4 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF TO LEVERAGE YOUR STRENGTHS

Determining and leveraging my strengths has really made a difference in how Elah Tree has moved forward. Once I was able to determine the type of business that my strengths would be best utilized, I was then able to stop trying to strengthen my weaknesses and do that which I was best at. 

I have spent many years trying to figure out my strengths and I have also spent a lot of time trying to strengthen my weakness. One of those steps is beneficial, the other one kept me from really finding my groove. I'm not sure where the idea began, but I think there is a stigma to be "welled rounded." The only thing is, we can't be "welled rounded" at everything. We can't do everything and be the best at everything. We all have very unique strengths and gifts and it's important to determine what each of those are for each of us.  

WHAT DRAINS YOU? 

When determining our strengths it is sometimes easier to determine out weaknesses first. Or determine the activities that drain us. It look me a long time to figure out that being a portrait photographer included a lot of activities that drained me. Location scouting, for example, was an activity that really drained me. And every time we moved it was even harder. Adapting quickly to change is also a weakness of mine. Change in general has never been the problem, adapting quickly was. As a portrait photographer, I had to be quick on me feet, I had to adjust quickly to changes in lighting, location, and things that weren't working. During each session I did my best to adjustment to these change with grace, but it was always so draining and it zapped my creativity. 

What are activities that really drain you? What about them really zap your energy? 

WHAT ENERGIZES YOU? 

One of the reasons that adapting to change was a weakness of mine was because one of my strengths is processing. I take a long time to process things and this is something that is very unique to me. Being able to process information, especially information that I enjoy, really energizes me. One of reasons that styled stock photography is so ideal for me is because I spend weeks processing information for sessions. 

What are some activities that really energize you? Are you energized by working alone? Are you energized by working around a lot of people? How do you process information? Are you energized by going to new places? 

WHAT ARE THINGS YOU AVOID?

I was thinking about this question and I was thinking about how we probably all have things we would like to avoid, like going to the DMV, haha! But these are things we avoid because they take away from our creative process or they drain us. For me, driving was something I would avoid within a work or creative environment. This particular avoidance is probably due to our circumstances, as Tyler and I have moved a lot since being married. Because I know this about myself I knew that building a business that required a lot of driving just wasn't going to work for me. 

When determining the things you avoid, ask yourself why it's an avoidance. Are you avoiding it simply because it's inconvenient? Or do you avoid it because it's a endurance to your creative process? Also ask yourself if the avoidances are necessary for your business or creative process.  

WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU UNIQUE? 

I honestly think this one is rather hard to answer on your own. I always feel the need to ask friends and family. To get started, list items that make you unique. These are things that are incredibly specific to you. Once you're finished ask a few friends and family members. Our friends and family usually see us different then we see ourselves and are able to point out our unique strengths. 

Something that I learned was strength of mine was processing written information, but I didn't know this was a strength until I saw that it wasn't a strength for others. I always assumed that the speed in which I processed written information or produced written information was average. Sometimes we don't know what are strengths are until someone helps us see them. 

Determining and leveraging our strengths can be such an encouraging experience. Forcing ourselves to continue to work or create in our weaknesses can sometimes cause us to feel inadequate and insecure. I hope these 4 questions will help you determine some of your strengths so you can start leveraging them. What are other questions you have asked yourself to help you determine your strengths? xoxo. Samantha


5 EASY WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR ETSY SHOP PHOTOS

Did you know that I opened my very first Etsy shop 4 years ago. I started out making handmade zip bags and when I first started my shop the images I created were far from great. Prior to opening my Etsy shop I was a portrait photographer, but I had just come off a year back. I hadn't used my camera and I was very rusty. The struggle was real, my friend. To add, product photography and styling photos is very different then portrait photography. I had so much to learn. 

CREATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD

One of the biggest struggles I faced when I opened my first Etsy shop and often what I see other's struggle with is that they don't have a clear vision for the type of photos they want to create. They know they need photos, they know the photos need to be of their products, but they aren't sure where to go next. I save and pin photos that inspire me all the time and one of the first things I do when working with clients is have them create an inspiration board. 

