How to Select the Right Medicare Plan

Just deciding which way to go when choosing from the combination of different types of healthcare coverage is confusing for many people eligible for Medicare. For most people, having choices is a very good thing. But what about when you have thousands of plans to choose from?

When it comes to Medicare, you have nothing but choices. Depending upon your circumstances, you may want to stay with traditional Medicare, or Medicare Parts A and B. If you choose this path, you’ll probably want to get a Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan, too, to ensure your medications are covered. Or, you might be more interested in a Medicare Advantage plan, which can combine traditional Medicare with drug coverage and other benefits. You also may be interested in even more coverage, such as that offered through a Medigap (supplemental) plan.

Fortunately, help is available. A Medicare advisor offers education on available Medicare programs, answers questions, and offers detailed plans of action to get the most out of your insurance choices. You also should know the basics beforehand.

Traditional Medicare

Medicare Parts A and B, also known as traditional or original Medicare, have been around since 1965. Medicare Part A is free to most people who’ve worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years and provides people with inpatient hospital coverage. Medicare Part B, which costs most people $96.40 in 2009, covers outpatient medical expenses.

People who have traditional Medicare can see any doctor they want in any facility they want without a referral, as long as that doctor or facility accepts Medicare patients. But traditional Medicare’s benefits are limited.

Not only does traditional Medicare not cover most outpatient prescription drugs, if a beneficiary uses their coverage frequently enough, it can get very costly. That’s why we also have Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans available.

Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, combines Medicare Parts A and B in one plan so you can get your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage in the same place. Medicare Advantage plans also often include prescription drug coverage and other benefits not commonly found under traditional Medicare, such as vision and dental services.

This program works just like private insurance – you have different types of plans to choose from depending upon what type of provider access you want (for example, health management organizations (HMO), preferred provider organizations (PPO) and more) and what health conditions or prescription drugs you take. You also can choose from a number of different levels of coverage. All Medicare Advantage plans must offer at least as much coverage as that offered under traditional Medicare. If they offer prescription drug coverage, that coverage must meet minimum Medicare Part D standards as well.

Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage. Like Medicare Advantage, Part D is offered by private companies who are reimbursed for providing healthcare coverage. Also like Medicare Advantage, a minimum amount of coverage is required for a plan to qualify as a Part D plan and many different plans, some with different levels of coverage, are offered throughout the United States. Part D plans are best for people who use prescriptions, but don’t need to see their doctors often.

Medigap Medigap, or Medicare supplemental plans, is sold by private companies to fill the “gaps” in traditional Medicare. This includes the cost of deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance. It also may cover other services that Medicare does not insure. In 2009, there are 12 Medigap plans – A through L.

Although Medigap may offer some additional coverage if an individual chooses to keep traditional Medicare, you can’t buy a Medigap plan if you have Medicare Advantage. Because most Medicare Advantage plans offer better coverage and frequently more benefits than Medigap, having both is usually unnecessary. You can have both Medigap and Medicare Part D, but it may be more expensive to do this than simply purchasing a Medicare Advantage plan instead.

Comparing And Contrasting

It’s no wonder that people are confused. There are thousands of plans available throughout the United States, and an average of 40 Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans in any given area.

For information on Medicare Plan N click here.

Bounce House – Rental Or Purchase?

If you have children, or have been around children for more than a few minutes you will know without a doubt that one of the favorite pastimes of children is jumping. Haven’t you had a lot fun, maybe even as an adult, jumping on a bed? It’s natural to JUMP. And that is what a bounce house is all about.

Bounce House Rental Prices

Renting a bounce house from a specialist rental company may be the solution to having the best party your children and you will ever have. Rentals are not as expensive as you might think, and when you consider the money you will save on trying to entertain children in some other way you will decide that the cost is well worth it.

For between $200 and $500 (depending on your region and the size of bouncer required) and you can have a trampoline or a theme castle or “water house of bounce” or an inflatable bounce house that is like a fire engine or a futuristic disco complete with lights that will provide hours and hours of fun. You will probably have to ask the children to leave long before they are willing to give up bouncing.

