Shhh.... secrets to taking good pictures {with a point and shoot camera!}

I think I can speak for most of us when I say that we would do just about anything to get a DSLR camera like this one...

However, at almost $1,000 or more it really isn't all that practical for a lot of us... myself included. I would LOVE to have a nifty camera like this one and take professional photos... but, as a stay at home mommy with a small business it isn't really practical. So, for those of you like me... this post is for YOU! 

Here is the camera I use for ALL of my photos:
It is a NIKON COOLPIX S8000. It has good zoom, a nice big digital screen on the back, a lense that allows for decent zoom. It's no DSLR, BUT it does allow me to control the brightness and vividness {is that  a real word?? I'm going with it anyway} of the photos as I take them. Most new digital point and shoot camera will allow you at least some flexibility in this area - kind of like a mini manual camera. 

My product photos use to look like these:

Not bad, but not great either. My recent product pictures look like these:

The camera hasn't changed, so what's the secret? Well, I am going to share my secrets with you. 
WHY? Photos are soooo important in the information age. If you are a small business owner {ie. Etsy, Big Cartel, etc.} you count on your pictures to sell your products! The picture{s} of your products draw customers in and keep them looking. 

1. Natural Light: Photo boxes are great - if you have the know how and the equipment. I tried that once, but it just didn't work {either operator or mechanical malfunction}. My pictures turned out yellow-y. NOT what I wanted. I have found through much photo taking that natural light is the best light.

Experiment in different locations and different times of the day. I have found that morning light is the best for me. I know professional photographers who will agree. If you want a crisp natural looking photo find the best location and time of day when you get the MOST light but be sure to avoid direct sunlight. It tends to washout your photos and colors are not as accurate. 

2. Background: Sure your dining table is clean and pretty, but is it really the best place to take your pictures? I have tried my dining table, the coffee table, a white sheet, fabric, and just about everything else. So, what works the best for me!!??? White foam poster board. Yep... that's it! It's bright white, firm so that you can place it anywhere you need. PLUS, it's cheap! When it starts to get little nicks in it or becomes a little dingy, just buy a new one and turn the old one into these great mini fabric bolts

I have also found {at least for my products} that a white background for pictures works the best. Once you determine your best light, take a couple of test pictures using different colors. Avoid textured backgrounds. It tends to confuse point and shoot camera's when they try and focus. You'll end up with a clear background and a fuzzy subject.. not good. 

3. Don't Photoshop: Some people do tons of Photoshop editing. I tend to shy away from it. Sometimes a photo needs a touch up, but if you are using natural light you shouldn't need to do much... if any. Instead, I use the mini manual settings on my camera {the brightness and vividness} to adjust my photos as I take them. If you didn't toss your manual when you bought your camera dig it out, dust it off, and learn how to use those functions. You'll be sooo happy that you did! 

4. Cropping: Point and shoot cameras can only zoom so much and stay in focus. That's where cropping becomes a h-u-g-e best friend! I take photos at whatever zoom allows me the best focus of the subject in my photo. Sometimes that means it's a very far off photo. 

If I can't get a picture as close to my subject as I would like {especially when I take pictures for tutorials} I use Photoshop software or sometimes even Microsoft Publisher {ya, I'm pretty sure I heard a huge groan from any of you photographers out there} to crop my photos to the size that I want them to be.  The resolution stays good for blogging or posting on your Etsy shop... though I wouldn't recommend it for enlarged photo printing. 

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I hope that you can find at least some of these tips helpful. If you are an Etsy seller one of the BIG things is pictures. The Etsy gurus say that the best way to improve your shop is to take better photos of your products. They recommend at least one close-up {use your cropping method if you need to}, one that shows your entire product, and others that show your product either in use or from different angles. Hopefully these tips will help you to take better photos not just for your small business, but for scrapbooking and life documenting! 

What other tips or tricks do you use to take better photographs!?! 


Mingle Monday - 1.30.2012

Welcome to another fun filled week! If I can get some crafting time I have some great tutorials lined up for this week... here's hoping!

In the meantime, make sure you check out the NEW CLEARANCE SECTION in my shop. With markdowns of 20% or more these items are selling fast! Get your order placed asap. Some new items will be added this week, so check back too! 

BTW... did you see the BIG announcement from last week!!?

While you are linking up this week, feel free to grab my Mingle Monday button so you can remember to come back week after week.

Visit as many blogs on the link list as you would like. Make sure you leave a comment and tell them you are stopping by from Mingle Monday!

Become a follower here on my blog so that you can take advantage of any and all freebies that I offer {usually once a week}.


And make sure to have some fun!!


How did this happen? ... and a HUGE announcement!

Do you ever look at a room in your home and wonder, "how did this happen?" That how I felt this morning walking into my office/craft room. Since my craft show in November things have gone from good to bad in here. I finally got most of the craft show leftovers {what a horrible way to refer to them} put away. But I still have a box full of shipping supplies to put away. A pile of fabric that I ran out of time to use for the craft show. Items waiting to be photographed. Spools of ribbon - wound and unwound thanks to a helpful little 3 year old. Toys that have made there way in here from the adjacent playroom. 

