Photography for Bloggers and Shop Owners

Photography tips and tricks for bloggers and shop owners! Take better photos of your creations, products, recipes and more! via lilblueboo.com

 

Whether you need better product shots for your blog or shop, want to show off your latest recipe, or want those “wow” photos of your kids in the outfits you made for your next blog post; this e-book is for you! Learn how to get great photos of your creations within your own home without having to break the bank.
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3 Tips for Better Indoor Shots

3 Tips for Better Indoor Photography via lilblueboo.com

As much as I love the beautiful sunshine and the warm summer months, it isn’t always possible to photograph outside in the sunshine.  There are lots of wonderful parts of our lives that happen indoors!  Today’s post has 3 tips for getting better shots when you need to photograph indoors!

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Christmas Tree Photography with your DSLR (A Tutorial)

Christmas Tree Photo Tips via lilblueboo.com

 

 

 

how to take photos of your christmas tree at night via lilblueboo.com

There is nothing worse than a Christmas tree photo taken with your FLASH, yuck! I have been dreaming of this photo since last year. Elle and her dog Kai in front of the tree, as we see it in real life. After a a little practice, I finally achieved it! This photo make me so happy.

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Business 101 (according to me)

Undertaking this “Getting Down to Business” series might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done! Entire blogs are dedicated to running small business! I have an MBA but more often than not my business decisions come from my gut…..not from analysis.  So that’s how I’ve decided to approach this series….from what comes naturally and what has worked for me.

This is my first official business post and I thought I’d just start off right away with what I think are the 10 most important things for running a successful small handmade business.

 

To me this doesn’t mean make something high quality……it means make the best quality.

I take customer feedback very seriously…..and the goal is to never make the same mistake twice. This means tons of research on fabric quality, ink quality etc. We go to great lengths to hand silk screen every single item with “tagless” tags for comfort. I never mail out something I’m not proud of. If an item doesn’t meet my quality standards we’ll delay shipment….and contact the customer hoping they understand. I am constantly inspecting new things and other lines of clothing to see how we can improve on quality.

(more after the jump)

 

Customers want to know that they are valued and respected.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and look at the problem. How would you expect the situation to be resolved if you were from the outside looking in? Make sure your policies are written down and remind your customers about them often. You may have to make exceptions to your policies from time to time and change them as you go along.  It’s hard starting out when you have to take a loss on something because of a mistake you made…..but it’s worth it in the long run.

My personal opinion: Any seller that has a NO RETURN OR EXCHANGE policy is sending a message that they don’t stand behind their product (truly custom items are obviously an exception to this rule). I used to have that policy until I put myself in the customer’s shoes. I had it mostly because I didn’t want to have a bunch of returns at the end of a season because someone didn’t end up using the clothing. Since I have a small handmade business with a short shelf life I made up my own policy that fit my business….the customer has 10 days once they receive the product to decide if it’s for them or not.

 

Even if you are just starting out, pay your taxes and do your homework on permits and licenses…..or it will come back to haunt you.

I pay sales tax, employee/unemployment taxes, and income tax on everything Lil Blue Boo…..and I have ever since my first sale. I use Paycycle.com because it makes my life easier: it handles all taxes, forms, payroll etc. It’s about $40 a month but it’s a business expense that I can write off and it saves me about 10 hours of work (which is worth $4 an hour!). This may seem tedious and unnecessary at first if you are only selling one item here and there…….but as you grow and let the world know through blogging and Facebook that you have more help and employees……it’s basically public record.

 

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to start a business.

I started out with a dinky camera and a $99 sewing machine. I’m very conservative when it comes to investment because I like to spend my time being creative, not worrying about how I’m going to pay off another piece of equipment.

Borrow. Do you have a friend that has a nice camera that could help you take some photos of your product? Does your sister have an extra sewing machine or glue gun you could borrow?

Barter. Find someone that is willing to trade their services for product. Do you know a graphic designer who might design a logo in exchange for some amazing handmade goodies?

 

My rule of thumb? Never write anything in an email or online that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

If you post something not nice on your blog or twitter you can never take it back….someone will see it even if you delete it. A few people close to the situation might know what you are talking about but 99% of the world won’t care. Plus, word gets around.  There is also a rare tendency for small groups of sellers to gang up on another seller…..which I’m pretty sure is a form of cyberbullying. Stay off the bandwagon. And there are the touchy subjects:

Legal issues. First of all, make sure you copyright your work (you can use www.myfreecopyright.com) and make sure to register your trademarks to protect yourself (I use www.legalzoom.com).  If you think someone has infringed on a copyright or a trademark, approach them with a nice professional email or certified letter. They might comply immediately having no idea they were infringing in the first place. Take screen shots of everything and save every email.  If they don’t respond have an attorney send them a cease and desist if you think it’s worth the expense.

