5 WAYS TO SHOOT WITH THE 50MM LENS

5 Ways to Shoot With the 50mm Lens

How many of you bought a 50mm lens as your first lens? I think it is the first lens most people choose to buy. For the most part, we all spent a good long time with that stock lens that came with our first cameras, am I right? It's true, the 50mm is a favorite among most. It's probably my favorite, with a close running to the 35mm. And it's a favorite for good reason. One can get a lot of miles out of the 50mm because it's so versatile.

I spent the first 5 years of my photography journey shooting portraits with my 50mm lens. It didn't take long for me to use the 50mm for nearly everything; landscapes, details, low light, and cityscapes. To this day I still use the 50mm lens, but I use it primarily to shoot styled stock photos and it's highly versatile with everything I shoot today.  

FREE Styled Stock Images

LIFESTYLE

My photography journey started in lifestyle portraits which were my favorite for a long time... until I started shooting flatlay. The 50mm makes it so easy to capture lifestyle images. It has a great low aperture allowing lots of light to enter the lens and also creates a beautiful bokeh. The 50mm makes it easy on you as it's a "normal" lens, meaning the view that it produces is natural, similar to seeing it with the human eye. 

FREE Styled Stock Images

DETAILS

The 50mm is also great for shooting details. Getting sharp details with the 50mm is as easy as picking the right aperture. F2.8 is a good jumping off point. I actually prefer not to shot any lower then that to maintain the sharpness of my photos. It's great to include detail images in each styled stock photography collection because it adds variety. 

FREE Styled Stock Images

FLATLAY

Shooting flaylay is one of my favorite types of photos to shoot. Because of the versatility of the 50mm lens it's great for shooting flatlay as well, as long as you're using the right settings. When shooting flaylay is important to shoot with a high f-stop, like f10. When you shoot with an f-stop that large, it allows for all of your props to be in focus. 

FREE Styled Stock Images

MOCKUPS

I view mockups as either lifestyle or flaylay because I shoot a variety of mockups that fall into both categories. I wouldn't say there is much of a difference between the technique between lifestyle and flatlay, you're simply treating the item that you're using to mockup (imac, ipad, iphone, notebook, ect.) as the subject of your photo, so you'll want to do your best to keep the focus there. If you're shooting lifestyle you'll want to shoot it like a portrait with a low f-stop. If you are shooting flatlay you'll want to shoot it with a high f-stop.

FREE Styled Stock Images

DESKTOPS

I think desktops are great photos to use to add interest to your brands website, perfect for banners and landing pages. Shooting desktops is just like shooting flatlay with a high/large f-stop. Desktop styled stock images are perfect for setting the tone of your brand. Nearly every page of my website as a hero image that was shot as a desktop styled stock image and I think it represents the Elah Tree ethos very well. 

There are far more ways than 5 to shoot with the 50mm lens, what are some of your favorites? xoxo! Samantha

LIST BUILDING 101 : GROW YOUR EMAIL LIST

List Building 101: A blueprint to grow your email list. Download your free cheat sheet!

Email lists are one of the most popular topics in which I get questions about. And for good reason, building an email list and creating a healthy system to manage that list is one of the best things you can do for your business. Don't just take my word for it. Think about some of your favorite brands; Gap, United by Blue, Magnolia, Letterfolk, West Elm, Anthropology. They work hard to build their email lists and they want you on their list too. They ask for your email almost every time you go through the register. Anytime you stop by their website they give you an opportunity to sign up too. And they do a great job at it. In trade for your email, they offer 10% off your first order or they offer you free shipping. If you give them your birth date they'll even offer you something special on your birthday, like a free drink.

An email list is a direct link between you and your customers. Between you and your audience. Whether you are a small business, a lifestyle blogger, or a service provider, you can grow your brand and create a lasting connection with your email list. Every time a brand shows up in your inbox, even if you don't open it, you are reminded of them. I get plenty of emails from West Elm and Anthropology that I don't open, but I never unsubscribe, because one-day they might send me the exact deal that I need. They know it and I know it.  

I know, the idea of emails and list building may be overwhelming, but they don't have to be. List building is all about creating a system and this type of system can be created in steps. And these steps can be built over time. Try not to get ahead of yourself. It's easy to get excited and want to do everything all at once. But if you do the work ahead of time and set up your system first, you will be in amazing shape, your list will be growing, you'll be connecting with your audience, and your system will be doing the work for you. 

