Testing out my SHOTBOX

shotboxopenLast fall I blogged about SHOTBOX, a portable light studio that was part of a Kickstarter campaign. I was excited about the prospect of using it to take pictures for my blogs as well as photographing delicate documents for my genealogy research. At $149 for the studio plus the SideShot attachment that allows well-lit photography from the front, it seemed like an answer to a problem I’d had for a long time. (Just take a look at many of the photos on this blog or on my organizing blog to see what I mean. There’s room for improvement!)

My SHOTBOX arrived in December, literally at the same time my puppy, Bix, joined our family. So I haven’t had the chance to use it as much as I will. But I did set it up right away and take a few shots.

Here’s my overall impression:

  • The packaging was excellent. It arrived safe and sound from China with no damage at all.
  • The instructions are good and hardly necessary because the product is simple and intuitive.
  • I was able to get it up and running within minutes. I’ve since used it one other time and it’s remained easy to set up and use.
  • The neoprene carrying case is excellent. I paid an extra $25 for it and I’m glad I did–all the components fit securely in the case and the stored SHOTBOX takes very little room to store.
  • I’m delighted that it comes with four different colored backdrops (white, black, green and blue), which are very easy to switch out.

Here are some photos created by the SHOTBOX team that show the connectors and also how everything fits into the neoprene bag. (They also provided the photo above.)



How are the pictures I’ve taken with my SHOTBOX?

Bear in mind that I’m not much of a photographer and I have some learning to do. I intend to look for camera apps other than the one that came with my iPhone so I have a little more control. (A reviewer on the SHOTBOX website recommends camscanner app for documents and camerapro for three-dimensional objects. I’m going to check those out.) But these quick photos are so much better than what I would have taken without the SHOTBOX!

Here’s a photo of my grandmother’s autograph book, given to me by my father in December. It’s taken from above.


Here’s a photo of a small needle-felted replica of my departed poodle, Kirby. (It was created by Janet’s Needle Felting if you’re interested in having one of your own made.)


On my organizing blog, I wrote about organizing my coloring supplies recently. So I took some photos of my coloring supplies using SHOTBOX. Here are a couple of examples. The first was taken from the front, the second from above.



SHOTBOX gives me much-needed assistance in creating viable photos for my blog, with minimal effort. I love the that it gives me a blank backdrop. And, of course, I love the fact that the photos are well lit. A bonus: It takes up so little space when not in use.

I look forward to using it more!

Full disclosure: The links above are affiliate links, which means that SHOTBOX gives me a percentage of the sale, but doesn’t affect the price. And it doesn’t affect my opinion of the produt.

Taking notes at genealogy conferences

Template for taking notes at a genealogy conferenceIf you’re going to RootsTech next week (or any other genealogy conference this year) I encourage you to check out the free template I created in Transpose.

Transpose is a business platform/website that I wrote about last year. It allows you to create templates (which they now call “solutions”) to create customized forms. You can also download solutions that others have created and uploaded into the Transpose Public Library.

I’ve created a bunch of solutions for my own use and uploaded seven solutions to the Transpose Public Library. One of these is a solution called Genealogy Conference Notes. It’s designed to make it easy to take notes at a genealogy conference.

I’ve only been to one genealogy conference since I created this solution (the Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois conference last August). Using the template, I created a new record for each lecture. The template allowed me to capture general notes from the lecture and also jot down which ancestors the information might apply to, along with action ideas. It worked out really well for me–I love having a structured place to take notes. When I got home, I had a list of concrete action steps.

I chose to take notes on my laptop, because I prefer a full keyboard. Transpose has an app you can use on a tablet or smartphone, but I haven’t yet tried out taking notes with my solution on a mobile platform.

If you’re interested in trying it, you’ll need a free account at Transpose. Go to the Genealogy Conference Notes solution in the library and just copy it into your account. There it will be among any other solutions you copy or download. Just click on the solution and create a new record for each lecture you attend. All the information you capture will be saved for you in Transpose, in a searchable and filterable database.

You can also use it as a basis creating your own solution that works better for your needs. The folks at Transpose work hard to make it easy for you to use the platform. Here’s a great getting started tutorial.

I can’t wait to use it for the next genealogy conference I attend!

January 30 x 30 challenge update

30x30 challengeI’m halfway through the 30 days of my 30 x 30 challenge. Back in August when I last did this, I was able to post about my wonderful progress and how I hadn’t missed a day.

Alas, that’s not the case this time. I underestimated the impact of our puppy, Bix, on my productivity and available time. As I mentioned a month ago, Bix joined our family on December 13 as an eight-week-old puppy. He’s now 13 weeks old and growing up to be a very well behaved puppy. But during those five weeks he required a whole lot of attention to keep him out of trouble. Couple that with January being my busiest month for my organizing business (which I should have taken into account) and I find I’m doing little but working with clients, watching and training Bix, and handling essential admin tasks for Peace of Mind Organizing.

In other words, I’ve barely done any genealogy research in the past two weeks. I’ve managed 30 minutes just a few days. If I didn’t have the challenge going, I’m confident I wouldn’t have done any!

But I’m not throwing in the towel. Instead I’m regrouping and thinking about the lessons of the month so far:

  • My genealogy research isn’t going anywhere, but my puppy is growing up fast.
  • Serving my organizing clients obviously has to be a priority.
  • The fact that I’m not researching daily doesn’t devalue the research I’ve been able to do.
  • Fear of failure shouldn’t stop me from starting challenges like these. It’s okay not to succeed.
  • I’ll be starting up a new challenge as soon as the time is right. I love these challenges!
  • Next time I do a 30 x 30 challenge I want to take a close look at the calendar and consider competing factors. This was an ill-timed challenge, despite it being the first of the year
  • Some research is better than no research. I’ll keep doing what research I can.

I’m thrilled that some of you are taking part in the challenge and reporting on your successes on the blog. Please continue doing so!

I imagine it will be at least a couple of months before Bix is less labor-intensive. Until then, I’m going to cut myself a break!

Registration open for NGS conference

Registration is now open for the National Genealogical Society’s 2016 conference! It will be held May 4-7 in Ft. Lauderdale. I attended the 2015 conference and was very impressed by the quality of the sessions I sat in on. I’m planning to attend this year’s conference and am really looking forward to it.

For the past two years, I’ve attended RootsTech and have enjoyed it as well, though I found the enormity (15,000 or more attendees) a bit overwhelming. This year, it’s being held February 3-6 in Salt Lake City. I decided not to attend because we have a new puppy and I don’t want to saddle my husband with all the work. (Plus, I’d miss Bix, my puppy!) I hope to get back to RootsTech in 2017.

I’m also giving serious consideration to attending the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Genealogy Jamboree once again. I loved it last year. It will be held June 3-5 in Burbank, California.

Do you attend genealogy conferences? Which conferences will you attend this year? If you’re planning to be at NGS or the Jamboree, please let me know in the comments!