The original UNmanual was released three and a half years ago and has sold close to 1000 copies.  It was more wildly successful than I could have ever imagined and hearing that it has helped so many of you capture the memories of your family so easily and effortlessly makes me so happy.  Because that’s how it should be.

It’s been quiet here on the blog not because I have nothing to share with you, but because I have been pouring myself into creating the UNmanual2.


The UNmanual2 is something I’ve been dreaming up for quite some time.  I wanted Mom*togs to be able to see how I interact with my own kids when I shoot, what the environment I shoot in looks like, and how I use light.  My kids, my house.  Nothing special or fancy, but just how I photograph my kids living their lives and doing their thing.

The UNmanual2 consists of 13 video guides and reviews all of the basics from the original UNmanual, so if you did not purchase the original UNmanual don’t worry.  The UNmanual2′s lesson based structure will ensure that you too become a master of DSLR manual shooting.  If you did purchase the original UNmanual, the basics of DSLR manual shooting will be a nice review, but I’ve also added a lot of content for those of you who have mastered the basics and are looking to take your photography to the next level.

To compliment the UNmanual2 I will be releasing the UNmanual Editing Guide next week.  It will consist of video tutorials on how I use Photoshop to enhance my images and get them to look like a better version of everyday life.

For those of you who purchase the UNmanual2 on Black Friday you will receive the UNmanual Editing Guide (priced at $149) for free the second it’s released! No code needed.  It will be added to your course page automatically!  You can register for the UNmanual2 here.

Also, I released a course on how to improve your Phonetography.  It’s completely free.  Just my little gift to you.  You can register for that course here.  

I hope you enjoy the new UNmanual as much as I enjoyed creating it!

5 Minute Curls

I am not a beauty blogger and I’m not going to try to be.  But when Irresistible Me asked if I wanted to try out their Ruby auto rotating curling iron I was like, heck yeah.  Actually, they first asked to send me their hair extensions and I laughed because clearly they don’t know my hair.  I have enough hair for 5 people’s heads.  I wrote an entire essay on my hair senior year of college when asked to write about a challenge in our lives (and I got an A+ on it).  My hair is thick and naturally curly.  Well, curly on the bottom and straight on top.  It can’t decide what it wants to be.  I wear it long so the weight keeps it more straight and less frizzy.  And I’m so low maintenance because who has time for hair cuts (although seeing these pictures makes me realize I need to make time to get in for a cut!)?  I think I’m down to one cut a year.  Maybe two in a good year. And you will typically find my hair in a side braid because it’s easy and the only semi cute hair style I can pull off.

If I blow dry my hair straight it takes me 40 minutes.  And my arms are mad at me after.  I’m not going to typically spend another 40 minutes curling it after because my arms would literally fall of.  So I’m in love with this curling iron because all you have to do is press a button and it spins your hair for you.  Totally saves my arms.

But I have a trick if I just want some easy curls and don’t want to spend 40 minutes.  This takes about 5 minutes.

First I set my curling iron to the hottest setting at 400.  I have really thick hair so I need the higher heat setting.Momtog | Hair Tutorial1Momtog | Hair Tutorial2

Then I put my hair into a high pony.  Momtog | Hair Tutorial3

I do this because it really separates my layers for me.  Momtog | Hair Tutorial4

Then I just curl the entire ponytail.  If I were to curl my hair while it was down it would take about 40 minutes.Momtog | Hair Tutorial5

When I’m done I take out the pony and run my fingers through my hair to loosen the curls. I then curl any pieces I missed.Momtog | Hair Tutorial6

And, that’s it!  I know most of you are busy Moms like myself so I thought this little ponytail trick might help for when you want easy and effortless curls.      Momtog | Hair Tutorial7And if you have a lot of hair like me you will honestly love the Ruby auto rotating curling iron from Irresistible Me as well!  Even Kennedy loves it.  Or maybe she just loves that it’s so much faster than her other curling iron!

Don’t Worry. Be Happy

The biggest gift I can give my kids is my time.  I hope when they are older and have more people in their lives, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, kids they will still choose to spend some of their time on me.  With me.  I hope I can always make them feel like a priority.  Even when I’m busy.  Even when I’m tired.  Even when they may not need me.  I hope I can make them both feel equally important.  Equally wanted.  Equally deserving of my time and attention.  Because that’s all any of us really want, right?  To feel loved and needed and wanted.


