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A whole lot of fused glass and then some …

Tinkering around with my photo editing software

The other night after work, I was sitting, tired and lazy, on my computer. It was too early to go to bed but I didn’t have the energy to actually do anything productive.
So I started randomly applying some photo editing effects to a couple of my glass photos.

Some effects looked merely odd, but some others produce neat results after cropping the image and messing around with the colors a little.
I mean, no matter what, I keep seeing my jewelry pieces in them but to others they might look a little more abstract.
I just find it amazing what can be done with a few clicks.

November 7, 2010 Posted by | GlassFancy Jewelry, Photography | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Tips and Tricks for Product Photography, Part 2

Welcome to the second part of My Tips and Tricks for Product Photography!

In the first part I discussed the photo setup that I have tinkered together. Now we are going to take a closer look at photo backgrounds and props, photo composition and angles and depth.
All these aspects play into one another and are undoubtedly intertwined.

Before starting to shoot photos of your creations, I think it would be wise to sit down and think about the style and feel of your products. Does your needlework have a romantic flair? Do your soaps emphasis the natural and earthy? Does your jewelry fall smack in the middle of steam punk?
In your photos it is important that the background does not clash with your product style. You want it to subtly support the feel your product gives off or supply a perfectly neutral background.
In my opinion, it is also unwise to put your item in front of such a strong or busy background that it goes under and becomes anything but the main focus of the photo.

In the following photo I have tried to do all the wrong things to show you what I mean.

My fused glass is contemporary and modern, so I use very neutral props like near white stones that I found on the beach or other backgrounds that have simple but flowing lines. Since my jewelry also makes a strong color statement and is at least partially transparent, I usually tend to choose white or near white backgrounds rather than dark ones.
For metal objects, for example, a dark background would provide a better contrast and makes the item stand out better. Or for a steam punk product, to choose another example, props with sharp corners and angles are probably a better choice than backgrounds with soft flowing lines.
My main point here is to really think about what compliments your product and don’t just go for the next best item that is in arm’s reach as a background.

Now let’s look at a few more things you can do to make your photos more than just informative for your buyers.

Photo composition is a very important tool that is at your disposal. 
I encountered the rules for composition some time in school and university but I have to admit that I never consciously make my composition decisions based on any rules. I pretty much don’t remember them and I simply decide based on whether it looks good to me or not.
However, there are a gazillion articles on the web about the rules of composition in photography. And I do encourage you to read up on it but  since I am not a photographer I would rather not regurgitate someone else’s knowledge here.

If you don’t feel like reading whole articles and you don’t feel like getting all into theory about it, let me stress the most important rule, in my book, in just a few words.
Don’t center your main focus (namely your item) in the photo!

Compare the following two very similar photos.

The photo of the centered donut looks a lot more static. Placing it slightly off-center adds direction and makes the photo look more interesting.

Obviously, there are always exceptions to the rules and you should follow your instinct when it tells you to break them. I do it all the time.

Now, let’s have a look at the difference angles can make.
I believe it is always a good idea to provide one perfect frontal view among the photos that you are allowed for each item listing. But I also believe that it would be a mistake to make this frontal view photo the first photo your potential buyers see.
The first visual encounter that people have with your product should be the hottest and most gorgeous photo you have and it doesn’t always have to even show the entire item. This is your chance to capture people’s attention and make them click further into your listing.

Consider the effect of the following angles.

I usually take a few shoots from each angle and then pick the one that speaks to me most as my first representative photo. There probably is some kind of theoretical rule and explanation to the effect of each angle, but honestly, I just let my gut decide.
However, I don’t think there has been even a single instant when the frontal view was the best looking angle. And when it comes to items made of glass, you can only really show transparencies and texture when you angle your photos.

The next and last aspect that I would like to discuss in this part of the series is depth.
It mostly applies when you have more than one item in your photo but depending on your background, you can create a sense of depths with that as well.

Compare the following two almost identical photos. I chose a very simple and plain view to try to not sidetrack the eye.

You can create foreground, middle ground, and background by placing several items at different distances from the camera and shooting the photo at a very shallow angle. You can force your camera to increase or decrease the resulting blur. I found a great article that explains it really well. You can check it out HERE.

There is also another way to create this depth blur. A lot of photo editing software programs have special functions to achieve this effect. But that will be part of the discussion in the third part of this series.

I hope this post was helpful and if you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to share!

October 9, 2010 Posted by | Photography | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Tips and Tricks for Product Photography, Part 1

Recently, I was asked to write a blog post on how I photograph my products. I was a little surprised to get that request because, although I know my photos have been getting a lot better from when I started, I have never stopped to think that they might really stand out to someone.
So I am very flattered and happy to share what I have found works for me.
A lot of the following tips and tricks have come about as a result of trial and error so you have to bear in mind that there might be a better solution that I haven’t thought of and if you would like to add anything, I would be most grateful!