Owning a House of Bounce

There is also the option to find a bounce house for sale either online or at a large toy shop where bounce house inflatables are sold, such as a Toys R Us or even a Wal-Mart or other such department stores with children’s products. Inflatable bounce houses that are suitable for a party will measure at least 15 X 15 feet and are for outdoor parties, although there is a variety of bouncer that is small enough to fit inside the house and may only cost about $300.

Although it is an inflatable, it is only functional for 1 – 3 children, and they should not be over 3 years of age. The larger inflatables that are $1,500 and up, or can be rented for about $200 per day (and up), are specific for party rentals and will hold many children (up to 10) and often come with inflatable water slide. Inflatable water slides can be part of a house or castle and not a separate add-on.

For information on bounce house rentals in Cincinnati click here.

Can You Manage Recruiters Without Recruiting Software?

Recruiters have a tough job. Managing recruiters is even tougher! The two main challenges to good recruiter management are identifying your recruitment process and monitoring for the good and the bad within that process.

After 25 years in the business of recruitment and recruiting software (ATS) development, I have never seen two recruiting firms with the same recruitment process. For that matter, recruiters in the same recruiting firm usually have different techniques and styles. So how do you identify your recruiting process? The main indicator is pretty obvious. Are placements being made? If placements are being made are they enough to sustain growth or stay in business? I think it is a reasonably safe assumption that these are the bottom line indicators for a successful recruiting firm. Now all you need to do is back up from the bottom and look for more indicators.

What has to happen before a placement? Answer: an offer by an employer and an acceptance by an applicant. There are our first milestones to monitor – offers and acceptances. I think a traditional sales word would be “closes”. If your firm is getting a ton of offers but very few acceptances, this is certainly a show stopper. Something in your management process should show the ideal offer to acceptance ratio for your firm and your recruiting niche. The ratio will vary depending on your niche and the recruiting style.

Moving to the other side, how many offers are you getting? Do you know about how many you should be getting in any given period, one month, one quarter, one year? Do you know if a particular position is getting more action than other positions? Do you know why? Do you know if a particular industry is getting more action, a particular client? Do you know which client generates the most offers? Do you know which person in a client company generates the most offers? Do you know which recruiter is generating the most offers? Normally I would say offers translate into placements. Does your recruiting firm have a good offer to placement ratio? What is a good offer to placement ratio?

Obviously most people would say 100% but 100% may not be as good as you would think. Perhaps the firm is culling too much. Culling could be from the clients. If you cull from your client prospects too much and only take the locked slam dunk orders could you open the gates a bit and take a few marginal orders and get a lower offer to placement ration but raise the number of placements made?

On the applicant side the same thing applies. If every one of your candidates accepts every offer you get for them perhaps you should take a look at your fallout ratio after the start dates. Could I get more placements if I got more offers but with a lower percentage of acceptances?

OK let’s move on up again. Are we getting enough offers? How many offers per month, per quarter or per year do we need to hit our projected revenue targets? Do we have a projected revenue target? This question can break down along the same lines as above – by industry, by position type, by client and by recruiter.

If we are not getting enough offers, how do we get more? More interviews, more job orders, more applicants, more phone calls or more contacts? Should we be contacting more clients or more applicants? How much time is being spent finding candidates? How much time is being spent finding job orders? How much time is being spent on client prospects? Are we spending any time on applicant prospects? A candidate prospect is a candidate who we contact just to establish goodwill and trust not necessarily for an immediate position. Are we making enough contacts either via phone, email or conferences or association functions? How much is enough?

So now we know what questions to ask to manage the recruiting process. How do we get the answers? Now I get to my punch line and the intent of this article. The answers should be available in your recruiting software, ATS or CRM system! If these answers are not available then find recruiting software that will give you these answers. Also make sure that the cure is not worse than the disease. By that I mean make sure that the effort to get management information from your recruitment system does not take such an effort that it actually impedes the recruitment process.

One of the first rules of good recruiting software is that information to manage the recruiting process must be available on an ad hoc basis. As you can see from above there are literally hundreds of variables that can be reviewed to help manage the recruiting process. It would be ridiculous to have a single report or set of reports that identified all these indicators. Therefore, the process of answering these questions must be as dynamic and creative as the manager asking the question.

The best way to ensure good management information from your recruitment system is to make sure the system itself is easy to use and that any recruitment task to be performed is made easier by using the recruitment system. I like to call this concept the “natural recruiting process”. If the recruiters use the recruitment system for finding candidates, marketing to clients, scheduling their follow ups, sending resumes and actually communication with other recruiters then you have software that gathers management information naturally.

