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Dreaming with Jessica

Get My Photoshop for Kids class FREE!

Jessica Sprague

I'm looking for a few volunteers to help me test and review my new album class called My Awesome Life: Photoshop for Kids class! If you have a child between the ages of 10-16, I'll provide you (both) with FREE permanent access to the class in exchange for photos or images of your completed album, plus feedback on the lessons and a review of the class itself.

Pages 2-3 of the 20-page album, all about them!

Pages 2-3 of the 20-page album, all about them!

What It Is

The class is divided into 11 lessons, which should take your child about 60 minutes each. It's recorded in Photoshop CC, with cut-scene video showing any differences in Photoshop Elements.

What They Do

Each lesson is centered on one two-page spread, and includes instruction on how to get the images in to the file, plus at least one BRAND NEW technique each lesson (including selecting, drawing, outlining, cutting from alphabets, type, and more). They'll cut their files apart and save them for print and the web. 

At the end of the course they'll upload all their album pages using PaperKiwi (although any book printer, such as Shutterfly or Blurb, will work great), and receive their precious album in the mail. 

Who It's For

This class is geared toward kids ages 10-16, and comes in two distinct colorways perfect for girls or boys - and they get to pick which one! 

All they'll need is a digital camera (a phone camera works just fine!), and a little guidance how to get their photos onto their computer ready to use, and I'll show them the rest!

I'm really excited about this class and about teaching kids how to use Photoshop. This is a GREAT way to develop skills that will last them a lifetime!

What They'll Get

In addition to the amazing end result (a 20-page album with details of their life as it is right now), they'll gain the confidence that comes with learning real-world skills, and applying their own photos and writing to a project they'll create from start to finish. 

The skills they'll learn in Photoshop are an incredible investment that will benefit them for life - not only way out there, but RIGHT NOW, as they work on projects for school, gifts, invitations, decorations for their room, and much more. Photoshop is a tool they'll use forever, and they can learn it right now. 

What I Need From You

Please drop an email to to apply, plus tell me:

  • Age & gender of your child
  • Your own level of Photoshop experience, and

include a link to a portfolio, gallery, or other place we can see your work, plus links to your blog/facebook/twitter/other

Thank you so much! I can't wait to see what they make!

Join Me for Red Shoe Friday!

Jessica Sprague

Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.
- David Bowie, "Let's Dance"

In honor of the "patron saint of weirdos," and the permission he gave to all of us to be our own strange selves, I invite you to wear RED SHOES on Friday, January 15, 2016. Post on Instagram and tag #redshoefriday and I'll put up the gallery right here.

I wore one of my three pairs of red shoes yesterday, and 'grammed them while waiting at the dr.

I was asked a bunch of times where I got them: from ModCloth, which tends to turn clothes around pretty quickly, so they aren't there anymore, but the brand is Chelsea Crew @ ModCloth, and for the price, all the little hotties from this brand are super stylish! The heel is JUST high enough to lengthen your leg, but low enough you can wear them out to groceries or runaround without looking too absurd (although in a post referencing the late Mr. David Bowie, absurd is a GOOD thing).

Chelsea Crew = Good Love

I particularly love these little (non-red) numbers - after all, a girl MUST own a pair of just-right-yellow shoes:

Yellow in this shade is a neutral, perfect with dark jeans and any top in any shade of blue, or muted colors: think rust, melon, grey.

Although for more reds, let's take a look at a few saucy little sirens:

Sexy Librarian - Check.

@ ModCloth

@ ModCloth

Say no more, say no more. These lovelies NEED black or dark grey. Possibly a navy blue that doesn't take them into sailor-esque territory, unless that's the place you're headed. Pair with a sexy little pencil skirt and a demure sweater with maybe something a little wild underneath (say a top with little skulls on it, plus a grey cardi:

50's Swing Girl - Double Check

Or go all-in with a 50's style LindyBop dress + petticoat. I own this dress (but not a petticoat, alas), and get a million compliments every time I wear it. This is the front - the buttons sit just under the bust. 

And I wear it with these bright red patent mary janes. Oh do I slay. I absolutely slay.