The first topic that seems to be inherently important when talking about photography is the camera.
When I started selling my fused glass jewelry, I already had a camera and it wasn’t an expensive one or one with very many special features. At the time I had to make due and by doing so, I learned a little more about my camera and in the end, made it work. I still use the same camera and I don’t see a reason for me to buy a “better” one any time soon.
I use the Olympus SP-310 and in my opinion, I couldn’t have bought a better camera for the money.
Initially, I used the preset categories like the ‘Portrait’ or the ‘Indoor’ setting but realized pretty soon that I have a lot more control over what the photo looks like when I use the manual setting. By using the manual settings, you are able to determine the shutter speed and therefore have influence over the type and how much light you have to use, which is especially important when you photograph glass. When you take pictures of very shiny and reflective surfaces, you might need to reduce the light or diffuse it extensively to avoid large areas of bright white reflection. In that case you can increase the time that the shutter stays open to allow for more of the light to enter the lense and therefore still have a well-lit photo. In conclusion: more light –> faster shutter speed, less light –> slower shutter speed.
There is so much more technical information about the ‘physics’ of taken great photos but I have to admit, my understanding ends right here.

The next thing that is very important to have is a tripod.
When you use the manual settings and slow shutter speeds, the slightest movement of the camera is going to blur the whole picture.
I picked up a simple tripod for roughly $25 from Best Buy.

Next, we are getting to the light box setup.
A light box, in general, is a box made of some kind of material that permits light to shine through but diffuses it to a certain degree. The box is placed in the spotlight of several light sources and the item to be photographed sits inside the box and is therefore illuminated.
A light box doesn’t really have to be a box. The important thing is that the item is illuminated from all sides except the bottom and the light needs to be filtered through some kind of diffuser.
Here is a picture of my light box setup in my basement. It’s not very professional looking but it serves the purpose wonderfully and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

There are several components to my setup.

  • the base
  • the back panel
  • the mirror
  • the side diffuser panels
  • the top diffuser panel
  • the light sources

Let’s go over each component separately.

For the base I use a couple of sturdy boxes that raise the working area up to a comfortable level. You want to make sure that you work at a level where you don’t have to exchange good photos for back pain.
I use a grate that was left over from my ferret cage as the main work surface but you can use a piece of ply wood or anything else you have available as well.

On top of the main work surface I place a mirror. It’s an old bathroom wall mirror and you can see it underneath the mannequin with the white frame.
The reason for using a mirror is that it amplifies the light you shine onto it and it also diffuses it further. In addition, it adds a certain esthetic due to the reflection it produces and you can create some cool effects with textured sheet glass, for example. The third merit of the mirror is the opportunity to quickly change the background color without having to move the item by simply standing up a colored foam board behind the scene.

And that leads us to the back panel.
The foam boards come in several different colors and can be purchased at stores like Michaels or Stamples etc.
Simply lean it again the wall behind the scene.
Check out the series of photos with different boards. The red dotted rectangle is the area you place your item in and take your photo.

The diffuser panels are called acrylic light diffuser panels for fluorescent lights and can be bought at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
I glued two of them together to increase the degree of diffusion and to make them a little more sturdy. Then I clamped on steel spring clamp and stood the panel up on the hand piece of the clamps like in the picture below.

There also is a little top diffuser panel that you can’t see in the photo of my setup. It’s basically a smaller version of the standing panels and is attached in front of the light source that hangs from the ceiling.

And that is the perfect transition to the light sources.
I figured the easiest way to create freely movable light sources are clamp lights like this one. I use two on each side clamped down in two different heights and one that is clamped in a frontal/top position on the ceiling behind the little top diffuser panel.
Most importantly though are the light bulbs you are using. They have to be daylight bulbs, meaning they produce the entire spectrum of light. Click here for an example of the right bulbs.

Wow, I did not expect this post to get so long! So I think it will be best to declare this the first part of a series of posts.

Stay tuned for more Tips and Tricks for Product Photography coming soon!

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Photography | , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

New angles on a not-so-new fused glass jewelry piece

Lately, I have been somewhat consumed by re-photographing a lot of my pieces.
I am on a mission to make my photos better and better and, at the same time, I am starting to actually have fun with it. Odd angles are jumping out at me and since I am dealing with glass, I have started to experiment with some focused light sources to create colored shadows.
Let me show you the photo that really stood out from the other day’s session. I think I am going to use this one for an ad or marketing material at some point.

February 1, 2010 Posted by | Fused Glass, GlassFancy Jewelry, Photography | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Shooting Photos Is Really Growing On Me

About a week ago, I ordered 2 silhouette mannequin necklace display stands. I figured, someone like me, making as many pendants / necklaces as I make, should really have a way to display them the way nature intended them.
So, they arrived today and I just had to take some photos with my new play things.