Projects that are half done. Supplies that are waiting for their turn to be turned into something fabulous! My sewing machine in it's traveling case. Clothing that needs to be mended. You name it, it's there. I can't help but wonder what in the world happened for my once super neat and organized craft room/office to get to this point. 

...and then I remember this....

Yep... I have a bun in the oven! I suppose this little guy {or girl} may have had a little something to do with the chaos and clutter. Especially when the last 3 months or so have been spent going from the couch, to my bed, to the bathroom floor! To anyone who never experience morning sickness... let me start by saying.. I think I might hate your guts! Thankfully I am starting to feel better and getting back to semi-normality {including working on this mess}. 

{Unfortunately this is the BEST ultrasound pic I have. Baby is face towards you - head on the right!}

Me, my hubby, and the kids are so excited to soon be welcoming the newest addition to our family. My daughter wants a girl so she can share her bedroom with her {little does she really know what they means!}. My son wants a boy so he can share his toys -- uhh... yah, I'm sure that would happen. He also thinks I have a baby and a mommy in my tummy. I guess that makes sense to him... otherwise, who would be taking care of the baby!?! 

We'll find out the gender in about 3-1/2 weeks and can't wait. I am already brainstorming a fun way to share that news with the family. So far I have come up with: 
• Taking a picture of my kids wearing t-shirts to announce it. 
• A gender reveal party.
• Mailing out homemade scratchers. 
• Just being boring and posting it on Facebook. 

Any other ideas? 

For TODAY ONLY, enter coupon code BABYBABY when you place your order in my shop and get 10% off your entire order!! 


I Have Been Featured!!

I have been waiting in anticipation all weekend! Finally Monday is here. Ucreate, a fantastic source for all things creative, is featuring my tutorial on how to make burp cloth cupcakes today on their website! You can view it here.

Make sure you stop by and check out my tutorial, or you can find it on my website here.  If you stop by Ucreate's website make sure you leave a comment on my tutorial! :)

Thanks so much for all the bloggy love!

Don't forget to enter your link for Mingle Monday! 


Mingle Monday: 1.23.2012

Welcome to another fantastic Mingle Monday!! For anyone just joining us, I feature a blog hop on Mondays -- though usually it is posted Sunday afternoon -- for everyone to link their blog to. It's a great way to meet new people, find some new blogs that you can obsess over, and recruit some new followers to your own blog!

Feel free to grab my Mingle Monday button so you can remember to come back week after week.

Visit as many blogs on the link list as you would like. Make sure you leave a comment and tell them you are stopping by from Mingle Monday!

Become a follower here on my blog so that you can take advantage of any and all freebies that I offer {usually once a week}.


And make sure to have some fun!!

Organizing a Little Boys Room: aka... cleaning up after a tornado!

Anyone who has small children knows that they are not born with a desire to clean up their messes. None are worse than little boys. With short attention spans, they move quickly from one toy or activity to another. Which means that by the end of the day you have a home covered in little messes from the entire day. My little guy just turned 3. I have tried desperately to bribe inspire him to WANT to clean. Ha!

Usually around the holidays my hubby and I {though it's usually me since he works outside of the home} go through the kids toys and either pack up or donate a bunch to make room for any new things they get for Christmas -- and in my sons case his birthday. 

This year, due to circumstance, it didn't happen. Unfortunately that has led to the chaos in both the playroom and my kids' bedrooms. My sons room just happened to be first on the OVERHAUL list. 

Part of it is that my hubby has been out of town on business and I have been holding down the fort on my own. Needless to say things have been a little hectic and just didn't get taken care of... until now! 

I had pretty much had enough of the mess, and the nagging for the kids to clean up THEIR messes that I took matters into my own hands. 

This was my approach:
I while back I bought some hanging organizers at JoAnn's for like $2 on clearance. I thought {at the time}
What a great way to store the kids' stuffed animals. They would be put away, out of sight, but still accessible." Boy was I wrong. Both kidlets emptied our their organizers onto their closet floors. So much for that brilliant idea. 

So, first up!? The stuffed animal pile. I kept a couple out that they actually play with. The others got packed away in a clear storage bin that will go in the garage. Why clear? Clear storage bins make it easy to see what's inside. It's the ONLY way I am storing things in my garage anymore. I got tired of opening bins to see what was in them -- even when they were labeled. 

Next up? The clutter and toys that have taken over his floor. 

I made a HUGE trash pile. All the loose papers he has been hoarding from around the house and various church handouts got tossed. The wipes box and the diapers got put away in the closet where they actually belong. Books were put back on the bookshelf, and I bought a new addition. This wonderful kids room organizer from Target. I can't find the white one online, but it's this same organizer in white... weird. 
My super smart sister-in-law helped me to put it together. I have put together a million {okay not that many, but close} bookcases and shelving units all by myself. BUT, the darn angled piece on the bottom of this one was tough! The instructions were not helpful as to which way to place that piece so that all those nifty holes lined up. My SIL figured it out! It only took both of us with our college degrees to put together a stinkin' organizer... BUT I LOVE IT!! 

