5 Must Read Floral Books

5 Must Read Floral Books

I often get asked to recommend flower books. Here are a few of my favorites. Many are very old favorites while others are new publications by up and coming designers. I hope you enjoy!


4 Inspirational Sites

4 Inspirational Sites

For my first blog post (and my first month as instructor of the Illustrator 101 class), I wanted to share a bit about where I find design inspiration. The internet is a fantastic resource for inspiration when you are starting a project or just want to get some design stimulation.

The 4 sites that I regularly visit are:  This is a great place to discover design of all kinds, I love that you can search the website for anything and everything and you can also sign up for an account to save everything that you love.  This website is fantastic for web and interactive design inspiration. I often find there aren’t many places to source inspiring digital design so I go straight to this site!  This is quite easily one of my favorite sites of all time! This is a curation of some of the best packaging design ever created and what I really enjoy is that there are write-ups on each project. Even if you are not doing a packaging project of your own, you should still visit this site as there are great ideas for logos, pattern creation and more inspiring designs.  This is a one stop shop for some of the best fonts created in the industry. You can try them all for free and I really would encourage you to buy some fonts and build up your own collection. I could spend hours on this site exploring all the different and wonderful fonts they showcase!

A Favorite Lightroom Tool: Graduated Filter

Lightroom has many amazing time saving tools. The Graduated Filter is one of these tools that frequently saves me time and eliminates my need to take an image into Photoshop at all.

Example 1: Sky

Lightroom allows you to easily adjust exposure, contrast, white balance, saturation etc on the entire image. These same adjustments are available in the Graduated Filter as well. The Graduated Filter is a wonderful tool when you have a sky that is too bright and you want to tone it down while still maintaining a realistic look. The image below is an image in Norway of a winding roadway called Trollstigen. Back in the days of film, professionals would use a tool such as a “graduated neutral density filter.” That is the technical term for a piece of glass that you put in front of the lens that has a gradient in it. It goes from light to dark and you could position it so that the sky would be darker than the ground. Especially if you are shooting RAW, the need for a neutral density filter is almost non-existent these days because of the Graduated Filter in Lightroom. This tool is so fast to use. The adjustments I am demonstrating below can be done in a matter of seconds.


How to Focus on a Moving Subject

How To Focus on a Moving Subject

We all know that focus can either make or break a photo. The big question is how to get it just right when the subject is moving and you don’t want to rely on manual focus to do it?


Floral Arranging 101: How to Care for Peonies

how to care for peonies

Peony season is just around the corner! Here are some shopping/harvesting tips for getting the most out of your peony stems.

  • If harvesting from your own garden, clip them early in the morning or late in the evening when they are the most hydrated.
  • Clip as the buds are still closed but just beginning to loosen up, you might start to see color from the petals.
  • If shopping, look for stems that are in bud, but beginning to open. The buds should be firm and the leaves should be firm and green.
  • Re-cut stems when you get them inside.
  • Put into a bucket of cool water and let them soak for a few hours.
  • Re-cut stems at a 45 degree angle. This allows the stems to absorb as much water as possible.
  • Arrange as you wish!
  • Keep out of bright sun light and away from heaters, vents, and air-conditioners.
  • Peonies dry beautifully! Hang upside down as soon as they’ve opened, if you wish to dry them.


Lightroom 101: RAW vs JPEG


Now that so many cameras offer the option to shoot both RAW and JPEG, I receive many questions about the two file types: what makes them different, why should one be used instead of the other, etc. I love a good analogy, so here goes…

Chef + Ingredients, or Microwave Dinner
For dinner, we could choose a microwave meal, or we could get all of the ingredients and cook a similar dinner. In my opinion, the home-cooked meal is superior for various reasons. The main reason being that it is customized to exactly how we like it. The microwave dinner is simple, you know what you are getting, but it is what it is, you can’t change it. The home cooked meal takes longer to cook than the microwave meal. If you don’t know how to cook, then the microwave dinner will probably turn out better. The microwave dinner is always the same; you take it out of the box, cut the plastic, press the button and close the door. For a home cooked meal, your skills will always be growing, you’ll find tricks that speed up the preparation, spices and cooking methods that make it taste better and exactly how you want, and after a year of cooking, your skill level will be far beyond where you started. After a year of microwave dinners your skill level for cooking hasn’t changed.


Sewing 101: Recovering a Lampshade

Recovering a Lampshade

My Jonathan Adler shade cracked a while ago, leaving an unsightly wrinkle in the shade’s fabric. So when Nicole’s Classes Instagram follower @kikatmb asked for a how-to on making a fabric shade, it was the perfect opportunity to fix mine.

I used a medium-weight cotton fabric and minimal sewing (with a no-sew option). If you’d like a more extensive sewing lesson, check out my Sewing 101 course. And if you try this how-to, please share photos with @nicolesclasses on Instagram!

• Kraft paper or leftover wrapping paper
• Pencil, ruler, scissor
• Fabric in yardage needed to cover shade (my 42″ dia. barrel shade required 1-1/3″ yds.)
• Sticky-back Velcro circles (about 3/4″ dia.)
• Thread, pins
• Sewing machine
• Iron
• Hem tape, optional


Lightroom 101 Review

I was thrilled when Mark Weinberg agreed to teach Lightroom 101 at Nicole’s Classes because I was so intrigued with learning the program myself. Up until I took his class, I was processing my photos primarily through Camera RAW (a program attached with Photoshop) and also Capture One when tethering on set.

Lightroom BLEW MY MIND.


Tips on Painting White in Watercolor from a Master

I am so excited to share these shots I took at the John Singer Sargent exhibit at the MFA in Boston. I was thrilled they let us use no-flash photography so I could use his work to help illustrate the answers to some questions I get from students.


Lightroom vs iPhoto

Lightroom and iPhoto
I have been asked variations on the question, “Should I use Lightroom or iPhoto for organizing and editing images?” numerous times. Comparing the two is a little like comparing a go-cart to a modern car. Both are a means of transportation and will ultimately get you there, but the car (Lightroom) has a lot more features and with the proper training can achieve superior results in less time.