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b2zone service software release 1-5-3 digital offers

 

The time has come; our next software release is ready. In addition to product sales, our goal is to provide digital sales possibilities that bring rental and leasing offers into one business service. With our digital widgets we have come substantially closer to that goal. b2zone service 1.5.3 has been released. Gina launched her offer of patterns for leather wallets as digital downloads right from the start with her new website project “Gina Adam Leather Projects.” She did a great job and her efforts were successful right away. For us as developers it is always very satisfying to see our ideas implemented and applied the way we envisioned them. All forms of digital data can be sold through the b2zone Digital Widgets, e-books, patterns, videos, music, software and much more. We recommend to compress all files into a *.zip file before the data is offered for sale.

Up to 100MB of data can be stored for free in our servers. This amount of data presents many possibilities for your digital sales offers and, as always, with b2zone you only pay a small fee for every successful sale. If your digital sale needs exceed 100MB you have the possibility to buy additional space in 1GB increments, each for 1.60 USD/EUR per month. You can find more detailed information on our pricing website or in your service admin area. We are convinced that our offer is highly attractive because there are no restrictions on which data you sell as long as it follows our general terms. How it works: as usual you create your offer with our Widget Editor. You include a picture of your product as well as a title, descriptions and price. You upload the data and embed it to your website project. And, ready. It is that simple.

I think Maggy & Max will soon follow Gina’s footsteps and publish the first e-book. Stefanie told me that, in addition to her English edition, her plan is to offer Spanish and German versions of her e-book. We are very excited and we are looking forward to seeing many more uses of this functionality by our website operators. We wish you all great success.

 

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We are networkers out of passion

 

Our b2zone artwork collection page already has more than 3000 likes, our Twitter account has over 38.000 followers, our b2zone network Facebook page has almost 10.000 likes and we are also well represented at other social media platforms like Pinterest and Google+. Our network expands more and more each day. At b2zone we see the great chance online networking presents as a matter of principle because the world wide web and our software technology go very well together. It makes complete sense to go down this road. Networking means connecting people. That is exactly what we do when we feature our artists. It is a true win-win situation. The artists get a framework of an online representation that is dignifying and worthy. b2zone, as a company, gets the opportunity to build up a network through the content from our artists or our befriended companies.

The great side effect of our efforts is that through the unique framework of the b2zone magazine (and soon the b2zone publishing house) all these initiatives receive a long-lasting value through Google indexing and web search results rankings. We observe that our network is not only expanding but our access statistics prove that its perceived value is increasing (even in those who are not connected to the artists or b2zone) due to the high quality of the content. Providing excellent service has always been at the forefront as we develop our business software solutions. We are convinced that the route we chose was the right way to go and we will continue to expand through further initiatives. Another goal of ours is to provide a nice portfolio of potential customers in the future to our website users.

 

 

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b2zone service software release 1-5-2

 

When we published the release 1.5.1 of our b2zone software on March 14th we had already planned for changes and enhancements, according to the software development principle “early and often”. The time for publishing our second release 1.5.2 has come now and the following changes have been made:

 

1. Enhancement in the logo section:

With the new release 1.5.2 it is possible to position your own logo in a width of 600 pixels and dynamic height either on the left side, in the middle or on the right side in the template.

2. New header on top:

There is now the possibility to place a top header in a min. size of 1920×300 pixels under the logo section.

Optional omitting of a logo or top header:

a) If the logo or top header is not used, the menu bar positions on top of the page
b) If a logo is inserted, the menu bar positions under the logo
c) If a top header image is inserted the menu bar positions under this top header image

3. How to…?…ask Google:

In our support cases we have learned that the user knowledge about computers and software varies a lot. For some it is not a problem at all to crop a picture to a 16: 9 format, for the other it might be a hurdle to even create a PNG format. For all the necessary user knowledge, there is great “how to’s” on Google and YouTube.
For this reason, we decided to implement a search engine bar directly to Google in the edit mode of the website operator. Thus, when working with our templates, you have the possibility to search directly for a problem solution. We have pre-formulated some key questions as examples in the “Select a question” area. If you choose these questions, it’ll lead you to very good YouTube instructional videos.

4. Text alignment at the intermediate images:

If you click on the “paragraph icon” in the textbox, line-spaceholders will be displayed. With the “Enter” key you can align your text to your image at top, center or bottom (PC desktop version). On smartphones and tablets the text is automatically set by our software.

To make sure that these changes can take effect in your existing account, it is absolutely necessary that you empty your browser cache (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Opera). If you don’t empty your browser cache, malfunctions and misprints of the templates will occur until the browser updates the next time. We at b2zone are pleased to be able to provide you with this release because it greatly expands the possibilities of creative website design. So good people, log in to your account and start experimenting and finding out. In Roland’s b2zone artwork collection group album “Art by Roland (Webdesgin)” you can view a couple of experiments with this new release.

 

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A good product photograph should be at the top of the list

 

While working with our artists on our secret Facebook groups we have seen that there are questions and topics about photography that basically concern to all. Gina and I have therefore developed the idea of the b2zone photography classes group, which is available as a closed group to members of the b2zone artwork collection only. “Friends help friends,” learn from each other to understand the finest things about product photography and artwork photography with different devices. We as moderators were very pleased to see that this group has been accepted with great interest among our b2zone artwork collection artists and that, from the very first day, the “friends help friends” concept was well received not only with topics of interest but with reciprocity in the form of tips and suggestions. Since we started working to present artists and artisans in the best way possible we have been able to admire many works by different artist, and have noticed that, while the focus of the artist on a beautiful and high-quality end product exists, often a focus on a high-quality photographic representation is missing.

