Yellow-Shafted Flicker Woodpecker - Maryland Snow Birds

Winter Bird Photography Series

Today’s adventure took place in my own back yard. A snowy day and beautiful array of hungry birds. I’m trying not to be a bitter grouch all winter, but some days I swear I am cold-blooded and need my warming sun to survive. Maybe you can relate. Either way, these beauties bring some color and happiness to the dreary cold and for that I am thankful. Enjoy this chilly winter bird photography series.

 

For my fellow photographers, what are your tricks for capturing snowfall? Tips on bird photography? I would love to be able to capture them in flight, but I won’t yet share my sad attempts at that yet (Hint, the bird usually is no longer in the picture).

 

Keep exploring,

-B

 


All photographs posted here are property of Becca Grogan and South Ranch Creative. Please do not use without contacting me first and obtaining permission. Thank you and enjoy!

 

Yellow-Shafted Flicker Woodpecker - Maryland Snow Bird Photography

Dove - Maryland Snow Bird Photography

Downy Woodpecker - Maryland Snow Bird Photography

Dove - Maryland Snow Bird Photography

Blue Jay - Maryland Snow Bird Photography

Yellow-Shafted Flicker Woodpecker - Maryland Snow Bird Photography

Maryland Snow Bird Photography

House Finch - Maryland Snow Bird Photography

Blue Jay - Maryland Snow Bird Photography

Cardinal - Maryland Snow Bird Photography

 

A snowy day and beautiful array of hungry birds. I’m trying not to be a bitter grouch all winter, but some days I swear I am cold-blooded and need my warming sun to survive. Maybe you can relate. Either way, these beauties bring some color and happiness to the dreary cold and for that I am thankful. Enjoy my little adventure in nature and bird photography.

A snowy day and beautiful array of hungry birds. I’m trying not to be a bitter grouch all winter, but some days I swear I am cold-blooded and need my warming sun to survive. Maybe you can relate. Either way, these beauties bring some color and happiness to the dreary cold and for that I am thankful. Enjoy my little adventure in nature and bird photography.

 

Since when has it become easier to talk to friends online than in person? What does that mean about the connections we are making? Can social media be a helpful tool for introverts?

Is Social Media Helping Us or Hurting Us?

Some late night musings I wanted to share about the power and problems of social media. I originally posted this on Instagram with a way too long description, so I thought it more appropriate to share here. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, particularly from my fellow introverts.

 

This video by young Insta-star, Essena O’Neill, went viral a couple of weeks ago when she declared that she is quitting social media because of the negative consequences it has on viewers who think that their lives should look like this. It got me thinking.

 

Since when has it become easier to talk to friends online than in person? What does that mean about the connections we are making? The book, Quiet, by Susan Cain taught me that social media and online communication may be beneficial to people like me who are introverted and shy, because we feel safer behind this invisible barrier. We have the time to collect and organize our thoughts instead of being put on the spot in a face to face conversation. I find this to be incredibly true. And, as strange as it sounds, I often feel like I am more me and less like someone who’s trying to act like me when I’m communicating through writing or digital means. But recently I am seeing all these people declare (on Instagram and social media,  ironically) that Instagram life isn’t real life. So, which is it then? How can this be my fake life but the true me? I’m not sure of the answer.

 

I think it’s something about photography that seems to lie, whereas writing that description, that blog post, that status update almost always sounds genuine. Even art feels… truthful. It’s  funny how in a way the most accurate depiction of real life is the one that feels the most fake. Maybe because these pictures are missing the story behind them.

 

This featured picture is one of my happiest memories from 2014. I was at Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Retreat. But what isn’t shown is the horrible terror I have of flying and how this trip multipled it tenfold. The anxiety and panic attacks I was struggling with at the time, and the health issues I was having, preventing me from really feeling “there”. Not to mention the “slimming” slip I wore under my dress that I thought I needed to look good felt like it was squeezing every ounce of life and oxygen out of me. Does that make the picture different? To me it does. It makes it all that more special. But to you all… I don’t know. I just feel like I’m complaining. The ugly stuff, the boring stuff, the sad stuff-it’s important. But I would never want to burden others with these things. We shouldn’t forget that it exists just because celebrities don’t advertise it to thousands of strangers each day. We are more than our photographs.

