DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 5

As a small business owner, your goal is to sell your product. With the tips I’ve provided over this 5-part series, you should be able to create amazing images to do just that! In Part 5, I’ll share images I’ve created for clients and reveal techniques I applied to help best capture each item.
I got a sheet of translucent white Plexi and placed the violin on top. The Plexi reflected the violin, which added a nice touch, but more importantly reflected light into the shadows. My light source was diffused white light place overhead between the violin and me. 
The lamp was pulled 6 feet from the white background. I used a light on the background so it was brighter than my subject. I metered and exposed for the white lamp shade ensuring there would be detail in the white of the shade and no detail in the white of the background.
The black wood absorbed the light while the lightwood reflected it. In order to have both equally exposed, I metered for the knob and used Adobe Lightroom to bring detail out of the blacks.
I have a NIKKOR 105mm F/2.8 lens that allows me to get super-close to my subjects. This micro lens captures amazing detail shots and works well to capture small objects are tiny details on items you’re photographing.
I used a cluster of three Nikon SB speed lights in a softbox for the subject’s face and one unmodified Nikon SB speed light behind the model to create a rim light on her hat, hair and shoulder. My camera was set to Aperture Priority and I used TTL (Through The Lens) technology to simplify my shoot. 
I shot this bent from a variety of angles until I found one that showed the top details and the legs. By moving around the subject and getting high and low, I was able to find the optimal position that best showcased the item. 
I do not use on-camera or pop-up flash. It creates terrible, unpleasant shadows. If you can use a flash off-camera, go for it! If you can’t, then just go with natural light. Be sure to remember your exposure fundamentals – ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed. 
Flat, front light is not that way to go if you’re trying to show an item’s shape. This silver goblet has fine detail that could only be showcased with angled light. I situated the goblet in front of a piece of black foam board and put a Nikon SB speed light on either side. The shadows from the angled light revealed all the delicate details in the etchings. 
I treat all my animal subjects like I do people. I’ll bring light, perhaps pop a little color, dress the set, choose a nice background and I always focus on the eyes! I photographed this chick with a NIKKOR 85mm portrait lens and a Nikon SB speed light.

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 4

For all you small business owners, the tailors, cobblers, innkeepers and bakers this photography education series is for you. In Part 4, I’ll talk about how to edit and use your images in creative ways. 
Your images can be displayed on your business walls, in ad campaigns, on social media or online stores. You can create graphics out of your pictures that can be used in clever layout and designs. You’re only as limited as your imagination. 
The font, or typeface, you choose can make or break your design so choose wisely. Serif fonts like TIMES NEW ROMAN have little bars on top and bottom and are perceived to be more clinical, professional and stately while san serif fonts like ARIAL are slick and clean and thought as more relaxed, hip and cool. For this series, I used a custom san serif font called LEAH GAVIOTA BOLD that I purchased through the graphics licensing company, Envato. 
You can create symbolic images like the one in this example that’s universally recognizable employing the tips I shared in Part 1 and 2. From there, you can convert those notable silhouettes into graphics in a few easy steps. This example logo took under ten minutes in Adobe Photoshop. I set my color swatches to magenta and white, launched the Filters Gallery, applied the Stamp Filter, added type and saved. Something like this could be used on mugs and t’s. 
Editing suites like Adobe Photoshop are very robust and can be intimidating at first. There are several resources online that can walk you through step-by-step so you don’t get overwhelmed. Check out Kelby One and Creative Live for online tutorials (note: these cost money) or you can check out Adobe Photoshop, Terry White, Glyn Dewis and Dave Clayton on YouTube. 
By photographing and isolating an iconic tool of your trade, you can incorporate it into a memorable marking tool. This eyelash curler image is now duo toned and can be printed on Plexiglas, lit from behind and hung on the wall in the salon as a graphic art piece. The eyelash curler can be further isolated and used as a character, aka letter, in a marketing campaign.
Objects often have shapes that mimic letters in the alphabet. In this example marketing campaign, an eyelash curler silhouette takes the place of the ‘Y’ in yes. A simple hand-sketched eyelash is added to give the curler a human appearance and a font that matches the curler is used. 
Self-generated campaigns don’t have to be complicated or involve computer work. Nikon cameras can connect to your smart phone via Bluetooth where you can select and download images using SnapBridge. From there, you can use image-editing applications you’re familiar with like Snapseed. You can use apps like PhotoGrid to ad type and graphics too. It’s so easy and fun! 

