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#NOFILTER Q&A: How to Get the Perfect Photos

The first question kicking off the #nofilter Q&A is from Vicki and Aaron Schafer: ” How do you get such perfect pictures of your work? Staging supplies? Do you photoshop your walls and mirrors? Camera? Lighting? Your pictures are off the charts amazing! 😍 how and or where did you learn it all?

Answer: there are a lot of elements that come into play when getting that scroll stopping photo you see of my finished pieces. I began taking pics of my pieces to sell from my cell phone camera in my living room at weird angles, much like what you see on marketplace and craigslist. It wasn’t until I started seeing all of these amazing photos in some of the furniture painting groups that I began understanding there was another level to staging I had no clue about. These magazine worthy photos were so stunning that it made me curious about how they were achieved. Did these people just have beautiful homes full of perfect rooms? How was I going to compete with that having limited space in a 2 bedroom apartment with no bare wall to use at all?

In the beginning

I don’t have a big home. I don’t have a lot of space. What I do is create the illusion that I do. You don’t need tons of expensive photography equipment and staging props to get stunning photos. Much like tv shows build a set to make it look like the actors are inside of a home, you make a set around your piece just for the photo. Use what you have available for staging. The best investment you can make for staging props is flowers, vases, and mirrors. There are a lot of creative ways people have used in making fake walls and floors in places like their basement or foyer. As they say, fake it til you make it.

I take advantage of clearance sales at Hobby Lobby and Michaels to get their silk flowers. I pick out a diverse range of colors. You don’t have to have a ton of decor at your disposal to stage but it does help having the perfect decor that sets the vibe your piece is trying to exude. You know, wood and metal stuff for MCM, baskets and macrame for boho, rustic signs and crates for farmhouse, and ect. I have a whole closet just for my staging props now but it’s not an absolute must when staging. Utilize what you have. 

The cameras on your cell phones are perfectly adequate when taking product photos. Paired with some tweaking on photoshop, you can get nice, crisp photos. I have invested in a camera. I bought myself a mirrorless, digital camera. I have the Sony a7 mark ii. I spent a lot of time researching digital cameras before I decided which one was right for me. I would recommend a DSLR for your first camera because you can sync photos onto your computer and phone via wifi, easily and it’s just pretty much point and shoot. You don’t have to be a photographer to use one. The benefit is higher resolution photos so you don’t get the grainy pics you can sometimes get on your phone when you try to sharpen the image. It allows for more versatility for photoshop too. A lot of my pieces are very detailed so being able to take sharp, closeup photos has been a huge plus for me like the faux marble foyer table I did. I was able to capture the subtle colors and veining with my camera. However, photoshop and your cellphone can do wonders. I still take photos on my phone.

I have a white wall and floor to use for staging, however, it wasn’t always that way. Before we moved, I had not one spare wall to use so I had to be creative and use white bead board/paneling from Lowe’s as a fake background. It worked. It was better then a messy background full of clutter. You can get fake backdrops for fairly cheap on Amazon. The only thing I would worry about is the wrinkling but a nice white backdrop is the best foil for presenting your piece. It allows it to be the center focus.
There are a lot of differing opinions when it comes to staging walls and inside versus outside. I’m open to a lot of interpretations and I feel whatever works for your image the best and fits your style is what is most important. Just keep in mind that various selling platforms have different requirements. Chairish, for example requires you to have nothing on your furniture as they like to photoshop out everything but your piece. Some platforms require inside staging. Do what’s best for your business.

Photoshop is a big component for me when it comes to getting the perfect pic. I have had to teach myself basic photoshop tools. I’m still learning and have a lot to learn but I’m miles away from knowing nothing. You don’t have to buy photoshop software. You can download free apps on your phone to tweak photos. I recommend: photoshop express, snapseed, and adobe photoshop mix as the essentials. You can add your watermark, change the color, exposure, and perspective of your photos on them for free. There are articles you can read about how to use them. The raw photos I take looks nothing like the photos I show you where they are watermarked and the lighting is perfect. I do my own mirror replacements on photoshop. I decided to invest in a subscription to use PicMonkey. It’s like adobe just simpler and cheaper. I’m not a graphics designer or professional photographer so I don’t need all the fancy options adobe offers. Maybe someday when I learn more I will but right now it would just be a waste of money for me to only use 1/4 of adobe’s capabilities for the full price. I don’t like replacing the floors and walls if I don’t have to. I believe the less photoshopping, the more natural your photo looks so I prefer doing as much as I can in reality. However, you can get people to do mirror, floor, and background replacements for fairly cheap if you need it. Most charge $5 per photo. I offer very basic photoshop services for those needing it. You can find other experts on fiverr, etsy, and freelancer.

I finally invested in lighting equipment after being exasperated with the fickle winter light. Living in CO, the light can be perfect and then gone in 5 minutes. It’s frustrating when I am staging and have everything in place but have to wait for the light to come back. I have 2 large windows in my staging room but if the light is too direct, it makes your photo overexposed with shadows and if it’s too dark, you have shadows and weird coloring. The best is bright, indirect light for nice, crisp pics. I have a soft box lighting kit with 2 stands. I like that there’s 4 bulbs inside so I can adjust the brightness to my liking with the switches on the back. I have mine just set up because it’s a pain to break down and set up again. I’ll attach the link to it in the comments. It makes a huge difference for the coloring of my photos. I don’t have the yellow cast to them anymore. It’s now just pure white. Again, you can just use natural light for photos but a lighting kit allows you to get great photos anytime of the day.

