Monday, 21 July 2014

Guest Post ~ Photography hints and tips....

I am very excited to hand you over to a pro to give you hints and tips as part of my photography season! 

I first met my photographer friend, Hiral, when we worked together in retail. I was very thankful for her advice when I first got my DSLR and started product photography. 

I am so pleased she has kindly agreed to share her knowledge. With a topic like this she could write a book! She has focused on her top technical tips to get a good snap, over to you, Hiral....

Hi All,

I’ve been asked by fizzi~jayne to give all you wonderful crafters some top tips on photography!

My name is Hiral Dixit (Hiral Dixit Photography).   I’ve been a photographer for over 7 years photographing everything from Apples to Humans. 
Taking photographs of your products or crafts can be quite daunting even when there are so many how to guides on the internet and Youtube, somehow it’s just difficult to get that perfect photograph in one go.
Well you're missing one BIG aspect of photography and that really is the technique. Taking pictures of your crafts is not all about having expensive cameras, it’s about knowing your camera, surroundings, light and then bringing a load of creativity to the table.
I’m going to cover two main topics I think will help you. Choosing the right camera and understanding photography jargon such as ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. So let’s get started!

Choosing the right camera:

Lots of people think buying a £2,000 DSLR will solve all their problems. Sorry but if you're not going to take it off the auto mode it isn’t any better than a good point and shoot camera.

Your choice of camera should really depend on what context you are going to be using it in.
I’m not going to talk about point and shoot compact cameras in this post because I want to keep it simple and not have you snoring!

Mirror-Less camera known as a hybrid camera - Compared to compact cameras these offer versatility allowed by interchangeable lenses. It became pretty popular in 2011 and they are continuously becoming the choice for amateur photographers who want to migrate from point-and-shoot cameras (I think people we have found you a camera).  Prices are roughly £200+



DSLR have a manual override system for greater creativity, these are high in cost £349-£5000 depending on what you’re going for. They do offer huge amounts of accessories, lenses and come with more functions. Which can also get daunting if you don’t have time to learn how to use it, which actually is a common theme!  

Understanding photography Jargon
Ever taken a photo and found it’s too dark/bright or shaky?  Guys if you nail this you’ll seriously be laughing.

Three pillars of photography: These quite simply perform the task of regulating the amount of light entering the camera and exposed onto the film.

1. Shutter Speed: Responsible for creating a dramatic effect either by freezing action or blurring motion. General Rule: Anything above 1/80s you will freeze anything, below you’ll either need a tripod or you can have lots of fun making dramatic effects.

2. Aperture: Responsible for the amount of light reaching the sensor and control of image brightness.

Size of aperture is indicated by F-numbers (f-stops).

Quite simply the larger the number, the sharper the image will be. However if you are to use f/16 you will need an external flash or studio lights as higher number = less light into sensor. The lower the number the shallower the depth of field, this will produce lovely portraits with a blurred background.  However it also means more light so you need to use Shutter/ ISO to get perfect exposure.

3. ISO: ISO is short for International Standards Organisation – The main governing body that standardises sensitivity ratings for camera sensors, basically a fancy term that was carried over from film.

When you change your ISO setting you are adjusting your camera's sensitivity to light. ISO settings can be anywhere from 24 - 6,400 (or higher) the higher you go the more grainy your pictures can be as it will make your photograph brighter, so to speak.

If you use all three pillars it will really start shaping your photography.

So I hope this helped you understand basics - Until you crack these it will be hard for you to even start taking quality photographs of your product and crafts. It’s not quite that easy being a photographer but once you get the hang of it...its bloody brilliant!

One piece of advice I would give to you all. The photograph on the back of your screen should be more or less exactly what you want your shot to look like, don’t rely on Photoshop as this is merely a tool to create dramatic effects.


Facebook: Hiral Dixit Photography
Thank you Hiral for taking the time to share your top tips!
I hope you all now know the difference between your f-Stop & ISO and have found this useful, I know I have.
I would love to hear from you to know what you think about these photography posts and if there is more you would like information on. 

Why not join the #CraftBlogClub Twitter chat on 29th July where we will be sharing tips and advice?

fizzi~jayne x
Psssst.... Read part 1 of the photography season here 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Photography season ~ My love of photography....

My old film camera and new digital camera, taken with my iPhone.

If you sell products online or have photos on your blog you will know how important it is to have professional looking photos but we can't all afford a professional photographer. 

