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Photography

Design

What Does Photography Mean to These 3 Photographers?

September 18, 2014

Photography Challenge | UncommonGoods

We’re excited to say that the eight semifinalists are chosen for our very first Photography Challenge! Cast in your votes and comment on the photos you think deserves to win $500 and should be added into our uncommon assortment! Keep in mind that you’re able to vote for more than one photo.  The four top voted photographs will be judged by our four wonderful guest judges, and they will decide on the grand prize winner!

Because this is a new type of contest for us, we wanted to get inside the heads of our guest judges and speak about the exciting world of photography. The guest judging panel are three professional photographers and our art buyer: Ashley Davis, Mark Weinberg, Emily Dryden, and Katy Loeb. We decided to throw a few questions at them and, and with no surprise, they threw some amazing responses right back! Check out the Q+A below and let us know what photography means to you in the comments section.

 

Photography Challenge | Guest Judge | UncommonGoods

Ashley Davis | Photographer  

“I love that I can get behind my lens, take a photograph, and turn it into something magical for people to love and want to have for their own.”

If money was no object, what type of photography project would you like to organize?
I work with physically and mentally disabled children, so I would love to run a program where we’d be able to purchase a few cameras for these kids and teach them the beauty of photography. Although these children have faced a lot of adversity in their young lives, they mostly have such an incredible outlook on life and I know that would show through in their artwork.

Which website should every photographer know about?
CreativeMarket.com. It is run by creatives, for creatives. Whether you want to sell your stock images on the site for a little extra cash, or browse and purchase their immense photography resources such as overlays, presets, WordPress and website templates, and fonts – they have got what you need!

What do you love about photography?
I love that I can get behind my lens, take a photograph, and turn it into something magical for people to love and want to have for their own. What I love about photography in general is that there is the freedom to express oneself in so many different ways, and that there is such a broad definition of “photography” these days and the genres continue to expand. I am constantly finding new artists that I am falling in love with, and although the market is somewhat saturated, I don’t see that as a necessarily bad thing, but as a blessing that there is more talent to find and an occasion to rise to the challenge of standing out among the crowd of many as one of the greats.

 

Photography Challenge | Guest Judge | UncommonGoods

Mark Weinberg | Photographer

What makes a powerful photo? “Light.”

Who is your all-time favorite photographer?
I don’t have one. Here are a few: Michael Kenna for his ability to capture ordinary environments in a surreal way, Edward Burtynsky for his ability to find patterns in both man-made as well as natural environments, Henri Cartier-Bresson for his ability to capture a moment on film.

 If money was no object, what type of photography project would you like to organize?
I would love to do a large scale documentation of the US Postal System. Both the buildings and the employees. The architecture in post offices ranges from some of the most beautiful structures every completed in the USA to some of the most utilitarian. I’d love to interview employees and photograph them as well. I’d love hear what everyday life is like as well as the craziest thing they have ever seen in the mail.

What makes a powerful photo?
Light.

Photography Challenge | Guest Judge | UncommonGoods

 Emily Dryden | Photographer at UncommonGoods

   “[Images] should be able to draw the viewer into a different world or into a new story or emotion.”

What makes a powerful photo?
A powerful image is one that can keep you engaged the longest. The image should be able to draw the viewer into a different world or into a new story or emotion.

Which website should every photographer know about?
Aphotoeditor.com is a great website to discover new work and the learn about the business.

If you were able to take a photo of anything or anyone anywhere– what would you decide on?
I would like to shoot David Lynch have coffee in an old diner.

katy
Katy Loeb | Art Buyer for UncommonGoods

“[Photography] plays with memory, reality, and technology in a way that other mediums do not.”

What’s your favorite photograph?
This is a tough question! One of my very favorites would have to be Carrie Mae Weems’s series The Kitchen Table (1990), in which the artist records a fraction of the many activities, conversations, and emotions that make their way across her kitchen table.  Weems captures the complexity and nostalgia of such an ordinary space with reverence.

