Aaaaargh– Taking Photos Makes me Go ARRRRRRGH

I love, love, love making things, which is why I so rarely update.  I’ve decided that I am going to slash “craft blogger” off of my list of What I Ams.  When I think about blogging, I get anxious.  Every once in a while, I will come back over here for something special, but updates for the sake of updates are now out the window.  Go to The Crafty Crow, Hands Occupied or Miko Design for your reading pleasure.  Those ladies are better at it.

Product photography is one of my big AAARRRGHHS.  But if you want to sell online, you not only need pictures but GOOD ones.  In the case of Etsy, you can sell more items if you are espouse the Etsy Aesthetic.  Creamy backgrounds, perfectly clear pictures over tea-soaked notebook pages scrawled with fading French scripts– throw in an Eiffel tower, long white neck, or hell, put a bird on it.  That’s what gets onto the front page.

My items don’t fit into the greater aesthetic– they’re smooshy and bright, downright gauche compared to the most popular items.  My favorite thing on Etsy is the pizza-shaped sleeping bag, but you don’t see that kind of thing very often.

I’m armed with an iPhone 4S, a handmade lightbox, a few clamp lights and whatever props I can find around.   I just started making little fruit bead earrings, which are small enough that a lightbox and lights at 10am in the morning were not necessary.  If you can find a place inside with good, indirect light (if you have trees around your windows it’s golden) you don’t need them.  But that also involves remembering the good times of day to shoot. 🙂

I used blank, white printer paper, color pencils, thread spools and my hands.  A tripod helps, but you can do it without if the light’s right.  That’s my grand photo studio, right there.  I kneel on the carpet.

Make sure your colors are bright and the paper is free of debris.  I kept a stack of it nearby so I could draw on the paper.  Don’t skimp, make sure it’s a clean piece.    Use the props to highlight the item, but don’t let it overpower the scene, like this:


The spools are a good idea, but there’s more of them than the earrings. Danger!

Whimsy is an important part of product photography.  People want a story, they want it to be special.  Listing products online is where you English majors get to shine– ham it up in the item description.  But even if you aren’t much of an artist (drawing-wise) a few swipes with a color pencil can add effortless whimsy:


At least, I think so.  I sold two pairs just a few hours after listing them!

I used the Preview application on my Mac, lowered the temperature to get the paper more blue-white than yellow, and cropped to accentuate.  Don’t mess with the color saturation or exposure– if you have to, then your light isn’t right.

In summation: get a background, find a good place where the light is natural and get a little silly (but not too silly).


Fayetteville, AR: Then and Now

Original photo by unknown Fayette-villain, taken in the summer with a much newer house. Other than the color of the siding and rocks, not much has changed.

During the few days I was in town, I gathered enough people to make the shot, and happened onto a friendly photog.

Left to right: Laine Gates (holding Ari Gates-Moore), Tony Presley, Amy Brown (moi), Stephanie Bolin, Sam King and Justin Mitchell.

Photo by Tim Ryan Smith.  What a guy– I assumed the man my friend Stephanie was talking to at the coffee shop was someone she’d known for a while.  Using the rule of association, I plainly asked what he was doing at 3pm and if there was a real camera in that case around his neck.  Fayetteville, an artsy college town, is quite crawling with handsome young men with cameras around their necks, but Tim happened to be a Real Life Photographer.  I didn’t know this until later, and felt quite chagrined.We just needed a seventh person to take the shot, and I was relieved to find someone willing.

Once he started directing the shot, moving the car and making sure everyone was exactly posed, I realized I could never have done it without a professional.  He got the shots, edited them and sent them to me in a day.  However these are used in the “Found Fayetteville show, it was a wonderful experience with old and new friends.

Remember– it never hurts to ask.

“Found Fayetteville”

We’re back in Arkansas for the holidays, and I was asked to help in a neat theatre production on New Year’s Eve.  There’s a fantastic troupe called the Artists Laboratory Theatre, and they’re putting on a show based on submissions of pictures, letters and other ephemera.  Like Found Magazine, but live!  The founder, Erika Wilhite, found a photograph from the 1970s of some cool dudes and dudettes sitting on the corner where I used to live.  I was asked to re-create the photo with people from the neighborhood.

We’re hanging out at a coffee shop before we meet up with our old friends and neighbors to do a modern take on the photo.  Some of us will probably look like we’re still in the 70s, and there’ll be a baby in someone’s arms instead of a camera.  It’ll be good to see my old roommates again.  We even ran into a guy at the coffee shop who had a camera, and enlisted him to take the photo.  This is a regular day in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Meeting strangers, walking around with no definite place to go, recreating tableaux from the past (ok, that last one is a stretch).

The picture will be featured in a slideshow with the other submissions, and I’m not sure what drama will then be built around it.  I’ll post an update once we take the photo.