Tips: Photography Tips, Part 4 – Editing

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 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.

••••••• 

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.

adjusting-the-brightness-in-kodak-software-a-copy.jpg

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!

Advertisements

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.

crystalblog2.jpg

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.

Tips: Photography Tips, Part 2 – The Macro Setting

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 2 of a four Part series, broken down for easy reading. Missed Part 1: Lighting? Click here to view it.

•••••••

II. Macro Setting

The macro setting is the “close-up” setting on your camera, and if you’re photographing small items, like jewelry, it’s really the setting you want to use. I never use anything but macro when I’m photographing my jewelry pieces.

Macro allows you to get extremely close to a piece to pick up the fine details that may be lost on a wider shot. You have to be generally within 2 feet of the item, and you probably want to get even closer. Macro has a narrow depth of field, or a very short range of focus. What this means for your photos is that anything in the background and anything in the immediate foreground will be out of focus or fuzzy, which is kind of nice for an artsy shot if that’s the style you’re going for.

100_4211a.jpg

For an example, look at the photo above. Notice how the bottom third and top third of the photo is fuzzy? How only the middle third is actually clearly in focus? That’s what I’m talking about. If you use a smoother surface with no discernable pattern, like a stone table top or a smooth piece of paper, you may not see the fuzziness as well.

100_4211acc-copy.jpgWhen taking photos, press the shutter button down halfway – on most digital cameras, this will cause the lens to focus and a box or brackets will show up on your screen. Whatever is in that box or those brackets will be what the camera is focused on first. Here’s a digital recreation of what you might see on your screen.

By playing with the angle of you in relationship to your piece, i.e. stand up, sit down, hover over it, etc., you can play with what’s in focus and what’s not. If you want to get one particular part of your piece in focus, do your best to have that piece be in the center of your screen, then press the button down halfway to double check. If it is, go ahead and press the button down all the way just like normal.

As for me, I get right up to my piece, leaving only a few inches of space between my camera lens and the piece itself. I go as close as I can without losing focus, so you may have to move around till you find that threshold. Additionally, I try not to use my zoom if I can help it. Digital cameras now come with two kinds of zoom, optical and digital. Optical is what the actual lens in your camera can do – mine has a 10x optical zoom, meaning the lens itself can zoom in up to ten times. When it reaches that maximum, that’s when the digital zoom kicks in.

Digital zoom is when the little computer chip in your camera takes over. It’s not actually zooming in any closer; rather, it’s blowing up the image, which can distort it by making it fuzzy, and completely defeats the purpose of a close-up. Think of it this way: a digital image is comprised of thousands of little pixels. The digital zoom enlarges those pixels, but it’s not adding any new information. So, at some point, you’ll begin to see the blank bits in between those pixels; hence, your photo will be fuzzy.

541531299_bg-mini-2.jpgIt doesn’t really matter what style of camera you have, or what brand it is. Most digital cameras now come with at least a few options, one of which is the macro setting. Take a moment to look at your camera. Macro is usually denoted by a little flower, so just switch to that setting, and stay there. If in doubt, pull out your camera’s manual and look at the diagram written there to find it.

Tips: Photography Tips, Part 1 – Lighting

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 1 of a four Part series, broken down for easy reading.

•••••••

I. Lighting

100_4186cc-copy.jpgLighting is important for obvious reasons. Without light, we can’t see colors. But when taking digital photos, lighting is critical to getting a good picture. Here’s why: A camera lens is not as sensitive as a human eye. Where a human eye can differentiate between millions of shades and tones and colors, that number becomes dramatically smaller for a camera. Where we see hundreds of shades of gray, the camera may see a dozen. And areas that we think are well lit appear dark once viewed on a computer screen. A camera needs the help of even external lights to see things properly; don’t rely on the flash.

There are two ways of taking pictures at home: natural light and mini studio light boxes. Both have die-hard fans that swear by them. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

100_4187abcc-copy.jpgI’ve found that with natural light, the colors of the piece I’m photographing come as true to life as possible, so that’s what I use. I’ll go outside and set up on my patio table. However, I have to depend solely on the weather when it comes time to take a picture. And when the seasons change, that perfect time of day when the light is exactly right changes constantly, so it’s a (fun and not so fun) guessing game.

