photography

Etsy Featured Artist: Jennifer Steen Booher

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!
Jennifer Steen Booher is a Bar Harbor resident who focuses on fine art photography. Her Beachcombing Series offers a unique perspective on the shores of MDI and “the overlapping forces and life forms that depend on the shoreline” (from “About the Beachcombing Series). Here’s what she has to say about Etsy (BEC questions in bold).
What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?

I joined Etsy on May 1, 2008, so I just had my 9th anniversary! Etsy was a lot smaller back then, and the community aspect pulled me in. It still works as a community, just a much bigger one. There are forum discussions about every aspect of doing business on Etsy, with more experienced sellers helping out the new people, and I spent a lot of time there when I first started. It was a great way to get into online sales, and it felt like a whole lot of people really wanted me to succeed.

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

I have a website, jenniferbooher.com. I’m on a couple of other sites that do their own printing, like Fine Art America and Artfully Walls, and I work with Alamy for licensing my landscape and travel photography. I tend to keep my fine art stuff on my own website and Etsy. My website and Etsy are my biggest source of online print sales.

Seashell Snowflake Notecards- available on Etsy

How do you stand out in this marketplace?

I have a pretty distinctive niche – there are not that many people doing this kind of modern, minimalist, natural-history-and-ocean-themed art.  It appeals to people both on a nostalgic level (it reminds them of things they picked up on their own vacations) and on an artistic level (people who want to furnish their beach houses with something more thought-provoking than lighthouses and starfish). My work is very crisp and clean, so it works with a lot of different decor styles. I give the same artistic weight to trash as I do to shells and beach stones, which sometimes confuses people, but more often it inspires them to look at the shoreline in a different way. It’s easy to ignore trash, but these photos suggest that it’s worth examining.  I’ve shipped my work to at least 15 countries and 30 states.

“Beachcombing No. 50,” available on Etsy.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy?

Read all of Etsy’s guidelines for newcomers about things like tagging and getting your work found. Spend some quality time in the Forums reading questions (to get an idea of what problems Etsy sellers run into) and the discussions (to see how other sellers solve those problems.) The Forums are an amazing resource! Depending on what you are selling, joining a team can be helpful, especially if you do craft fairs and can find a geographically-based team. The Etsy Maine Team is very active and in additions to their online discussions they also organize pop-ups and participate in fairs. I don’t do craft fairs anymore (my work doesn’t sell there) so I haven’t been very active with the team, but I think they’d be a great resource for a newcomer.

Woodland Series No. 2, available on Etsy

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

My very first photography sale was to a guy who wanted to glue my photos of sea urchins and crab shells onto a surfboard as a display. He wanted to know if the photo paper would warp under the wet polyurethane. I thought it very probable they would, but he bought them anyway.

(Just for fun) If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

An original drawing from Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf series!Wait, no, a set of Arte et Manufacture’s coffee mugs.

Oh no, hang on, crazy vintage eyeglasses from Collectable Spectacle.

My ‘favorites’ list is 13 pages long – clearly this could go on for a while…

Thanks again to Jennifer for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

The Mighty Macro

OK, so here’s a secret. I’m a trekkie. Have been ever since my family borrowed Star Trek III on VHS from the library, circa 1985. If you looked at my Christmas tree last month, you would see it festooned with ornaments resembling Star Trek starships (nothing says “Seasons Greetings” like a miniature Klingon Bird of Prey!).

Speaking of the holidays, I got a cool little gift from my wife — a clip-on macro lens for my iPhone’s camera. I immediately started taking shots of the aforementioned tree ornaments. But then I thought about how helpful this little lens would be for product shots, and how they’re a great affordable option for shooting product on a budget.

The beauty of Macro photography is how it allows your clients or customers to see product details that would otherwise be difficult to capture using a standard smartphone lens.

A macro lens for a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera will run you a cool $300 on the low-end. That’s on top of the cost of the camera itself, which can range from $500 to the thousands. And then you have to learn how to use the setup.

For entrepreneurs with a limited budget and even more limited time, however, consider dropping a few bucks on this cool little lens you can clip onto most any smartphone.

Woodworkers- want to emphasize that loving detail in a hand-carved reliquary, or maybe you want to accentuate the natural beauty of wood grain? Snap a photo using your macro lens and upload it directly to your website or Facebook page.

Bakers- want to show off your artistic skills in molding fondant onto a custom cake? Macro lens.

Florists- want to post an Instagram pic of the details of a really cool arrangement? Macro lens.

