Friday, August 19, 2016

2 Collections of Absolutely Awesome Back-to-School Images

"I wish to have one of doze."

So spoke my favourite four-year-old after seeing an advertisement for a My Little Pony backpack in a promotional flyer.  Set to start her first day of elementary school, she and Mama have been discussing all aspects of what her new life will be, including the necessities she'll require.

Our Little Missy is truly a dash of sugar and spice. She's an amalgam of sweetness and tang, a personality that can switch between incredibly confident and in charge to shy and apprehensive. She's particularly disarmed by new situations and strangers.

Thus, the notion of her being sent off in a bus to a large school with a group of children she's never encountered before is causing no small amount of emotional anguish for her mother, my daughter. Worried that the entire experience might prove more traumatic than terrific,  for both of them, she's done her best to focus on the positive, while explaining the facets that might be overwhelming.

They've discussed the classroom and the teacher, who just happens to be a guitar-playing dude, which, given our darling's love for her musician uncle should hold great appeal.  They've chatted about making new friends and potential playdates.  Her Sweetness knows this next step is going to teach her all kinds of new things, a fact she's definitely pleased about.

What has caused the most excitement, however, has been the requisite retail therapy. The promise of heading out to the mall to pick up backpack, lunch pail, and of course, new clothes, has inspired an eagerness to get this new beginning begun.

I remember those day too. Merchants loved to see me coming. Outfitting the kids, and picking up all of the school supplies they required for a new year was an exercise in excess. Even with a list, there was always a concern that something was missed, so if a question mark hovered over a particular item it was added to the stash for good measure.  Carts towering with merchandise were wheeled through department stores, as my enthusiastic entourage sensed my weakness and pointed out wish list items at random.

Clothing stores were more my thing, while my pack, with increasing ennui, became increasingly less cooperative. Despite the resistance to trying on yet another sweater or pair of pants,  however, when that first day of school arrived they were all pretty happy with their spiffy new duds.

So, this first back-to-school shopping experience for my granddaughter is something I'd love to be part of.  While I know I'd be welcome, however, it's going to be a special time for her and her mommy.  Until they get to the mall this weekend, they are perusing flyers and promotions to discover for certain whether our Little Missy really is wishing for 'one of doze' or if she'll pick instead  'one of dese'.

There are still a couple of weeks left in this corner of the world before kids head back to school, so plenty of opportunities for retailers to promote their products. These terrific illustrations will add eye-catching graphics to advertisements: School Supplies Illustrations School Supplies Illustrations

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Marketing Expert Weighs in On World of Images

Since the world we live in here at Vital Imagery Ltd.  is all about images — from creating them, to photography tips, to the various ways they can be used,  this post typically highlights collections and tutorials that have some relevancy to my life at that time.

However, today, I thought it might be nice to hear from someone else. Elaine Fogel, a marketing consultant, in-demand speaker, educator and author based in Arizona, has been using graphics to enhance her professional projects for several years. A long-time subscriber to she recently signed up with to access the great print-quality images offered there.

Elaine has also become an affiliate and loves to chat about the VI products in her blog, Totally Uncorked on Marketing

She graciously agreed to an interview to discuss her career and the way she incorporates images into it.

Elaine's professional path has been circuitous, doing things that contributed to her skill set along the way, beginning with her time as a music teacher and professional musician, then later as a volunteer and marketing specialist,  all in her native Canada

It was after a decade in marketing that she moved to the United Stated where she started  her own boutique agency, Solutions Marketing and Consulting LLC. She also added professional speaking to her resume and joined the National Speakers Association.

As a contributor in 2004 to Marketing Profs, Elaine had co-incidentally been building her SEO.

"However, when I realized I needed my own blog in 2009, I was a latecomer. I persevered, recognizing that the content posted to social media was highly advantageous."

As much so as images are to content. Studies have proven that good graphics are integral to getting noticed in social media, on websites and in newsletters. Elaine notes that a University of California, San Diego study, found 94% of content with a visual component gets more views than content with no visual element and 65% of information that contains visuals is retained three days after the fact, as opposed to 10% without.

"And, the study predicts that by 2018, 84% of communications will be visual and 79% of internet traffic will be visual content. Now, that's a compelling case for using images in content!"

She cautions against using free images from the internet in projects since they could very well be protected by copyright. "For those in business, that's a risk you don't want to take." She also advices that people go for high-resolution, print-quality images.

"When I discovered and now, I loved the fact that I could download illustrations and photos in different file formats and sizes and only pay one fee per year! It was cost-effective and had so many options."