Before you take any photos of your products create an inspiration board. Find other product photos that you love. Find photos of product styling you like. Creating an inspiration board will save you so much time. When you create an inspiration board, you can visually see the types of photos you are hoping to create and your inspiration board provides a blueprint to help you get started. 

SHOOT IN NATURAL LIGHT

Lighting is so important when it comes to photographing your products. One, shooting in natural light provides better quality photos, better quality photos add to your credibility as a shop owner. I have had a few Etsy shop owners reach out with questions regarding their product images and one thing I always share is the importance of shooting in natural light. Colors are more accurate in natural light, texture is more visible, and it's just pretty. :) 

Looking for custom product photos for your shop? Fill out our client questionnaire! 

SHOOT ON CONTRASTING BACKGROUNDS 

I am partial to photos that have a lot on contrast, but this is important with your products because you want them to stand out. You want you products to "pop" in the photo. The theme or vision you have for your photos may dictate the color and type of backgrounds you use. Adding contrast ensures your product does not blend into you background. For example, if you're product is white, you may not want to shoot with a white background. If you desire a bright white crisp feel to you brand and want to use a white background, find a prop or item that can be placed between your product and the background that will provide contrast. This will help your product to stand out. 

MAKE YOUR PRODUCT LIVED IN

Often times I see products photographed alone, without any styling. When products are styled alone a few things can happen. One, your customer can't actually gauge the size of your product, even if you provide dimensions in your description. You want to make your customer's shopping experience as easy as possible. Two, your customer isn't always sure how the product is supposed to be used. When creating product images for your shop, make your images and product lived in. Whether you sell pillows, planters, scarves, candles, wallets, ect. Show how your pillows can be decorated with. Show how your planters look great on a bookcase or next to other planters. Show how to style the scarf. Show how great you candles look in your home. Show the many different uses of your wallets. Show your product lived in and in use. 

Is it okay to have a product photographed alone? Absolutely, especially if you have lots of photos in your listing. This ensures there is no confusion about what product they are actually buying, but add the other photos with your product in use as well. 

DETERMINE HOW YOUR PRODUCT IS BEST FEATURED

Okay, so I feel like I just went on a rant about styling your products in photos and making your products feel lived in. BUT, not all products are featured the same. For example, I purchase props on Etsy all the time, specifically office supplies like, pencils, washi tape, lots of fun stuff. But you'll notice all of these types of products are photographed alone, or within a grouping of similar products. Washi tape is almost aways photographed in a group, even if the listing is only for one. Fun pencils are almost always photographed in a grouping, but you are able purchase one, to three, to many. Keep these things in mind when determining the best way to feature your products. Styling a set of pencils in a desk step may be confusing to your buyer, but photographing only one pencil seems kind of boring as well. Plus, you want your customer to buy more then one pencil, right? You want them to buy a set. :)   

Are you in the process of creating images for your Etsy shop? What has been one thing that has really made a difference? xoxo. Samantha


4 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE CREATING YOUR OWN STYLED STOCK

Images tell our brand story. We communicate a majority of our business story with imagery and the platforms in which we share and tell our stories are ever increasing. Some brands share 2 to 3 images everyday on social media. That is 60+ photos, even if images are only posted once a day, that is still 30 photos. The importance of sharing our story, conveying our brand, and curating imagery is vital. If you thinking about creating your own styled stock images hopefully asking yourself these questions will help.  


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WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OR THEME OF MY STYLED STOCK? 

Styled stock imagery is created with a purpose, it's often created with a theme, and it's created for it's ability to convey a purpose or story. Before creating your styled stock determine it's purpose. What are the reasons in which you want to create styled stock. Is your styled stock for your own personal or business use? Will you use it for your website, blog posts, newsletter, and Instagram? Are you creating styled stock to announce a new product? Are you creating styled stock to help showcase your work? Are you creating styled stock to use on your Instagram? Understanding the purpose of your styled stock will lead to a stronger theme for your styled stock and lead to greater success in your process of creating. 

