A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: September 2012
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30 September 2012

Am I a Blogger Cheater?

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SO perhaps “cheater” isn’t the best word for it, but it was as close as I could come to describing the “crime”.  Put basically, it is cheating.

What am I talking about?  Well, the issue has been around for a long time, became more serious when Pinterest arrived and is now at a boiling point.  The issue?  Stealing photos.  I know stealing copy (text) is a big deal right now too, but today, we’re going to talk about the pictures.  Why?  Well, the pictures are the sticking point for me.  The way I see it – when you steal text, you pretty much know what you are doing.  You know you are evil and stealing someone’s work when you copy and paste their work.  Since I don’t know how to stop evil people in their tracks, I’m not going to even try.  Nice people though?  Those are the ones I’m talking to today.  The lovely bloggers that truly are kind people, but they are cheating and they might not even know it.

You see, I am a photographer and a blogger so I see both sides of the issue.  As a blogger, I understand that if you are not a photographer, it can be hard to find illustrations for your posts.  I get it.  However, as a photographer, I’ve worked years to be able to take photographs for my blog and I don’t want you taking my photos for your site.  …and trust me when I tell you that I am one of the nice photographers.  Photographers are up in ARMS about their work being stolen and they will sue in a heartbeat if they only had the money.  At some point, I believe the house of cards will come tumbling down and I worry that some of the nice bloggers might get hit.

The questions are many and the answers are murky, but I’d like to offer my opinion on the whole deal and offer up a little quiz.   I know I might ruffle some feathers here, but the problem is getting too big and I have been hit personally with it, so write I must.  There are no rules in blogging (welcome to the Wild Wild West folks), but there are standards and across the board everyone pretty much agrees stealing is wrong.  What constitutes stealing?  Ahhh – THERE is the rub.
So here goes.  These are my three litmus tests to determine whether I (or you!) am/are cheating.

blogging cheater

#1 Am I a big blog?
Here’s the thing.  I don’t care if a small blog or new blog uses a photo or two and links back to me.  They aren’t making money off my work and they aren’t claiming it as their own.  I am nice however.  The average photographer would bite your neck off if they could.  So if you are just starting out and reading this and feel like crawling into a hole because you’ve used someone else’s photos – relax.  Nobody is out to get you.  You aren’t stealing any money from them (yet), so change your ways and you’ll be fine.  Everyone makes mistakes.

#2 Am I making money?
Of course, the second you put ads on your page and start making MONEY, THAT is when you are really going to start cheating.  Think about it.  You are putting someone else’s work on your page and whether you link to them or not, that content is making you money.  The more money you make, the more careful you should be.  If you don’t have permission from the photographer or illustrator directly, you are in the wrong.

#3 What does my pinterest sourcepage say?

Curious whether you are really cheating or not?  Your pinterest sourcepage is the easiest way to check it out.  Go to pinterest.com/source.anestforallseasons.com (put your blog address in the bold section) and look around.  Are the photos your photos or do they belong to someone else?  Is there one photo that repeats over and over and over again?  is it yours?  No?  Then you are cheating.  If you are making a good bit of money off your blog, then you are really cheating and have opened yourself to litigation.  You can’t make money off someone else’s work!

So what is a blogger supposed to do?  How do you curate content that is not yours without stealing content?  My good friend Heather does it well.  She creates a graphic that can be pinned and then includes other people’s photos with a link to them.  Her whole purpose is to direct traffic to other sites, but she intentionally makes sure folks can pin her graphic and not the other photos on the page.  You can see an example HERE

As I said before, I am certainly no expert, and there are no rules, but there are ethics.  Ethics would dictate that if you are making money off of someone else’s work, you are in the wrong.  So stop it.  Now.  …and if you don’t know whether your site is a “cheater” site, simply take a look at your pinterest sourcepage – it doesn’t lie.

I love y’all.  Don’t cheat.

