My Life in Photography

19 Jun

I received this lovely comment today on Etsy from Sandy of FairyQueenCrochet, a fellow FAEteam member:

I don’t know why I didn’t do this before, I hearted tons of your necklaces. No wonder you have sold so much! Your work is faerieimpeccable and faerielicious. You have so many wonderful materials you work with, I’m so impressed again. And your pix are fantastic–all with different faerie-related backgrounds. You are sooo talented. I bow to the FaerieKat!
xxx Sandy

I’ve been giving Sandy some tips about how to use her computer and improve the SEO of her Etsy shop, and we joined the FAEteam together back in February.  She’s a lovely lady with an amazing background; I encourage you to read her profile.

Anyway, her comment sent me musing about the past 10 months and this was my reply to her, which I also want to share with you, dear Internet:

Hi Sweetie*

Well, I’ll tell you I didn’t get there overnight! And I sweated plenty, too.

When I sold my work wardrobe on eBay, I hung stuff on the back of a door and used auto settings and flash. The colors were horrid and I had to resort to directed people to the Behr paint site to show them what the colors actually looked like! I’m surprised I sold anything.

When I started selling on Etsy, I threw a white sheet on my bed and thought that would be fine. Ha! Horrid. So I started reading and it looked like the big thing was natural light, so I took my little folding table that I used for my sewing machine out in the backyard in the Florida sun and heat with a few props and turned off the flash. I nearly melted and died of heat stroke, and the photos were still horrid, plus somewhere along the way I lose one of a pair of earrings. Outside was OUT!

Then I tried shooting next to a window, but the sun was still too strong and hot, and made nasty dark shadows, plus keeping myself out of the way was a problem. I was so frustrated.

Then I learned about light boxes. Holy cow! But they were EX-PEN-SEEVE! So I searched for ideas on how to make your own, and found tons of examples just using a [cardboard] box. I decided to use parchment paper (which I didn’t see anyone else using) because I didn’t feel like cutting up a sheet or going out and buying cloth. The next problem was lighting and I’m still struggling with that. Goose-neck lamps today won’t let you put bright enough lights in them, but I had some of those aluminum work lights from the automotive section (the ones that look like metal helmets), but what to attach them to? One I attached to my entertainment cabinet and the other to my camera tripod. Not very happy with this arrangement because (1) I can’t move anywhere because I’m “tethered” to a huge piece of furniture and (2) I can’t use my camera with my tripod! I’d also like to have a third light, but how I would mount it is so beyond me, I haven’t even gone there.

Then the hard part began. If you’re going to use a light box, you have to get down, dirty and intimate with your camera. My camera is a digital camera that can go completely manual, so I started learning about API and f-stops, white balance and micro photography. It was horribly daunting and I began to see why good photographers get paid so well and really great photographers are celebrities. It’s damn hard work!

I started out using plain white poster board inside my light box, but it got scratched and dirty looking pretty quickly. One day I was at the craft store and thought I’d pick up a couple pages of scrapbook paper that had text on them. I could only find one page in the single page bins and was really disappointed. When I turned around and began to exit the row, the corner of my eye just happened to pull in a book set of pages themed to fairytales. Every page was gorgeous and there were a few with text, so I ignored the price and bought it. And then had to relearn all the settings I’d need in order to photograph with them — very different than shooting just a white background! But very worthwhile, I think.

So every time I sit down in front of my light box, I’m thinking about soooo many things: how the camera operates, how to position the item, how “good photos” were framed, how the color is working, that any props are not overwhelming my item, etc. And then I take about 80-100 photos of every item. I play with perspective, distance and angles. Many come out crappy and/or blurry. Some you can’t tell what you’re looking at!

Then I start editing using Paint Shop Pro. First thing I determine is if the lighting wasn’t right and use a tool called Curves under Adjust Brightness and Contrast that lets me lighten the photo up exactly as much as needed. Then I crop the photo into a square (all my photos come out rectangular) and this is where I can really get creative for my Space #1 shot, the “money shot.” Needs to be interesting enough to pull the eye while being suggestive enough so a buyer can mostly tell what the item is, but doesn’t have to be a mug shot (i.e., item with empty space all around it, which I try to include as one of the other photos, plus one photo of the item, if it’s a wearable item, on some kind of form, be it a model or moi). Since I took so many photos, I have lots of material to “play” with.

Do I always hit the mark? Nope. I don’t always hit the mark with the actual item, either. But each effort gives me a little more confidence.

So, that’s my tale and it began last August. Two more months and I’ll be one year old!

If you click on anyone’s number of sales, you can see their very first sale and when they made it, and what their photography looked like then:

My photos and my shop have all gone through so many metamorphoses, I feel like I have a brain the size of a butterfly!

So, hang in there, sweetie!



*Yeah, yeah, it’s archaic and some people think it’s demeaning and condescending.  If what follows is not demeaning or condescending, then how can what came before be so?  And what’s wrong with antiquated speech?  Antique furnishings and clothing is okay, but I have to speak ebonics to please people living in the 21st century?  Bosh!  Another archaic word you don’t hear very often and I know a ton more.

I’ve been living in the South now for nigh on 17 years and I’ve never been one to fret about being Politically Correct.  Polite, yes; PC, no.  If you don’t like it, feel free to substitute a word of your own choosing.

I call my girlfriends “Miss,” too, as in “Miss Karen,” and they call me “Miss Kat.”  We live in the South and we’re just freaky that way.  And we’re mostly harmless, as long as you don’t get riled up over stupid shit that just don’t matter.

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