Crafty little number

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One of the reasons I turned to photography is because I was completely hopeless at any other form of art. My paintings look like they’ve been done by a three year-old and even my stickmen are proportionally challenged.

My wife, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Anything she turns her hand to creatively, she’s very good at. Recently, that creativity has been directed towards old pieces of furniture that she’s revived using the ‘shabby chic’ technique. Don’t worry, she’s not taking beautiful mahogany pieces that she’s daubing in chalk paint and then sanding them to within an inch of their wooden lives. Nope, we’re talking unloved bits of furniture that most people would just take to the skip.

I’ve suggested to her on more than one occasion that when she creates these pieces, she should photograph the progress and blog about how they’re created. So when she tackled her latest project, I offered to shoot the images for her – using a Fujifilm X-A2 – just so she could see what was possible.

Here’s how the shoot evolved…

DSCF9371Getting established

The work is normally carried out in our garage, but given that various rusting bicycles, cardboard boxes and garden equipment don’t create a very flattering backdrop, I convinced her to do this little milking stool in our back garden, wrestling the kitchen table out there to provide her with a working surface. Once that was done, I quickly set up this establishing shot, which shows the constituent parts and the stool before anything was done.

DSCF9363Going through the motions

Over the next couple of hours, my wife went about weaving her artistic magic on to the stool and I busied myself taking photographs every step of the way. Naturally, these shots could be put into a specific order for a detailed blog, but this selection primarily shows some of the steps and the different angles I chose. I rarely asked her to pose, instead it was just a case of observing what was going on and moving into the right position to get the best angle.

Pass the time shooting incidentals

Although the chalk paint she used dries very quickly, there was still time to capture some incidental images as we waited for the paint to dry properly. This gave me the perfect opportunity to capture various detail images that add a lifestyle look and feel to the shoot. There was no setting up, I just shot all these objects as I found them, opting instead to change lenses and vary viewpoints to create interest.

Finished work

Once she’d done, I took a final shot in the same place as the starting shot and then took a second shot using a chair that she’d created a few days earlier. All ready to blog and sell!

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DSCF9480The camera

xa2 screenV2Along with the Fujifilm X-A2, I shot using three lenses – the standard XC16-50mm, the XF60mm macro and the XF35mm F2. I think the results speak from themselves. Minimal post production was required and the images are bright, vibrant and super-sharp. The flip out screen on the camera was ideal, giving me the option to shoot down low and also hold the X-A2 above head out and shoot straight down on to the table. The version I used – black & silver – appealed to my wife’s artistic eye too, plus with the WiFi functionality, she was able to transfer shots to her smartphone and share them quickly and easily on social media.

Funnily enough, a couple of days after I took these images, I found my wife using the camera and it has since been found along with her paints and brushes. I’m expecting a blog to be started imminently!

Product photography with the X-A2

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By LAURA HARVEY

Photos are super-important for anyone selling online – our customers aren’t able to pick up our products. They can’t get a feel for our cards, prints or mugs as they would in a traditional bricks and mortar shop.


Although we have stockists in the real world, we also sell our products online via our own website, as well as on marketplaces such as notonthehighstreet.com and etsy. These are ultra-competitive marketplaces, with a lot of products all shouting for attention. Type ‘birthday cards’ into etsy and you get 184,757 (and counting) results.

Having an eye-catching design and an appealing price can only take you so far. You need strong SEO and, just as importantly, professional-looking product shots.

This isn’t only important for catching a customer’s eye, but also for getting the attention of the people running these sites, who will promote products with superior photography.

That’s why we love using the X-A2.

I had been using an old DSLR, which did a job for us, but was a bit of a pain for my partner Jack, who has very little camera experience (he claims to have taken GCSE Photography many years ago, but you’d never know) to use on a day-to-day basis.

The X-A2 is far more intuitive, operating more like the compacts he’s used to from family holidays and so on.

Having a camera we can both use makes taking product shots – and promotional photos for our social media posts – a breeze.

We work from home, in a spare room converted into a store room for all our cards, packaging material, mug press, printers, blank mugs… you get the picture. Oh and this room also doubles as our photo studio. This means that when we need to photograph our products, we have to do a quick transformation of our designated packing area into a mini photo studio. The quicker we can do this, the better. So being able to stick the X-A2 on to our tripod and shoot away is a real bonus.

Of course, we’re not just limited to the studio and with the X-A2 being so lightweight and compact, it has joined us on our travels this summer, including a long-awaited visit to Wimbledon (on the hottest day of the year, no less) which meant I was able to get some great photos that I will treasure forever.


In a nutshell, here are our 10 favourite things about the X-A2

Image quality.

What can we say? When we want a bright, sharp image to show off our colourful designs the X-A2 does not let us down. This gives our customers the closest experience possible to actually picking up the products in their own hands.

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Reduced noise at a low ISO.

I knew that the photos I had taken with my DSLR had more noise on them than I’d like, even at ISO 100, but it wasn’t until I blew up an old image and one taken on the X-A2 side by side that I noticed just how grainy the old photos were in comparison. When your main selling tool is a product shot, quality is everything and could make a huge difference to the overall appearance of our online shop.

Selfies.

You can flip the screen over the top of the camera body and take a mean selfie (Jack particularly likes this feature. Boys…)

Exposure preview.

Being able to preview the exposure before shooting is really time-saving. Our studio doesn’t always have the best light, it’s natural and changes in seconds. With the X-A2 I can keep adjusting and previewing the exposure quickly and easily, which saves heaps of time.

Liveview.

The liveview screen is ultra clear, exceptionally responsive and tiltable. I hadn’t really fully appreciated the point of an tiltable liveview screen until I started using the X-A2. Our studio space-cum-photography studio is pretty pokey, with stacks of cards, boxes of envelopes and postage tubes all coming in and out all the time. Being able to tilt the screen rather than stand back and crouch down makes photography a pleasure rather than a chore.

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It ain’t heavy.

How can a camera packed with so much clever stuff be so lightweight? It must have come from the future. Going back to the DSLR after using this is like trying to pick up a Rottweiler when you’re used to a Pomeranian.

Hip to be square.

The square format mode is a big bonus for us. The standard photo format on our website and notonthehighstreet.com is square, so this not only saves us time in cropping, but also helps us to shoot specifically with these websites in mind. Seeing the crop in camera first, rather than having to imagine a square crop from a landscape or portrait image is a huge benefit for us.

Battery life.

We kicked the heck out of the battery, really going to town on what we thought would be real energy-sapping sessions of lengthy liveview use, but the X-A2 just kept on keeping on.

Wireless transfer.

Being able to zap the files straight over from the X-A2 to our computer, tablet or phone not only makes us feel a bit like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, but saves time and, teamed up with the square format, makes Instagram a doddle.

It looks cool.

Well, it does, doesn’t it?


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After a few weeks of launching new products – and mainly studio-based work, we’re keen to get the X-A2 out on the road to get some great new content for our blog. Watch this space…


Laura Harvey is the founder and designer at Paper Plane

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