Tips: Photography Tips, Part 4 – Editing

Written by Brandi of Catie’s Blue

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Since I started selling online, the importance of great product photographs has been hammered into my brain. With jewelry, it is your selling point. People can’t pick up the piece and hold it the way they can at a craft show, so the photo will determine if someone clicks to view your listing or just leaves your shop.

Good photos have become an obsession of mine, so I figured I’d share what I know so far. Please note, I’m not saying that my photos are the best ever nor am I a professional photographer (I’m not); but I do work hard to make them the best they can be. In doing so, there are four major things I think about when it comes time to start snapping away – lighting, macro setting, staging, and editing.

This is the last of a four Part series, broken down for easy reading. Here is Part 1: Lighting, Part 2: Macro Setting, and Part 3: Staging in case you missed them.

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IV. Editing

Editing photographs can sometimes feel as daunting as taking them. But here’s the honest truth – you don’t need to use a fancy photo manipulation program like Photoshop if you don’t have it or are not familiar with it. I have several photo-editing programs on my computer but the one I use the most is the one my camera came with (which is Kodak EasyShare, and my camera is a Kodak Z740, in case you’re wondering).

Assuming your photos are well lit and in focus, all you really need to do once you’ve uploaded your photos to your computer is to brighten and crop each picture. I’ve found that unless the sun is perfect, which is hardly ever, or I use a well lit light box, which is hardly ever, I have to adjust the brightness on my photos. That’s because everything is shot in the macro setting, which doesn’t use a flash, so some minimal adjusting on your computer is required.

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Click the photo to see it full-size.

When adjusting the brightness level, go slow. See what looks best. For me, I want the colors to be as accurate as possible on my monitor. My focus is actually not on the background so much as the piece itself. I photograph on a neutral background, and while I do try to get it as light as possible, I won’t sacrifice the quality of the piece to do it. Meaning, I won’t “overexpose” or brighten the pair of earrings I’m working on, just to get a white background.

When I’m taking photos, I’m usually doing a bunch of pieces at once to save time. With at least five or six shots per picture, I really don’t have time to be thinking too much about centering each picture, or making each picture look “cool”. The only thing I concern myself with is making sure each picture in focus. Then, once it’s uploaded, I’ll play around with the cropping. Some pictures and pieces look better with a lot of negative space around it. Others look better close-up, it just depends.

Be patient with yourself, and save the edited version under a different title, i.e. IMG100b, so you always have the original if you make a mistake.

At first, it’ll take some time to figure out what works for you. But the more you do it, the easier it will all become, and the faster you can get things done. Promise. If you have any questions, just let me know!

Tips: Photography Tips, Part 3 – Staging

Written by Brandi of Catie’s Blue

•••••••

Since I started selling online, the importance of great product photographs has been hammered into my brain. With jewelry, it is your selling point. People can’t pick up the piece and hold it the way they can at a craft show, so the photo will determine if someone clicks to view your listing or just leaves your shop.

Good photos have become an obsession of mine, so I figured I’d share what I know so far. Please note, I’m not saying that my photos are the best ever nor am I a professional photographer (I’m not); but I do work hard to make them the best they can be. In doing so, there are four major things I think about when it comes time to start snapping away – lighting, macro setting, staging, and editing.

This is Part 3 of a four Part series, broken down for easy reading. Here is Part 1: Lighting and Part 2: Macro Setting in case you missed them.

••••••• 

III. Staging

When I say “staging”, I’m referring to the way things are arranged in your photo. Besides the piece you’re selling, there’s also the lighting, the background, props, and the way you angle the object to consider, too. Each choice you make creates your own style.

A lot of the way a photo looks can be determined ahead of time, and with Etsy, we have five photo slots to use, so we aren’t limited to only one snapshot to sell our pieces. So, we can take a really engaging, maybe a little artsy first photo, then do more traditional and standard pictures for the other four.

To start, look at catalogs or magazines, or even other sellers. What stands out to you? What kinds of photos do you like? Are the pieces on a colorful background or a neutral one? Are you attracted to photos with a lot of props, or do you prefer a very simple set up? As you begin to find photos you like, also start thinking of how they can fit into your style; basically, how can you make them your own?

Then, look at your own photos as objectively as possible. Give yourself a little critique, or ask a few trusted friends for feedback. What can be improved? What’s working well for you? Are your photos too dark? Are there too many highlights? Do your photos look washed out? Can the background be improved?

Here are the choices I made:

a. Photos I like: I like the artsy photos, with simple backgrounds and simple props, but prefer to see at least two or three clean, completely in focus photos showing me the details. I try to have one “artsy” shot, but if it doesn’t work for a particular piece, I don’t push it.

b. Semi-neutral backgrounds for a consistent look. Colored backgrounds can affect the way the colors in your piece can look. A green stone will appear to have different shades when put against a red background versus a gray or white one.

c. I want to keep it very simple, with only a white coffee cup as a prop to hang earrings off of, so the focus of the photo is on the piece itself (see photo), and I save time not having to set up different scenes for each piece.

d. I want each of the five photos to show something different, whether it’s the clasp of the necklace as well as the pendant, or earrings lying down as well as hanging.

If you’re stuck, consider just adjusting the angle of your jewelry piece. Angles are interesting because angled lines create the illusion of movement. Movement in a photograph keeps your eye moving around, keeps the viewer engaged.

Other low-cost ways to play with your photos: visit the scrapbooking aisle in your local craft store and pick up cardstock (be careful that it’s not too busy or it will overwhelm your piece) or look around your house for a hardcover book. Take off the dust jacket and photograph on the fabric cover (which works because the fabric is pulled tight, see photo on the right), or open the book and take photos on the pages themselves (see the first photo in Part 2). The words will then become a recognizable pattern. Whatever you choose to photograph on, try to avoid a super shiny surface – it may bounce light off its surface in an unpleasant way – or play with it till you get the results you want.