Small objects are frequently presented in a hand to show as size ratio. Sometimes they are taken close up with a smartphone in portrait format. They are then directly put online without considering photo quality, background or lighting. Is that how you would present your products at a shop, gallery or market? Probably not. When you put them online they remain there for all eternity and showing up in a Google image search. Good product photos are the business card of any artist or artisan. A drawn hand is honorable work but not suitable as a photo background for a product. A blurry photo with bad light and taken on the workbench does not support the passion and dedication to the work behind the product. If one wants to show the individual characteristics and great features of one’s work, to arouse interest from potential customers or other artists, then the focus must be on the best possible presentation, one that leaves a positive memory for the viewer. It is absolutely worthwhile to invest to improve one’s photographic skills to then reap the long-term benefits. We give you all our support, just place it at the top of your list.

 

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We at b2zone are happy

 

I wrote about the b2zone one-to-one support offered to our b2zone artwork collection group members in my last article. Some of them have taken up this offer and we at b2zone are experiencing a very exciting time at this moment. The first “get one like this” business website has come out while others are in the making. The results are such that we truly have a reason to be happy, and that was the plan. We wanted to develop a software that allows anyone who puts a bit of work in photo editing and storytelling to create a great business website project without depending on web designers. Our members in the support groups have very diverse needs when it comes down to their business website projects but they all have worked with high levels of commitment and it can be seen in the results.

We already spent time with the artists working on their strong and big pictures as an essential part of the b2zone magazine. After 14 issues our commitment is visible through its success. Artists can only be properly presented and represented online through exciting stories and great photos. It is exactly the same in our business website software. Many readers of our magazine share with us that they like it so much precisely because of the great photos and stories. Without this standard of quality in the photos and the artists’ stories our magazine and software would be like a blank sheet of paper. Anyone who has a b2zone magazine article and business website can rest assured to have a strong overall package and a great internet presence for their business. We will continue to work to enhance and extend our software features just like we have done in the past and look forward with great anticipation to many new websites that will be individually crafted as small works of art.

 

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Your individual one to one b2zone support

 

The b2zone magazine has been around for one year already and in the 13th edition we present again many great artists to our readers. During the preparation of every issue we create secret Facebook groups with the artists through which we communicate and discuss the process, the pictures that will be displayed in the articles and their stories. We work together in this process until we are both of the opinion that the artist will presented in the best way possible. That is our common goal. Only artists who are members of the b2zone artwork collection group are published in our magazine because we like to have this kind of personal contact with them. We are taking this very positive experiences and workflows directly into our b2zone business service with our release 1.5.1. We offer every member of the b2zone artwork collection group the same comprehensive support should they decide for the early use of our service and start their own “get one like this” business website project.

The first support groups have already been created and we can clearly see that there will be many new and beautiful websites. Our top goal for offering this level of support is to achieve the best possible result in the b2zone website projects for our early users. Gina has laid out a truly beautiful business website which clearly shows what is possible with our software. It contains strong and big pictures that work together with the great stories to present her unique selling point. The combination of a business website with our widgets is an offer far superior from those at any bargaining table. And, by the way, the use of our service is completely free of charge. Gina and I look forward to continue to collaborate with you so stay creative and build your own brands.

 

 

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What a difference a photo makes

 

After the publication of our article “The Art of Photographing Geometric Shapes” in edition 5 we received a friendly request from Jane Howarth to ask if we could help her photograph her work. We know how tricky this topic is so Gina and I were very happy to assist. Through her outstanding endurance and strong will Jane has made it very easy for us to obtain better images. It was a pleasure to accompany her in this journey and it is an even greater one to see the fantastic images that she shares with us today. Well done Jane.

 

Guest writer Jane Howarth 

 

I was recently asked by Gina Adam and Roland Essl if I would like to write a portrait telling my story for the February edition of b2zone Magazine and of course being a fairly new professional artist on the scene I jumped at the chance. The thing I definitely didn’t realise at that stage was some of the challenges and hard work that went into taking the standard of the photographs needed for the magazine or how to achieve them. With a huge amount of help and guidance from Gina and Roland I managed to move on from a blurry, poorly taken photograph, which really didn’t show my work to anywhere near to the kind of quality that you would see with the naked eye, to a very strong representation of it.

It wasn’t easy, we faced a lot of obstacles along the way as my photography skills were amateur at best, I really knew absolutely nothing about taking a photograph or how the camera worked best but with some hard work and persistence we eventually started to see the desired results. This article explains those challenges and how I / we managed to overcome them. I hope it will help other artists who like I was, are struggling to take a decent photograph. It is hugely important to do so. You could be the next Picasso but unless you can take a good enough photograph to show the rest of the world how will they ever know? I have to say also that it seems easy taking a photo of a painting, I mean I could take a perfectly acceptable holiday snap shot so this shouldn’t be too hard right? In reality it was a whole different ball game and one anyone serious about having a career as an artist needs to master.

 

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Here’s how we did it and my final set up. I hope it helps. The first thing I was asked to do was to take a photograph at the required aspect ratio of 16:9 which is rectangular. This is in the same way as a magazine going to print may use for example A4 size paper. This is the size all the photographs needed to be to fit in the magazine. But how did I get a 16:9 ratio? At this stage, as my camera is a Nikon D5300 I was using my camera to transfer the photos wirelessly from my camera directly to my iPad and as this was not the required aspect ratio I either needed to crop from my iPad or find another way. Both Roland and I read through the camera’s instructions to look for a solution but came up with nothing, so how did we overcome this first obstacle?