MAKE LIST BUILDING EASY WITH THIS LIST BUILDING CHEAT SHEET

STEP ONE : CHOOSE HOW YOU'LL MANAGE YOUR LIST

Choose a provider to manage and build your list. There are plenty to choose from; MailChimp, Convertkit, Mad Mimi, Infusionsoft, and many more. When making your decision choose the one that is best for you and your current situation. I use MailChimp, which has been perfect for me and I can't recommend it enough, especially if you are just starting out. You can sign up for free and your account remains free up to 2,000 subscribers. I've also heard good things about Convertkit and I've heard a lot of businesses switch over once their managing multiple lists and revenue streams. 

STEP TWO : SET UP YOUR LIST

This is super easy. If your using MailChimp this is as easy as a few clicks. You'll name your list, set up your email, etc. MailChimp is extremely user-friendly and if you run into anything you're not sure about they almost always have an example or guide to get you through it.  

 
 

STEP THREE : CREATE YOUR WELCOME SEQUENCE

Create a welcome sequence or onboarding system. In MailChimp, this is an automated sequence of emails welcoming new subscribers. This is going to take the most legwork, but it's also going to do all of the work for you.  A welcome sequence can be a single email to a sequence of emails. The first welcome email often introduces you to your audience and also includes the download/freebie that they signed up for. If you want to create a sequence of emails, which I highly recommend, you'll want to set up a sequence of nurturing emails, followed by an offer email. Nurturing emails are meant to serve your audience, before selling anything to them. 

Let's use my on-boarding sequence as an example. I have 6 emails in my welcome sequence. The first 3 emails are all nurturing and the final 3 include an offer. My first welcome email introduces me to my new subscriber, includes a link to their free downloads and talks a little bit about the benefit of using styled stock photos. The second email is what I would consider a resource email. It outlines a variety of resources they can utilize on our website to help them do business better. The third email includes a link to a special download and includes a survey (which helps me serve them better.) My forth email includes a special offer only available to subscribers. My fifth email answers any questions they may have about the offer. And the sixth email lets them know that their offer is about to expire. 

MAKE LIST BUILDING EASY WITH THIS LIST BUILDING CHEAT SHEET

I'm going to be honest, it took me a long time to create my system and I continue to tweak it as I continue to learn. Your welcome sequence does not have to be as long as mine. You can start small, with a single email and add to it as you go. The important thing is to really think about how you will serve and communicate with your subscribers. They're on your list because you have something they need or want. If they unsubscribe, that's no reflection on you. That simply means your not a good fit for each other. They may come back later and that's cool. Don't sweat the unsubscribes, focus on those who really want what you have to offer. 

This step of setting up your welcome sequence does take a significant amount of work, but this is the part that will keep working for you as your list grows. Once you set up your welcome sequence, these emails will be taking care of your subscribers 24/7.

You might be thinking, "how am I supposed to make an email sequence about my freebie when I haven't even made one yet?" We're almost there, trust me. And I get it, it might seem odd to set up a welcome sequence without having created your freebie yet.  But your welcome sequence sets the tone for your relationship, so while your freebie hooks new subscribers, your welcome sequence is more important. Creating your welcome sequence first forces you to think about how you plan to communicate with your subscribers and how you'll bridge the gap between your subscribers and your product. While you work through this step you'll be brainstorming the perfect freebie to bridge that gap. Create your emails and remember to go back to update them with the freebies you create. 

 
 

STEP FOUR : OUTLINE YOUR CONTENT

I think one of the most overwhelming things about having an email list is figuring out how to serve them. Especially when you're just getting started. So the next step in your list building blueprint is to outline your content calendar to serve your subscribers. Outlining your content will give you confidence once your email list starts to grow and you'll be all set to serve them right off the bat. Now, let's brainstorm some content that you can serve up to your subscribers. 