Here's how his room looks now {and I do mean, like right now}.

The bigger toys that don't really have a "home" now have one on top of this new organizer. 

The diapers and wipes were put away on the shelf in his closet and the hanging stuffed animal organizer has been put away for now... until I can think of another use for it. 

The bookshelf has been reorganized and now you can see the carpet! I had forgotten what it looked like! 

And here's my little guy in all his mischievous glory!

Next up on the organizing list? His sister's room... ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!

How do you get your kids to clean up? Do you have a routine? Do you sing a song? Do you time them? Do you offer rewards? What's your secret!!? I would LOVE to know!


How to Make Cupcake Toppers: The Easy Way!

There are so many different ways to decorate for a party... but cupcake toppers have quickly become one of the most popular. It's a fun way to snaz things up a little.. put a little extra f-u-n in your party!

Or, use them in gifts, like these burp cloth cupcakes. Perfect as a baby shower gift, or table centerpiece for a shower.

Whatever the occasion, there are countless places to purchase digital cupcake topper designs or even pre-made cupcake toppers.

Maybe some of you haven't yet experimented with these fun guys. Well, if it's because it seems like a lot of work to put them together you can rest assured that it doesn't have to be.

Here's a super simple way to put together your cupcake toppers.

Start by either purchasing or designing your toppers. I have some available in my shop or even some free printables you can download.

My designs are created for 2" punches. This time I used a 2" flourish punch by eksuccess. See how I turned the punch over? This let's me center the circle center of the topper on my punched shape. I know exactly how it's going to look when punched out.

Here's the finished punch. Just continue for the rest of the toppers that you would like to make. You may need to trim your printed paper so that your punch can reach all the way to center the circle.

Now for your other supplies. You will need a package of lollipop sticks. You can find these at any craft store where cake decorating products are sold. I have also been able to find them at Wal-Mart from time to time.

Second, you will need a package of 1" round labels. You can buy these at office supply stores and maybe even Wal-Mart {depends on each store}.

Simply stick the label onto the end of your lollipop stick like this. Press it firmly onto the top surface of the stick.

Then find the center of your topper and press the stick and the label firmly to the back.

Here's how it looks from the front. No need to bother with foam squares, glue dots, hot glue, tape, or even a back to your topper. Using the label gives it a clean finished, polished look.

Here are the finished 3 toppers that I used. The labels are made to stay put, so you won't have to worry about your cupcake toppers.... they will stay put too!

So, now that you know the easy peasy lemon squeezy way to put these cute little guys together, go ahead and start using them!

Have you ever used cupcake toppers before!? If so, what occasion did you use them for??

"Sweet" Baby Shower Gift Idea: Burp Cloth Cupcakes

Have you ever been to a baby shower where someone comes up with a super clever gift idea... and you think to yourself.. "man, I wish I would have thought of that!!" I know I have done that... more than once!

Today, I am giving you an idea for the next shower you attend.. or throw!

Nothing is cuter than some colorful cupcakes! But these aren't the edible kind... they are actually made using 3 of my chenille burp cloths!! Yep... how fun is that!?!? Not only is it cute, but it's a totally awesome gift too!

Want to give away some of these cuties at the next baby shower you go to!?!? Here's how to do it!

Take the burp cloth and fold it in half length-wise {like a hot dog bun}.

Then fold it in half again. This gets tricky because it doesn't like to stay folded.

Then start at one end of your rectangle and carefully roll it up. {This would be easier to take a picture of if I had a third arm!}

Since it has a tendancy to unroll itself, just make sure you hold on tight. You might have to straighten out the non-rolled part of the rectangle as you roll to make sure that your layers are all lined up.

Then grab a regular sized rubber band and use it to hold your roll together!

Repeat for all of your burp cloths.

Now comes the fun part. The embellishing! This is where you can be as creative or as simple as your want. Here's what I did.

Take a piece of 12"x12" scrapbook paper and cut a 2" strip for each cupcake.

Take one of your strips and wrap it around the base of your roll.

Be sure to pull the paper fairly snug. Otherwise it won't stay put once you are done.

Trim the excess paper leaving about a 1/2" overlap.

 I just use a piece of scotch tape to tape the band in place. It's really easy to do one-handed {since you will be using your other hand to hold the band in place}. I try and line up the tape pretty close to where the end of the burp cloth roll is -- figuring that is the "back" of my cupcake roll.

Here are all three with their completed bands.

All that's left is for you to get creative and decorate those cute little cupcakes! I tied a simple white organza ribbon around each one and placed them in a jumbo cupcake liner. Then I used my baby cupcake topper printable to add a little something extra!

These would make a great centerpiece for your tables if you are throwing the baby shower. Make a couple, and place them on a cake stand on a sign in table. Or visit your local bakery supply store, purchase a jumbo sized cupcake box and wrap them up in the box!

If you are interested in the printable I used, you can buy it now.  It is only $1. You will receive a PDF file with pink, blue, orange, and green toppers {just in case!}. Use it again and again, and AGAIN!
Purchase your PDF file here

There will be a post tomorrow on a short-cut way to put together cupcake toppers!