Friday, March 27, 2015

Link|Love: Fresh Finds for March

It's the last Friday of March, so I thought I'd round up a bunch of little linky things I like.

This Create Caffeinate Repeat tee is pretty cool.

The LEGO ninjas were fun to build and play with.

My phone screen might not be cracked (again!) if I had this pretty phone case on it.

I want to read A Fireproof Home for the Bride.

This chickpea and butternut squash curry is so so yummy.


Coveting this wooden map puzzle.

This rocket ship activity was my son's favorite this month.

I want one of these handmade wooden arrow signs for my gallery wall.

This Black Rose tea looks delicious.

Words to live by:

source: Thyme Is Honey

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Turkey and Kale Soup Recipe

This turkey and kale soup is so filling and delicious.  I was eating it for like the fortieth time today and realized that I needed to share it with my friends here.

Serve it with some crusty bread, and it makes an impressively simple entree.  It also freezes great and reheats amazingly with a little extra water on the stove top.

Turkey and Kale Soup
adapted from Peasant Bean Stew, The Fresh 20

Olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and dicecd
4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
4 cups of chicken broth (I use low sodium)
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
4-6 giant handfuls of kale, washed and trimmed of thick stems
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed (I use low sodium)
2 cups of diced potato (I used a large russet baking style potato)
Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat olive oil n a large pot over medium heat.  Add ground turkey and brown until cooked through, crumbling with a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic.  Stir it up and cooked for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, except cheese, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through (but not mushy).
  4. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Yum!  Hurry and make it before it gets too warm out for soup.  You won't be disappointed.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Product Photography Tips: How To Take Better Etsy Listing Photos

How to Take Better Etsy Listing Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words.  It's also worth sales, according to Etsy: "Taking photos that are sharp, simple and illustrative is key to selling success".

After considering my experiences as both a buyer and a seller, I tend to agree.  When I'm looking to buy, I always judge the photo first.  If the picture is dark or grainy or otherwise doesn't positively showcase the product, I won't even click.  

As a seller, I've come to learn firsthand how important nice product photography is.  Since opening my fabric shop, I've always used the stock photos from the manufacturers, which even most successful fabric shops do.  Recently, I did an experiment.  I took one line of fabric that wasn't selling well in my shop and refreshed all the photos.  This is popular fabric from a well-known designer that gets a lot of hype online, so I was stumped as to why it wasn't selling.  I saw dramatic results that convinced me to ditch the stock photos. 

Within 24 hours I noted the following stats for the specific fabrics with better listing photos:
  • 7 listing faves
  • 3 (THREE!) sales
  • an increase in shop favorites over the previous days, which might also be attributed to better photography showing up on my front page
These numbers are huge for my small shop.  Considering I've had this fabric listed and promoted since prior to its release (about 5 months) with very dismal sales, I am convinced the better listing photos were the ticket.

It's no simple thing to get your product to the top of that first search results page.  Optimize your chances for clicks, favorites, and sales by using great photos.  Here is my product photography process.

product photography setup

My set-up is not elaborate and doesn't have to be expensive:
  • Cheap white foam board from the craft store.  I use two boards: one is a surface on the floor, the other is propped up (with my wastebasket) as a backdrop and light reflector.  I set the boards up adjacent to a window that receives a lot of daylight.  Sometimes I open the blinds all the way, other times I leave them down and fiddle with them until there are no shadows coming through.  I like that this set up is portable, so I can move it around the house easily depending on the time of day and amount of light streaming in.  It's also easy to store away behind a chair or in the closet.  And when it gets dinged up, I can re-use it for plenty of other uses (here's my favorite).
  • A window with daylight really makes all the difference.  Even if you are using your phone camera, or you prefer a different type of backdrop, lighting is the key to great photos.  If you don't have photo editing software or just can't make the time to post-process, you NEED good light, preferably from daylight.  Please don't use the flash.
  • Camera, obviously.  You can't take photos without one.  I use a Nikon D3000 digital SLR fitted with a 35mm f/1.8 lens.  I know of people that use their smart phone and have great results.  I haven't used my phone for listing photos, but I really love (and print) a lot of family photos from my Samsung Galaxy S4 camera.
  • Photo-editing software.  I use Photoshop Elements because I already owned it and knew how to use it for digital scrapbooking purposes from way back in the day.  Other options are Lightroom, PicMonkey (free online), or even an app on your phone.

My Nikon D3000 camera settings are not intimidating:
  • I shoot in aperture mode (the A on the dial).  You don't need to go full manual to achieve great results.  You will also get great photos in full automatic mode, but I keep my dial set to A for everything because that's where I'm comfortable with my camera.
  • I always set my white balance manually.  For the D3000, push the menu button, pick the shooting menu tab (the one with the camera icon), scroll down to "white balance" and select, scroll down to "preset manual" and select, select "measure", select "yes" to overwrite existing data, and then take a photo of the white foam board where it is set up for the photo shoot.  I can change the white balance mode on my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone as well, by choosing the gear icon in camera mode.  There are some options other than auto, so play around with your phone to see what looks best.  
  • I use M/A focus mode on my lens.  M/A lets the lens auto focus, but you can also manually turn to focus if you want.  I almost never mess with it and let it do it's thing because my eyes aren't great and I never seem to wear my glasses.  Oops.  On my smart phone, I can single tap the screen where I want the camera to focus.
  • I take a few test shots with different exposures using the +/- button.  I can hold the exposure comp button down and turn the wheel with my thumb to control how bright or dark the photo turns out.  I admit I don't know what the meter really means, but I do know that when the dashes are headed left (or towards the +), then my photo gets brighter.  I'm not profesh and I don't recognize when I'll need to do this without taking some test shots, so thank goodness for digital!
  • I NEVER, EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE THE FLASH.  Just don't do it.  Wait for daylight, friends.
Priory Square Fabric Bundle at
Priory Square Fabric Bundle in my Etsy Shop
Sometimes post-processing the pics with photo-editing software is necessary:
  • I use Photoshop Elements.  I'm currently using version 11.  I like it and don't really desire to switch to anything else.  I recently downloaded Photo Editor Pro on my Android phone, but have not played with it.  It does get great reviews in the Google Play Store.
  • I play with the lighting.  Using the "Enhance" menu, go to "Adjust Lighting" and experiment with the "Shadows/Highlights" and "Brightness" functions.  I find that if these need adjusting, it's only by a little bit if I get my lighting and exposure right with the camera settings.
  • I "Save for Web" in the file menu to optimize the photo for sharing online.  Etsy recommends 1000 pixels for photo width, and this is where I manipulate that.
Do you have any go-to tips for taking great product photos?

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