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 2

Light makes the exposure possible and shadow creates dimension. Light has quality, intensity, color and direction – all of which can be manipulated and used to enhance photography. In Part 2, I’ll cover the topic of light and how to use it. 
You can take pro-worthy pictures of your products to post on Etsy, EBay, your website and social media from the comfort of your home. You can use basic baking wax paper as a backdrop and diffuser, or get a pop-up shooting tent you can set up on your dining table. Simply light it with an LED panel or flashlight from your hardware store or camera store. 
You could take pictures in ambient light and they’d be good, but you shouldn’t settle for good enough. Let’s go for great! If you add one, two and even three lights to create drama and dimension in your photo. 
Use colored gels over your light to draw the viewer’s attention to certain areas of your picture. Just remember, colors such as red, orange, yellow and even white suggest warmth and seem to move toward the viewer and appear closer. Colors such as blue, purple and green suggest coolness and seem to recede from a viewer and fall back. 
All light has direction and can be redirected and diffused. In doing so, you can change the quality of the light. LED light can be very intense, so put something translucent between the light source and your subject like white tissue paper or wax paper. The easiest way is the tape it on over the light. (Note: if the light emits heat, don’t cover it or you’ll have a fire. That’s why LED is great because it doesn’t get hot.) If you can’t cover your light, simply bounce the light off a piece of white foam board and use the indirect light.
Light can pick up color by passing through or bouncing off of colored material. This is key in all photography. If you’re in a room that’s painted vibrant orange, your images may have an orange hue. If you’re photographing a church with stained glass windows, your pictures will capture varied colors of light. Use that in your pictures to add pops of color. Cover your light source with colored gels or bounce the light off foam core of various colors. 
When setting up your light, you’re natural instinct would be to put the light directly in front of your subject so it’s fully lit. Get that shot for sure, but then move the light to the side or toward the back so the shadows are on the camera side of your subject. This will give your image the appearance of depth and will showcase the shape of your product. 
Arrange your items thoughtfully and place your light(s) to best enhance the item’s shape then shoot. Don’t forget to set your camera to Aperture Priority Mode, Spot Metering, Single Point of Focus, set the ISO based on available light, choose an F/Stop for desired depth of field, move your focus point over the area of desired focus, meter for the highlight and let the camera choose the Shutter Speed. If the Shutter Speed is too slow, either increase your ISO or open up your Aperture or both. If the image is too bright or dark, use Exposure Compensation to +/- the exposure. Shoot the products from overtop then get at its level and shoot. If something doesn’t look right, change it and start again. 
When you stage a still life, it’s best to start simple. Put one item in at a time and arranging it. Add one light at a time too. It’s like painting, where you start with the background as the foundation and build layers over it. Don’t get stuck at one angle while shooting either. Be sure to try various angles – up, down, side to side. Don’t delete anything in camera; perhaps a happy mistake turns out to be the best image!