To help, I have some exciting blog posts coming up offering hints and tips to take a great pic!  I have a couple of book reviews planned and a guest post from a photographer giving professional tips.  I am also having a guest slot on Frugally Peachy showing you how to make a light box and we are having a #CraftBlogClub Twitter chat on 29th July dedicated to photography. Exciting hey?!

coming up on this blog ~ book reviews.....
But to kick off this photography season I thought I would tell you about my love of photography....

My Mum first got me interested in photography, she took a course at college when I was young and when we went on family trips out she would take her camera.  When I went to art college I had the opportunity to take a course, this was back in the day of film and a dark room.  At this time, I possibly enjoyed the processing more than taking the photos, it was like magic how the image appeared!
My old camera that I learnt with. Although it takes film and I will never use it again, I can't throw it away!
My Digital SLR
I invested in a Digital SLR last year and fell in love with photography all over again.  I went on a photography course via Groupon, to refresh the memory of the basics.  It was in London and we took pictures and tried out different camera settings around the Southbank. I learnt to do this....

Motion blur whilst keeping the background in focus

Keeping the horse in focus while it's moving


The principle of shutter speed and aperture are the same but there are new features on a digital camera to learn.

With my passion reignited, I take my camera wherever possible and practice with different settings and lighting. Flowers and portraits are great for depth of field

Sometimes it is not convenient to carry a large DSLR or an unexpected photo opportunity presents itself when I'm not prepared.  Thankfully camera phones are great for taking snaps on the go and Instagram is my favourite app.

As I take a lot of pics I started my month in pics on the blog and I hope you have been enjoying these posts.

At first I found product photography frustrating, I couldn't get the lighting right and do my products justice. It can also seem a big job as I have to set up and pack up. (When I win the Lottery not only will I have a craft wing but I will also have a photo studio, I can dream!)  However, now I plan it as part of the creative process and allow time to play and get the image right, I am enjoying it far more now.

I am trying new things and learning new techniques all the time.  I have also read more of my camera's handbook.  I'm not great for instructions, they are boring right?!, when I bought the camera I read enough to get me started but once I went back to read the rest I found so many hints and tips that have helped me take a better picture.

What I use....
  • Camera ~ Canon EOS 600D
  • My conservatory is my photo studio, it is the lightest room in the house (but can also be the hottest or the coldest depending on the time of year!)
  • Tripod and remote shutter. I was advised to get these to eliminate shake and have sharp images.
  • Natural light bulbs
  • Reflector ~ This reflects the light to avoid dark shadows. These are relatively inexpensive, I got mine for around £10 
  • Lining wallpaper for a background.  For my products I want a plain white background but not bright white.  I did use fabric but I was fed up of having to iron it and still have creases creep into the photo! I buy the value stuff and it seems to do the job perfectly.
  • I did use a light tent but I didn't get on with it, I don't understand why as it should have helped, it could be how I used it!  Maybe I'll try it again.
Here are the top things I have learned about taking a good snap....
  • Read your camera manual. I wouldn't do it all at once as it would be information overload but I wouldn't leave it a year before you pick it up again, like me!
  • Never use a flash, it bleaches the colour. Instead increase ISO and use a slower shutter speed.
  • Practice on topics you enjoy, whether it's portraits or landscapes
  • Make time and plan for photography as part of the creative process
  • Get as much of the image right at shoot, don't rely on post production.  Too much editing will not represent the item as well.
I hope you will enjoy the photography posts coming up and I'd love to hear your photography hints, tips and experiences so please leave your comments....

fizzi~jayne x
Pssst.... I have a Pinterest board for photography hints, tips and tutorials which you can check out here and you can also follow me on Instagram

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

#CraftBlogClub Chat ~ Blogging hints and tips....

craftblogclub badge

I hosted tonight's #CraftBlogClub chat which was about blogging tips and offering advice to each other and this is what went on....

@hugsarefun started it us off with this question "I’ve been struggling to get an about page up. I would love any tips or advice"

My tip ~ I would read other blogs "about" page to get ideas of what they include. I'd include why you write your blog.  Write about you but only include the personal stuff you feel comfortable with and include what inspires you.

@FlutterbyButton Be yourself, don't write in a style that is not essentially you. I tried to make mine a bit fun and quirky.
@mypapercrush  I agree - it's much easier (and fun for you!) to blog about what you love.

I agree, it's so much easier to be yourself!

@rosetintedcraft I learn a lot from following other blogs, such as how to lay out posts and extra features that you can use.