Here are some with a sexy criss-cross that Tyra would be proud of. FIERCE!

Fierce - and Practical! Full of Win.

Check out some cute red flats, if you don't wear heels often enough to justify them. These with jeans or black trousers? SO CUTE.:

@ Zappos

@ Zappos

And if you're just jumping in to the red-shoe game, try a sneaker to combine your inner fierceness with casual practicality. See? You CAN do this. 

Even if you miss red-shoe Friday (which is tomorrow, and even Zappos might not get it to you by then), you can still play along! Just Instagram with the hashtag #redshoefriday and I'll have a gallery going here. If you prefer, just post on your blog or Facebook and link in the comments. :)

Farewell, David Bowie.

Jessica Sprague

In Memoriam

David Robert Jones | David Bowie

I wasn't even alive when David Bowie first got started. - he was, after all, my parents' age. I was in high school when Changesbowie came out (1990), and it was on permanent repeat (or the analog version of it, since it was a cassette) for months. My best friend Share and I pretty much wore that thing out, interspersed with Billy Idol and the soundtrack to Lost Boys, during the summer between our Freshman and Sophomore years. 

That the album itself was a compilation of earlier music was lost on me, despite the album cover showing so many of his varied personae: 

He was beautiful and theatrical and strange, thin like Jack Pumpkinhead from Nightmare Before Christmas, and with an impossibly haunting high-low voice. I would catch glimpses in magazines of the pink hair, the shadowy makeup, the sculptural or strange or barely-there clothing. This was Sugar City, Idaho, now. People wear regular clothes, not crazy clothes. Boys don't wear makeup, or a pink wig that was possibly not even a wig. We don't do things that are weird, and it is not ok to be weird.

Trouble was, in my little town of 1200, in 1990, I WAS weird. Angry and lost and weird. And hell, I thought his pink possibly-not-a-wig was amazing. His androgyny was alluring, and scary to me for its allure.

Changesbowie was ABOUT change, in a time when I myself was changing. He was a master of invention, and every song on this album was different because each was a snapshot in time of an ultimate musical chameleon. And that voice. How could such a voice - so gorgeously and hugely glam, turn dance-pop in Let's Dance, and haunting in Space Oddity, and never sound inauthentic?

Because he - at least what we all believe is the real he, really was all those things. Theatricality and complexity, showmanship without self-aggrandization, earnestness and unresolved feeling and that body and makeup captivating like an otherworldly sculpture. 

I've been reading a lot about him today. And remembering that within a few years of the first time I was singing along to Changes:

“Turn and face the strange
Oh look out now you rock and rollers
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older.”

And belting the gorgeous chorus of "Let's Dance":

If you say run, I'll run with you
If you say hide, we'll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower
Let's dance
Put on your red shoes and dance the blues,

I myself would be turning to face strange changes he was only hinting about. I, who didn't even OWN a pair of red shoes, would indeed learn what it means to dance the blues - that it would be a lifelong dance (maybe danced to Space Oddity, even, because if you really listen, WOW.). And yes, of course, I would need red shoes for it. (I own 3 pairs now, btw).

I especially enjoyed this New York Times article about him. 

Can You Hear Me, Major Tom?

I guess I was as shocked as everyone that he suddenly dropped an album after seeming to disappear for so many years. What! A new Bowie album. And then to find out this morning that this gift of new music would be (as he knew) his parting gift to the world.

I think his most haunting song for me is Space Oddity. That crazy slant-harmony, and the bittersweet ending, with the anxiety and peace and not-quite knowing what happened. Beautiful. Here's the original:

And here is the first music video ever recorded in space, Space Oddity by Commander Chris Hadfield, aboard the ISS.

The stars look very different today, Major Tom. 

"The Stars Look Very Different Today" Cartoon by Benjamin Schwartz, New Yorker

"The Stars Look Very Different Today"

Cartoon by Benjamin Schwartz, New Yorker

Put On Your Red Shoes

Changesbowie was one of my growing-up albums, and in some ways, he was the alter-ego to what I had around me. His message to me was that it's ok to be absolutely, wildly, creatively, boldly YOURSELF - seeing layers of joy and sadness and future and past and what could be, with a little loneliness, yes. But with an acceptance that your very strangeness is what makes you. That complex emotion is ok. That it's ok to earnestly be and think and believe and relish a million things authentically. That reality is our own to make, if we can envision it. And that if we want to wear red shoes, we should damn well wear them.

