My Five Favourite Photo Apps for the iPhone

afterlight

mexturesabeautifulmess

I’m a point and shoot kinda gal.  I admire people with fancy cameras– I look at them like they are carrying tardises (tardi?) around their necks.  Yeah, the idea sounds great but how would you make sense of all the buttons and dials and stuff? I’m no photographic Time Lord.

plasticbulletI was slow to come to smart phones (see previous Luddite posts) but once I did I realized the camera is intuitive and made for monkey photographers like myself.  The first photo editing app I loved was Plastic Bullet. It hasn’t been updated since 2011, and I kind of wish they would update it; even if more sophisticated tools are available now.  I loved the fruit machine/jackpot aspect– the results seemingly randomized.

Edited using Afterlight and A Beautiful Mess
Edited using Afterlight and A Beautiful Mess

I still take most of my product photography with a point and shoot camera, but increasingly I’ve started to use my iphone for certain images, to execute specific ideas or edit and post on the go.

A Beautiful Mess– A self-titled photo editing app by lifestyle bloggers, this is useful for cute overlays and suprisingly lovely filters.  It offers  a quick and dirty way to add text and visual interest for sale graphics, though to be honest I use it mostly for personal stuff, as I find scaling to change the size of the font very fiddly.   Still, I have used it on the fly satisfyingly.

Ingredients for the Old School Goth glasses chains, edited with Instagram
Ingredients for the Old School Goth glasses chains, edited with Instagram

Instagram, how I love thee. I almost forgive you for being owned by Facebook. Not only is it a wonderful source of community and daily inspiration for me, it’s a nifty photo editor.  Perhaps the filters a cliche but with the new, subtler ones, I still embrace them.

Afterlight is a filtering app with more subtle-to-dramatic variations available. It also has a useful framing feature with prints available that are all pretty adorable.

My tarot necklace, image edited with Snapseed.
My tarot necklace, image edited with Snapseed.

Snapseed– Google’s photo editing app has been updated but I am using the old version.  If you are using the new one, how is it? I have not heard good things and I love it so, I’m unwilling to update it to the latest version.  The grunge filter makes me nostalgic for Plastic Bullet, and has a bit of that random, luck-of-the-draw feeling. I love especially the Drama filter to set and instant mood, especially when I’m photographing landscapes, architecture or certain jewellery.  The HDR scape when used sparingly, can really bring out the colour and texture of not-so-great phone photos.  I’m sure if I actually invested in a DSLR and learned to use it I would be much better off but until then, Snapseed is a life saver.

Self portrait, edited with Mextures.
Self portrait, edited with Mextures.

Mextures is my all time favourite editing app. It’s fair to say I’m obsessed with it.  Though I don’t use it for product photography often, it trumps all when it comes to creating a photograph that communicates the feeling of the place or thing you are trying to capture.  It is quite a painterly app, where you layer filters and textures infinitely or minimally to create images that are either subtly enhanced or completely altered and abstracted.

What are your favourite photo editing apps? How do you use them?

5 Reasons to Bail on the Day Job Culture

wonderwomanEtsy has a “Quit Your Day Job” feature on their blog where they interview an Etsy seller about their life and process. I enjoy these features even if they didn’t resonate with me most of the time.  For starters, I didn’t even have a job, much less a day job.  What is a day job anyway? I’m assuming this comes from the quip artists often hear as a criticism of their ambition to live off their work–“Don’t quit your day job.”

I dislike this idea that in order to be a successful artist you have to be totally commercial and if you weren’t you would have to work in some soul-killing job for the right to make your art at night.  Meanwhile, the entire culture benefits from artists working for free.  But I digress!

After teaching Argumentation and Research and Creative Writing at University of California Irvine and various colleges for eight years, I found myself in England, chronically over-qualified and unemployed.  I had no real job for over 6 years, yet I hadn’t given up on the “day job” culture.  I still scoured want ads, sent out resumes or CVs and went to the rare, humiliating interviews, basically the whole soul-killing process of looking for work when you are a “creative type” that doesn’t fit in the cubicle.  One of my friends shook her head and said “Yeah, the tentacles always show” no matter how you try to duct tape them away.

I have so many creative friends who are in the same boat. The thing is, the internet is on our side.  There has never been a better time to be a creator.  I will blog about the pros and cons, and more small business advice in future posts but this one is for the dreamers among you, the ones who are selling their work, doing it online or thinking of doing it.

