Hi friends. Relaxing music for you? I’ve got just the thing. (When Harry Met Sally always reminds me this time of year.)

I usually write to you in the early evenings, late afternoons. I’m not a morning person. Most people who truly know me can vouch for that. I am no good before 9am. My brain takes a few hours to fully turn on so I get most of my productive creative work done later on in the day. I’d rather stay up until midnight working than waking up before dawn to begin – something about the darkness in the morning makes me antsy and alone. I don’t like it.

So, here I am. It’s 6:10pm here in our home and Paul is just getting on the bus to come home from work. I have a good 30 minutes of quality time with you until I’m distracted by chats with Paul and snuggles with Rusty. Shall we begin?

I’ve been doing a bit of reflecting these last few days on how I can better spend my time. Perhaps I sound a bit spoiled when I write this next sentence, but ever since just taking a part-time job on top of trying to make something on my own, I’ve felt completely off and a bit like I’m always trying to catch up, especially around the house. You people who are not only leaving the house and going to a full-time job, but are also parenting and maybe trying to create your own side business, I give you so much credit. How do you do it? You are probably superheroes. If I had a hat on I’d take it off to you.

I am a creature of habit and routine. Although I loved my summer vacation days as a child and dreaded the thought of homework, I couldn’t wait to get back to school and have a safe and reliable routine. It kept me grounded and gave me comfort knowing I was on some sort of path.

Because this part-time job is new for me (if I didn’t tell you already I’m teaching art classes during the week and I love it) and because I’m still trying to make something of my art as a business, my days are a bit scattered. My teaching schedule changes, sometimes weekly, and when I’m home I’m trying to figure out my priorities with my business since my hours are more limited. Do I work on advertising? Finances? Painting? Designing? Blogging? Photography? Photoshop? And the list continues…

Besides business and jobs and such, I crave perfection in my house as well. I grew up in a home that was always tidy, meals were always planned, and during the holidays home was the most comforting place in the world. Every season my mother pulled out the decor from the basement totes and boxes, put them on the dining room table, and began to pull general decor from the walls, shelves, tables, windows, etc. She had a gift of pouring each holiday into the house at full blast. We watched the most perfect fall and Halloween movies, Thanksgiving movies, and Christmas movies throughout the appropriate months. We ate food that was warm and familiar during the chill of those months, and inside our house was home.

As an adult, I’ve tried to imitate that. I make sure my house looks as cozy as our house looked growing up. I light the pumpkin candles and keep apples hanging in the fruit basket in the kitchen. I have garlands of leaves strewn about the rooms and I have electric jack-o-lanterns lit up at night. And when the mood strikes, Disney’s Sleepy Hollow and Charlie Brown’s Halloween movie is on the TV with the fireplace humming and pouring out heat. During Christmas it looks like an elf exploded in our home. I’m thankful my mother taught me priorities.

Do you want to know the one thing that has been causing me to feel like I can’t enjoy it all and balance everything in my life? It’s the silliest thing. It’s meals. Meals, people!! Because I don’t have time to make home-cooked meals lately I feel as if I’m failing Paul and I. These are the months when I want to have food cooking in the crockpot or a chicken roasting in the oven and the house is enveloped in days gone by. These are my most favorites months of the year. So, we go to the grocery store and pile up on veggies and meat and all the good stuff with organic labels and even with all the best intentions, it usually goes to waste and I feel extremely guilty (I feel guilty just typing that). Instead we’ll go out to eat or one of us will pick up fast food – it’s a terrible habit but we just don’t have time. I’m trying to accept that.

So last night, after teaching and before Paul came home, I “cooked” a frozen bag of pasta, veggies, and chicken for 12 minutes. I lit candles, turned on the fireplace, fed Rusty, started laundry, did the dishes (we don’t have a dishwasher and I feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder – I know how silly that sounds, don’t worry), turned on Ichabod Crane, and finally felt some relief. By the time Paul came home, the kitchen smelled like fettucine alfredo, the living room looked and smelled like a cozy pumpkin, and we had a whole stack of clean undies to help us take on the rest of the week. I hadn’t felt that productive in weeks and all because I wanted to bring perfection into every aspect of my life. No thanks. It’s frozen pizza for dinner tonight, which means I’ve had this lovely time spent with you.

I’m going to try my best to eliminate some things that add any unnecessary stress in my life, especially during this time of the year when nesting and slow moving is encouraged. What about you, friends? Is there anything that helps you prepare for this season?


Meg Cooper Photography | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comI don’t often write blog posts about my personal relationship with Paul, but as our anniversary is just around the corner I thought it might be appropriate. Bear with me, friends. :)

As some of you may know already from past posts, I began dating Paul just a couple of months after turning 19. Looking back, we were both a couple of babies, but we fell head over heels for each other in an incredibly short amount of time. A couple of weeks after our first date, marriage was already getting brought up in conversations. After only dating a month, I was planning on moving nearly two hours away from home just to be near Paul. After only a few months, Paul was deciding how he wanted to ask my parents for permission to marry me. We were moving too fast; people referred to it as “the honeymoon phase” and we were warned it wouldn’t last.

