Weekender :: Your Questions (Hopefully) Answered

Happy weekend, friends! It's an overcast Saturday here and the hubster and I are about to leave to go to our new gym - so I'm excited. I thought I'd address a couple questions this weekend that you have sent to me. Hopefully there are some specs of answers you can walk away with today. :)Photography_Ah
1) Can you share your photo process?

Let me start by saying this. I do not consider myself an expert in photography by any stretch - I don't even know how to shoot with my DSLR out of Aperture mode! Heck, I don't even know what Aperture means, I just know I get pretty consistent photos in that mode over Auto. (Yes, I need to take a workshop - stat! It's ridiculous, really).

What I do know, is that I spent a considerable number of years in natural-light photography studios as an Art Director overseeing photoshoots for fashion and still photography. With that, I guess comes some knowledge on how to stage and shoot things. The one thing I know with certainty, (for me) is that in order to get the most beautiful photos, you must shoot with natural light. I know that there are those who swear by light boxes, both handmade and purchased for shooting cards and layoouts, however, for me, I've never gone that route. This is what I use - my large window and 2 pieces of cardstock - that's it. AND I never, ever use a flash - EVER.

What does that mean when I finish a project late at night? I wait till the next day to shoot it, period. What if there's a deadline that night? Then I shoot it the best way I can either with my phone or my regular camera, and tell whoever the deadline is for that I will get them final shots in the morning. Does that impact things? Sometimes, but usually not critically. Usually the people who are designers or blog coordinators understand the need for good lighting conditions. Let me also state, that I don't make a habit of doing my projects that late - that I have to contact those who need my project. But I have done it before in certain situations. That's life. ;)Screen-capture-85
So what happens once I've taken my photos? I upload them here, in Apple's Aperture. I used to use iPhoto, but when I upgraded my computer (I am a Mac!) I upgraded to Aperture. For the number of photos I take, it's the best choice for me. 

Once I have weeded out the good/bad photos, I export the best ones into Adobe Photoshop. I use the full version of Photoshop. And again, I've used Photoshop since at least 1993, so I've always had a need for the full version because of my design work. Once in there, depending on the project - cards vs. layouts, I start looking at the color. A lot of times, the color just looks too dark. For that:

Here's a tip: Most photo editing programs have a tool called "Levels" In Photoshop (and I'm sure Photoshop Elements) you go to menus:  Image --->Adjustments---->Levels

Here's what you see when the Levels image pops up:Process-whitebalance

When that funny little graph pops up, there will be 3 eye droppers 1) Black, 2) Grey, 3) White. This is an easy and quick fix for most photos. Simply click on the white eye dropper, then take the eye dropper and click on the whitest part of your photo. Sometimes this is the background because it's a true white and your project is actually cream. But click on the brightest, whitest spot. The result will be instant:After_whiteBalance_AH
See how just with that one click, how much more "open" and bright my image is? Easy peasy. The only thing to watch out for when doing this, is not to confuse white with cream. That white dropper is WHITE and will turn all those places you clicked on where it was actually cream, to white. Now, the other thing to remember, is that sometimes you actually haven't picked the whitest part of the image - you'll know that because the colors will come out wonky - search more within your image to find a brighter point -sometimes it's hiding in the reflection of a brad or in the white of bakers twine, it just depends on the image. Once you get the hang of it, it's a tool that will be invaluable going forward.

2) Okay, so another question that I've been asked recently, is "How do you get manufacturers to notice you?"

AGAIN, I am not an expert at this - I can only speak for myself and what I think may have worked in my favor.

First off, I think you must show that you love what you are doing, there has to be a passion. And, have an active blog.

My blog story started nearly 2 years ago doing a ton of card challenges. I wasn't a card-maker, so I wanted to learn what I could about making cards. I challenged myself, I pushed myself. I won a few challenges and was snubbed by MANY. This went on for months. LOL - and yes, it hurt my feelings. I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong. BUT, I knew I wasn't going to change my style. Those that liked my style followed me and suggested me for my first design team (Thanks, Laurel!). From there I tried out for my first stamp design team and got in.

So, with a little more confidence, it was at that point I decided to start submitting for publication. First was CARDS. My first submissions were in December of 2009 for the May 2010 issue. I didn't get anything in. I was a little hurt, but I decided with the new year I would try again, and I did. I set conservative goals for the year that I would get 5 cards published in 2010. With my next submission, one card was chosen. From there, I was just determined to get more and more published. I spent many countless hours on submitting - I won't lie, it was work. However, work that I was happy to do. It was exciting and a little stressful, but really fun! I now felt comfortable with what I was achieveing in cards, I decided to go start back into my scrapbooking - my true passion. No one knew I scrapbooked, they only saw cards. And I guess I was "noticed" by the wonderful Jenyfur Pohl who was then running the very successful Caardvarks card challenge site at the time. She had become the Communications Director for SRM Stickers and wanted me for the newly created Design Team. SRM Stickers gave me the platform to work my scrapbooking and cardmaking, stretch myself creatively and become really who I wanted to artistically.

It was during that time, last year, that I began uploading some projects to the Two Peas in a Bucket gallery. A VERY intimidating thing for me at the time. What I saw on that site blew me away, and I thought, now if I put my stuff there, TONS of people will see it - and JUDGE it. I wasn't entirely sure I was ready for that, as I still felt some of the burn marks (unintentional of course - but I'm a super sensitive gal so I had to pick myself up and brush myself off sometimes) from the card challenges. But I did it, and I went in slowly, just dipping in my little toe at first. Over time I became more comfortable and began uploading everything there. It wasn't long (in the SAME DAY - no joke) before I was asked to design for a new scrapbooking kit club AND was PeaMailed by Christine Middlecamp about my work (I bow to her)!! That is how I began working with the Little Black Dress Kit Club and Crate Paper. Two Peas in a Bucket - people, that's where they all go!! You must start a gallery there if you haven't already! And now, with the new rollout of the cards gallery and all the new cards product - every paper crafter should upload there. AND make sure you are linking up your product AND the brands you use in your product - that is how they find you! ;) From there it's all history. And a happy and exciting history it's been. So if I have one bit of advice it's use the resources available - go to them manufacturers blog, comment, if they have a FB page/Twitter, follow them, let them know you love and use their product and make sure you are on at Two Peas in a Bucket. Yep, that's what I would say. And try to get published. For me, it wasn't working in the challenge world, but in publication I've had a ball. :)

Thanks for your questions, ladies. I am sorry it's taken so long to get back to you. And please, please, don't take what I am saying as the end all be all. I don't think that I'm any sort of expert in this at all - it's been less than 2 years for me. We all have our own path. But hopefully there are a couple tips in there that will help you on your path if this is the path you are wishing to go down. Thanks so much for entrusting me with your questions. And thank you for always supporting my road down this paperie journey of mine. Love you all! Have a wonderful weekend!