Photography Tips

DIY REPURPOSED WOOD BACKDROP

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One of my favorite backdrops for styled stock photography and brand photography is my repurposed wood backdrop. I built it last spring and it remains to be a constant in my work. One of the great things about backdrops like this one is that if you can find old pallet wood, you can build a repurposed wood back drop for FREE. :)

SUPPLIES

  • Old pallet

  • Circular saw

  • Hammer

  • Mallet

  • Drill

  • Screws

METHOD

STEP ONE : If you're familiar with pallets, you'll know that the base of the pallet is made up of three parallel 2x4s that secure the pallet. The first step in building anything with pallet wood is disabling the pallet. I had two options. I could dismantle the whole pallet with a hammer and mallet. Or I could use the circular saw to remove the two end pieces and only have to dismantle the center 2x4 with the hammer and mallet.  I chose the second option. Using a straight edge and pencil mark a line for where you will make your cut. Use your circular saw to cut along your marked edge. Repeat this step on the other side of the pallet. When your finished with this step you should have one remaining 2x4 in the center of the pallet.

STEP TWO : This step takes the most muscle and patience. ;) Using your hammer and mallet gently pry away the remaining 2x4 from the pallet wood. This must be done gently so that you don't crack or break any of the wood. We tried lots of different techniques when removing the wood. We pried the wood away with the hammer. We used the mallet to loosen the wood and nails. We even stood on the wood and used our body weight. Any technique will work as long as your wood doesn't break.

STEP THREE : Once all your wood is free you can begin building. For my backdrop I decided to use the back side of the pallet wood because it was more rustic and had more character. We laid the pieces out to ensure we liked the design, then flipped the boards over. We used spare wood pieces and other pallet pieces to secure the backdrop together. Using your drill and screws attach the boards on the back. The most important part of this step is simply to make sure the boards on the back span your backdrop so each piece is secure.

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Once you're finished you can can use your backdrop for all types of things. You can use it for flatlay photography or stand it on it's side and use it as a background. xoxo! Samantha


5 WAYS TO SHOOT WITH THE 50MM LENS

5 Ways to Shoot With the 50mm Lens

How many of you bought a 50mm lens as your first lens? I think it is the first lens most people choose to buy. For the most part, we all spent a good long time with that stock lens that came with our first cameras, am I right? It's true, the 50mm is a favorite among most. It's probably my favorite, with a close running to the 35mm. And it's a favorite for good reason. One can get a lot of miles out of the 50mm because it's so versatile.

I spent the first 5 years of my photography journey shooting portraits with my 50mm lens. It didn't take long for me to use the 50mm for nearly everything; landscapes, details, low light, and cityscapes. To this day I still use the 50mm lens, but I use it primarily to shoot styled stock photos and it's highly versatile with everything I shoot today.  

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LIFESTYLE

My photography journey started in lifestyle portraits which were my favorite for a long time... until I started shooting flatlay. The 50mm makes it so easy to capture lifestyle images. It has a great low aperture allowing lots of light to enter the lens and also creates a beautiful bokeh. The 50mm makes it easy on you as it's a "normal" lens, meaning the view that it produces is natural, similar to seeing it with the human eye. 

FREE Styled Stock Images

DETAILS

The 50mm is also great for shooting details. Getting sharp details with the 50mm is as easy as picking the right aperture. F2.8 is a good jumping off point. I actually prefer not to shot any lower then that to maintain the sharpness of my photos. It's great to include detail images in each styled stock photography collection because it adds variety. 

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FLATLAY

Shooting flaylay is one of my favorite types of photos to shoot. Because of the versatility of the 50mm lens it's great for shooting flatlay as well, as long as you're using the right settings. When shooting flaylay is important to shoot with a high f-stop, like f10. When you shoot with an f-stop that large, it allows for all of your props to be in focus. 

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MOCKUPS

I view mockups as either lifestyle or flaylay because I shoot a variety of mockups that fall into both categories. I wouldn't say there is much of a difference between the technique between lifestyle and flatlay, you're simply treating the item that you're using to mockup (imac, ipad, iphone, notebook, ect.) as the subject of your photo, so you'll want to do your best to keep the focus there. If you're shooting lifestyle you'll want to shoot it like a portrait with a low f-stop. If you are shooting flatlay you'll want to shoot it with a high f-stop.

FREE Styled Stock Images

DESKTOPS

I think desktops are great photos to use to add interest to your brands website, perfect for banners and landing pages. Shooting desktops is just like shooting flatlay with a high/large f-stop. Desktop styled stock images are perfect for setting the tone of your brand. Nearly every page of my website as a hero image that was shot as a desktop styled stock image and I think it represents the Elah Tree ethos very well. 

