ASK US: Design: What is the Difference?

We are continuing answering your questions in our new ASK US series, and this week’s question was for Holly, our Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign teacher!
“I cannot seem to understand the difference between Illustrator and InDesign. I heard InDesign is for setting up pages?”
InDesign and Illustrator look pretty similar on the surface; they share a lot of the same tools and a familiar interface but were designed to serve different roles.
InDesign was built for arranging and formatting existing content to make a finished document. Whether it’s a book, birthday card, calendar, brochure, anything that you’re designing that will have a specific size should probably be laid out in InDesign. Illustrator on the other hand is for designing the individual pieces of content that go into your finished design; logos, maps, charts, patterns, all of the vector based elements should be created in illustrator (anything photographic should be done in photoshop) and then placed into InDesign.
There is nothing stopping you use either of them however you like, but much like trying to eat soup with a knife, it’s going to take longer and be a considerably messier if you don’t use the right tool for the job.
Thank you for your questions! You can submit more ASK US questions here, or join us in class! 

ASK US: Photo: Interiors #1


In our new ASK US series, we had our first great question from Ale about shooting interiors, and choosing the right depth of field for the shot:


“I am trying to improve my interiors photography. My question is regarding aperture. I know that I need to go higher with my aperture number to get more in-focused depth of field. However, is there a rough guideline on where to start on an average size living room? Are we talking F9, F11, F22? Also, I have seen a lot of “noise” in some of my shoots. Have been using an ISO of 400. Is that too much? Or might there be another reason?


Great questions, Ale! Choosing the best aperture really comes down to the overall style/feeling you want your photo to have. In my opinion, wide interiors shots of large spaces warrant a deeper depth of field in order to get as much in focus as possible. Unfortunately, there is no defined guideline to help you choose your f-stop, because it is all relative to the distance objects have from each other. For example, you might be photographing a living room that looks into the kitchen. The distance between the couch and the kitchen counter will be different from one house to the next. Also, your angle to both objects will make a difference, too. Start around f/11, and increase your depth of field, as desired.

There are many instances you might want shallow depth field for interiors, particularly when you are featuring one element in the room, or a detail. F/2.8-f/4 are usually favorites for me when I shoot details.

If ISO 400 is creating too much noise, try to keep it at ISO 100, and use a tripod. Whenever shooting interiors, I recommend using a tripod and using the self-timer button, or a cable release. (Or tether to a computer!) You will likely be at very slow shutter speeds and even triggering the shutter-release button could produce a shaky image.

Thank you for your questions! You can submit more ASK US questions here, or join us in class! I teach Photo 101, Photo 102, Photo: Tabletop and Photo: Babies & Children!


These images were photographed by me and styled by Rod Hipskind for Anthology Magazine.

Ask Nicole #2: The Business of Photography


This is our second installment (see the first here) of the blog series Ask Nicole! In this series, Nicole will answer questions asked by students or social media follower (you can ask a question here). Enjoy!


Photo Tutorial: Punchy Light

Today I wanted to share one of my favorite easy lighting setups I used for a collaboration with Naomi that maximizes contrast and gives an image that added punch. Getting strong contrast comes from a stronger light source. Outside, it’s the sun. In the studio, it’s a strobe without much (or any) diffusion. This lighting setup is similar to on-camera flash, but is more flattering because the light is slightly higher than the subject’s face. If you don’t have a strobe unit, you can easily use the flash off-camera with the appropriate accessories.

Naomi’s pictures were shot at home, and so were mine seen in this tutorial. It took only a 7′ x 4′ amount of space (my small kitchen nook), and I even propped the background boards up on the chair I was sitting on. The close distance of my body to the board also helped strongly illuminate the background since I was only using one light.

Get Punchy Light with One Light


Floral Arranging 101: Tips for Caring for Your Clippers

My favorite clippers to use for flower arranging are these Japanese bonsai clippers. They are so sturdy and will cut anything from a flimsy tulip stem to a woody maple branch, all the while keeping your hands very comfortable. To keep them in shape, I clean them with some soapy water and sometimes just a drop of bleach. I always dry them really well. To keep them from rusting, I use this lovely camellia oil that comes with a special brush. I buy it from my favorite shop, Alder and Co. in Portland. Lucky for you, they have an online shop! I recommend keeping it with your clippers to keep them in tip top shape!

The 411 on Food Styling 101

When you heard about Nicole’s Classes new Food Styling 101, you might have thought you would learn how to eat spaghetti while rocking the latest fashion. But this class isn’t about looking good while devouring your favorite foods. Food styling is the art of making food beautiful for photography!

411 on Food Styling 101


Essential Design Toolkit

Essential Design Toolkit

While a computer and the Adobe Creative Suite are indispensable tools, they’re not the only ones you need to have to be a good designer. I teach Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign and have been a working graphic design professional for years and I have some great essentials that you definitely need to add to your toolkit!


Lightroom Map Module

Lightroom Map Module

I take hundreds of photos a week on my smart phone and these photos all have GPS data attached to them. More and more cameras are equipped with GPS devices that track where each photo is taken and this can be useful both professional and amateur photographers alike. One module that is often overlooked in Lightroom is the Map Module.


Branding 101: It’s All in a Name

Nicole’s Classes is so excited to have Ariana from Flight Design Company (1 of the 3 amazing teachers of our new Branding 101 class) sharing 5 tools to help you name your next venture. Enjoy!

Nicole's Classes Branding Blog

What’s in a name? When naming my son I remember the weight of the decision really hitting me. He’s going to have this name for his whole life, but no pressure, right? And now as I step deeper into the role of entrepreneur, I realize how true this is for businesses as well.


Nicole’s Classes Guide: Which Adobe Program Do I Use?

UPDATE: The correct pdf is now linked to by clicking on the Download It image below. Thanks!

Nicole's Classes Adobe Program Use Guide

Knowing which Adobe program to use for your specific designs is very important. Each Adobe program has unique and specific uses and selecting the wrong program could cause a myriad of problems for you including low resolution, file corruption issues and wasting your time.

So I’ve put together an easy to use downloadable cheat sheet you can reference when you are starting designs. As mentioned in the course description of my new InDesign 101 class, I cover the information on this cheat sheet and more in my new InDesign 101 class which launches in November. And you have until end of day tomorrow Friday, October 31st at 11:59pm PST to use the discount code INDESIGN35 to save 35% on this new class!

To download the Nicole’s Classes Adobe Program Use Guide cheat sheet, click the Download It! image below. Then save it your desktop or print it and hang it by your work station to have this guide handy whenever you need it!


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