And here lays the difference now. I don’t need these photos for any listings. The pendants in them are not for sale. I just took them for the fun of it. If you would have told me 8 or 9 months ago, I would ever say or do that, I would have thought you are totally nuts. Photography was a chore. I hated it.

Anyway, I really like these two shoots. There is just so much that went right with them; the flowing lines of the display and the lines of the pendant, the soft shadows, the cool colors, the composition.

So, I’m just going to finish the post and continue to look at them, hehe. Me like!

January 9, 2010 Posted by | Fused Glass, GlassFancy Jewelry, Photography, Precious Metal Clay | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Product Photography Gone Wild

Today, I am having a bit of a lazy kind of day. I just can’t come up with enough energy to do anything productive and the same goes for anything fun or entertaining.
I’m just sitting here on the couch with my laptop and I’m fiddling around with this and that while watching my husband play Fallout 3.
So I was looking through all the “discarded” product photos I still have and was contemplating deleting them all. But since I am in a fiddling kind of mood, I grabbed one and started tweaking it with my graphics program.
I am not the type of person to read instruction manuals. I learn by pushing buttons and seeing what happens. So that is what I did with the photo and it’s actually quiet amazing what can be done with something you consider garbage when you change the intent and purpose of it. And it’s even more amazing how much fun it can be.

So here is the original photo that wasn’t good enough to use as a product photo.

On a side note:
You can see some of my make shift photo setup here. In the upper right corner you can see the diffuser panel I use between the light sources and the object. They are called acrylic light diffuser panels for fluorescent lights and you can buy them at Home Depot. I clamp them with two steel spring clamps (like this one) and I am then able to simply stand the panels up on the hand part of the clamps.
I take most of my product photos on mirrors. It enables you to quickly and without a fuss change the background color by simply standing up a colored foam board behind the scene (as you can see in the upper left corner of the photo). You can get these boards in many colors at stores like Michaels. Also, the mirror diffuses the light further and reduces the amount of light you have to shine on the object to begin with.
In this photo I placed a textured clear sheet of glass on top of the mirror. This trick creates neat relection effects without eliminating the merits of the mirror and if you take the photos from an extreme angle, it almost makes it look wet.

OK, now that I have gotten all side-tracked, let’s get back to what I actually wanted to show you.
So, here is the first adjustment I made, which is simply cropping the photo to something that looks nice with an interesting composition. In my opinion, it always helps if you include parts that are out of focus that either lead towards the object in focus or away from it. In my case here, I had to place the unfocused part of the photo into the foreground because the background is taken up by undesirable elements that I needed to get out of the picture. So I ended up with quiet the extreme composition but I think that only makes it more interesting.

Next, I started playing with some of the effects my program has to offer. First I turned everything except for the rainbow in the pendant and the rainbow reflection on the glass into a black and white photo. 

Then I applied some light burst effects to the chain and pendant. It looks like there is some kind of spell on it now =)

The next one has the weave effect applied. It’s not good to see the object very well but it does look rather funky.

And the last one is even more funky. This is the chrome effect of my program and it works really well on photos that have a lot of contrast to begin with.

There are many many more cool effect to play with but I would run out of available memory here.

I actually just wanted to show you the photos and now this has turned into some kind of how-to article.
Anyways, it’s just lots of fun to hit all the buttons and get entertained by the results. It might not sound like it, but it’s a form of learning.

December 18, 2009 Posted by | Fused Glass, GlassFancy Jewelry, Photography | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Montauk Props Hunt

Ever since I started selling my products online, I have been struggling with photography of said items. It’s been a steep learning curve for me. I have looked at so many great photographs of other people’s products and bit by bit tried to figure out what makes them great and therefore, what it is mine are missing. Lighting, angles, cropping, close-ups, and and and…

One aspect I have particular problems with is the props. A lot of my products are contemporary or modern in style, which really limits my choices of background to something either very plain or modern as well. Usually, when it’s time to take some product photos, you see me rummaging through the house for possible useful items. A lot of times it’s quiet frustrating.

MontaukOne of my very good friends finally had a great idea. Let’s go to Montauk and pick out cool stones!

Montauk is the very tip of Long Island and has some steep cliffs and a very rocky beach. It’s a beautiful place and absolutely perfect if you are looking for interesting stones.

So off we went. It was a beautiful day, although still a little cold and quiet windy. We must have looked a bit odd, hauling stones and if the lighthouse ever slips into the sea, it’s probably our fault. But, hey, it’s all in the name of art!

Thank you, Suzanne, for a great day and a marvelous idea!

I finally got to use my new props today and I thought it would be interesting to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of the same item. So, I present to you, the metamorphosis of the “Emerald City Fused Glass Pendant”:….

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

April 15, 2009 Posted by | GlassFancy Jewelry, Photography | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments