Monday, August 30, 2010

Etsymaaaazing!

I am so, so excited to have the very talented Crystal of Crystal Chick Photography guest blogging here today! You might recall her generous donation during Krafts for Katelyn back in February.  Well, she's back & happy to be sharing some helpful photography tips for all you Etsy & Ebay sellers.

Take it away, Crystal!

So you’ve made some really awesome crafty thing, and you want to sell it online. Once you’ve washed the paint off your hands or bandaged up the needle pricks in your fingers, you’re ready to photograph your item!
You know how great your product is. You know how much time, effort, heart & soul you’ve put into creating it. A great photograph of your item can help relay that to potential buyers – they can see the quality of your work, plus it gives them a feeling of security that you are a serious & professional seller. (And that’s what you are, right? Don’t hide it!) Below are a few tips on how you can flaunt your goods!

Let’s start with lighting.
The best light is natural light. And by natural light, I mean Mr. Sunshine. God gave us light, and light is good. Open up your curtains, and let those lovely UV rays embrace your product. Your product will thank you. 

This is an example of a necklace I photographed near a window.

If you are photographing your item outside, set it up in open shade, not direct sunlight. Light is good, indeed. But too much light is not good. Overcast days are great for photographing out in the open. If it’s sunny out, find a shade tree, or go under the porch awning.

This is an example of a craft I made, and my son demonstrating it.

Remember when I said too much light is not good? Well, using a flash is more than not good. It’s eeveel! Sorry, I don’t mean to alarm you, but I have to keep it real. The long and short of it is this: Flash is harsh. Narrow. Unpredictable. It only covers a certain area, and the parts it covers, it covers too harshly. That’s why we like the sun. It’s big, it’s continuous (until night time, of course), and spreads it’s light around for all to share. And if the sun fails us, we also love lamps.

This is an example of a toy robot I took a picture of using desk lights and a white sheet of paper. Domo.

Camera notes: Some digital cameras will allow you to adjust White Balance. (Check your user manual.) White balance is how the camera reads the whiteness of the available light. If you are outside, set the White Balance to outdoor mode, if you are inside, set it to indoor mode. (Just for fun, set it to outdoor mode inside and see how it skews the lighting in your room.)

Let’s talk about backgrounds.
Now that your product is properly lit, we can talk about what’s behind your product. For most of your pictures, a clean, simple, distraction free background is the best way to show off your item.

You’ll see a lot of photos on Etsy, for example, with completely white backgrounds. You can accomplish this by placing your item in front of a white wall, and on top of either a white table, or a table covered with a white table cloth. If your item is actually white, then ignore what I just said. The point is to get your object to stand out.

You can create a tabletop photo studio called a light box. There are lots of tutorials online for creating a light box. It’s basically a cardboard box with holes cut in the sides and lights shining through. Google it. There are people who have written tutorials with pictures and everything. The Internet is amazing.

Image from Etsy user gabrielsaunt.

Not all backgrounds have to be plain white. If you feel your product would be better displayed with some color, play around with it. You might add a colored sheet to that light box you just rigged up. You might like to use a brick wall, an old piece of wood, funky wallpaper. Whatever you choose, place your object a good distance from the background (1-3 feet should do the trick). This way your camera will focus on the object and slightly blur out the background, making your item stand out more. And it’s all about the item, remember?
 
Image from Etsy user lavenders.

Let’s talk about using a tripod.
Anytime you’re photographing products to sell online, it’s a good idea to use a tripod. In low-light situations, your camera’s shutter has to stay open longer to let enough light in to capture your photo. This is when you get camera shake. We aren’t statues! The gorillapod is a fun tripod that can be used table top, or wrapped around objects to be mounted in unique angles. It’s small, and travels well. You might be interested in getting a larger tripod, instead. One that will mount on the ground so you can adjust the height yourself. If you really want to go nuts, you could just prop your camera up on a stack of books. Crazy, right?
If you find that even with a tripod, you are still getting camera shake, first make sure you have plenty of light in the room. Second, did you really need that second cup of coffee? Third, you might considering setting the self timer. This way you press the button and step away for 10 seconds (You can breathe while the timer is counting down. I give you permission.)

