Product Photo Props

Final-Bird-Fudge

Now say that three times – real fast! But seriously, though, there is much to be said for giving some creative time to selecting the props that you use in your product photography. I am fortunate in that I don’t typically need props for my products, other than engaging my pets as models. But what do you do if you really need to “stage” your products to show them at their best?

My first suggestion is to just take a look around you.  You know your product, so look both online and in brick and mortar stores to see how your product type is displayed, and decide which models would serve you best.  Magazines are also a great source of inspiration.

Black-mannequin-DSC02490Great Jewelry Display

For example, do you sell jewelry or clothing?  Would a mannequin like the one above work well for an overall jewelry display?   For individual jewelry pieces, would a beautiful slab of stone, or a piece of tile or wood work as a backdrop for your products?  Look at products sold on Etsy.   Which photos catch your eye and make you want to purchase?  Taking great photos for online selling is essential, but before the product shots you need to gather the props.

Final-White-Fudge-NewRound White Plate, Vase, and Paper Lace Props

My daughter recently asked me to assist with some photography of her food (sweets) that she wants to sell online.  The first thing I did was search for some great props.  What a fun assignment!  I found plates, cups, silverware, and a couple of pretty little dish towels that work beautifully to help show off the fudge and other sweets she wants to sell.  I even used a very small vase and some rosemary twigs from the garden for some of the photo shoots.

Small-Fudge-Honey-400pxWhite Oval Platter and Celtic Honey Jar Props

For one set of photos I used some little vintage children’s blocks with lettering.  Search your home and what you already have on hand, or borrow items from family or friends to use as props.  The photo above has a Celtic design honey jar from Scotland that I have owned for many years.  You can find amazing things at antique shops as photo props; the little bit of nostalgia they provide for photos makes them quite charming!

Final-Food-PropsColorful Food Props

Have fun gathering!

 

Instagram-Ten Reasons to #Love

Final-Instagram-ProfileAhh…social media.  An absolute must for business owners, and an addiction for others.  My route to social media use was certainly business oriented, and after using different ones now for several years I definitely have my favorites.  I started with a Facebook business page, which seemed like a fairly easy transition from a personal Facebook page.  Twitter came next, although it is actually more difficult for me to write short tweets sometimes than blog posts.  After a friend suggested I try Pinterest I found myself hooked on this social media, although I think of it more as visual bookmarks and don’t find myself engaging in the social media part as much.  Then came Instagram.  My Instagram.  Why had I not explored it further at an earlier date?  I love photography, so this social media just seemed like a very natural fit for me.  It is definitely now ranked as my favorite social media.

Here are ten great reasons to love Instagram:

1.  It actually works as social media.  Meaning that you really can easily engage with other Instagram users.  The Instagram app allows you to quickly scroll through your feed and “heart” user photos you like and leave comments.  It is easy to make friends from around the world!

2.  As with Facebook, you are able to easily read through all comments so that interaction between users is encouraged.  Just type the @ symbol in front of a friend/users name in the comments section of any feed so they are pointed to a particular photo!

3.  Like Twitter, hashtags are used to quickly identify keywords for a photo, or to identify the photo with a particular group.  I have a hashtag that I assign to photos that I want to appear in my Instagram feed on my website.  Very easy to do!

4.  Like Pinterest, the photos are truly amazing – stunning in their beauty.  And while Pinterest boards typically contain photos from many different users/sources, Instagram allows you to focus more on an individual photographer’s work.

5.  Instagram is a photographer’s mecca.  While you may add photos to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, Instagram was really designed by photographers, for photographers.  So if photography is your thing, this is the social media for you!

6.  No writing required, other than the hashtags.  You can write a brief (or longer) description if you want, and some great Instagrammers do, but you certainly don’t have to.  Writing pressure off!

7.  This social media actually encourages you to LEARN a skill – how to be a better photographer.  With photo editing apps like Mextures, folks share their formulas for their photo filters on Instagram, thereby sharing their techniques.  And often they share a list of the photo editing apps they have used.

8.  How did they do it?  Look at different feeds and try to figure out how a particular photo was created.  Then download some new photo editing apps and try to recreate a photo you see.  I guarantee you will become a better photographer just by doing this!   Also sometimes photos are made available for others to submit their edits to.  Great interactions!!