 

Stay thoughtful. Stay true.
-B

Learn 7 tricks to taking beautiful product photos for Etsy, your blog, or your online store without spending extra time or money. | by South Ranch Creative

7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy or your Blog

Without Spending Extra Time or Money.

 

If you sell on Etsy or your own business website, you know that product photography is hugely important to the success of your shop. Most of your customers are used to shopping through professionally photographed websites and product shoots, and expect to see the same level of quality when they come across your shop online. Unfortunately most Etsy and small online sellers are not professional photographers and in running a shop singlehandedly, they don’t have the time or money to ensure that their shots are pixel perfect. I’ve created this short guide for small time sellers with tips and tricks on how to make the most of your photoshoots, using supplies you likely already have lying around! You’ll save time, money, and the headache of trying to plan out exactly what need ahead of time.

 

1. Bring in some life.

There’s nothing more boring than a stale, lifeless photograph of your product on a plain background with no props. Particularly if you sell any sort of goods for the home, you’d better think about adding in some visual interest that enhances and doesn’t detract from the awesomeness that is the product you’re selling. One of my favorite ways to add some life to my product photography is to actually… bring in… life. For clothing and accessory sellers, this could mean someone wearing or holding your product. For home good sellers, this could holding or interacting with your product, but also could mean plants! I find greenery and plant life serves as a great prop for tons of my listings, and it’s so versatile! It comes in all shapes and textures and colors. It can serve as a background or as a prop to highlight your product. Also, with natural, reclaimed, and organic products becoming more and more desired every day, putting natural, reclaimed, or organic props in your product shots might not be such a bad idea.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Bring in some life.

Boss Lady mug by Jennie Brown Creative

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Bring in some life.

“Cheers” Mountain Coasters by South Ranch Creative

Now, there are exceptions to every rule, and tons of shops on Etsy and elsewhere are wildly successful using tactics like a minimalist approach where nothing but the product is in the photograph. I’ve found this to be much harder to pull off for the average or novice photographer because things like lighting and color must be just perfect in order for this type of approach to work, but if this is the style you want, go for it! The best thing to do when photographing your work is to take way more pictures than you would ever think necessary and try everything. Try out using the props and then remove everything but your product from view and compare shots side by side later. Trying it all out once will help you make better and more informed decisions about your product photography in the future!

 

2. Light, light, light.

Light is a powerful tool in photography. It can make a good photograph look great, or it can make a great setup look terrible. I always strive to use natural light in my product shots, whether I am indoor or out. The times I’ve had to supplement with artificial lights, you can definitely tell that my photographs suffered, and here’s why.

 

Indoor lighting usually is not bright enough. Whether you use a quality smartphone to take your photographs or a DSLR camera, you probably have struggled with grainy pictures at some point in the past. That’s because compared to the massive amount of light that the sun provides during the day, indoor lights just can’t compete. Even on a partly cloudy or cloudy day, you’re probably better off shooting outside. Flash is an option for indoor photography, but if you’re like me and don’t want to take the effort to get it just perfect and not blow out everything in the frame, you usually stay away from it.

 

Indoor lights cast weird color hues on your photographs. I know, I know, white balance is a thing, and a lot of smart phones and cameras can do it automatically! Typically indoors, you are going to have a bunch more yellow light in your photographs than you would outside, unless of course you only use florescent lighting which can have problems of its own. Personally I find that the camera either overcompensates or undercompensates, and you end up with yellow, orange, or blue-cast pictures. Now with a good camera, this is something you may be able to go back and fix in Photoshop, but remember, we’re trying to save time here so you can get back to making and selling!

 

Check out these examples below to see how natural light can drastically improve your product photography and save you time editing later:

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Unedited Indoor Light Product Photo

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Unedited indoor product photo with natural light.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Unedited outdoor product photo with natural light.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Edited Indoor Light Product Photo

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Edited indoor product photo with natural light.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Edited outdoor product photo with natural light.

Indoor lighting makes shadows your biggest enemy. Have you ever tried to photograph your work from above and gotten frustrated that your shadow or your camera’s shadow is blocking the picture? Have you then brought in other lights to try and offset this, and created these huge, awful shadows because the angle of the light was too low? Dealing with lighting in the home can make you want to pull your hair out. Sure, you can pay for an expensive studio shot setup, with all different types of light to offset this, or you can shoot outside! The great thing about shooting outdoors is that you have light coming from so many more directions, often eliminating the strange shadows you get from one-dimensional lighting in the home. You’ll still have to consider the time of day and how cloudy it is outside, but overall I find it to be much easier. Sunlight is free, anyway!

