Everybody wants it

I grew up in a family of 5. Two parents, three kids. Two boys, one girl. That’s me, smack dab in the middle of two rowdy (but wonderfully kind) brothers. The older one has this “thing” called Marching-To-The-Beat-Of-One’s-Own-Drummer. The younger one is The Party. Me? Well, I like to think I was the classic middle child peacemaker, but I was probably closer to the I-Think-I-Know-It-All child… This different-ness worked to our advantage as kids, rarely did we step on each others’ toes vying for the same kind of attention or affirmation in the same area. But life isn’t always that neatly compartmentalized.

Sometimes we find our “thing” and relish the adoration that comes with it for about 5 minutes, only to find that our spotlight is actually quite crowded with others who believe this is also their “thing.” Photography is a lot like that. But here’s what keeps us sane, even if our “thing,” our creative outlet, our livelihood, our passion also shows itself in the multitudes – no one shares our exact same story, perspective, history or personality. We don’t have to exclude others in our search for what makes us special because it’s not the “thing” that brings the special-ness. Everyone wants a “thing” that brings significance but it is the person that has the significance. The “thing” is just a thing. And we are already significant.

Your story matters.

Understanding Photography Chicago blogger

That One Blue Lego

Sometimes, my kids get bored. They pick fights over who gets to play with that one blue Lego. They play Minecraft and yell at each other for destroying the other’s buildings. And I feel my sanity slowly ebbing away… So I regroup. And usually this involves me speaking VERY LOUDLY; something to the effect of, “GET YOUR SHOES ON BECAUSE WE’RE GETTING OUT OF THIS HOUSE.”

It’s a big, big world out there and boredom really isn’t an option.
At least not around these parts.

I bet you’ve got a story too, come share it at the Storytelling workshop.
Visual Storytelling PhotographyVisual Storytelling Photography

Workshops & Dreams

I’m self-taught in photography.

This means that as close as I came to taking a credit course in photography was sneaking into the darkroom in college. It also means I’ve taken quite a few workshops over the years to try to figure things out. The first workshop I ever took was an intimate $1200 2-day seminar on how to photograph newborns. Since I am not made of money, this was followed sometime later by 3 or 4 online courses at about $150 a pop. Then I waited a couple of years and went to a large 3-day conference for about $650 where I was able to see several different presenters.

Education isn’t cheap and some of these investments weren’t quite what I was expecting. The presenters weren’t always engaging or maybe the attendees were clique-ish or the information was all geared towards Canon & Nikon & there I stood with my Sony. However, I did learn quite a bit about what DID work. I learned what it felt like to have a passionate teacher, engaging with students, offering feedback & speaking candidly. I learned what it looks like to be so impressed with a teacher that you have to write them a thank you afterwards and you feel compelled to send them a Starbucks gift card because they went out of their way for you.

This Storytelling workshop isn’t just about content (though there will be plenty); it’s about reviving the belief that learning photography is not merely regurgitating f/stops – it’s about me sharing my dreams with you and you feeling your own dreams bubble to the surface. 
Email me for more info, I’d love to share details with you: heather[at]heatherhartstudio.com

Visual Storytelling Grayslake IL

Understanding Photography | Cameras

What kind of camera do you use?

This is one of the top 5 questions people ask me when they find out I’m a photographer. In fact, I’m guilty of asking it too. But here’s the deal: the type of camera you shoot with doesn’t really matter. I’ve shot with Nikon, Canon, Sony & iPhones. Digital & Film. Professional & Consumer level. Vintage and Modern. Don’t let equipment dictate your skill set. A camera is only a tool. Yes, different types of cameras excel at different things – but is your vision that creates a compelling photograph.

The real question we should ask each other should be: Why do you love photography?
I love storytelling.

visual storytelling

Understanding Photography | Exposure

What is exposure in photography?

In general terms, exposure is how light or dark an image is. It’s controlled by changing one or all of three camera settings: ISO, Aperture or Shutter Speed.

On my free Manual Photography Cheat Sheet, I suggest using your camera’s light meter to help you set your exposure. By looking at your in-camera light meter and adjusting one of the camera setting mentioned above, you can change your exposure. Whether you prefer your photos lighter or darker than what your camera sets as “0” is personal preference.

Here is a shot I took last night, adjusted to show you over exposure & under exposure.

(This is my personal preference for correct exposure during this sunset.)camera exposure

(Over Exposure)over exposed

(Under Exposure)under exposed

Happy shooting!

Inspiration and Hope | FREE PRINTABLES

We’ve had several deaths in our family this year. The losses hit us fresh each time and they linger in the background of our daily life. I lost my father 15 years ago and the tears still hover just beneath the surface. However, hope permeates each loss and gives peace for my own future. My mom asked me to make a few word art images of Bible verses that have comforted her and I am happy to share them with anyone needing encouragement. They are high-resolution and can be printed up to 8×10. Please enjoy and pass them along to anyone who might benefit.
love & peace,
Heather

1 Corinthians 15:26

1 Corinthians 15:22

Modern Playroom Design | Lions and Trucks and Books

Lions and Trucks and Books… Oh my!

Here in Chicagoland winters belong to the brave, especially this one. You see, this year, Old Man Winter shook off the complacency of an occasional cold snap or snow day. THIS year, he rubbed his hands together menacingly and threw back his head back in maniacal laughter, “MINUS 50 degrees! Snow that NEVER stops! Schools closed & children kept INDOORS, HAHAHAHAHA!” Yes, that is a direct quote – I was there and it scared me.

Fortunately, we created a playroom for our 2 high-energy boys. However, I started to notice that these 2 boys seemed less and less inclined to play in said playroom. They drug toys all over the house. They whined about toys. They forgot how to play with toys. This called for drastic action as any parent of 2 cooped-up preschool children will understand. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE, I said to myself (without the maniacal laughter… for now).

Taking stock of the playroom, I realized the true Master of this Domain. The chaos would not ruin me, I would triumph.

I turned to my purging skills: The toys will be reduced by half.
I turned to my organizational skills: Everything will have a place.
I turned to my spacial skills: There will be room for movement.
I turned to my artistic skills: This room must inspire imagination.

So with the help of Pinterest, Etsy and Target (& a few others great stores) the Playroom came back to life. Look, enjoy and by all means support the artists & shops that helped my dream of winter sanity come true.

This is a mashup of boyhood adventure, childish whimsy and a mother’s modern minimalism. 🙂 The animal prints are digital water colors I purchased from Three Spins Press and then framed to bring in a little nature. The large paper lanterns and stars are from Z Gallerie (I love that place!) and are meant to look like the sky with clouds and stars. The capes (what preschooler doesn’t adore capes?!) are handmade by my mom – a woman truly gifted with a sewing machine. My boys love to dress up and review their own heroic prowess so the large mirror fit perfectly, and truth be told, I love to catch them making faces at themselves in it. Adorable. I’m a big fan of texture so I also included the faux fur blanket by Restoration Hardware and the floor cushion by CB2. The lamp is from Target— I needed something sturdy & wanted a bit of an industrial look, this fit the bill well.

Modern Play Room Design

Back when it was warm, and we could feel things like fingers & toes, I took a photo of my boys lost in the world of sidewalk chalk. I printed it on a canvas with an excerpt from You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano. If you haven’t read it, you must… I don’t know if I’ve read a book that was a better description of how it feels to be a parent. You can see that I am a fan of large bins for toy organization – this makes clean up easy, especially since I downsized the amount of toys in the room. I put the other half of the toys in their respective bins and put them in an upstairs closest. I plan to rotate them periodically and keep the entertainment value fresh. My kids play  much better without having access to EVERY SINGLE TOY, ALL THE TIME. And now we can see the floor. Bonus. I am a book lover and have always wanted a tree bookcase, so I included one in this room to live vicariously through my children. It has that modern minimalism I love and made a perfect reading vignette with the Pascal chair and LIFE pillow.

Modern Play Room Chicago Design

My boys love dinosaurs and ‘Rawr-ing’ is one of our favorite pastimes. I wanted more emphasis on height in the room (in addition to the sky lantern sculpture) so I opted for a DIY hanging pendant that gave Rex the spotlight. He seems to flourish in it. I picked out a simple black linen shade and made the paper vine by punching circles out of construction paper and threading them together. I watched a lot of Downton Abbey while I did that. A lot. My boys also love big trucks and the folks at Bruder make such great looking toys I wanted them to sit out and entice little people to play with them. The Gunmetal Wall Shelves are perfect for displaying some artwork and a few of our favorite large picture books. They are very sturdy and went up in a jiffy.  Speaking of the artwork, the two you see below are pieces I’ve done and are available in my Etsy shop. I love CS Lewis and Star Wars and I want my boys to grow up inspired. The silver lion’s head mount is a nod to Aslan and the Chronicles of Narnia, a series of books we read when I was a child and I hope to do the same for my boys. The Mesh Silver Bulletin Board lets them revel in the joy of magnets and the room didn’t seem complete without a Radio Flyer tricycle. Yes, I do let them ride it around the house 🙂 We repurposed our old black coffee table for the playroom because the lip keeps Legos and train tracks perfectly contained… and we’ve had it for 8+ years, so it can handle the abuse. To add a little extra seating for the boys while they build their vast cities, I added a couple of Graphite Knitted Poufs. They also perform quite well when turned on their side and rolled around the house while racing your brother, FYI.

And just for kicks, you’ll see one of my super heroes taking his first flight around the room – we are indeed keeping Old Man Winter at bay. 🙂

Modern Play Room Chicago