Jul 16

New on the website: Feather pendants and bangles.

I haven’t posted for a while due to the fact that we were on a short holiday In Menorca. We stayed in Cala Galdana in a fab hotel called Audax which I can highly recommend. I will post more about our holiday as soon as I have sorted through all our photos!
Before the holiday I finished off some new items all made with this and a second feather cane I created a while ago.

Feather Cane - copyright Helen White

Feather Cane – copyright Helen White

And I had a go at making bangles using aluminium blanks as a base. I originally made three with the feather cane, but wasn’t happy with how the other two turned out. I still have some of the cane left and will make some more bangles when it’s cool. Heat and humidity is just bad news for working with polymer clay and makes it a right old battle (that’s why I wasn’t happy with the other two bangles which came out slightly deformed).

Feather Cane Bangle - copyright Helen White

Feather Cane Bangle – copyright Helen White

I have no idea how and if you can reduce a feather cane – so I just kept the size and used it also for pendants. These are quite long, but I like them. I hope you like them too.

Feather Cane Pendant - copyright Helen White

Feather Cane Pendant – copyright Helen White

Feather Cane Pendant 2 - copyright Helen White

Feather Cane Pendant 2 – copyright Helen White

I also found a reptile sheet I made a while ago to use with my first figurine – which is a gecko (I haven’t sanded it yet and not sure I will) and used it for a set of bangles and one round pendant.

Polymer Clay Gecko - copyright Helen White

Polymer Clay Gecko – copyright Helen White

The bangles needed several bakes in my toaster oven before I sanded and polished them.
I hope you like these new additions to my website.

Polymer Clay Reptile Bangle - copyright Helen White

Polymer Clay Reptile Bangle – copyright Helen White

Polymer Clay Reptile Print Pendant copyright Helen White

Polymer Clay Reptile Print Pendant copyright Helen White

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment on or share this post.

Jun 18

Walking our cat – videos

I have written about how we walk our Bobby a few times on this blog, but have only been able to share images with you. I have finally uploaded some footage of our walks with Bobby in the forest filme a week or so ago. Unfortunately walking her in the forest is very much weather dependent, so if it’s warm but not boiling and she’s happy enough to drive we can do this.

Hope you like these two films.

Don’t forget to leave a comment or share this post. Next time it’s going to be a longer post. Promised.

Thanks for reading and watching.

Jun 14

Mogglebox or how our cat developed a serious telly addiction.

I have been quite busy working on bangles and feather pendants, so today’s post is short and sweet.
If you have a cat, you surely can relate to this. Since “Springwatch” on BBC2 started three weeks ago (and has unfortunately finished this week), our cat has developed a serious telly addiction. She not only watched it when it was on, but also pawed at the telly when she saw birds,  looked behind the telly and got generally very excited. She also watched the live footage in the morning with my husband and of course in the evening.

Our Bobby watching Springwatch. - copyright Helen White

Our Bobby watching Springwatch. – copyright Helen White

And when the telly was not on she sat in front of it and looked at us with a sad face (not difficult for her, after all she’s a cat) – sometimes meowing and demanding that we switch it on for her!

When Springwatch was not on we had to get inventive – and switched to YouTube. It’s full of tons of cute stuff to watch. There’s one channel in particular we all like called “Vice” and they have a section called “The Cute Show”.

Last week she got excited when “The Secret Life of Cats” was broadcast on ITV, narrated by the wonderful Martin Clunes. The documentary was great and even the ads were full of cats.

I actually recorded it, which was a good idea because I kept filming our moggie watching her own “Mogglebox” as my husband joked. So I couldn’t pay as much attention to the programme. She was fairly indifferent when “The Big Bang Theory” was on, watched the news and a bit of tennis and loved Adam Hills. We have yet to find out if she’s into football.
Since we discovered her telly addiction we just kept filming her and I have decided to share some of these films with you. I have to apologise for some of the noise from the lens. I used my photo camera for these videos as my camcorder is now so old that it’s too much hassle to use – it still works with tapes, which you then have to upload to the computer before editing. We still haven’t edited our old kitten videos including our wedding video – our wedding was seven years ago!

