We built a deck! A 16×12 ft deck! We’ve been wanting to add a deck over our concrete pavement (for obvious reasons). Seth and I tag-teamed building (plus intermittent parenting) and knocked it out in about 20 combined hours over the weekend. I swear half our hours were spent at Home Depot, despite our best efforts to get all of our materials in one swoop. Alas, there were about four trips altogether.
Seth and I make a good team. I’m the LET’S DO THIS half and he’s the “okay, but not until we measure five times” half. Did his incessant need to measure his cuts three times and check the level about forty times take extra time? – YES. Did it also save us from making huge errors on multiple occasions? – ALSO YES. OKAY FINE. hahah. I love him and his desire to do things better than I could have. Also, don’t get me wrong – I’m a powerhouse of a DIY builder, okaaayyy! 😉
Here’s our process!
Start by leveling the ground. These concrete deck block helps you avoid pouring concrete. Anything to speed along the process and not test my limited workmanship too much is the way I want to do it.
Getting the blocks level on each corner was a little bit of a task since our yard slopes quite a bit.
A 4×4 on the lowest side of the yard helps a TON. That way you don’t have to dig down a whole foot on the high side. We wanted to keep our deck high so it covered our concrete steps, so going high was the way to do it.
One of the ways we cut costs (by about $300) was by using 3-inch screws instead of brackets and joist hangers. Seth originally really wanted to use the extra materials for stability, but we talked to my dad (a hobbyist builder who built all our childhood homes) and he confirmed that he just uses 3-inch screws. Home Depot might disown me for saying that, but yeah – we skipped.
Actual photos of Seth being himself and re-checking the “level-ness” of the structure for the fourth time. 😉 But hey, this little tool is cool. You tie a string REALLY TIGHT from one corner to the other and place the level on the middle of the strong. It’ll show you if you’re level.
As you can see above that we built the frame and joists first. Thats the strength for the deck. THEN you build the between to reinforce it. This photo was taken before we put all of our struts in so there are a few gaps here that don’t exist in real life.
Now the fun part! Putting the boards over all this mess. We used 2x6x16 boards from Home Depot. The top cover of consisted of 26 boards and a $20 HD truck rental to get them home. Then we bought the same boards at 12ft long for the struts.
If you’re an experienced builder, you can see where we went wrong. It’s out ONE MISTAKE. It’s a tiny bit embarrassing but we continued anyway. We built the joists and struts the wrong directions. The joists should be going the direction of the boards. The only way you can tell is the screw pattern on top is a little wonky. Try and ignore it – I know we will.
We bought this deck sealer but weren’t loving the color it put over the pretty natural wood, so we won’t be using it for the top! But we used it for the frame to prevent the bottom rotting. I don’t care if the part of the deck you can’t see is this horrific yellow color. haha.
We have a few finishing touches we’ll be doing!
– Railing on one side because it’s quite the drop-off point for small children.
– Wide steps for the front that will cover the concrete blocks on both sides.
– I’m going to Match the front part of the deck frame to the house.
– We’re on the look-out for a sealer that doesn’t change the color!
I’ll keep you updated as we move to our FINAL FINAL product!
Shoutout of Elkhorn painting for doing such a wonderful job on our home paint! The photo shows little white lines on the paint, that’s just a reflection! They did a flawless job!
AND thank you kids, for making this photo really cute. Follow me on instagram to see more family shenanigans!
As a photographer, sometimes I get paid months before a job happens. A lot of creatives have this dilemma. For the first few years of business, I’d spend all of the money before the session or wedding happened. Then when the wedding/session arrived, I felt like I was working for free. In reality, my client paid and I was a bad steward of the money. I have a mantra now:
My biggest step in fixing my bad money habit – I made a holding account where EVERY photography payment I received went straight into. We nicknamed it THE VAULT, because I thought it was a funny (and accurate). It’s the DON’T TOUCH IT (until you do the job) bank account. So sometimes we have $4 in a our Family checking account and like $4,000 in the Vault.
As soon as I get paid Honeybook sends me an email telling me how much that client paid, then I go to the calendar appointment of whoever booked (I never take payment until the date is booked) and I add ‘$300 PAID’ in the Note section of their appointment.
Honeybook keeps my bookkeeping numbers but my calendar is where my active dollar amounts are.
HERE’S MY PROCESS IN STEPS
+ Someone books a date, I save their appointment in my calendar
+ I send them an invoice where they’ll pay the first half of the session
+ Get paid via Honeybook (that payment automatically goes into my Vault account)
+ I don’t open that email notification until I’m ready to put the amount into their calendar appointment
+ Once I photograph for the job, I get out my percentage budgeting journal and write out where I want my dollars to go. (Make sure to account for credit card fees).
+ After I have it all written out, I make the transfers into the specified accounts and checkmark as I go
+ Go back into the calendar appointment and mark DONE in their calendar appointment.
Here are the checking accounts I have within my one bank account:
When I need to spend someones deposit before the session:
Despite all efforts, sometimes life happens and I need to pull a little from the Vault to pay for something. First I make the transfer from the Vault to my Family Checking Account. Then I’ll go to a calendar appointment with a deposit to write under the PAID amount ‘$80 transferred for Groceries’. Now when I go to pay myself after the job is completed, I know I can only deduct $220 from that session. I try to avoid this AT ALL COST.
Our debit car connects to our Family Checking act. I beg you, don’t have a debit card for your Vault. That money needs only one way out (by bank transfer) so you don’t accidentally spend money without writing it down. Otherwise you’ll be doing jobs in a year from now with $0 in the vault, AKA working for free.
