Know Your Camera to Make Your Jewelry Pictures ROCK!

So you’ve made a stunning piece that you need to photograph, but the pictures just don’t do it justice. Why not?   

A lot of people jump to the conclusion that the problem is the camera itself, it’s too old, it’s not expensive enough, the lens isn’t good enough. I beg to differ. Chances are  it’s not the camera, but the settings on the camera that haven’t been adjusted for the piece.

Initially I thought as most people did: My camera just sucks, I need a new one! Luckily, before I shelled out another $200.00+ on a new camera, I decided to browse the Etsy blogs to see if there were any tricks I needed to try. I am so grateful to those that took the time to post their tips and saved me the extra money! So I’ve complied my favorite tips here so hopefully others can run with these and take great pictures too!

LIGHTING– While I was reading through the Etsy tutorials on photographing, one thing everyone seemed to agree on was use of a light box, a daylight bulb and a pleasing background. So after seeing CRAZY prices for a light box, I decided to create my own, as I wrote about in my blog post.

If you’re not working with a stable lighting source, like a light box, it’s time to invest in one. I created mine for less than $10.00 and took less than an hour to put together! It doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to work!

MACRO MODE– Macro mode is your best friend when photographing anything up close. “Macro” actually means large, so it’s unusual that you’d use a “large mode” to photograph something small and up close. However, what this mode is doing is it’s allowing the smaller objects you’re photographing to come into a larger scale.

This setting can be found in a number of places depending on the make and model of your camera, however, it is always designated by a flower symbol (pictured). Most cameras will have it along some sort of dial option, or else listed under settings.

Some older or cheaper cameras won’t have a macro mode. Now a days though, you won’t really find a camera that won’t have this option somewhere, even most camera phones have them now. My Android does, it’s actually my back up camera for when my Nikon lithium battery dies!

WHITE BALANCE– The white balance option on a camera allows for the camera to adjust the color contrasts in a photo. Most cameras now will have specific settings depending on the type of light: night time, daylight, florescent, etc. If you’re working with a light box and have purchased a daylight bulb, you may wish to set you camera to daylight.

However, I recommend that with any piece, set up you photo first using the positioning, background and lighting that you will actually be shooting with. Then turn on your camera and look through your view finder or screen while adjusting your white balance settings. You want to chose the setting with the LEAST amount of yellow tinting. You’re colors should be crisp and clear; your whites should be WHITE, not yellow or cream. If you cannot find a white balance that is completely color balanced, chose the best one, and you can edit it later using Photoshop or another photo editor.

PHOTOSHOP– Photoshop is your BESTEST friend in the business. I used to think that editing your photo in any way was sort of cheating. However, as I’ve begun to use Photoshop, I realized how great of a tool it can be to making your jewelry really pop and giving your photos that finalized professional look!

If you’ve never used Photoshop it can be a little intimidating. There’s so many settings it can get confusing! So here’s all you really need to know:

1. Adjusting your Levels. You’ll find this option under IMAGE>>ADJUSTMENTS>>LEVELS

2. With Levels open, you’ll see a mountain type arrangement showing your spread of black and white levels- Foreign language? All you need to know is the little white triangle (marked in red below) under the right hand side of the mountain needs to be moved until it is under the right hand side of the black mountain.

3. You’ll notice that you’re image has brightened up by a decent amount. The more you had to move the white triangle, the greater the different will be in your photo.

4. Now that your levels have been adjusted, it’s time to adjust the sharpness. Go to FILTER>>SHARPEN>> UNSHARP MASK.

5. Your amount should be set to 120%; Radius to 5.0 pixels; Threshold 8.0 pixels. You’ll get a preview of what your photo will look like after the sharpening has been applied.

6. Apply the changes by hitting OK.

7. If your photo isn’t as white or bright as you wanted it, try adjusting your levels one more time. You may also play with some of the brightness and contrast settings until the photo is exactly the way you like it.

I hope some of my tips and tricks help all my crafty beader friends in their journeys to creating better photos to really wow the crowd this holiday season and make the most out of your online store! Remember that while your pieces may be stunning in person and sell like hot cakes off your wrist, it’s harder to imagine the piece as YOURS when you view it online. Your photos need to tell the story of your piece and create an emotional connection with your buyer that makes them go “I NEED this!” Make your store stand out with stunning photos that speak volumes about your pieces.

Happy Beading Everyone!

Mandy of NiteDreamerDesigns

NiteDreamerDesigns

Handcrafted Swarovski Jewelry

Jewelry is More than a Pretty Piece

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DIY Chalkboard

Ah thrift stores!! I am absolutely in love with the new Savers that’s in town. We found fantastic pieces there, including our new couch for $24.99 and an awesome vintage distressed coffee table for $11.99.  So when I decided to make a chalkboard for our new kitchen, there was no doubt I was headed for the thrift store.

