How I Photograph and Quick-Edit Photos for Shop Listings (in just 5 steps)

Hey guys! Hopping on to do a quick tutorial on how I shoot and edit my paintings for my shop listings without any fancy equipment, just using my iPhone and Photoshop. Most definitely not a photoshop pro, but this is the technique I've found works best for me, and is SUPER simple-- hope it can help you guys too!

STEP 1: your setup.

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Create your makeshift set-up with the artwork on a white background in natural daylight.

If your walls are white, and your artwork is wired to hang, by all means go ahead and hang it on the wall to photograph. I usually wait to wire my pieces (a bad habit) so most often shoot my paintings laying flat and shooting above. 

I use a large white canvas for my backdrop, but a white poster board would work great too if it is large enough for your artwork. And I stand on a chair to be able to get a good straight-on angle.

TIP: you can see in this photo, I've used a foam core poster board to be a makeshift reflector, to help even out the light. (Not totally necessary for listing photos -- even lighting is much more crucial for making archival reproductions) but without it the side furthest from the light source/window would be a little more shadowed. The light bounces/reflects off the poster board and lightens up that side just a touch. The foam core is also nice to use because it is rigid, so easier to stand -- it is resting against another chair in this photo.

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STEP 2: take the shot.

Take the photograph! Try to get as straight-on/straight-above as possible.

You can see on the image to the right, there is a pretty harsh cool cast on the piece, and the painting is not precisely square.  We will tweak the perspective and adjust the color balance in the next step.

TIP: If you're shooting multiple pieces of art at once, go ahead and batch work -- take all photos at once, and then edit all at once. Also handy to have a helper for this step, to place each painting so you don't have to hop on and off the chair.

 

STEP 3: perspective warp.

This step will adjust the perspective just enough to make sure your painting/artwork is exactly square. (This step can be avoided if you use a tripod that is precisely angled and level -- but who has time for that when your days/hours from a collection launch ;)

  EDIT ---> Click "Perspective Warp"

EDIT ---> Click "Perspective Warp"

  Click on the top left corner of your artwork, then drag each corner of grid to meet the corner of your artwork.    Press ENTER to lock-in grid.

Click on the top left corner of your artwork, then drag each corner of grid to meet the corner of your artwork.

Press ENTER to lock-in grid.

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Once your artwork is outlined and the grid is locked, click on the Tic-Tac-Toe symbol at the top tool bar (where the blue arrow is pointing) This will "AutoWarp to Horizontal and Vertical" meaning it will automatically adjust the image so that all angles are 90 degrees and perfectly square -- its a subtle shift, but makes a big difference!

STEP 4: crop.

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Click on the CROP tool on the left hand toolbar -- see the blue arrow pointing to it.

Set the appropriate ratio for the image -- on the top toolbar. My shop listing thumbnails are displayed as square images -- so I will crop my listing photos square (1:1 ratio) to make sure the painting is centered and does not get cut off on my shop page.

Stretch the grid so that your artwork is centered, leaving some of the white background exposed.

Press the ENTER key to lock the grid and crop your image.

STEP 5: color balance.

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Using the CURVES tool -- (Shortcut: type COMMAND + M) or [ Image ---> Adjustments --> Curves ]

Click on the right eyedropper symbol (see blue arrow above) to "Sample in image to set white point"

With eyedropper, click on the white background of your photograph -- try to pick the brightest area (not in shadow), usually the area closest to your lighting source.

  AFTER  clicking on the white background, the color balance automatically adjusts to set the white point. (Notice the difference between this image, and the one before -- much brighter!)  You can continue to tweak the adjustments if you like -- I tend to use the Brightness/Contrast and Saturation tools to adjustment most often. Or to keep it simple, leave it as it.

AFTER clicking on the white background, the color balance automatically adjusts to set the white point. (Notice the difference between this image, and the one before -- much brighter!)

You can continue to tweak the adjustments if you like -- I tend to use the Brightness/Contrast and Saturation tools to adjustment most often. Or to keep it simple, leave it as it.