Lastly, I cannot stress how much expert help I’ve gotten for my photos. You need the extra eyes for help with staging. It’s overwhelming sometimes trying to get the right balance in staging. Having a neutral pair of eyes tell you what looks off and what looks right saves you so much time. If I were to do it alone, it would take me days to stage. I would end up going through all of my decor trying to find the perfect scene much like when you are trying to dress for a date and you end up trying every outfit possible just to go with what you tried on first. As a mother, I don’t have unlimited time to move around stuff and hang things on my wall. My photos have improved by tenfold because I have expert stagers tell me what props work and what doesn’t. There are staging groups on facebook that can help you. Some you pay for, some are free. I don’t like posting several options up on a huge furniture group asking which one is best and getting a million different opinions, most not very helpful and based on personal preference. I’d rather get right to the point and have someone who knows what they’re talking about to guide me in the right direction. It has been a huge timesaver for me to have expert stagers help me. You may find it frustrating and not worth it to spend a few hours moving around props and getting the right angles, which is fine. A lot of people find staging to be the most challenging part of selling. Personally, when my pieces sell and I no longer have them with me, what remains is my photos as a testament to my work. Photos last forever and document what you have done and are capable of doing so isn’t it worth the extra time and money to get that drool inducing shot? You can use it over and over again to entice future buyers and promote your business.

Wow, that was long winded but I wanted to be concise in explaining. There’s more I haven’t talked about concerning photoshop and staging but it would take a book to get into all the specifics. My biggest advice for you is to use your time and money wisely where you will get the most impact and most long-lasting results.

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I’m in Love with a Furniture Flipper

Ask & Answered with Joe

They are our other halves; the ones who first believed in us before we became known in groups and local selling forums. Sometimes they are the muscles behind the operation; the ones doing the heavy lifting, stripping, and sanding. For those of us with significant others who put up with our constant hoard of furniture, supplies, and staging items, we know it takes a team to be able to keep our business afloat.

I thought it would be fun to do an interview with my behind the scenes wingman, and biggest supporter. We are often the ones in the limelight but they are the ones who have seen the good and bad behind the perfect photos and accolades. What is it like to live with a furniture flipper? Let’s hear from the other side. Meet my husband Joe who has graciously tolerated my short interview.

1) What is the craziest thing I’ve ever had you pick up? 

-There have been so many it’s hard to recount! Before our current SUV, our only vehicle was my ’99 Jetta, making it difficult to pick up anything larger than a coffee table. One item that still sticks out is our current living room TV stand. It’s a uniquely beautiful, yet oddly-shaped stand that didn’t come close to fitting in my car. With a little ingenuity and a lot of luck, I was able to get it strapped down with a ratchet strap and rope. Nearly 90 percent of the piece was sticking out and it was 10 miles to get home. Needless to say, I drove very slow on empty back roads. Thankfully, it made it home in one piece!

2) What is your favorite piece I have done and why?

-This is also difficult, as every piece you’ve created has its own unique quality. There are so many variables into what resonates with me: sometimes I love something you created because it matches my own style, other times I love something you made because of its sheer eclectic nature and artistic beauty.

If I were a customer looking to purchase a piece for my home, I would get the buffet. I love its distinctive shape and warm earth tones. I especially love the use of the written word as a design element. As a writer and lover of the written word that is something I find striking. I also really love your latest faux marble top end table. With its intricate vintage carving, the piece itself was already beautiful. However, with the colors you chose and the realness of the faux marble, that is one of my favorites as well.

3) What would your dream home look like?

-When it comes to a home, I’ve never really focused on interior design or decor, because I’m horrible at that. I’ve always wanted a home with lots of trees, land, a large wrap-around porch and my own office/study with floor to ceiling bookshelves. I prefer more traditional over modern and would want lots of space to store your never-ending furniture and staging supplies!

4) What is it like to live with an artist?

-It’s amazing. As a writer myself, I love all forms of creativity. I especially admire artists, as that’s something I’m not particularly adept at doing myself. It’s inspiring to see your style of creativity as it fuels me to continue with my own. Creativity is what adds spice to life; without it, the world would be a dull and uninteresting place. Although, to be honest, I’m not a fan of the mess that comes with paint and brushes everywhere 🙂

5) How has your view of furniture changed?

-It’s completely changed. Before, furniture was only utilitarian to me; something to sit on, storage, or to place things upon. Now, because of you, I see furniture as functional works of art. Not only can it serve its intended practical purpose but it can be something totally unique and imaginative. When someone buys a piece of your furniture, they’re not only buying furnishing for their home, they’re also buying a piece of your artistic soul.

Lord knows I’ve put this man through a lot and without him I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thank you babe for putting up with sudden stops to pick up a curbside find, ever changing interior decor, and visiting strange homes at all times of the day for that one special piece I must have to paint.