Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Top Tips Tuesday - Facebook.

I love Facebook and my little page has become such an important part of my business. I update my status daily, normally about 5 times a day and I include the following types of things.

Photos of new products
Photos of work in progress - via Instagram
Photos of my studio - via Instagram
Images and words of inspiration - via Pinterest
Photos of my glass making workshops
Photos from craft / trade fairs
Images from press features 
Links to my blog
Ask questions - Do you prefer stars or snowflakes etc
Share links to FB pages, blogs and websites I like
Share links to craft fairs and exhibitions I like

I write my posts in an relaxed,informal and friendly yet professional way and keep the post relevant to my business i.e., glass, craft / design etc. I write a little about my family but normally when it is relevant, i.e. my children making glass etc.

I read once that you need to be 'interesting and interested', so interact and like other pages, reply to posts and respond quickly to comments and messages. 

I also have a Shop button on my page, which is linked to my Create website. This is a great way for customers to browse and I make lots of sales here.

Here are some links to a couple of my favourite Facebook pages:

Just a quick note on like and share competitions on Facebook. They are not allowed and if you run one you are at risk of having your page shut down. I am still trying to understand the rules but I think I can run a comp here on my blog, then use Facebook to promote it.  I only recently found this out via Joanne Dewberry who has loads of into and tips on social media. Take a look at her blog and Facebook page for more info. 


Finally here are some top tips from some of my Facebook likers:

Keep it professional and don't air your dirty laundry on fb first impressions are everything - Rock and Rose Photography, https://www.facebook.com/RockandRosePhotography?fref=ts 

Keep posting to get yourself seen, whether it's pictures of your product or friendly chit chat, it all helps. - The Prickly Moose 

Keeping the page fresh! I update with photos nearly every day and ask for feedback on them, this gets customers talking about what they like and don't like so much. - Liberty Rainne 

Try not to overload your likers with too many updates as they can get fed up and unlike u ! Or pre warn them and apologise in advance ! Flossie Doodles - Fingerprint a Masterpiece

My hot-top-tip is scheduling.. When you are composing a facebook post for your page, look for the little clock on the left hand side- click on it and it will give you the option to choose a date and time for the post to show up on your newsfeed. I now try and update the content for my facebook page in one go on a Monday morning,scheduling one update a day for the next week. It means that my facebook page keeps ticking over even when I am too busy to be online, and gives me the flexibility to add more topical updates if I want to as an extra. Then I just need to check in to see responses and interact if necessary. It's been such a timesaver, and helps me keep a structure to my page. - Maram Jewellery https://www.facebook.com/maramjewellery?fref=ts

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Top Tips Tuesday - Creating professional looking product photographs.

I am so thrilled that Tina from Tina Bolton Photography has written this fantastic guest post for my blog. I had a photo shoot and lesson with Tina last month and it was brilliant so I am sure you will find her blog really helpful. I also have found The Crafters Guide To Taking Great Photos by Heidi Adnum has some great tips and information.

Creating professional looking product photographs.

Do you really need a professional looking product photo?  Won't the skill and beauty of the product speak for itself you wonder? No, not if you want to sell your product to the general public anyway.


9/10 consumers have decided NOT TO BUY something on-line because the photography wasn't good enough. 

Source: Eposure.com  Attitude towards photography survey.

Think about it.  We live in a virtual world, we spend more money on-line now than at any other time.  When we buy something lovely, we want to see what it looks like clearly, before we decide to buy.

These tips are intended to start you thinking a lot more about your product photography.  It doesn't matter what type of camera you have, you can still take great product shots with a little know how, time (!) and creativity.

Tip No. 1
  • Before you even pick up a camera, think about how your product benefits and enhances the life and style of your potential buyer.  
  • How could you show this in a photograph?  Is it pretty handmade bars of soap or the beautiful sun catchers and glass bunting Wendy makes? 
  • I LOVE browsing home catalogues to see how they style a shoot and a favourite is the Cox & Cox one.  Take a look at Etsy & NOTHS as well as other relevant marketing to see how competitors style their shots.

Tip No. 2 
  • What's the one word or phrase you would use to describe your style? 
  • Wendy immediately told me that her style was 'Fresh'.  So in the shoot we worked towards creating that feel in her images by using lots of white and green and lots of window shots.
  • Your style could be 'Cute', 'Chic',  'Fun' or 'Country Cottage'  Take time to write down some words now and see what you come up with.
  • Now you have an idea of what style you want to achieve and thoughts on how it would fit into the life of your buyer, what's next?