Overdraft protection isn’t your friend. Don’t let it draft from other accounts without YOU doing it manually. It’ll transfer from other accounts and before you know it, you’re at a ZERO’D savings account without realizing what you did. It’s better to feel the burn of $0 in your checking.
That’s how I do it! It’s been 12 years of trial and error. Hopefully you don’t have to error as much as I did!
I wrote a blog about how to use Aperture to get great bokeh –
that led into some questions about my gear, so here’s what I use
(plus some of my beginner gear that is more affordable!)
MY LENS CHILD – Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART
I’ve had this lens for YEARS. 98% of what you see on my instagram right now is from this lens. It’s wonderful in low-light and has great depth of field. I love it so so much and I forgive it that it jumps focus sometimes. haha. Mine is taped up and tattered because it’s been through life with me. haha. Still working like a champ though! Price: $800
CHECK IT OUT
Canon 70-200 f/2.8
THIS LENS IS SO GOOD BUT SO BIG
I LOVE this lens. Since it’s a telephoto lens, the f/2.8 is basically like having f/1 lol. It’s really pretty. Opt for stabilization because this thing is HEAVY. I use it for wedding ceremonies and we use it for all the stage photos at New Life Church. If you go to their instagram, you’ll see all the stage photos and sermon clips that are taken with this beast if a lens. It’s great for being discrete during wedding ceremonies. All the photos I get are from the back and nobody has to see me sneaking around haha. Price: $1,700
CHECK IT OUT
Canon 50mm f/1.2
I’ve never worked up the guts to afford it, but someday I’ll own this magnificent lens. Seth and I rent it every now and then and are fairly obsessed. Price: $1,300
CHECK IT OUT
MY CAMERA is the Canon 5d Mark iv. I LOVE it. I’ve had each of the Canon 5d’s and have loved them all. I buy body-only because I want to match it with my lenses that I love. Price: $2,300
CHECK IT OUT
My Camera harness
SAVES my neck. There was a 5 month span where I couldn’t move my head from side to side the weekend after each wedding because my neck was in so much pain. SO I switched to a harness and haven’t had that issue since then! Price: $220
CHECK IT OUT
My little black bag
I carry my camera body, two extra batteries and my Sigma 35mm in this bag. The rest of my gear goes in my backpack! The little black bag is my FAVORITE camera bag I’ve ever had. It’s tiny, barely fits my camera (which shouldn’t be a plus, but for me it is! haha). I love having such a small bag for my stuff! If you had a bigger lens, it might not work! Price: $100
CHECK IT OUT
The gear I started photography with:
Canon 50mm 1.8
Cheap and efficient little guy. Honestly, It feels like a kids toy, but man this lens is great for the price. I used this lens for YEARS before I upgraded. A lot of missed focus and soft photos came from this little guy. haha BUT It served me well as a beginner. CHECK IT OUT
Canon 50mm 1.4
If you have a few more hundred dollars to spend, get this one instead of the 1.8! It’s the same idea as the Canon 50mm 1.8, but the f-stop is a little better and it doesn’t feel like a plastic toy. I also used this one for a few years, but eventually the focusing ring started messing up and I had to upgrade to my Sigma 35 at that point. This lens my favorite for SO long!
CHECK IT OUT
I haven’t used these. The camera bodies I used before my Canon 5ds are all not made anymore. SO I did a little research and these are some great options. Make sure the lenses you get are compatible before purchasing!
Canon SLR [EOS 80D]
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
For travel or for fun:
If you’re looking for a camera that is really lightweight and takes great photos, but you’re not looking to make a career with it – I’ve also heard great things about these!
Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit
Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera
Rules are made to be broken but apertures are meant to be set low.
Aperture is what gives a photo that pretty Bokeh-blurred background. It’s not scary, I promise!
It’s a tool that is so easy to learn and use.
Here are some words and phrases that you’ll hear when we talk about aperture:
Other ways of saying aperture: f-stop and f/
Shallow depth of field = Bokeh
Shooting wide open = low aperture = BLURRED
Shooting closed = high aperture = everything and its mom is in focus
I explained the ins and outs of how to use aperture in my youtube video on shooting manual, but now I want to
show you the difference with these side-by-side examples!
Let me be clear before I show you examples, not all lenses are created equal with these rules. If you have a lens with a long focal length like the Canon 70-200mm, the aperture capability is f/2.8 and that lens has GREAT bokeh. When you have a lens that is 85mm or lower, try to keep your aperture under f/2.0! I promise it’s worth it.
Having a low aperture is the only way to achieve that extra shallow depth of field,
but these are other great ways of getting great bokeh!
1. Put distance between your subject and the background
If there’s a wall directly behind your subject, the wall will be in focus with the subject.
So pull your subject away from the background if you’re able!
And hey, do both to get some variety!
2. Get closer to your subject
Below is a photo of Natalie in the cute pink ZIYA jacket. Both of these photos of her are set to a f/1.4 aperture, but the first photo has more bokeh than the other. This is a great example of what happens when you’re close to your subject VS when you’re standing further back. The photo with Natalie really close to the camera gives the background a super blurry look while the full body photo gives more detail.
Practice makes perfect, do some test shots so you know what you are capable of!
I would LOVE to see how this works for you, so let me know!!
I’ve had people tell me they’re ready to start shooting with a low aperture but they don’t have a lens that goes below f/4.0 (Looking at you, kit lenses!) Here are my favorite lenses and camera bodies at every price point: ASHLEE’S BAG