I am sure with practice my videos will improve and my aim is to create some videos which give you an insight into how I work. So those of you who follow this blog and my jewellery business – let me know below what you would like to see.

Thanks for reading.

Jun 03

And the winner is….

In April this year I posted a competition where you could win this hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind Jugendstil pendant.

Jugendstil Heart Pendant - copyright Helen White

Jugendstil Heart Pendant – copyright Helen White

The deadline was Sunday the 1st of June and in total I had 41 entries. I have now chosen the winner – with a little help from Bobby. As cats are not designed to draw a piece of paper out of a hat I had to bribe her with some Felix treats (though she is currently on a diet!).

Hat full of entries - copyright Helen White

Hat full of entries – copyright Helen White

 

Getting Bobby to choose the winnter - copyright Helen White

Getting Bobby to choose the winnter – copyright Helen White

 

After a bit of rummaging around we got there in the end. Yeah :)

Bobby choosing the winning entry - with a little help of some cat treats thrown into the hat - copyright Helen White

Bobby choosing the winning entry – with a little help of some cat treats thrown into the hat – copyright Helen White

Bobby looking for a winner - copyright Helen White

Bobby looking for a winner – copyright Helen White

And the winner is: Irene Mason

Bobby with winning entry - copyright Helen White

Bobby with winning entry – copyright Helen White

Bobby with her cat treats - she's so easy to bribe:) - copyright Hele White

Bobby with her cat treats – she’s so easy to bribe:) – copyright Hele White

Winning entry as chosen by Bobby - copyright Helen White

Winning entry as chosen by Bobby – copyright Helen White

I have contacted Irene, who was very happy about the news and the package is now on its way to her.

Bobby with the wrapped pendant box - copyright Helen White

Bobby with the wrapped pendant box – copyright Helen White

I would like to thank everyone who entered this competition, commented and shared it and subscribed to my newsletter.  Please stay subscribed  – I sometimes offer exclusive discounts and inform you of my latest makes and blog posts (and on average only send it out once a month so not to clog up your inbox. Not everyone follows me on Facebook and Facebook is also very selective with the posts it shows.

I also plan another giveaway later in the year. Oh and if you are interested in buying one of my big heart (or even small heart) pendants – you can find them all here.

Thanks for reading. And please feel free to leave a comment below if you want to.

 

 

 

May 28

Tools I use: Micromesh for sanding

In today’s post I am sharing with you how I sand my polymer clay jewellery using Micro Mesh sanding sheets.

Polymer Clay when baked can look a bit dull and there are two ways to make it shine a little (or a lot). One way is to use varnish – which is sold in gloss, satin or matte. I use varnish mostly when I work with mica powders, inks, metal leaves or foils and Gilder’s paste as all these need to be sealed in to prevent them from rubbing off on clothes. Varnishing isn’t straight forward though – you need decent brushes and patience to get it right and the right varnish – it needs to be water based and you have to use several layers. The result though can look very pretty as you can see with my dichroic range.

The other method is reserved for all designs made just with polymer clay. To achieve a subtle sheen or even a full on glossy sheen the main prep work lies in an awful lot of sanding. Admittedly this is not my favourite part of the process, because it takes ages!

You start out with a 400 wet and dry paper (or even lower such as 240 grit) to get rid of any marks (finger prints) and scratches. I try my best to prevent these in the making stage, but sometimes they sneak in or I only notice them after they are baked. And then I go through up to 9 grits of Micromesh sheets – these are very fine sanding sheets going from 1500 grit, 1800 grit, 2400 grit, 3200 grit, 3600 grit, 4000 grit, 6000 grit, 8000 grit and 12000 grit. Sometimes I leave a few grits out. I dip my clay item in soapy water and gently rub it with the sheet so not to add scratches. Then I wipe it dry and check before moving on to the next grit. I often do this job in front of the telly as it can be a bit boring.

Micromesh for sanding polymer clay - copyight Helen White

Micromesh for sanding polymer clay – copyight Helen White

Micromesh - copyright Helen White

Micromesh back – copyright Helen White

Recently I had to ask my husband to help out, because due to my ongoing shoulder problems I can’t do much sanding as it aggravates my shoulder.So this set,which I will soon add to the website, has been sanded by Mr White.