3. Color is key.

A big mistake a lot of Etsy and online sellers can tend to make is not considering color strongly enough when photographing their products. Not only can it help show your product in the best light possible, but it can create a mood and set the tone for your whole shop! A super easy and very effective method is to choose one or two highlight colors for your product shots, and use white as your main color. That might mean taking all your photographs on a white background and letting the color of your product bring life into the shop. It could mean using a few of the same props or props that are the same color across all your photos, so that the viewer senses a strong theme and brand.

 

Other ways sellers deal with color is by using the same filter on all of their photographs. Now, please be cautious if you want to do this. It has to make sense with your brand, and don’t put it at 100% and way overkill the effect. You can find some great and more subtle ones online that you can use in Photoshop, and it will help create this visual connection between your products. You could also use saturation as a tool. I don’t mean editing the saturation in a photo editing software, but I mean creating product shots that feature bright, high color products, backgrounds, or props. This is the method I currently use, however I intend to switch over to a more minimal look soon, as I believe it fits better with my brand.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Color is key.

Pidge Pidge uses only the color of its products to create a commanding and consistent visual language across its shop.

 

4. Remember what your subject is.

Props and backgrounds can be a great way to show your product in its best light. But always be cautious about overwhelming the viewer with too much information. You want him or her to immediately know what you’re selling, and not to be distracted by a really interesting prop you’re using. I’ve often fallen into the trap of taking a great photograph at an interesting angle, and gone back to realize that I was no longer photographing the work. The subject of the photograph had shifted to a mug I was using as a prop because the picture looked nice, but my work wasn’t the main subject of the picture anymore. Typically you want your product to be the biggest element in the photograph, and for it to be near or in the center. I would not recommend ever photographing your work in a way that crops it outside the picture plane. The picture may look great, but buyers want to see what you’re selling and that’s hard to do when they can’t see the whole product!

 

I know this dinosaur planter is super cute and fun, but I made the mistake of having it be the focus of my photo and not my actual product! You’ll see that my product is even blurred here while the dinosaur is in focus. Makes for a fun photograph but not a product photo. The image on the right is much cleaner and clearly displays my product as the main focus.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Remember what your subject is.

Prop-focused photography.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Remember what your subject is.

Product-focused photography.

 

5. Think about angles.

Consideration of the angle your photograph is taken is an often underappreciated element to your work. When I go into an online shop, I love to see all of the products photographed from the same angle, and usually that means looking straight down on or across from the subject. This means either a 0 or 90 degree angle from the ground. I think these are good angles to shoot as because it captures your product from the most objective point of view. Adding in angles and different levels of focus and blur can create really great and dramatic pictures, but it’s not typically appropriate for this situation. These angles are also great for encompassing your entire subject in the shot, which we talked about in Step 4.

 

Now what are angled shots great for? Detail detail detail. I highly recommend taking angled and zoomed in shots of your products to show in some of the secondary pictures you show of your product. These can give the customer a sense of the level of detail in a product, it’s texture, or simply show it at the angle you might most commonly see it once actually in use. For example, if you are looking to buy a chandelier or hanging light fixture, you want to see it photographed from the side when you are shopping because that angle gives you the highest level of detail in one picture, letting you see what it really looks like. Once you click on the item, however, I would want to maybe see the chandelier from the bottom or from an angle taken from below because that is the angle you will most commonly view the product, and you want to make sure it looks good.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Think about angles.

Great primary product shot taken directly above the piece.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Think about angles.

Beautiful close up shot taken at an angle shows detail and texture.

 

 

6. Show it in use.

Depending on your product, you may or may not want to show it in use as your primary image. For clothing, I always recommend showing it in use in your primary photograph unless you are going with an extremely minimalist approach. Nobody wants to see you knit hat on a foam mannequin head. It doesn’t tell us anything about what it would look like on a real person, and you get a lifeless photograph as a result.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Show it in use.