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And then just SAVE the image!

You now have a clean, professional looking image for your online shop (and social media!) in just five steps!

Note: this is tutorial is best for low-res images for web purposes only. Photographing for high-res reproductions requires a better camera and more even lighting -- I'll save that process for another, more in-depth post.)

For any photoshop pros out there, curious to know if you have any more tips or tricks?

How I Got My Start and Became a Full-Time Artist

I've been asked so many times how to begin selling your artwork. This is SUCH a loaded question, with so many tangents I could go on. But for now, I will just tell my story. My successes and my failures -- my seven year long journey of trial and errors since college, and how I got to the place I am today. This is long one, so bear with me...

College. Oh, College. I really loved my college experience, attending St. Mary's College of Maryland. A really tiny honors liberal arts school in the middle of no where, Southern Maryland. (Seriously, the closest town had ONE bar, ONE pizza shop, and ONE liquor store/gas station.) But it created this isolated little dream of an experience. But this isolation honestly did NOT prepare us very well for real life.

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My seven fellow Studio Art majors, our senior year!

Made lifelong friends (and bridesmaids!) through this unique experience!

Also: note the vintage Instagram filter, hahaha!

I majored in Art & Art History, minored in Math, and at the time LOVED the program and my professors. But now looking back, it was a very singular academic perspective of Art. We were expected to graduate, go get our Masters in Fine Arts, get our work in galleries, become a professor, and yada-yada.. (basically, just follow in the footsteps of our professors) Instagram was barely even a thing yet (graduated in 2011)

Our courses taught us how to think and talk like and artist, heavy in theory. But very little in technique, or applicable artist business skills for beyond the academic/gallery/high art world. (They didn't teach even Graphic Design or Ceramics because they were "crafts" not high art -- insert eye roll here) At the time, I bought into all of that pretention and thought I would surely fit their mold of an artist, and be on my way.

And then I graduated. And entered the real world, working my minimum hourly wage at an art gallery. Exhausted, with no time or energy to make art. (Or even BEGIN to think about taking out a massive loan to uproot to a major city and enter a Masters program like my professors had pushed) There HAD to be a better way.

This was right around the time blogs and Pinterest were really gaining steam. I hadn't yet discovered many artists blogging, but did follow and love a ton of lifestyle bloggers (many who I still follow today). I watched them grow a massive following through putting themselves out there, creating this fantasy/but also approachable world, and crafting a unique voice and style.

I started a blog and Etsy shop Spring semester of my college year -- called Amaryllis Truth Studio. My face is turning red just thinking about my first posts  (I'll spare you in the embarrassing photos, but I'm sure they're out there on the inter webs if you search hard enough). The blog and name actually started as a business idea to create handpainted upholstery fabric with my mom (who is an amazing seamstress). I don't think we ever made or sold a single product (maybe I should look back into that!) But I now had a platform to begin posting and establishing my online presence. I moved in with my boyfriend after college (now husband) on this beautiful farm on the Potomac river, so posted a lot about our experiences and inspiration there, some Outfit of the Day posts, and started sprinkling in painting here and there. The handpainted fabric idea never got off the ground, but I kept the name and Etsy shop and began with listing a few paintings, all soft and dreamy landscapes inspired by the farm where we lived.

I slowly grew my blog following. But like really slowly. I think I had maybe 200-300 followers the majority of the time, maybe even less?

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One of my very first paintings sold!

(Photographed on the farm where we lived)

But eventually I sold a painting! I still remember it like it was yesterday when that notification came through. I started with 6 paintings in my Etsy shop, all soft and dreamy landscapes inspired my the farm we lived on. SUPER cheap. I think I started selling 12" x 12" paintings for about $80 each. And to my shock, my first order was for TWO paintings. What an honor, someone wanted two of my paintings. I seriously was thrilled, and it was just the boost I needed to keep going. I would love to find that person today!