If you have a system that doesn’t quite do all the steps (e.g. depending on Outlook for mass emailing or scheduling interviews or follow ups) then you have an unnatural process where some of the management information is missing in the recruitment software. Or, even worse, the recruitment software is so labor intensive on some tasks that the recruiters find easier ways to get the job done without using the recruitment system.

So if you have a recruiter friendly recruitment software system that can answer any ad hoc question quickly and easily, you are halfway there. Now you need a set of reports that hit the high points of the key variables that are important to the success of your recruitment firm. Where do you get these reports? From the vendor of your software? Perhaps, but most vendors don’t know your particular brand of recruiting. Reports supplied by recruitment software vendors are too generic for an industry that is so specialized to a process and a recruiting niche. Also the variable you need to see today may not be the one you need next month and the report must be able to change accordingly.

The bottom line is that your recruitment firm needs a good, easy to use tool to gather your recruiting data and then prepare and change your own reports to suit the needs of the given moment. The reporting tool must not depend on technical expertise but on recruiting expertise.

What is Strategic Human Resource Management?

In Human Resource (HR) and management circles nowadays there is much talk about Strategic Human Resource Management and many expensive books can be seen on the shelves of bookshops. But what exactly is SHRM (Strategic Human Resource Development), what are its key features and how does it differ from traditional human resource management?

SHRM or Strategic human resource management is a branch of Human resource management or HRM. It is a fairly new field, which has emerged out of the parent discipline of human resource management. Much of the early or so called traditional HRM literature treated the notion of strategy superficially, rather as a purely operational matter, the results of which cascade down throughout the organisation. There was a kind of unsaid division of territory between people-centred values of HR and harder business values where corporate strategies really belonged. HR practitioners felt uncomfortable in the war cabinet like atmosphere where corporate strategies were formulated.

Definition of SHRM

Strategic human resource management can be defined as the linking of human resources with strategic goals and objectives in order to improve business performance and develop organizational culture that foster innovation, flexibility and competitive advantage. In an organisation SHRM means accepting and involving the HR function as a strategic partner in the formulation and implementation of the company’s strategies through HR activities such as recruiting, selecting, training and rewarding personnel.

For information on HR outsourcing click here.

How SHRM differs from HRM

In the last two decades there has been an increasing awareness that HR functions were like an island unto itself with softer people-centred values far away from the hard world of real business. In order to justify its own existence HR functions had to be seen as more intimately connected with the strategy and day to day running of the business side of the enterprise. Many writers in the late 1980s, started clamoring for a more strategic approach to the management of people than the standard practices of traditional management of people or industrial relations models. Strategic human resource management focuses on human resource programs with long-term objectives. Instead of focusing on internal human resource issues, the focus is on addressing and solving problems that effect people management programs in the long run and often globally. Therefore the primary goal of strategic human resources is to increase employee productivity by focusing on business obstacles that occur outside of human resources. The primary actions of a strategic human resource manager are to identify key HR areas where strategies can be implemented in the long run to improve the overall employee motivation and productivity. Communication between HR and top management of the company is vital as without active participation no cooperation is possible.

Key Features of Strategic Human Resource Management

The key features of SHRM are

  • There is an explicit linkage between HR policy and practices and overall organizational strategic aims and the organizational environment
  • There is some organizing schema linking individual HR interventions so that they are mutually supportive
  • Much of the responsibility for the management of human resources is devolved down the line

Trends in Strategic Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management professionals are increasingly faced with the issues of employee participation, human resource flow, performance management, reward systems and high commitment work systems in the context of globalization. Older solutions and recipes that worked in a local context do not work in an international context. Cross-cultural issues play a major role here. These are some of the major issues that HR professionals and top management involved in SHRM are grappling with in the first decade of the 21st century:

  • Internationalization of market integration.
  • Increased competition, which may not be local or even national through free market ideology
  • Rapid technological change.
  • New concepts of line and general management.
  • Constantly changing ownership and resultant corporate climates.
  • Cross-cultural issues
  • The economic gravity shifting from ‘developed’ to ‘developing’ countries

SHRM also reflects some of the main contemporary challenges faced by Human Resource Management: Aligning HR with core business strategy, demographic trends on employment and the labour market, integrating soft skills in HRD and finally Knowledge Management.

