Arizona Artisans Collective: What was the inspiration for your product / getting your business started?
Amy: When I was on hiatus from my 16-year career as a graphic designer, my husband and I adopted our first dog. She’s a little Chihuahua mix named Pipsqueak, and in the fall when the weather cooled I noticed she was shivering on our morning walks. Instead of buying a jacket for her, I sewed her one myself. The experience was so fun and rewarding! I was using my hiatus to figure out what I wanted to do next with my life, and since pets have always been such an important thing to me I decided to create a business around them. It allows me to combine many of the things I love most: pets, learning, designing, and making.
I was also tired of cheap, disposable products that are so common and generic. I get nostalgic for a time when things were designed with care and made to last. With Oxford Dogma I get to participate in the shift from anonymous, low-quality experiences to special, meaningful, and memorable experiences.
AAC: 5 words that best describe your brand and company mission?
Amy: More love for more pets (which is also my tagline).
AAC: Tell us about your Product Photography process: Did you develop your technique thru formal training/experience? Or did it evolve more organically?
Amy: Over the past twenty years photography has always had a place in my life, so my techniques have developed through a combination of formal training and organic evolution. I took a film photography class in college that taught me about composition and lighting, and developed a taste for subtle, detailed images. When I bought a digital SLR camera I attended a workshop specifically on how to use that style of camera so I could achieve the kinds of images I pictured in my head.
With the essential technical knowledge in place, the challenge became how I wanted my product photography to look. The single best tool I used for that process was the Creative Live course “Craft Photography Fundamentals with Candice Stringham”. She teaches how to create little backdrops and sets that helped me achieve a consistent look with my indoor shots — this was a game-changer for me because I had been feeling really stuck on how to make my photos more interesting.
I primarily focus on three types of product photographs:
• Isolated products on white for my product listings
• Detailed product shots with neutral backgrounds
• Lifestyle photography
Photo credit: Oxford Dogma
AAC: Is your product photo style and process well established for you now? Or is it still evolving? How long did it take you to get to develop your current method/process? Do you do it all on your own or hire all/some of it out?
Amy: Overall, I think my process is well established, although I love to learn so I’m always making tweaks and adjustments. It took about 6–8 months of consistently working on it to get to a point where I felt good about the results.
My products have two basic looks: a spring/summer style made of lighter colors and fabrics, and a fall/winter style that’s darker and heavier looking. I created two backdrop sets that allows me to skew the photos darker in tone for the fall/winter looks and brighter in tone for the spring/summer looks.
My photo strategy includes:
I take the bulk of my product photos, but sometimes my husband helps out when I need to model something specific like with our dogs or using a product. He has a knack for photography so I art direct and he shoots what I want to capture.
AAC: What basic equipment/setup do you use to capture your images?
Amy: Almost all of my product photos are taken with Canon Rebel T1i DSLR, in RAW format. My favorite lens for indoor shots is an old Japanese macro lens we found on ebay. It can capture super sharp details and does the blurry backgrounds that I like. But it requires a still subject and tripod.
For isolated product photos, I use a pop-up light box with light stands (kit on amazon) which gives the white background.
For detailed product shots with the backdrops, I set up next to a window and use a piece of white foam-core to fill in shadows. The Craft Photography Fundamentals course was most helpful for this type of photography.
For outdoor shots, I typically use a 50mm Canon lens that captures the subject faster and can be used without the tripod.
AAC: What type of post-processing do you typically do?
Amy: I use Adobe Lightroom for managing my photo library and doing the post-processing. I created a preset that takes care of most of the color adjustments, lens distortion correction, light/shadows, and sharpening. I usually need to do some warming or cooling of the image, depending on my original lighting.
You can crop and export from Lightroom, so I typically export the size needed for social media, website, email marketing, etc, right from there.
AAC: What were some of your biggest hurdles or mistakes? Anything you would have done differently?
Amy: My biggest hurdle, which I still struggle with, is trying to shoot one or two “perfect” shots instead of just trying a bunch of things and different settings. This especially comes into play when photographing dogs! I try to get them to do one thing and snap a pic, when in reality I need to just keep shooting and sort through later.
AAC: Any hacks or tricks you learned along the way that were pivotal?
Amy: Creating a system for using backdrops, camera settings, and post-processing has really helped me get over the procrastination stage of photography. Sometimes it just seemed too overwhelming to do all of the making and then add in photography. But a system helps, as well as setting aside a few hours every once in awhile to take a bunch of photos, rather than setting everything up for just one or two items.
AAC: Do have a style guide that you use? Moodboards? Etc?
When I was first developing my brand, I created a visual style guide that included photography style. I collected a Pinterest board of photos I liked, and found the common threads between them. Everything ties back to my style keywords and the feeling I want to convey with my work.
AAC: What software/tools/apps are your go-to resources? (for post processing)
AAC: 2 bits of advice to share with your peers who are struggling with their product photography. Amy:
Thank you, Amy!
I have to say, Amy makes it sound easy. She shared so many great tid bits, but I am hoping to hear more from her about how presets work and her work-flow. We are planning to do a live video interview to get some of that scoop... Stay tuned!