My Etsy shop was pretty underwhelming -- even then (2012-2013) Etsy was pretty heavily saturated and hard to get discovered. I also was noticing the price point for Etsy for original work was way too low. I knew my work had value, and quickly realized Etsy buyers were probably not my target market. I started a Big Cartel shop at this time, up'd by prices (still pretty undervalued though) and began working with a few established galleries to help validate my name and work.

 Circa 2012 -- at a gallery show (that I curated and hung!), still a few of my favorite paintings.  These were my first landscapes that really felt like me.

Circa 2012 -- at a gallery show (that I curated and hung!), still a few of my favorite paintings.  These were my first landscapes that really felt like me.

Around this time, I also discovered Interior Design blogs --- this was a huge first step in to getting my work out there to my target market (And not just the casual blog reader shopping for a $20 mug, or pair of earrings on Etsy). I reached out to probably a dozen of designers all across the country, to introduce them to my work, and potentially advertise (for just $20-30 a month) on their blogs for an ad or featured post if they felt we were a good fit. Through advertising, and networking, and just commenting on other blogs and building relationships (similar to how Instagram functions today) I continued to gain a little more traction and started offering commissioned pieces for clients and Interior Designers. By upping my prices, and elevating my clientele, I really started to validate myself and efforts as an artist (even if I was still only making a few thousand dollars a year -- and maintaining a part-time job all the while :/ ) but I was making progress!

I moved home to save money, for the year before our wedding. I was leaving my minimum wage job at an art center (still probably the most demanding job I ever had -- was THRILLED when I got that $1 raise to $9/hr...) and looking for work in my hometown. This was really a really pivotal point in my career/life to make art my priority -- this is what I was going to do for a career, so how was I going to make this work? For one, I wasn't going to bust my butt at a low paying job just to stay in the "industry" anymore to pad my resume -- my resume now was my portfolio -- I needed money and time to focus and build that portfolio.

Our Wedding Day! May 17, 2014

The video begins at our college on the St. Mary’s River and ends at the incredible plantation we lived at following college. (We lived in a converted sheep barn on the property) Basically everything we do is with the goal to one day be a multi-millionaires and own this property. (Seriously.)

I ended up finding sort of a random administrative position through a friend, that allowed me really flexible part-time hours and nearly $25/hr (I thought I was rich at this point!) It was easy work, that I didn't have to bring home with me. They knew I was trying to do the art thing and thankfully respected that. This job afforded me time to paint, and money to save for a new car and our wedding and first home. It also gave me a little cushion to rent an AMAZING studio space -- at this point, I was comfortable my painting sales could at least cover my expenses. (But wasn't turning much profit at this time -- thankfully, my job made up for that)

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Oh, I loved this studio.

(If only it was a tad bigger -- with water, and more than one electrical outlet, and free parking, and storage...)

Beautiful, but not very practical!

For the next three years (2014-2017) I worked part-time, while continuing to my business. I made a crucial shift from blogging to Instagram to promote my work -- it was much easier to throw out a simple photo and thoughtful caption, than try to spend hours crafting the perfect blog post. Time was limited, and I'd rather spend that painting.

It was during this time, that most of you reading this probably discovered my work. 

There is a lot to say about the strategy behind an effective Instagram presence, but at its core I really think my success came down to consistently painting and posting good work that people were interested in following. I've allowed my Instagram to pull the curtain behind my process and strategy as an artist -- I'm just real person (and now wife and mama) trying to create my dream job, and live the most beautiful life I can imagine.

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This past winter when I left my part-time job for maternity leave, I had just trained my temporary replacement, my art business was pretty successful financially, but admittedly stagnant. It was my "now or never" moment to go all in to my business to give myself the real energy and time it required to take it to its next level. I moved studios (to double the square-footage, but half the cost) to help with some of the financial burden, and really just went for it. I'll be honest -- I wasn't a hundred percent sure it would work. My husband was also going through a major career shift, we had a brand new baby, and it was a HARD decision. Thankfully my employer was SO understanding, and gave me to the very last minute to decide. (In my heart, I always knew I had to do it -- but just needed the logistics and my spreadsheets to fall into place to give myself peace with the decision.)

