6 Step Photography Tutorial Video

Hi everyone,

Today I’m sharing one of the videos from our Craft Business Academy. I think you’ll really enjoy it. I’d encourage you to consider jumping into our next Craft Business Academy course. It is schedule for July, but I’m considering offering it in March if there is enough interest.

Get tons of tutorials, tips, and techniques: http://www.pinterest.com/jasonmiles/photo-lessons-inspiration/

Get a used Canon 300D Listings On eBay: http://ebay.to/1KVyQlc

Get a 50MM Portrait Lens Listings on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1xLXiva

I’d love to hear your tips for Product Photography – just add them as a comment.

 

ebook Cover Comment Contest & Poll

Hi everyone, We are really excited about our new ebook for crafters, artisans, and small business owners. Want to help us decide on the cover and final title? Give us your feedback and win a chance to get all five of our paperback books, plus a seat in the February Design Academy.

COVER OPTION #1

COVER OPTION #1

Cover & Title Poll:

Tell us what you think is better – option #1 or option #2 – by participating in the poll below. Cover Option One: The “Internet Pricing Power” option – (with white, red, and black). Cover Option Two: The “Craft Pricing Power” option – with denim and a design that generally matched Craft Business Power.

Comment Contest

To enter the comment contest – leave a comment with your feedback on this post. In your comment, answer the question, “I like Option, [insert option], because, [insert reason].

Awesome Prizes

Two lucky winners will be chosen at random and receive a tons of great prizes. Including,

COVER OPTION #2

COVER OPTION #2

A copy of five books,

(That’s more than a $60.00 value).

Plus, free access to the February Design Academy.

That’s a $79 value. [If you win and you’re already enrolled in the February Design Academy, you’ll be refunded the amount you’ve already paid – so your participation is free.]

No purchase necessary, void where prohibited.

The winner will be chosen at random on January 26th, 2014.

Give Us Your Feedback

Not only is this a comment contest – it’s also a chance to get your feedback about our new books title and cover art. We know that “Pricing” was the #1 issue that our Liberty Jane Partners expressed concerns with when we recently asked them. So we want to make sure we’re presenting this information in a way that appeals to craft business owners. Let us know what you think.

New Photography Resource

Hi everybody,

We just came across a new photographer and his online resources that we are really liking alot. His name is Karl Taylor. You can check him out on Youtube. He has a free micro-training course for beginners that very good (Just look for it on his Youtube channel). Of course he’ll try to sell you his full course, but he gives a LOT of free information away. We think you’ll really enjoy it. Here is his Youtube channel link: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatPhotographyTips

Here is an example video from Youtube:

Camera Upgrade Story…

Hi everyone,

We got this great email from Robyn of Hadley’s Modern Doll Fashions (etsy) and here she is on EBay, and Facebook.

We thought we’d turn it into a little article to encourage you to consider upgrading your camera… Here is her story in her own words:

Hi, Cinnamon!

I bought a Sony Alpha 100 used on Ebay about 3 weeks ago. I paid $285, and a huge smart card (I think 8 GB) was included on the deal.

The deciding factor in going with the Sony was the reported ease of use for people not familiar with using a DSLR (which is 100% true) and also that you can use most older SLR Minolta lenses.

So after I bought the Sony, I bought an old 50 mm Minolta lens on Ebay for $59.

The difference in picture quality is shocking! I’m almost embarrassed to say what I had been using, which were a couple of Fuji FinePix point and shoot cameras. There’s really no comparison. It’s the difference between steak and hamburger. LOL. With the Fujis, I would go outside with the white tag boards for the best lighting, as I do now, and the pictures would turn out OK, but the new camera & Lens almost give the pictures a 3D quality.

My LJC experience has been so much fun and rewarding! I love the patterns, and really, everything having to do with selling on ebay. I’m remembering a lot of HTML I’ve forgotten, and now I’m getting hooked on photography. Oh, yeah, and my sewing skills have really improved too. LOL. Just the challenge of the sell is very exciting, and I’ve actually met a couple of fellow enthusiasts that I can talk shop with. I had hoped I might make a little extra fun money doing this, and this is happening, but I’m gaining skills that are way more valuable! So anyway, just wanted to tell you that because you really tapped into a creative outlet for a lot of people. This is way better than selling Avon. LOL.