  • A blog post round-up

  • Monthly freebies (example: I send out FREE stock photos every month)

  • A resource guide

  • E-course

  • Tutorials

  • Your favorite business apps

  • How-to videos

  • You favorite tips and tricks

Think about your business specifically. You want to bridge the gap between your customer and your product. Think of ways you can serve them that also brings them closer to making a purchase. Even if you're a lifestyle blogger, your email subscribers will drive traffic and sales to any affiliate links or sponsored posts your working on. Teach your subscribers creative ways to use your product. Teach them something and emphasize how using your product would make what you're teaching even easier. (example: building an email list is hard work, but promoting it can be made easy with styled stock photos. See what I did there. ;) 

Once you've brainstormed your content add it to a calendar. I use Google calendar for all my content and once a month I review upcoming content to make any changes. Because my content is outlined I'm never scrambling or feel rushed to wing-it. Do the work, plan ahead, and you'll be in great shape.

MAKE LIST BUILDING EASY WITH THIS LIST BUILDING CHEAT SHEET

STEP FIVE : CREATE YOUR FREEBIE

Okay, friend, this is where you create the freebie or download to hook new subscribers. We've already done a lot of work before even getting to this part. But that's okay, because the magic is in the prep work. The most important thing to remember when creating your freebie or download is to make sure it aligns your audience with your product or offering. You don't want to offer a freebie that doesn't connect your subscribers to your product. Otherwise, neither them or you will be a good fit. You want to do the work of creating something that is a perfect fit, that way your subscribers will be head-over-heels for your offer.

Let's work through some examples. One of the main freebies I offer is FREE styled stock photos, which is perfectly in-line with my product and customer needs. It gives customers an opportunity to test out the styled stock images and also gives me an opportunity to share how stock images can really make a difference in their business.

Let's say you sell a physical product, you could offer a discount on their first purchase or free shipping. You could even create a downloadable freebie that pairs with your products. Remember when Magnolia offered free decorative prints, which were perfectly aligned with their design style. I didn't think twice about downloading them.

Another example, I create a variety of downloads specific to business, like this Instagram calendar (which could be used with styled stock photos), or this Instagram Toolkit. Because I know my target audience is also feeling overwhelmed I created freebies to help with that exact thing, like this maintenance day checklist. 

This step might be easy to overthink, but just think about some of your favorite brands and think about what freebies they are offering. If your selling physical products think about what larger brands are doing, like Anthropologie and West Elm. At the top of the Anthropologie website, you can sign up for free shipping. At West Elm, you can save 15% off your entire order. Do you offer digital products? Is there anything that you can create to offer for free? Can you create an e-course? You can do this!

 

Need FREE stock photos to help promoate and grow your email list? Sign up and receive 15 FREE stock photos today. 

 

STEP SIX : BUILD YOUR OPT-IN

Now that you've created your freebie, a freebie that aligns perfectly with your customer, it's time to create a way to offer that freebie and collect emails. You can do this a few different ways, but in short, you want to create an opt-in. Most websites have opt-ins in multiple places, giving new visitors plenty of ways to subscribe to your list.

There are lots of different ways to add opt-ins to your site and Squarespace makes it so easy. You can use their announcement bar feature to direct subscribers to an opt-in page. You can use the promotion pop-up to offer your freebie and collect emails. You can create a blog post promoting your freebie and collect emails through an embedded form. You can create a separate opt-in page, like this too. If you're not sure how to create an opt-in page, check out this how-to.  You can add forms at the bottom of each blog post (scroll down and you'll see mine.) You can also add opt-in forms to your blog sidebar. There are multiple ways to collect emails, the great thing about that, is you can utilize almost all of them.

PROMOTIONAL POP-UP

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OFFER ABOVE THE FOLD + ANNOUNCEMENT BAR 

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SEPERATE OPT-IN PAGE

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Creating your opt-in forms can be even easier with stock photos too. You can use stock photos to create an opt-in page. And you can use stock photos to customize any promotional pop-ups you create. 

STEP SEVEN : PROMOTE YOUR FREEBIE

We're on to the fun part, woot! We're about to the cross the finish line! It's time to throw some confetti for all the work you've done! You've determined how to manage your list, you've set up your list to collect emails, you've created a welcome email sequence, you've outlined your content calendar, you've created your freebie, you've added all your opt-in forms, now it's time to promote your freebie!

The easiest ways to promote your freebie is through a blog post and you can use Pinterest, Instagram (plus Instagram stories,) and Facebook to funnel people to that blog post. Did that just sound like a lot? With a little bit of planning, it doesn't have to be a lot. You can create images and posts that all work together. Your focus during this promotion is to use all the platforms I mentioned to funnel new visitors to your opt-in forms. You definitely don't want to have done all that work to set up your list and then not be able to promote it well. 