Myths And Facts About Botox

Botox is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures ever since it was first introduced more than ten years ago, but despite its global acceptance, it is also perhaps the most misunderstood one.

While it’s easy to get seduced with the promises of turning back the years and getting back your younger face literally over night, many who are intrigued by this cosmetic procedure are still held back from taking the plunge with the myths surrounding Botox and its use.

Some fear that they will end up with a “face freeze”, the notion that probably originated from seeing too many stars and starlets in the media, sporting a perpetual dear-in-the-headlights look. With their faces frozen in a perpetual surprise, it seems like they themselves can’t believe how far they went with their Botox use and abuse.

The truth is that – when properly administered – Botox will preserve your normal facial expressions, only smoothing out the frown lines and wrinkles.

Botox was approved by the FDA specifically for treating moderate to severe frown lines between the eyebrows (called glabellar lines or “the 11” because they resemble that number), but is often used “off label” for other wrinkles. Botox is therefore used for smoothing out crow’s feet (lines around the eye), forehead lines, skin bands on the neck, lines around the mouth (“smoker’s lines”), for turning up “mouth frowns”, for arching the flattened eyebrows – and the list goes on and on.

Those starlets with their strangely arched eyebrows may simply be the victims of using Botox injections in a way they were never intended to be used. Properly administered Botox injections will smooth out the forehead while preserving the natural arch of your eyebrows.

Using Botox is not supposed to make you look “fake” or “plastic”. Of course, one should know when enough is enough: that’s a lesson that obviously eluded all those expressionless starlets.

Many are afraid of using Botox because “it’s a toxin”. While Botox is indeed produced from the potentially lethal botulinum bacteria, the concentration of the toxin in Botox is so low, that – when properly administered by a certified professional – there’s no way for a toxin to somehow spread outside of the tiny area where it is injected.

Since Botox is commonly administered via injections directly to the muscle, being afraid that the procedure will be painful is understandable. However, what you can expect to feel is more like a burning sensation or a slight irritation. While bruising on the skin may occur, it will typically clear in a few days.

The notion that “anyone” can administer Botox injection is a dangerous myth. Only a trained clinician can properly and safely administer Botox injections in a way that will leave you satisfied with your new appearance. Botox “mills”, salons, mall shops, are not the places to get Botox. “Botox parties” are just a stupid and potentially harmful idea. You will probably leave from those places looking awkward, if not disfigured.

A qualified clinician will know what is the right dose of Botox to use to get the desired results, and which muscles to target precisely to achieve it. He will not leave you with a complete muscle paralysis that prevents any facial expression for a distressingly long period of time, unlike some needle-wielding amateur.

You may have heard the tales of women (and men) liking their new smooth foreheads so much, that they had become addicted to Botox. It’s easy to dismiss that kind of stories, but this one may not be only a myth. You can become addicted to virtually anything that makes you feel good: if applying Botox makes you feel great because it works so well, but eventually it wears off – you can become psychologically addicted to the procedure to keep experiencing those feelings. A “real” physical addiction to Botox is not possible.

In the end, despite its proven efficacy, Botox is not a panacea for all wrinkles, furrows and creases. Botox works by temporarily blocking nerve impulses and thus relaxing the muscle contractions which eases out wrinkles. Because of its specific targeting of wrinkles caused by the overly tense muscles, there is no logic in using Botox to treat those wrinkles caused by the sun damage and gravity.

These Custom Kitchen Ideas Will Make Your Home’s Kitchen Stand Out

Think about your home’s kitchen. It might be the first place the kids go after school if they want a snack. It could be the place where you put all of your stuff after fist coming home from work so that you can take a few minutes to get settled. If you host Thanksgiving at your house, it’ll definitely see a lot of traffic as people pour in to make sure the feast is everything that you want.

It serves all of these purposes adequately but, if you want to get the most out of it, then you’ll want to get a custom kitchen that makes yours unlike any other that you’ve ever seen before. There are a number of different things that you can do to make the kitchen in your home a place that you, your family and your guests will be happy to be in and this article will help you get started with your kitchen renovation.

