Monday, September 21, 2009

Photography Tutorial for the Normal Person - No Fancy Equipment Needed!

First off, this is not a tutorial for taking perfect, studio-quality pictures with expensive equipment. This is a tutorial for taking good pictures of your products without a studio, light box, proper lighting, a fancy camera or even Photoshop. If you have $5 to $10 dollars and a camera and you want good pictures of your stuff you've come to the right place.

I take my pictures in my living room, preferably during daylight, but it doesn't matter much since not much light reaches my windows in this room anyway. I have managed to take good pictures at night using just my crappy standing lamps. I have two little boys and the nice thing about this is that you can't even tell how messy my house is, since I'm taking pictures up against a wall. Table space is a rare species around here, nearly extinct, so another nice thing is I use a stool, not a table. You do need a digital camera, but it doesn't have to be fancy, a point and shoot will work fine. For this tutorial I also didn't adjust the white balance on my camera in case you can't/don't know how.

What I do have is maybe three yards of cheap bleached muslin, a dowel, two clothes pins, a small length of wire (six inches or so) and two push pins to hold up the clothes pins, a stool, a digital camera and a fabulous FREE! photo editing program you can access on the internet. No download required. Oh, and a pretty product I want to list on my Etsy shop.

I'll divide this into two parts, Taking the Picture, and Editing the Picture.

Part I: Taking the Picture
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Online Portfolio

It's done! Check out my new portfolio:

If you want to see a bigger version click here. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Office Re-org!

Oof, it's been a long time since my last post. The more time that passed the more I thought I had to catch up on for the next post - which led to more and more time passing due to overwhelming procrastination... So, I'm just going to jump back in like I was never gone!

My sewing "office" is in the corner of my living room, which I talked about in a previous post. I've got two little boys at home so as much as I'd like a little in-law unit in the backyard dedicated solely to my craft, it's just not gonna happen. First of all, we don't have a little in-law unit in the backyard and secondly, if I leave the boys for more than a few minutes they will either a)follow me and pester me or b)kill themselves or each other.

So, with the need to keep a watchful eye over my angelic devils, my office occupies a corner of the living room, right in the middle of all the action. At least the baby is not really a baby anymore and I don't need to put big ugly gates around everything to keep him away from my scissors. He's 2.5 now and for the most part stays out when I tell him to.

The point of all this is that I have a lot of stuff in a little space so organization is KEY. I have about 8' x 12' to house my sewing table (the 4' x 2.5' table that used to be our dining room table) my 8' work table, my computer, large ironing board that I built, bookshelf, storage shelves, wire shelves with fabric, several bolts of fabric, all my inventory and shipping supplies. Oh, and the cat, too. She likes to sleep in my office.

My 8' work table is where almost everything happens, so it can get pretty cluttered, along with the wall that it's up against. That wall is the only wall space in my office, because the other wall in my corner is taken up by a window and a fireplace. But thanks to $11 spent at IKEA (okay, I actually spent much more than that, but don't tell my husband - it's the $11 that's important here) I totally reorganized the main area of my office, getting most things off my table leaving it nice and clean and wide open for my projects.

I don't have a before picture, but just imagine clutter on the table, with a huge map of the united states taking up valuable wall space. Here's what it looks like now:

So clean and pretty! I made the blue and yellow quilt out of t-shirts that my boys wore when they were babies - that quilt even made it into a quilt book! Terrific Tees by Roberta DeLuz. It's a great book on how to quilt with t-shirts. The beach scene to the left is a little wall hanging I felted out of wool that I dyed.

Here's a close up of my new organizing:

My $11 bought that bar there above my cutting mat that I screwed into the wall, 10 hooks, 3 hanging clips and 3 buckets for my supplies. My supplies used to be in jars on the table, but it's much nicer to get them out of the way. One bucket holds pens, markers and pencils, the other holds craft scissors, sewing scissors and rotary cutter, and the other bucket holds craft glue and a few other random supplies I use often. I hung my clipboard with my instructions for my current projects, and a clip holding my open orders. I hung a pin cushion with thread catcher (that I make and sell on my Etsy site) from the bar, too. That little bar got rid of a lot of clutter!