Ready to shoot?
Your item is mounted on a table. You’ve got plenty of light. Your camera is on the tripod. You’ve checked your White Balance. You skipped the second cup of joe. You are ready to shoot!

Let’s get creative with it.
Take pictures. Lots of pictures. (and don’t delete them.)

As you are putting all these tips to practice, might I suggest the following: Don’t delete photos in the camera as your snapping away. Wait until you get them loaded on your computer. There have been many times I thought something didn’t work when I looked at it on the camera screen, but once I pulled it up on my monitor, I was surprised with the results.

Take pictures at different angles.
**Take a few photos straight on.

Image from Etsy user elsee99

**Take a few photos with your camera slightly above the item, angling downwards.
Image from Etsy user shabbylanebaby

**Get in close to show details. (Use the macro setting on your camera for this!)

**If it can be opened, show the inside. Any area of importance should be featured.
Image from Etsy user shamsandcoverups

Take pictures that demonstrates the product.
After you get lots of photos of your product, you might consider also taking a picture of the item being “used.” 
An article of clothing on a form or a model.

Image from Etsy user Lwangslife.

A headband on a head. (Mind blowing, I know!)
Image from Etsy user ThreadRare.

A purse on the arm of a friend.
(Remember, the focus is the product, not the model.)
Image from Etsy user ringopie.

Display that teapot you hand-painted on a table next to a fresh pastry. Display a hand-crafted bowl filled with candy or other items.
Image from Etsy user MarkHudak.

Mirrors, frames, wall art, sconces, etc – Hang it on a wall. Fill it with items. Let the viewer see how this product would be used in their home.
Image from Etsy user bluebirdheaven.

Take pictures then photoshop them.
No wait. I’m afraid using that phrase means that you will all go berserk photoshopping and making your photos look keeeerazy. Remember, keep it simple & clean. You want to be as true to your product as possible. I know there are all these photoshopping trends right now. (I’m a photographer, I’ve used many of them myself!) But listen. If you throw a vintage action, or funky texture, or super saturation over a clean & simple photo of that adorable sundress, then your potential buyers are not going to be able to see it as it truly is. Even if it does make your photo look a lot more hip. Remember, it’s about your product.

I’m not here to blow your mind with everything you ever wanted to know about Photoshop, but here are a couple of quick tips:
- If you find your photo is too dark, you can slightly adjust the brightness. (In Photoshop, adjust with Brightness, Curves, or Levels). If your photo is way too dark (or way too bright), just go reshoot it.
- To bump the color up, tweak the saturation slightly.
- If you find your photo is too warm (yellow/orange) or too cool (blueish), adjust the temperature (usually there is a color slider that can be dragged back and forth between blue and yellow).
- Crop your photo if you need to center it, if you need to remove something that accidentally snuck in the corner of your photo. (If you live in my house, you’ll find a dog’s tail sneaks into photos every now and then.) As long as you are not cropping too much. If there is too much that needs to be cropped (ie. you just realized you can totally see that laundry basket in the background), reshoot it. And this time put the dog away 
somewhere. Or the laundry. Or just relocate your shoot if you can’t be bothered with either.

In closing… (it had to end sometime!)
When Jen asked me to write up this blog post, I wondered if I’d come up with anything. The focus of my photography is wild & crazy children, not inanimate objects. But once you photograph wild & crazy children, inanimate objects are a walk in the park. An inanimate walk in the park. If that’s possible. Thanks for having me, Jen. I always enjoy reading your blog, and it’s been a pleasure to be a guest here.
As for you readers out there, I wish you all success in your crafting adventures & businesses. I hope you find these tips helpful in taking your craft photography to the next level. Now, I know you all have some craft laying around that has been freshly made that you can practice photographing right now. (If it’s food-related, don’t bother, just package it up and ship it to me directly.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

