THE ONE WHERE I TELL YOU ALL MY SECRETS + A FREE E-BOOK

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I started my college career knowing one thing, I would not become a teacher. I vividly remember standing in line at college orientation, it was that pivotal moment where you choose your major and without having any real plan… only the list of things I didn’t want to do spinning in my head, I looked over at the teacher line almost in defiance. It was a common thing to do in our town, become a teacher. But me, I would become an event planner… or a Public Relations Associate (whatever that means… though that is what my degree is in.) Or I would become a full time photographer, a dream not yet realized. There I was standing in the undeclared line, I had two years to decide, and I bunch of generals to take anyways. A degree in Communications ended up being the route I took. Honestly it just made sense to go in that direction, it was the thing that came naturally to me and Public Relations just seemed logical.


 

Learn from the experience of 9 different creative professionals. Grab your FREE E-Book and embrace your dream this year!

 

FLOUNDERING

I was on my way to earning a college degree, because well… that’s what you were supposed to do when I graduated high school. And I loved all my communication classes. I actually loved everything about them. I learned magazine layout while working on my college’s magazine, I spent time in our radio booth, I studied how different website’s communicate to their audience, and I took my first photography class. That photography class was my hook. That photography class inspired me to chase a dream. I spent my last year of college taking pictures of anyone that would step in front of my camera. I did my first photo sessions on film. I assisted at my first wedding.

During that first year out of college I lived in Florida and my first entrepreneur venture was unfolding. I was taking pictures, I was blogging about every picture I took, I was trying to figure out how to build a business, I was trying to create a client base, and all without progress. I was floundering. I was working full time as an office manager and trying to build a business on the side without having any real know how. What was I really doing? What was I going to do? This didn’t seem like a good plan… I wasn’t going anywhere. Then I thought, “well, maybe I’ll get my master’s and become a teacher…”

Not very long after that I moved back home and before diving in to a master’s degree I decided I would test the waters. I wasn’t wiling to sink anymore money into student loans without knowing if being a teacher was what I really wanted. So, I found a job as a paraprofessional (or teacher’s aid, or class room aid, whatever you want to call it.) I spent a little over a year working in a class room. Seeing all the ins-and-outs, the students, the teachers, the politics and a found out what I needed to know. I did not want to be a teacher.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

Next thing you know I’m married, living in California and still unsure of what I want to be when I grow up. So I did what anyone would do, I found a job. For clarity and to make this long story not so long, I quit that job after 8 months. It wasn’t a good fit and I was dealing with anxiety (something I had never experienced before), so I decided to do something different. I didn’t know anyone and driving in LA wasn’t for me, so I knew I didn’t want to pursue portrait photography. Who would I take pictures of? And I would probably have an anxiety attach just driving to locations anyways. I had seen a few people selling handmade items on Etsy, so I decided I would give that a try. I handmade zip pouches and wallets. I was half way good at it, but overtime I learned that wasn’t for me either. Time to try something else… I moved on the creating digital goods; calendars, worksheets… I wasn’t very good at that.

At about that time we were moving again… that’s what we do… we move. But this move was a little different. Tyler had accepted a contract position for the next 5 months. We didn’t know what would be happening at the end of those 5 months, so I was kind of in limbo. I was out ideas for what to sell on Etsy. I was blogging, but without any real niche. After 5 months Tyler was offered a full time job, it was time to find a place to live and I decided it was time to find a job.


 

PRACTICAL STEPS FROM 9 different creative professionals. Grab your FREE E-Book and embrace your dream this year!

 

DREAMING AGAIN

I hadn’t given up on any of my dreams… I had always dreamed of having a small business, but we had student loans to payoff. I needed consistent income so we could plow through the mountains of student debt we had. (If you’re reading this, do not take out student loans. There are so many others ways to do it.) So I went to work and started to dream again about what kind of business I would pursue. I tried to blog consistently, it was fun and it kept me moving forward trying different things. For a hot second I considered portrait photography again, but I just didn’t feel that was my strength. Because I was blogging consistently I was getting half way good at product photographing and that’s when it hit me. I would be a product and stock photographer.

I took my first client in 2016 and I slowly started to grow a little business. In 2017 I launched a new shop full of stock images and in 2018 I launched my stock photo library. I was reading book after book trying to learn about business, I was listening to podcasts, I was watching webinars, I was trying to do what everyone successful was doing. I was producing new photos every month. I was trying new things creativity, pushing myself to succeed. If the business was going to work it had to be profitable. It had to match my current income. I had to keep going.

WHEN IT’S TIME TO TAKE A BREAK

But, the business wasn’t profitable. Now, I’m going to lay it all out there… and I’ve buried the lead, so get ready. I’m closing the shop and the member library (if you’ve made it this far, bravo!) To be honest, I could keep going with it, I could keep trying, because I believe the business could be profitable, but I’ve come to a place of burn-out and I’ve come to a place where I’m not in love with it… It’s not fun. And if I keep going, there is a far greater chance that I’ll really resent it. I also plan to retire the Elah Tree brand. I’m not giving up, I’m not throwing in the towel… it’s just time to take a break and it’s time to dream a new dream. It’s time to start fresh. It’s time to rebrand.