 What type of photographs are you hoping to add into your assortment?
My goal is to bring in a range of photography that will be both aesthetically pleasing in a home, but also evoke strong emotions from a viewer. I’m always attracted to works that could be conversation starters!

What does photography mean to you?
Photography, I believe, is perhaps the most nuanced form of visual art.  It plays with memory, reality, and technology in a way that other mediums do not. In that vein, photography for me has the power to evoke more powerful emotions and ideas than most other art forms.

Be sure to cast in your votes here for your favorite photographs that made it as semifinalists! The deadline for voting is at 11:59pm on September 23, 2014. The top 4 voted photos will move onto the next round and the guest judges will decide on one grand prize winner.  The winner will earn $500 and have a chance to be added into our assortment!

Photography Voting | UncommonGoods

Maker Resources

How to Make It: 5 Product Photography Tips

August 16, 2014

So, you’ve just created an awesome new product and you really want to sell it. Presentation is everything, which makes the photography of your item very important. Because we all don’t have a fully equipped studio on our hands at all times, here are some easy tips that almost anyone can master!

Light It Up

The number one most important factor is lighting. You don’t need a lot of lights; all you really need is a great sunlit window and a white fill card. A fill card is simply anything you use to reflect light, which allows you to fill with light for darker, shadowy areas in a photograph.  Fill cards are traditionally white, made of foam core or poster board, but can also be silver or gold depending on the quality of light you want to reflect.

When picking which window to use, pick one that allows diffused, soft light to shine through. What you don’t want is really harsh sunlight. If the light is too hard, it can make one part of your image too bright in comparison to the rest. What you are looking for is nice, even light.

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

Setting the Stage

The second step is creating your set. White poster board (or any large piece of white paper) and some tape is a cheap and easy way to get a clean backdrop. Find a small table and place the white background so that the window light comes from the right or the left. Allow the poster board to curve in the back, creating a sweep. Then place your fill card on one side.

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

Camera Ready

Whether you’re using a high-end camera or a simple point and shoot, the most helpful hint I can suggest is to turn off the flash. If you can’t turn it off, cover it with tape. Then, set your camera’s white balance setting to daylight—or auto if that isn’t available. If your photo shows up with a strange colorcast, you’re probably using the wrong white balance.

White balance is the general hue of your photograph.  For example, you could have a warm balance, where everything looks orange, or a cold balance where everything looks blue.  Most cameras allow you to pick which white balance you want to use.  You do this by picking the white balance that matches your light source.  Extra tip: If you are using natural light, you should pick the icon on your camera that looks like a sun.  If you are using tungsten light, you should pick the icon that looks like a light bulb.

Taking Shots

At UncommonGoods, we crop most of our photos into a square, so when you are composing, make sure you leave enough space around your product to easily crop. You can use almost any basic photo program to do this. I personally like to use Photoshop.

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

When composing your shot, keep into account that you may not get the whole thing in focus. Your main priority is to make sure the selling feature is in focus. For example, let’s say you are shooting jewelry. If the pendant or charm has interesting detailing, make sure that’s in focus and let the chain go out. Decide which aspect you would most like the potential buyer to see, and then hone in on that.

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

While composing, use your fill card to fill in the shadows on your product. It’s usually nice to leave some shadow, as it will lend some shape, but you don’t want the shadows to go too dark.

Time to Edit

After you’ve shot the photo, use whatever photo-editing program you have (iPhoto, Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.) When you are done, save it as a high res (meaning 300 dpi) .jpg or .tiff.

In general, my editing advice is to be subtle in your treatment. Some amateur mistakes include using too much contrast, over saturating the colors or using too much sepia tones.  Subtly enhance your photos but don’t make them look unnatural, which is especially important in product photography because you don’t want to misrepresent what you are selling.