The hub has been giving becoming a vegan some serious thought. I'm not totally sold on the idea & our compromise has been to have at least 3 "vegan days" per week. I've been on the hunt for a good vegan dessert recipe and these chocolate cupcakes really hit the spot. The hub said he wouldn't have even noticed that they were vegan if I hadn't said anything. I made a chocolate glaze to top these with, which was good, but a bit messy. I might try some frosting next time. All in all, though, two thumbs up!
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add the oil, vanilla, vinegar and water. Mix together until smooth. Pour batter into 12 lined muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool.

Sift together 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa powder. Add warm water, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the glaze reaches your desired consistency.

After the cupcakes have cooled (I actually refrigerated them for a while), carefully dip the tops in the glaze and refrigerate to set. I repeated this step for double-dipped cupcakes. :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

A big thanks to everyone that entered the Sypria earring giveaway!
And now for the winner...
Drum roll please...



Leigh Thomas, who liked the acorns best, was lucky #8. 
Congrats, Leigh!
Please message me with your address so that I can arrange for the shipping of your darling new earrings. :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fun with Vinyl

I am seriously excited about hosting a guest blogger today. I might be even more pumped that the hub is said guest blogger. And I'm a little bit giddy about the project that he came up with. Nothing warms my heart quite like the hub holing up in the office for a night of crafty fun. :)

Take it away, hub!

Hey everyone! For those of you who don't know me, my name is Nate, and I'm 'the hub' that Jen is always mentioning in her posts. Jen asked me to do a guest spot for her which is a little out of my comfort zone, but I decided to be a good sport and comply. So, without further ado, I'd like to present you all with a little project that came to me after a day of hitting up the local garage sale scene.

1) Find a cool vinyl record that you don't mind destroying. I used a double album of Handel's "Messiah" that I found at a garage sale. Ideally, you'll use an album with a jacket that has some sort of aesthetic value.

2) Take a couple of pics to use for your silhouette. I decided to go with silhouette's of Jen and myself.

Jen

Nate

3) From here, you'll want to print the photos and cut out the silhouette so that you can transfer them onto the vinyl. I used some white acrylic paint to get a nice contrast around the outline (which makes life much easier once you start cutting). I opted to have the paper portion of the album slightly off center, but that's really just a matter of taste.


4) Once you've reached this point, you're ready to start cutting. In order to get the proper cut, you'll need to use a wood-burning kit. Make sure that you get one with a very fine tip, especially if you're cutting an image with a lot of detail. You'll want to make sure you cut slowly so as to make sure you're getting a clean cut. Also, be sure to have a fan or an open window nearby as vinyl can give off some harmful fumes.


5) After the images are cut, you'll need to clean them up quite a bit. I used a woodcarving knife to cut off the leftover flash from the melted vinyl. Then, I used the hot tip of a glue gun to smooth some of the rough edges. The glue gun doesn't get as hot as the wood-burning pen so you don't have to worry too much about distorting the image. (You should, however, be aware that this will leave a good amount of vinyl melted to the gun, so you should use one that you don't mind replacing.)




6) Once you've finished this, you're home free. You'll need to buy a record frame (I found one at Wal-Mart for $6) to mount everything in. In my case, the inside cover of the album had a better look to it than the front cover, so I used that instead. Whatever your choice, just cut that portion of the album sleeve that you'll be using.

7) Next, arrange your cutouts on top of the album cover and glue them in place (I used super glue). Mount everything in your frame, and you're good to go! Here's what I came up with...



For you music purists who believe that all music should be enjoyed on vinyl and that digital music is largely garbage, you might want to steer clear of this one. But, for the rest of you, this makes for a fun, hipster way to display your vinyl. It also makes for a great conversation piece. Have fun everyone!