So, before you get overwhelmed, download your FREE stock photos first. You can use your free stock photos to make promoting your freebies a breeze. And before we start creating images to promote your freebie, we're going to wrap up today's posts, because it's been a doozy and you've got plenty of work to do. I'll be bringing you lots of ways to use your stock photos to promote your freebie, so keep your eyes peeled. xoxo! Samantha


HOW TO CREATE A SUPER EASY OPT-IN PAGE IN SQUARESPACE

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When I finally decided to serve and grow my email list instead of trying to frantically grow my  Instagram, things in business got easier.  It's not that growing an email list doesn't take work, it does. But the amazing thing about growing your email list is that it is not dictated by changing algorithms of another platform. You don't run the risk of your audience not seeing your posts, you don't run the risk of losing out on potential new customers. When you grow your email list you're letting people know, "hey I want to serve you. I want to help you to thrive in your business and in life."

Instagram, Facebook, and  Pinterest are all great social platforms, and I believe the best way to use them for your business is as a funnel for your business. So how do we do that? We create an opt-in page that lets your potential clients and customers know that your goal is to serve them. And getting on your email list means that you'll be serving up lots of great content and deals that help them.  

Ready to create your opt-in page? Let's do this! 

STEP ONE

Create a freebie or download that will serve your audience. It's one thing to ask someone to join your email list just for the heck of it. It's a whole other thing when you serve them first. So, as you begin the planning stages of creating your opt-in page think of a few ways that you can serve your audience first. Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing. 

  • A discount code for your shop

  • A free digital good from your shop

  • A downloadable list of your top recipes

  • A downloadable list of your favorite business resources

  • Your favorite business apps

  • An Ebook

Once you have a freebie that is going to serve your audience then you can say, "hey, sign up for my email list and download your FREE list of business resources." Providing a FREE item for your audience lets them know you're ready to serve them. 

STEP TWO

Squarespace makes it crazy easy to create an opt-in page. It's actually been one of the easiest pages for me to create. To get started you want to create a new page that is not linked. Once you click the little plus sign to create a new page, select Cover Page. You can check out my Opt-in page here, I used the cover page layout "card." I'm partial to this layout as it's very clean, simple and allows me to include all the important components.  

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STEP THREE

Once you have the editing panel open to your opt-in page you can begin customizing your page to perfectly fit your brand. One of the first things I do is add an image. Simply click the "media" panel and you can add your favorite eye-catching image. Don't have the perfect image for your opt-in page? Sign up for our email list and download 10+ FREE stock photos! Sign up right here! See what I did there? ;) 

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STEP FOUR

The next thing you want to do is customize the text for your opt-in page. Most cover pages have limited space for text so you want your message to be clear and concise. People usually don't have a lot of time to spend reading your website either so you want to make it as easy as possible. Every cover page allows you to choose to upload your logo or keep everything in text. I choose to not to use my logo because I want the header of my opt-in page to highlight the free download I'm offering.  You'll see below how I used text in the "logo" section, followed by the headline, "Download 10+ FREE Stock Photos," followed by the body of the text. I use the body of the text to let people know why it's such a great idea to use the FREE stock photos. 

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STEP FIVE

This is maybe one of the most important components of your opt-in page because this is where you collect all your emails. Here you will customize the "action" of your cover page, or what you want your customer to do. For our action we want them to sign up for our email list so you want to include the form name, which is what people will see when they click to sign up. 

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Next, you want to edit your form. This is just a few simple clicks. Most forms start out with four fields; name, email address, subject, and message. I keep my form simple and only include name and email. I've known a few people that were hesitant to include the name field as it includes both first and last name in fear that people wouldn't sign up because they don't want to include their last name. I totally get that. But nobody actually has to include their last name or even their first name. They can put their initials, they can put their first name and their last initial, it's completely up to them. 

 
how to create an opt-in page
 

After you have built your form you want to determine where you're emails are to be stored. If you have an email service, like Mailchimp, you can sign in right within your form and designate where you want your emails to go. If you don't have MailChimp you can have your emails stored in Google Drive or sent directly to your email. This is one thing I really love about Squarespace, they make it so easy to start right where you are. If you're not ready or haven't figured out MailChimp yet you can still start growing your email list. 