The final days of the Holiday sale and new classes

Sonya Poll

The time has come... we've entered the final days of the holiday sale. Take advantage of 20% off all classes! Sale ends January 10th at 11:59 PM EST. No coupon code required. Prices are adjusted for each class.

New Classes for January 2016

Gather your memories

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.”

Written by Mary Jean Irion, this quote has so much passion and meaning behind it. It's a quote I always turn to when I need a reminder that it's about here and now, it might not be tomorrow. Grab some of your memorable photos, Photoshop CC or PSE, and let's make this quote into a keepsake album.

The Normal Day Album course will start soon, but is available for preorder now! It is part of the sale, originally $15, but on sale now for $12! Get it while the sale is running! 

New Album Class - Normal Day Album

Remember 2015 forever!

Gather all your photos from 2015 and lets go on a magical journey together. In the Year In Review class, we'll make a scrapbook to remember the amazing year you've had. You'll end the class with a wonderful scrapbook that you can use for more years to come, and even years in the past. 


The Year in Review class will start in January 2016, but is available for preorder now! It is part of the sale, originally $15, but on sale now for $12! Get it while the sale is running! 

Year In Review Class

Digital 5: Creativity Comes Alive!
Take the next step on the Digital Scrapbook journey. Join me with my next class in the Digi series - Digital 5: Creativity Comes Alive! I'm excited to announce that this class will be available very soon! I can't wait to take this big step with you! 

Photo Editing, Holiday Sale and more!

Sonya Poll

If you only take ONE online class in your life, this is it.

I didn't know it then, but when I got my first digital camera, my life would change forever. In the (roughly 12) years since, I've taken tens of thousands of photographs on various cameras and devices, trying to capture the breathtaking beauty of the simple life that surrounds me. In the end, our photographs are the primary way we capture our memories and stories, and this makes them infinitely precious. I know you're the same way - you there, with at least three ways of taking photographs within arm's reach of you at all times? Yeah, I can see you. And I can tell you that when you combine your photographs with some edits in Adobe Lightroom & Adobe Photoshopthey will truly make your heart sing. I'll show you how!

Learn My Brilliantly Simple Editing Process

This course focuses on global editing - things you can apply to an entire photo. You'll learn the basic photo editing process I use for all of my own photos, plus extra techniques to take them to the next level! You'll take photos straight from your camera (or device), through simple transformations that will have you (and your loved ones) saying WOW! You'll love what an incredible difference you can make to your own precious photos. There's nothing like the rush! I swear!

After you've got the basic process down, then the fun begins! In the remaining lessons in our course, we'll start with the basic editing process, and then I'll show you how to use Lightroom or Photoshop to:

- Adjust settings such as white balance, exposure, vibrance and color to create GORGEOUS color-drenched or crisp black-and-white photographs every time

- Crop perfectly

- Create great black-and-white and tinted photos

- Create a braggable "before & after" image to show the difference your edits make

- Add a vignette

- Sharpen for screen or print

- Straighten

- Save for both print and the web

and more!

Want a peak at what we're making in both Photo Editing courses? Well, check out this really cool black and white transformation!

Right now, all courses, including the Photo Editing courses, are 20% off! That's a great deal! 
Hurry because the sale ends December 31!

Need a gift for the GEEK in your life? I've got gifting options for each class, so you can make their holiday EXTRA bright, without even using adjustment layers! HA! Click here to find out how to gift!

Are you still paying attention? I hope so, because I'm about to spill some insider information. There are 2 new fun courses going to be available for preorder very very soon.. like within the next couple of days, possibly hours. One is a really neat album that I know you'll love and enjoy. The other is Digi 5, the next in the Digi series! I cannot wait for you to see what cool things I've got in store for both of these. You're going to love them both!

Happy Veteran's Day, and Thank You.