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 1

My niece recently graduated esthetics school and I wanted to help her build a photographic portfolio while also demonstrating how she could create her own visual content for her online portfolio and social media pages. If you’re an esthetician, cosmetologist, artisan or entrepreneur, visual documentation of your work is an important asset and key to staying relevant and drawing in new clients. In this series, “DIY Photography for Your Small Business,” I am going to share the same photography tips and tricks I taught Sienna, so you can apply them to your work too. I will discuss gear essentials and techniques, how to create a catalog of beautiful images you can use to build a visually dynamic website, stock images you can use to create your own unique social media engagements and down-and-dirty tricks to capturing solid, beautiful portraits of your clients.
Let’s talk gear for a moment. I know youÕve probably been snapping pics using your smart phone, but frankly a smart phoneÕs camera capabilities are limited and the quality is just okay. If you want to do killer portraits and product shots, youÕll have to invest in a proper camera and lens(s) kit. If youÕre anything like Sienna, and every other entrepreneur just striking out, you donÕt have much pocket money. ThatÕs perfectly understandable. You donÕt have to break the bank to get your hands on a starter kit. A Nikon D3500 with two lenses is less than $500, a Nikon D750 with one lens is less than $1,800 and a Nikon Z 6 with FTZ Adapter and one lens is less than $2,750.
You should get familiar with the three elements of photographic exposure – ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed. I like to refer to it as your “What I.F.S.” This method is a great way to remember the three critical elements of creating a picture: ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed. What if the room is dark? Answer: increase your ISO. What if I have a distracting background? Answer: use a wide-open aperture. What if I want to capture motion? Answer: slow down your shutter speed. If you don’t know what ISO, F/Stop or Shutter Speed mean, don’t worry – I’ll explain.
ISO was a numeric rating created in film days to denote film’s light sensitivity. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive to light the film was. The lower the ISO the less sensitive. Today’s “digital film” or sensor, aka charged coupled device, is the light sensitive part of your digital camera. Unlike film days, you don’t have to change a roll of film to change your camera’s light sensitivity. All you do is press the ISO button and rotate a dial.
The Aperture controls depth-of-field, which means it determines how much will be in focus in front of and behind the subject you’re focusing on. If you set your Aperture to F/2.8, whatever is in front of and behind your subject will be out of focus. If you switch to F/22, you will have nearly infinite sharpness in front and behind your subject. Again, the lens you have plays a factor too. Remember, some lenses may not be able to “open up” to F/2.8, which means you may not be able to achieve that blur, aka bokeh, you’re looking for. Also, the focal length of the lens impacts depth-of-field. I don’t want to get too technical, but you should know wider lenses like the NIKKOR 14-24mm natively has more depth-of-field no matter the F/Stop you choose. On the other hand, longer lenses like the NIKKOR 70-200mm have inherently less depth-of-field.
Shutter speed refers to the length of time the cameraÕs shutter is open. The longer the shutter is open, the more light will be let in. Shutter speeds are durations of time indicated in seconds or fractions of a second. They are displayed on the camera’s menu, or within the viewfinder, as a denominator of the fraction. For example, the display may show 500, which means 1/500th second. If you see what looks like ” you’ve set your Shutter Speed to full second increments. For example, 1″ is one second and 2″ is two second. Unless you’re doing long nighttime exposures or fancy wave pictures, you DO NOT want that. Beware of the camera shake. A high shutter speed like 1/1000th of a second will let in very little light, while a lower shutter speed like 1/20th of a second will be letting in more light. The slower shutter speed you have, the more likely you are to have blurry images.
A high shutter speed like 1/1000th of a second will let in very little light, while a lower shutter speed like 1/20th of a second will be letting in more light. The slower shutter speed you have, the more likely you are to have blurry images. Tip: Beware of the camera shake by ensuring your shutter speed is 1/60th of a second or faster. Also, you can help reduce camera shake by using your lenses focal length as a shutter speed guide. Simply make sure your shutter speed is set to be the same or faster than your lens’ focal length. What do I mean. Here’s an example. If you have a lens that 200mm, be sure your shutter speed is 1/200th of a second or faster. If the lens is 400mm, set your shutter speed to 1/400th of a second or faster.
All three elements of the ÒWhat IFSÓ directly impact each other. If the F/Stop changes, the Shutter Speed must be adjusted. There are many combinations of ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed that will create the same exposure – this is referred to as equivalent exposures. For instance, if you change your ISO, you’ll have to adjust your F/Stop or Shutter Speed to keep your exposure on-point. Using a full-auto exposure more like Program or semi-automatic exposure mode like Aperture Priority can help reduce exposure slip-ups. Keep it simple. I suggest using Aperture Priority where all you have to do is set the ISO based on available like, choose your F/Stop and let the camera determine the Shutter Speed.

DIY Photography for Your Small Business

You can create your own images quickly, easily, professionally!

