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16 Jun 2015
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Shooting Reflective surfaces: Make your work stand out, not shine

Faucet

As a stain glass artist, or granite floor specialist, your work is a reflection of your art.  Speaking of reflection, working with shiny materials (glass, granite, marble, treated concrete etc.), is not easy to photograph.  Especially with your regular point and shoot. With 15 million people on Houzz a month – 84% plan to decorate or redecorate their home, and 48% plan to remodel – A good portfolio will make you stand out from the rest.

I’ve interviewed some crafts people and my clients why they think their previous shots were shot so poorly (stain glass artists, counter and floor specialists). Photographers (pro or not) must understand the material that is being shot. They also need to know how to light the material properly: Does it need to be lit from behind (like stain glass)? Or does the reflection off the surface need to be reduced (marble, treated concrete)? Will wetting your material show off fine details (veins on granite)? Consider how you would like your work to be viewed by others. Do you want your face reflected on the surface, or would you want to show off the veins on that good cut of granite?

 

Below are 3 key things to consider when shooting reflective surfaces – if you so dare.

 

SHOOT WITH WHITE WALLS AROUND THE MATERIAL

In most situations, this may not be easy to do. White walls, however, are best so that colour and other obtrusive objects won’t appear in the material you’re shooting. Different reflections in the material can make your next client look at the pretty colours of your last client’s kitchen instead of your product. To resolve this issue, take the material out of the colourful room and place it in a room with white walls.  If the product is fixture, consider placing black or white boards around the reflective surface. This will help eliminate any colour to reflect of your product.  The fewer interruptions of colour and objects reflected on the surface of the material, the better.

 

DIFFUSE LIGHT

A built-in flash on your camera or iPhone just won’t cut it. Sorry. That light will bounce directly off your reflective surface and your client will see nothing but an orb. To rid the orb, rid the flash on your camera (if possible) and place it off to the side of the material. Most importantly, diffuse the light with a diffuser or cover it with something transparent like wax paper or parchment paper. By doing this, you break the light up from a harsh beam and light will disperse itself across the surface of the material. This will ‘soften’ the light, making shadows and reflective lines less jarring.

 

USE NATURAL LIGHT

Open the curtains pull up the blinds and the let the sunshine in. Images would look best if the sunlight doesn’t beam through the room. In fact, a cloudy day or shooting early morning would work best. Direct sunlight can make orbs (did I say that again?). What you’re looking for is diffused lighting. Again this light will spread across the material like butter. Something you want to capture in your shot.

To shoot shiny surfaces requires a bit of skill and ingenuity – and maybe a few years of practice. Your time is valuable, so why not use it wisely? Before you stoop and shoot – your shiny floor – consider calling a professional and get it right the first time around.


01 Jun 2015
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Curb Appeal. A Profitable Home Improvement

Landscapehouse

While many homeowners clean and upgrade the house from the interior when selling, many seem to forget the exterior of the home. This is the ‘face’ of the home and gives buyers their first impression. This critical area is often overlooked, but by paying attention to some details beyond your front porch can increase the value of the house anywhere from $1,000 to over $10,000.

Here are a few things you can do to give your exterior of your home the attention it deserves:

HUG A TREE

For the tree huggers out there, your tree will be utmost thankful for the affection especially when it’s on your front lawn. According to an article written by Lindsay Purcell, Urban Forest Specialist at Perdue University, based on the assessment of the tree and in relation to the property site and location, a tree’s appraised value can start from $1000. And according to Landscape Ontario, trees also appreciate with time, and enhance property value from 5-20%. So think before you cut. Trees add value and are attractive accessories to any home. I hug my magnolia and birch tree whenever I can.

PLANT SOME SHRUBS AND FLOWERS

Like a pearl necklace around a woman’s neck, shrubs and flowers add beauty to any home. It also increases its value, especially in the front yard. And according to HomeGain’s 2012 National Home Improvement Survey, there is a 215% return on investment by landscaping alone. First impressions happen before entering the house – a welcoming home begins in the front yard.

DECK A YARD WITH A DECK

Any new couple’s dream home would have deck or patio to host friends and family. And as one of the most profitable home improvements, why not give that new couple a deck of their dreams? The average deck price is under $15,000 and increases your home’s resale value by $10,000.

REMEMBER THE K.I.S.S FACTOR: KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID

Not everyone would appreciate a replica of Michaelangelo’s David on the front lawn, or a fountain of Britannica. And in some cases, a pool in the backyard could turn off some potential buyers especially ones with small children where safety is a concern. Some don’t care for the maintenance that is involved. An attractive landscape is also one that is easy to maintain.

A GOOD LANDSCAPE RESPECTS THE ENVIRONMENT

Many investors and homebuyers are not only interested by the home’s lovely lawn, but rather what’s accompanies it: a zoned irrigation system on automatic timers that water different areas according to each area’s need. Rather than jacking up your water bill by leaving out a sprinkler until midnight, an irrigation system cuts down your water usage, and water bill.