Jessica Sprague

In the spirit of gratitude to all the members of the Armed Forces, I wanted to share this video. It is from World War II, and is the first time a cameraman was sent in to combat with troops. Their courage and tenacity, which has been passed down through generations of servicemen and women, is an inspiration to us all. 

Thank you to each veteran of our Armed Forces, for your courage, the valor with which you carry out your assignments, and your allegiance to this great country and the values it stands for. God bless America, and God bless you.  

The Unboxing of King Tut

Jessica Sprague

Spotted this on Mashable the other day - the color photographs from the 1920s would be amazing in their own, but seeing color photos from the 1920s that are of the first opening of a 4000 year old Egyptian tomb is a whole other experience.

Rowen is studying Ancient Egypt in her social studies class. Here's the question she was asked, and which I'd like to hear the answer to:

What would you take into the afterlife if you could?

And now since I know you said your computer or your device or the Internet, what would you take that is NOT one of those? Ha!

Here's how my fam answered:

  • Jared said: (barring devices of course) that he would take a huge, huge stack of books.
  • Grammy would take a photo album of her kids and grandkids.  
  • Rowen said she would take her bike. 
  • I said could I please have an external hard drive with Wikipedia on it? Everyone said no. So I said a stack of nonfiction and classic books. 
  • And Elliott flatly refused to consider an afterlife that had no devices. Crossed arms and looked away.

Now you. What would you take? 


New Friends.

Jessica Sprague

I met a new friend today. *Gasp* I know.

How often does that happen? For me, in "real life"? It's rare enough that I'm writing a blog post about it. 

Here's how it went down: there's a grocery-stripmall near my house that has a little bit of everything. My Dr. is there. There's a little gym next door. So after my Dr. appointment I had a few minutes to kill before going to inquire at the gym about a membership (more on that in another post!). So I headed in to Harris Teeter, bought a likely magazine and a hot chocolate at the little Starbucks there by the front of the store. 

Starbucks had gotten some kind of big delivery, because there were boxes spread out over the tables, and I had to ask if I could sit at one of them (they consolidated).  I was settling in when a sweet-sounding woman asked if she could sit at my table. Of course! There were no other tables to sit at, why not?

And I did my usual airplane/bus/elevator thing and went back to my mag. A minute later she says, "Is that an aquamarine?" - she was referring to my wedding ring, which is indeed an aquamarine, which Jared cut for me 2 years ago. 

And gosh this is a lot of backstory, which is because I haven't blogged regularly and I'm going to fix that. 

So I was floored that she recognized the stone, which no one ever has. And she said her new wedding ring is aquamarine too, and it's her favorite stone. I see that she's got one of those real estate magazines you find in the entryway of grocery stores and ask if she's looking for a house. Nah. Just likes to look. (Raise of hands, yah? Me too. Looking at homes is like lady-porn. Admit it.)

And that kicked it off. We spent 45 minutes talking. She lives less than a mile from me. She showed me some of her gorgeous photography - she has an artist's eye with no training at all, and she made me laugh and I made her laugh, and we drank our drinks and talked about kids and schools and carpet and how to clean an aquamarine ring, and dreams of what we would do if only, and there was no weirdness whatsoever - I might have known her for ages. I almost hugged her when we parted. 

To this minute I have no idea why she was in there, except maybe for the same reason I was (time to kill, grab a drink and a look-see at something in print), because didn't actually leave with any groceries. She might have been only my imagination. (someone should get outside her house a little more often, yes?)

But then I was reading the ol' internets this afternoon and came across two very interesting articles.

Friendships as Adults: Harder than it Seems

The first one I saw was a reaction to an initial article at The Atlantic, called "How Friendships Change in Adulthood". One of the points made is that college is the time when most people form their lifelong friendships because the circumstances are all there to make that happen. And because we don't tend to BE in places like that as adults, our "making friends" skills atrophy.

Love that. Picture me in my airplaine/bus/elevator mode "minding my own business" rather than actively looking to engage with the world, even at the Starbucks in Harris Teeter. And isn't that what I do, with my camera and my mind and my whole life? Engage with the world? And yet my skills at friend-making have atrophied to the point where I'm flabbergasted that I had more than a 5-minute conversation with someone, which wasn't contrived or appointed or required in some way. Am I the only one there?