PHOTO OF GUITAR HEADSTOCK W/REGULAR LENS (NOTE THE TUNING PEGS):

CLOSE-UP OF HEADSTOCK’S TUNING PEG WITH A MACRO LENS:

Tips and tricks

  • Clip the macro lens attachment over your camera’s built-in lens and start experimenting with different angles. Shoot overhead, high, low, etc.
  • Make sure your product is in the best possible shape, polished and dusted if applicable. Macro is all about detail, and so any imperfections your product may have are gonna pop.
  • Word to the wise: any object placed in front of your camera’s lens — even a transparent object like another, clear lens — reduces the amount of light the image sensor receives. This in turn means your camera needs fire at a slower shutter speed to allow more light. So be sure you’re shooting in a well-lit area to improve the clarity of your photo.
  • Also, think about investing in a mini-tripod to attach to your phone. This will help reduce camera-shake and result in better-focused photos.
  • If you get a kit with multiple smart phone lenses, try the macro lens with a wide angle lens for even more flexibility in your product shoots. These were taken with a combo wide angle and macro:

Finally, have fun with it, because macro lenses open a new world of angles and possibilities!

Sorcery…or a New App?

Does it seem like there’s a new app popping up whenever you turn around? Well, you aren’t alone. I’m the first to admit that when it comes to learning a new thing, unless I have to, I resist. This means I’m usually pretty late to the game when it comes to things like Snapchat or even Facebook, back in the day. Over the past couple months, I’ve been pushing myself to stay on top of new and potentially interesting apps/features of apps.

Since I follow a lot of marketing related sites, it can be difficult to stay on top of it all without getting overwhelmed. Plus, it can be tricky to gauge what is going to be useful from a marketing perspective, or just be something annoying to learn that fizzles out in a matter of months. The little trick that’s saved me some time- if I can find it go by “in the wild,” either by a friend or another business, then I check it out.

To be fair, I did skip Pokemon Go (it seemed like a huge commitment and a huge black hole  for my productivity/free time). Those caveats aside, here are the noteworthy apps I’ve found over the summer:

Prisma: Makes your pictures into paintings. Like Instagram, there are different filters, but the cool thing is that the filters are actually based on different artistic styles. And, unlike a filter that overlays itself on the original photo (like Instagram), when you select a style on Prisma, “goes through different layers and recreates the photo from scratch” according to The Guardian’s interview with Prisma’s founders.

Original image (from Eagle Lake)

Original image (from Eagle Lake)

IMG_1625

The Scream

Mosiac

Mosiac

Gothic

Gothic

Composition

Composition

Boomerang: Made for Instagram, this app takes a burst of 5 photos and makes them into a video that loops back and forth (the total video is only 1 second long). You can save it within the app, or post it on Facebook and/or Instagram. Since the content is moving, it’s eye catching. I still have some work on perfecting my Boomerang capturing abilities, because I make myself vaguely motion sick whenever I try to rewatch my own videos. If you haven’t seen any yet, check out this list from Tech Insider that shares a few of the noteworthy attempts from early adopters.

Facebook 360:  Facebook 360 is basically a new way of sharing panoramic pictures. It may sound like an intense process, but it can be as simple as uploading a regular pano. If you’re using a phone, the photo can’t be cropped or resized, and has to cover at least 100 degrees of . According to Facebook’s information page on 360 photos, ” The most reliable way to create a 360 photo with your mobile device is to capture a photo with the Google Street View iOS or Android app.” I don’t necessarily have either of those apps, but if you don’t mind an extra step for “reliability,” this might be the way to go. For example, if you (like me) aren’t super skilled at the whole pano shot thing, and want to just be able to upload a picture without any fuss, using another app is a good strategy.

These apps are a lot of fun, so I highly recommend playing around with them (Prisma is especially entertaining). Next week, we’ll go over some ways that you can use these apps for your business marketing.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Sad Cheeseburger: A Few Tips on Food Photography

impossibleburgerstandardsThis is one of my favorite spoof ads.

For those who market for restaurants or food chains, the clear choice for burger “modeling” is the burger to the left. Sure, it’s had some work done (the nature of this work is the meat of this post), but it’s more likely to appeal to people’s appetites and get them in the door. On the other hand, the right-side burger is a sad cheeseburger. People won’t clamor to your tables shoving fistfuls of cash at you for a chance at that burger. In fact, they’ll probably lose their appetite (sorry, sad cheeseburger).

Food photography can be tricky, but if you market food (for a restaurant, a baking blog, your own Instagram…) it’s a priceless tool to possess. Your sandwiches do not have to be supermodels, but you don’t want them to appear sub-par (hehe) on your website or social media. I’m also going to assume that you don’t have the disposable income required for hiring a food stylist (which sounds like a pretty cool job, right?).

As this article from Huffington Post says, “optimistic restaurant owners” are often well-intentioned when it comes to food photography, but they don’t always have the skill to reach the desired outcome. Here are a few basics on food photography that will get the camera loving your food.

Lighting. This means the elements of photography like exposure, saturation, and flash. Oftentimes, doing a photo-shoot inside a restaurant is hard. The lighting is usually dim or fluorescent, neither of which are conducive to good photos. What’s a photographer to do? In this case, you can do a few things. Set up a mini photo-shoot area and adjust the lighting there (it’s easier to fiddle with a small area than the lighting of the whole restaurant). Another option is working with the lighting you currently have and editing later (the only issue here is making sure you have photo editing software available).

These guys are sad.

These guys are sad.

