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Photography

Design

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maker Stories

Piece by Piece: How Jim Golden Captures Collections in Photographs

October 12, 2013

Photographer Jim Golden | UncommonGoods

Photographer Jim Golden started his career as a retoucher in New York City’s fast-paced world of advertising, but traded in taxis and skyscrapers for scenic natural landscapes and crisp Oregon air. Now he owns his own photography studio and, when he isn’t capturing the majestic landscapes of the Pacific Northwest or creating beautiful portraits with his lens, he’s creating visual records of unique collections.

The items in each of these collections come from different times and places. Each grouping is like a history book, telling the story of a product and celebrating how the design has changed over the years and varies across its kind. Each thing in every group Jim photographs fits just right into the arrangement, creating a stunning still life.

Mixed Tape Puzzle | UncommonGoods

The subjects of each of these photographs arrive at Jim’s studio in many ways. Some are complete collections belonging to friends, some are from others working in the space, and some are “cobbled together” from thrift stores, internet auctions sites, and craigslist.

Despite the time Jim spends finding the perfect assortments of interesting things and carefully organizing them into scenes, he says he’s not one to hang on to too many objects himself. “I don’t have a lot of space these days,” he tells us. “I have 3 bikes, some die cast cars, some old cameras. Nothing amazing. I collect photos of collections! A friend recently commented that I collect through my camera, referring to my work outside of the studio (cars, houses, landscapes) which I thought was an interesting observation.”

Camera Collection | Jim Golden | UncommonGoods
Jim Golden | Photography | UncommonGoods

It’s no surprise that he learned to use the camera in this way. “My father was a serious amateur photographer,” Jim says. “[He] always had a camera in the car and would shoot this and that and every so often we’d have slide shows to see what he shot.”

After assisting his dad as a kid, Jim went on to college and began his technical training, ready to go into the field at a professional level. “I thought I wanted to be a commercial photographer, but after assisting in college I thought it wasn’t for me,” he says. “I graduated and started working for a retoucher in NYC, and he taught me that trade and I retouched for a while, then transitioned to shooting for a living in the early 2000s… I left New York City to get away from the intensity of the advertising world and to live in another part of the country. I wanted to be closer to the outdoors and especially the mountains in the winter. Portland was really affordable at the time, so it was easy to make a living and snowboard and skateboard a lot.”

The artist founded his own studio in 2006 in a converted grocery store from the 1930s. He describes it as “a free-standing building with a little parking lot and a big awning out front that the produce used to be under.” When he bought it, it was filled with cubicles, so he had to gut it to create the classic white box studio with “a 2000 square foot shooting space, a cyclorama, and about 1500 square feet of offices and a conference room in the back” that it is now. “It has great storefront windows so you never feel isolated in the dark, but it’s very functional,” he says. “It’s basically my dream studio from back when I would think about what my [future] studio would look like.”

Jim Golden Studio | UncommonGoods

All of this space is necessary, because photographing a large collection takes up what Jim calls “a pretty big footprint.” The objects are placed on the floor in a 10 foot by 8 foot formation and the camera is positioned 12 feet in the air, but that’s just set up. Space is also needed to store and sort the pieces before and after the photos are taken.

“We like to have about 2-3 times more stuff than we think we’ll need, ” Jim explains. “We spread everything out on big tables and edit it down to our favorite items. We then place our favorite stuff on the floor and move them around to see what feels right, then work off those pieces, they tend to be the larger pieces, generally. We mark the edges of the frame with tape measures and fill in the image. It’s a fine line between what works and what doesn’t; I know it when I see it. I worked with a very talented stylist, Kristin Lane, on some of the images, it’s a very collaborative process when we work together. Otherwise, I usually go in with 2-3 plans of attack and arrange the items myself.”

Set up | Jim Golden | UncommonGoods

This work may sound arduous to some, but it results in truly unique, detailed, and beautiful photos like those featured in our assortment of collection puzzles here at UncommonGoods. “I think all [photography] genres have their challenges in a way. When it comes down to it, it’s all making images, and I’m passionate about it regardless of the challenges,” Jim says.

The photographer’s advice to others willing to accept the challenges that come along with trade is to “shoot shoot shoot, every day.” He continues, “Always have a camera on you. Take the time if something catches your eye. It’s a cliché, but shoot what interests you, it shows through the work if you’re inspired…. as glamorous as this industry sounds, it can be a grind sometimes. You need to ask yourself if you can go the extra mile every time– because you need to. It’s immensely rewarding, but also hard work. ‘You’re not special, work hard’ was a quote I read recently. Very true.”