And you’re done! Have a good shoot!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Barry Rosenthal

June 6, 2014

Barry Rosenthal | UncommonGoods
When our team learned that renowned photographer Barry Rosenthal calls our building, The Brooklyn Army Terminal, home to his studio we couldn’t wait to work with him on a project. Once that project–Pop Top Six Pack Glasses–was ready for our customers’ eyes, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone all about the set. Learning more about Barry’s work and the creative process that lead to the finished product got me, and the blog team, even more excited about having such a talented artist as a neighbor. Knowing that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out his studio space, our own photographer, Emily, and I made the (very) short journey across the BAT atrium to see where Barry assembles his collections of found artifacts and other objects to create captivating photos.

Join us in exploring a new corner of our building by stepping into Barry Rosenthal’s studio, taking a look at some of his unique work, and finding out what goes on behind the scenes when the camera isn’t clicking.

Barry Rosenthal Art | UnommonGoods

Continue Reading…

Design

Developed from Photography: Pop Top Six Pack

March 13, 2014

A few months ago, we learned that photographer Barry Rosenthal creates his extraordinary images of everyday objects right here in the Brooklyn Army Terminal—in a studio just a short jaunt from our very own door. As fans of his work, we couldn’t wait to collaborate with him. Then we saw his thought-provoking “Found in Nature” collection, and we knew that we’d found the perfect art for our latest in-house design, the Pop Top Six Pack glasses.

Pop Top Six Pack | UncommonGoods

“I really admire Barry’s work, so it was fun to work with his photo to translate it into a design for glassware. What I love most about this photo is the composition—the way he artfully arranged the pop tops to create a pattern.” —Sarah Stenseng, Senior Product Development Associate

We’re fascinated with Rosenthal’s photographs of found collections, because even though the objects he shoots were once discarded, he presents them as uniquely beautiful treasures. The photos tell stories through their subject matter and composition. By taking bits of the past and bringing them into the present, Rosenthal creates something timeless. Our goal was to translate this timeless quality to a product that can be used every day, but also stands out as something special.

Barry Rosenthal, Pop Tops

The original photograph, Pop Tops, captures an arrangement of meticulously placed pop tabs the artist collected from the parking lot of Orchard Beach in Bronx, NY. It tells the story of the approximately 475 billion aluminum cans produced worldwide each year—cans that don’t easily break down in nature, and can take centuries to decompose.

Some of the tabs pictured date back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, so their unique shapes add unexpected variation to the composition. The tabs also show their age through weathering in Rosenthal’s unaltered piece.

Pop Tops Design Process | UncommonGoods

With Pop Art in mind, our Product Development Team collaborated with Rosenthal to transform Pop Tops into a new design that celebrates his photography and is infused with a bit of our personality. We started by editing the original photo to remove the natural color and accentuate the silhouettes of the tabs. Next, we carefully extended the pattern to fit completely around the can-shaped glass without interfering with the layout as it was intended.

Pantone

After perfecting the pattern, bright colors were added to play up the Pop Art aspect of the design. Each glass in the set of six is a Pantone color chosen to stand out and show off the pop tab print. As a finishing touch, each glass is complete with Barry Rosenthal’s signature.

Barry Rosenthal

We love the way the final product turned out, and we think you’ll love it too. The Pop Art Six Pack is available now, and we’re looking forward to more exciting collaborative projects to come!

 

Maker Resources

12 Tips For Making Your Instagram Great

February 19, 2014

Love it or hate it, we definitely live in a hashtag world. As a company who supports emerging artists, we know that most designers know that maintaining a professional website alone just isn’t quite enough these days. Building your brand or showcasing your designs on a social media platform is becoming more of a must than an option.  

Instagram

The beloved photo app, Instagram, is a social media favorite among designers and creative gurus. It has the strong effect of being able to bring your brand and designs to life through lifestyle shots and personable captions. (Captions that need to appeal to people other than just your mom.)  We know that reaching out to potential followers who have an interest in your work can be pretty tough. It definitely starts with engaging content, relatable topics, and let’s face it, beautiful snapshots — but that’s all easier said than done.  We decided to collect 12 great tips from a couple of our favorite Instagrammers, Mandi Johnson and Mark Weinberg, to help you take your Instagram content to the next level. Read on to #BecomeAnInstagramNinja.