Instead of “quit your day job” I’d like to dub this “Bail on the Day Job Culture and Make Your Own Life”, and here are 10 Reason why you should:

biz_cat1. Be the CEO of your life. One of the myriad grunt jobs I’ve had in the UK was processing expense reports at Goldman Sachs. Through the perversity of this situation I learned some money smarts but also that being chained to someone else’s priorities to make a profit no matter what didn’t make sense. I didn’t set out to run a business– in fact that is a topic for another post. My handmade business grew, and when it it rivalled my earnings in corporate hell, I realised I was the one to decide what the business was about, and how big or small I wanted it to be– how I wanted it to fit in my life. That was incredibly freeing.

A coven of witch balls- a recent custom order based on my miniature witch balls.
A coven of witch balls- a recent custom order based on my miniature witch balls.

2. Bring Play back into work. A lot of what I do is admin stuff, packaging and shipping, internet juggling and tweaking, not really spending 24-7 with my creative vision. When something sells well I have to make hundreds of that one thing, but I still have time for playing with my materials. The most wonderful part of my job is actually messing around– making new designs, exploring  processes. While the minority of my time is spent on this, it is the thing that drives my shop.  Everything else I do is to enable this playful space to happen.

3. Schedule your time the way it make sense to you. Running your own business means you know how long things take, when they need to be done and what needs to be done at any given moment. (Or if you don’t  you should! That is for another post). When you know this, it means suddenly time is flexible. The biggest challenge for me has been including my own life and needs in this schedule.  That is new this year.  All my work expanding and contracting time has meant I can make time for myself by changing my hours around.

Odalisque in Striped Trousers by Henri Matisse
Odalisque in Striped Trousers by Henri Matisse

4. Live in yoga trousers.  OK, so I do take yoga and stretching breaks during the day so the yoga trousers work, but insert the schelp-wear of your choice here.  I don’t have to wear a suit like I did at the investment bank, or “smart casual” or whatever other perverse non-uniform an office requires.  Right now I’m wearing fleecy slippers, yoga trousers, a tee shirt with a howling wolf on it, a hoodie a fleece body warmer and my Boudicca glasses chain. I feel well professional, let me tell you.

5. Work for and with people who get you. This is probably the biggest benefit for me. I have had a couple of wonderfully compassionate and fun bosses in my life but I confess most were absolutely insane, like working for the Queen of Hearts.  I’m so glad I no longer have to anticipate the whims of a mad person. I’m still looking for a dependable employee to help me with admin, but on the flip side, almost all my customers are amazingly supportive, likeable folk.  Every morning when I sit down to work, I think of the orders that have come in, or my regular customers and what they love, and that puts my day in perspective. If you start your handmade or creative business and remain sincere, the right customers will find you and everything will feel like a collaboration.

Temporal Witchery for the Micro Business Owner

durer_melancholia_i

The new year begins with the best intentions, changes to be put in place, new goals to be met. If you run a one-woman business, these changes have to be made real with a daily, weekly and monthly practice.  Having just revamped my various schedules, I thought it would be a good time to share some of it with you.

For the past three and a half years my handmade business has grown from a hobby-based whim to a full time job. It didn’t just grow by happenstance; I had a plan.

This plan changes every year and involves daily, weekly, monthly and yearly tasks. Yearly accounting and taxes must be done.  Holiday planning begins in the summer and each year I set myself a goal of a skill I would like to master. Last year it was cold-forging, this year it’s soldering.

Monthly tasks are scheduled for different weeks of the month:

  • The Feral Newsletter must be written (Subcribe here: http://eepurl.com/ADxaX)
  • the Birthday Club must be alerted. (Are you part of the fabulous Birthday Club? Special birthday greetings and savings await you! To join, send an email to feralstrumpet.info @ gmail.com with FERAL BIRTHDAY as the subject and the day and month of your birth as the content.)
  • And of course there is the Google Analytics glean once every full moon, give or take a phase.

Weekly, I:

  • make orders and new stock
  • log expense receipts
  • blog (or try to!)
  • source supplies,
  • take and edit photos.
  • post new listings to http://www.feralstrumpet.net as well as Etsy
  •  schedule interesting social media posts for  Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook. This is something that has definitely changed over the years. Facebook and Etsy have changed their policies and attitudes toward mirco businesses,  and the one-woman shop has to invent other places to be seen and heard..
  • And somewhere in the week a day must be devoted to self-care and nurturing the creativity that drives it all.  This is definitely new this year– I’ve learned this is a necessity.

There are also tasks that must be completed daily:

  • Emails answered
  • orders wrapped up
  • Packages taken to the post office
  • inventory updated
  • As well as a monthly and weekly tasks broken into doable chunks on an ongoing basis.

The first thing I do every morning is write out these “chunks” with a big circle next to them.  I number these in the order they must be done and I get to colour them in when they are completed. I find this totally satisfying and necessary before I move on to the next task.  It’s the little things, right? And it’s been little things, or big things made little, that have allowed me and my business to flourish.