Some other things I bought were a couple packets of 6x4 picture frames (four for $1.29) and a snazzy green lamp (on sale for $1.99). Gotta love IKEA! Above the bar I framed four close ups of some of my products with nice colors, for a little bit of inspiration:

On the other end of my table is the bulletin board I made with old corks, a magnetic strip for odds and ends (bought a long time ago at IKEA) and a few of my drawings in picture frames. A pencil drawing of Einstein is on top, a painting of the sunset over the ocean is on the bottom:

Oh yeah, and the cat's bed. She has a nice bed made of fuzzy Minkee fabric right in front of the window and she almost never leaves. I was a little bitter that her cat bed took up PRIME TABLE REAL ESTATE, but this way she doesn't even look twice at my fabric or projects, so I guess it's worth it. =) My mom made that little cat wall hanging for me, and it seemed appropriate to place it over Sarah's bed:

So, that's about it! One corner of my office has been freshly organized. I have a pretty sweet ironing board, too, I'll have to show off the rest of my office in a future post!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tip - Business Cards

When I first started my business I printed all my cards at home trying to save money. Dumb idea. This is definitely one of those things you want to hire out! It cost me almost $20 to buy a pack of 200 blank business cards and I spent untold hours trying to get the dang paper to line up right in my printer, feeding each page in one at a time and so many times the stupid thing would shift in the printer and the design would spill over to the other cards, ruining the whole sheet. I think I got about 100 good cards out of the 200 card pack. Because of the finicky-ness of the process I couldn't have a card with a design that went all the way to the edge and it didn't look as professional as I wanted it to. And then someone recommended VistaPrint to me and I'm so happy I found them! It was very easy to load up my design, I paid a few dollars extra for an image on the back and it just cost a couple bucks to load up my design - and once you load up your design you can use it for any other product without paying each time. I got 1500 cards for $50! Doing it myself I was paying $0.20 per card (100 good cards for $20) plus endless frustrating hours, through VistaPrint I just spent a few minutes setting it up, got a great looking card and only paid about $0.03 per card! I didn't even have to pop the cards out of the sheet, leaving my cards with those annoying perforated edges. =)

Vista Print:

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Business Is Born

People ask me all the time how I got started with my own business so here's the answer!

I've always loved sewing and I've always had a huge bag obsession. I loved bags so much but I could never find the right one for me. They were too big, or the wrong color, or didn't have pockets where I needed them or whatever and I soon realized the only way to get the "perfect bag" was to make it myself. I used patterns at first but even that had problems - what if I wanted it bigger or wider or just plain different? I started modifying patterns to suit me until I was comfortable enough with the essentials to be able to come up with my own patterns to suit my needs.

When my first child was born I made my own diaper bag and matching hand bag. I got some really pretty decorator fabrics - a deep red with gold dragonflies and a coordinating red and gold plaid - which, at $20/yard seemed like such an extravagance! I made my bags and used them everywhere. A friend of mine in my son's playgroup saw it and insisted on having one of her own. Which would have been great but I had no interest making bags for other people. I was busy enough with my baby, I had so many more bags I wanted to make for myself, I was worried she wouldn't like it and then what do you do, and I just didn't see how I could find the time to spend days making something for someone else.
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

And So It Begins...

In high school I sewed my first bag. It was a quilted shoulder bag for carrying books and it turned out quite nice - except the straps were flimsy and unpadded and cut into my shoulder every time I put, well, books in it. I also sewed my first outfit which was a pair of flannel shorts with an elastic waist and a (dreadful) matching top. Following a clothing pattern was confusing and frustrating and I had no idea what I was doing. I think I still have that outfit, but if I do, it's buried in a box somewhere in the garage. I made a huge pillow which became my dear old cat's favorite place to sleep and is now a big floor pillow for my boys to play on. I also learned to crochet in high school, and my first project was a little mouse hanging off a leaf for a friend. The first "mouse" was such a scary, mangled little thing it soon became a joke in my house. I put it in my mom's car when she wasn't looking and she quickly stuffed it in the glove box. Occasionally I'd pull it out and prop it up on the steering wheel, or sit it in her chair, or hang it from the rear view mirror and when Mom would get in the car she'd gasp and laugh and stick it back in the glove box. Poor deformed mouse.
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