1.  Take advantage of daylight. Improve the quality of your photos by primarily taking them during daylight hours. Natural-lit photos are oftentimes the prettiest. If you’re working on amping up the beauty-factor of your stream, but still want to be an active poster in the evening, try saving up photos from earlier in the day and posting them later as a #latergram. Helpful tip: I usually turn my poorly lit snapshots into black and white photos. -Mandi

Instagram

2. Frame up and wait.  I am always looking. When I find a scene I want to photograph, especially in the city or when traveling, I will frame up and take a few photos, but then I’ll wait. I’ll hold the camera in the same spot and wait for a person, a taxi, a plane, or something to show up. This can add a unique and dynamic element to your photos and take them beyond the basic snapshots.         –Mark

mark1

3. Remember: quality not quantity. Limit your posts by sharing an image, at most, once or twice an hour. Posting  ten pictures all within ten minutes can come across as annoying as spam in an e-mail inbox. If you’re updating your shop and want to give people an enticing preview, select one or two of your best images and upload them with a bit of time in between.  Spacing out your posts also gives you some time to be productive or enjoy life without always having your eyes constantly glued to your phone. -Mandi

Instagram

4. Move closer vs. zooming in. Camera phone resolution is truly remarkable. But, zooming in digitally degrades the quality instantly. If you can, take a step closer instead of using the zooming option. Helpful tip: Also try to take a step back and see how it looks. Doing this forces me to move and interact with the scene and see it differently.  -Mark

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5. It’s okay to Instagram photos from your fancy camera. Using beautiful camera photos will not only beef up the visual appeal of your stream, but can be a good way to give a sneak peek of a photo shoot you’re editing or to showcase a nice photo that didn’t quite make it onto your website.  When I do this, I’ll usually edit a photo and resize it to an 800px square on my computer and then e-mail it to myself so I can open the e-mail and save the image to my camera roll on my mobile device. Just don’t upload too many DSLR camera photos onto your stream, or you may come off as overly styling your life, which makes you appear inauthentic. Helpful tip: Instagram etiquette suggests that you should use tags that will let your followers know why your photos are bangin’ and theirs aren’t. Try using #frommycamera or #notiphone. -Mandi

instagram3

6. Dabble with different angles. Phones are small and can often fit where a traditional SLR can’t. Put the phone on the ground. Hold it up over your head. Hold it out the window (very carefully). Hold it directly against the glass of a window. Trying different angles doesn’t only enhance your creativity for future posts, but it also creates a visual balance on your photo stream altogether. -Mark

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7. Download an editing app. Filters are often extremely overdone on Instagram, especially when using the built-in filters that the app itself offers. You can actually edit your mobile phone photos with a more tasteful touch by using editing apps like Afterlight or VSCO Cam. Those are my two favorites because you can adjust the strength of each filter and adjust the coloring, tones, brightness, and contrast. Look at it as a light version of Photoshop, but just on your phone. -Mandi

instagram2

8. Breaking the “Rule of Thirds.” I’m always on the lookout for “existing framing” or in other words, real world elements that frame an object or cut the scene in half. Just as good light is important, shadows and contrast are essential. Yes, the “rule of thirds”  (where the frame is split into a grid of three vertical lines and three horizontal lines, creating 9 quadrants) is often a good rule to keep in mind when framing up. But you can also produce successful images by breaking this rule whether it’s centering your object or placing your horizon line just right above the bottom of the frame. –Mark

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9. Tread lightly on hashtags. They can be a great way to engage with other users and perhaps find new followers, so I can understand their appeal, as annoying as some Instagram users might find them to be. Try limiting yourself to using hashtags as a way to gain visibility for a less broad term or to connect with a niche audience. For instance, if you’re trying to gain exposure for a holiday craft, #holidaycraft would be an appropriate hashtag, but you’ll be sure to get mega eye rolls if you also include a bunch of inane tags like, #glue #crafts #ornaments #paint #makestuff #ilovechristmas #hashtagsforever. Pick one or two hashtags that will get you the most mileage, and maybe consider creating a unique tag so your followers can cut to the chase and check out precisely what they want to see in your stream. -Mandi

instagram1Caption: I’m selling this #midcenturymodern #plycraftchair to anyone who can make it to Canton, Ohio to pick it up! Asking $175 for it.