And here I am today -- I still have moments of panic, Can I really pull this off? But in those moments of doubt, I just keep my head down, and continue to put in the work. When all else fails, I believe in my art and my talent -- and I think that is ultimately all that matters.


Soo... that could be it's own novel... if you've stuck through all of that, to this point. THANK YOU! And to those that may have gotten distracted along the way, I don't blame ya. It was pretty long-winded, but really wanted to give you guys the full picture beyond just those little instagram squares.

I'm curious to know when and how you discovered my work? Leave a comment below!

ALSO! Kinda a big announcement --

I’m testing the waters to offer coaching to artists that may be just starting out, or perhaps have been creating art for years but looking to pivot and shift more of their energies to social media and selling online. Not sure how to price your artwork? Identify and reach your ideal client? Do you want to grow your Instagram audience and convert followers into sales? 

Does this sound like you? I'm eager to share everything I've learned over these past six years!

If you're interested to learn more, click here!

 

 

 

 

SUMMER | #TheEphemeralCollection

e·phem·er·al

əˈfem(ə)rəl/ adjective
  1. 1. 
    lasting for a very short time.
    synonyms:transitory, transient, fleeting, passing, short-lived, momentary, brief, short;

I use this word probably too often - my husband makes fun of me because he knows its one of my favorites. But when reflecting on this moment of my life, following The Renewal Collection, I kept being drawn back to ephemeral. I've been told "The days are long, but years are short" at least a hundred times now since giving birth -- and believe me, I get it now. 

This group of works is about cherishing ephemerality-- savoring the fleeting, quietly profound moments that pass us by each day.

The Ephemeral Collection is going to look a bit different than my past series...

Feeling like I’ve been on a hamster wheel cranking out collection after collection the past few years — (more power to those artists out there that have that endless inspiration and energy to do that!) but I’m re-thinking this whole model for my work, and in an effort to preserve my fire and really challenge myself, I’m going to be slowing down the process and put more time and energy into each piece.

As a result, I’m breaking the collection down into two parts to really expose my process and give myself the time to push my artistic limits.

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[ 1 ] SKETCHES + STUDIES: My first step in my process to experiment with ideas and compositions for my larger works, this will be a group of small-scale watercolor sketches on paper and oil studies on panel, all 12 x 12 or smaller. Experimental, loose, bold. To be released June 21st.

[ 2 ] FINAL STATEMENTS: the culmination of my sketches and exploration, taking those ideas and experiments to create a very exclusive selection of just SIX large-scale statement oil paintings, all 30x30 and larger. I’m limiting this group of works to only six pieces to be able to really devote time and effort, and push the boundaries of my brushes. Because of its limited nature and depending on interest, I may open a wait-list for these pieces — still figuring out the logistics since this is new to me! To be released end of July.

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Let me know what you think about splitting this collection into two, or if you have any suggestions on how to handle it logistically! I’m always so weary of change, but excited to really give myself permission to experiment and have fun with my SKETCHES+STUDIES, and then have the time to go all-in for my large scale FINAL STATEMENTS.

How to Outsource (on a budget!)

If you guys are obsessed with business podcasts as much as I am, you probably keep hearing the recommendation to "outsource, outsource, outsource!" to help your business grow, and you've got to "spend money to make money". I always kind of roll my eyes when I heard this -- especially when it was coming from business owners that seemed to be in a much different place than I am. (While I'm on my way!) I'm not quite in the place yet to hire full-time staff to join my team. But then it got me thinking, how can I outsource in a more reasonable, do-able way?