So when priorities become really important, FRIENDS are high on the list - that we WISH we had more, or stayed in better contact with the ones we have. And I think that includes online AND in-life friends. People to laugh with and have inside jokes with, to cry with or pray for, to say, "I'm here. I see you. You aren't alone. You're loved and valued." Studies say that people with depression are helped by having friends, and engaging with them regularly. What's the magic there? 

Where We Live Affects our Friendships

So why does our adulthood make it difficult to develop and maintain friendships? Aside from the excuse that most of us don't have (make) the time to actively make and maintain friendships, the second article suggests that at least part of the difficulty is in where we live. 

It's called "Why Our Housing Choices Make Adult Friendships More Difficult," and it essentially points out that we simply don't live in places (as we might have done in college) where the spontaneous encounters occur that form and keep friendships. Spontaneous encounters. Last time you had one of those? 

The author quotes a study:

And this also reinforces the point:

As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

So maybe the spontaneous friend I made in the grocery-store Starbucks today was an anomaly. It is certainly rare in my life - mostly because I spend so much of it at home working. Maybe something like this only happens in the South, where I've noticed that people are markedly more outgoing than in other places I've lived. I don't know. But my life changed a little bit this morning, and I'm grateful for it. 

Now You:

  • Did you make your best lifelong friends in college?
  • Has your ability to make friends atrophied in adulthood?
  • Do you think WHERE you live (city/suburb/rural) affects the friends you have and make?
  • How has the internet changed your friendships?
  • Do you think about friends and friendships in a wistful way, (wish I had more) or in a resigned way (I just don't have the time)?
  • Do you think being a male or female drives any of this? 

Blog it, Facebook it, React. OK go.

Take your Photos from Good to Great!

Sonya Poll

Think back to the day you got your first digital camera. Boy how our lives have changed, right? I didn't realize all that could be done, all the memories I could hold onto. Now we can take photos all the time!   From phones to cameras to tablets... there are always photos to be taken, memories to be saved, a lifetime to savor.

In honor of our first digital cameras and ALL the photos we've taken since, I'd like to announce not one but TWO new photo editing classes, so you can take your pick! Each class is just $69 with the links below!

Photo Editing 1: Lightroom Edition

You've been asking for it, and here it is! My first-ever class for Adobe Lightroom! Are you as excited as I am? WOO!


In the Photo Editing 1: Lightroom Edition class, which launches November 3, I'll show you how to make easy global edits using the world-class Lightroom application, designed by photographers for photographers. If you've subscribed to the photographer's bundle from Adobe, this is the class for you! I'll show you how to combine easy Lightroom edits with the power of special techniques in Photoshop to create photos that will make your heart sing. I promise. You'll

Best part yet? I'm offering this class at an introductory price, more than 20% off with this special link. Regular price is $89, and you'll get the class for $69!

Register for Lightroom Edition

If you'd like to check out Lightroom, click here to grab the 30-day free trial

Photo Editing 1:Photoshop Edition

For Photoshop CC, CS6, CS5, and any version of Photoshop Elements!

If you only take ONE Photoshop class in your life, the Photo Editing 1: Photoshop Edition is it! (of course, if you've taken a bunch, this is still it! Ha!) Of all the things I could share or show, the one that will make the MOST impact on you as a memory keeper is the skill of editing photos.  


In this class, which begins November 3, I'll show you how to use the free plugin included with Photoshop and Photoshop Elements called Adobe Camera Raw, and then we'll take our photo right into Photoshop to make it sing! You'll learn how to make colors pop, how to turn photos black and white, add treatments such as tints and vignettes, sharpen, and save for both print and the web. You'll be armed with knowledge that will last you a lifetime, and will change your photos forever.

Best part? Right now you can get $20 off the original price! Check it out! Regular price is $89, and you'll get the class for just $69!

Register for Photoshop Edition

Regardless of which edition you choose, Photo Editing 1 is the place to start for editing those precious photographic memories. I can't wait to show you! Register today!