 

My niece, Sienna Ditmore, recently graduated esthetics school and I wanted to help her build a photographic portfolio while also demonstrating how she could create her own visual content for her online portfolio and social media pages. If you’re an esthetician, cosmetologist, artisan or entrepreneur, visual documentation of your work is an important asset and key to staying relevant and drawing in new clients. In this series, “DIY Photography for Your Small Business,” I am going to share the same photography tips and tricks I taught Sienna, so you can apply them to your work too. I will discuss gear essentials and techniques, how to create a catalog of beautiful images you can use to build a visually dynamic website, stock images you can use to create your own unique social media engagements and down-and-dirty tricks to capturing solid, beautiful portraits of your clients.

Sienna applies foundation to her client, Cali, during a portfolio building session in Charleston, SC. (Image taken by Stacy L. Pearsall with the Nikon Z 7 and NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4s lens)

Potential clients devour visual content every day and are very clever consumers who recognize quality when they see it. They critically judge the superiority of an artisan’s work by how it’s presented in an image. If the picture is awful, they swipe and move on. Therefore the quality of images you capture directly impacts a potential client’s first impressions. In short, if you take mediocre pictures of a banging hairstyle, it’s likely the viewer won’t appreciate your efforts, or even really “see it.” That goes for anyone trying to sell his or her creations through pictures. If Sienna is going to build a client base, she’ll not only have to know how to contour with make-up and shape an arched-brow like a boss, she’ll need to be able to capture dynamic, quality images of her creations too.

A natural window light portrait of Sienna’s model, Cali, after completing her make-up portfolio piece. (Image taken by Stacy L. Pearsall with the Nikon Z 7 and NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 using the FTZ Mount Adapter)

For those of you who do not know, esthetics is the specialization of beauty and skin care. Estheticians like Sienna perform a wide range of services to include facials, wax treatments, lash and brow tinting, make-up and more. Like most specialized job descriptions, hers does not include photography or media. In a world driven by views and clicks, it should be in the top-ten. Like most new esthetics and cosmetology graduates, Sienna literally has no quality content to build her brand, her website or social media pages.

Tip: With a little ingenuity, a spark of creativity and a few minutes of your time, you can create super-cool pictures to use for your business. Here’s an example of what Sienna and I did, and what you can do too!

As most entrepreneurs do, Sienna could license stock images but it won’t be her own creations featured in the images and it costs money. She could hire a pro photographer, but she’d have to do so frequently to keep her content up-to-date and that costs money. Instead of seeing any entrepreneur pay for stock images multiple artisans use, I’d rather you invest that capital in a camera kit you can use create your own pictures over the course of your career. That’s what I’ve recommended to Sienna. That’s what I encourage you to do as well.

A pallet of eyeshadow is prepped with lights for a still life image Sienna can use on her website. The image will be taken with the Nikon Z 7 and NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 using the FTZ Mount Adapter. The lights used are a household LED light panel found at any hardware store and a Manfrotto Lumimuse 8 LED.

Let’s talk gear for a moment. I know you’ve probably been snapping pics using your smart phone, but frankly a smart phone’s camera capabilities are limited and the quality is just okay. If you want to do killer portraits and product shots, you’ll have to invest in a proper camera and lens(s) kit. If you’re anything like Sienna, and every other entrepreneur just striking out, you don’t have much pocket money. That’s perfectly understandable. You don’t have to break the bank to get your hands on a starter kit. A Nikon D3500 with two lenses is less than $500, a Nikon D750 with one lens is less than $1,800 and a Nikon Z 6 with FTZ Adapter and one lens is less than $2,750. 

I know you’re probably wondering what the difference is between the cameras other than price and it all comes down to file size, capability and quality. I’ll keep this brief and in lay terms as best I can. Most smart phones like the one Sienna carries in her back pocket have 12 megapixel cameras while an entry-level Nikon D3500 has 24.2 megapixels. Basically this means the Nikon D3500 can record double the amount of data than Sienna’s phone can and produce higher quality files to boot. More megapixels means better quality photos. Keep this in mind too; megapixels mean nothing if you’re using a cloudy, scratched lens. Have a look at your phone’s camera lens. Is it covered in finger grease like mine? It’s probably riddled with scratches from being in and out of your pocket just like Sienna’s too. Those imperfections are impossible to work around when you’re trying to capture sharp, quality images.