I found a great- and by great I mean GAUDY AS HELL- vintage frame at Savers for only a couple of bucks. It was an antique gold that had begun to flake and peel. But the designs along the edges were ornate and the the size was perfect. So we picked it up and headed to Walmart for the chalkboard paint. This was the most expensive part at $3.97.

I began by painting the frame with this lime green I already had on hand from another project some time ago. This color went perfectly over the gold of the frame, I am so happy with how it turned out! It took a couple coats to get the frame the color I wanted. I left it out overnight to dry before attempting to work on the chalkboard itself.

W..a..i..t..i..n..g… is the most horrible experience for any DIYer! It’s so hard to not rush through just to get it done and enjoy it NOW.

The next morning, the frame was dry and the perfect shade. So I decided to tackle the chalkboard. I taped up my frame and was on my second coat of chalkboard paint over the smooth glass top when everything went wrong. 😦

The paint was drying on the patio, I had JUST sprayed and stepped back inside when my neighbor in the unit above me decided to clean out her pots and dump soil ALL over our balcony! It destroyed the glass top because now everything was covered in soil which stuck like glue to the drying paint.

I was not about to give up on this project however. I decided to take off the back of the frame and use the board backing for the chalkboard instead. I must admit that I stabbed myself with a few of the staples as I was pulling them out of the frame. I also noticed a crack beginning in the glass, so out of this mess up, it probably saved us a bunch of broken glass all over our kitchen floor… again. (Kitty broke my serving plate yesterday!)

So I flipped over the backing, sprayed a few layers of the chalkboard paint and again w..a..i..t..e..d.. I finally got to place the board back into the frame and secured it with glue around the edges.

I love creating these projects but OMG do I hate the waiting! I always feel like I’m in the JGWentworth commercials when I’m doing these projects because it’s my project and I need it NOW! But I must say it is well worth it, if you can just get over the waiting period. 🙂

Happy Beading Everyone!

Mandy of NiteDreamerDesigns

NiteDreamerDesigns

Handcrafted Swarovski Jewelry

Jewelry is More than a Pretty Piece

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Photographing Jewelry in a Light Box for Maximum Benefit

Being in the jewelry/crafting community, you begin to see so many people that have stunning pieces and amazing talent, but have NO IDEA how to photograph and edit their photos to get the most out of their pieces. When I first began photographing and listing my piece, I was one of the worst photographers ever! I had no idea how to use any of my camera settings. I used busy backgrounds that didn’t flatter my pieces, but in some cases actually overtook my designs in the photograph. My lighting was terrible. I relied purely on direct sunlight, which is not exactly flattering all the time for crystal jewelry. I did everything wrong!

While browsing the Etsy and ArtFire communities, I saw how lovely some shops are and how put together their photos seemed to be. So I started looking into how to create a well polished store front with pieces that took center stage in my photos. I wanted to have a store that really looked professional and would actually SELL something! After all, what’s the point of having a store front if it never actually sells anything right?!

Google searches and Etsy forms became my best friend. Everyone recommended shooting in a light box to have controlled lighting settings, regardless of the season or the weather outside. That was certainly going to make my life easier. I was trying to shoot my pieces on my exposed patio in some of the hottest days of the year. I swear I lost 10 pounds just trying to photograph! I looked into purchasing a light box, but the cheapest ones I found were around $100.00! NO WAY! Luckily, I found a fantastic tutorial on creating a light box for less than $5.00!

 

To create my light box I used:

  • A shipping box that I got from the trash at my work (FREE)
  • Masking tape that I had on hand (FREE)
  • A single sheet of white poster board I got at the dollar store ($1.00)
  • A sharpie, glue, on hand (FREE)
  • A box cuter, again that I had on hand (FREE)
  • Tissue paper ($1.00)

I first measured 2 inch boarders around four sides of the box (front, top and both sides) and marked them with my sharpie. Then, carefully, I cutout those panels using my box cuter. I kept the two inch boards in tact so that it provided support around the box.I reinforced some of the thinner areas of the box with some duct tape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I cut strips of my poster board to line the inside of the box and glued them in place. The white board allows the light to be reflected back up into the box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I laid my largest piece along the back of the box starting at the bottom front of the box with the top resting against the top back of the box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There should be a nice curve at the back of the box. The board will not sit flush against the box. If you were to place the board flush against the box, you’ll get a shadow in your photographs where the back of the box meets the bottom. Keep a nice curve along the back of the box to prevent any shadows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally I attached my tissue paper around the open edges of the box with my tape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went to my local Joann’s looking for a flower and a single sheet of scrap booking paper that would make for a lovely, subtle background for all of my photos. I wanted my store to look polished and unified by choosing a background that would work well with all of my pieces. I chose a subtle scripted piece of scrap booking paper for $0.55, and a fluffy white fake flower for $3.99 to create my background. These were the most “expensive” part of putting together my light box.