Pendants sanded with lots of Micromesh - by my husband. Copyright Helen White

Pendants sanded with lots of Micromesh – by my husband. Copyright Helen White

After the sanding is completed the clay pieces are noticeable smoother. For optimal shine though they need to get polished.  Either by hand using an old piece of denim or microfiber cloth used for cleaning or better – using my trusted Dremel with a soft cotton buffing wheel. When polishing I use Renaissance Wax – this not only protects the piece, but enhances the shine.

Some people use their stone tumbler for polishing a lot of beads. I haven’t tried this yet though. Instead of the steel shot you use when polishing precious metals you would add  lots of small pieces of sandpaper in different grits to the polishing barrel. And then you leave the tumbler on for up to a day for each grit and it does the job for you. I am not sure I will try this, mainly because it takes an awful long time.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post – let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

May 14

The story behind this Rose Quartz necklace commission

I love working on commissions – I relish the challenge of finding out what the customer has in mind and working with the customer. So in today’s post I want to share with you how I created this necklace.

Rose Quartz necklace - copyright Helen White

Rose Quartz necklace – copyright Helen White

The customer, Erica, emailed me that she wanted a rose quartz pendant and emailed me a link to one of my own products.

She said she liked the necklace but wanted it with smaller beads and only one main focal. So had a look at my bead stash and took a photo of these two pendants (arrow and a big nugget).

Rose Quartz nugget and arrow pendant - copyright Helen White

Rose Quartz nugget and arrow pendant – copyright Helen White

I also suggested using a pretty Art Deco style pendant like in this necklace. I really like this one.

Jade necklace - copyright Helen White

Jade necklace – copyright Helen White

She emailed back and said she wanted the nugget as a focal. Next I had to ask her how she wanted the focal to sit on the necklace – horizontal or vertical. Again I sent her an example of a necklace I made you can see here.

Swarovski necklace with lamp work heart pendant - copyright Helen White

Swarovski necklace with lamp work heart pendant – copyright Helen White

She wanted it in the vertical style. I also wanted to know if she would like Swarovski crystals and Czech fire polished beads.

Yes, she was happy with the suggestions. Armed with all this info I started creating the focal first and then playing around with the beads on the board until I was happy enough to send her another image – this time of both focal and beads on the board.

Beads layed out on bead board - copyright Helen White

Beads layed out on bead board – copyright Helen White

Detail - bead board 2 - copyright Helen White

Detail – bead board 2 – copyright Helen White

Rose Quartz nugget pendant with fire polished Czech beads and Rose Quarz beads - copyright Helen White

Rose Quartz nugget pendant with fire polished Czech beads and Rose Quarz beads – copyright Helen White

She was happy with both. I expected she might want things re-arranged, so I was pleased with her reply. Next I emailed her a choice of clasps.

Lobster clasp and toggle clasps - copyright Helen White

Lobster clasp and toggle clasps – copyright Helen White

Toggle clasps - copyright Helen White

Toggle clasps – copyright Helen White

She wanted me to use two lobster clasps, as she finds this much easier to open and close. These lobster clasps are 14mm so big and easy enough to open. It’s an interesting solution to a common problem.

Clasps Erica-style - copyright Helen White

Clasps Erica-style – copyright Helen White

Finally I went to work and finished the necklace. Again I sent her photos to make sure she was happy with the result before sending her the invoice.

Erica's necklace - copyright Helen White

Erica’s necklace – copyright Helen White

Detail of finished necklace - copyright Helen White

Detail of finished necklace – copyright Helen White

Next I asked her if she had any special instructions to put on the package.

I sent it international tracked and signed as Erica lives in Germany. And because of last year’s experience with my sister’s package not being delivered in Germany I wrote a big fat note on the package : Bitte Karte hinterlegen falls Kunde nicht da.(Please leave card if customer is not in.)