Take these fixtures, for instance:

  • The Cabinets – This common kitchen fixture comes in a variety of styles to work with just about any kitchen design and layout. When looking at new cabinets that will fit into your own kitchen, you want to look at things like the style, color and finish to determine what will mesh well with your plans. While all of these things are important, you want to make sure that you have function to go with form. That means that whatever cabinet you use as part of your remodeling project should have enough space to store whatever you need.
  • The Table – Who regularly eats at your kitchen table? The kind of table that you decide to put into a custom kitchen project should be determined by whether your table is only used by you and your family or if you frequently entertain guests. Besides that, you want to make sure that the table you choose isn’t so large that it makes passing by it too difficult, so take the size of your kitchen versus the size of the table into account.
  • The Kitchen Island – This unique fixture is not something that all kitchens have, but it tends to be a centerpiece in a kitchen that does have one. They’re a popular addition to many remodeling projects because they can serve the dual purpose of being a place to prepare meals as well as eat them. If you decide to include a kitchen island, remember that the right placement can mean that you’ll be able to make more efficient use of your time in the kitchen.
  • The Sink – The sink is probably the single most important appliance in your kitchen, so why keep the same old one when everything else gets revamped once you get things rolling in your custom kitchen? You could opt for a larger, deeper bowl that could hold bigger pots or a double sink setup that allows you to do washing and cleaning more efficiently.

All of the items in the above list are things that can be remodeled but, at the end of the day, they are still designed so that you are able to perform a specific task. With that in mind, know that your kitchen renovation doesn’t have to begin and end with your appliances. There are other things that can be redesigned and implemented to help bring the project together.

Things like:

  • The Lighting – There are different kinds of lighting that can be put into place all throughout the kitchen to serve different purposes. Whether you want ambient lighting that sets the mood or task lighting that makes it easier to see what you’re cutting into, strategically putting the right lights in the right places is an important part of designing a custom kitchen.
  • The Floor – This is probably the last thing you thought about when it came to your kitchen, but it’s no less important than any other part of the kitchen. Consider not just the material that the floor is made out of, but the look as well. While you want a material that will be able to shrug off years of foot traffic, it’s also important to get something that you can put custom designs on, so that your floor stands out in some way.

Putting the right lighting and flooring in a custom kitchen can really tie the whole project together and give the space that extra-special, extra-personal touch that makes your kitchen then envy of any visitors that you have.

The ideas that you’ve been given are just a start, but the great thing about redesigning a kitchen is that there are an endless number of possibilities to take advantage of over the course of a project, so no two renovated kitchens will look alike.

Remodel your kitchen to fit your personal tastes and you’ll quickly see how a custom kitchen with a fresh design and brand new aesthetic can be a benefit as it creates a much more welcome and enjoyable space for all to enjoy.

For information on Cheshire kitchens click here.

5 Simple Ideas For Fun Family Photos

When it comes to the dynamics of a family, nothing is ever “posed” and stiff! A day in the life usually involves chaos and craziness at every turn. Have you ever seen those family pictures where everyone matches, the background is a muddy shade of tie-dye blue, and the kids have gone bug-eyed from posing too long? I couldn’t imagine looking at a picture of my family like this and thinking, “Wow, this picture really encapsulates who we are together.” Um, I don’t think so!

Families involve happy times, angry times, silly times, crazy times, and everything in between. The only way to get the real-ness of a family is to find a photographer that can catch those in between reactions and go on a fun (no, really!) family photo shoot with you.

1) Go OUTSIDE the box (Or studio, that is)

Sometimes being in a studio just creates that stuffy stifled atmosphere that suppresses the real interactions of a family. I believe that each family member gets nervous because it is an out-of-the-ordinary setting and one no one is used to. So, get out of there! Take the kids and go to a park. Visit the zoo or go get some ice cream. For fun family photos, take a trip somewhere to do something your family is used to doing together. Your family photos will look more real, your photographer will have an easier time of catching those moments that make your family unique, and everyone will be relaxed and at ease with each other. No nervousness allowed!