Tip No.3
LIGHT.  Let there be light! 
  • It's free and we all have access to it every day (usually!) 
  • Switch off the flash on your camera.  'On camera flash' makes for awful lighting of your products and should be avoided. 
  • Windows let in a gorgeous amount of light but be very careful what kind of daylight you use.  Avoid harsh, strong sunlight.  Cloudy days are perfect for product shots. 
  • On the days when it is very sunny, try and filter the light by using a large piece of plain muslin fabric or a big sheet of plain paper at your window (use sticky tape to hold it in place or ask someone to hold it!).
  • This is usually strong enough to shade your products but thin enough to still let good light in through your window.  Net curtains work up to a point, but be aware of any patterns that could cast shadows.
  • Use ANY PART OF YOUR house with good light - even if it's the loo!  We are not looking for major room sets here, just access to GOOD light.  Of course, if you need a kitchen look or bedroom look then it may be better to use that room, if the light enables you to. 
  • Conservatories and tall french windows are good places to start.  If the weather is good enough you could set up a little spot outside (try and use a shady spot).

Tip No 4.
  • Take your product to the light not the light to the product. 
  • Try and photograph your product as close to the light source as possible. 
  • Distracting backgounds?  If you can't hide or disguise it, then make sure your product is a long way IN FRONT of your background so that it softens and blurs nicely and is less distracting.
  • Use white paper or fabric to bounce light so that your product appears evenly lit.
  • Objects placed off centre can make a more pleasing composition but this isn't a hard and fast rule.

Tip No. 5
  • Tell your product story. 
  • Is it a handmade toy for boys? Hint at this with subtle colours, or 'boyish' props in the background. 
  • We used a gorgeous handmade teddy which was pretty and a touch girly for Wendy's sun catchers with girls names to show they look lovely in a girl's bedroom window. 
  • With a seaside framed print we used driftwood and shells as props. 
  • Remember to demonstrate the lifestyle benefit of buying your product in your image 'story'.

Tip No. 6
  • Here's one I made earlier...
  • Use anything that helps, even if it is old washing up liquid bottles and the inside of a loo roll. 
  • Need a table at just the right height to reach the window?  Pile books up and then cover with a pretty cloth - who's to know?  
  • Love the tea- towel pattern and think it would make a fabulous prop - use it. 
  • Paint a bit of old wooden panelling (like Wendy did!)or use old books and even baskets. 
  • You don't need to spend a fortune on the right equipment.  Adapt what you already own, borrow something, it doesn't matter as long as it works for you and your products. 
  • DIY product photography doesn't have to be expensive - you are already creative you can simply use that imagination to create the right look for you.

Tip no.7
Camera Settings
  • The macro setting (this helps you get really close to your product) the symbol is a tulip/flower. 
  • Portrait setting (not the face detection!) it usually has a head as the symbol.  This will make sure that your main focus is the product and everything else will be nice and blurry.
  • If you own a DSLR then I recommend a 50mm prime lens.  It creates beautiful 'cinematic' style images because of its shallow depth of field.
  • Exposure Compensation.  Over expose your shots by a couple of stops (dots on the line)  You'll need to dig out your camera manual but you are looking for something like this on screen:

- I...I...I...I...I +

You are looking to OVER expose your shots to make them brighter so slide the indicator towards the plus sign.  Play around with this setting and see what works best for you.

Pssst, you are 'allowed' to use your camera on auto!!  So, you make brilliant products  but can only just about switch the camera on.  That's OK, really - no-one will know! 
Just make sure your image is in focus and set up as in the tips I have already mentioned. 
Digital means we can experiment until we get it right.  Put aside some photography time and just do it! 

Have fun and I wish you lots of success with your shots!  Let me know how you get on and if you have any questions please feel free to email me.

Product shoot - Step - by - step

Choose your light source, props and background if relevant.
Gather your products.
Here, I have used a large wooden chopping board, a piece of IRONED spotty fabric and a kitchen window.

Arrange your product in the light, how you want it to look.

Here is the candle close to the chopping board.

Now the candle is placed further in front of the chopping board, so the board and fabric are less distracting.

Take the shot

I decided there was too much shadow,  so,  I placed a notepad in to reflect the light.

The end result

I have done no editing to these images
These are the things I used.
For those who are interested the settings were:
Canon 5D mk11 DSLR - 50mm lens
f1.8,  ISO 100, Shutter speed  1/125 - 1/160
Over exposed by 2/3 of a stop.

Tina Bolton Photography runs regularly workshops on how to make the best use of your camera (no matter what type) called Cameras and Cakes.  These are relaxed, fun and informative mornings where you will meet like-minded people, learn to take better photographs and eat cake! £45 per person, small groups of 6. Includes tea, coffee, cake and a workshop booklet.
For those of you who want actual room sets and styling as well as camera instructions, Tina runs Makers one day workshops with a maximum of 4 (different) makers.  This includes instruction and guidance on the styling, lighting and setting up of shots packed into one whole day, all props, location and afternoon tea are also provided. £175 per person.
Or, if you really can't face taking the photos yourself, Tina offers a special introductory new business* photography package which includes upto 3 hours of professional photography including head shots and product shots fully edited on a CD, plus photography and social media tips. £150
*For businesses less than 12 months old.
All workshops are Hampshire based, however, if you gather a group of people together, Tina can bring the workshop to you!

