Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pretty in Karen McGovern

Today I'm posting about something artists either love or hate...photographing your work.  If you are lucky enough to be able to afford to have your work professionally photographed, that's fantastic.  But I think everybody benefits from learning how to take decent, even pretty darned good photos all on their own.  This post isn't going to talk about light boxes, or fancy set up.  If you know me at all you know that "quick and dirty" is my mantra.  Wait a minute...that sounds kind of gross...What I mean is, I try to make the most of whatever tools and time I have at hand, often no frills attached.

Speaking of something on hand, my cell phone has become my go-to camera for most of my jewelry photography.  Cell phone cameras are freaking amazing these days.  A jillion megapixels, lens choices, built in editing programs, it's kind of unbelievable.  My husband is a bit of a photo buff, and we have some pretty high end camera gear for wildlife photography.  He often grumbles when he sees some of the shots I get with my cell phone because sometimes they are every bit as good as those taken with a fancy-shmancy "real" this beautiful portrait of a Florida soft shell turtle I found crossing our property. What a face!

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful...
Anyway, you don't have to be a tech-geek or total computer whiz to take good shots of your work.  All you need is a smart phone and a couple good apps.  My favorite two apps are PicSay Pro (there is a free version, but splurge on the full version, a whopping $3.99 and worth it), and Pixlr Express (free, and amazing).  Here's my process using my Samsung Galaxy S III (which is considered a dinosaur since it's over 2 years old...don't get me started on THAT).

Lighting does matter, and natural lighting is best.  I live in Florida, so it's no big deal for me, I just go outside.  For those of you who can't just step out your front door whenever you want a good pic, get yourself a tray or board, drape a neutral colored cloth on it and clear some space near a window that gets good, INDIRECT light.  Not full-on sun, just good, mellow, even light.  It might take you a while to figure out what time of day gives you the best light.  For me it's between 10:00 and 11:00 am, and around 4:00 in the afternoon.

Set up is to your taste.  I'm a nature girl, and love to photograph my stuff on my huge collection of animal skulls.  I have a tree stump set with a horse and two wild boar skulls I use exclusively for this.  Nice bleached bone, great for hanging and draping things on.  Yes, I am a hoot a Halloween, but that's another story...

Where the magic happens.  Wait...oh, you know what I mean.
Fossil pendant of mine, photographed on a boar skull.
Less is more.  In other words, don't fill your photo space with a bunch of stuff that will distract the eye from what you are photographing-- your jewelry.  I don't suggest using patterned cloth, but texture (like burlap or raw silk) is great.  If you need props, keep them simple, natural and monochrome.  Wood blocks are great, and a solid color coffee cup or bowl works well for earrings and necklaces.

A lovely close up of earrings on a white porcelain cup.  Simple!
Anyway, once you have your set up the way you want, grab your cell and open the camera function.  Click the settings button and make sure you have a good sized resolution checked.  I never shoot anything under 1000 pixels.  This ensures you have a photo good enough for general web purposes, and you could potentially print it if needed.  The fewer the pixels, the crappier the photo.  My cell camera is set on 1280 x 960.  The rest of the settings are on auto because I am not a tech or camera person and have no idea what most of the rest of the settings even brain is to full to learn all that stuff, but by all means, you GO FOR IT AND LET ME KNOW WHAT I'M MISSING.

***Totally off topic*** My hubby just handed me a fresh picked, organic banana from one of our trees...OMG IT'S SO DELICIOUS!

Ahem, where was I?  Oh take a bunch of pictures.  Lots.  I take at least 8 to 10 shots of every piece.  Make sure your auto focus is working, try different angles, drapes, arrangements, but don't take forever...THERE ARE BANANAS TO EAT.  Sorry, I'm a bit distracted.

When you are done, sit down and have some fun editing.

I begin by simply opening and looking at each photo right from the home screen.  Weed out the ones you don't like, crop and save the ones you do.  I try to keep the top 3 pics of each piece I photograph, delete the rest.  Now play with the apps!

I start with PicSay Pro because it has wonderful, quick editing capabilities.  It will ask you to choose an output size for the photo--go big!  Then play with effects, adjustments (great exposure adjustment feature for those good but dim or over exposed shots).  So much to choose from, explore and have fun, then save/share, whatever.  I am hooked on the faux HDR function...You might love it and be done right there, but I always take a final run with Pixlr Express because that app is just THE BOMB.  Open the app, the open the photo you saved using PicSay Pro.  Now you can get all kinds of artsy-fartsy!  Tons of overlays, borders, frames, text options, exposures,'s endless!  And FREE.  Love it.

Some arty photos I've created using these apps.  The collage was created
using Picasa, a great desktop art program powered by Google.
Both apps let you share directly to the web which is great for social media and email.  You'll be surprised at what good quality shots you can get from your phone!!  And, I believe it's important to photograph your work for another reason--to keep a record of what you're doing!  I have, many times, gone through my photos to get re-inspired, remember a technique or design, and to generally take a mental walk through the progression of my designs.  I photograph every single piece I make.  For real.

Now, realize, this type of photography is great for instant uploads, websites and personal use.  If you are submitting images for a juried exhibition or gallery, that's a whole other ball game and you'll want to go the professional set up/photographer route.  BUT, for just about everything else you can do it yourself with a decent smart phone, a couple good apps and a bit of free time.

If you use your cell for photos, please share your tips and tricks as well as your favorite apps!  Till next time...go take some pictures!!!


stacilouise said...

LOVED this. I don't do much on my phone other than take pictures to page through when I am bored, ect. I always hated uploading them (emailing them to myself) and then Genea told me about dropbox- and I really like it, sooo much quicker.

Now I will have to download these editing apps and play!!!! (I have the same phone as you by the way, no surprise there, right? Is your's white too?

I can't wait to play around! thanks again!

mairedodd said...

always happy to see reviews of apps that might be photo handy - thank you!

Anonymous said...

Oh thank you, thank you, Karen! I've been pretty happy with PicMonkey, but am so ready to try your favorite apps. Can always improve my photo skills.


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