Friday, March 28, 2014

Fancy schmancy picture taking

I need a new camera. Mine is slowly deteriorating and there's now a lovely blotch of something on the lens. It's not terribly noticeable... but I know it's there. Although it's time to move on, I'm reluctant because I love my camera. It's a just a little compact Sony BUT it gets the job done and I'm not terrified of dropping it.

Before this bad boy goes into semi-retirement, I thought I'd talk a bit about photography. I get a number of questions about shooting and to be absolutely honest this is set up for 99% of the things I shoot...

 ... a dinged up camera, a window, and a thick piece of white cardboard. That's it. I do have a lightbox but I only use it in emergencies or when I'm shooting glass objects and dealing with reflections (I'm just too damned lazy to iron the backdrop).

Before I go any further I should note here that I am NOT a photographer so the 'tips' I'm about to share will make anyone with any sort of knowledge shudder. Take everything I'm about to tell you with a grain of salt. I'm just trying to pass along a few pointers that work for me when shooting my work for the web.

So, my 'product' shots are almost always set up something like this:

I simply place my item on a large opaque white piece of cardstock. If I can not shoot outside, I find the brightest source of NATURAL light in the house, preferably with the light hitting the front of the item. I shoot on "Auto" mode, with my macro setting turned on (because I often shoot close-ups of detail), flash turned off. I also shoot larger than I need to just in case. You can always shrink your images, but you can never make them larger.

So, this is the untouched shot from the above set up.

You can see there's a bit of a funky shadow happening on the lower right of the photo. Look out for details like this  when setting up. Fiddle around and adjust until there's nothing terribly ugly going on. Bright but slightly overcast weather is great, it reduces harsh shadows. Now take LOADS of photos! It only takes a few minutes to shoot a dozen extra shots and it's absolutely worth having those extras to choose from.

I don't mind that the photo is a little grey because I adjust all of my photos before publishing them. I use Photoshop. The two adjustments I almost always make are to the 'Levels' (to brighten and add depth) and 'Selective Colour' (to remove excess colour from my whites). Here's my pic after being jumbled around in Photoshop and slapped with a watermark. There's still some cyan in the white but you get the idea...

But not everyone has Photoshop! Luckily there's a number of free online photo editors. Below I'm using to fiddle with this image. Now, sometimes just selecting "Auto Levels" will be enough to improve a photo... but this can also have strange results at times. Don't be afraid of playing around to see what all of the different 'adjustments' do. That's exactly how I learned. Here I am fiddling with the 'Levels'...

See that box with the graph looking thing? It's really not that scary or complicated. Let's take a better look at that box...

Those little house looking things slide from side to side. The black box on the left represents black/dark colours, moving it to the right makes them darker. The middle box represents midtones/neutral areas and moving it left will brighten your midtones, to the right and they will darken. The box on the right adjusts the lightest areas, sliding it to the left will lighten the lightest areas of your picture.

I was taught that you should adjust using "Curves" not "Levels" ... but I've never seen eye to eye with that method and this works just fine for me. I suggest you do the same, experiment that is, and do what works for you... even if that means ignoring everything I've just said. Whatever gets the job done is the right and proper way to do things.

Anyway, the point of this whole blabby post is just to say that you don't need loads of fancy equipment to take fair shots of your work. Natural light, loads of pictures, a little practice and experimentation editing can help you tremendously without investing in loads of fancy equipment.

All that said, I would not sneeze at a nice fancy camera that had loads of bells and whistles to fiddle and have fun with :) My birthday does end in a "0" this year so that means an extra nice prezzie right?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Petaloo redo with Marion Smith

A while ago... a long while... my friend gifted me this sweet little house to play with...

It has sat quietly for a very long time, waiting patiently for attention.

Not quite so long ago Petaloo asked if might like to be a guest designer during their Marion Smith blog hop. I love Petaloo's products so I jumped at the chance! As soon as I saw the Marion Smith papers I knew they were destined to transform this cutie into a shabby chic abode.