28 September 2012

{Styled} by Tori Spelling

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So if you’ve been following along on instagram (I’m Amy Renea!) you might start to think I am COMPLETELY self absorbed.  I mean seriously, how many pictures of ones’ self must one take over the course of a weekend?  Well, yes, I probably am a little more self absorbed than I should be, but the reason for all of the photos was not MYSELF per se, but the lovely necklaces I was wearing.

necklace 2necklace 3necklace 4necklace 1

The awesome and amazing Consumer Crafts provided all of the jewelry I wore this past weekend at the Springboard Conference and not only was it beautiful, but I was able to get creative with it.  You see, these pieces come literally in pieces.  There are top and bottom pieces for necklaces, chains for bracelets, pendants to attach connectors – anything you might need to make jewelry – minus the work.  I’m not big on stringing beads for hours, but putting together two pieces with two connectors?  Yes!  THAT is my cup of tea!

My favorite look was the white beaded necklace that I put together using two bracelet pieces around the back instead of a single strand necklace top.  I had pearls on one side and chain on the other and I loved it!

consumercraft necklace showing detailtitle page shot  amy renea a anestforallseasons

The cool thing about this line?
Even though I got chose the same necklace as my friend Andrea,
she was putting hers together in a completely different way.
 Cool, huh?
Andrea’s got a full blown tutorial over on her site as well, so if you want to learn more about the line before you buy, go visit her HERE!
Want to try yourself?  check out the {styled} by Tori Spelling line at Consumer Crafts right HERE!
Check out this amazing selection.  Snap two pieces together and you have custom earrings.  Nape three together and you have a necklace.  Combine golds and silvers and hematite at will.  Get creative without all the tedious work.  This is SO my kind of crafting!
full {styled} line amy renea a nest for all seasons

25 September 2012

The Money Shots for Square Layouts

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I’ve spent a year or so submitting to craftgawker, and now Looksi, Tasteologie and other square layout compilation sites over and over and over again.  I often know whether a photo is going to be rejected or not, but sometimes I submit things just to push my limits and see how far I can toe the line.  (Yes, just like a toddler.)  Sometimes I will send in a photo that I know is not a “money shot” layout, but I want to do something a little more creative.  It often gets rejected, but once in awhile is accepted.  I will sometimes send in a post that I know if a weeeeeee bit too garden philosophy as opposed to garden craft, and I am not surprised to see it rejected.  Sometimes, however, I am happily surprised that my post is accepted and I am thrilled that a few more girls will learn that gardening is really just an extension of love for Anthro and babies

Sometimes, I send in shots that are correctly exposed and I know (I KNOW) they will get rejected, but I don’t want to blow out the whites, so I submit it as is.  Then, of course, it is rejected and I have to go back in photoshop and boost the curves, blow out the whites and resubmit.  You would think I would learn, right?

So what are the “money shots”?  What are the typical layouts for a square form that will typically be accepted by craftgawker and the like if the photos if light, bright and sharp.

SHHHHHHRRRRREEEEECH – stop just a minute.  May I remind you that no matter WHAT layout you are using, if your photo is not LIGHT, BRIGHT and SHARP, it will not be accepted.  OH – and make sure your content is craft related (or food related or whatever).  Nothing stops an editor dead in their tracks like a post that has nothing to do with crafts.

OK.  SO.  The layouts.  I typically use 5.
#1 Straight On Center      (Center the subject, shoot on the same plane as subject)
#2 Straight On Bottom Right Quadrant     (Put subject in bottom right quadrant, shoot on same plane as subject)
#3 3/4 Above, Subject in Quadrant       (Shoot from 3/4 above, not top down, not straight on, but 3/4 of the way between the two)
#4 Top Down     (Camera up high, shooting top down, typically onto a floor or table subject)
#5 Fill the Frame      (Fill the square frame with sharp, close up details)

Here is a portion of my craftgawker gallery. 
Can you find those layouts here?  Try!!
craftgawker gallery 1
Were you right?  Were you able to pick out the different layouts?
craftgawker gallery with numbers
Your assignment?  Check out your own photos and see if they fall into these categories.  Should you crop them?  Should you shoot your subject again?  Remember, the shots much be LIGHT, BRIGHT and SHARP and then utilize a correct layout for the best chance of success!
Have you submitted your work to craftgawker?  Taste spotting?  notcot?  How did it go?  Are you a fan?  Feel like you are the only one with rejections?  Well, be assured that you are not the only one and that you CAN get your work accepted if you keep working at it and just keep trying!  Here is a portion of my rejections….
craftgawker rejections
Yes – that is just a portion.  I TOLD you I’ve been experimenting for over a year.  That means LOTS of rejection!  You are NOT alone!  If you are scared of the rejection, you might try Looksi first and then "graduate" to Craftgawker.  The submission process is a little easier at Looksi :)