If your kid ever asks to take a picture of you never, ever say no because they just might take one like this.  Thank you, Brayden.  I love this and you so much.

*** Canon 5D Mark II, 35 1.4 (with SPL Underwater housing)

F 2.8, 1/3200, ISO 320

*** If you hand your big camera over to your kids or even to just someone who might not know how to shoot manual, set it to aperture priority mode.  You can set the aperture and your camera will do the rest of the work.  I always overexpose it by one stop before handing it over as well since I like to shoot backlit.

8 is Great

Dear Brayden,

What a year we have had.  Adventures in New York City and the Grand Canyon.  You got to see Pat and Vanna up close.  You lost your two front teeth.  You got to see the Liberty Bell and walk in the footsteps of our country’s founding fathers.  You visited an Amish schoolhouse and wrote your name on their chalkboard.  You won the Reflections film contest for your entire district.  For the second year in a row!!! You spent the night in a museum.  And a library.  You even got to write an email in the Statue of Liberty and see your first show on Broadway. Not a bad year I’d say.

You are beginning to assert your independence and let your voice be heard.  Which can be frustrating (when it’s directed at me) and cool to see at the same time.  You are beginning to see that you are different.  You are different than other kids your age.  You don’t like sports as much as other boys.  You would rather use your imagination at recess or stay inside and color in your journal at home. And you are beginning to experience that others who don’t have enough confidence in who they are will point out your differences to make them feel better about themselves.  That’s been hard.  For both of us.

But I want you to know and understand that it’s those things that make you different that are what I love most about you.  That’s what makes you you.  Those are the things that I would never, ever in a million years change about you.

Never stop believing in things you can’t see.  Build your Dinotopia.  Discover new dragons.  Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.  Your imagination is fascinating and is one of the things I love most about you.  Never, ever lose your sense of wonder.

Never stop caring.  Your heart is huge.  Maybe too huge.  You feel all the feels.  This also means when you hurt you hurt hard.  But don’t let that stop you from loving hard either.

Never stop reading.  You have become a voracious reader this year.  Always read for fun.  Even when you are in college and it becomes pleasure reading.  Reading opens up even more new worlds.  Worlds you never knew existed.

Never stop questioning the world around you.  I will admit it.  Your endless questions might get on my nerves sometimes.  And your questions are getting harder for me to answer.  But it’s great leaders who question the world around them and I see qualities of a great leader in you.

Never stop being kind.  B, you are the kindest kid I have ever known.  When I overhear you say something nice just because, my heart bursts.  When I see you give a hug to someone you know just needs it, it makes me so happy.  You are a kind soul.  I would like to take credit for this, but it’s something that’s innate in your being.  Don’t ever be too cool to be your kind self.

If every single boy in this whole entire world was lined up shoulder to shoulder and I was allowed to pick out one to be mine, I would pick you every single time, Brayden Bittel.  Every single time.  You might challenge me and you might cause me many sleepless nights but there is no one I’d rather lose sleep over than you (and your sister).  You make me a better person.  You complete me.

Thank you for being mine, Brayden.  I love you more than all the stars in the sky.



how to train your dragon | momtog.com  how to train your dragon | momtog.com how to train your dragon | momtog.com how to train your dragon | momtog.comhow to train your dragon | momtog.com momtog.com momtog.com momtog.com


Silhouettes and reflections.  My two most favorite things to shoot.  I look for reflections wherever there is water.  Puddles.  The beach.  Pools.  I love them.

I find that the later in the day it is the better and clearer the reflections are.  Low tide at a beach will also help.  Walk around your subject and figure out what angle the reflection is best.  And don’t overexpose too much.  In fact underexposing or exposing the image correctly will help make the reflection pop!

*** All images Canon 5D Mark II, 35 1.4

F 2.8, 1/400, ISO 500

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F 2.8, 1/400, ISO 500

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F 2.8, 1/640, ISO 640

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F 2.8, 1/500, ISO 640

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