Maybe that’s why I love making momento mori inspired jewellery– they are a reminder that how you spend your limited time gives life meaning!

 

Small Business Saturday

smallbizsat

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday and to celebrate I’m offering free domestic UK shipping all day with coupon code SMALLBIZSAT at both feralstrumpet.co.uk and my Etsy shop.

Shopping small can often mean shopping local. That’s why I’m offering free shipping to my neighbours on this island.  It’s interesting to note that this holiday season my customer base in the UK is growing exponentially.  Was it the Etsy UK ads? Word of mouth taking hold? Or my own work at UK-based SEO? It’s a mystery to me but I’m grateful. Etsy brought many international customers, many Americans as well as others from all over the world, but very few British customers. This has changed, and perhaps it’s because people are coming around to the idea of shopping local.  Compared to the US the UK is very small– the size of Florida. When I ship something to a UK customer, I can picture where they live, what it’s like there. Sometimes I wonder if I might know them or if they are a friend of a friend.  The shared geography heightens the connection that is already a strong one between maker and the potential wearer of a piece.

As a small business this time of year is particularly challenging; you are competing to be heard over the shouts of the mega businesses, hoping to reach your customers without also having to resort to shouting.

By buying small you get something unique, you support diversity in the marketplace, and best of all, you are investing in the dreams and hopes of the underdog, the little guy, people like me.

Shop Small this Friday and Save Big

Black_Friday24It’s the Blackest of Fridays and I’m offering 20% off at both my independent shop as well as my Etsy shop with coupon code BLACKFRIDAY.  It’s good for 24 hours, starting at 7am GMT. (offer can’t be used on reserved items, custom orders or retroactivley).

While many resist this, the darkest day of shopping, why not shine a light on your choices as a consumer? Choose to support small, microbusinesses like mine and know that not only are you getting a good deal and a unique handmade gift, you are also helping subvert the dominant business paradigm by helping an one-woman business flourish (might I say against all odds?)

 

The Future of Etsy

This is my one-woman workspace.  Chaos is free.
This is my one-woman workspace. Chaos is free.

This is a picture of my workspace. It ain’t pretty, but it’s where pretty things are made. It’s my one woman factory.

Etsy made big news a couple of weeks ago when it announced that factory made goods and drop shipping would now be allowed on the site.  Drop shipping allows for factories to make many of something and send it to a third party to be shipped out.

For many who shop on Etsy to have a clearer connection with the people who make what they wear and use every day, this is going to be confusing. For one-woman businesses who do it all and have built their shops on Etsy and earn their livelihood there, this may be devastating.

What this will mean for small businesses like myself is invisibility, as Etsy’s search becomes flooded with products you can find on Amazon or Ebay. Some are saying Etsy may be bought by Amazon in the future, and there are many changes Etsy has made internally that have already shaped it to be more like Amazon.

While this will mean challenges for me as a seller, if there is anything I have learned in the two and a half years of building my business, anything is possible as long as you have a little mountain goat attitude. It is time to evolve. I’ll be sharing these changes– a new online shop, other online selling communities– as I make these changes.

I have started by creating my own independent online shop.

What I mourn is my experience as a buyer on Etsy.  I could easily find the products of creative hands and get the feel of an individual’s vision, a glimpse of her creative process and in some way engage with this. This could be found easily through Etsy’s internal search engine, which may now be flooded with factory made goods.

Michael Wolf's Photo of a Chinese Factory Worker
Michael Wolf’s Photo of a Chinese Factory Worker

Oddly, as more and more sellers bemoan the “Made in China” goods sold at prices with which small living room operations like myself can’t compete, I have wondered what handmade means, and what I have in common with the workers in these Chinese Factories.

Around the same time Etsy’s CEO made this announcement, I found this photo essay by Michael Wolf of Chinese Factory Workers and the Toys they make.  Now that Etsy is featuring “artists” whose work is made by “interns”, I’m fantasizing about what Etsy’s coverage of selected makers will look like when the factory workers, like the women in Michael Wolf’s photos, get to speak.  It is of course a fantasy.

This is a missed opportunity– rather than Etsy reaching out to international cooperatives that might be working with free trade models and broadening its international focus to bring goods to its conscious, savvy shoppers, it’s totally confusing things and going for profit margins, betraying all the hard working one-person shops who’ve worked hard publicising the site and making Etsy what it is today.

While my hours are sometimes very long, and my callouses are painful, I still don’t have the resources for interns and personal assistants. The new Etsy would like to cater to sellers who outsource the making of their goods because it means more volume and money for them. The decision makers at Etsy are looking a lot like the big businesses insisting on the bottom line, and the creative hands and hearts that originally built the site are ransomed in the process.