The idea of outsourcing comes from the premise that your time is valuable! Focus your time growing your business and on what's most important to you-- devoting your energy to your strengths, things only you can do, and things that make you money. For me -- that focus is PAINTING, and spending time with my family! And then look to outsource or automate as many other tasks as possible. One day (hopefully soon!) I'll have a studio assistant to help take a few less-important tasks off my plate, but for now -- this is a list of five (small) ways I outsource that makes a (big) difference in my business and life!

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1. Know your strengths (and weaknesses) and when in doubt, hire a professional for one project at a time!

While I can't afford a full-time payroll at the moment, I do budget for a professional photoshoot once or twice a year, to use for content on my website and instagram. While I could waste hours, trying to create a janky self-timer set-up and take photos myself, I realize the value in hiring a professional just a few times a year to create really clean, professional shots that elevate my brand.

This also goes for graphic design. As an artist, its sometimes hard for me to relinquish creative tasks that I know I could do myself -- but as I've put value on my time, and realizing my strengths and weaknesses, I'm at the place now where I would prefer to hire a designer to tackle a project that may take her just an hour or two and create something really awesome, compared to me slaving away for a whole day to create something just okay (and eating up precious creative energy).

One tip for hiring creative help when you're on a tight budget -- look for college students! I've found some really talented up-and-coming student photographers and designers looking to build their portfolio, with very reasonable rates.

2. FedEx Pick-Up

Okay, this may seem really minor (and perhaps a bit specific to an artist or product-based Ecommerce business), but incredibly life changing!  I used to spend so much time and energy lugging dozens of packages and taking multiple trips to my local Fed-Ex drop off when I was shipping out my paintings.

I now have a FedEx account that qualifies me for special volume discounts, and lets me schedule same day or next-day pick-ups. It seems like such a small thing, but is such a relief to be able to just sit all the boxes outside of my studio door and leave them for my Fed-Ex guy (who I keep busy enough, I like to think of him as my own assistant ;) instead of having to carry them three floors down and across town! They do charge a small fee -- but WORTH EVERY PENNY.

3. Bookkeeping Software Subscription -- I use Quickbooks!

I've been using Quickbooks "Self-Employed" Online since 2016 and it is a total game changer! it links with bank accounts, credit cards and even PayPal accounts to track all of my transactions. It has a pretty detailed chart of accounts that allows me to filter all of my expenses into, so that when tax season arrives, it just takes the push of one button to create a Schedule C that is all ready to go! 

I'm all about efficiency and automation these days, and love the "Rules" features where you can automatically filter transactions from particular stores into pre-designated categories. (So it knows to automatically filter all Blick.com and Michaels Art Stores into my "Materials & Supplies" account, along with all FedEx transactions into "Shipping", etc.)  And there's an app for it! So you can stay on top of your transactions, and tracks mileage when you're on the go.

Even if you don't chose Quickbooks, really any accounting software that tracks your profit throughout the year,  can change how you view your business' financials and take hours off your plate manually recording it. I now have such a better picture on my business's financial health, can see the patterns of my cash flow year-to-year, and can make much more informed decisions for the future of my business.

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4. The REMINDER app on my iPhone

Okay, this one is really simple, and FREE. Especially since becoming a mom, I feel like so much of my mental energy is just spent trying to remember ALL of the things. I'm a huge list-maker (that I most often forget on my kitchen counter ;) so have recently turned to my phone for my lists and reminders, and calendar alerts. (Grocery lists, to-do lists, painting ideas, etc. etc.)

I create timed "Reminders" for even the littlest things -- it alerts me when its "Time to Pump!", "Time for Lunch!", etc. Which lets me dive all in painting, or whatever task it is that day, without having to be distracted by the clock or worry I'm going to get carried away and forget something. I know I'll be alerted when its time, and that is such a relief to have one less thing to have to remember!

5. Meal Delivery Subscription

I think this is a very millennial service, and something I really didn't get until becoming a mom and taking my business full-time. I have a lot on my plate, and what is literally my least favorite thing to do in the world? Grocery shop. I know - first world problems, but I really hate it, and always put it off as long as I possibly can. I think its usually because I run into at least six people from high school I sorta know from Facebook - and not a fan of small talk! (and its guaranteed to happen when I'm looking especially rough) 

By procrastinating as long as possible, it meant we never have food in the house (my poor husband), would eat out way too often, or I would waste too much time living a real-life episode of CHOPPED trying to throw together some semi-edible meal.