So with a bit of love, products and a bucket of glue, here's the after:

You can see more pics over on the Petaloo blog but here are a couple of my favourite details:

The copper drain pipe. It's simply a bendy drinking straw painted with copper enamel paint but I sort of love it. I'm also pretty proud of that roof tpp! I made a slew of those tiles and still ran out halfway through and had to make a second batch. The effect was totally worth the effort.
And finally a peek at the interior which is very fancy indeed with loads of beautiful floral products from Petaloo and a very important tea box hedgehog :)

It was an absolute pleasure to design for Petaloo during the Marion Smith blog hop. And, just in case something strikes your fancy, here's a list of the products I used...

Botanica Blooms Pink & Teal
Botanica Mini's Pink  & Teal
Botanica Chantilly Mixed Blooms Cream

Spring Berry Clusters Pink
Flora Doodles Velvet Hydrangeas Cream & Pink
Marion Smith MOTLEY
Off the Wall
Not too Shabby
• Darling
Marion Smith NEVER GROW UP
• In the Garden
• Treasure Map
• Never Never
Other Products
Flower and Leaves Dresden Borders
Chipboard Window Frames
Bendy Straws
Wooden Stir Sticks
Miscellaneous buttons and other vintage 'junk'
Acrylic Paint

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Castle Gormenghast

Another swap item I shouldn't be sharing... but I will... because I'm cheeky ;)

This time a representation of Castle Gormenghast from the Mervyn Peake series.

Here's his description of it:

"They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven."

If you've never read the books they are beautifully written. Truly, astoundingly, pretty and witty but certainly not everyone's tastes. And that's ok... I can't even count the number of titles I've seen on 'Books to read before you die' lists and rolled my eyes. Life would be awfully boring if we all loved the same things :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

221B update and a terrible something

No. 5 in the series of 221B Baker Street tins will be listed on etsy tomorrow. (UPDATE: the 5th tin has sold). It will likely be the last one listed for a fair while. At least one more time will be available for purchase, for the time being reserved for the Undershaw Preservation Trust, to (probably) be auctioned when they are ready to accept donations. I'm not sure when that might be... if I knew, I pinky swear that I would tell you.

Work has slowly started on another set of tins. This set will be even more limited than the last and I'm turning my attention to horror. Besides being a big fan of sweet daydreams and fantasy... I freely admit to enjoying a bit of bloody fun.

Anyway, I'm still working out the "this and that's" in my brain (which takes ages upon ages)  but I have started with this gruesome thing:

I think it'll be a fun piece when complete... if my brain and fingers can agree to get along. :)

The Tiniest Teacups

A friend gifted me a collection of tiny tea cups and saucers. In my dimly lit studio, late into the night, I set to work filling them with little flowers, mossy cottages and handmade toadstools.

They measure between  2.25" and 2.75". They are quite tiny and rather precious.

Now, available in the etsy shop.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A pretty pouty something

This month's kit at Alpha Stamps is all about feminine, frills and corsets. I've gussied up a plain wooden plaque with the March kit supplies and few extra bobs and made something perfectly suited for a quiet corner of a boudoir.

Did you know that the word boudoir come from the French verb bouder, meaning "to be sulky"? You can hardly blame those poor gals for being a little pouty... having to wear corsets all day and afforded so few bubble baths. Sulking would be completely understandable! Still, there is something so very pretty about the blasted things ;)

March French Corset Kit 
Embossed Paper Oak Leaves
Purple Iris Paper Flowers*
Antique Brass Wreath
Vintage button
5 x 7" plaque

Peace, Love and Art

When Graphic 45 asked if we might make a little something in the name of peace I hoed and hummed and thought about how busy I am... and then I shook my head and slapped myself silly. Of course I'd be honored to craft in the name of peace and spread a little love!

And so I created this small altered canvas to hang as a hopeful token for peace for our friends in the Ukraine (sending loads of love to fellow design team member Olga!) and all areas affected by war and strife. What a beautiful world it would be if all people lived with dignity and respect and without fear of war or retribution.

More pictures and more fabulous peace projects by Annette Green and Rhea Freitag on the Graphic 45 blog today.

And here's the supply list... you know... if you want to spread some love too xoxo