Thanks for the post, hub. You're the absolute best! I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. And keep your eyes peeled for future guest spots. Some skilled friends have offered to write up a few posts and I couldn't be more excited!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Veggie Sandwich

The absolute best time to make a veggie-based meal is when you've just gotten back from the farmers market. Everything is so fresh looking/smelling/tasting! This was my dinner tonight and it was deeelish! It might even be my new fave.

I just piled a bunch of veggies (cucumber, tomato, pickle, sprouts & red onion) on some Italian "everything" bread. But, do you wanna know the secret ingredient? Well, do ya? There are actually two. I put some roasted red pepper hummus on one piece of bread and some avocado spread (mashed avocado, lime juice & salt) on the other. Yummm! The remainder of the avocado made for some really good guac. I swear, I could eat avocado every single day of the week!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Auction for Autism!

I am so very excited to be participating in this Auction for Autism!
I’m offering up the winning bidder’s choice of either a framed 8×10 silhouette print (of one or two people) or a set of two silhouette ornaments/wall hangings. The prints are created digitally, and I make the wall hangings from varying papers and hand-cut silhouettes that are then adhered to a wood backing with a coordinating ribbon for hanging. The wall hangings are a little longer than 4 inches and about 3 inches across the middle of the oval. The winner will need to provide good quality profile photos for me to work from and will be able to pick a font/color scheme of his or her choosing.
You can find my listing/bid right here.
It expires at the end of the day on Friday.
Please check out Jaclyn's blog and take a moment to read the story behind the auction. It's a beyond worthy cause. And don't forget to peruse the rest of the items. There are lots & lots of goodies! :)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tomato & Zucchini Pasta

We gave this pasta a try the other day for lunch and it was so awesome. It's just an excellent, light pasta that will fill you up without making you feel too, too full. Ya, know? No heavy sauces here. It made enough that we had leftovers and ate it cold the next day. It was equally delicious (maybe even more so). The changes that I made the original recipe are reflected in the directions below. Enjoy!


8 oz. angel hair pasta
1 tbs. crushed garlic
1 tbs. olive oil
1 large zucchini, quartered & chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 tomatoes, chopped
Dried basil, to taste
Shredded mozzarella
Directions: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions on the package, drain. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Pour in oil and sauté garlic until golden. Stir in zucchini, salt & pepper. Sauté for about 2 minutes, then mix in tomato and cook a few minutes more. Add basil to vegetables right before mixing with pasta. Combine pasta and vegetables. Serve topped with mozzarella. I added a smidge more olive oil to toss the pasta in after the dish was all put together.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Matthew!

My cute-as-a-button nephew, Matthew, is turning TWO today!

(Told ya he was a cutie!)

I really love making gifts and felt food has been on my crafty "to do" list for quite a while now. So, I made some fun items for Mr. Matthew to enjoy on his special day. (And I apologize for the photo quality. I was quickly losing light!)

Breakfast.

A pita pocket & goldfish crackers for lunch.

Pita contents.

And a few lollipops for dessert.

I had to put the felt away or I would have kept going & going. It's just so fun to try and come up with your own twist on things. :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sesame Cookies

The hub picked up some vegetarian sushi (a first for both of us) from a local place that we paired with a side of rice for dinner tonight. The sushi was seriously awesome annnnd just $4.99. Can't beat that! I hopped online and searched for a quick dessert to pair it with and came across
these Sesame Cookies.
*Disclaimer: These are awwwful for you, but really yummy. :)

(Not the prettiest things in the world...but they're good.)

1 cup butter (!)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Sesame seeds
Any flavor fruit jam
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the almond extract and salt. Stir in the flour and mix well. Shape tablespoonfuls of the dough into walnut-sized balls then roll the balls in sesame seeds to cover. Place balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly. With your thumb, indent the center of each cookie. Fill indentations with jam (we actually did this step after the fact). Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes (we had to add a few minutes to our baking time). Store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Veggie Calzones

The hub made some veggie calzones the other night for dinner and they were deeelish!

The goods.

The preparation.

Ready for the oven.

Calzoney goodness!
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