Be Ready: A Photographer’s Guide to Documenting Your Belongings for Insurance

It’s Summer in Sydney, which means we have increased threats of extreme weather. Unfortunately we are constantly at threat of bush fires, floods, storms and more. Only three weeks ago, my own life was turned upside down by a freak hailstorm, with hail larger than tennis balls landing in my suburb. I had two cars written off and my home has leaks, broken doors and ceilings and much more.

Now the long process of dealing with the insurance companies have begun for those of us who have had damaged property. Often when you have to make a claim, the insurance company will ask for copies  of receipts or pictures of the items lost as proof that you actually had them. So I thought that I would write this Guide to Documenting Your Belongings for Insurance with useful tips.

The best way to document everything is by preparing a Home Inventory List. Adding photos to your inventory is an excellent way to show that you had the items and the condition they were in prior to the loss. It can also be a great way to determine if you have adequate insurance coverage.

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What Is a Home Inventory List?

A home inventory list is a list of the items or personal belongings you have in your home. The list can be categorised by room, type of item or other relevant criteria and if you can, the following information:

  • Make, Model or Serial number if applicable

  • Description of the item

  • Where the item was purchased from

  • Date of purchase 

  • Receipts or photos of receipts

  • Value of items, appraisals or cost at the time of purchase

Here are some tips to help you take your own home inventory:

  1. You don’t need professional photos. Your digital camera (or phone) will work just fine. The most important thing is that you take the photos with as much detail as possible and include where it’s located in your home.

  2. How to store the photos: If you print these photos out, document where the item is in your home and what it is, if it’s not obvious from the photo. If you plan to store the photos digitally, you can organise them into folders and name each photo what the item is (with the scanned/photographed receipt), and then store the photos on your computer or in the cloud.

  3. How to light your photos: If using your flash, point it away from mirrors and other reflective surfaces (such as stainless steel.) Open glass doors before you take the photo to prevent reflections

  4. Jewellery photo tips: When photographing your jewellery, take photos of each piece individually on a flat surface (your dining table is perfect) and shoot from above. Use a white piece of paper or cloth under gems or dark jewellery. Use black materiel under light toned items. Avoid using a flash and place the table near your window to allow plenty of light to illuminate the object.

  5. Details: When photographing china/crockery, take photos of the pattern name/manufacturer’s mark, along with a detailed picture of the pattern. Photograph the whole set together and make notes of what is included (i.e: Royal Doulton dinner set 16 piece)

  6. Don’t miss anything: If items have model numbers or serial numbers, take photos of those.

  7. Blur: If your photos are blurry or wobbly, stabilise your body and arms against an object (such as a table) or use a tripod or gorilla pod. Remember too that photos can become blurred if you do not have enough light in the room, the camera will shoot at a slower shutter speed to allow more light to hit the sensor. Turn on more lights, open blinds fully or move your item to a brighter place in the home.

  8. Don’t forget to take photos of receipts too to prove the price and date purchased.

  9. Put it in an app: There are a few inventory apps that you can download, but Sortly is great and it is available on Android and iOS.

  10. Use video. This is probably the easiest and quickest method. Walk through your house or apartment videoing and describing the contents and location and the purchase price.

  11. Don’t forget to list the camera/phone that you have been using as part of your inventory.

  12. Update it: Whenever you make new purchases, update your inventory and take new photos.

If you have any questions about how to take photos of your belongings or of your home, feel free to GET IN TOUCH with Tara Ward Photography.

Tips on how to look great in every selfie!

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I have had a busy week of Christmas parties and drinks and with these come the group photos and selfies. With Facebook, Instagram every double-chinned, shiny face can be immediately broadcast to family, friends, and the world at large. 😲

Ever wondered why your selfie never looks quiet right?

I thought I would give you all some tips on how to look great every time!

These two examples of me were taken 30 seconds apart, the second photo takes 5kg of my face. #WINNING

Tip #1: Control your chin. When you pose, elongate your neck and push your forehead and chin forward a bit. It may feel awkward, but this position helps define your jawline and avoids double chins.

Tip #2: A photo shot from just above you is way more flattering than one shot from below. If you’re taller than the person holding the camera, grab a seat..