If you like the look of props beyond what I’ve shown here, check out the recent Storque article about staging and styling your photos.

Article: The Basic Beliefs of Crystal Healing

Written by Leslie Prather, a.k.a. Mama Trep of Mama Trep’s Designs, and originally posted on her blog at http://mamatrepsdesigns.blogspot.com/ . Used with permission.

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This is the first in a series of articles about the healing and metaphysical properties about stones. I am, by no means, an expert on this, but have increasingly found myself interested in all the rocks and gems and natural elements that I have collected throughout my lifetime. I have done some online research about gems and healing properties. I currently am studying to become a Crystal Healer, and recently have become interested in Reiki. I just want to take some time to share some of what interests me, and perhaps open up a world of possibilities to those that might not have any inclination or clue to what might be out there to add to and improve life as we know it.

crystalblog5.jpgEnergy healing, which encompasses all kinds of modalities, crystal healing included, has been used for thousands of years, if not more. The Eastern traditions of yoga and Tai Chi, and the Hindu and Buddhist religions, all make reference to energy healing. Theories abound about Atlantis, (do you remember Edgar Cayce’s accounts?) where crystals were used for everything from meditation, healing, generators, transferring energy and weather control. Historically, Native Americans, especially Cherokee, have used gemstones and crystals in their everyday life for guidance and decoration, placing crystals around the home, wearing them under clothing, decorating their ceremonial garb, consulting them for what needs to be done with the day.

The basic tenet here is that all things on earth, and in the universe, possess energy of some form, a life force, or prana. The idea of energy medicine and energy healing is that the human body is made up of energy fields and pathways, which help maintain health through balance. If energy is out of balance or blocked, then illness occurs. There are frameworks and systems to understand and deal with this energy around and through us, in particular, Reiki, auras, and the Chakras. Literature and online research can produce all kinds of information about these subjects.

crystalblog3.jpgOne wonderful online resource for information about Reiki and energy systems describes how auras, which are energy fields surrounding the entire physical world, connect with the chakras on the human body, providing energy to the chakras. The chakras are considered the energy processors for the body. The body has seven main chakras, with each chakra providing energy to one particular gland in the human body. Each gland then controls specific organs. The chakras also influence specific emotional and psychological functions or aspects of the person. Blocks in the aura, the chakras or the pathways (called nadis) have direct effects on mental, spiritual and physical health. Color therapy, crystal therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, music therapy, light therapy, aura cleansing, massage therapy—all of these current-day modalities use this basic tenet of balance/imbalance of energy in the body for healing and health.

How can crystals and gemstones be used? Crystals and stones can be used to aid in blocks with the auras, chakras and the nadis to balance these energy fields and meridians. In basic terms, each chakra has a corresponding color, and the colors of the crystals and gemstones can be matched to the color of a specific chakra to help achieve balance and promote healing. As an example, my husband, who has heart disease, carries a smooth, tumbled, green aventurine stone in his pocket. The Heart Chakra, which is green, controls the thymus gland, which regulates the heart, circulation and lower lungs. During a particular health incident, he went into congestive heart failure and went to the emergency room for treatment. Upon returning home that day, he discovered that his tumbled green aventurine stone had cracked on one side, and a chip had come out of the other side. He believes that the stone took the negative energy away enough so that he did not have a heart attack.

crystalblog1.jpgCrystals and gemstones may be held in the hands, carried on our persons as jewelry or adornment, placed in a pouch, amulet or pocket. They can be used with Reiki healing, with meditation, with massage, with any formalized spiritual or religious ceremony, for any religion, or with no religious intent at all. Crystals can also be used in the environment around us, where we live, to alter the energy of our homes, for instance. There are many ways that crystals and gemstones can be used, but the important thing to know is that there is no right or wrong way to use them!

How do you know which crystal or gemstone to use? As above, you can match the colors to the Chakras, depending on your research about which Chakra controls what. Many sources say that instead of you picking the crystal or gemstone, it picks you. You may be wandering through a bead store to find components for a project and some amethyst bear charms catch your eye. You’ve just been picked! What seems like a random process may be energy forces at work around you, trying to balance things out. There are many books and online resources to help you discover different ways of choosing and using crystals and gemstones. eHow.com has a webpage called “How to Use Native American Crystal Healing” which describes the importance of prayer, meditation and exercise to develop focus and strength, which helps in “communicating” with and choosing the right crystals. Again, doing your own research on this subject will help you discover the best way for you.

crystalblog4.jpgEach crystal or gem has its own vibrational force and energy quality. Again, meditation is important for coming in tune with the energies around us and within us. Including crystals and gemstones with our meditation, we can get to know the crystal or gemstone at hand. With this subjective knowledge about a particular crystal, and the knowledge from thousands of years before us, certain patterns have become clear. The metaphysical properties of each particular set of crystals have become somewhat predictable. Using research to discover these properties and patterns can also help you in choosing the right crystal for yourself or someone else.

So, I hope I have given you here a very, general overview about the theories and history behind the use of crystals and gemstones for their healing powers. In my spiritual searching, I have come across many things that I have dismissed for one reason or another. I personally keep coming back to gemstones and crystals. It is one of the reasons for my fascination with beads and jewelry-making.

In my next article I will talk about the different ways to cleanse and purify crystals, because they can pick up and store negative energies. I also will start with a discussion of the metaphysical properties of garnet, January’s birthstone.

Mama Trep

Copyright 2008  by Leslie Prather. Used with permission.