Quality landscaping can also reduce noise pollution into the home and lowers heating and cooling costs, says Landscape Ontario. Trees help us breath! One mature tree can provide enough oxygen for two people and absorb up to 42lbs of carbon dioxide a year. And before you consider cutting your 12 inch sugar maple, it removes 60 mg of cadmium, 140 mg of chromium, 820 mg of nickel and 5,200 mg of lead from the environment each growing season – not to mention can give you delicious maple syrup in March.

With summer nearly here, what better time to think about doing an upgrade to the great outdoors – of your home, that is. Working in your yard will certainly give you a good return on your investment and increase the value of your home by refining what sits on the outskirts of your house. And as real estate market sales peak from March to September, your house isn’t hiding behind 10 feet of that Toronto snow. So tidy up beyond your front porch and open the door to more buyers.


25 May 2015
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5 Reasons Toronto’s Urban Condo Boom Helps the Environment

torontoskyline

“More than half of the planet’s people now live in urban areas,” says David Suzuki and Faisal Moola in the Opinion section of the Toronto Star, May 22, “…[in some cities], growth in the city was confined to existing built-up areas, thereby preventing development from spilling out to farmer’s field.” This trend is very obvious in Toronto’s downtown core.

Condos in the core, is in fact, saving some of Ontario’s farmland and natural habitat. This concern of urban sprawl has been an on-going issue for decades (its term first used in the 1950s) and building up is the way to prevent it. Most importantly it prevents development in green spaces and to farmer’s fields (areas that feed cities).

What has made us more conscientious of the environment? Below are some factors:

  1. PROVINCIAL LEGISLATION I:

    In 2005, the Province of Ontario established the Places to Grow Act to decrease urban sprawl, utilizing existing infrastructure and preserving natural resources and agricultural resources.

  2. PROVINCIAL LEGISLATION II:

    In 2006, the province passed another law called the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe to encourage towns and cities to grow upwards rather than outwards. Ontario has 728,000 hectares of protected farmland and green space.

  3. GAS PRICES:

    Rising gas prices have significantly affected consumer’s use of the automobile. Moving to Toronto’s downtown core make walking, transit, and bicycling more practical than suburban life which requires hundreds of dollars of car fuel.

  4. COMMUTE TIMES/EMISSIONS:

    Number of buyers now prefers to stay closer to their work in the urban core. This is a direct result of their experience with travel from the suburbs to downtown Toronto. Others don’t own a car simply because it harms the environment: diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles produced 1,511 million metric tons of CO2 in 2012.

  5. LIFESTYLE:

    As more buildings are becoming LEED certified, more stores carry organic food than those in the suburbs, farmers markets are popping up everywhere in the core, and green roofs are encouraged, there’s no better reason than to enjoy urban life and be green!

These contributing factors protect farmland, and give new life to southern Ontario’s agricultural industry.  Protecting our agriculture and natural environment is just one way to make our society economically efficient and environmentally sustainable.

 


07 May 2015
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So Happy Together: Kids and Condos can work!

Condos and Kids

According to the Toronto Star, seven industry experts discussed, due to growing families in Downtown Toronto, condominium suites are finally getting larger instead of smaller. Larger condominiums will encourage more families to remain downtown and raise their children in condos.

 

“Outside of daycare, children are not getting a lot of physical activity.” says Gunn-Moghimi

But as these larger new condos are few and far between, the immediate infrastructure in the downtown core must improve to support families. “There aren’t many parks around here,” Gaea Gunn-Moghimi, registered early childhood educator and senior director of the family development centre at the Central YMCA says, “Outside of daycare, children are not getting a lot of physical activity, at least in the downtown area.” I met her late April to help me understand what can be done for families with young active children living in downtown Toronto.

As we get further into our discussion, it is a concern that gross motor development isn’t encouraged in families living in condos. It is also a concern amongst other ECE workers I spoke with in the Yonge and College area. For most families, according to Gunn-Moghimi, the daycare is where children get most of their exercise. Developing gross motor skills are essential to the body’s movement throughout its life.

Gross motor skills are required to control larger muscles of the body and are important for major body movement such as walking, maintaining balance, coordination, jumping, and reaching. Gunn-Moghimi mentions that it is obvious that the children who live in houses can climb stairs better than children who live in condo as their leg and the core are muscles are more developed than those who live in condos. To address this issue, the Central Y built in stairs in all classrooms to help strengthen these muscles for condo kids living around the Y.

Gross motor skills in infants are as simple as rolling over, sit and stand to exercise large muscles – larger muscles are used to achieve these skills before crawling and eventually, walking. As toddlers, children must continue to exercise to enable kids to run, jump, throw and climb, in order to continue to use their muscles into adulthood.

 

If there are limited parks downtown for kids, what’s a parent to do?

As more families flock to the downtown core, and builders are brainstorming on ideas to make child-friendly amenities, what can condo-families do in the meantime to help their kids get the physical activity they need?