Thanks again,

Robyn

Here is a picture showing before (left) and after (right):

2 Powerful selling tools

If you’ve got a product that you think is attractive to customers, and you’re operating in a niche that you think has potential, and you have a brand that you think is exciting to people, then there are 2 critical tools that you need to focus on developing.

#1 Copy writing

Copy writing is the art of describing your product in the most compelling way possible. It is the single most important skill you can develop to effectively sell online.

Here is an example… Our daughter Libby has started to sew, and wanted to sell her outfits on Etsy. But she didn’t want any help – she wanted to do it all on her own. We thought that was admirable. So, she made a cute skirt, and took pictures herself, and put them on the computer, and after a bit of help with getting an Etsy account set-up, she listed the item herself. She wrote the description very acurately. It was a good and straight-forward description of what she was selling. But her listing didn’t sell. Days went by, and there was no action. So, finally, depressed, she asked me for help. We changed her listing description slightly to include the following openning sentences, (this is a paraphrase, we can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something like this),

“Hi, I’m Libby, from Liberty Jane Clothing – my mom named the company after me. This is my very first outfit I made to sell, and someday I’m going to be a big time designer. So, if you want to be able to say you bought my very first outfit, then you should buy this”.

The outfit sold the same day we made this change. What did we do? We created a story – that the buyer could be a part of. It’s a classic copy writing technique. An engaging story gives the potential buyer a reason to finish the transaction. Another example of storytelling is when we started our “International Collection” for our Fall and Spring lines. It was a ‘framework’ for the stories that allowed us to create ongoing small stories as we launched new outfits. Now instead of listing a “tan dress” we could list it as the “Outback Libby – Faraway Downs Dress”.

The best copy writers that we’ve found are 1) Bob Bly and 2) Craig Garber. They are true masters. If you want their tips just sign-up for their emails and you’ll get a TON of free advice every few days, (they publish their emails almost daily). And of course, every once in a while, you’ll also get a terrificly written ‘pitch’ for one of their books. And you should buy them if you need help with copy writing. And make sure you read all our articles about wrting.

#2 Product Photography

If you can take a very good picture of your product, then online selling will become almost effortless. I know, that’s a bold statement, but we’ve found it to be true ourselves, and seen it to be true for many other sellers. If there is 1 skill that most online sellers fail to fully perfect, it’s photography. But all things being equal, it’s a huge game-changer. When it comes to photography there are two basic issues:

  1. Equipment. We’ve outlined what we use on this post. And we’d encourage you to seriously consider getting a DSLR and Portrait Lens. It will change your life.
  2. Technique. Once you have the right gear, you can learn the basic functions of your camera and lens pretty quickly. There are tons of free as well as paid online resources. Here is a post.

These two powerful selling tools will be a huge benefit to you if you learn to do them well. Go ahead, get obsessed with them. Spend a little money, and become a pro. You won’t regret it.

Are you looking for a good camera?

We use a Canon 300D, and you can find them on Ebay for pretty inexpensive. Here is a link to some:

Click here to see what’s currently on EBay

As we’ve said in our photography posts – upgrading your camera is a key to success. And the funny thing is, you really don’t have to spend very much to get a good product photography camera, (like the 300D), and a good product photography lens, (like this one).

Let me know if you have any questions about camera decisions.

Cinnamon

Adding Photobucket pics to Ebay – Screencast…

Hi everyone,

Cathy asked a great question about how to add photobucket pictures to Ebay listings, (in response to our post “3 Ways to Add Wow”). So, here’s a screencast showing you how we do it. Why do it this way? Well, this allows you to add as many pictures to your listing as you want – for free!! And it’s within Ebay’s policy guidelines, so it’s a great way to save money and improve the quality of your listings. Enjoy, and leave comments below if you have questions…

[wpvideo i0CHdyBh]

Photography Gear, what we use, and why

Hi everyone,

Let’s talk photography! We are going to break it down for you and share exactly what we use and why. Since there is sooo much photography information on the web, just Google any of the terms we use to see a wide array of articles, pictures, definitions,etc.

We’ll cover this in 3 parts:

1. The camera

2. The lenses

3. The post production software tools

But first, just to cut to the chase, here is an overview of what we use…we’ll explain “why” in the 3 parts…

What we use

We use an old Canon DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera, an SLR camera is the kind that you can attach lenses to, and the D means they use memory cards instead of film. Ours is now referred to as a 300D, but when we bought it everyone was just calling it the “Digital Rebel”. It is the original Canon DSLR that came out in October 2003. It was revolutionary. We’ve had newer and more expensive Canon cameras, but this is our old faithful, like a good old dog that just does what you want. Man we love this camera. It’s been to Africa, South America, Europe, all over, and it’s never let us down.