There are far more ways than 5 to shoot with the 50mm lens, what are some of your favorites? xoxo! Samantha

TRY THIS DIY CONCRETE PHOTO BACKDROP

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I'm giving away one of my secrets today and It's one of the quick and easiest projects ever too. Recently I've really been wanting a concrete background. I asked Tyler about it and he said it probably wasn't the best idea to make a real concrete background because it would be to heavy and not really ideal for my to lug around all over our apartment. I agreed... I didn't want to try to lug around a large piece of concrete every other day, haha!

I decided to look for an alternative and I found something that is so great! Concrete contact paper. Concrete contact paper is so easy to apply and it's by far one of the easiest backgrounds I have ever made.

SUPPLIES 

  • Concrete contact paper (I ordered mine from Amazon)

  • Foam core board

  • Ruler or book, something with a straight edge.

METHOD

Applying contact paper is super easy. The most important thing to remember is the make sure your contact paper is straight when applying it to the foam core and to use the straight edge to ensure there a no bubbles or wrinkles.

PRO TIP: Don't try to measure and cut your contact paper ahead of time. Leave the contact paper on the roll. Apply the paper with the sticky side down, against the form core. Roll out the contact paper as you go. It makes is much easier to manage and you can use your straight edge against the roll. 

Easy peasy, right!? And on budget. ;) What are some of your favorite DIY photo backdrops? xoxo. Samantha


WHAT I HAVE LEARNED AFTER 8 YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Two years ago I wrote a post, "What I've Learned after 6 years of photography." It's maybe one of my most popular posts. Seeing as it's been another two years (I can't believe it) I thought it might be a good time to revisit what I've learned and look back. 

2015 meets 2017 ... 

1  | GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

One thing I have learned over everything else that I think is most important is to give yourself grace. In 2015 I was struggling with my lack of growth. I felt like I should have covered so much more ground as a photographer. But I had failed to see everything I had gone through.

In 2015...I wondered why I hadn't grown more and then I looked back on my journey. I forgot about how much my life changed through my journey. I started photography, but then I moved to Florida, where I lived for a year. Then I moved back to Missouri, where I lived for a year and a half, then I moved to California, where I lived for two and a half years. And now I'm in New York. Moving around a lot requires a lot from a person and learning photography wasn't always a priority.

Grace upon grace in any journey is essential. Even now, after I feel that I have found my footing as a photographer. I can look back on this past year and see how much I've grown, but if I'm not careful I can fall into the comparison game and I start withholding grace. No matter where you are in your journey. No matter how short you feel it has been. No matter how long you feel it has been. Give yourself grace. 

2  | PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE 

We've all heard it. Practice, practice, practice. This was true for me eight years ago and it's still true for me today. As a photographer and an artist you can't stop and except to always have it. No matter where you are at in your journey, whether you are 6 month's in or 5 years in, practice will always be apart of the game. 

3  | EMBRACE YOUR FAILURES

It took me a long time to embrace my failures. But failure as a photographer is always an opportunity for growth. Failure simply means something your tried didn't work. Failure in photography simply means to try again, to keep going, to challenge yourself and to think outside of the box. The sooner you embrace failure and see it as a learning opportunity, the faster you will grow and the more knowledge your will gain. 

4  | VIEW COMPETITION AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SET YOURSELF APART

When most photographers get started in their industry, whether they are a portrait photographer, wedding photographer, commercial photographer, styled stock photographer or the like, they sometimes play it safe. They do what every other photographer is doing. It's not that they don't want to be unique, but they see that other photographers are being successful and sometimes they think, "I need to do it that way to be successful too." I've totally been there. I've played it safe and created images that we're "current" in my industry. 

The great thing about any journey is that we can continue to grow, find our rhythm as photographers and create things that we absolutely love, even if it's not what others in our industry are doing. That is what successful businesses are made of. They differentiate themselves.

Competition aside, you are unique, the way you do business is unique, the way you see and take photos is unique. Embrace that and your competition isn't really competition at all.

5  | SEEK OUT OTHER CREATIVES

When I first started out as a photographer I was petrified of other creatives. "What if they see right through me?" "What if they tell me I suck?" "I can't hangout with other creatives, I'm not as good as they are." This may not be a concern for everyone, but if it's something you are thinking, take a deep breath. Every creative I have ever met, whether it was another photographer, a lifestyle blogger, or a small business owner, they have all been kind, gracious and giving. 

What new photographers or new business owners don't know, is that regardless of how far we come in our journey, we'er all still learning. And most of the time we still feel like we don't know what we're doing, haha! 

6  | KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT

Your camera can do a lot. So can your flash, lenses, and every other piece of equipment you may have. Keep learning your equipment. After eight years I still have things I'm learning. We never stop learning. Keep going, keep trying. keep learning.

7  | IT GETS EASIER

I'm so glad to include this one. It does get easier, friend. I never thought it would and some days are still hard, but it does get easier. Things that used to be hard, start to make sense. The things that took you so long to learn become habit. It gets easier and sweeter. You'll find your groove. You'll find your sweet spot. You're clients and customers will find you and you'll love creating for them. It get's easier. 

xoxo. Samantha