Hopefully creating your own light box will be a great first step to taking beautiful pieces of your pieces!

Happy Beading Everyone!

Mandy of NiteDreamerDesigns

NiteDreamerDesigns

Handcrafted Swarovski Jewelry

Jewelry is More than a Pretty Piece

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The Jessica Collection: Swarovski Pearl and Crystal Floral Bracelet

In between unpacking boxes, I’ve been hard at work on a new collection that I absolutely love and it’s been getting a lot of attention too! Introducing the Jessica!

I began working on this piece as a way to distract myself from how many boxes were still laying around the apartment. :/ It was bumming me out, so I wanted to create something sparkling and fun to wear. I used a beautiful champagne colored Swarovski Crystallized Glass Pearls called Crystal Gold. I’ve had these pearls for sometime now, but never really found the perfect project to use them for. So I saw them sitting there, lonely in their tray, and thought “Why not?!” I also had these stunning crystals by Swarovski that change colors based on the light and what color they are placed next to. I picked these up a while back at a local bead shop, I try to shop small when I can :).

When I started working this piece up, I really had no idea what pattern I was going to be working with, I just cut my thread, added my needles and started working. It was more like the piece was creating itself rather than being created by me. I love those moments! For this piece, I really focused on using a two needle right angle weave. This is one of my favorite techniques, it never goes out of style, and I honestly don’t see ever coming to an end with this stitch. It’s like once I think to myself “I’ve found the last possible use for this stitch” I’m completely proven wrong! And man do I like to be wrong… at least in this case :p

I wore this piece to work the next day, I figured even though I’m in scrubs all day, doesn’t mean I can’t have something pretty. I got so many compliments on it from my patients and from my coworkers. I knew I had to share this piece and the pattern for it as well! So I worked up a second piece using a deep Smoked Gray pearl by Swarovski called Crystal Black. I also found these fantastic light sapphire AB2X crystals to offset the pearl. The color combination is really stunning together, I was really happy with it. Both of these pieces are now available in my Etsy Studio.

While I was working up this second bracelet I took photos of each step and began working on a new tutorial to share. There are two variations of this project, one with the crystals along both sides in between the pearls, and one with seed beads between each pearl. This variation I also have for sale, the Madison, in my Etsy Studio. The tutorial includes both versions of this piece! The tutorial is available now in my Craftsy Patterns Studio.

I hope you enjoy this pattern as much as I do, whether you’re wearing it or crafting it!

Happy Beading Everyone!

Mandy of NiteDreamerDesigns

NiteDreamerDesigns

Handcrafted Swarovski Jewelry

Jewelry is More than a Pretty Piece

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Beader DIY Projects to Make Life Easier!

Began setting up the studio today. There’s still so much work to be done, but at least it’s a start. I can start working again. I only lost a weekend but I feel like I’ve lost weeks worth of work. The weekends are really when I get the majority of my work done, so to miss out on the first weekend of October is just a bummer. But October is still off to a great start. I’m hoping this year will end with a bang! Knock on wood!

I have big plans with room, beside creating my new crafting table. Because this room has no windows, I plan on creating a wall of mirrors along the white wall, using 3 full length mirrors laid horizontally. This will give the room a lot of light reflected from the patio (directly behind me when I took this picture) giving the room more depth and dimension.

Along the slate wall we plan to hang a world map so I can track my sales across the globe with fun push pins. It’s neat being able to reach people thousands of miles away with my tutorials and jewelry. It’s really amazing. 🙂

On the smaller wall across from the slate wall (not pictured) I plan to put the movie posters of my two favorite movies: JAWS and Finding Nemo!

While some of these are easy enough to fulfill, some of the items I need in order to finish my studio have not been moved or unpacked yet. So in the meantime I thought I would work on a couple of quick projects that would make my life as a beader SO MUCH easier! These little easy cheats are something I should have done years ago, but haven’t gotten around to until recently. For those crafters out there that haven’t invested in these two very simple projects, I HIGHLY recommend them.