 A week later I got another email from Erica thanking me for this “gorgeous necklace” and she wrote me this lovely testimonial:

 “When I contacted Helen to commission a rose quartz necklace, I had something very specific in mind. Within just about an hour of sending my request, I got an enthusiastic response from Helen chock full of images and suggestions for how she could turn my ideas into a great piece of jewellery. Helen worked tirelessly and meticulously to craft and tweak the necklace design until it was exactly what I wanted. When it arrived, it was beautifully packaged and replete with a personal note from Helen. If you want something unique, beautiful and made with lots of love, Helenka White Designs is the place to go.”

It made my day – because I love a happy customer.

I hope this gives you a bit of an insight of how I work on commissioned pieces.

Let me know what you think in the comment box below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter.

Thanks for reading.

Apr 17

Do you want to win an original Helenka White Design pendant worth £25? Then read on..

It’s almost Easter as I write this, the sun is shining and I haven’t done a competition in a while. So here it is – a new competition to win this Jugendstil heart pendant.

Jugendstil Heart Pendant - copyright Helen White

Jugendstil Heart Pendant – copyright Helen White

It is big and bold and has been hand-crafted with polymer clay using acrylic paint and Gilder’s paste. After curing it in my little toaster oven I have also varnished it to keep the colours from rubbing off. The heart measures about 8,5 cm in length and is about 6 cm wide (at its widest point). It hangs on a 45 cm silver plated chain which has a silver plated lobster clasp. It normally retails at £25.

I also have a variety of these heart pendants in my shop.

What do you need to do?

If you want to win this pendant all you have to do is subscribe to my mailing list either on the website, or this blog (see side panel) or simply following this link.

Oh and share the competition on your social media :)

If you are already a subscriber you can still win it – but you need to let me know if you want to win it.

The competition deadline is the 1st of June 2014 when I will pick the winner.

Thanks for reading – have a Happy Easter and make sure to leave a comment below and share this post.

This competition has now closed and the winner will be announced in the next blog post.

Apr 12

Our first Cardiff Polymer Clay group meeting

As you know I design a lot with polymer clay. You might also know from my website that I am a member of the British Polymer Clay Guild. I have been a member for some time, but most activities are unfortunately based in England or Scotland and there is one branch in Wales, but it is too far away.

So I decided to start up a branch for Cardiff and those who live relatively close to Cardiff. It took a while to get people interested and I also started a group on Facebook for this branch. Currently we are only eight members – one is from as far as Bristol, one from Merthyr and one from Newport. We all love working with polymer clay and have different styles. In the FB group we exchange info about techniques and tutorials or share our own creations or work from artists we’ve come across and admire. And we try to meet up for a fun clay day. This is of course easier said than done. For starters my home and work space is too small for more than say two people.  And coming up with a date and time everyone can agree on is also tricky. One of our members Sarah Warden-Smith of “Bezeal” is not only a very experienced jewellery designer, but also runs workshops and has enough space for more than two people. So we decided to meet up at her place. Once the venue was agreed on we had to find a date and time. And due to my health problems and various things that were happening with our members it took about four months to organise our first meeting on the 9th of April. Unfortunately I forgot to charge my batteries and could only take a few photos.

Sarah Warden-Smith - copyright Helen White

Sarah Warden-Smith – copyright Helen White

Our meeting was pretty informal and fun – and we want to keep it that way. I brought lots of unhealthy but yummy food from Lidl, Charlie Maber of “Maisie and Maude” had a healthier approach to what we should have for lunch  – quiches and grapes (thanks Charlie :) .

Cardiff Polymer Clay group meeting - copyright Helen White

Cardiff Polymer Clay group meeting – copyright Helen White

We spent the first hour admiring Sarah’s workshop and massive amount of tools (I do fancy that Paragon kiln). We also cuddled her two dogs Masey and Oscar, and I was smitten with her adorable cat Thor, who is an absolute sweetie.

After lunch it was time to decide what we wanted to work on. I brought some tutorial print outs for everyone to choose from. Sarah chose the zipper cane, Charlie the tiger cane, Joie Parris-Lewis of “DillyMillie” chose the brain cane and I wanted to have a go at Donna Kato’s feather cane – but in different colours.