Tip #3: Angle your body. For full-body shots, don’t face the camera head-on. It’s the least favourable stance, because you’ll see the widest parts of the body in the photo. Instead, assume the Oscars pose: Turn your body about 30 degrees to the right, then turn your head left in the direction of the camera, looking toward your left shoulder.

Tip #4: Avoid standing directly under a light, which can cast weird shadows on your face. Instead, stand facing a natural light source, such as a window, or in a spot where soft light hits your face from the side.

Now you are ready for those Christmas photos 😃

Three Photos You Need To Take On Christmas Morning (includes FREE BONUS download for you)

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It’s 5 am on Christmas Day, the kids are awake and screaming that “Santa has come!”. Time to make some strong coffee and grab your phone or camera.

So how do you separate the beauty and charm of Christmas from the chaos of the festivities? Here are a few tips for Three Photos You Need To Take On Christmas Morning.

Also - don’t miss your FREE printable: Dear Santa Letter (great for all kids to leave out for Santa) at the end of this post (no emails or details needed.)

Christmas Day Photo #1: Gift Opening

The opening of gifts is like no other in that it is filled with an array of emotions, facial expressions and excitement. My first tip is FILL THE FRAME (i.e: Zoom in). Many people forget to look at the what they are actually photographing and only notice afterwards that there was an ugly torn box or paper beside their child.

Instead, Zoom in so that you're cropping out all the distractions to the right, left and directly in front.. Are they sitting in front of a beautiful Christmas tree? Great - then zoom out and take a wide photo of the whole scene. Oh and don’t forget to shoot the reactions of those who GIVE the gift as well, they can be just a great.

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TIP: Pay attention to the lighting

Early morning gift opening frenzies are going to be challenging to capture because the light just isn't that good. If you can calm your kids down (on Christmas morning, easier said than done.)

  1. Try to position them next to a well-lit Christmas tree or near a window if the sun is up.

  2. Turn on a few extra lights in the house if you have to (although overhead lights can put an ugly yellow cast over everything and create unflattering shadows.)

  3. You can even use strands of loose holiday lights to help illuminate your subject.

  4. Just remember that it's far better to rely on ambient light than your flash, which will wash out faces, kill holiday lights and create black shadows behind everything in its path.

  5. Check your white balance. Christmas lights, especially the non-LED variety, are often tungsten-balanced, so when indoors, set your camera's white balance accordingly and you will avoid final photos that look too orange. Just make sure you remember to switch back when shooting outdoors.

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Christmas Day Photo #2: Set The Scene

Remember you want to take photos that tell a story, so that when you look back on them later you will relive that memory.

Take photos of your surroundings like Christmas breakfast or the way the table has been set for lunch. Take some fun photos of the kids…them jumping on the bed in their pyjamas. Or take a photo of Nanna relaxing with a glass of wine.

Do you have a certain family tradition that you would love to capture? Take photos of that to share with your kids in later years. Christmas day goes by so fast, so take some photos of the moments that mean something to YOU. Don’t worry if all your photos are not perfectly in focus, instead concentrate on the feeling and mood instead and just shoot away!

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Christmas Day Photo #3: Don’t forget to get into the photos yourself.

If you can’t arrange a large family photo maybe try to get a selfie instead Here is one of me with my husband and son last Christmas. So many phone allow you to take a photo by just saying “smile” or “cheese” or by using the timer. Give it a go and get into the photos!

READY FOR YOUR FREE SANTA LETTER PRINTABLE? Keep scrolling down.

Thanks for reading about Three Photos You Need To Take On Christmas Morning. I’m excited for you to try these ideas, because every button push will be a lifelong treasure in the making. While this is on your mind, you might consider whether it’d also be a treasure to be IN the photo with your family.  There’s something special I offer that I want you to know about:

Perfect Christmas gifts for friends or family or even yourself!
$200 Gift Cert. – includes a 60 minute photo session plus an 8x12” Matted Photo (valued at $135) – perfect for someone who would love a family session, but who might not have space for a large piece right now or you aren’t sure what they’d want – they’ll receive a complimentary photo to enjoy anytime. Then they can choose to purchase more afterwards if they want.