10. Make use of negative space. Be willing to leave some air in the frame. It can help your viewer focus when you leave negative space around your subject. Take it to the extreme and make 90% of the frame negative space, you may be surprised with what you find. -Mark

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11. Interact with your followers. Always show courtesy and respect as your following grows. Even if you only become moderately popular, don’t let the fame go to your head. It can be difficult to notice every comment on every photo when new notifications are constantly popping up, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss comments on month-old photos. But please do check out your most recent uploads to see if people have asked questions about where you got your fabulous shoes or if you’re from Cleveland too. You don’t need to respond to every compliment or friendly comment, but if people ask you questions, be decent and answer them. There’s nothing more eye-roll-worthy than a popular Instagrammer who frequently ignores his or her friendly followers who ask simple questions. -Mandi

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12. Post what you like and don’t worry about what people think. It’s your Instagram account and this is reflecting who you are creatively. If there’s an everyday (or odd) object that you find to be interesting, cool, or funny — go for it! If you find yourself in a creative rut, take the time to be inspired by other Instagram accounts.  Don’t force yourself to photograph a popular concept (aerial shots of meals, text on top of images) if that isn’t your style. When you find an idea you like, give it a try and add your own personal touch to it. -Mark

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These 12 awesome tips were written by Mandi Johnson | Making Nice in the Midwest and Mark Weinberg | Mark Weinberg Photography. Follow them on Instagram @mandimakes + @markweinbergnyc.

mandimark

 

The Uncommon Life

#UGInstaFun Winner: Black & White

February 7, 2014

Congrats to Allison for winning our Black & White themed Instagram Challenge with this precious engagement photo! It’s never too late to join in on the #UGInstaFun for a chance to win a $50 gift card. The current theme is GREEN, you can view some of the fun entries here. Good luck!

Instagram Challenge Winner: Black & White | UncommonGoods

“She said yes.”

 

 

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: I Think I Scan

February 6, 2014

Angie | UncommonGoods

Product: Smartphone Film Scanner

Research:
I take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. I own approximately seven cameras. While most of us now have a camera in our pockets, along with our bank books, train schedules, maps, concert tickets and everything else smartphones have condensed into portability, I still appreciate photographic film. I have appreciated it over the years to the tune of a box full of developed negative sleeves.
Negatives
The Makerof the Smartphone Film Scanner, Lomography, has an awesome reputation for designing super-cool photography products that stimulate visual creativity (three of which I already own), so I was excited to test this one.

Hypothesis:
Using my Apple iPhone 4S, the Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner should provide me a way to preserve and use my developed negatives, and add these previously printed photos to my online digital albums.

Smartphone Film Scanner | UncommonGoods

Experiment:

Out of the box, the scanner seemed simple enough to assemble; there’s a small instruction manual that points out the key components of the scanner unit, including the stackers, the base, the clamps and the LomoKino Mask (which you must lift and remove, lest your initial scans will be 1/3 of their intended size).

*The fine print: requires 2 AA batteries! (Pause. This launched a house-wide search for fresh batteries.) Battery door is a bit difficult to open; I needed to use a paper clip to lift.

3Batteries

The instructions noted to use only two stackers with an Apple iPhone 4/4S. (Stackers allow you to adjust the distance from your smartphone to the film to maximize the resolution.) So, I removed one stacker and assembled the unit.