Copycats: This topic could take an entire blog post so I’ll write more on this later but here’s a summary: if you feel really strongly that someone has directly copied you take the same route as you would with a legal issue. I’ll be honest though, I don’t spend ONE ounce of energy on copycats. If I think someone has copied me…..great, good for them…….as long as they don’t have a website they are calling Lil Blue Boo and selling Boo Blue clothing or using a copyrighted graphic. And my number one rule? NEVER draw attention to the copycat…..otherwise you are giving them free marketing!

Haters: Ignore them and take the high road. Yes, sad as it is, if you experience any type of success there will be haters that love spending their energy trying to bring you down. But just think…..while they are busy trying to bring you down you can work extra hard on your next big thing! Never get involved in the petty drama. It only takes a second, but take screen shots of everything and save every email in case it gets out of control…..there are laws against cyberbullying and libel.  One of my favorite quotes: “Do not disappoint your haters this week. Keep rocking extremely hard!” —Rev Run

 

I’ll admit Pinterest is addicting. It’s fun to look at all those beautiful ideas and crafts in one place…..but a gazillion other people are looking at the same thing. I’ve noticed an amazingly quick cycle on Pinterest:

Day 1: a new idea pops up

Day 2: a new idea is pinned and repinned 4,000 times

Day 3: a new tutorial pops up for that new idea

Day 4: a 2nd tutorial pops up for that new idea

Day 10: 20 new tutorials pop up for that new idea

I look for inspiration in unexpected places: travel magazines, photography websites, home decor magazines, old family photos, vintage books etc. Keep it fresh and find a way to organize your ideas.

 

 

Keep track of all money coming in and all money going out.

Your accounting doesn’t have to be fancy…..to start out you just keep a notebook where you keep track of monthly expenses and monthly income. You’ll be surprised at what adds up and you can find ways to cut out expenses and overhead so you are on track to make a profit!

I do all my accounting in Excel because Quickbooks isn’t as compatible with Paypal as I would like it. I’m also obsessed with ratios and growth rates (so maybe I did learn something from getting my MBA).  If you aren’t numbers oriented find a friend to help you do some analysis on your financials! Put it on your calendar at each month end to finish your P&L (profit and loss statement). 

 

 

 

Eventually it becomes counterproductive to spend your time on certain things.

As your business grows you can’t do everything yourself.  Could you hire someone to help you iron fabric or package your items? What about a part time assistant to help with email? If you want to grow your business you can’t spend countless hours on the minutia.

 

Find ways to get noticed!

Collaborate and cross promote with different people and business lines. Whatever you do….don’t spam other sites and sellers. And if you write someone asking them to collaborate make sure you’ve read their blog and get their name right.

You could write a guest post for someone. You could send out some free product to someone that would love, appreciate it and write about it. You’ll have to brainstorm until the end of time for this one…..it’s all about coming up with a unique idea!

 

If you are running a business, treat it like a business. When you are first starting out you’ll bend over backwards to meet special customer requests….but as you grow this just isn’t feasible anymore.  For me, I know my team’s limits and I know overwhelming them would only move us backwards.

 

 

Hope this helps some of you!  Just remember these aren’t going to work well for everyone…..they are what has worked well for me.  When in doubt always seek out the advice of an accountant and an attorney and do as much research as possible!

Stay tuned for more! I’ll be elaborating on each each of the topics in the future!

5 Minute Curls

This hair tutorial may have just changed my life. I watched it last night in bed on my laptop and immediately jumped up, grabbed an elastic headband and completed the whole process in less than 5 minutes.

I woke up this morning, unraveled my hair, pulled the curls out with my fingers (no brushing) and here’s what it looked like:

5 Minute Curls Hair Tutorial via lilblueboo.com

My hair was dry and the elastic headband was so comfortable to sleep in. Next time I might brush my hair first and maybe add some product……the result was pretty darn good for unwashed pool hair! The only downside was that I looked like Napoleon Dynamite in bed last night with my red elastic headband……

Here’s a link to a video tutorial.

 

Meet Shari!