2) Matching Smatching

I don’t know any families that wear matching clothing all of the time. If you want family photos that look real, look believable, and look like YOU, wouldn’t it make sense to do the things you’re used to doing every day? If you don’t wear matching shirts every time you leave the house, don’t wear them to the photo shoot! Wear things you are comfortable in and that make each of you feel good. Bright colors usually work the best for the camera and help each person to stand out from the background. My suggestion is to pick a color scheme and stick with it. Choose just a few colors for your family photos that everyone is comfortable with and looks attractive in. Blend – don’t match.

3) Ignore the Camera….no, seriously

I have seen so many occasions where people get in front of the camera and automatically freeze. There is just something about that big glass lens that makes people stiffen up and become nervous! The BEST way to become comfortable in front of the camera is to act like it isn’t even there. IGNORE IT. Tell the kids to ignore the camera like they ignore you when you tell them to clean their room. Yep, that should get the message across. The more you act like yourselves, the better your family pictures will turn out.

4) Photographer knows best

Moms, you may have to take a breather on this one. For your family photos, ask your family photographer for suggestions and tips on how to make your day more successful. For example, I would tell a client to make sure you scheduled your family photo session around your normal daily schedule. Be aware of naptimes, wake-up times, work-times, and any other time that you are used to during your daily routine. Also, be very aware of the time of day that you choose for your shoot. If you want to take a trip to the park for your family photos, don’t plan on having the shoot at 1pm in the afternoon. The light will not work nearly as well as it would closer to evening or late afternoon. Squinty eyes can ruin a picture! Always ask your photographer for some helpful tips and ideas to you can plan your shoot accordingly. Remember: The photographer wants to work with you!

5) ALL Day is okay!

Here is a fun family photo idea that I often like to throw out there: why not book a family photographer for the entire DAY? Have the photographer get the real low-down on what your family is like on an hour-by-hour basis. Booking your family photographer for an entire day of shooting will get many moments of daily life you wouldn’t capture otherwise. For the moms, you are usually the one taking the pictures, right? Or you dads? This way, you BOTH can be in the photos without having to set a timer and run to pose in front of the camera. These shoots produce photojournalistic style photos – ones that tell a story, moment to moment, emotion to emotion. Get the kids in their jammies eating breakfast, the family making dinner together, and the parents tucking the kids in bed. You could break apart the day any which way you like, just so long as you get the memories that you want to hold on to.

The biggest part of fun family photography is getting everyone to act in the normal way they do when together, without a strange camera in your face. When a family is real and comfortable with each other, the true spirit of the family dynamic comes across. Using these tips for better family photos, getting that spirit across to the photographer is what will give you lasting and memorable family photos for years to come.

What to Wear for Family Photos

In terms of guidelines for all family photography, studio or outdoor, all members of the family should be dressed to the same degree of formality or casualness. Typically, solid color clothing of the same tone are recommended. Avoid the look of one person standing out because of a bold, distracting pattern or a contrasting light top when everyone else is dressed darker. Clothing should be classic and timeless that will not date your family photography (solid colors are best – no stripes).

For more formal family photographs avoid t-shirts, sweats, and tight short skirts (sometimes people are seated on the ground). Also, this is not the time to experiment with a new hair style or extra makeup. Use makeup to cover blemishes if possible. Babies often spit up; bring them a second outfit if possible.

Things to avoid:

Clothing extremes. Generally, turtle necks and v-necks are good, as long as they don’t over-power the subject’s face. Bottom line, the subject should dress to feel comfortable.

Bare arms and legs where possible. Opt for long-sleeve shirts/blouses rather than short-sleeve. Women should wear pants, a long skirt, and/or dark stockings.

Bright reds and orange (they battle the subject’s face for attention). Darker colors are generally better than light colors. Colors like white, yellow, and pink tend to over-power the face and make the subject took too pale. In general, the best colors are medium shades of blue, green, burgundy, and rust.

In summary, it is important to choose outfits that will make pleasing portraits, and be coherent with the style of portrait you are planning. Remember that busy patterns, stripes and bright colors are distractions from the focal point: the face, or faces in the portrait. Color coordination lends harmony. While all clothing does not have to match, the colors should be harmonious, so that one person will not dominate the scene. Dark clothing tends to minimize apparent body size, while light shades do the opposite. Long sleeves are best for adults and older children.