Natural light isn’t always an option for everyone. For some, it’s the changing seasons that prevents year-round outside photography. For others, it may be a full-time job that keeps them busy during key daylight hours. lightbox2-copy.jpgOr, maybe you don’t have big windows that let in a lot of natural light. If this is the case for you, consider a light box (a.k.a portable light studio, portable light tent, tabletop studio). When using a light box, you never have to worry about the weather. You can take photos at night after the kids are in bed. You can set up anywhere, including the garage or the kitchen table. You are in complete control and, assuming you have the space to do so, you can set up your light box the way you like it once and leave it till you need to take pictures again.

Ultimately, you need to decide what works best for you. For jewelry, which is generally pretty small, you don’t need much space, so either natural light or a light box would work. It’s really going to come down to what works best for your lifestyle.

.

When using natural light

  • 100_4190bcc-copy.jpgStay in the shade and avoid direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will cause your photos to become overexposed and the colors will be washed out.
  • Don’t use your flash. It, too, will wash out the colors in your photos and cause extreme highlights that no photo-editing software can really fix.
  • Play around with the positioning. In my photos, the sun is to the right, so there are shadows on the left. To avoid as shadows as much as possible, position yourself between the sun and your item. This will create evenness to your photo, and you can always adjust the brightness later.

.

When using a light box

  • If you want to be fancy and buy special light bulbs, go to your local hardware store and get either tungsten light bulbs or natural light light bulbs; both simulate the natural light you’d get if photographing outside. Ask the sales associate there for help if you can’t find either of these bulbs.
  • Do use as many light sources as you can. Notice that most light boxes use multiple light sources that come from different angles. This is to provide an equal amount of light to all areas of the piece being photographed, as well as to minimize shadows. Use one light on top and one on the side at least, though you can also use lights on both of the sides and even the front as well as the top.
  • Diffuse your lights. Diffusing the light will create an even shine on the piece, which means that the shadows and super bright highlights will be minimized. If you paint the inside of a cardboard box white or line it with white paper like ChristysQuilts did, don’t direct the lights to shine directly on your jewelry. Instead, follow her lead and angle it towards the sides of the box so that the light bounces off the side onto your piece. If you cut out the top and sides and cover it with tissue paper, like the Strobist example, you can position the light on the outside of the box. The tissue paper will soften the light that comes through it.
    • Using white on the top and sides, even if you want your piece on a colored background, will help bounce the light around your light box. A colored background can go along the back and bottom.
  • Don’t use your flash. Let the external studio lights do the work.

Tutorial- Wrapping An Undrilled Stone by Corinne Portalatin

ocean8.jpg

This is Part 2 in this tutorial (Interested in Part 1? Click here). In the last tutorial I demonstrated how to wire wrap a bead link, which is the alternating beads in the bracelet that you will soon be able to make.

glasstutorial2.jpg

Tools needed to wrap this stone are the same tools as in Part 1.
Round nose pliers
Duck bill pliers
Side cutter pliers
A piece of sea glass or any other stone bead.
20 inches of 20 gauges wire (I used green artistic brand copper colored wire)
Practice with inexpensive wire until you are able to wrap the stone.

glasstutorial1.jpg

In step 1
You will need to make a loop about 1″ from the end and wrap your loop about 4 wraps are fine.

glasstutorial3.jpg

In step 2
You will need to measure the length of your stone and mark your wire at the point.
Shown in the above photo is where I made my mark on my wire for my loop.

glasstutorial4.jpg

Make another loop allowing enough room for your wraps and also the additional wraps that you will be making around your focal bead.
Your bead should now look like the one in the photo above with both of the wrapped loops. Notice the allowed space for the additional wraps I will be making.

glasstutorial5.jpg

 In the next step you will wrap the wire back to the other loop. Make 1 wrap under the wraps that is already there.

glasstutorial61.jpg

The next steps are to continue wrapping the wire back and forth each time making 1 loop around your wire, by letting the wire and the shape of glass dictate how you would like the wrap to look.

glasstutorial7.jpg

I am happy with the amount of wraps over the glass. Next step is to trim your wire and flatten smoothly against your wrapped loop. Make sure that both of your loops are round and that they both are at the same angle. Notice in the photo below at my wrapped loops.
 

glasstutorial8.jpg

Shown below is the other side of the piece of glass

glasstutorial9.jpg
This is the second tutorial on wire wrapping, written by : Corinne Portalatin 
 She creates beautiful hand-wrapped artisan jewelry, and you can find more of her unique and creative pieces in her Etsy shop:
Thanks again Cori for sharing this with us …

Tips: Craft Shows

Originally submitted by Vicki of OrionDesigns. 