In the same way as I have learnt many techniques that I use today in my Acrylic paintings I decided to watch some YouTube tutorials on how to set an aspect ratio on the Nikon D5300 and found a whole menu previously undiscovered. Within the menu was a trim option with various sized aspect ratios so I simply went through them until I found the 16:9 option. The only other thing I had to do then was take a few photographs at varying distances until I found the correct distance from each painting to be able to trim to 16:9 with the maximum amount of the painting still showing at this aspect ratio. The second challenge I then faced was that the distance between the top and bottom and side to side of the photograph was not perfectly central once cropped.

Again, using the menu, I found an option to add a grid of squares so when you look through the viewfinder you can use the lines and squares to get things set up so they are completely central. To do so I mounted the camera on a tripod which I made sure was completely level and used a spirit level on top of the artwork to make sure this too was completely straight. It then became easy to line up the lines and make the artwork central. By the third stage I could see my photography was moving in the right direction but we still had a lot of obstacles in front of us. The next one we had to tackle was the shadows. Due to where the light was coming from it was creating a shadow along the edge of one side of the painting and I quickly realised I needed to get the light so that it was a lot stronger and more even on the artworks. As my paintings mostly include the use of shimmer paints invisible to the naked eye in daylight I opted for artificial lighting which would show the artworks and shimmer effects correctly to the viewers. I decided to purchase a couple of soft boxes so that I could switch light bulbs on and off to then obtain the correct amount of light and stand on either side of my work.

 

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At this stage (and as advised by Roland that this would be the case) I now had not only managed to eliminate the shadows but the extra light on the artwork meant the camera was now focusing more sharply in auto focus mode. The other option could have been to add masking tape to your cameras flash so you do not get bright hot spots in the shot and the light is distributed evenly. I must say though the soft boxes have proved invaluable in my set up and were a very worthwhile investment.The next discussion I had with Gina and Roland was around the lenses I had available and if I should use the zoom and the lens hood. The lens hood Roland advised was for screening the camera outside in sunshine only so was a definite no no. The zoom when used was making the picture weak too so for the 18 – 55mm lens that came with the camera I set the lens at 35mm and did not change that again throughout the process. I did have a macro lens available but this was too weak to take photographs of the required strength and obtain accurate shots of colour within my artwork. Following this the next issue to overcome was poor resolution. It seemed the issue was coming from me wirelessly downloading my photographs from my camera directly to my iPad and onto the Nikon app.

I decided instead to download directly to my laptop instead, change the image size within my camera to large and NEF (Raw) JPEG and after the next photo shoot the resolution was now up to standard. We were now very definitely getting close to the final shots for the magazine but were still not quite there. The photographs were still coming up too dark. I had by this stage decided to set up the camera in completely manual mode. I set the ISO to 100 to take the sharpest picture possible of the entire painting rather than just focusing on the centre. In Automatic mode, I felt the camera was making internal adjustments to darken the picture whereas I had discovered to get the colour to show up correctly the photograph needs to be borderline overexposed compared to how, for example, you may take a photograph outside and the camera under auto mode simply didn’t recognise this. Once the camera is set up in manual mode you can adjust the aperture and shutter speed up or down as required to let in more or less light depending on the strength of your light sources.

The photo was now perfect on my camera but still coming up dark when it reached Gina and Roland via email which could only mean my very old laptop and poor quality graphics card were stopping the photograph showing as accurately as it should. I used a different laptop with a decent graphics card at which stage we finally had the result we required. Reaching this stage in any artist’s profession is vital if you want to offer prints or enter competitions. I entered my first ever competition with one of these good quality photographs at the end of this process and won my first ever award for my artwork, achieving the special recognition category. This was the first time I had felt confident to enter any competition with a photograph of a good enough quality to show my artwork off well to the viewer. This proves that working hard on your photography to achieve a good result is hugely important if you wish for your artwork to be taken seriously.

 

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This is my final set up:

Level the tripod and artwork using a spirit level.
Find the correct distance away from the artwork to be able to crop to the required 16:9 aspect ratio.
Set the artwork to centre using the grid.
Use soft box lighting either side to eliminate shadows and enable the camera to auto focus.
Set the image size to large NEF (Raw) JPEG.
Set the 18 to 55 mm lens at 35mm.
Set the ISO to 100.
Set the Aperture to F/8.
Half press the shutter button to focus the camera.
Press the shutter button fully to take the shot.
Adjust the shutter speed up or down a click or two to increase or decrease brightness until you have the shot and exposure that you need.

 

Good luck, I hope this article helps you all achieve some positive results.

 

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Guest writer Kim Eoff

 

Kim Eoff “Kim’s Custom Leather”  is a female leather crafter from Avondale Arizona, U.S. and longtime member of our b2zone artwork collection Facebook group. When she told us that she had a degree in photography and worked as a naval photography instructor for ten years when she served her country, we asked her if she would like to write an article about the importance of good product photography and we were enthralled when she agreed. Kim has put a lot of time and effort into writing this article and producing explanatory photos.

As a result of her commitment and knowledge, this wonderful article series evolved. We think it is absolutely great and special that such an initiative can be achieved out of a Facebook community since this is not conventional. This article series will be continued in the next three issues of our magazine and we really recommend to our readers to stay tuned and follow up.