Finally, in terms of hair styling and make-up it is best not to schedule your session immediately following a haircut. A week later is usually best. Also, your portrait session is not a good time to try out a new hair style. Women’s make-up should be appropriate for the clothing and portrait style desired. Most photographers suggest subtle make-up on most all women and girls, except for the very young.

Family Portraits: 6 Essential Preparations You Have Never Heard

Of all the thousands and thousands of images that we are bound to take with our cameras in our lives, none has as much significance and importance as the creme de la creme of portraits; the family portrait. Unfortunately, the family portrait is one of the most difficult images to get right and also to prepare for. Here are 6 ways you can help prepare your family for their portrait with a professional photographer.

1) FINDING THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHER. With the digital camera revolution over the last decade, new life has been breathed into the interest of photography as a whole. Suddenly it is “easy” to take a good picture. Many say that “anybody can do it!” or “there’s nothing to it!” Oh, if only that was really true. The real fact of the matter is photography still takes great skill, practice and technique to achieve high quality results. While you are shopping around for a professional family photographer, view their portfolios on their websites and compare their work to others. Ask yourself:

  • Does each member in the family look good?
  • Can I imagine my family portrait looking something like this?
  • Does this work look similar or different compared to other photographers?

When you feel comfortable enough with the photographer’s work, give them a call. Yes, I said a call! E-mail is always an option but a phone call will help you gauge how comfortable you are with the artist. A high quality photographer will ask you many questions and see if the two of you are a good fit style-wise and budget-wise. The phone call should be a comfortable experience in which you see if this photographer is a good fit for you and your family. Always remember that the more comfortable you are, the better you will look in your portrait.

2) HOW MUCH WILL YOU SPEND? Portrait photographers are easy to find but like anything else you buy there are different quality levels to consider. If you are wanting a very high quality portrait, be prepared to spend upwards of $1,000 or more. Of course you can get away with spending only a few hundred with many high end photographers but you will be limited by the size and finish of the final print. High end portrait photographers will take great care of you and your family from the first phone call to the delivery of the final images. These types of photographers stress having a high quality experience, service as well as a high quality product. Professionals like these are in no rush and want to take the necessary time to create portraiture that shows your personality as well as accentuating your best features. If it is within your budget, don’t hesitate using a high end portrait photographer.

Not everyone can afford a high end portrait photographer so a “family member with a nice camera” is sometimes all that will suffice. Others will choose to hire a lower priced photographer. These photographers generally share a few commonalities. Some of which may include:

  • Inexperienced
  • College students still learning
  • Still building their portfolios
  • Lack of/limited knowledge in posing, lighting and expressions
  • Style of photography is mostly a culmination of what they see other photographers doing so they’re own work can tend to look very much like other photographers’ work
  • Limited products offered. IE: Print sizing, print finishing, print types, albums, etc. They might offer only a CD for a flat rate and leave the printing to you.

Choose a photographer that you are comfortable with that has a portfolio you enjoy and then see if they fit within your budget. Everyone wants a good deal and many higher priced photographers are willing to work with your budget or even offer referral incentives if you are unable to order more than a certain amount. Don’t expect discounts on prints just because you ask but many photographers will be glad to offer discounts on frames or specialty items.

If your budget is smaller, the lower priced photographer will probably spend plenty of time with you and give you a CD full of images but remember that the quality of the work might be a little more inconsistent. The saying, “you get what you pay for” definitely rings true when choosing a portrait photographer.

3. LOCATION. Congratulations! You have found a great photographer and now all you need is a location and your session will be underway! So where the heck do you take this photo at anyway? Assuming that a studio portrait is not wanted, for many, a nice portrait at the park with grass and trees will suffice. Others choose to photograph their family in their own home and around their property. It might help you to consider what your family likes to do together. If your family loves to go boating, an image created with the boat at the lake might make for a very special portrait. Are you into rock climbing? Camping? Outdoors? Whatever your interests, having an image created at a location that is specifically important to your family will offer much more significance and originality to the portrait. Get your photographer’s advice and don’t be shy with your ideas!

4. CLOTHING. This is the big one! If you want your portrait to stand the test of time and always keep that “looks like it was taken yesterday” quality, you must carefully choose your clothing. Keep it as simple as you can. Remember that not everyone has to match but keeping the same general tonality is always a good idea. Earth tones work best with just about any background or skin tone. Avoid patterns and logos. What looks good in real life will not always look as good in a portrait because certain clothing patterns will distract from the faces of the family. The main goal in a portrait is to see the faces without difficulty. The foreground, background, posing, clothes, etc. should all compliment the image but never distract from the subjects’ faces.