9.  It is the perfect way to visually display your products for a business.  I use my feed for all my photography, but have seen some businesses beautifully display their goods using their Instagram accounts.

10.  Other services, like Printstagram work with your Instagram photos for printing purposes.  Create business cards, magnets, calendars, posters, t-shirts, and prints for yourself or your business.  Can’t do that with Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  The folks at Facebook took a look, and purchased Instagram in April 2012!  Smart move.

Shopify vs WordPress-Spanning the Bridge

Final-Whidbey-Bridge-1

As some of you know, I recently moved my sassmuffins.com website to Shopify.  I made the decision to do this so that I could better showcase my pet products.  And while I still think I made the best decision for my business, I can’t say the “switch” has been the smoothest transition.

I have had a self-hosted WordPress account, one that gave me a fair amount of flexibility with my blogging, since the summer of 2012.  As my annual renewal for this self-hosted site was due in March, I rather quickly looked at other options out there to make the best business choice.  After researching the available e-commerce venues, I decided to go with Shopify.   They had a lot of product options I did not have, and were noted for their great customer service.  And, their monthly fees were reasonable for the number of products I would be listing (limit of 100 products).

I also decided that as a short interim solution, I would move my posts to a free WordPress account.  This would give me additional time to work at my own pace on the new Shopify site.  This part actually went rather well, with a couple of very major exceptions.   Apparently 99.9% of people move from a free account to a self-hosted account, not the other way around.  And you can export/import your subscribers from a  free to a self-hosted WordPress account, NOT the other way around.  In fact if you have subscribers via email, you will simply loose them with this transition.  That’s what happened to me; I lost several hundred subscribers.  And those that had me on their feed are not longer seeing me.  Double blow!

The second major issue with moving a blog is that photos don’t actually transfer.  Meaning, they may show up on the new site – but only so long as they are linking back to the old site!  Since my self-hosted WordPress account would be closing, I knew I had to add photos from two years worth of posts into the media files of my new free WordPress account.  Since I rather love photos, this took a great deal of time.  This is also something I need to do over time with my new Shopify account, just in case this free WordPress account is ever closed.

Shopify did take a little time to learn; there are certainly differences from WordPress, but overall the setup and creation are much easier.  I think that is because you are working off of a preselected template, which really helps.  I definitely love the way my products are now showcased, and that I have a cart that is visible within any screen on the site.

So here’s the rub.  If you only want a blog, go with WordPress.  If you want a shop, go with Shopify.  If you want both – well maybe you know of a better solution, but WordPress doesn’t do a good job with products, and Shopify definitely has limitations with a blog.

With Shopify you can’t receive notices of a new post.  Everything within their system is, logically, set up for a ‘customer’ list, not a ‘subscriber’ list.  As such I have signed up with MailChimp (yep more to learn) to be able to send out regular newsletters to those that sign up to receive them on my sassmuffins.com website.  Certainly more effort on my part…create the posts and also a newsletter, although I am looking forward to creating my first one.   And once again a loss of hundreds of post subscribers!  And although there is a  Shopify app ($5 per month) that would automatically download all my WordPress posts to Shopify, to see any comments you are linked back to the WordPress account.  Ridiculous!  You end up with comments on the WordPress site, and other comments (on the same post) on the Shopify site.

My first thought was just to keep the free WordPress account as an archive of older posts, but I have since decided to put all my posts on both sites, manually.   Sometimes I may only put excerpts of full posts on my WordPress account.  This way those that want to  follow my blog may do so via this method; certainly my hope is that most will choose to sign up for the newsletter on my Shopify site.  Certainly folks are welcome to do both!  Either way, I encourage everyone to see my new sassmuffins.com website.  It showcases photography and products beautifully!

Have you found any great solutions to your shop vs blogging issues?

Snappy H’appy Photo Challenge-Week 12-Mix It Up

snappyhappy-galactic

I have certainly missed some weeks of this photo challenge as I have been creating my new Shopify web site, however am delighted to be able to finish the last couple of weeks, and plan on going back and completing the weeks I missed.  The idea for this final post is to “mix it up”, by using at least two out of the 11 different image edit options covered in the last 11 weeks via hosts We Live in a Flat and Fire Bonnet.