Sarah Warden-Smith and Charlie Maber - copyright Helen White

Sarah Warden-Smith and Charlie Maber – copyright Helen White

While we were all working on our chosen projects we were having a good chat about our businesses. Sarah turned out to be a fountain of knowledge and experience and it was interesting to hear what she had to say about things like hallmarking, craft fairs and pricing.

Charlie Maber and Joie Parris-Lewis - copyright Helen White

Charlie Maber and Joie Parris-Lewis – copyright Helen White

Time really passes by quickly when you are engrossed in clay work. Charlie picked some pretty colours for her project, but found that the instructions I printed out had bits missing and she was so unhappy with her resulting cane that she decided to use the clay for lots of pretty lentil beads. Joie wanted to know how to make these, so Sarah showed us and explained how to create a perfect lentil shape.

I was concentrating on my feather cane for which I picked peacock, pearl, silver and white as colours, so I didn’t quite follow the lentil bead instruction –  I have made some in the past – but they were too big and heavy!

Our canes and beads for the day - copyright Helen White

Our canes and beads for the day – copyright Helen White

Joie created her own version of the brain cane – meaning she didn’t follow the instructions as much, but ended up with the same result. Sarah made the wise decision to stick to small amounts of clay and made a small cane – so hers was quickly finished. And then there was me. Here’s the thing: when I work in groups I tend to be slower. And when I try to learn from instructions it takes me longer to work out what the writer means.  The problem with instructions is  -  most are not written by professional writers, often vital info is missing or you just can’t understand them. So you try to work with the images instead and experiment.

Seeing everyone else getting on with their canes and turning their focus on to lentil beads frustrated me a little as I was still working out how to create the feather bits. Sarah tried her best to explain it to me with Donna’s book, which I have at home. I got there in the end (with a lot of swearing) – but not because I followed the instructions! Which reminds me of my mum (not my swearing!) – she always improvised and experimented with recipes rather than following the instructions to the letter, so I might have inherited that.

I hope I will remember how to create the next feather cane, because – surprise, surprise I really like it. I will use this cane probably for a bangle and a couple of pendants. I don’t want to reduce it for earrings, as reducing it could be tricky and might destroy the shape.

My first feather cane - copyright Helen White

My first feather cane – copyright Helen White

All in all it was a successful and fun first meeting. Everyone came away with new canes and learnt a new technique. We are going to repeat this in summer.

If you are a member of the British Polymer Clay Guild and live in or near Cardiff and want to join our group you can email me via the contact page or check out our group on FB.

I hope you liked reading this post – please don’t hesitate to comment below and share.

 Thanks for reading.

Apr 03

My top tips on how to take jewellery photos – part 2

In last week’s post I shared with you what camera and light sources I use when taking photos of my jewellery. In this week’s post I will talk about what else you need for taking great photos and how I set up my own camera.

A good eye for what makes a great photo

It’s always good to play around with different angles and taking close ups of details such as beads, a signature or an unusual clasp. You might also want to play around with different props. Some people use found objects such as sticks or shells – whatever works for you and looks pleasing to the eye without distracting from your object. I tend to stick to a minimalistic and clean approach, so I use traditional props – mostly white or frosted white busts or acrylic earring stands etc. and my riser – it comes with a frosted white insert and a smooth shiny one and a black frosted/shiny insert. I have to admit I still haven’t quite worked out how best to photograph items with black background and rarely do so –only when I have items with Rose Quartz as you can’t really see the beads against a white backdrop.

Riser with double sided black insert - copyright Helen White

Riser with double sided black insert – copyright Helen White

I recently invested in a black leatherette bust because the velveteen looks fuzzy in photos. I have to experiment with this one and I am toying with the idea of using a greyish gradated backdrop.

 I love my riser as it’s very versatile. I tend to take several photos of my jewellery and upload up to five. I want customers to have a good impression of my pieces – and that includes how it looks on a bust, detailed shots of the items or even the back where appropriate. Sometimes I use the shiny riser which means you can see a reflection of the piece on the surface. I use it for necklaces, bracelets and also for earrings.

Polymyer Clay Pendant from the Dichroic range - copyright Helen White

Polymyer Clay Pendant from the Dichroic range – copyright Helen White

Earrings are notoriously difficult to photograph as they dangle and take a while to stay still – that’s why I tend to take one shot of them on the earring stand and one on the riser.