The first is creating my own bead board. I had a cheap foam board that I had purchased from Michael’s for about $5.00 a few years back. It’s been to hell and back and the sides have been cracking off slowly but surely. I was about ready to give up on it until an old cork board/dry erase board began to crack apart.  So I turned both “broken” pieces into one new nifty piece. (Sorry there’s no pictures of the process here!)Because the sides of the bead board were already cracking off, I cracked the rest of them off. Then using my E6000 glue I glued the base of the bead board to the top of the cork board. I left more of the cork exposed on the right hand side of the board because I’m right handed. Most of my needle work and such is done with my right hand. There’s also plenty of room along the top and bottom of the boards. Once the glue was dried, I cut down some of our packing boxes to support the sides of the bead board that didn’t sit flush against the cork. I used a knife to make sure the cardboard didn’t stick out along the sides. Once these were the exact size I wanted them, I glued the cardboard in place.

This new board allows me to pin threads along the side to keep m pieces taught while working, or gives me a pin cushion for my beading needles while working on a project. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve nearly lost a needle in the couch or table or the floor! I cannot imagine how terrible that would be to find with our feet, or with the pets paws! YIKES!

The second mini project, isn’t really a “project” really, it’s just a little life hack for crafters. 🙂 A beading mat is always a good idea for beaders; it keeps all your stray beads safely on your work surfaces. A requirement for working on a hard surface as beads can bounce away way too easily! I’ve seen these sticky bead mats go for $20, $30, $40 online and in local stores. I always wanted one but never wanted to spend that much money for one! But at the same time I really don’t even want to think of how much money I’ve lost in stray beads or how many times Mike has brought me a bead after stepping on it! Anyway, I went to my local dollar store and picked up a fun colored yoga mat. I simply folded the mat to the length of my table and VIOLA! Sticky beading mat without the cost! $1.00 spent, hundreds maybe thousands saved!! Nice little life hack 🙂

Happy Beading Everyone!

Mandy of NiteDreamerDesigns

NiteDreamerDesigns

Handcrafted Swarovski Jewelry

Jewelry is More than a Pretty Piece

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Getting Settled and Ready to Start DIY Projects!

::::Sigh of relief:::: The move is finally over! But now begins the unpacking process. UGH! I really don’t know which I hate more, packing and moving or unpacking. I always feel like it’s more to unpack than I packed away. Not sure why, obviously it’s the same amount of stuff, it just feels like so much more to put away.

But moving is a chance to start fresh, try new ideas that you’ve wanted to and never got around it, or never thought would work before that suddenly do. This new place is like a fresh canvas and we get to scribble whatever we want on it. It’s fun to think of all the things we’d love to do, especially with my soon-to-be crafting studio.

Tonight, though, we are taking a breather from the unpacking process to have a nice relaxing night. Since moving on Friday, it seems I’ve come down with a nasty little cold. I’ve had a fever, body aches (unsure if these are from the cold or moving or both!) and sneezing like crazy. So packing is the last thing I want to do, though I have spent all day doing just that. So tonight, it’s time to relax, do some mild crafting (I’ve got a few orders that need to be shipped out tomorrow), while the boy plays some games and we watch Pixar movies all night! We’ve already gone through Up, Monster’s INC and now we are watching Wall-E. 🙂
So while we unpack and get settled we are going to be working on a few DIY projects to make our place uniquely OURS. Here’s a small preview of the DIY projects we are planning on tackling in the next couple of weeks, all of which I will share as we create them!

The crafting table

I wrote about our plans for this in my last blog post. We are going to modifying our existing kitchen table to have cabinets along two of the sides so that all of my jewelry supplies and tools may be stored safely along the sides, rather than in a million places, including the floor where our feet find them. OUCH!

DIY Kitchen Chalkboard

Recently we’ve discovered how awesome thrifting can be. We even bought our new couch and distressed vintage coffee table at a thrift store for only $40 combined! So we are going to be keeping an eye out for a fantastic- and slightly gaudy- vintage frame to turn into a chalkboard for our kitchen!

Taking it back to grade school with Elmer’s Glue and Canvas!

We are going to be using an old technique learned in grade school, letting Elmer’s Glue dry in awesome designs over canvas and then spray painting over the entire piece to create cool wall art. In our case, we are going with old school video game characters/designs!

DIY Wine Corkboard

This nifty little project is finally going to put those old wine corks to good use. We have a cute little breakfast bar in new place, so we are going to be creating wine cork boards and cork boards along the side walls of the breakfast bar to give our place some winery flare and also a fun place to pin our Christmas cards!

Along the way, I will be sure to take plenty of pictures so that I can share each DIY project with you all and hopefully inspire some fun crafting projects of your own! I’ll be posting everything on my Pinterest as well! So follow along. 🙂

Happy Beading Everyone!

Mandy of NiteDreamerDesigns

NiteDreamerDesigns

Handcrafted Swarovski Jewelry

Jewelry is More than a Pretty Piece

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