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Almost a great shot

I was photographing some wrens who had recently moved into one of our backyard bluebird houses, watching mom bring treats for the nestlings. An unhappy, homeless bluebird landed on the house, so I re-positioned my camera and was snapping a few shots, not paying any attention to what was happening at the entrance. I didn’t realize it until later, but as I was shooting angry bird, by chance I also got the wren in the corner of the frame . Cool shot, I think, but I wish I had captured more of the wren. Maybe next time.

Bluebird house

Making a Custom Phone Case: Start to Finish

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the wide variety of mobile phone cases that I make and sell in my Etsy shop, and how to best choose a case to match your needs. On a similar note, I thought it would be interesting to share the process of making one of these cases, and more specifically, what is involved with personalizing the case using a photo provided by a customer. It all begins with a listing, which includes a thorough description of the case, ordering instructions and a photo which looks something like this:

Greenpix custom phone case

As an example, I’ll use a recent sale to a customer who wanted a photo of her dog, Chloe, on an iPhone 4/4S case. The first step of course, was getting Chloe’s photo. I provided the customer with a link so that she could upload her photo to my file hosting service. This approach avoids the possibility of file corruption or compression that may occur when sending as an email attachment. Here’s what the uploaded photo looked like:

Chloe_AsReceived

That’s a great shot of a beautiful dog, but there was one problem – the aspect ratio. You can see easily enough that the aspect ratio is 1:1 (it’s square). However, as you could probably guess, the aspect ratio of the iPhone 4/4S case is more like 2:1 (about twice as high as it is wide). Depending on the specific details of the photo, there are some creative ways to fit the entire image on the case. But in this situation, we were left with cropping as the most practical solution. To make sure my customer got what she wanted, I created the following digital proofs showing two cropping options:

Chloe_Landscape

Chloe_Portrait

She decided on the portrait orientation, which unfortunately meant that the date stamp was included in that part of the image. Luckily enough, it was in an area that was easily edited using Photoshop. Speaking of which, I use Phototshop to prepare my images for printing, and for phone cases usually print in groups of three for economic reasons. Here’s a screen capture showing Chloe, along with two of my more popular photos, ready for printing:

PrintScreen2

Here’s what that looks like coming out of the printer (notice how the images are reversed):

Printer

Positioning sublimation blanks on paper (two ready, Chloe next in line):

PositioningBlanks

Getting ready to press:

Press

Successful sublimation:

Sublimated

Chloe on her insert:

ChloeInsert

Insert and case, ready to be assembled (no second chances):

Insert&Case

Got it right!

AssembledCase

Making sure the case fits the phone:

CaseOnPhone

One last inspection:

Inspection

Ready for packing and shipping:

Packing

*****

That’s really all there is to it, and it sure is nice to have full control over each and every step of the process.

Point & Shoot? I Don’t Think So!

Nikon D800 ModeLast week I wrote about a new series of tutorials that I will be launching in the coming months. As I wrote my first one (Image Sharpness – Part 1: Techniques to Eliminate Motion Blur) and was working on my outline for others in the series, I came to realize that there would be one common thread among all the lessons. Regardless of what I would be discussing, or what tips I would be sharing, or what techniques I would suggest you try, it always came back to the same prerequisite — you need to know how to use your camera. I don’t mean that you need to know how to turn it on and press the shutter release. I mean that you need to understand what features your camera has, what those features do, and how to adjust the settings to achieve the results that you’re after.

Sony RX100 Top Control DialEvery camera has a unique set of features, and every manufacturer has their own terminology and format for their user manuals. I don’t know what cameras you all are using, and even if I did I couldn’t possibly cover the wide variety in each and every lesson. I also don’t see much point in using the first page of every tutorial telling you how important it is to understand how to use your camera. So I’m asking that you help me to help you. If I instruct you to change your ISO from AUTO to 400, or your exposure compensation from 0 to +1, you need to know how to do that. I’ll explain why you need to change it, and give you some general guidelines on how to do it, but when it comes right down to pushing the right buttons or turning the right dials, it’s all you.

zoomcontrolSince the manufacturers have already done their share, your homework is to spend some quality time getting familiar with your camera and user manual. Trust me, it’s time well spent, and certainly more productive than continuously re-shooting your entire inventory. So spend a cold, rainy afternoon with your favorite beverage and your camera’s user manual.  Learn about the features of your camera, what settings can be adjusted, what they do, and how they affect the finished image. So much for “point and shoot,” right? Sorry, but there’s no such thing when it comes to product photography. And when it comes to learning how to use one of the most important tools in your shop, there’s no time like the present.