Get in touch with me via my contact page or email me at info@tarawardphotography.com.au. I am happy to give you any advice you need about taking photos over Christmas or if you want to purchase a gift certificate for someone.

Are you ready for your FREE PRINTABLE? This Dear Santa letter can be written by your child and left out for Santa to read on Christmas Eve. Happy Christmas from me to you :-)

GET YOUR SANTA LETTER HERE

Passing on family recipes

Recently my son Harry had to write and cook a family recipe that represents his heritage. So, he decided to make traditional Irish Stew, which is a huge favourite in our house.

Many people make their stew by placing alternate layers of meat, onions, carrots and potatoes and then stew it for a couple of hours. When made in the traditional manner this dish is thick, hearty and not thin like a soup. It is a very easy recipe and perfect for Harry to learn to cook for dinner. To say he was very proud of himself at the end is an understatement - he loved learning to cook and I'm so glad that I have these photos that document his first meal.

Juan-Luis | Newborn Photography Sydney

I have now photographed this family three times and I love watching their family grow. This was the second newborn photography session that they have booked with me in their home on Sydney’s North Shore.

This family are originally from South America and are bringing up their children as bilingual so they spoke mostly Spanish during the session, which I must admit I love listening to.

Do you know what is so great about having your newborn photoshoot at home?  It is that you can be a lot more relaxed about what happens such as toddler meltdowns, clothes getting dirty, baby not sleeping or needing a feed etc. All of the above happened at this newborn photography session. It actually meant that we got the REAL story of their life at that special time and show what happened when a new baby joined their family. Those moments that they will look back on and smile when look through the photos in the future.

My personal favourite photos from a baby photoshoot are of the baby feeding because it is often a quiet moment between baby and mum that result in beautiful and intimate images. Tiny fingers curled around your hand, those snorts, grunts and sighs that babies make when they feed, falling asleep mid feed and of course the eye contact between baby and mum. It is also a great opportunity for me to grab those detailed shots of ears, fingers and baby’s hair.

After mum had fed the baby, his big brother (who is only two) joined us and he watched her change the baby’s nappy and clothes. He showed me his baby brother’s toes and nose and he was fascinated by how tiny he was. We took this opportunity to get some photos of them together on the bed, as with toddlers, you have to act quickly so they stay engaged.  I put the whole family on the bed, asked them to snuggle and play together and try to forget I was there while I photographed them. 

Baby photoshoots are meant to be fun! if you want to book your own newborn lifestyle session with me please get in touch.  Enjoy the photos from Juan-Luis' session below.

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How to prepare for your Maternity Photo Shoot

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Whether this is your first or third baby, it is a very exciting time for you and your partner and for many expecting mothers, there’s no better way to remember their pregnancy and their journey to motherhood than a professional maternity photo shoot.
Here are a few tips to help you look and feel your best.

When to schedule the shoot

The general recommendation is that you have your maternity photo shoot when you are between 32 to 36 weeks pregnant. For expecting mamas with twins (or more), schedule it for around 26 – 32 weeks as twins tend to arrive much earlier. Your belly will have a lovely full shape, but you won’t be too bloated and uncomfortable, as is often the case in the last few weeks. 

Decide what location you prefer

Decide if you would like an outdoor sunset session or an in-home, lifestyle session.  Outdoor locations offer beautiful light and backgrounds and they can be places that are meaningful to you. Disadvantages are that the shoot is weather-dependent and shooting hours are limited to the golden hour of sunrise or sunset (when the quality of natural light is at its best.}  Sessions shot in your home use natural light to capture those little moments that mean everything to you, such as your baby's nursery, your pets and your routine. Advantage in the home is comfort and connection to familiar surroundings. Plus you don’t have to worry about the weather outside.

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Decide what to wear

Depending on the location you have chosen, the next step is to choose your clothes. This can be an exciting step as many women will know what 'look' they want for their photos. Whatever your style, choose clothing that is comfortable! For lots more clothing tips and inspiration, have a read of this blog post.

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Undergarments play a big role!

Wear nude-coloured underwear and tube top or bra (with detachable straps if possible).  If you opted for an outdoor beach session then maybe wear a bikini top so you can show off your bump if you wish and get into the water.