These guys are happy!

These guys are happy!

Personally, I know very little about optimal lighting and camera settings, but this blog post goes into greater detail about lighting (including things like depth of field and ISO).

Temperature. Hot food should look hot, cold food should look cold. A pot roast is not going to look appetizing if the gravy has congealed (ew). No one looks at a picture of a melted ice cream cone and thinks “Yes, THAT is what I want!” An interesting fact I learned while writing this post: fake ice is a real thing that people pay money for. Restaurants that offer a lot of drink specials don’t use real ice in photos, since it often melts under lighting, so they simply whip out the fake ice cubes and all is well.

This is not an ice cream I want in my life.

This is not an ice cream I want in my life. And that’s a strong statement, folks.

Background. Food stylists recommend using white plates to showcase meals. Colors and definition are more apparent. That way, the food colors don’t blend in with the plate colors and leave you with an image of a meal that looks like an unappetizing amorphous blob. If you aren’t using a faux setup for your photo shoot, always keep your background in mind.

Arrangement. Another cool fact: most of the food you see in advertisements is actually inedible. That ideal beauty burger from the beginning of this post? It might look good, but it also might kill you. In order to shape and support food, stylists will insert cardboard between layers of pancakes or sandwiches, stuff paper towel to add volume, or use aluminum foil to prop things a certain way (like in all those pictures of wavy bacon). If you are attempting to artistically stack your food, you can avoid creating a leaning tower of pancakes by using toothpicks or skewers to keep things in place.

sadcake

 

The above image is from a really awesome blog post about working with what you’ve got in terms of food photography. Sometimes, there will be a frosting fail or a crumbly cake, but there’s always a workaround.

Freshness. This is probably a no-brainer, but examine the food you’re snapping pictures of beforehand, especially if it’s produce. Don’t use brown fruits and vegetables. If a dish you’re taking a picture of has an element that will turn brown quickly (say, apples), get those pictures first. Another cool trick is spritzing produce with water or oil to create a fresh look. Freshness also ties in with temperature- if a hot meal has gone cold and gets that gross crusty or congealed look…maybe try again.
To sum it up: don’t let your food photography be a sad cheeseburger (especially if said food photography is for promotional purposes).

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Tech Thursday: Insta-bleh to Insta-BLAM!

Photography isn’t your forte? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that!

In this video, we offer some tricks on how to creating an awesome Instagram account that don’t rely on photography skills.

And, for those who are interested in the collage option, here are a couple links:

1) A step-by-step guide on collage making, and

2) A review of some of the apps you can use to create a collage on your phone.

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

New Site Launch: Camel Brook Camps

It’s always interesting working for people you grew up with. Mr. Leblanc (as I used to call him) was our industrial arts teacher in school. I worked as a lifeguard with their daughter. They have known me a long time and live in the beautiful town of Fort Kent, Maine, where I grew up and where most of my family still lives.

Camel Brook Camps responsive website layout.So when Anne and Jean contacted us for a website for their rental business Camel Brook Camps, I was excited to prove that Nicole had grown up… and wasn’t going to going to be known as the only industrial arts accident of the year (true story, I drill pressed part of my finger, though that was not on Mr. Leblanc’s watch, he had gone onto other things by the time I took his class).

Alice created a responsive template that felt outdoorsy but sophisticated. Well, she created two (we always do that) and they picked their favorite which we tweaked until it was what they wanted.

Now with each design we want things to look different. In this case, Alice worked with the wood background (we normally do solid backgrounds) and created a way to highlight the business name with it.

camelbrookcampsmobileWith responsive design, the website adjusts to the screensize its on, meaning it looks great not only for those visiting on a computer but a tablet or mobile phone as well.

Camel Brook Camps has several cabins to rent but we wanted to intersperse photos of the area. We contacted Brent Stroliker Photography who had some great multi-season shots of the area. We negotiated a rate for the photos to be able to use them in the slideshow on the homepage and on various pages of the site.

While I’d love to be able to do (and be good at everything) myself, it’s important to be able to pair with professionals and be able to help each other out. I think you can also see how photographs people have of their businesses mixed in with professional photographs gives a clean inviting look. (Very important to use photos with permission as we did!)

So what else did we do in creating this site?

  • Created separate inquiry forms for each of the four camps
  • Kept their guest book entries and allowed new ones to be created
  • Installed a weather widget that automatically updates with the day’s conditions
  • Made sure there was a way to access ‘Camps and Rates’ on every page
  • Put the phone number in the footer on every page
  • Created how-to update documents complete with screenshots to be able to give Anne and Jean so they officially don’t need us (unless they want us of course)

Anne and Jean didn’t need the world’s fanciest website; they just needed something visually appealing, information rich, and user friendly in a platform they could easily update as they take new photos or change prices.

In case you were wondering, here’s the before picture of the site:

cbcbefore

So whether you love this design or not, I think we can all agree this is a definite improvement!

We thank the LeBlancs for letting us work on their site and here’s hoping they get lots of new business from it.

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
1 2