Then, there are the large image sites, she adds. "Many of these charge by the image, by credits, or by subscription. Typically, most subscriptions have maximum daily and monthly downloads. Heavier users, for example, can end up paying over $2,000 a year!"

"What I appreciate about iCLIPART is that its subscriptions are tailored to different users. If you only need a few images the week you do a newsletter, you can download up to 35 PNG or JPG images daily for a week at only $9.95! Who can complain with that? If you need more than that, there are one-month, three-month, and annual subscriptions. For those who need vector images, videos, fonts, sounds, animations, and more, the highest annual subscription tops out at $295. Let's see, $295 or $2000+?"

"One of the things I do with my content and speaking/training is to share low-cost resources and tools. My past experience working in non-profit taught me how to be creative for less. Becoming an affiliate is simply an extension of that."

Here are some of Elaine's favourite images from and

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2 Absolutely Wonderful Collections of the Best Food Clipart

"All sorrows are less with bread." — Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Today, as I thought about what collections of photos or illustrations I might highlight, food came to mind.

Actually, truth be told, food's on my mind a lot these days. More specifically, my relationship with it.

Growing up, I was a finicky eater,  a determined, some might say, stubborn, little girl who refused the majority of food my mother laid out before me.

The progeny of people from solid German farming stock, I typically stared with disgust at plates heaped with roasted meats, potatoes, coleslaw and of course some other requisite vegetable. Swinging my feet under the table, I defiantly chewed on a chunk of meat until allowed to spit it out. I would play with the peas, pile the potatoes. No punishment nor admonishment worked.  Neither did pleading and promises. You can, as every parent learns, lead a child to food; you can't make them eat.

Weary of the battle that ensued nightly, after an hour or so Mom would finally cave in to my request for yet another PB&J. Or when she didn't feel up to the fight at all, we would find such delicacies as fish and chips, mac and cheese, cheeseburgers or hot dogs set out on the table. Those were good times.

By high school, the bad habits took on even stronger form. Lunches were a doughnut and cola. Then after school, friends and I popped in to a local restaurant — owned by the parents of one of the aforementioned friends — for burgers, fries and shakes. Since that eliminated any question of needing supper, I could skip Mom's succulent roast beef and creamy mashed potatoes, satisfying any pangs later with potato chips and a cookie or two.

Fortunately I suppose, none of this added to the 93 pounds I carried on my 5'2" frame. Unfortunately, that didn't stay the case.  Giving birth to four children, as well as the passage of time, have changed that reality. Now, I must often eschew the favourites of my youth in favour of the vegetables I still despise but have learned to make appetizing. Usually with the addition of cheese.

I can still indulge and maintain my weight to a point. But, when the scale does take a leap and a few pounds need to disappear off me, things really get less palatable. I've learned that saying goodbye to cheese, chips and chocolate rarely leads to a long separation, though. It's simply a weight loss program destined to fail.

Recently, my son and his girlfriend became engaged. Besides a reason to celebrate, the announcement also gave me some incentive to drop a few pounds. This meant first stepping up the exercise program. That was easy. But, when it came to what could be done in the eating department to complement the action, I decided to think outside the box. The bread box that is.

Besides the aforementioned affection for sweets and fats, I love carbs. Pastas are my go to for supper. And bread? Well what would life be without toast in the morning and for snacks? Or lunch without a sandwich?

So, for now, I've bid farewell to bread. It's being going well at this point and I'm coming up with some unique meal ideas to take its place. Given the endless variety of food,  I will be, as de Cervantes Saavedra said,  sorrowful perhaps, but I can apparently live without it.

For you, though, as promised, here are two terrific collections of food illustrations: Food Illustrations Food Illustrations

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How to Adjust Contrast in Part of an Image in Photoshop

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.”  —  Eudora Welty

It's true, of course. A photograph preserves a memory for us. We can call a pleasant occasion forth any time we need to, just by glancing at a picture. It is happiness in a frame.

What a photo can't do is stop time. Landscapes change. So too do the places we visit.  People come and go in our lives and much-loved faces will get older. In the case of the latter if that favourite picture is on display somewhere, it will eventually become a rather outdated.

Perhaps not as much as the family portrait that hung at my parents for some 30 years. When we scheduled a sitting for Mom's 70th birthday it was with the condition that that old picture be retired. Then in my 30s, I bore little resemblance, after all, to the little six-year-old in hoop skirt, with white ankle socks and patent leather shoes.

