TOOLBOX: Photography Basics For Bloggers

Photography Basics For Bloggers #eqiuipment #supplies #adventuresinmkg
Photography is an essential skill for any blogger and one of the most intimidating tools to learn (at least for me). I’ve had my Canon Rebel for over 6 years and am only now really learning how to use it. I took an online class from A Beautiful Mess called Mastering Your DSLR last April and it has helped me improve my photography skills immensely.

At my last job, I worked as blog editor for an online company and spent a lot of time working with their in-house photographer to create blog content. I learned so much from watching the photographer work and assisting her in styling each shot.

Since launching Adventures In Making, I’ve had to dive in and take all the photos you see here myself. I can tell you it’s definitely something that takes both patience and practice. I have a few essential tools and techniques I use to achieve the quality and look that I want for each photo, plus aside from my digital camera, all the equipment I use is low-budget or found second hand.

1. Basic Equipment

Digital camera. Although a professional DSLR camera is ideal, you can still get great photos from a simple point-and-shoot, or even your iPhone. It’s worth your time to look for tutorials and advice for using the camera you choose. There may be simple techniques you overlook when you’re using it. Definitely take the time to ask friends what they use, and if they have any tips.

Tripod. Even the slightest movement while taking a photo will cause a motion blur. The closer you get to your object, the more obvious the motion blur becomes. Even an inexpensive tripod will make a big difference in the sharpness of your images. Tripods are available at all sorts of stores. If you’d like a more portable setup, think about using a small table-top tripod, or a flexible tripod like a Gorilla Pod.

Remote switch is also helpful to prevent moving the camera while taking a photo. Even the action of pressing the shutter will often cause you to move and blur your photo. A remote switch can relieve this frustration. If you don’t have a remote, try playing with the timer setting on your camera.

Reflector. A reflector can help direct light to your subject and soften dark shadows. You can purchase one like this one, or for a cheaper option you can use a large white poster board. I recommend reading this post from Making Nice in the Midwest blog. Mandi goes into great detail about the equipment she uses and how reflectors can make all the difference in your photos.

Image editing software to crop, brighten, sharpen, etc. your photos as needed. It may seem easier to use the image exactly as it was shot. But in reality, it is difficult to shoot an image precisely how you want it to appear in its final form. We recommend using Photoshop or similar software program. PicMonkey is a free online source for photo editing.

2. Styling

Styling is essential to create a strong image because it gives your idea context for the viewer and can help tell your story. Simple backdrops and props are great for enhancing photos. For example, I like to use different fabrics, papers and textures for backdrops and I have a variety of different props I like to use (like baskets, dishes, ribbon, flowers, etc.)

Photography Basics For Bloggers #eqiuipment #supplies #adventuresinmkg

You want your photos to showcase your idea, so it’s best to try not to use too many props that distract the viewer. With that said, you can still get creative with different prop ideas to enhance your photo. For example, in my Watercolor Gift Wrap post, I used a small vase of flowers, and a dish with dried chamomile (one of the ingredients for my eye pillows) as props. For my Fire Cider recipe, the ingredients themselves became my props. And in my Pretzel Treat Favors post, I used paper straws, ribbon, tags, and balloons to create the look and feel of a party.

Photography Basics For Bloggers #eqiuipment #supplies #adventuresinmkg

When thinking of prop ideas for your photos think simple and try to use what you already have in your home or kitchen. I also recommend dollar stores and thrift stores as great places to find baskets, flowers, old fabrics, etc.

3. Lighting

Window/natural lighting makes the best photos. Never use a flash or overhead light. Set up your backdrop and props near a window and take your photographs during the day when there is good light. If photographing outdoors, an overcast day or shady spot is best. Direct sunlight creates hard shadows in your photos (which is not good!). Think soft light not hard light.

If sunlight is never where you need it, consider trying some supplemental lighting. The trick is to find a light fixture and bulb that will help you replicate sunlight. I recommend stopping by a store that sells cameras and photography supplies, and asking what sort of setup they recommend. Avoid using a normal household bulb as it will produce yellow light (which is bad for photography), especially when you are aiming to replicate the look of ‘natural’ sunlight.