For lenses we use 3 fixed focal length lenses, (also called portrait lenses). Here are links to the descriptions for the 2 main ones, (the third one we use is a 30mm f1.4, but we don’t use it very often). These lenses are not common, and really used by photographers more than anyone else. In fact, we just looked on Ebay and you can’t find any of them. But when you just Google it, you can find them. They aren’t cheap, but this is the game changer. This is what makes our photography above average.

For post production software, we use Photoshop Elements 7 (PSE 7). You can get a free trial online, or buy Elements 8 at Costco for $49. We tested Adobe Lightroom thru their free trial last year, which was amazing, but elements does everything we need it to. And we’re pretty frugal, so we decided we didn’t need lightroom. The number 1 function we use PSE for is saturating our photos. This warms them up and makes the colors ‘pop’.

Here are pictures of the lenses we use. The 50MM Lens: This is a low end 50mm lens, (because it’s a f1.8). If you get the f1.4 it’s like $350.

The 85mm. This is our work-horse. We use it the most. It’s a game changer.

Okay, let’s talk cameras, lenses, and post production software.

Cameras

Our recommendation is simple – If you want the best pictures, then you’ve got to move away from a ‘point and shoot’ style camera, and get into the DSLR cameras. Our DSLR is probably the cheapest one you’ll find, (here is a link to them on Ebay). Looks like you can get one for a couple hundred dollars, we’ve seen them go for less on Ebay. When they were new they were $999. If our old faithful 300D dies, we will probably get a used 40D rather than a brand new Canon.

Amazon: Canon EOS Digital Rebel 300D

The reason DSLR cameras are important is because they allow you to use sophisticated lenses, which is the #1 game changer that separates the ‘hey look at my nice picture at the beach’ type pictures into, “Wow, are you a professional photographer” type pictures. DSLR’s generally are geared to allow you to control what you’re doing very carefully as well, but the #1 attribute, (in our opinion), is the ability to attach special lenses. Now days, there are really 2 popular DSLRs, Canon or Nikon. Either is great.

Lenses

(This pic is of our 50mm lens on a newer DSLR that we had, but got rid of because old faithful was better)

With lenses you’ve got 2 basic options. A Fixed Focal Length lens, or a lens with an adjustable zoom, (meaning you can zoom in to focus on something, then zoom out to focus on something else without physically getting up and walking around). With a fixed focal length lens, it will focus on different things automatically, at different distances, but there is no zoom. So if you want to get closer or farther away, you stand up, and walk around.

Beyond these 2 basic choices, you get into a crazy number of options. And of course, there are lots of opinions, but, as you can tell by what we personally use, we believe strongly that a fixed focal length lens will produce the best result. So we won’t even cover zoom lenses in this post. Needless to say, when you go look at cameras, they always come with a zoom lens. And generally, you’re not going to find fixed length lenses at Best Buy.

These lenses allow you to shoot in lower light and not use a flash. NOT using a flash is a key to getting great shots.

If you want a fixed length lens, you’ll need to shop online, they have them at Amazon, or visit an old-school camera shop in your community. Our 30mm, 50mm, and 85mm fixed focal length lenses provide us with all the options we need to shoot everything we want to shoot.

Going deeper with fixed length lenses. As usual, there are options that make fixed length lenses more expensive, or less expensive. The aperture (or F stop) is the lens function that allows light to come into the camera. Google it to learn more, but bottomline, the smaller the f-stop number a lens will go to, the more expensive that lens will be, and generally the better the images it can produce. So, a 50mm lens with a f/1.8 (that’s how you’ll see this function described) like the one we use, (the one pictured above), goes for about $90. But a 50mm lens with a f /1.4 goes for$350+. The highest quality lenses generally go to f / 1.2 and use something called L-series glass. These are the types of lenses that can shoot at night without a flash. Those lenses are around $1,000 and up. No need for that!
Here is a link to one on Amazon: Shop for it at Amazon

Bottomline on camera and lenses:

Our best advise for the camera and lens, to someone who is frugal, or not in a position to spend much, but wants to take their game to the next level is to get a used Canon (or Nikon) DSLR, and a 50mm f/1.8 lens, or something similar. This set-up will probably set you back about $350, (we’d guess).