A NEW DREAM

At the end of last year I decided that this year would be a year that I step back and refresh. Tyler and I have something we’re working on together, but we’re not in any hurry and the Elah Tree brand will probably be around for the next few months as I plan to blog throughout this transition. I wish I could tell you more about what’s next, but that’s for another post… plus, I like keeping you in suspense. 😉


 

PRACTICAL STEPS FROM 9 different creative professionals. Grab your FREE E-Book and embrace your dream this year!

 

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE OR EARLY FOR YOUR DREAM

So, why did I tell you all of that before telling you about this E-Book? Because I wanted you know that it’s truly never too early or late for your dream. It’s never too late to change direction. It’s never too early to get started. It’s completely okay to try different things and not have things workout. It’s okay to to start one thing, figure out it’s not for you, and try something else. I’ve tried so many different things and changed directions so many times, but I’m always willing to keep going. I’m always ready to embrace a new dream.

I’ve come together with 8 other amazing women and we’re all sharing our journeys with you. Practical steps to help you get started and things that really made a difference for each of us. We’re here to inspire and lift you up, so grab your copy and embrace your journey this year!

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Learn from the experience of 9 different creative professionals. Grab your FREE E-Book and embrace your dream this year!

 

ITS NEVER TOO LATE TO START LIVING YOUR DREAM

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


MY FAVORITE GEAR FOR PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY

One of the biggest struggles I faced when I first began my photography journey was wondering whether or not the gear I was using was good enough. I wondered what the pros were using? How were they creating such magical pictures? ... And how could I do the same? One thing I want to encourage you in is believing in yourself and not in your gear. Your gear is simply the tools you use to create your images, but with practice, a little ingenuity, and trusting yourself, you can make magical photos.

Today I'm sharing my favorite gear for product photography and I'm also going to share a few tips and tricks for alternatives. 

Cameras

Nikon D700 : The Nikon D700 has been retired, but here is it's counterpart. The Nikon D700 is ideal for me when shooting products because it's full frame, allowing me to get more into frame. I often pair the D700 with the 50mm. If you're shooting with a crop sensor camera body and you're struggling to get everything in frame, the 35mm would be great to pair with it. 

Nikon D300s : The Nikon D300s is also retired, but we love this camera because it has video. We don't do a lot of video right now, but it’s one of our favorite camera’s to use on the go. I pair the 35mm with the Nikon D300s because it allows us to get a lot in frame.

Alternatives : Nearly all the DSLR's that are released these days are phenomenal. Learn your camera, read your camera manual and really learn lighting, and you'll be making magical photos in no time. 

Lenses

Nikkor 35mm : As I mentioned above, I often pair the 35mm with the Nikon D300s. This is a solid shooting lens with a 1.8 aperture, great taking product photos with beautiful blurry backdrops.

Nikkor 50mm : The 50mm is what I pair with the Nikon D700. For my personal preferences I don't like to pair anything under the 50mm with the D700 because it's a bit to wide. If you were shooting something like landscapes or cityscapes, wide angle lenses are ideal, but I think the 50mm is perfect for products and lifestyle.

Alternatives: In photography, lenses really do make all the difference. I would recommend investing in your lenses before you do anything else. The 50mm and the 35mm are both great jumping off points. If you are shooting with the stock lens that came with your camera don't be discouraged. I would encourage you to (1) practice shooting outside where you don't have to fight the light. Fighting light is often the biggest struggle. (2) Learn what your lens and camera are capable of by shooting at different apertures. 

Extras

Softboxes : I haven't always shot with softboxes, but I do really love them because they are incredibly convenient. Softboxes aren't necessary when shooting products or lifestle, but they are helpful when trying to fill out the light in a room. I prefer to shoot with natural light, but if your light is uneven then softboxes really help.

Alternatives: Amazon has a variety of softboxes to choose from ranging in price. If your industrious and enjoy DIYs you can find a variety of DIY softboxes online too. 

Manfrotto Tripod : This tripod is not specific to Flatlay, as an ideal Flatlay tripod would have a horizontal harm like this one. But this particular tripod has been working great for me, so I love it. I have had this tripod for years and since it is working for me, I have never felt the need to get something different. This one works well because it has a ball head which allows me to turn the camera face down. 

Light Reflector Set : My light reflector is maybe one of my favorite and most used photography accessory. I have used it in different situations to reflect light, but I also use it to diffuse light. Diffusing light is what I use it for most these days, as I need soft even light.

Alternatives: There are a variety of items that you can use as an alternative to diffuse and reflect light. White foam core boards are perfect for reflecting light and if you need to diffuse and soften light a white sheet does the job.  

Great photography comes from more then just the gear we use. It comes from practice, patience, study, and hard work. What are some of your favorite photography accessories? What are some of your favorite photography hacks? 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.  

FREE Styled Stock Images

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. 

FREE Styled Stock Images

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. 

FREE Styled Stock Images

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