Additional Resources

Food & Light: Photography Tips from Diane Cu by Averie Cooks
Food Styling By Celebrate Creativity
Lighting Tips and Tricks for Bloggers & Photographers by Making Nice in the Midwest.
Basic Photo Tips for Bloggers by B.You

TOOLBOX: Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad Review

TOOLBOX: Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad #product #review

My mom, who is especially good at finding useful things in unlikely places, brought me home a Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad one day. Actually, typical of my mom, she bought 3! One for her, my grandma and me. Both her and my grandma are sewers, so she thought they would be useful in tracing pattern pieces. Boy, was she right! Who would have thought you could find such a handy tool in the toy section.

TOOLBOX: Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad #product #review #adventuresinmkg

What’s great about this light pad is that it’s small and portable. You can easily fit it into your bag along with your sketchbook. After showing it to my friend Tara, she picked one up to use during her calligraphy classes! The light is powered by three AA batteries and is nice and bright, making for easy tracing.

This has become one of my go-to tools for my illustration work and I love that I can sit with it on the couch, at a bar or in a cafe.

TOOLBOX: Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad #product #review

UPDATE! Here is a video from Crayola showing off their Light-Up Tracing Pad. Watch to see it in action.

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures In Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

TOOLBOX: Martha’s Score Board Review

Toolbox: Martha's Score Board Review #productreview #marthastewart #craft #paper #tool
My awesome mother-in-law got me this Martha Stewart Score Board for Christmas. I have to admit I was excited by the possibilities (envelopes!) but didn’t see immediately how often I would use it.

Cut forward to the invention of the FlipOver planner and my elbow, sore from using a rotary scoring blade. I pulled out the score board, and I’ve been using it since.

Toolbox: Martha's Score Board Review #productreview #marthastewart #craft #paper #tool

To Love:

• I heart the square corner to line up in, and the ruler. I often will put a piece of masking tape on a score point I plan on using again and again.
• The 1/8 inch divisions usually give you all the options you need. Also, if you would like to make something like a curved/flexible spine you can do a few scores in a row, and they are all parallel and perfect.
• There’s a little box at the top of the board that stores your bone folder, or anything else you might like to keep in there. There is also a corner guide for scoring on 45 degrees that slips into a slot at the bottom of the board.
• The score result is lovely, straight, consistent, and deep
• I really like how flat and compact it is (especially compared to my rotary cutter). It’s a lot easier to find a home for it.

To Hate:

• DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF OF WHAT YOU’RE DOING. Do not glance away. Do not blink. If you blink the Angels will make your bone folder slip and will ruin what you are doing. I plan for 10% failure rate on this because I get distracted easily.
• The bone folder they provide is clumsy at best, and danged uncomfortable at worst. I replaced mine with a slightly sharpened bone folder from an art store. (I’ll tell you how I sharpened it, if you ask nicely.)
• I want to score everything, and I really don’t have time to make all my own envelopes.

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures in Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

TOOLBOX: Sharpie Pencil Review

TOOLBOX: Sharpie Pencil Review #productreview #sharpie #review

When I first read about the Sharpie Liquid Pencil on the Sharpie Blog I was pretty stoked. I am a fan of using pencils for my doodles- but I hate that they rub and fade over time. Sharpie’s Liquid pencil promises to write and erase like a pencil, and to be permanent after 24 hours (or more?).

Since I am also a Sharpie-aholic, I went ahead and bought a set at the office store to try out.

TOOLBOX: Sharpie Pencil Review #productreview #sharpie #review

Overall it’s a disappointment. The pen[cil] does not write smoothly, more like a cheap ballpoint. When you do write with it, it leaves a relatively deep impression in the paper that makes it virtually impossible to erase completely. At the same time, the “liquid graphite” is very easy to smear, or “erase” with your finger or hand.

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The uneven quality means that it is not any good at the things I love doing with a pencil- shading, varying stroke weight, messing around. I’m really not sure that it is good at anything. I will check it out to see how permanent it is tomorrow.

Guess I’m stuck with my mechanical pencil fallbacks, and all my Sharpie pens (which I heart) and markers.