Personally, I use Hello Fresh, (three meals a week, for a family of two) and it is just too easy. It takes all the guesswork and stress out of it, with ALL the ingredients I need and a cute little instruction guide with pictures, to create simple but delicious meals in less than 30 minutes.

This is a little bit of luxury, but since beginning the service three months ago, we've actually saved money when compared to eating out, and it again saves me the time and energy to spend it instead with my family and growing my business.

 

Full disclosure, I am an affiliate for HelloFresh, and QuickBooks so will receive a small compensation for anyone that uses my referral! But all of my opinions are my own, and I swear I wouldn't recommend anything I didn't truly use and love!


Would love to know how you guys "outsource" for your life and business? 

For me outsourcing is really just looking for services and tools that help save me time, money, and relieve that mental burden that weighs me down and inhibits my creative flow!

I've been (kind of) keeping a secret.

So I feel like I've been lying to you guys for the past few years (or at least a lie by omission)... people who know me in real life know this about me, but those out there in the online community may not have realized that I am in fact, NOT a full-time artist. Since graduating college, I've consistently maintained a part-time job while painting part-time. But that all changes now -- I have left my part-time position to be a full-time artist! (well, full-time mom, too. But I'll get to that in a bit.) 

I have been so, so blessed to work for incredible companies that have been some of the biggest cheerleaders in supporting my art career. From my very first job out of college, I have been very intentional with where I chose to work-- seeking places that would inspire me, teach me, and respect my desire to pursue art. Initially working at the coolest art center in Southern Maryland -- shout out to the crew at Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center!! The hours were long, the pay was little, but it fed my creative soul and built many relationships I still have today -- in fact, they even invited me to be a juror and curate a "Sky" inspired show last year!

Since then I have worked in a bit of a different field, Accounting! (I was an art major in college, but also minored in Mathematics, and am kinda a numbers and spreadsheets nerd!) Working for the hippest company in my hometown -- a holdings company that owns a marketing and design firm, movie theaters, and most recently opened a restaurant. HighRock Group has been those cool kids I always hoped would invite me to sit at their lunch table, and finally two years ago the perfect opportunity arose to join their team. Their entrepreneurial spirit has taught me so much these past two years, and fed my soul as a business owner.

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Up until this point, I have always felt balanced and inspired by both worlds of art and accounting -- the colorful, open-endedness of painting against the black and white of numbers and spreadsheets made sense to me. It was a balance I felt comfortable with (but perhaps stagnant in.) But now enter a little boy named Edward Avery, and that whole balance gets flipped upside down. To be a good mom, I just know I can't make all three work, which has helped make this decision to leave my job that much easier. Logistically to make mom/artist life work, we have chosen a daycare provider for Ward three days a week, to give me solid studio time. The other days of the week, I'm going to leave flexible as baby time at home, and some days bringing him into the studio with me depending on my projects/commitments at the time.

I am now over six years into this art journey, since graduating college, and am just now taking the leap to full-time. I have slowly, but steadily grown my online presence and community of collectors and have reached a point financially where I feel confident (with a whole lot of anxiety thrown in) that I can make this work and contribute to my household.

 I really believe you DON'T have to be a starving artist to follow your passion; you just need to be strategic in the decisions you make, keep art a priority, but also be realistic. Over the next few months I'll be using this blog to write more on my path to this point in my career -- I'm afraid there's no get rich quick secrets, but I'll share a few tricks of the trade and what's made the most impact for me.


As always, THANK YOU for coming along on this journey. It's all only possible because of you guys! Comment below with any specific art/business questions you'd like me to answer on this blog platform. (I'm going to *try* to blog weekly!)

 

with love, Allie.