With the limited square footage inside most condos there are a number of things parents can do with their growing child. As a busy parent myself, I do understand the difficulty to get out during the week to get my child to burn off some steam. The cold winter months and rainy days are most difficult. Gunn-Moghimi advises, “Have gym activities in the house, or [parents can] set up small mats.” Below are a few of a toddler’s and preschooler’s favourite things that can get him or her moving:

STRENGTH

A toy-shopping cart can help strengthen their lower muscles in the legs for new walkers and putting items into the cart can strengthen their upper body. A wagon used on uneven ground especially, can strengthen core muscles.

BALANCE

A balancing beam such as a folding training low beam by Z-Athletic is perfect for any toddler who wants to perform a balancing act, or Gonge Riverstones or Hilltops by Gonge can help develop balance and coordination. These items are stackable or can be folded and tuck away when not in use.

GROSS AND FINE MOTOR SKILLS COMBINED

Crawling is important to a child’s development. In fact, crawling help strengthen the muscles in the palm which are essential to hold small objects such as a crayon or a pencil. IKEA’s Busa tunnel will encourage crawling for the young toddler and imaginative play for the preschooler. And again, this product can be folded and stored easily in any condo.

HAND AND EYE COORDINATION

To some that would require an IPad, but not so! The Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Verdie Chameleon Beanbag Toss is a perfect activity to encourage hand and eye coordination as well as number and counting recognition.

Though these products are geared to your child’s physical development, ensure that they are used in a safe manner and are age appropriate for your child. It’s obvious that your crawling kid, though eager he or she may be, can’t use the balancing beam until a few months down the road (yes time does fly!).

 

“..take [your kids] to the gym..Get memberships at the YMCA.” Says Gunn-Moghimi

And if these stackable and foldable products still can’t fit in your small condo, “Go up and down the stairs, take them to the gym in the condo, if allowed, in the building.” Says Gunn-Moghimi, and most importantly, “Get memberships at the YMCA.” The two Y’s Gunn-Moghimi mentioned are the Central Y at Wellesley and Yonge, and the West End YMCA at College and Dovercourt. There are a number of outstanding programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and youths at the Y. How do I know? My daughter is in one of them.


13 Apr 2015
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From Sale to Sold! 5 tips to make it in real estate

Real estate Agent Toronto GTA Real Estate

Stand up and stand out

It’s a tough market out there. And with nearly 60, 000 real estate agents in Ontario alone, and 67% of them serve the GTA, how do you stand out?

Consider defining a niche market. Know one area, the neighbourhood, and the profile of the people in one community. Specializing in a key area will make you different from the rest, buyers will trust you, and give you more selling power in the neighbourhood you know best.

 

Techno What?

Yes, technology. You know, computers, cell phones. Moreover, texting, email, virtual tours, professional photos. Most of your clients will be Generation Y (“Millennials” born between 1981-2001). And to keep up to their speed, you better know what will grab them.

Most of Gen Y buyers are first time buyers – and have high expectations. First time home owners want the luxury of purchasing homes that are move in ready – strongly influenced by many home improvement television programs such as Property Brothers and Love it or List it. These kids text before they talk, spend more time in front of a screen unlike any other generation before them. They shop online and like moving images – better known as virtual tours – and like crisp clean professionally photographed images. Because, you know, everyone has a smart phone.

So get with the program. Get a good real estate photographer and videographer and make your homes look good online as they do in person.

 

Have a presence online

Hire a professional to build your website. There’s nothing more disappointing than looking at beautiful houses on an ugly or not user friendly website. Keep it simple, clean and straightforward. Buyers are there to look at homes. They don’t need the distraction of decorated backgrounds or unwanted ads.

Blogging is a must! Sharing your thoughts on the market or your expertise in your neighbourhood will garner interest and build a relationship with potential clients. Show off what you know. Educating others won’t make them buy houses without an agent; it will only want them to trust one.

Social media is a must! Go on Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram. Yes Instagram. With the majority of users are of Gen Y, and 68% are heavily skewed towards women (single women are the largest segment of home buyers next to couples), it’s worth posting on Instagram.

 

Be consistent

There are two main ways to be consistent: time management and persona.

Be honest and true to yourself. There’s nothing more distrustful than being a phony online or in person. Most people can sense dishonesty from a mile away. The best way to be consistent of who you are, is by being who you are.

Blog on a regular basis. Whether it’s one a week, once, a month, or once a day (which may be a little much), be sure to maintain that routine. People like routine and look forward to your next post. If it’s every Thursday you post, keep it that way. If it’s the first of every month, keep it up.

 

Build your Professional Team

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor did one person build it. Your main goal is to sell homes, not build websites, shoot houses or stage them. Leave that to your team of professionals. They are there to help you. Perhaps it may be a big investment from the start, but it will pay off.

In the long run, they will be your ‘go to’ people you trust. And when you trust them, you build your trusted brand. By using your team of service providers will ensure that your client is taken care of. What is the end result, you ask? Referrals and repeat customers. That’s the kind of brand you want.