A Story of Me, Myself, and I – Behind the Scenes of Shop Inconnue, and My Bag of Tricks!

Happy Monday friends!  I do apologize for the lack of posts last week, been kind of working through a inspirational block and also trying to recover from life’s mental exhaustion. I finally triggered the purchase of the Sony NEX 5TL from Amazon.  I’ve been eyeing it for awhile since it’s a straight up steal for this tech at $350.  $350!!  I purchased my first gen of these Sony compact DSLRs (NEX C3) at $450 on sale, for crying out loud.  The reason behind this purchase is my inspiration for today’s post.

Upgrades ya?

Upgrades ya?

It’s a pain running a one woman show.  I’m in sort of a unique situation due to some recent real life events (like, picking up and moving cross country twice in 3 years) and I don’t really have anyone around to help me take pictures of my products on myself.  Sad life, I know.  But I’ve gotten compliments on the photos I do manage to snap and put up over on my pop up store House of Inconnue featuring me myself and I, and people wonder how I get good results on my own.  First of all I’m absolutely floored that people like my photos, I’m still in the phase where I just try not to cringe when I look at them.  Well ladies and gents, here are my bag of tricks, and I hope it can help you if you’re struggling to get good polished results on your own.

The Camera

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Cell phone shot. Sorry, not the best, but look how tiny!

A compact system DSLR:  Find a good deal on one with the functions you want, and buy it.  It doesn’t even need to be a new one; they update so fast nowadays it’s ridiculous.  They’re light, powerful, and perfect for bloggers on the go and at home.  Get in a store and play with one; you’ll see what I mean.  They will blow your mind.  This can take a bit of research though as there are just a ton of options out there.  Just make sure the one you get has the functions that will suit your needs, poke around for a good used one if you want to save money, and start flipping through a photography book/blog for some tips.  I upgraded to the NEX 5T because of the flip up screen and wireless on the go transfer, and I really loved the first gen NEX C3 I had, so I stuck with Sony.

Why hello there!

Why hello there!

I’ve seen great used NEXs at around $250.  Amazon carries a good selection of used, also check out B&H, good source for photography all around.

A Good Work Area

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Hey don’t laugh. This is where the magic happens!

Just a good one, doesn’t need to be a fancy one. I live in an one bedroom apartment with little space, so I have a table up against the corner.  If you can have one next to the window where you can get daylight, even better.  By the way this Ikea table is the bomb.  I can put the table surface down if I need to create space, and it has these neat drawers on both side to tuck things into.  I leave enough space between the wall and the table so I can get back there and use the blank wall to take the selfies.

Lighting

Sunlight is unfortunately uncontrollable, so some lamps with daylight temperature bulbs is good to have.  Normal household lighting is extremely warm, so if you use this light to take your pictures you’re going to have hell of a time editing everything to not be so orange.  It’s doable depending on your photo editing skills, but it’s a time sink and oh so unpleasant.   It will also give your photos that unmistakable low quality stigma. Some 5000K – 5500K bulbs will do the trick!  I just went ahead and picked up a newbie table top set since it came with bulbs AND the lamps, plus the height of the lamps are adjustable which really helps when I’m taking the selfies.

But honestly, if you have lamps that can fit the bulbs properly, just use those and get the bulbs on their own.  Only annoying thing is these bulbs are not sold at your local Target; only specialized stores will carry them.  Thanks, internet!

DIY light diffusion.

DIY light diffusion.

Undiffused light can be really harsh, so I stuck some fabric interfacing to my lamps.  Maybe stay away from tissue paper or anything that’s easily flammable, lights can get hot.  You can buy the fabric interfacing at any fabric store, just make sure to avoid the iron-on type, those come with glue on one side.

Props

Get creative!  Things around the house, dollar stores, Ikea….

Fake floral from my local Daiso

Fake floral from my local Daiso

Misc household items

Misc household items – cute glass jar from middle school, wooden lid of a box, a ceramic tile

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Catalogs, magazines, sketchbooks. Pencils and markers if you got’em!

Hit up Home Depot for some pretty tiles if you don’t have flooring options.

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Shoot set up earlier this morning on this gorgeous tile I got from Home Depot.

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Fresh roses that wilted. I dried the leaves and threw them in a jar.

Also it doesn’t hurt if you live close to an Ikea.  I admit it, it’s my guilty secret. Fake flowers, decorative objects, useless pretty things, all at very low prices in there.

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IKEA!!!

Last but not least, a good bright white piece of paper or board to go on the table so you can get clean and pretty shots.

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Got this at Michael’s I believe? Any arts/crafts store will have them!

Phohotgraphy

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Mama and baby.

For the selfies: TRIPODS.  A one woman show’s lifesaver.  No tripod?  That’s okay, use books.  That’s why having a table is important; unless you just have an encyclopedia collection at your disposal and can stack up to a person’s height. So let’s everything up on the table!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Set up a mirror behind the camera so you can see the camera screen; prop it up using anything. Turn on that self timer and take a few test shots.  By the way this is why I upgraded to the 5T; this is totally doable but time consuming.  You can use a stool for steadiness, or just stand.  Clearly this is guerrilla style; because we don’t have lights dedicated to lighting the wall/background, the photos will come out with more contrast than what you see in professional images.  But with some editing and cropping, you’ll be fine.  Plus, imho, it’s refreshing to see “rougher” photos.  When they’re taken with care and edited, they look every bit as pro and gives a different vibe. For products:  you can either make a lightbox or just do it out in the open on a table; I used to use a lightbox and none of those shots ended up on the store.  When I snapped out in the open I was able to move around more freely and move the lights around, and I was satisfied with the results.  Play around and find your method!

Editing

There is A LOT to get into here for editing, I may have to save that for another post if you guys are interested (leave me a comment!!).   I use Photoshop to edit; if you don’t have Photoshop do a quick dig around the net for some great free or low cost image editing solutions.  Personally I like Google Picasa for quick and dirty adjustments; it’s also a great way to go through images and easily delete/sort.  Word of advise on Picasa; it’ll scan EVERYWHERE in your computer for images which is annoying and really lags your system.  You can set it to scan and update only your specified folders in Settings. I want to show you guys some examples of pre and post edit images.  Click them to zoom.

Not much was done to this guy except a few levels adjustment.  See the actual item here.

I liked the sort of harsher lighting so left that as is; cropped and airbrushed my skin.  See the rest here.

Again here cropping and airbrushing makes a big difference!  See it here. Take multiple shots of everything so you have options, especially when you’re doing selfies.  It’s tempting to see one good shot and move on to something else, but keep in mind the set up is time consuming so you want to make sure you have all you would ever need in one go.  If you set up again for a second session,lighting and other misc elements might not be the same.  It’s always always always better to have extras.  Here are some samples of  Raise the Bar necklace that didn’t make the cut:

There are endless amounts of Photoshop tutorials out there if you don’t know how to use it, simply Google what you want to learn and you’ll come upon great resources.  If you’d like to learn my personal steps give me a shout below. Thanks for sticking with me all the way to the end friends!  I hope the above was helpful; I’m so new at this myself that I’m hoping I can make it easier for anyone else trying their hand at this.  The pros out there!  Feel free to share some tips! 😉 Until next time! ps. all photos for this post are unedited!

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