 

Article series overview

1. Photography tips and tricks
2. Correct formats and camera settings
3. All light is not equal
4. Setting up your own photo studio

Download complete article series (PDF)

 

 

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Photography tips and tricks

 

We are all artists but we are not all professional photographers or advertisers. The need to hire an advertising company or professional photographer to make ad sheets and websites for us is usually a very costly and painful process. Luckily, in today’s market, social media and the internet make it possible for us to be very effective advertisers for ourselves. If we want to be successful, we must learn to market ourselves well, and for that, good photography is essential. A huge part of that depends on achieving high quality images for our websites, sales sites and social media sites. We have to be able to catch the eye of a potential customer in mere seconds as they surf through hundreds of websites. The quality of our photographs is one of ways we can try to grab that attention.

Think about how you shop online, you have an idea of what you want and you search for it. You then look for its photograph, product description, color, dimensions and of course, the product reviews. Think how often you pass up products that you cannot clearly see because they are out of focus or you can’t zoom in on the detail. Often, you will pass on products because they are not the right color or do not seem to fit in with what you have in your mind’s eye. Poor photography loses sales. If you were looking for a spruce top guitar, which guitar would you choose? Believe it or not, the following photographs are of the same guitar; the only difference is the lighting. This illustrates how easy it is to lose a sale if we don’t put some thought into our photography.

 

Kim Eoff Photo 1

 

In today’s world, we don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive camera equipment to photograph our work. Many of us have a family vacation digital camera sitting in the closet or even easier; most of us have smart phones with cameras that are capable of taking high quality photographs in the correct format. One of the biggest obstacles we must overcome is taking our photographs in the wrong format for websites and online magazine articles.

 

Preview article No.2

Correct formats and camera settings

 

In our next b2zone magazine Edition 9, Kim will give you some helpful hints for using your smartphone camera properly to create better product photos. You will learn about the right photo formats, camera settings, and also how to easily build your own tabletop camera setup.

 

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Correct formats and camera settings

Review article 1

Photography tips and tricks

 

In her first article Kim told us about the importance of good product photography for our sales online and that we don’t need to call upon the services of expensive web designers or advertisers to promote us, but rather that we can achieve this by our own selves.

Download complete article series (PDF)

 

Many websites and online magazines, such as the b2zone, use a 16:9 format. No, you don’t have to do calculus to figure this out. Basically, all you need to do to take successful photographs in the correct format is to use horizontal or landscape format instead of vertical or portrait format. (Later in this article, I will tell you how to make some of the necessary camera settings; such as a true 16:9 format ratio, focus, etc.) Our phones, by their basic design lead us to hold them vertically instead of the horizontally.

 

Kim Eoff Photo 2

(The phone on the left is vertical and the right is horizontal format.)

 

It takes a little more thought to hold your phone/camera in a horizontal format. We have to be conscious of the buttons on the sides and that our fingers don’t get in front of the lens. Then, after we have taken our handheld photographs, we take a quick look and they appear to be good and sharp but if we zoom in on our product’s detail, we will often see that the detail is not sharp. Remember our customers will be doing just that, using their phones and computers to zoom in on every detail! When you are considering buying a product, don’t you look very carefully at every detail before you press that “Purchase Now” button? I know I do!
That’s where a tripod of some sort is very helpful. It can be a tabletop tripod or a floor model. For those of you whose art pieces are small this is easily accomplished with a simple tabletop set up. A floor tripod is best used when taking photos of larger pieces or working outside. Again, this is not expensive. Numerous websites have inexpensive tripods and phone holders that you can use. Sometimes, a little imagination is needed but it can be accomplished. In this photo, I have a selfie stick phone holder attached to a small tripod. I purchased the selfie stick with detachable phone holder for approximately $5 USD and found the tabletop tripod in the family camera bag. The selfie stick I purchased had a screw to tripod phone holder mount in addition to a go-pro mounting bracket. The screw on phone bracket will also work on my larger tripod when I need it. While shopping, I also noticed that small tripods were around $15 USD.

 

Kim Eoff Photo 3

(I took this photo with my own Samsung Note 4 Smartphone in 16:9 format.)

 

So we have our phone set up on our tripod and we are ready to shoot. This should be easy, just push the button right? Well, not exactly. When we just shoot our camera tries to determine the best focus and exposure for everything in the frame. We want to direct the focus and exposure on to our product instead of any design elements or background we have added to our set up. If using your smart phone, select the camera option. Once in the camera option, go into the camera settings by selecting the little gear icon or the little dots to give us other camera setting selections. From here you will see flash options, focus options, self timer and a number display that sets the format and size of the file and then either 3 small dots or other gear icon for additional settings. The file size will be indicted by a number with a circle around it. When we select the number with a circle around it, we will have the option of setting a file size that is compatible with the 16:9 format. Without getting too complicated, the file size determines how many pixels and space the file will occupy.

The file size and pixels determine how large of a print you can make or how detailed the image will be. A good file size for use on social media is around 6.0 MB. To ensure we are using the correct format, all we need to do is click on the number and select the corresponding 16:9 format. We will see lots of options, don’t be intimidated. For now, we only want to select the correct format/size and if available, an option called “Tap to take photo.” This function lets you select exactly where you want the focus and exposure to be and takes the photo at the same time. If available, this is a very helpful option. If your phone does not have the “Tap to take photo” option, just use the auto function and tap the screen directly over your art piece, to set the focus, before hitting the shutter button and it will work similarly. It sounds more difficult than it is. Picture 4, shows the settings you want to look for on your phone/camera and what those setting might look like. Zoom in on the below picture to see the options closer.