Imagine a family of five and they are all wearing black. Now imagine that one person is in a white shirt. The white shirt will now be the first thing you see because it is the point of greatest contrast in the image. The same goes with a family of five all wearing white. If one person in the group is in black, the black will be all you see.

Your family photographer should be able to instruct you on what to wear and offer suggestions.

5. THE PORTRAIT SESSION. “Oh no! My husband is mad that we have to take a photo and my kids are fighting and my daughter didn’t wear what I told her to wear and I have bags under my eyes because I didn’t sleep well last night…..” Sound familiar? A lot can happen between planning your portrait and having it taken. There are so many variables to consider but remember that your photographer understands this perfectly! Take a few deep breaths, relax, and trust your photographer’s expertise. Your photographer will work on putting you at ease during the session and make you comfortable with being photographed. He or she will be watching closely how the family is interacting during the session and will no doubt do whatever is possible to put you at ease. Focus your mind on how fun the session will be and how happy you are that the portrait you have worked so hard to organize is finally being created! Very soon you’ll have a beautiful, custom piece of artwork for your home’s decor, which brings me to #6…

6. DISPLAYING THE FINAL PRODUCT. Your session went great and the images looked amazing! You can’t believe how good you all look and how happy you are with the images that were created. Now it’s time to decide what you’d like to order!

Most professional photographers will sell your images to you ranging from wallet sized images up to large framed wall portraits that can be a beautiful sight to behold. It is best to plan ahead with your photographer where you intend on displaying the final print. Look around your home and find the right location. Take a picture of the location for the photographer and they will help you decide what will look best for your home. You might be surprised how small a “huge” print like an 11×14 can look above an entire couch or how a large image like a 30×40 can be far too big for your hallway. Measure the area you’d like to fill with portraits and your photographer will recommend what size of portrait would work best in that location and also recommendations for different sized images in a beautiful cluster of images. It depends on your current decor and your personal taste.

For smaller sizes, write down who in your family and extended family will want a smaller gift sized print (8×10 or smaller) and then plan on Christmas cards, albums, fun keepsakes, etc.

Have fun with your photographer and enjoy your family through the entire family portrait experience. We are all so lucky to have photography in our lives to look back on different moments of our lives and although it takes a lot of effort to create a family portrait, it is well worth the effort!

The Value Of Perfect Baby Photography

For some parents, baby photography begins prior to the birth of the baby. Once they get the good news about the pregnancy, many parents will take ultrasound images of their unborn baby in the womb. Each moment can be recorded right up until the mother gives birth.

After their child is born, many parents will hire a professional photographer to photograph their baby. Most of these photographs will be taken right after the baby is born or a few months later. This is the perfect time to portray the baby in all types of endearing poses while awake or asleep. These photographs will serve as constant reminders of some of the best moments of the parents’ lives and the beginning of a new one.

A baby photography session requires patience. This has to come from both the photographer and the parents because the baby will not understand what is happening. A good baby photographer has to be understanding and sensitive. The parents will therefore need to be very sympathetic and should monitor their baby’s comfort.

Parents often choose to use props during their photography session, which can help entertain and distract the baby; props can also help the baby feel more comfortable. In addition, props will enhance and give a unique look to the photographs. Depending on the needs of the parents, props can either be simple – such as baby toys, blankets – or larger and more intricate.

Some baby photographs include the baby’s parents. They can either be fully in the photograph or just parts of them, such as an image of the baby on the father’s hands or in a parent’s arms. These types of photographs portray a sense of tenderness and love.

Baby photography can be quick and easy to organize. Once the parents find a good baby photographer, decisions can be made regarding location – whether they want to have the session at home in a family environment or outside in a park or on the beach, which can provide a sense of imagination and a large expanse of space to photograph.

The expert photographers have a great sense to spot the exact expression or mood of the baby. Further, they know how to tackle the babies and photograph them. Quick and effectual service of these birth photographers will surely make you cherish. One call is all it takes to ensure that the priceless memories are preserved for life.