4Stackers

Next, the directions were to attach the smartphone to the scanner by placing the phone between the clamp winged platform on top of the scanner. Once the phone is camera-lens side down on this platform, you’re supposed to close the clamp wings to secure the phone onto the scanner, with the lens squarely on top of the scanning chamber. However, while the scanning chamber’s opening is centered, the phone’s camera lens is not; the iPhone camera lens is to the left of the phone. So, you have to manipulate the entire top of the platform to also move left or right, after you’ve clamped the phone in place. This was not immediately understandable from the instructions given. (In fact, I’m not even sure it’s understandable here; just know that you will need to maneuver the platform around a bit to get your phone directly over the scanning chamber, i.e. hole on top where the camera lens must be.)

Clamp

I then inserted my negative strip using the film advancing wheel on the base of the unit and flipped the “on” switch to illuminate the light panel for viewing the negative. I enabled the camera feature on my iPhone, worked on centering the negative with the lens, and snapped a photo. The photo saved to my camera roll. Cool!

Negatives 2

Now for scanning!

The instruction manual suggested visiting a site to get the app to scan.
I logged on to the website:
http://microsites.lomography.com/smartphone-scanner/#app

I initially downloaded the free LomoScanner App EVEN THOUGH there is a bit of a disclaimer on the page about technical issues that have been experienced by early users.

7App

And sure enough, on both my iPhone and my boyfriend’s Android, the LomoScanner apps crashed. (Luckily it was easy to fix, but I decided not to try the app again.)

Returning to the drawing board, I download one of the other many suggestions for apps that were given on the Lomography site. (Not all of them were free, ranging from .99 to $4.99.) The Photoshop Express app (by Adobe) is FREE, and took seconds to download.

Photoshop Express

Nothing to sign into or request to trade your email address for access, the PS Express app simply offered the choice of “take a picture” or “open from camera roll” upon opening. I chose to access my camera roll, where I selected the picture I previously snapped of the negative.

10Dashboard

Once the photo was chosen, it was opened in a dashboard, where all the scan edits take place. First, I chose to crop the image, to rid the photo of the notched side framing. I also rotated it into a vertical portrait. Next, I chose “invert,” which essentially makes a negative out of the negative, “inverting” the original image. Since I started with a negative (the absence of color), the inversion actually deposits color. The result, in this case, was a color photo with a bluish tint. Using the brightness and contrast tools, I “warmed” up the photo, adjusting the tint, vibrance, highlights and other varying degrees of sharpness and clarity to improve the photo quality. But, alas, for some reason, my beloved “red” shiba inu, Kobe, remained blue in the photos. Below is the best I could get. I saved it to my camera roll , but it looks like there’s more I can do with photos in the future to get different results. (Check out this video for some ideas.)  Some more experimenting is required!

BlueKobe

 

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Conclusion:
Overall, what was  produced by the LomoScanner wasn’t exactly what I was expecting–especially after the process of assembling everything and downloading apps, editing, etc., but it does beat my throwback Thursday (#tbt) habit of taking pictures of photographs (which result in a slightly blurry, glassy-eyed view).  As with all Lomography products, the LomoScanner has a loyal, even cult-like fan base, and the Lomographic community even offers tutorials, classes and online support to share tips and tricks. So, if you have the time or are into experimenting with photography, I’d say go for it.While the product is fun, if you just wanted a quick way to rid yourself of a box full of old negatives like I did, this might not be for you.

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: BLACK & WHITE

February 1, 2014

Instagram Challenge: Black & White

The next #UGInstaFun theme is BLACK & WHITE. I have to say, there’s something about black and white photography that calms and excites. It’s as if the photographer’s letting me in on a little secret through a timeless moment they captured. Whether the photo is happy, whimsical, mysterious, dark, simple, or fun — a black and white photo usually puts more focus on the subject. It slows down the eyeball and keeps it from jumping frantically around the picture. It reminds me to take a step back and to slow down a bit. Share with us your black and white timeless moments. On March 5th, 2014 a winner will be chosen and the prize is a $50 gift card. Be sure to hashtag #UGInstaFun on Instagram and if you want to see entries that have already joined in on the fun, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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