 

Kim Eoff Photo 4

(Examples of Samsung Galaxy S4.)

 

Preview article No.3

All light is not equal

In our next b2zone magazine Edition 10, Kim will give you some helpful information about the importance of light, the proper lighting and white balance. She explains how we achieve to depict our products in their original color.

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All light is not equal

Review article 2

Correct formats and camera settings

 

In her last article Kim explained to us how to use smartphone cameras for product photography, how to reach to the camera settings, about the right photo formats and how to easily build your own tabletop camera setup.

 

Download complete article series (PDF)

 

Now, let’s take it one step farther and talk about lighting. As artists, we are conscious of light whether we realize it or not. We’ve all noticed that as we go through the day the light changes. For me, here in the Pacific Northwest, early morning often has cool hue of blues and greens. At mid-day the light is very bright and the shadows are very harsh. In the late afternoon and evening, we get warm hues leading us into the orange red glow of sunset. In other parts of the world, you may experience warm skies in the morning but I’m sure you are still conscious and understand that your light changes throughout the day. Science refers to these color changes as temperature, or more specific, Kelvin Temperature. When we are photographing our sunset or sunrise we want to showcase all the colors of the sky. When we are showcasing our work, we want the color of the light to be as close to white as possible so each color depicted in our art piece looks the same to the customer that purchases it from our website as it did in our studio. That white light is called balanced or white balanced.

When we light out products, we want the photos to have balanced light, or be white balanced. To accomplish this, we use lights that are as close to white balanced as possible. White balanced is important so when our product reaches our customer, the color looks as close to the same in their hand as it did in the photograph on our website. (Remember Photo 1 in article No.1) If we photograph our pieces under fluorescent lights, they will have a greenish cast. If we photograph them with lamps from our studios or homes, using regular light bulbs, our photographs will have a yellow cast. If we photograph our products in bright sunlight, the color will be washed out and the shadows will be harsh. If we photograph our product in the shade, you may need some fill flash or something to reflect light onto our product to give some depth to the shade and reduce the cool color cast.
In the past, we would have needed elaborate studio lights to photograph our products in balanced or white light. Today, we are lucky, we can go to our home improvement store and purchase LED lights that are white. These lights will be labeled as Daylight, 5000-5200 K, for Kelvin. (See Photo 3 in article No.2) We can pop these lights into a couple of light fixtures of any kind and light our product with balanced 5000k white light.

 

Kim Eoff Photo 5

Photo 5 (In this photo, I have put size A19, 5000K daylight bulbs in some shop lights and clipped them on to bottles above my shooting area.)

 

We can soften the light with some cheese cloth, white dish cloths or any white cloth that allow light to pass, by placing it over the light fixture, as shown in photo 6. By diffusing the light, you cut down the hard shadows and reflections created by shining the light directly on your art piece. This is very helpful when shooting flat art pieces. If your art piece is more 3 dimensional, you may want to only cover one light and use the other to direct the shadow, giving you a more 3 dimensional affect. In Photo 6, I have used the same lights as in Photo 5, only this time I have clipped them to my chairs and shown you how the setup might look like with a large tripod, a digital camera and only one light diffused.

 

Kim Eoff Photo 6

Photo 6 (This set up could also be used for large items by removing the table and adding a neutral background.)

 

Preview article No.4

Setting up your own photo studio

 

In her next and last article of the series, Kim describes how you can easily accomplish to set up your own low budget home studio for your product photography.

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Setting up your own photo studio

Review article 3

All light is not equal

 

In her last article Kim told us about the proper lighting and white balance, the importance of light in general. She explains how we can make arrangements to showcase our products in their original color.

Download complete article series (PDF)

 

If the majority of your work is medium to small sizes, you could shop the internet for a small light cube. Most small cubes come with white balanced lights, are easy to set up and store and usually costs around $50 USD.

 

Kim Eoff Photo 7

Photo 7

 

Here I have shown you another table top setup. This one is with a small light cube, using the white balanced lights that came with it and my Smartphone on a tabletop tripod. The cube comes with white diffuser panels you set up into a box shape, as well as white balanced lights and a background cloth; one side grey and one side blue. You simply set the lights up at about a 15 degree angle outside the box with the lights shining thru the diffuser panels, on your art piece. Set up the camera/tripod combination and shoot. Your camera will be very happy with this exposure and your piece will look very professional. Photo 8 shows how this setup completely stores away in its own case and box. You can also use the lights without the diffuser panels if needed.

 

Kim Eoff Photo 8

Photo 8

 

You’ve come this far, how about just one more step. Background! Here again, simple is best. I could show you elaborate photos and set ups to prove my point but I hope, by now, you will believe me when I tell you neutral or a simple light gray, white or black background is best. You might wonder why? If you introduce too strong of a color in the background of your product, it can distract from the main focus and change the camera exposure and color! Notice how the setup in photo 7 looks good to our eye, the overall color is nice and balanced. Yet, if you look at the camera’s display versus the actual leather artwork, the leather in the display has a yellow cast to it. This is because I used the blue background. The camera tries to compensate for all the blue in the background and overcorrects leaving the leather with a yellow cast. The grey side would have been a better choice. The focus, exposure and background should always be what are best for your product! That does not mean that you cannot use display elements and color in your setups. You can, as long as you use the color and elements in a way that leads the viewer’s eye to your product or product’s use and does not shift the color.
Always remember, you are shooting for the customer’s eye and not your own. Sometimes we get so caught up in the setup and background that we forget that the most important aspect of the photograph is OUR product. Don’t let yourself be so distracted with design elements, backgrounds or even logo pieces that you give them the same value and attention in the photograph that you give your art piece. You are not merely trying to make pretty photographs; you are trying to sell your work. Be purposeful with your photographs. So now, set up your lights and background, flip your camera to the horizontal format, sharply focus on your product, fill the display with your product and showcase your beautiful work; SO IT SELLS!