WILL MY STYLED STOCK COMMUNICATE THE STORY I WANT TO TELL? 

The theme in which you determine for your styled stock should convey a story. This doesn't have to be an in-depth story, or whimsical, or romantic, but the viewer should have a since of the story you are telling with your images. Your story will come through it the types of props you choose, the way in which you style your props, and the light in which you choose to shoot. Most styled stock is shot with a combination of natural and artificial light and is often shot to be bright, but keep in mind you can also shoot styled stock with moody lighting

DO I HAVE TIME TO EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE MY BRAND? 

Creating quality styled stock takes time. It's important to determine your effectiveness when creating your styled stock. Do you have time to research and curate inspiration for your shoot? Do you have time to gather and source props? Do you have props that will best tell your story? Creating styled stock should energize you. You want to be inspired when you create you styled stock.


Don't have time to create your own styled stock? Shop the stock! 


AM I EQUIPT TO CREATE MY STYLED STOCK? 

My hope is that I can encourage and empower you to create your own styled stock. Styled stock can be created with a variety of equipment, but having the right equipment can make it 100 times easier. Do you have a DSLR? Having a DSLR isn't a requirement when creating styled stock, you could actually use your smart phone. If you have a DSLR are you familiar with all your camera settings to create the best quality photos? Do have a room full of lots of natural light? If not, do you have soft boxes? You don't have to have a lot of fancy equipment when creating styled stock, but you do want to set yourself up for success. Make sure you have plenty of light when creating your images. Make sure you are comfortable using your equipment and be creative. Use reflectors and foam boards to reflect light. 

Ready to create your own styled stock? You can do this! Check out this post for a detailed list of the equipment I shoot with. xoxo! Samantha


WHY GOOGLE DRIVE IS MY #1 BUSINESS HUB

I was thinking about this post and I was thinking I have the potential to sound incredibly nerdy... is that what happens when you're really grateful for something. You may or may not know this about me yet, but I love running a small business that is minimalistic, and by that I appreciate keeping things simple and organized. 

One of the things that really helps me keep things simple and organized is Google drive... well, Google in general, haha. I am so happy to say that it is my #1 business hub and I'm so grateful for that. 

ALL IN ONE

I don't like having a lot of stuff... in life and in business. I like keeping the platforms that I use for my business to a minimum and that is one reason why I love Google Drive. Google Drive, well Google in general, offers nearly every organizational platform I need to run my business. For example I use; Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Keep, and Hangouts. Gmail to correspond with all you lovely people. Google Calendar to keep track of important dates and to time-block my days, Google Keep to keep track of ideas, brainstorming, and to dos, Hangouts for online video calls, and Google Drive, to store documents, create documents, and send files to clients. 

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WORK FROM ANYWHERE

I love that with Google Drive I can work from anywhere. As long as the items I need for everyday business are in my Google Drive I can tackle work no matter where I am. Tyler and I leave this week for a short trip and I have been thinking about how grateful I am that my business will keep running and I can access everyday files any time and any where. I keep CSS for the website on Google Drive, I keep outlines to e-courses I'm working on, I can access templates and questionnaires I've created, and I can access blog related material too. 

VERSATILITY

I love the versatility of Google Drive. I can create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, questionnaires, create maps, and even draw! For the most part I create documents, spreadsheets, and questionnaires, but I love that there are so many things for my to utilize for this business. It makes running a business from anywhere so much easier! 

CLIENT SHARING 

I mentioned this above, but I love that with Google Drive I can create folders to share with clients. I can send them their service agreements, I can send them proof sheets, and I can send them final images as well. I love that I can check in with clients and customers from anywhere! 

What are some of your favorite business platforms? What helps you do business better and makes things easier? xoxo. Samantha