Ten years later that phase hasn’t ended. We will often say to each other how lucky we are to still be head over heels for each other as well as each other’s best friend. We have seen how harsh the world has affected marriages over the past ten years and we’re so grateful we still are happy every single day. We know we’re lucky and we do our best not to take each other for granted and remind each other how much we really do like one another.

(We know that in some ways our marriage has been easier than others’. We know it’s incredibly hard having children (but also a blessing) and we also know that we (thankfully) have yet to endure major tragedies together which so often can break up a marriage. Again, we are lucky and we don’t take it for granted. However, when the time comes and we have to say good-bye to Rusty, I know I’ll be holding onto Paul for dear life.)

Marrying Paul was, quite literally, the easiest thing in the world. Being married to him is, quite literally, the easiest thing in the world. (I hope he can say the same about me. :)) He is the smartest person I know and he is my Superman. If Paul can’t fix something, I know I’m screwed. He is the most reliable and responsible person I know, someone I can depend on for anything (except to believe in magic and wizards and fairies and talking animals…but I digress).

He is my cheerleader and support system, without him I’m not sure I would have had the courage to pursue art or photography. He truly believes I can do anything, even become an accomplished violinist if I would JUST PRACTICE. (He bought me a violin three years ago because it was on my list of goals and I have yet to master anything on it because I NEVER PRACTICE…)

He is the hardest working person I know, constantly supporting the two of us and our future while I have jumped through careers just trying to land on the right one. He is the funniest person I know, one of the things I loved about him since day one. (The best part is he says the same thing about me. I knew I was funny.)

Besides my diary, he is my one true confidant. He knows everything about me, my past, and my dreams for the future. He knows my habits, he knows what I’m thinking before I get the words out, and although I don’t like to admit it, he knows I’m in a bad mood before I do. He knows I don’t particularly enjoy change, he knows I’m too hard on myself, and he knows I change my mind more often than not (when he brings that up I remind him he’s lucky I haven’t changed my mind about him.)

And of course, I think he is the best-looking boy in the whole wide world. Jack from Titanic has nothing on him and naturally, Paul keeps getting better looking with age. I love his gray hairs peppering his short black hair and beard, his big smile and perfect teeth, his beautiful brown eyes, his freckles on his ears, his one dimple on his cheek, and the fact that he has a tattoo on his back and still continues to forget he even has one. (Seriously, people will comment on it when he’s swimming or something, and he’ll totally not know what they’re talking about.)

We fight like every couple does, we go to bed annoyed or angry with each other (something that is so hard for me to do – I want to finish/continue the fight and he wants to give me the silent treatment which, for me, is the WORST THING YOU CAN DO), we make mistakes, we hurt each other’s feelings (not usually on purpose), and we bicker about what movies or TV shows to watch and directions when driving.

I don’t know what I’ve done in my life to deserve him. Sometimes I look at him and realize he’s a completely other being with his own mind and his own beating heart and his own view of the world (it’s easy to think we’re one person when I’m with him) that consciously chose me and continues choosing me every single day. It’s a surreal thought. I hope as the next sixty years float along I continue to never take him for granted. Or us.

(I also hope he reads this.)

If you’d like to relive our wedding day, click here. Our anniversary isn’t for another two weeks but the fall weather lately has me thinking it’s already mid-October. :)

Thanks for reading this, friends, and I hope it wasn’t too nauseating. :) Xoxo

Our honeymoon. :) Jamaica, 2011.

Thanks to Dana for the next two photos. :)

Climbing Dunn’s River Falls. :)

On the boat to the island for a private dinner, our favorite part of the trip.

I do love Santa. Christmas, 2012.

My graduation, 2012.Our second big trip together. Alaska, 2013.

Growing old together, us bird-watchers.

He’s always amazed at his ring indent.

Mexico for our anniversary, 2014.

Masters Graduation, 2013.

Our birthdays are two weeks apart – my family is lazy and combines both our birthdays. ;) (Just kidding, calm down.)

New York City, 2015.

One of favorite things at our first home, walks at sunset.

The most perfect pumpkin patch down the road from our first home.

Malibu, 2015.

Christmas, 2015.

Celebrating our 5-year anniversary where we spent our honeymoon, at the same resort in the same room. Jamaica, 2016.

San Diego, 2017.


Selling our first home, 2017.

Buying our second home, 2017.

Christmas, 2017.

Walt Disney World, 2018.


  • Gwen LarsonSeptember 26, 2018 - 6:08 pm

    Happy Anniversary to you, Nikki and Paul! This was fun reading and refreshing so many memories of you. Meg’s wedding photos were awesome. Her work reminds me of yours.? Your grandpa must really be a funny guy!! I was so hoping to see that awesome tattoo during the Honeymoon…and even had a second chance for that second one…but no luck.? Thank you for sharing your life with us. I am blessed. Xxoo to you both!ReplyCancel

    • NikkiSeptember 26, 2018 - 6:20 pm

      Gwen, you always make my day with your comments. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog. :) I now co-shoot weddings with Meg and we’re glad our photography styles resemble each other – it makes shooting together much easier. :) Haha Paul’s tattoo is a blue Pentecostal flame at the top of his back, an 18-year-old’s rebellion. ;) I don’t even know if I have a photo of it! I’ll have to be sure to take one. :)ReplyCancel

Hi friends!