Software

Software is easy. Get a trial version of Adobe Photoshop Elements and try it out. You’ll like it. Photoshop Elements is the ‘light’ version of “Photoshop” Adobe’s premiere image software. Overall though, if you’ve got a good lens, and shoot in good light, you’re not going to need to do very much to your pictures after you take them, in fact it’s generally better if you don’t do much. However, there are a couple things we regularly do, which we’ll mention:

Crop them – you can do this on any software. Just tighten up the image to only include what you absolutely need to have people see.

Saturate them – this warms up the colors, especially if your light wasn’t good. But be careful, if you satuate pictures too much, the colors will be presented differently to your online customers than the garment looks in real life…you don’t want that, so don’t saturate too much. Usually just a little goes a long way.

Concluson

Photography work is like any other performing art where an instrument is used – a great photographer can get great pictures on a point-and-shoot camera. But give them a DSLR with a great lens, and they’ll blow your mind. To get good you need to master the basics, then get equipment that lets you do a few special things, (like shoot without a flash).  If you follow our advice in this post, and our advice in the 10 tips post, you’ll be well on your way to radical improvements in your photography. And remember, just like any performing art – practice makes perfect.

And last but not least – some of you are AMAZING photographers! Please share your knowledge, and or links to articles you’ve found helpful.

10 tips for Pro Photography

10 Tips For Pro PhotographyHi everyone,

Let’s talk photography. This post will be about the ‘how-to’ stuff. The next post will be about specific equipment recommendations.

Intro: In some ways it seems silly to write about picture taking skills, because it’s so commonly written about on the internet. But sadly, lots of folks selling doll clothes have decided not to focus on this important part of the presentation, and we believe that’s a big mistake. So, we have a few things to suggest. Our top 10 tips…

1. Google, “taking great pictures” or something similar, and then read 10 articles, with a note-pad at your side.

2. Take notes and make a collection of all your favorite ideas.

3. Take 100 pictures trying out the various techniques. When it comes to photography, like with any other art, practice makes perfect.

4. Natural Light! Go outside! The best pictures will be in warmly lit, (but not harshly lit). Obay this rule and your pictures will improve tremendously. We never use a flash, and you should avoid it too. Our lenses allow us to operate this way, (read the post about our equipment). Natural light with no flash! It’s best.

5. Want A White Background? A simple way to shoot on a white background outside, (if you want to have a white background), is just to use white foam-core board from the art supply store. Use one piece for the ground, (setting your doll on it), and one piece immediately behind the doll. We use our patio table for this all the time. The effect will be a fully ‘white’ background, but shot in warm light. (I realize this can be a bit hard to visualize, so I’ll take a picture of it sometime soon and insert it in this post).

6. The Golden Hour! Take your pictures an hour, or so, before sun-down. This is well-known to be the absolute best light of the day, and photographers call it ‘the golden hour’. You can shoot outside earlier if it’s overcast, but if it’s sunny, shoot during this specific time. There is a reason it’s called the golden hour. Photos come out amazing! Glowing, warm, beautiful.

7. No clutter! More important, (almost), than the item you’re shooting, is the background. Remove all clutter. Find a solid surface, ideally one that people won’t recognize, and use it as the backdrop. Place your doll 4 or 5 feet in front of the backdrop, (not right up next to it).

8. Get closer to your doll, (or outfit)! Why do so many Ebay sellers take their doll, set it against the kitchen cabinets, and then back up 10 feet and take a picture, (just one of course). You can do better. Get close, and then get closer! You don’t need to take a picture of the entire outfit every shot. Some can b extreme close-ups.

9. Crop and saturate. If you open your pictures in Windows, (desktops anyway), you can generally edit the images. Crop them. Then saturate them, (but not too much). Saturation warms up the image. Just be careful not to affect the color too much. You don’t want it to be an inaccurate representation of the original.

10. Take a lot! There is no substitute for taking a lot of pics. For any given outfit we are going to sell, we usually take over 100 pictures or more.  We sort them into “good ones” and save those as a separate folder, (our folder structure ends up looking like this – “Spring 2010” then “U.K. Holiday” then “Good Ones”. Then we look through those for the absolute best 5 or 6.

Okay, next post will be all about the specific camera we use, and the lenses, and the software. Stay tuned…