Many of us will be very busy this season doing lots of craft fairs. I am a veteran of the craft show circuit in Alaska, having participated in many events each year for the past 10 years. I would like to share with you some tips and ideas that I’ve learned over those years.

1582014851_b04e76af27_m1.jpg

Know Your Audience

Whether you call it a craft show, a bazaar, holiday shopping extravaganza, or an art show, each one will have its own “personality”. Certain types of venues will attract a certain type of crowd. Understand that my characterizations are general and not hard & fast rules – how could they be?

Craft shows that take place in schools and churches are often very inexpensive to enter and attract a large crowd. There may be fund-raising tables with kids selling baked goods and their own handicrafts. My experience is that the items that sell best at these shows are economically priced. Fancy displays are not the norm. Plenty of kids and moms will be shopping for Christmas gifts.

Large shows held at sports arenas, convention centers and the like will be much more expensive. There may be an admission fee for the shoppers. This could translate into shoppers that truly want to purchase hand-crafted items. You will probably face lots more competition at an event such as this, so it’s best to offer your products in a professional looking, clean display. Good lighting is a must when selling jewelry.

Juried art shows can take place in any number of venues. I have been in these shows in our local museum, hotel banquet rooms and art galleries. Very often, the sponsor of the event will take a percentage of your sales. This can still be very worthwhile as the clientele can be very upscale.

1582892818_46250b5e07_m.jpg

Your Booth Space

Regardless of where your craft show takes place, you want your booth/table to look its best. Be sure your table coverings reach the floor. Under the table is a great place to stow all of your empty bins & boxes, and this isn’t something anyone should see! Your table coverings should be selected with your product set in mind. Black will work for some jewelry collections and lighter colors will work for others. I use black skirting and top the table with a champagne colored fabric. I feel that those colors work best for my work.

Think about creating different heights as part of your display. Shelving units are effective but can be awkward to carry around. Try creating risers with collapsible cardboard boxes (for easy transport), topped by a wooden board and covered with decorative fabric. Several levels of product display add visual interest.

Necklace easels, earring racks, bracelet bars are almost essential to any display. I have seen many jewelry artists use household items for display purposes and this can be very economical if you’re just starting out. I started with mug holders to display my earrings and different colors of felt squares from the craft store to display necklaces and bracelets. I did this for a couple of years before I could invest money in more sophisticated display items. The thing I continue to struggle with is keeping my display looking like it all belongs to the same collection. My jewelry is diverse, so my display ideas tend to be diverse.

Things to Bring

In addition to the display items mentioned above, here’s a list a items that will be handy to have with you for an indoor event:

  • Change (I start with the same amount of money for each event)

  • Business cards & holder

  • Product packaging (bags, boxes, bows)

  • Hand mirror (or 2)

  • Blank paper for notes, custom orders, addresses, etc.

  • Lights, extension cords, multi-outlet power strip, duct tape

  • Sheets – to cover your tables overnight if it’s a two day show

  • Extra pieces of neutral fabric (to offer to your neighbor when they have an unsightly mess in their booth that needs covering – this could affect how customers see your booth)

  • Sales tally sheet. I’ve created one in Excel that lists some general categories of my jewelry. For example, I have 7 price points for my earrings and for these I can use tick marks to keep track of sales. Some necklace styles also have fixed prices where tick marks will work. For higher end necklaces and bracelets, I need to write down specifically which item I’ve sold). You will know what works best for your product line.

  • Pens (bring a red pen too for putting things on sale)

  • Extra price tags (in case you need to change a price, or if one falls off somehow)

  • Calculator

  • Fire extinguisher (many shows require this)

  • Small bottle of alcohol & cotton balls (to clean earrings if someone tries on)

  • Set of pliers to switch earwires, if necessary

  • Tape measure (to measure a wrist for a custom bracelet order)

  • Credit card machine/imprinter and slips

  • Put together a small box (I use a couple of altoid tins) of “notions”: thumbtacks, tape, rubber bands, straight pins, paper clips, Velcro dots (these things can come in so handy!)

  • Water

  • Snacks that are neat and easy to eat

  • Mints

Most important of all, try to remain cheerful, even when it seems as though everyone around you is selling more than you are!

Happy selling!