Tip: There are three sensor types Nikon offers: DX, FX and BSI FX. The smallest is the DX format, which is a cropped sensor in the Nikon D3500. Then there’s the FX sensor, which is equivalent to a 35mm film and considered a “Full Frame.” The FX sensor is in the Nikon D750. Finally, there’s Back Side Illuminated BSI FX, which is also full frame and enhances low-light capture capability. The Nikon Z 6 has the BSI FX sensor within. 

Nikon Z 6 featured in this picture has the BSI FX sensor within. 
The AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR that comes in the Nikon D3500 kit

An entry-level NIKKOR lens like the one that comes with the Nikon D3500 kit has clarity, range, multi-layered optical coating, vibration reduction, distortion reduction, auto-focus and more. In translation, it captures clean, sharp images with little to no flare or distortion. Plus, you can’t stick it in your back pocket, nor will you feel inclined to swipe your thumb across the lens. Well you could, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that. 

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. Here’s the short of it. No matter what phone camera you have now, any entry level DSLR and lens will blow its capabilities out of the water. Let me put it to you like this… Every blush compact comes with a dinky blush-brush included – it works, but it’s not ideal. Instead of using the cheap plastic throw-away brush, you buy a dedicated, pro-level brush with domed shaped tip and luxurious, smooth applicator bristles. Why? Because that’s all it was engineered to do – apply and blend blush perfectly.

Like Sienna, and so many others, you may be thinking about convenience. The phone is always with you, yes. However, the phone’s camera is not good enough, nor does it have the capability to produce the quality, professional images your career demands and deserves. Leave your phone for calls and your camera for taking pictures. 

Tip: You may be looking at an entry-level camera now because it’s on the low end of your budget. That’s understandable. Please consider the long term before you make any purchases. A DX format camera is good. It’ll get the job done for you and do it better than any smart phone camera out there. An FX format camera is great. It’ll out perform any DX camera in terms of quality and capability. And there’s the BSI FX sensor, which is the best there is bar none. It doesn’t get better than that. If you can afford to get an FX or BSI FX sensor camera, do it. It’ll save you from upgrading your gear once you realize how amazing creating your own pictures can be!

An eye shadow pallet from Sienna’s make-up kit is lit with a household LED light panel covered in blue gel and a Manfrotto Lumimuse 8 LED light panel with yellow gel. (Image taken by Stacy L. Pearsall with the Nikon Z 7 and NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 using the FTZ Mount Adapter)

 

Where We’ve Been

VPP_Map
States visited in GRAY // States yet to visit in ORANGE

Where We’ve Been

If you’d like to see where the Veterans Portrait Project has been, simply have a look below. Each gallery link will take you to a gallery that features portraits taken on that day, in that city, in that state. If you see the same city multiple times, it’s not a mistake. We just did back-to-back shoot days in that location. Each event is listed in order of date, so take your time and have fun learning more about our American heroes!

If you see your state in ORANGE, we still need to get there. You can help us get there! Learn how to host a VPP event HERE. If you can’t be a host, you can always contribute by making a DONATION.

If you see your state in GRAY, you can find the gallery(s) of images from your state below.

VPP at Raritan High School in Hazlet, NJ

I was invited by high school teacher, Teresa Genneralli, to bring the Veterans Portrait Project to Hazlet, NJ. Naturally, I said yes. It was an opportunity for me to teach students, reach out to a new community and photograph veterans all at the same time. Teresa included another teacher, Rosemarie Wilkinson, whose students were going to interview the veterans and write-up something on each other them. She was also nice enough to house my assistant, Trish, and me for our brief visit.

Here’s a quick video showcasing the Raritan High School VPP session and educational outreach day!

It was wonderful to hear the young students say, “Thank you for your service,” to the veterans. Plus, the students did a great job behind the camera! See for yourself below…

Click HERE to see the gallery portraits the students captured during our time with the veterans.