Tips on content....
My main top tip is to be passionate about what you write about, also include pictures to make it interesting

@IcySedgwick Write posts that add value to the reader's life - why should they read YOUR blog?
@craftsonsea  My main tip is to really make your images Pinterest friendly, it should be your main source of traffic

@CraftsellerMag Write with plenty of personality about things you're passionate about. Enthusiasm is key. ;-)
@DaintyandIvory Although I do love wordy blogs, sometimes I skip them because I never have the time to read it.

@EmmaRuthJones Blog about what you love and want to share with the world, rather than focus on what you think others will want.

@IcySedgwick Remember there are 1000s of others blogging; what makes your blog unique? YOU! So write in YOUR voice 


@rosetintedcraft Good photos are SO important! Has anyone bought a good camera for their blogging?
@EmmaRuthJones I have a SLR camera but tend to use my compact more because it focuses quickly and is easier to handle. As long as your photos are sharp, well lit and interesting, it doesn't matter what you use.

You will pleased to know that their is a chat planned on 29th July to share top tips on Photography.  I also have some posts coming up on this blog about taking great photos.

@FlutterbyButton When I started, I wrote in the style that I thought people wanted to see, big mistake... now I write as me with my own personality, so much easier and more enjoyable!
@IcySedgwick Write posts that respond to ones you read on other blogs!

Finding Inspiration.....
@CornerofCraft  I find it difficult to stay motivated to write my blog. How do people stay enthusiastic and inspired?
I always have a notebook with me for when inspirations strikes so I can look back on it.  If that doesn't work I take a break, visit somewhere, even if it's a coffee shop
@IcySedgwick I still say reading other blogs is a good source of inspiration
@rosetintedcraft Taking a break from it sometimes helps. Or set yourself a goal with your blog
@eyrea Mind trick: if I tell myself I don't have to, then I will
@hugsarefun maybe take a step back and readjust your schedule. Blog less and create more.
@IcySedgwick We could set each other blog topics!
This was a popular suggestion so maybe we should include it as a #CraftBlogClub challenge?

I did a couple of shameless plugs, but I thought that my posts on finding Inspiration and a Book review on Blogging for Creatives would be useful and of interest based on the discussions.
During the chat some shared their inspiring blogs of the moment....
@FlutterbyButton Discovered The Pleated Poppy today and love it!
@EmmaRuthJones I am always inspired by A Beautiful Mess and Design Sponge.
@rosetintedcraft  I have just discovered which has really nice photos. The author is only 14!

#CraftBlogClub is every Tuesday at 7pm.  Katie is hosting next week and I will be hosting on 29th July to share photography tips.

fizzi~jayne x

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Go and Grow with Enterprise Nation....

I went to another great Enterprise Nation, Go and Grow event.   The focus of the evening was about growing your business globally online.

The Panel

All the speakers were great and I made lots of notes from each one, but there were two particular speakers that stood out, Rob and Andrew.  They have successful businesses and I found it inspiring to hear about their experiences....

First up was Rob, one half of Gandys Flip Flops.  If you haven't heard of them, check out their story of how two brothers help other orphans. It's so inspiring how they came up with the idea after suffering tragedy to do something that would honour the spirit of their parents and give back to those less fortunate.

Rob's top tips for success:

1. Make it easy to for customers to refer you to their friends and family.
2. Use social media to get everyone talking.  Everything they do has a story which encourages conversations on social media.
3. Find relevant ambassadors to make noise about your product and brand. They have collaborated with the likes of Richard Branson.
4. Be persistent!

You can read their top tips for success on their website

Andrew from Coconut Grass was another success story, after 3 years he has 27,000 customers! I can only hope!

Andrew started selling through the marketplaces and now has his own website.  Andrew's top tips are from his experiences and if you sell through your own website or, you are thinking of doing so read on:
  • You need a full range to give customers a reason to visit your website. Focus on product development, you are only as good as your next idea! Also applicable if you sell on a marketplace.
  • When choosing a website builder, choose one which is right for your business
  • Websites should be designed to solve a customer's problem. Customers want or need information / to make a purchase / to be entertained / to be part of a community.
  • The 4 second rule ~ Can your customers understand what your website and your brand is about in less than 4 seconds
  • Don't get in the way of a sale with barriers such as pop up ads
  • Think about the customer experience ~ is your website easy to navigate and does it offer an easy and reliable checkout service?
  • Photography is important, use detailed and lifestyle shots.
  • Keep your website updated and fresh so customers have a reason to come back.
Andrew had the best strapline for any small business about customer service....

Don't behave like a small business, be John Lewis!

It's always reassuring to hear success stories, it makes me feel inspired and think, "I CAN do it!"

Also on the panel were two experts....