Book your hair and make-up appointments

Like your wedding photos, your maternity photo shoot is a one-off session that you will never have again. Treat yourself to professional hair and make-up artists. Not only will this make your photographer’s work easier, you will feel beautiful and confident at your session. Neutral looking fake lashes can really flatter your eyes. Don't forget to have a manicure too, there will be lots of photos of your hands around your bump.

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Prepare your home if you are having an in-home lifestyle session

Your house does not need to look like it came straight out of a magazine, so don't stress. All you need to do, is make sure that you de-clutter the master bedroom, the lounge and the nursery. Remove items from bedside tables, close en-suite doors and wardrobes, buy some beautiful fresh flowers and put plain bed linen on your bed.

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Think about including your pet in your shoot

Having a dog at a shoot adds another level of energy, not to mention another level of cuteness as well. If your shoot is at home then cats can be included too.

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Decide if you want to show off your bare bump or not

Some women feel more self-conscious about their bodies when they’re pregnant, and that’s perfectly fine and normal. Don’t try to force yourself into doing something you think you should do. Maternity photos should be beautiful, and photos of a bare bump in particular can be a great way to celebrate the female form. Bra and panty sets are also great for women who don’t want to do too much exposure, but want a sexy look. Be very clear with your photographer about what you want, and the level of undress that you’re comfortable with.

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Don't forget to eat

Drink lots of water. This will help your skin look clear and smooth. Watch your diet the day or two before in particular, and don’t eat anything that you know might contribute to water retention. Have a light meal before your maternity photo shoot and if you have other children, bring snacks along too.

Arrange to have a dinner date with your partner for after your photo shoot

If you have had hair and make-up done for the shoot. then don't waste it, you will be looking and feeling beautiful, so celebrate with a lovely dinner. If this is your first baby, then take the opportunity to have a dinner date with your partner before your baby arrives... it might be a while before you get a chance to do it again.

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Get a good night’s rest the night before your session

Not only will it help reduce any bags under your eyes, but you’ll feel less stressed and more calm during the shoot.

I hope you found these tips helpful. If you still have questions or would like to book your own session please feel free to contact me via my contact page or comment below.

Jack | Sydney Northern Beaches Newborn Photography

The most wonderful thing about my Lifestyle Maternity & Newborn package is that I get to meet a couple, watch their excitement when they are preparing to welcome a baby into their lives, and then meet that precious baby once they have arrived. I had photographed Nicole and Jono only a month before (their maternity session can be viewed here) at their home on Sydney's Northern Beaches. It was great to come back and meet their new baby Jack. Watching a couple turn into parents and then being able to witness their baby grow is truly a gift. I'm so grateful.

Their first child, their first son, everything about this dynamic brought me back to those feelings I felt bringing home my own little boy. Nicole has decorated a fabulous nursery, making this the most adorable rooms ever. Congratulations to this sweet and beautiful family of three!

If you would like a Maternity Session of your own, head over here to check out all the details. I would love to document your story!

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Tash & Jeff | Narrabeen Beach Sunset Maternity Session

What's more exciting than expecting your first child? Not a whole lot. For me, there's not much that comes close to photographing a pregnant woman in beach sunset maternity session.

Tash and Jeff are expecting their first beautiful baby in just a few short weeks. They live in Queensland, in Hervey Bay but Tash is from Sydney and funnily enough, from a suburb very near my house. They were coming to Sydney for Christmas to see family and friends and Tash wanted to book a maternity session with me during their holiday. After chatting to her and reading her pre-session questionnaire I realised that they are very much beach people. They take their dog to the beach at home in Qld every day so I suggested that we have a beach sunset maternity session. We chose Narrabeen Beach on Sydney's Northern Beaches and it did not disappoint. There was beautiful soft, evening light...my fav type of light!

Tash had planned what she would wear very carefully. She brought along two outfits, including a stunning dress by Filly Boo Maternity that sell maternity and breastfeeding dresses. You can see that long white dress in the images below.

This mama is stunning, and I am honoured to capture this amazing time in her life.

If you would like a Maternity Session of your own, head over here to check out all the details. I would love to document your story!

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Narrabeen Beach Sunset Maternity images
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