Photo Party Decor
Put a personal spin on party decorations by utilizing family-vacation memories.
Hang On to the Memories
Print photos directly onto cotton fabric squares and make an eclectic garland -- mix shots of people, scenery, and objects for an artful effect. There's no need to sew; these cotton squares look better with a loose, homegrown edge. You can print your own fabric at home, but for good-quality printing, it's best to get the designs professionally done. We like Spoonflower, which is very easy to use. You simply upload your image, and they do the rest.
Printed cotton canvas, Spoonflower.com
Decal the Halls
Pale-glass bottles and votive holders are excellent vehicles for photo-printed decals. Clear water-slide decals are super-thin and translucent -- light will come through the decal, giving the bottles a soothing seaglass look. The decals come on a paper backing. Give them a coat of clear varnish, then soak them briefly in water -- they will slide right off the backing, ready to be applied to shell pendants, glass, or another smooth surface. Trim the edges more precisely once they're applied.
Clear water-slide decal paper, decalpaper.com
The same cotton-printed photos can be tacked onto place mats to hold flatware. Photos of your guests can even function as creative place cards. Be sure to remove the photos before washing the place mats.
Rock the Decoupage
Weigh down napkins and tablecloths on breezy days with decoupaged rocks (or use them on your desk as paperweights). Print the image onto thin rice paper, and the image will appear "painted on" -- the texture of the rock will show through. Rice paper is a little tricky to print on because it's so thin. To help feed it through your printer smoothly, adhere a strip of clear tape along one entire short edge on the textured side of the paper; print on the smooth side of the paper.
Rice paper, 91/2" by 13", $10 for 100 sheets, dickblick.com.
Decoupage medium, by Martha Stewart Crafts, in Matte, $10, michaels.com
Photo Tips and Tricks
When taking pictures of striking buildings and other architecture, try shooting from unexpected angles or going in for details to differentiate your shot from the typical postcard. Also, try to venture off the beaten track to really capture the spirit of a place.
Obey the rule of thirds: When taking a picture, imagine that your image is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically -- as if you've drawn a tic-tac-toe board on it. Rather than putting the subject in the center square, put it in any one of the surrounding squares.
Many cameras and phones come with photo-editing capabilities, and apps offer even more options. These can give interesting results, but for the most natural effect, use them with a gentle hand.
Shoot at the "golden hours" whenever possible. In the early morning and late in the day, when the sun isn't as high, the light is softer and subjects are bathed in a flattering light. In the middle of the day, shooting in the shade is more forgiving than bright sunlight, which creates strong shadows.