Polymer clay earrings photographed on the riser. - copyright Helen White

Polymer clay earrings photographed on the riser. – copyright Helen White

 I also take photos in both modes – landscape and portrait. Mainly because some items like bangles and cuffs are better for landscape shots and also in view of using the photos for things like Facebook and Google+ covers and for those landscape photos are better. I also always keep my photos in the original size (which is massive) and the small version. The small version is for the website and social media sites, while the bigger versions are there just in case. For example if a magazine asks for photos you want to have it in a large size, which you can change to the required size. I have not always done this and regretted it as I had to reshoot items. My camera has a function that allows me to resize straight away, but you can easily do it in Photoshop or other editing programs (and with more choice).

 Time & Patience

Yes, you need both – you can’t rush these things. I tend to wait until I have enough items to photograph and photograph them in one session – mainly because setting it all up is a lot of hassle and I don’t want to do it every time a new product is finished. If I have say 12 items or so to photograph it takes me at least two hours – and that’s before uploading them and then choosing the good ones. I always take way more than I will use in the end. This is because I rather have lots to choose from then ending up missing a good shot and then assembling the tent and lights again!

Choosing the best shots and editing them takes at least two hours.

I am not very au fait with editing programs and stick to the minimum – resizing if necessary, rotating and cropping. No retouching. What you see is what you get.

This is why often my customers tell me that my items look even better in real life – and that makes me happy.

 Camera settings I use

This is the set up I use and learnt from the instructions which came with my EZ cube. First I turn off all lights and also close our blinds so I will only rely on the lights which came with the tent. The reason for this is simple – you don’t want to mix your light sources.

If you want to use your tripod do so.

 I then set the wheel of my camera to AV – which stands for Aperture Priority and set it to the highest Aperture in my case this is 8 (it will be different for each camera so check out your camera and familiarise yourself with its settings first). I also make sure the lens is clean.

Aperture Priority - copyright Helen White

Aperture Priority – copyright Helen White

Next thing I set is the Custom White Balance – I do this by going to this section on my camera, point the camera to the back of the cube which I use as my reference white. For a gradated or coloured backdrop you would set the reference white first before placing the backdrop – however I have not used a non-white backdrop yet.

White Balancing - copyright Helen White

White Balancing – copyright Helen White

And then I adjust the Exposure Compensation to +1 1/3 – however I tend to vary this depending on the item I photograph.

Exposure Compensation - copyright Helen White

Exposure Compensation – copyright Helen White

Some items require you to go one higher or lower.  This is also why I end up with way more photos, because I play around with this setting – you can easily over or under expose and you can see the results best on the computer – so I take extra shots.

And these are the basic settings. For close ups I use the macro setting and move the camera close to the object. My camera even has a super macro.

When taking the photo it’s important that you see the green square in your view finder – if it’s yellow the item on the photo will look blurry. Make sure to press your shutter half way down until the green square shows up – you might have to adjust your Exposure Compensation if it shows up yellow. Without taking off your finger press the shutter once your object is in focus. Sometimes it takes a bit of experimenting to get the focus right. When I take shots of the whole bust for example I forget that I use the zoom and when I then want to take the close up shot my camera “complains” and shows me the yellow square. I then turn the camera off and on again and set it to the macro – and hey presto the green square appears.

Necklace with Swarovski Cyrstals and a lamp work heart pendant - copyright Helen White

Necklace with Swarovski Cyrstals and a lamp work heart pendant – copyright Helen White

Taking photos doesn’t have to be super difficult, but it takes time, patience, a good eye and the willingness to experiment and learn. Sometimes I check over the photos on my website and decide to reshoot photos – I want them to look as good possible. And I know that I can still improve on my photography.

 I hope my article has given you a bit of an insight on how I take photos and maybe you could take away some ideas for your own photography. Oh and if you want to know how I watermark my images after editing – I use this program

I would love to hear from you – please leave a comment below and share this post if you like it.

Thanks for reading.

 

Mar 28

My top tips on how to take jewellery photos – part 1

People often ask me “How do you take photos of your jewellery? Is it difficult?” No, it’s not difficult, but it requires effort and the willingness to learn. So in today’s post I want to share with you how I take my photos.