 
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One of the final steps within your form is the advanced section. This section takes your customer experience one step further. You can do one of two things. You can include a post-submit message thanking your new subscriber for signing up and giving them any details about their free downloads. Or you can include post-submit HTML. Post-submit HTML is ideal if you want to send your customers to another page. I use post-submit HTML to send my customers to a thank you page. This thank you page brings their experience full circle. 

 
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Want to know the exact HTML I use to direct my customers to a new page? Download yours below! 

 
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STEP 6

Alright friends, your final step for creating your opt-in page is the customize the style. This step is perfect for creating an opt-in page that matches your brand perfectly. Within this step you can change the colors, change the font, and adjust the placement and positioning.

 
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Creating an opt-in page and growing your email list doesn't have to be scary or hard. It's a few simple steps and it's the perfect way to let your customers know that you're here to serve them. I know you are going to create something amazing! Share your new opt-in pages in the comments below so I can see what you created and sign up for your amazing content! xoxo! Samantha


MABUHAY FROM THE PHILIPPINES

Things slow down around here in December. It's one of my favorite times of year... and I'm finally able to share about our trip to the Philippines. I'm not even sure where to start. Tyler and I traveled to Zamboanga City, Philippines to celebrate my brother and his wife. They got married and it was beautiful. 

We took a redeye from JFK to Manila. It was a 20 hour flight, with one stop in Vancouver. It was my first international flight and the longest flight I had ever been on. My biggest concern was the long plane ride, but it was unexpectedly pleasant. I watched movie after movie, and the flight attendant brought lots and lots of food. The hardest part about our flight was not getting to lay down when I was super super tired, haha. 

We landed in Manila with a 20 hour layover, then we had another redeye to Zamboanga City. We arrived as the sun came up. It was the first time I would be seeing my brother for almost 2 years and it was also the first time meeting Michelle, my brother's new wife. It was a lovely reunion and an amazing trip. We stayed at the Garden Orchid hotel, which I would highly recommend. I would also recommend that you take a trip to the Philippines. :)

Our first day started with a 6:00am breakfast. After breakfast we had a short bit to unpack and settle in. Later that morning we were off to the church for my brother and sister-in-laws baptism. We had our first lunch with all the in-laws were we had amazing food and amazing company. I ended up crying at the table because I was so exhausted, but managed to pull my self together, haha. I felt like I had been up for two days, whew. 

Our our second day we went to Santa Cruz island, known for it’s beautiful pink beaches. Everything was amazing. We took a small boat to the island and I was just sure we were going to sink. ;) But we didn’t. We were only on the beach for a few hours, but it was beautiful and peaceful. We met locals, took pictures, sat under trees and had the very best time. 

We did a variety of things while we were there and all the days are running together now, whew. A few of our our favorite highlights included riding in a Jeepney, this was one of Tyler’s favorite things ever and I will agree, it was so fun! Jeepney’s were originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II… if you were wondering. :) All the jeepney’s we saw had open seating and we jumped from one to the other. When someone wanted to get off, they simply tapped the railing with a coin. 

The wedding was on Friday, so we had the week to explore the city and have lots of fun. We had breakfast that Friday morning, followed by hair and make-up... my first time ever having my make-up done, and our attire was all ready for us. Tyler and I were apart of the wedding party and slightly unprepared, haha! We were considered sponsors for the wedding and we were in charge of the veil. Both of which are traditional in Philippine culture. During our part of the ceremony, neither Tyler or I knew what to do, so one of the wedding planners helped us. During the reception we both had to give speeches too… and we were unprepared for those as well. I got up on stage and was completely speechless. My brother coached me from the side as I stared at him. 

My brother and Michelle, went above and beyond to take care of us and make sure we had an amazing time. Michelle’s family was so open, generous, and kind. Our favorite part of the trip was the culture and all the people. 

Another random thing… Tyler and my mom were a hit with everyone. Zamboanga City doesn’t often get foreigners, so the fact that they were obviously foreigners (they are white, haha) they sure brought a lot of stares. We had a great time and it was one of the most amazing experiences! We definitely plan on going again. xoxo. Samantha