 

 

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Kim‘s article series ends with this last article. We think this series provides a lot of useful information and lends a helping hand to an orientation how product photography can be improved easily. The articles are structured in a way that makes it easy for our readers to switch in between. In each of the articles you will find a PDF download option for offline reading the whole article. We want to thank Kim again for this marvelous work and we are looking forward to enjoying your beautiful product photos.

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Goodbye Picasa Hello Google Photos

 

This was a shock to me. Why? Because Picasa was a simple tool to quickly work pictures into standard formats, add depth or remove a blue spot. Of course one can do that with Photoshop but Picasa was better at it and definitely easier. My next step would have been to get a virus-free version of Picasa 3.9 and, in the worst of cases, apply a few tricks to get it to run in future Windows operating systems.

I could not get it out of my mind that the successor to Picasa is Google Photos, an online program and not an installable desktop client anymore, so I decided to look deeper into it.

 

 

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Many elements of Picasa which are necessary for easy and fast photo processing are included. Of course you have to find your way through the program but it does not take as long to process as other image processing programs. Ease of use is a priority to me and after two hours of playing around with it I must say it is not bad at all for an online tool. If you want to edit your photos a little bit but don’t require to go too deep into photo editing then Google Photos is a good substitute for Picasa. I like it. The modern interface is quite appealing, which was one of Picasa’s weaknesses as a desktop client. As an additional benefit over Picasa Google Photos works well on smartphones and tablets. Hello Google Photos.

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The photograph with artificial light and the color temperature range

 

You might never have thought about what kind of light bulbs and light sources you use to take pictures of your products. Today I want to highlight that before photographing our products using artificial light we have to think how our products should be illuminated. Our sample image shows the color temperature range. We can see the colder light spectrum to the left, natural lighting in the middle and a warmer spectrum to the right.

It makes no sense to photograph natural materials under colder light because they lose their natural warmth. It also makes no sense to photograph white porcelain under warmer light that will make it appear yellow. It is therefore important to think very well about the harmonization between the materials, the background and the kind of light to be used. For example, it would make complete sense to use warm light to shoot a piece of jewelry with a yellow/brown stone and a gray background to harmonize the contrast between the background and the product.

 

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What we should take from this is that we need to determine in advance if we require a cold or a warm light source and, therefore, we need different light bulbs for our light sources. Specialty stores label their light bulbs according to the Kelvin (K) color temperature scale. Color temperatures over 5000K are cold and color temperatures under 3000K are warm (7000K cold light / 5500 daylight / 5000K electronic flash / 2700 warm light).

Use electronic flash to simulate daylight but please consider that pictures taken with a flash will always have a blue tint giving it a cooler color temperature than real daylight. The blue tint created by electronic flash can be reduced using the bounce flash technique, which simply means one does not flash the light directly on the product but directs the flash onto a white flat surface to reflect the light indirectly.

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How to use b2zone simplify business software

 

Welcome to our b2zone community. Our business service will position you to easily create your own business website and to present your products in the best way possible. In order for you to use our software optimally you should know the basics of photo editing (e.g. Paint, Photoshop, Gimp, etc.). Cutting photos into the standard formats is of particular importance. Thankfully nowadays it is no big challenge to master these basic tasks due to the abundance of excellent Google and YouTube tutorials.

Our software is based on the basic principle that you can effortlessly showcase your products with attractive big pictures and great stories to your clients. With the integration of our product widgets your business website becomes highly appealing to your customers’ eyes increasing their desire to purchase from you.

 

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The b2zone Templates (your business website) – be creative and build your own brand

Immediately after registering on b2zone you will be on your Home Start template right on your dashboard. You will see small icons and an “insert your offer here” field through which you can very easily insert your product images and text. You also have many color options to effortlessly customize your new business website.

 

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Preparation is everything

You will get the most out of your business website if you invest the appropriate time and effort to prepare your texts and pictures using standard formats 16:9, 1:1 or 4:3. Image resolution should be at least 1920 x 1080 pixel (and about 1MB in size) for images with a width of 16:9. Use at least 960px for 4:3 standard format and 6:6 medium format photos. Because mobile devices best represent images in landscape format, our templates are optimized for landscape format as well. Please avoid portrait or vertical photos which do not lead to good results.

You can refer to our b2zone magazine articles “The relationship between photo format and resolution” and “Product photography – Landscape versus portrait format” for a better understanding of the concepts above or visit the business websites of Gina Adam to get a firsthand impression of what our templates have to offer.

 

Our Cropping Tool

Our cropping tool is not a photo editing tool. It rather serves as a tool to cutaway your photos so that they can be fully integrated into our template. The size of the cropping area is scalable (you can make it as big or as small as desired within your picture) to give you the flexibility you need. To ensure optimal results, the shape of the cropping box is predefined by us.

