Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tips and Tricks Thursdays: What's in a Photograph

I feel that the way our bear sales are headed, to online sales, there is little that is more imperative to master than a good photograph! With two parents that were very much into photography I grew up around a camera. However that did not make me an expert! My photography was published a few times but of scenic shots. When I moved into the studio to shoot my bears I found out it was a whole different can of worms.

It has taken me years of learning to finally get the photos I love of my bears. It took time and money as I have taken several courses at college and even then I still felt the image was not what I wanted. The photo was great, clear and lit wonderfully for a portrait but it did not give the bear the detail and personality that I felt it had in person! For me a photo needs to tell a story and yet it must be focused on the bear at all costs. With more lessons and reading I have now mastered Photoshop to an extent that allows me to create a final image that is cohesive with my branded style. Much like the time we spend on creating a bear with a personal style I feel that the same is required in a photograph. Just the photo itself can show who the artist is before you even see the bear. There are several artist who have accomplished this and it works marvellously. The photo itself matches the branding that we are working so hard to create for our business of bear making.

I will not mention any names but I can say that I have a couple bears in my personal collection from a certain artist that I love and yet I see her trying desperately to sell her bears online and is failing. I know her bears personally and adore them because I was able to purchase them in person, but reaching an international audience is not always financially feasible for many of us. We work, have families and cannot afford to travel. That leaves us to try to reach our markets online. And if, like in this case, your photos are poor, you are loosing a sale not because the bear is not wonderfully made and fabulous quality filled with expression and personality but you are loosing out because of a poor image. If your photographs cannot engage the viewer you will find that the collector is not willing to take the chance in making that online purchase.

I keep a journal, and have since I began my career in bear making, of all the bears I have created each year. I can look back at the first journal compared to the journal from last year and see a significant difference in the images and how they reflect the bears personality. Its taken a long time to get to this point but I honestly think this is one of the most significant tools an artist can have in their arsenal. A good photo can make or break a sale! It takes some time to get it right but you can get a good photo with a point and shoot as well as a SLR so don't despair. There are a lot of websites now that can help you to master your photos and that is all FREE information. Mostly it is lighting... you need lots of light!

This is Eva... she is the very first bear I ever photographed and sold online. The lighting is not bad but the backdrop was taped up to a wall and is distracting from the bear itself. Also if you use black as your backdrop... here is a tip: black absorbs light so you will need almost double the amount of light than if you use a lighter backdrop!

This is one of my latest photos. The lighting is perfectly executed with the help of a photo editing program. I am also able to shoot my work on a patterned backdrop as I can fade and blur that background in that program. I also achieve a blurred background by using a portrait lens which helps me to keep my subject in focus but gives me a low depth of field, blurring out the background.

I'll be back next Thursday with a tip or trick for you ~ I'll see you then!


  1. Thanks so much for this post Michelle. I jumpped over here from The Guild of Master Bear Makers. I would love to know how hard it is to master Photo shop. Or. If you recomend anything else. I love your photoraphy so much.

  2. HI Kay: Actually Photo Shop is a great program to use and is user friendly however it is pricey to purchase. I am planning to post about photography more in the near future though and will talk about other things and possibly programs you can use to get a nice photo created! I am glad that this post was helpful as I know the photography part can seem overwhelming. I just need to get my Flickr account finished and then I plan to start on more "Tips" posts! Thanks for your comments, you're always there for me! Happy St. Patrick's Day!