SUBMIT HERE for Looksi

SUBMIT HERE for Craftgawker

Want to learn more?  Check out yesterday’s post on PHOTO LAYOUTS
and just know that my first submission to craftgawker of THAT post was rejected.  So it goes folks!
To be encouraged, check out my full craftgawker galley HERE.  Your turn!!  Share your stuff!!

24 September 2012

Do you want to get published? Learn the “money shot” layouts!

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This weekend I taught a class titles ‘Light, Layout, Edit and Hook’ at Springboard, discussing different techniques for taking photos for your blog, compilations sites and publication.  Basically, my route to "blog success" has hinged heavily upon compilation sites such as Looksi, Craftgawker (and the other gawker sites) and food site such as Tastespotting and the notcot sites.  After teaching the class, there were a couple of things that I wanted to go more in detail with and share with all you online readers (Hello!!  Hi!  Say hi everyone!  I know you are out there!)  Today, I’m going to give you a short primer on layouts and some tips for shooting blog subjects in your own house with the help of a window and a few props.  Ready?  Set?  Let’s go!

consumer crafts necklace leave room for copy  amy renea a anestforallseasons

Thanks to Consumer Crafts for the lovely {styled} by Tori Spelling line of jewelry to experiment with! 
More to come!!
There is always 1,000 different ways to approach a still subject when photographing it.  There is always room for artistic vision and switching out the norm for the fun and crazy.  That doesn’t always sell though.  There are tried and true layouts for editorial photos and when you stick to the formula, your photos will be accepted.  Stray from the basic layouts and you’ll get more rejections, but have a lot more fun!  Your choice!  That first photo up there is a classic straight on shot, with the subject in the upper left quadrant, allowing room for copy.  Say WHAT?

Think about it this way.  When you look at a magazine cover, there is always one main subject or subject grouping.  You know what?  Go get a magazine.  Any magazine.  I’ll wait for you.  Go get it. 
OK – get a Sharpie and draw two vertical lines and two horizontal lines across the page, dividing it into nine parts (like tic-tac-toe).  See the four spots where the lines meet?  Those are the four quadrants and I bet you 3 out of 4 times the main subject of your magazine cover hits one of those cross points. 

So that is the quadrant thing, but what is straight on mean and what is copy?  Shooting straight on means you are directly in front of the subject, on the same “plane” as the subject (as opposed to standing up tall and shooting down towards the subject.)  Leaving room for copy simply means you leave room for the editor to place a title and text on the top of the page and surrounding the subject.  Any questions? Ask!

Moving on, here is another layout that works well for product shots.  Instead of shooting straight on (on the same plane), stand up tall, angle 3/4 of the way down and place the object in the center of the photo.

consumer crafts necklace front and center straight on  amy renea a anestforallseasons
To change things up, try placing the subject on the edge of your table and shooting straight on, but from a side angle.  You’ll get a nice diagonal line in the background where the wall meets the table.

consumer crafts necklace front and center
There are a host of choices when it comes to showing detail on a piece, but there are a few basic layouts that typically work well.  To show the full piece, but highlight the detail, use a higher aperture and fill the frame with the subject (below).  If you want to show detail really closely, get in tight and the subject becomes the actual detail, not the necklace as a whole (two below). 

consumer crafts necklace 2  amy renea a anestforallseasonsconsumercraft necklace showing detail
Don’t make the mistake of going somewhere in between those two options though.  Either fill the frame with the subject or get in really close on the detail.  Don’t just get too close on the full frame shot.  See how bad this looks?

consumer crafts necklace too close
Of course, I can never stop at the 3-5 “money shots” that I know will sell.  I always like to get creative (who doesn’t??), so I tried a shot from above that highlights the two connectors of the necklace, while utilizing the dark floor in the background to provide room for copy.

