Forms including weekly or monthly calendars to print off, lists with one or two columns, there are games to print including a maze (easy, medium or difficult) Sudoku and note paper with large lines (ideal for 6 year olds to practise their writing) or smaller lines

Hp sheets to print off


Disclosure: I was sent an HP ENVY 5530, ink and photo paper for the purpose of this review

After last year’s Tesco Christmas in July which had all those amazing houses made out of biscuits as decorations throughout the rooms where the products were displayed I was excited to see what they’d come up with this year.

I walked into the room and once again Christmas was all around me. I discovered a huge black and gold theme which is very opulent and matched nicely with the Game of Thrones that everyone is talking about, I’m sure there is more than one fan who’d appreciate the blow up gold crown.

Tesco black and gold christmas

Tesco have left the Nordic theme firmly at 2013’s door and this year have a rustic feel with woodland animals and a bit of a ski/ice-skating feel. There was also plenty of delicious buffet food ready to order.

tesco christmas buffet

Another table idea that caught my eye was the white and glitter which I think my twins, heavily influenced by Frozen this year, will adore. The pink Bambi bauble on the tree caught my eye as did the gorgeous grey china.

Tesco white theme

Talking of Frozen, I was very happy to see that Tesco will be supporting a huge range of Disney Frozen products including scooters and rollerblades too.

frozen merchandise Tesco

Tesco had a large area dedicated to Dobbies the Garden Centre people and there was an infinity of gorgeous products all very reasonable priced from the LED trees, to the reindeer to the Bucks Fizz marmalade – I love that idea to start my seasonal festivities.tesco dobbies christmas range

Dobbies also have a really cute toy range that is colourful and full of fun

Dobbies tesco Christmas

You’ve all heard about the Wierdoughs well there will be more around this winter but also a selection of Tesco Finest crisps taking on traditional flavours

tesco finest christams crisps


Lastly, you’ll be hearing a lot about the Top Toys for Christmas 2014 in the coming months, the dog robot Zoomer caught my eye as he walked around the room and interacted with us. Lego will feature massively, the V Tech cameras which I’m very tempted to get for the twins and Frozen goods too. I’m not sure about you but I’m not so keen on that peculiar animal with snot dripping out of it’s nose, the fact I’m turning my nose up will most likely mean the kids will love it.

tesco toys