Shari is the only person in the whole world to have her own “subfolder” in my email inbox…….she always has the best advice, is always making something new, and I can’t bear to delete any them. I especially look forward to the photos she sends and how “thrilled” her daughter looks when she has to try Shari’s creations on. Finley, like Sienna, does NOT like trying on clothes that Mommy made…..and her expressions are just priceless. Check on the “mosaic” recycled t-shirt dress Shari made on the right….amazing!
Meet Shari via lilblueboo.com
Since she refuses to start her own “creative” blog (I mean, maybe she IS busy running her business Happy Chickadee, being a fabulous mother and keeping up with a gazillion other responsibilities), I’ve been pressuring her forever to be a guest blogger on Lil Blue Boo…and she finally caved!
Please welcome my first guest blogger….my friend (and “full-time consultant”) Shari:
OK, so I’ve been having anxiety over writing this guest blog post for, well, months! I keep putting it off…have you seen how many creative and awesome people follow this blog? And, hello, can Ashley do anything wrong? (She’s going to kill me for saying that!)
A little bit about me: My name is Shari and I’m a busy stay at home mum to 3 year old Finley. I love to sew (I am honored to be a pattern tester for Ashley), and I mostly sew things for my little girl, which she then refuses to wear. I am a lover of color and I especially love trying to make colors that don’t necessarily work together, work. That basically got me through art school :) Before starting our family, I was an art dealer and I would paint when I had the time. Now, I barely have time to doodle! So sewing is a great thing for me because I can put it down and start back up without missing a beat.
You might remember a while back Ashley blogged asking us what the most unusual thing we use as decoration in our home is. I emailed Ashley a picture of mine, as I do with pretty much every project I do. She’s been my crafting muse since the day we met. Anyhow, so my unusual decor item are two very old bricks from the first home my husband and I lived in. The house was demolished about 5 years ago, and I keep these old dusty bricks proudly displayed on our mantle.
Meet Shari 2 via lilblueboo.com
The house was an adorable, tiny, not well insulated (can you say “get your ski hats out, it’s 40 degrees below outside and we ran out of oil in the furnace!”) little 1940’s manufactured home sitting on 700 gorgeous acres in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. To me, those 2 bricks are not only beautiful, but the memories they hold are too. Needless to say, I’ve heard many comments such as “What are those dirty/ugly/odd/fill-in-the-adjective looking things on your mantle?” So that got me thinking about beauty, and what one considers beautiful is so relative and subjective.
I remember once years ago there was an exhibit of the worst paintings by all these absolutely famous artists. Paintings we would look at and probably say “wow.” But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and not only that, let’s face it, we all screw up our projects sometimes, even famous artists like Picasso, or bloggers like Ashley. ;)

So today I ask you: what is your craft project gone bad?
Meet Shari 3 via lilblueboo.comSadly, I have a slew of items to pick from. Let me see, it could be the terrible rust colored dress I made my daughter using an old silk shirt of my husbands. Ashley said “It’s cute” in an email. but I could tell by the lack of exclamation marks, it certainly was not. What was I thinking? My child looks like she belongs in Little House on the Prairie in this one!
Or maybe it’s my first pair of pants that I sewed. I somehow managed to sew it so that the front of the pants were made up of a front and back panel, same with the back of the pants of course, and even better yet, I sewed them upside down.
The topper of failed projects may have been dinner last month. It was my husband’s 40th birthday, and I decided to try out a bunch of new recipes. The fritters were tossed before they were even served. The linguine in a curry cream sauce was miserable, somehow the cream sauce decided to separate and coagulate. Yuck. And, the chocolate peanut butter ice cream I made resembled the texture of what my husband described as “curdled milk.” Nothing like a fine meal to say “Happy Birthday!” eh?
Meet Shari 4 via lilblueboo.comOh, and I nearly forgot the bird mobile that plagued me, and even after Ashley lent me some drill tips and I labored over the thing forever, I ended up back at Ashley’s house with a bag full of 9 sewn birds and said “Here you go, you figure out what to do with these, cause I don’t want to see them in my house anymore!” (They now peek over Ashley’s fabric piles as she sews. By the way, does anyone else in the world have such neat fabric piles, or am I crazy to think that Ashley is indeed Superwoman?!)
Anyhow, so my point of this blog post….as we all struggle to make gorgeous things every day, and keep up with the Picasso’s and Ashley’s of the world, let’s take a moment and give a standing ovation to our failed projects. Without them, how could we appreciate all the beauty we otherwise create?
I hope you guys want to share some of your failed projects stories…it would be nice to know I’m not alone!
Happy day everyone…Ashley will be back soon, promise! :)
Shari

The Underwear Box

We’ve spent the last few months casually potty training Sienna. She’s been REALLY great if I let her just run around the house naked, but she hasn’t had much interest in wearing underwear.

I told her on Tuesday: No more diapers. Well, that didn’t go over so well because she didn’t want to wear “big girl” underwear….and I can’t take her out in public without pants on!
Now she’s potty trained! So what happened since beginning of the week? Here is what worked for us! I made this pretty little box and we call it her “underwear box.” It holds all of her underwear and she gets to pick out which pair she wants to wear in the morning and after nap time .

The Underwear Box via lilblueboo.com

I can’t believe how excited she is to pick out a pair of undies….it is hilarious. I know everyone’s kids are different, but thought I’d pass the idea along for those of you who are in potty training stage!

The Underwear Box 2 via lilblueboo.com

Random Tip – Photos before Drywall

If you are renovating a home, building a home or just renovating a room….. before the drywall goes up…… TAKE PHOTOS of what is behind your walls! My framer told me to do this and I can’t even tell you what a lifesaver it has been! I’ve been have this musty smell come out of a few of the light switches and under the bar sink in the kitchen. By posting my question and the photo below on a DIY website, a plumber was able to help me pinpoint what was wrong without me having to tear out all the cabinets!

Random Tip - Photos before Drywall via lilblueboo.com
Now we will probably have to just cut a small hole. I’ve used these photos with electricians to find wiring and to check what the framing looked like behind a wall in order to raise a door up. It has saved a TON of headaches. Just wanted to pass the tip along!
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