This has been a blog post that’s been sitting in my drafts for a long time. Ever since we got home from Walt Disney World in January I’ve been meaning to get this post out to you, but you know how it goes – life happens, things get put on the backburner, etc. Forgive me? Thank you. :)

So today I’m going to show you how I edit my photos on my phone. It is still amazing to me how well my phone takes photos so instead of reaching for my big camera, even on trips, I’m happy to just use my phone. But no matter how well of a photo I take, I still want to be able to edit it, even just a tiny bit.

If you remember, I wrote this post awhile back about how to take proper photos using your phone. I talked about exposure, composition and lighting – the basics of a decent, frame-worthy photo. (If you want a refresher, go ahead and reread and then come back. :))

At the end of that post, I mentioned how I use VSCO Cam for editing and how easy it was. Yes, it is super easy to use and up until recently I used it on photos I was about to post on Instagram. However, I was always a bit disappointed at its flexibility. To be honest, Instagram’s built-in editor was more versatile than VSCO (in my opinion). The slider on VSCO is very exaggerated, making huge edits with one notch, something I really didn’t like. Plus, one of the main things I use with Instagram’s editor is highlights, something which VSCO was also lacking unless I wanted to simply reduce the highlights, not increase. (Think of highlights as the over-exposed areas in a photo – my editing style has always been about increasing those over-exposed areas, making the photo brighter with more contrast.)

So, I began looking for a new photo editor. I wanted to be able to edit my photos on my phone and then simply upload to Google Drive where I keep them until I download them onto my hard-drive (lots of steps, I know). With VSCO, if I didn’t post the photos onto Instagram, I would upload them to Google Drive unedited, download them onto my laptop, and then edit them into Lightroom. No thanks, too much hustle and bustle.

I decided to download Adobe Lightroom’s app! I use it on my laptop already, why not use its app for my phone?! In the next few photos, I’m showing you exactly how I edit using the Adobe Lightroom App (I have an android if that makes any difference, by the way) with a photo that started off with typical bad lighting and color.

**Before I begin, here’s a disclaimer. You need an Adobe ID (you can get a free one by clicking here) and the program does eat up my phone’s battery quicker than other apps I’ve used. But I find it’s worth it for its simplicity and versatility.**

Here is the main screen when you’re ready to edit your photo. The menu is below with all the icons. Click on any icon to begin editing. I’ll show you which ones I use, starting with Crop.

How to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Here’s the main Crop screen. I don’t do anything except rotate/straighten and crop, but there’s options to flip the photo, mirror it, etc. Once you’re finished, hit the check mark sign in the corner to continue.

How to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Next, I move on to Exposure. I will usually increase my exposure, highlights, and shadows to make it brighter. Don’t go overboard otherwise your photo will begin to look grainy. (Hint: when taking your photo, tap your finger on the object you want to be exposed properly and the camera will auto expose for you, that way you don’t have to edit the lighting too much – I go over that in the previous blog post I mentioned.) I also bump up the contrast a bit – again, that’s just my style of editing. Play around with the sliders and see what you like best. :)

How to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Still in the Exposure settings, I also bring the blacks down. It gives it an extra boost and contrast, darkening the blacks in the photo.

How to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Next, I work on the coloring. You can see there’s a hint of green in the photo as well as a cooler tone (see above photo). I increased my temperature slightly and to counter the greens I moved the slider to the magenta side. Magenta will always cancel out green, and green will always cancel out magenta (opposite colors on the color wheel). I usually leave Vibrance and Saturation alone, but feel free to increase those a bit – not too much or it will begin to look fake.

How to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

I always sharpen my photos but that might just be a habit formed over the years. If you do want to sharpen your photo, make it a bit crisper, here are the settings I use. Feel free to play with the sliders on here, too. Mine are never exactly these numbers but they’re roughly the same.

How to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Super simple! All we did was fix the lighting with a few sliders, changed the coloring with just 2 sliders, and if wanted, sharpened it a bit! Here’s the before…

How to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

And here’s the after! It’s a huge difference, isn’t it?! And it only takes a minute once you get used to the controls and what you prefer with your editing style.

How to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comHere’s a few more before and afters, just to show you how big of a difference a few quick edits can make. Other than increasing the saturation on the last photo with the bridge, I used the same sliders in these next few photos. (Befores are on the left. :))

How to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comHow to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comHow to Edit Phone Photos | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

I hope this was helpful, friends! If nothing else, I hope it showed you that it doesn’t take too much to turn a blah photo into one with a bit more interest. So, go through some of your favorite photos you’re planning on putting in frames and hanging on your wall, find this editing app or something similar and play around with editing! If you don’t use this app, the concepts are the same. Boost the contrast, increase exposure, highlights, and shadows, tweak the temperature, magentas and greens, and sharpen a bit. Simple. :)

If you ever have any questions about anything, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email. :) Happy Tuesday, friend!! xoxo

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