title page shot  amy renea a anestforallseasonscopy on picture  amy renea a anestforallseasons
Other money shots?  Shooting straight down onto a subject (left) and shooting a collection of objects at an angle (right) or from above.
consumer crafts earrings amy renea a nest for all seasonsloads of jewelry amy renea a nest for all seasons
Again, I know the money shots and I utilize them, but sometimes creative is just more fun.  This shot below is one of my favorites from the shoot, but it won’t necessarily sell.  I love the asymmetry and the way the whites are completely blown out.  What is your opinion?  Classy or trashy?

consumer crafts necklace artsylemons artsy
I like this similar shot of the lemons as well.  Even though it is technically all wrong, there is something very appealing about it to me.  So what to do?  Take both!  Take your artistic shots and use them at will, but take those slam dunk shots as well in case your editor hates the former.  Look at your work with a critical eye and try to send in primarily money shots, with a dash of creativity every once in awhile.  Let your editor know that you can do the classic shots, but you like to have fun.  Percentage-wise you should be shooting about 90% classic layouts 10% creative for submissions to publications.

Moving on…

Light and exposure are the two vital parts of understanding photography.   Once you learn to “read” the light, see where it is providing light and shadow on your subject and adjusting in response, you’ve got half the battle fought.   Once you learn to adjust your camera settings to expose correctly for that light, you are officially a photographer.  Everything else is icing on the cake.  In the photo below, the layout is fine, but everything is simply too dark.  Instead of changing 5 settings, I simply changed one.  Exposure Compensation.  One step up and I achieved the look in the second photo.  Takes 1 second and makes all the difference in the world!

PS – Don’t know what I mean by exposure compensation?  Check out my post on exposure compensation right HERE!

lemons  amy renea a anestforallseasonslemons blocking light  amy renea a anestforallseasons
So sometimes you read the light wrong and you could spend time adjusting settings and figuring it out, but most of the time I just change myself and the subject instead of changing the camera.  It is easier for me to change my angle towards the lemons than to adjust 4 different settings.  Case in point?  Here is a straight down shot on the lemons.  It is kind of ok.  Too dark.  Angled too much, but not enough to be cool.  BLEH.

too dark lemons
My aperture was at 1.8 and ISO around 800, so instead of compensating for the darkness or going into the menu to change ISO, I just bent down a little, captured the light coming through the window on the side of the lemons and adjusted my angle so the board was on a pleasing diagonal instead of just crooked.  How much time did the change take?  2 seconds.

lemons front and center with agled board  amy renea a anestforallseasons
Alternatively, rotate the cutting board to line up with wall, shoot straight on with the light hitting the lemons square in the front, and I’ve got another option.

lemons in a row amy renea a anestforallseasons

So what is the point?  What are you, a blogger just wanting to take better pictures, supposed to get from all this?
#1 Learn the basic layouts and practice them over and over and over again.  CLICK HERE for more details and practice with this!
#2 Get creative, but don’t necessarily submit your creative work.  Submit 90% classic layouts and 10% creative.
#3 Learn Exposure Compensation.
#4 Try adjusting yourself, then your subject, then your settings.  It is often easier to change your angle slightly than to change your settings.**
**This note refers to shooting a subject in a space where you know the light.  If you are a photographer shooting an event, everything changes. 

Questions?  Please please ask!!

Want to learn more? 
Sick of getting rejected by Looksi, Craftgawker and Tastespotting?
CLICK HERE for the square "money shots"

Again, a special THANK YOU goes out to Consumer Crafts for the {Styled} by Tori Spelling
line of jewelry product that they provided for Springboard and this post!

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springboard sponsors

This weekend I attended and spoke at the new conference ‘Springboard’ in Boston.    First things first – Boston rocked my socks off.  Seriously. 

Now that pleasantries are out of the way, let’s move on to the conference itself.  Full of newbie bloggers and veterans alike, this smaller conference was the perfect place to connect with other bloggers and brands.  I was able to meet with every brand and have meaningful conversations with the PR folks and ad agencies.  I was able to sit and talk for hours with small groups of girls.  I was able to spend time working one on one teaching others and bring schooled by the illustrious Debbie Mitchell and Cindy Meltzer.  All of that and I was still able to go to the sessions I wanted to and meet ALL the people I wanted to meet.  No being left out of sessions because there wasn’t room.  No feeling out of place wandering around by myself.  No wising I could talk to a speaker, but they were rushed out the door too quickly.  It was fun and fierce and went way too fast.