Tel: 07976 302937
E: tina@tinabolton.co.uk

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Top Tips Tuesday - Creating a successful small creative business

This is the first of my Top Tips Tuesday blogs where I, along with other small business owners and creative professional will offer advice and support to help you create a successful small creative business.
This week we have general tips and next week is all about getting great images of your work with a guest blog from Tina Bolton from Tina Bolton Photography.

I feel that one of the most important things when running a successful craft/design business is to be true to yourself, make work you love, develop a brand that reflects you, have business beliefs that are important to you. Be professional and respectful and all times and get great images of your products. Read some good books (there is a list at the end), look at websites and blogs and join in forums and facebook pages (The Folksy forum was great when I started out).

I recently attended a great conference run by Craft Coffee and Cupcakes. I heard lots of great speakers and met lots of fantastic creative people but here are a few things that inspired me.

Here are some questions Patricia van den Akker from The Design Trust said we should ask ourselves.

What do you want?
What is the impact you want to make?
What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
What do you want to change?

What is your niche? Think about your values, your passions and your strengths.

Joanne Dewberry have a brilliant talk and has great book where she offers fantastic advice on lots of aspects of running a business from pricing, branding, selling and marketing. 

I asked my Facebook followers for their advice on starting a small creative business, her is what a few had to say.

Bebe BradleyEditor of UK Handmade said "Be brave, be unique and be professional. And I can't emphasise how important photography is when you are selling your work".

UK Handmade. A fantastic online magazine that supports and promotes small UK creative businesses. There is seasonal Showcase page which shows the works of makers and there is lots of great business advice and support.

Maram Jewellery, "Research- spend time before launch researching your market, your competition, how to photograph and display your work, packaging, logo's etc. I did a LOT of reading and research before deciding to open up but still hadn't thought of everything til it tripped me up when it was too late (and often things still do.You never stop learning in business). It helps you be professional from the start".

Little Love Designs, "Treat others as you would like to be treated, be organised and consistent and most importantly be yourself"

Lastly here are a couple of books that are worth a read.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Top Tips Tuesday - a little bit about Red Brick Glass

I have been approached recently by lots of different people for a little advice in creating a successful small creative business. So I thought through my own experiences and with the knowledge of other business owners I would write a Top Tips Tuesday blog that would cover lots of business tips on starting out, social networking, photography etc etc etc.

So lets start with a little bit about Red Brick Glass. 

I graduated in 2000 with a first class honours degree in glass from Edinburgh College of Art.

My degree show work back in 2000

I then received a business start up grant from the Crafts Council and The Princes Trust and Red Brick Glass was born. I worked for five years as an architectural glass artist, working to commission on large scale public art projects.

Here are a few examples.

I then had a baby, then 13 months later I had another one so glass making didn't happen so often then after baby number 3 all glass making stopped for a couple of years.

When my youngest started pre school I decided to start glass making again but with the focus on a products which I could sell online rather than architectural glass. This meant I could make and sell from home - perfect.

I started out selling on Folksy (who have been so supportive to me)and Etsy, then also joined Gifted Wrapped and Gorgeous and Swanky Maison. 

My own website has now been up and running for 18 months and has been a great success. I love Facebook and Twitter and they are such a great way to promote my business. I now run glass making workshops from my studio which is such an important aspect of Red Brick Glass.

So tomorrow I will have my first Top Tips Tuesday, so please do Join me.

Monday, 18 March 2013

A little peek at glass making

Here's a little selection of my instagram images which show my glass products being made. We have sun catchers, bowls, bunting, fairy lights, easter decorations, coasters and lanterns. That's pretty much a normal day here at Red Brick HQ.

click here to follow me on instagram

Friday, 15 March 2013

Logos, watermarking, seo and branding.

This week I have put aside a little time to make a few changes to my logo, watermark my images, save my images in an SEO friendly way and have a think about branding my products and packaging. I still have a lot to do but I have started which is the hardest part.

New profile image

New business card

New web banner with strap line

Packaging with stickers and business cards 

Watermarked image saved as

Monday, 11 March 2013

My poor poor little blog

Well lets just say that my little blog has been somewhat neglected over the winter months. I am sorry but life has been just a little bonkers here at Red Brick Glass HQ. 

As spring is nearly here (she says looking out the window to snow) I have decided to make a fresh start and give my blog the love and time it deserves.

So first things first my snowflake and star glass products have been put aside and my website in now filled with butterflies, meadows and love hearts.

Here is a little selection and next time I will show you how I make the glass and I plan to share some top photography tips I pick up during a one to one photography lesson.

I hope to like my new products and please do take a look at my website