Remy Jansons from Ve Interactive gave his top tips on converting online visitors into retail customers. This was focused on those who already have a website but if like me, you are thinking of selling through your own webpage the following tips are useful to know:

1. Replicate offline, online.
Make customers feel welcome, think about exceptional customer service.
2. Responsive design.
Content shifts when it is resized from PC to mobile platforms
3. Compare other e-commerce technology
If you visit you can see the apps that websites use.  If you know what your competitors and your favourite online retailers use you can replicate.
4. Re-engage with abandoned customers
Utilise online tools to encourage a purchase.  For example, offer free shipping or a discount.

And last but not least....

UPS are one of the sponsors of the event and they had their Director of Marketing, Matt Guffey, to give us his five tips to introduce products to global markets:

1. Do your research. 
Don't let preconceptions hold you back
The global marketplace is smaller than ever.

2. Understand the needs of your customer

3. Get organised
Get a system in place to streamline paperwork.
Ensure the right tracking systems are in place to address any problems before they escalate.

4. Get to grips with the paperwork for the regulatory bodies.
You can visit UPS' website for helpful resources.

5. Be able to send your product to customers, wherever they are.
Make sure logistics are fool proof. Obviously this was an opportunity for UPS to plug their services but using the services of a logistics company may be of value to you.

Final words of wisdom ~ Start slow, get smart and make sure that you take on each market one at a time

This was the last of the Go and Grow series. However due to its success there are more planned, yay! There will be a campaign launch on 31st July with more inspiring speakers, to find out more click here

I'll definitely be there, I have found them very useful and I have enjoyed meeting with other small business owners.  They are free events so it seems silly not to take advantage of the opportunity to hear from e-commerce entrepreneurs willing to share their top tips for success, and have I mentioned there is wine and beer available after!

fizzi~jayne x

Friday, 4 July 2014

My month in pictures ~ June....

Well hello July, you took me by surprise!

Thank you June, you were a lot of fun....

The Little Fox Market at Rickmansworth....
The Foxy CafĂ© that makes a great coffee/ My stall/ A close up of my stall/ Bunting that was hung around the hall

Hubby and I had a week off and went to Dorset for a few days....
Lulworth Cove/ Something which I guess is for pulling boats on to the shore at Lulworth cove/ Durdle Door
We were so lucky with the weather and there are some gorgeous, unspoilt beaches in Dorset. I love being by the sea, it's so peaceful and relaxing.
Mmmm, Food ~ Menu from the best fish restaurant/ Mackerel Pate with edible soil and radishes / Afternoon Tea
We went to an amazing fish restaurant, Verveine in Milford~on~Sea.  You pick the fish you want from what was caught that day and then the marinade you want with it.  The food was amazing, the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. It was perfect for a special dinner for two!  If you are in the area and like fish I would recommend it but I would recommend booking.
Hillier Gardens ~ Mermaid glass sculpture/ Bumble Bee metal sculpture / pretty purple flowers
Hillier Gardens are beautiful and there is so much to walk around, I'm sure we didn't see it all.  It was a great opportunity to take lots of pictures and experiment with my camera settings.  I wish I took pictures of the flower names so I know what they are!

Pretty flowers and a glass sculpture
Monkey World ~No holiday is complete without a visit to a zoo!
Steam Railway ~ I love the old signs at the station
The steam train we travelled on to Swanage Station/ A stop off at Corfe Castle / Old cases at Swanage Station/ I love old posters, so I bought these postcards as a souvenir.

Meeting crafty folk....
Trip to London for a Crafty Cuppa arranged by Laura from Bugs and Fishes ~ A sculpture in Hyde Park / Natural History Museum where we met / we wondered down to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery/ I love my red shoes!

Meeting the #CraftBlogClub crew in Nottingham ~ Left to right, me, Emma and Katie/ I came across a Vintage shop next to the station and found these cameras, I was so tempted to buy one/  I loved this shelving unit which was also in the vintage shop/ Katie made me this crochet hook wrap, love it!/ Teapot floral display

New products ~ wall hangings and coasters....

Brand new products made this month, I will get these in my shops asap! ~ Live, Love, Laugh Heart Wall Hanging/ Pack of 4 Distressed Heart Coasters/ Country Heart with Flowers and Butterfly wall hanging.  What do you think?

Custom orders this month for the arrival of twin boys and Serena's 40th Birthday

I've started the design process for Christmas and I received my first delivery of festive supplies!....


Also this month I attended another Enterprise Nation, more of that later....

fizzi~jayne x

Pssst.... I will be at Harpenden Arts, Craft and Antiques Fair tomorrow. For more details go to my Events and Craft Fairs page.