 

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The art of photographing geometric shapes

 

Gina and I have chosen a heavy topic for our photo series this time, photographing geometric shapes. To exemplify, we will use a leather embossing picture in a wooden frame. Leather embossing is a method to create realistic 3D pictures out of vegetable tanned leather. But why is it so hard to photograph geometric shapes? To answer that question we must first understand the challenges we face in order to represent our work in the best way possible. In this particular case we face two main challenges. The wooden frame must be precisely aligned in the camera viewfinder and the 3D effect of the Goshawk must be appreciated in the photo. Day in and day out I see photographs of framed pictures on social media and, because this type of photograph is not easy, many of those photographs are simply terrible.

 

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The challenge of geometry. The camera viewfinder has a rectangular shape defining the image section as a 4:3 or 16:9 frame. The picture in the viewfinder is then a geometrical rectangular shape. When photographing such geometrical shapes it is therefore extremely important that all sides are completely parallel to the sides of the camera viewfinder. The frame of the picture in our example should not create a distortion and this is achieved using a spirit level to ensure the picture is perfectly leveled.

The camera needs to be fixed on a tripod and should also be aligned with the use of a small spirit level which can be obtained in a specialty store. Any deviation (however small) from parallelism leads to a distortion of the image on the photo. The image should also be photographed frontally and at the same level. Every little inclination of the angle of the camera (on the side or from above) creates a distortion. Another possibility to photograph framed pictures exactly and correctly is to do it in a small tabletop photo studio but we will expand on this in a separate article.

The challenge of the 3D effect of the Goshawk. I have observed some embossed works on the internet and found it interesting that many artists believe that one can best appreciate the 3D effects of their work if they photograph the picture from the side. The reality is that when one photographs the item from the side all one achieves is a distortion of the picture itself without efficiently highlighting the 3D effect. It is a loss for no gain. 3D effects are adequately highlighted through lighting and shadowing (observe the feather in the picture as well as the feathers of the Goshawk). The light sources are aligned so that the feathers on the right side cast a shadow (flat angle of the light source) and the left side is diffused through indirect frontal light.

The best approach is to try it out and verify the right shadowing is achieved continuing to vary the angles of the light sources until the shadows are right. P­ractice will make perfect and lead to great results.

 

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One possible way to produce better product images

Gina and I decided to shoot a test set for this article. We used the camera of the Nokia Lumina 920 smartphone to do it. The 16:9 screen format of smartphones, laptops and widescreen monitors presents a new set of possibilities. This article was written to introduce those possibilities to you.

 

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What is right about the first picture?

The first thing that strikes us when we look at this first picture is that the iron (our main subject) is not in the exact center of the frame, which is what the human brain would expect. But by offsetting the iron slightly to the right the eyes of the viewer are guided directly to the iron itself. This is reinforced by the 16:9 format by providing more optical space and depth to the picture. This optical space is optimally arranged in the photo through the additional elements (furs, branches, log, laundry pins, ivy branch, etc.) carefully and purposefully placed one behind the other to create more visual depth. The iron’s position relative to the bottom and the top of the frame is essential here. Just like the framing of a “passe-partouts” the space between the product and the top frame is marginally smaller than the space between the product and the bottom frame. Something else to appreciate is that the arrangement of the iron and all the elements in the photograph tell a short story, a story that the observer’s brain describes on its own to build up a positive feeling towards the product. A product that tells a story through a picture will always be more exciting for the potential buyer than a lifeless object.

 

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 Find the mistake.

We have intentionally photographed the same arrangement the wrong way. What is wrong with it? To begin with the iron, which is our main subject, is cut off at the top. In this construction the viewer cannot capture the iron at glance on a computer monitor because the eyes keep jumping back and forth between the handle and the metal plate of the iron. This creates a feeling of discomfort, and discomfort is not the ideal feeling to create if our idea is to offer our product for sale. Many people make the mistake of photographing their products too closely with the intention to show the product’s detail but the result is not a beautiful picture. Such pictures have no depth or narrative and, like this example, the end result is just the picture of an old rusty iron.

 

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A picture that speaks for itself.

After my description and comments about the two photographs presented above, it is not really necessary in my opinion to elaborate too much on this third image. This picture shows a close photograph of a rusty iron on a workbench. If you intend to operate an online shop selling vintage items pleases ask yourself which picture is most likely to lead to a sale.

Gina and I hope this article will give you an idea or two for your own product photography.

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Guest writer Era Shevtsova

We are pleased to introduce Era Shevtsova, our guest writer for the “Skillz” column of the 3rd Edition of our b2zone magazine.

Era is a female leather artist from Sutton, UK. She has been a well-versed leather crafter for many years making beautiful bags, Tarot card-cases and other leather projects but is also the founder of www.yourleathercraftschool.com, “Tarot leather bags” and “Caracoda.”
Era understands the importance of good product photography which she has used since her early days in leather crafting and through her article and tips we benefit from her experience.

Era’s article: Is your product better than it looks in your pictures

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Guest Contribution Era

Is your product better than it looks in your pictures

 

Product photography becomes a highly important subject when people start showcasing their work online. The importance of a good image should not be overlooked because this is the only palpable way the viewer can judge your work. I think there are two ways to present your pictures. The first one is the artistic approach where you use your imagination and digital effects which are easily accessible nowadays from any software or online application. This is a cool way to showcase your products but only if the product is digital. It is cool because you have an unlimited range of colors and textures as well as limitless options to apply to your pictures. If the result is in synch with the viewer’s perception you have a winner. Of course, this method also makes your mistakes less noticeable. For example, if something is wrong with the colors, people will think “that’s how the artist sees it.” But when we talk about the less abstract physical product the story is completely different. This is when photography must be at its best and colors must be represented as close as possible to the original colors. Fancy Instagram effects are not acceptable here, unless you want to start a collection of upset customers, returns and refunds (including bad feedback, of course). You want the product in the photograph to look exactly as they do in real life.