Greenpix Testimonials

Here’s what people are saying about photography advice from greenpix …

“LOVE your site and the information you so easily communicate. It really is an artform in and of itself! Your posts have inspired us at our shop to take some pretty good looking pictures if I do say so myself. We’ve received lots of feedback and all are positive. Thank you again for all your hard work…We really do appreciate it!”  ~Christine

“Great post, Greenpix, outstanding!!”  ~Sue

“Greenpix is always spot on and very informative. I appreciate the attention to detail and the useful info. you bring each and every time. I also have to say ‘THANK YOU VERY MUCH’ for including my ‘Wagon Wheel’ pic in this feature of ‘Nice Folks, Nice Things’…Very unexpected, but very nice indeed. Your blog is one of the most helpful I’ve ever read regarding digital cameras and photos in general. Layman’s terms is one thing, but your clear concise wording is what makes it work so well…that and your very approachable manner. Keep up the great work.”  ~Jeannette

“Cheers dude, love the posts, you’ve helped me so much already!”  ~Joe

“Thanks a million! I have been wondering how to do that and you make it sound really easy. I can’t wait to try it out!”  ~Brandeye

“Great post! It’s 100% useful to do this homework: take a really good photo and learn it step-by-step. What is right, what is wrong, what can be changed to improve the shot, etc. For an amateur and learning photographer it is extremely important. Thank you very much!”  ~Natalya

“Wow, I have learned so much from this blog! Thank you for breaking down my tree picture for me. I had no idea how it looked as a histogram…I just knew that this particular photo turned out well. Thanks again, and have a great day!”  ~Ellen

“This is an amazing post. I’ve followed my camera’s instruction booklet by selecting a white piece of paper to do this, but never had any luck. Now I know why. Thanks so much for taking some of the mystery out of photography!”  ~Vicki

“Good info, much appreciated and many thanks to you.”  ~Patty

“Thanks again for a very clear, concise explanation of something that can make our pictures even better. I truly like your step by step breakdown, it makes it very easy to follow and understand. Great pic by the way! Another excellent post!”  ~Jeannette

“I am so pleased I found your blog. You seem to be answering all the questions I have been asking about taking photos with my new camera. As usual, it’s finding the time to go through it in detail and putting it into practice. I must set aside a day for ‘getting to know your camera thoroughly’ and work through your posts. Thanks so much for taking the time to pass on your knowledge and experience. Your photographs are awesome by the way.”  ~Tialys

“It’s absolutely amazing what proper lighting can do – I bet the seller you helped is jumping for joy!”  ~Liliruby

“My product photography has improved a lot the past few months, and still working on it with more reading. (Love your blog, Greenpix). But I am still lacking that emotional content. It’s also easy to get into a rut with using certain angles, your post made me think about that again. So I love reading posts where it deconstructs into elements with comments on why it works. Really useful post!”  ~Jacqueline

“Very constructive, certainly shows how a simple procedure can really improve a product.”  ~Ron

“Thanks so much for the article, so appreciated. I love the way you explain things, it makes it seem so much easier. I just recently got a SLR camera and am still struggling with AV, P etc settings and depth of field issues. Thanks so much, you are a real teacher.”  ~Jeanne

“Very helpful! Short, sweet and to the point…my kind of blog!”  ~Marge

“What an amazing photo…incredible!! I have just found your blog and so far have only read 2 of your articles but I already learned several things I am doing wrong. Your info is clear and easy to understand. I have struggled from day one with my photos and they have improved but they are a LONG way from being good. I spent the last year practicing and trying many, many things (including the infamous OTT bulb) but have gotten so disgusted with myself and ready to just settle for so-so photos. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and I can’t wait to read all of your previous posts as well.”  ~Karen

“Wow. A lot of bang for my buck in this article.”  ~Lara

“Thanks Mike – that’s incredibly helpful. Your suggestion to ‘meter on the sky’ I had never considered doing before, but it’s something I’m going to do in future. Your wife’s photo using the AE with multiple metering is also great – very natural looking without too much contrast or washout. It’s shocking how little of the digital camera’s features I actually use – for example, following your excellent advice about setting the white balance, I’ve just started to do that every time I use the camera. My latest product shots look very much better because of it.”  ~Sally

“Simple, applicable, useful. Thank you!”  ~Sue

“Thanks so much for the info, your advice is invaluable.”  ~Leigh

“I am very impressed with your blog. You are answering complicated questions in terminology and directions that are very easily understood.”  ~Maggie

“Wow! What a difference!”  ~Anita

“Great article, definitely taught me some new things. Taking pictures of glass has been one of the hardest things for me. Now to apply to all my photos. Thanks for the help!”  ~Jenny

“Great advice”  ~Melody

“Simple, applicable, useful. Thank you!”  ~Sue