Owl Pendant in Polymer Clay - copyright Helen White

Owl Pendant in Polymer Clay – copyright Helen White

I often see business pages on Facebook selling their products with extremely fuzzy photos – not only fuzzy, but often they look cluttered, have a busy background, the product hasn’t been arranged in an appealing manner and you only get one view of the product. I don’t know about you – but that really doesn’t entice me to buy anything from these pages – it just looks unprofessional and I am not sure I can trust that the products these people sell are any good. I suspect the page owners just use their smart phone and point and shoot and hope something sells.

The majority of my customers order online. They rely on my honest and accurate description and more importantly on my photos to get a good idea on what my jewellery looks like. And this is why I use a neutral background (a white vinyl canvass and a white riser) and take plenty of shots of my items at different angles. With my polymer clay designs I also show the back of my items – because some of them have a lovely texture and my signature in form of a cane piece or engraved. My photos are not retouched – the only thing I do in Photoshop is I crop them to size (and if necessary rotate them). This is why you might see a finger print on the clay.

I don’t claim to be a great photographer at all – I have taught myself from instructions and am still learning and also eyeing up new tools like an overhead light and a gradated background.

Anyway, there are four things you need when photographing your products.

  1. A decent camera
  2. Lots of light
  3. A good eye for what makes a great photo
  4. Time & Patience

 A decent camera

Ideally you have a DSLR camera, however these don’t come cheap and these days you can get non DSLR cameras which work just fine. When my old Canon Powershot A75 died (it produced pink stripes) I had to get a new camera quickly. The people from the Table Top Studio, where we got my light tent from, helped me finding the right camera for my budget. To take good shots of your products your camera needs to have a good macro for close ups, you also need Custom White Balance, Exposure Compensation and Aperture Priority (on the little wheel it’s AV). Not all cameras have all  these functions – our Ixus 800IS for example has no Aperture Priority.

My camera - copyright Helen White

My camera – copyright Helen White

We ended up buying the Canon Power Shot SX20 IS (it’s about four years old so it might have been replaced by a newer model by now). It’s a great camera with a brilliant macro. I can also make small videos with it and it also has a 20x Zoom – so it’s a good all-rounder. And it comes also with an Image Stabilizer and has 12.1 Mega Pixels. The image stabilizer is useful because I never use my tripod – mainly because I tend to get very close to my objects for detailed shots using the macro and with this camera it’s best to take it in your hand. It’s fairly heavy and I have quite a steady hand. However, some cameras might work slightly different and you want to use a tripod with it.

Lots of light

Ideally you can make use of lots of sun and shoot your items in daylight. Unfortunately I live in cloudy and rainy Cardiff – the sun is rarely out and when it is I find it tricky to avoid harsh shadows. The next best thing is a light tent and at least two daylight lamps. You can find cheap light tent and light sets on eBay or you can make one yourself. There are plenty of tutorials on the internet – here’s a link to one of them – and here.

My light tent - copyright Helen White

My light tent – copyright Helen White

My husband bought me the EZ Cube Kit 20. It came with a 20”x20” cube, a smaller 12”x12” cube, instructions, technical support for a year, and instructional DVD and two 30W 5000K High CRI Trumpet Top Daylight Balanced Compact Fluorescent Bulbs fitted on table top stands (you can get larger ones) It’s not cheap, but it was a Christmas present (I usually ask for tools for my business). He bought it from the Table Top Studio and I can highly recommend them, because their customer service is great. They helped me with several questions and advised me which camera to buy as mentioned above.

Riser with shiny and frosted surface - copyright Helen White

Riser with shiny and frosted surface – copyright Helen White

I also invested in a riser with different inserts, a brush to keep the riser and busts dust free and a white vinyl background sweep to keep the background neutral.

Tent with riser, brush and props. copyright Helen White

Tent with riser, brush and props. copyright Helen White

And this is it for part one – please check out the second part next week,where I show you what camera settings I use and go into detail with points 3 and 4.

Thanks for reading – and please leave a comment or /and share the post on your social media.

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