(If you want an even more thorough review, check out this one.)

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures in Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

TOOLBOX: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder Review

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper
I’m pleased as punch (no pun intended) with the Diamond 1 Corner Rounder I recently bought. It comes with a 1/4″ corner rounding die, which is great, plus ordered a couple of other dies as well.

It will punch a whole stack of paper/cardstock/etc at a time, which is super handy for rounding the corners on pads or books. The extra scrap falls down a hole at the back, into a trash drawer. There is another drawer at the front for extra dies, and tools.

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

The extra dies I ordered are namely a wider diameter rounder, and a 45 degree straight cut (possibly because I was watching BSG at the time.) In total I have 4 blades, from a very small professional curve to a nice big friendly one. The blade pieces are a bit oily- I would advise wiping them down with a paper towel before hooking them on. The oil has never been on the blade portion, so it doesn’t transfer to the paper.

They look like this…

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

Here are the cutting results from each blade: M (45 degree die), S (1/8″ die), M (1/4″ die comes with the cutter) and L (3/8″ die).

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

Each die bolts onto the cutter with an Ikea style hex key. It’s very important to re-adjust the blue guides after replacing the blade, and from time-to-time while you’re using it. (If the blade is too close to the paper, or if it is slightly turned you get a small notch in the side of the curve. Look at the “S” example in the sample picture above. The curve goes into the paper, instead of going straight into the straight side.)

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

Once you have your die blade bolted into place, the blue guides are loosened and adjusted.

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

I cut several scrap pieces of Crane Lettra. It does well, but with a large stack there is a little variation in the shape of the curve from top to bottom. A stack 1/4 inch or smaller works best. These sheets were cut as a stack…

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper
The cutter has a nifty hole and drawer for catching paper scraps (though they will still get EVERYWHERE). The front drawer holds some of the things you need; a couple of blades, the hex keys, etc.

IMG_6749

All in all I’m happy- my biggest complaint is the constant adjusting of the blue guides. But it’s worth it to get rid of those sharp, pointy edges (and so much better than craft rounders.)

What I love about this tool

• It’s simple and easy to use.
• I’m able to change out the dies for different purposes.
• It cuts clean and fairly consistently on a variety of different papers and card stocks.
• Good quality and value

A couple of drawbacks I’ve found

• The blade really cuts into the blue plastic underneath. The set comes with a few replacements, and I can see I’ll need to replace the original pad more quickly than I’d hoped.
• It’s really important to get the paper lined up in the corner just right, so you have to really keep your eye on how you are putting the paper under the blade. There are guides, but for some reason it’s easy to slant the paper one way or another.
• I want to round everything. In fact, I just might.

I bought this guy from Binding101 because they were the cheapest. It’s also available from an Amazon dealer. It took about 5 business days to get to me, which was great.

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures in Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

TOOLBOX: Corner Rounder Craft Punch Review

I once watched a plucky design student cut 60 rounded corners with an Xacto knife. This is a painstaking process that I will not illustrate for you because it involves too much work and too many accidents. Although I had not been exposed to all of the crafting materials out there, I knew there must be a better way.

One of the major perks to working in a paper store was that we had access to almost all of the tools we sold, and to the wisdom of the older crafters around us. So when I decided to buy a corner rounder for myself, I bought this one…

IMG_4786

It’s called the Corner Adorner – Medium Corner Rounder by EK Success.

Don’t expect too much. It can only handle one piece of cover stock at a time, and after a few years (of abuse) some of the flimsy parts in mine broke. However, compared to the quality of most of the craft corner rounders it worked better from the beginning to the end with less finger strength needed. (Some of the others were just plain tough to use.) I replaced the broken punch with an identical one if that says anything.

A Hint- if you have punches like this (or any punches really) there are a couple of good ways to keep them working smoothly. If you punch through aluminum foil (which I usually fold over a few times) it is said to sharpen the blade. Punching through wax paper makes the whole thing move a little smother.

I think that rounded corners can be the touch that makes a paper project, but if you’re working on something with quantity make sure you have the necessary finger strength and time to get it done with this little sucker OR invest in the Diamond 1 Corner Rounder.

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures in Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.