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!

Using Twitter for genealogy

Using Twitter for genealogyI love Twitter and have been on it since 2008. I primarily use it for marketing my organizing business and reading interesting things posted by the people I follow. But recently, I’ve been searching on the #genealogy hashtag and it’s been a revelation!

I find keeping up with genealogy blogs a bit overwhelming. (I tried using Feedly, but found I just wasn’t reading blogs with regularity.) What’s great about the #genealogy hashtag is that I see tweets about individual posts, resources, news bites or lectures in progress–all of them genealogy related–and I can click on the link and go directly to the post or resource. Tweets are only 140 characters long, so I can get a teeny bite-sized synopsis of the link. I can dip in when I’m looking for inspiration. It’s a really interesting way to go about finding current genealogy-related things to read about.

If you’re not on Twitter, you could join today (at no cost) and immediately start searching the #genealogy hashtag. You could also start tweeting and build relationships with people and grow your followers.  I hear from a lot of people that they just don’t “get” Twitter, which is fine. For the genealogist, using it as a gateway to genealogy information is reason enough to join Twitter, in my opinion. Follow a few a few genealogy luminaries and you’ll have a timeline full of interesting stuff. (But again, if you search on #genealogy you don’t even need to worry about following anyone or reading your timeline.)

Here’s a brief primer on joining Twitter and using it for genealogy:

  • Go to www.twitter.com and create an account. You’ll need to choose a username, which will be your handle. It’s smart to keep it as short as possible, because of the 140-character limit in Twitter. (For example, I’m @janinea.)
  • Upload a picture of yourself into your profile (otherwise, Twitter will use an egg for your picture, which tells the world you’re a newbie)
  • Enter #genealogy in the Search Twitter box and see what’s going on at that moment in the world of genealogy
  • If you want, follow some genealogy folks. To get you started, here are some that I follow:
    • @geneabloggers (Thomas MacEntee)
    • @legalgen (Judy Russell)
    • @genealogyisfun (Jana Last)
    • @ancestry (Ancestry.com)
    • @amyjohnsoncrow (Amy Johnson Crow)
    • @megansmolenyak (Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak)
    • @familytreemagazine (Family Tree Magazine)
    • @vhughesauthor (Valerie Hughes)
    • @familysearch (Family Search)
    • @crestleaf (Crestleaf)
  • Feel free to create a Tweet, but don’t feel like you have to.
  • If you have your own genealogy blog, tweet your posts. If you don’t have your own blog, feel free to tweet links to great genealogy posts you read. (Most blogs have a Share on Twitter icon.)

If you’re already on Twitter, how do you use it for genealogy?

Getting my own handwriting analyzed

Getting my handwriting analyzedAs I’ve written here, I hired Nancy Douglas of WriteMeaning to analyze the handwriting of my paternal grandfather, after I saw her at her booth at RootsTech. My grandfather had written a long letter to my grandmother before they were married and I was intrigued by what I might learn about him through having his handwriting analyzed, since I had this robust sample.

I showed the analysis to my father and his sister and they were both surprised by some of the character traits that the Nancy gleaned from the handwriting. Of course, they didn’t know their father during that period of his life, since they weren’t yet born, but the report didn’t completely jibe with their memory of him. That made me curious about whether the discrepancy was in my father and aunt’s recollection or in the analysis itself.

So I decided to have my own handwriting analyzed in what Nancy calls a Personality Profile. I figured that would put me in a position of knowing whether my grandfather’s handwriting analysis was accurate. Plus I’ve always been fascinated by graphology and it sounded just plain fun.

I filled out Nancy’s forms (by hand, of course) and paid the $50 fee.

My verdict? The analysis was spot on! I loved reading the report. She correctly identified me as efficient and productive, but “not following through on some projects you would like to” (so true!). The analysis says that I am honest, broadminded and an active listener (such important traits for a professional organizer), but that sometimes efficiency and getting things done can trump active listening for me.

The report goes on to identify that I like to talk, am extroverted, open, frank and loyal. It also said I’m analytical thinker and that I prefer quality over quantity (that’s definitely the case). Nancy (correctly) identified some areas where I might be feeling unfulfilled.

The great thing about the report is Nancy details (with snippets from my handwriting to illustrate) what it is about the handwriting that tells her these things. Reading it was truly a learning experience!

If you’re curious and have $50 to spare, I heartily recommend filling out the form and seeing what Nancy has to tell you. Not only did I find it fun, but having my handwriting analyzed helped my genealogy because it lends credence to the historical family documents analysis of my grandfather’s handwriting.

Thank you, Nancy!