One highlight of the weekend was the response the girls in my session gave during and after the session.  I was shaking in my boots before speaking, but everyone was beyond gracious and jumped on the Hometalk bandwagon with the slightest of nudges. 


We spent the last half of the session literally uploading photos to Hometalk and talking about how to tag posts, link to posts, write good hooks and share within the site.  …and then I checked twitter. 

…and the girls in my session literally twitter bombed me.  …and all I can say is THANK YOU.

17 September 2012

Create Your Own DIY Gourd Garland

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It is that time of year to break out the fall fruits, but I am bored of simply piling a bunch of pumpkins on my doorstep, aren't you? Join me today as we make a DIY gourd garland to spice up an outdoor seating space!
guord garland header amy renea a nest for all seasons

Gourds come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, making them versatile and fun for a host of projects. Today, I will show you how to create a garland that seems to hover overhead, making artistic curlycues in midair.
  • 5-10+ Gourds or mini-pumpkins
  • Strong String, Fishing Line or Cord
  • Strong and Thick Knitting Needles or Drill
  • Cutting Board or Workbench
  • Staplegun and Staples or Hooks

12 September 2012

How to Brew Herbal Teas

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For some reason this fall, I feel on edge.  I'm irritable and not enjoying the weather the way I should.  I adore this weather -- with its cool breezes, falling leaves and brisk winds, but I'm not fully emerged in it.  Too much on my mind -- too many little projects that I should just let go of, but instead I keep hammering to death.  I think it is time for a little tea.  Calm the soul -- warm the tummy and hopefully make those brisk breezes just a little more enjoyable.

I always make tea in the evening (mornings are for coffee, don't you know?) and I simply grab a steak knife and head into the garden.  I chop off big hunks of whatever is growing in bulk -- various mints, lemon balm, chamomile and sometimes stevia.

This little plant is called stevia and it is supposed to be far sweeter than sugar.  I have tried the powdered baking stevia and I did not like it in chocolate bars, while this stevia used fresh in tea also has a cloying taste.  I'm willing to give it a few more tries, but I'm almost ready to give stevia a thumbs down. 

10 September 2012

Saving a Yankee

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After creating my vases and votives for the Martha Stewart glass paint campaign, I just couldn't stop.  I literally ran around the house finding as many glass containers as I could to deck out in paint.  Once I ran out of empty jars, I had to get creative and the first thing that came to mind was my army of Yankee candles.

They are wonderful and make my home smell delicious, but I don't like the labels.  Typically I just turn them around (see above) and use them plain, but now that I have a truckload of silkscreens and glass paint at my disposal, I can save them from the plain life!


 The technique is simple...

One silkscreen, 30 seconds of painting and pull that screen off.

(want to see detailed steps of the process?  Click HERE!)

Now doesn't that seem better than the over-designed label from the store?
Yeah...I thought so too...

What have YOU been creating lately?

PS - Want to see more rescued Yankees?  
I'm showing off some at Houzz today with behind-the-scenes photos of all the fall projects I've been working on!!   

CLICK HERE to go see!!

09 September 2012

[gathered]. -------------------> Fall Crafts

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It's time for fall and fall means????


Bring on the gold and orange and rust and tans (and teal?!) -- It's FALL!

Here's the thing...

I hate roundups.

...but I've been crating like a maniac and all of it is for other places...


I have to round them up for you (AHHH  ducking my head -- I'm sorry!!!!)

...but bear with me and check out a few of the fallishly fun things I've been creating lately...

See how to take a stack of thrift store napkin rings from 1950 to 2012 with a little paint and emoticon humor over at UCreate:


Did you miss the Ginko Vases?
They are RIGHT HERE!

...and seriously there is so much more to come!
Tomorrow?  Find out how to rescue those Yankee Candles!

PS - I hate roundups -- I really do and I apologize for submitting you to them, but this month is insane busy, so please bear with me!!  I appreciate y'all!

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