Beds-RawOriginal Bed Photo

I went back in time and pulled some of the first product photos I took with my kitties.  All four photos were taken with my DSLR Sony camera.  I decided not to pull them into Photoshop to blend out the white sheet I used as a background, but chose rather to completely edit these with the photo editing apps on my phone.

To start, I edited each of them separately with the photo app Afterlight.  I particularly wanted to use this app because it would easily allow me to “straighten” the photos, as well as apply other more standard editing techniques like brighten, contrast, sharpen, etc.  I then pulled the photo without cats into “Over” to add text, followed by a trip through “PicsArt” to add an artistic effect.  Last but certainly not least I turned to the “Moldiv” app to use the collage effect to pull all four photos together.  This is the finished result.  Hope you like it.  Saying “Here Kitty Kitty” certainly works for my guys!

Here-Kitty-Kitty Final Edited Photo

I want to thank our hosts We Live in a Flat and Fire Bonnet for this super challenge.  Even though I missed some weeks, I feel my editing skills with photo apps have tremendously increased.  And have filled up space on my iPhone and iPad. 🙂

Here is a list of all the photo apps I tried during the past 11 weeks:

Snapseed
Afterlight
Photo Toaster
100 Cameras
PS Express
Toon Camera
Bokeh Lens
Pic Art
LensLight
VSCOcam
Pho.to Lab
TextonPS
easyTITLER
Montager
Phonto
MobileMonet
Waterlogue
Glaze
Moldiv
Split Pic Pro
PicsArt
Mexture
Over
Alien Sky
Fragment
Disco Sketch
DistressedFx

Many of these I tried and did not even touch on during the challenge.  And although I guess this is showing some preference, I think that the one singular app that has me most enthralled me is Mextures, because it lets you create your own filters!  That being said, most of these apps are wonderful and well worth the time to explore.  So try some, and enjoy all that the new digital world has to offer.

Snappy H’appy Photo Challenge-Week 10-Color Splash

snappyhappy-galactic

Welcome to Week 10 of the Snappy H’appy Photo Challenge.  Color Splash, or basically a way to bring out a singular color or splash of color in an otherwise black and white photo – is something I have always wanted to learn how to do.  After reading over all the great advice from hosts We Live in a Flat and Firebonnet, I jumped right into this challenge!

Selective color is a post-processing technique where most of a photo is converted to black and white, but some parts are left in color…  The selective color technique emphasizes parts of the photo and draws more attention to the subject.

After reading the post at We Live in a Flat, I checked out the app PicsArt, and found it very easy to use to apply this effect.  The effect can also be applied via Leonardo, but it uses masking and is a little more difficult to apply.  Here is a short video on color splash in the app Leonardo.

After looking at some other color splash examples, I decided to use a photo of my cat Tyler’s eyes.  but with alterations first, of course!

Original-Tyler-1

Original Photo of Tyler

After basic editing in Afterlight, I pulled three photos (Tyler’s eyes, and two quilt photos) into the app Split Pic Pro.  (Hint:  Photograph fabric, walls, floors, anything with texture to save and use in “combined” photos at a later date.)  This app allows you to quickly select several photos to place in a collage, and then blend together.  The blending level is easily done via a slide bar.  Here are the three photos I used in the app, with blending applied.

Snagit Tyler Photo 1

And another photo after application of filters to each photo, again easily accomplished directly within the screen you are working on.  Just highlight each separate photo, and a selection of filters will be at the bottom of the screen, as seen here:

Snagit Tyler Photo 2

I chose filters that would better highlight my main subject.  Those two quilt photos added some nice texture – abstract art – to my kitty’s face!  Once happy with these additional edits in the Split Pic Pro app, I saved the photo and then pulled it into PicsArt for the final color splash application.  I even tweaked the eye color to make the eyes more blue within the color splash screen.

Final-Tyler-Eyes.1

App Challenge Image
Abstract Cat

Mobile Device: iPhone 4s
Apps Used:  Afterlight, Split Pic Pro, PicsArt

I simply love these photos of my sweet kitty Tyler.  Part cat – part art!!  Meow.