Handwoven pendant necklace by Pidge Pidge

 

For home products, you might consider a more minimal approach to displaying your work before showing it in use in one of your secondary photographs. This goes back to not distracting your viewer, but it depends entirely on what your product is. Think carefully about what your target customer would want to see initially when browsing through a list of products? What would make him or her click on your shop and not the listing above or beside you? Having at least one photograph that shows your product in use or in an environment that it might appear once purchased is a great way to sell your work. As a buyer myself, it really helps me get a sense of how I would use the product and how it would fit in my home or wardrobe.

 

7. Be consistent.

Be consistent is Step 7 because it is the most important aspect of your product photography to create a strong and consistent visual language across your brand. You can take stellar photos and still look like a novice seller if you have a mish mash of styles in your photography. If you take your photos from a specific angle, take all of your primary product photos from that angle. If you use a white background, use it in all of your shots. This applies to every previous step I’ve mentioned, because customers love a consistent brand where they know what they can expect.

 

Taking these steps into consideration when photographing your products can easily and dramatically increase the quality of your photographs while not busting your budget or taking up too much of your precious time. Often simple and small changes can go a long way, so try out a few different things, see what you like and what’s working, and practice! It’s fine if you don’t think you have perfect photographs yet, I certainly don’t! But if you practice implementing the same strategies and techniques for every product, you will not only get a consistent look but you will get better and better at doing so every time! What is your favorite tool for getting high-quality product photography? I’d love to hear your suggestions, too!

 

Keep creating,

 

-B

 

Voice A Story is a different kind of magazine, with the goal of teaching, inspiring, and motivating people of all ages through stories of dedicated nonprofits, relevant current news and happenings, and passionate art, photography, and writing projects by young professionals and enthusiasts. It is not your typical news magazine.

What it Means to Voice A Story

This is the first of a series of posts on a magazine called Voice A Story that you will find under the “Act” category of South Ranch Creative’s blog. Act stands for activism. It stands for caring about more than just your own needs and desires. It stands for taking action on things you are passionate about, and not backing down when you face resistance.
Voice A Story magazine logo

Voice A Story magazine was developed by a good friend and fellow activist of mine, Ryan William Flynn. Voice A Story is a different kind of magazine, with the goal of teaching, inspiring, and motivating people of all ages through stories of dedicated nonprofits, relevant current news and happenings, and passionate art, photography, and writing projects by young professionals and enthusiasts. It is not your typical news magazine.

 

In today’s age, we have an issue in what is and is not news, what is considered journalism, what is considered “worth printing”. We have media with extreme bias, thrown easily by political ideology, prejudice to the usual “if it bleeds, it leads”, with a focus on what is easy to explain. This is what Voice A Story Magazine is not. -Ryan Flynn

 

I had the distinct honor of being invited to be Voice A Story magazine’s head Graphic Designer and Web Manager back in August 2015 when the magazine was just in infancy. Without hesitation I said yes. I had just graduated college in May, didn’t have a full time job, and accepted a position at an infant online magazine that didn’t have the means yet to pay any staff members. So why?

 

Sometimes supporting the thing that is right, the thing that means something, the thing that is bigger than you alone is the most important thing you can do, and the rest can wait. I believe that we all have an important story to tell, and this magazine has the potential to serve as the light to all of those voices. The voices that would otherwise go unheard.

 

Since August, I have watched us build a passionate and loving team of eight superstars that run every aspect of the magazine, create a brand, website, and various social media accounts, publish the first two issues of the magazine and cover operating costs in the process, and donate $1 of every sale made to a chosen charity for each issue. My heart is full of pride for what we have done, however small or large you may perceive those accomplishments.

 

Voice A Story is a different kind of magazine, with the goal of teaching, inspiring, and motivating people of all ages through stories of dedicated nonprofits, relevant current news and happenings, and passionate art, photography, and writing projects by young professionals and enthusiasts. It is not your typical news magazine.

 

Issue 02 was released today, and featured charity is an amazing organization called H2O for Life, which engages young people to become active global citizens by getting involved in service-learning opportunities relating to the global water crisis. If you’ve not yet heard of or read Voice A Story, I encourage you to give this magazine the benefit of the doubt and purchase an issue here this very instant. It could just change everything for you.

 

The magazine is only $5 and $1 of every purchase through the months of November and December go to the charity, H2O for Life. Issue 01 is also still available and can be purchased for $4, the featured interview with Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love on Her Arms.

 

Keep taking action.
-B