You use Photoshop to add or tone down contrast and not to add effects. If you crop the photo is to bring the subject closer to the viewer. Yes, a good photo can be taken with a cheap point-and-shoot camera but a better and more expensive camera with a good lens can double your profit. I have tried both options and I vote for the more expensive one. But before you go and spend all your money on a good camera and a couple of great lenses you need to determine if this is something in which you really want to invest. If you are running a business full time, your sales are your only income and you are looking to expand your production (and sales) then absolutely yes, you should consider such an investment. You have to look at it as another tool or piece of machinery necessary for your workshop. It will only help you grow.

 

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Taking good photos is just like making a leather bag, painting a picture, making a piece of jewelry or anything else for that matter. You need to learn the techniques, master the skills and, of course, to practice. The photograph in Gina’s post is a great example of fist steps to master a skill, photography in this case. Just imagine you decided to start doing leatherwork (leatherwork is close to me but it applies to anything else) so you bought a beginner toolset, some leather offcuts and you even started watching DIY videos on YouTube. Everyone knows that you do not need to have expensive tools and camera to make a great bag and take a great photo. You now made your first bag which you immediately put online in your newly opened shop (thanks esty) and eagerly wait for that “Ka-ching” sound. And you wait and wait and wait. And then you get frustrated because there are no sales. You blame buyers (they do not understand art), you blame etsy (they only work for those who pay for adverts) and you blame your neighbor (they are just luckier than you).

And the only one you keep out of the blame zone is yourself and your lack of skills. Once you realize your bags are not good enough (yet) to compete with the million other bags out there you are already halfway to the winning line. You start learning, practicing and improving which takes you quite a while but you go all the way because now you know what your bag should look like to be able to stand out. You also know what your stitching and edges should look like. And you put the amount of time necessary to achieve that result. The very same applies to photography. You need to take the time to learn to take good photos. You need to learn, to practice and to go through trial and error until you develop good skills and are really able to take great pictures with a cheap camera. The camera does not take photos, you do. And how you do that depends on you only.

 

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So to sum it up. You would not put up for sale your first casually made item because you know it will not sell. Just as well you should not put up a casually taken photo to present your product. You take some time to read about photography, at least to learn your camera’s user manual. When you are at the level where you know what is wrong with that yellow thing in that yellow photo and how to fix it, only then is when you go and upload your product online.

Gosh do I like talking… But yes, these are my thoughts on the subject

Article by Era Shevtsova

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Product photography – Landscape versus portrait format

There is an undeniable truth in online trading: the vendor who presents the strongest product photographs is also the one who sells more of its products. This truth is easily understood if one realizes that when buying products on the Internet the picture is the closest one can get to the product itself. The more detailed, better presented and arranged the product is, the greater the potential is to capture it in a high quality photograph that results more pleasing and attractive in the eyes of the beholder (the customer). A high-quality and attractive photo directly increases the consumer’s desire to buy the product. Landscapes and wide products have been traditionally photographed in landscape format and head and shoulders portraits as well as narrow or tall products in portrait format. In the print media the square format dominates so that landscape and portrait formats can be cropped out as needed.

 

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Product images for online trade behave completely differently. Since cameras started recording video and the displays of laptops and mobile phones adopted the 16:9 aspect ratio format, different criteria for high-quality shooting have emerged. Images are created for the full-screen 16:9 aspect ratio prevalent in laptops and mobile phones. The tablet is a bit of an exception. Originating from Apple (and followed by other manufacturers) the tablet, a device originally intended for business people’s briefcases, exhibits a 4:3 aspect ratio simply because it resembles a letter-sized or A4 document. But even so, tablets do a great job displaying 16:9 aspect ratio images. Today, tablets are the favorite toys of many people alike independently of whether they need it for work or not. I definitely look forward to the first 16:9 tablet when it is produced.

The conclusion for product photography is that the better a product is arranged and photographed in 16:9 landscape format the better its representation will be in today’s electronic devices. Aside from very rare exceptions, one will never use a laptop in portrait format.

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The relationship between photo format and resolution

How is a photo format related to the image resolution and what does that mean?

There are three industrial standards for photo formats. 16:9; 4:3; 6:6 (middle format). What does that mean? It simply means that the manufacturers of the hardware (Photo- or video cameras) have agreed to a standard “format” and use it as such.
And what does the word “format” mean in this correlation? That’s actually pretty simple, since in the word “format” there’s already the meaning of “form” included. Example: 6:6 (middle format) means that it is a square form. If we have a 4:3 format it means, the picture has a rectangular form, just as 16:9 which is simply a stretched rectangle. So we learn that the “photo format” only describes the form of an image.

 

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Now here is the point that always leads to confusion, pixels. How are the pixels (resolution) of an image related to its format? Using the example of a 6:6 format, it means that in this square there are, for example, 1024×1024 picture elements (pixels) existing. If we look at 1024×1024 resulting a square, one can also read a 6:6 format of this pixel information.

It’s the same with photo formats 16:9 and 4:3. For example: 16:9=1920×1080 / length (16 parts) x width (9 parts) = dot per inch (dpi) 2.073.600 million picture elements (pixels) = 1920×1080

 

Your products and customers deserve a decent photo. An investment in a reasonable camera plus taking proper pictures really pays off.

Columnist: Roland Essl

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