Sometimes though a picture is so precious that letting it go is difficult. Two years ago this December our daughters took their babies to Florida for a vacation. The oldest of the adorable trio was two, her baby brother and little cousin seven months.  Since our younger girl is a photographer, obviously many great pictures were taken during their getaway. One day, though, she caught a moment of the three tots lying on their tummies on a towel by the pool.

My husband and I fell in love with it. The picture sits in a place of prominence in my kitchen where I can see those sweethearts with frequency. Since children at this age, grow up so quickly, we agreed that this would be a fun picture to do on an annual basis.

Well, it actually took a year and a half before we could finally get these lively little ones to lie down in the same position long enough for the moment to be recreated.  We found the opportunity during a large family picnic this summer. With all of the distractions it didn't quite reach the technical perfection of its predecessor. It was enough that we managed to get a  four-year-old and two toddlers to stay still a moment.
The end result, while a true reflection of their personalities and of their sense of mischief and fun, is, as you can see below, uneven in contrast. Since I'm hoping to replace the old one with the 2016 version, I decided to see what can be done with it in Photoshop.  Here's what I started with.

The first step was to use the lasso tool to select the area I need to adjust.  I decided to do the two babies on the left separately. Once the selection was made, I went to Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast.  I was then able to move the slider until I got the effect I wanted. The best order in my opinion was to alter contrast first then follow with the brightness slider to correct exposure issues.

Simple as that. If I don't take it any further than this first attempt I'm satisfied with the result.  However, having experimented and achieved a modicum of success, I might spend some time to see if I can get it even better.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Taking You to the Classroom With Quality Education Photos

Mid-August has arrived. The morning air now has the crispness of a harvest apple. Daylight fades startlingly early. Little leagues are wrapping up their seasons with diamonds full of playoff tournament action.

I frequently shake my head at this reality — that summer is in its twilight. Hard to fathom but in just a few short weeks the leaves will begin the transformation from their verdant grandeur to glorious shades of crimson, orange and yellow.

Equally shocking is the fact that teachers will soon be heading back to classrooms to begin prep work for a new school year, followed soon after by the returning students. Yet, another lovely summer will be a memory.  Excited voices heard from playgrounds, backyards, pools and sports fields, will be back to school.

This past weekend our eldest child, a teacher, stopped by for a visit. Eventually conversation turned to when he would be back to work. As he chatted about his expectations for the term, about the projects he would soon be needing to get ready, I was reminded about what it really means to be the professional shaping young minds.

While there will always be exceptions, the majority of educators deserve a lot more credit than they often receive. At risk of getting too political, I want to state some truths about the profession that I've come to recognize as a result of various situations. First,  it's a comment made frequently in the Province of Ontario at least, that teachers get all the good holidays. They are off for the entire summer, March break and two weeks at Christmas, folks lament.

In theory, perhaps this is correct. However, my son is still finishing up work at the school at least a week after the students check out for the summer. And you will find him back there two weeks before classes begin. The same is true of Christmas, when he will definitely be back a few days during the break.

The other remark I hear is how much people would like a teacher's 9-3 office hours. To them I like to point out that my son is typically at the school in the morning by 7:30 and often doesn't leave until after 4 p.m.  Lunches might be spent outdoors on yard duty. When he does go home he will many times be marking papers until late into the evening.

He's not an exception either. When I worked at the newspaper, I did a series of "walk-in-their-shoes" stories. One of the features was a day in the life of a secondary school teacher. I met her in her classroom at 7:45 a.m. as that is the time her day began. Given the scores of others walking the halls I can only assume that's the norm.

Many surprises followed, including the quick half-hour lunch during which she prepped for the afternoon. There was no break during the day, and she was still at the school when I left at 4:30 p.m. That evening she was going to be marking the tests given to one of the classes.

Yes, teachers have several weeks off a year. So do a lot of other people in a lot of different professions. And they actually get to choose what weeks those will be.  Yes, in Ontario teachers are paid very well. So are a lot of other people in a lot of different professions. And many of them didn't spend years in university.

Being a teacher isn't a cakewalk. Having watched one agonize over his students, having seen several friends working in education, do the same, I know the challenges they face — including often a lack of support from administration and parents. Having spent a day figuratively walking in a teacher's shoes I have nothing but respect for those who are dedicated to their work, with very little in the way of recognition or thanks coming their way.

So, as the last few weeks of summer fade away, and our educators begin gearing themselves up for the classroom, here's a collection of photos dedicated to the profession: Pictures of Teachers