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Drowning, Strangled, Suffocating in Plastic -- and Experimenting with Images

This series of posts has reviewed the photographic documentation of the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace.  The formats included a standard plain white background, a mannequin, and a posed live model.  I had one more rather radical idea that I wanted to reveal in a post before a final comparison of all the formats. Model dress rehersal practicing post 
I had an idea of creating a photographic image that could possibly convey a larger environmental message rather than strictly focusing on documenting the necklace.  

Creativity_incThis post shows the progression of this photographic experiment.  The step-by-step images illustrate the evolution of my idea and highlight the reality that most projects are not fully coherent at the initial conception.  All too often we forget the trials and tribulations during the hours of preparation and the work that it takes to bring an idea to reality.   There can be lots of mistakes along the way, and that is O.K.  If you ever read the book, Creativity, Inc * you will hear numerous anecdotes about Pixar's ideas, storylines and characters that required tenacious development, multiple iterations, mistakes, and revelations all the way through.

For my photo experiment, I took tangible steps at the very beginning and planned to give it time to evolve.  I sewed the sheer organza dress and reserved an evening for a practice session with Jen, the live model, in my living room -- literally a dress rehearsal (shown above.) 

Then on the next day, the experimental postures that seemed to work best in my living room were photographed at Philip Cohen's studio (shown below.)  We were trying to portray what drowning or floating in a deluge of plastics looks like.

model practicing postures for photo shoot with Black Plastic Gyre Necklace

A couple of experimental postures were just the beginning..... 

model practicing on the saw horses for experimental image

Photoshop magic took out the sawhorse support for the photo (below.)

model practicing drowning for experiment with Black Plastic Gyre Necklace

Then the image was handed off to my daughter, Aryn Shelander, a professional graphic expert for more Photoshop experimentation. Aryn was very supportive of the photo experiment idea and took on responsibility for the final result. 

I saved a few of the many iterations as Aryn sent progress reports to me and asked for creative direction. Below are screen grabs as the modified photo developed.  I will also admit that it took lots of back and forth iterations to figure out exactly what to do to get the intended imaginary.   It was a trial and error effort that evolved throughout.

Black Plastic Gyre Necklace experiment very blue
Experimental Iteration #1

For example, we decided that  Experimental Iteration #1 was too blue. 

Next, Experimental Iteration #2 (below), we tried changing the colors of the water

Black Plastic Gyre Necklace with variable water
Experimental Iteration #2

In a further evolution, Iteration #3 (below ), we changed the color of the deeper water and added the cityscape to appear that it was also submerged in water.

Black Plastic Gyre Necklace with underwater flooded city
Experimental Iteration #3 

With these details, the image and my intended message were converging.

In Experimental Iteration #4 below, we added some floating trash in the water and added 
a shadow under the necklace to make it appear that it is suspended near the bottom.    

Black Plastic Gyre Necklace submerged in climate change metaphor
Experimental Iteration #4

In Experimental Iteration #5 (below) the water is murkier.  This is a nice effect, but it also made it too hard to see the necklace. 

Black Plastic Gyre Necklace 6 with dity murky water
Experimental Iteration #5

Aryn decided that the necklace needed more clarity.

In this final version (Iteration #6 below), a little extra contrast helps the necklace to show up a bit more. 

 Black Plastic Gyre Necklace cityscape 7 with trash

Experiment Iteration #6 final

Iteration #6, above, is the tentative final photo for my radical experiment.  Aryn and I decided to stop at this point and think about it for a while. As of this post, this photo experiment has taken close to three weeks of development including Photoshop iterations. 

A tip from the Photoshop professionals is to create separate layers for the various effects so that you can push and pull, change, or alter each element separately.    

The hardest part for me was to realize that the necklace and the model were now components of a different artwork -- the photo.  The Black Plastic Gyre Necklace is literally submerged in the larger message about climate change, plastic pollution, and the impact of plastic in the oceans strangling marine animals and fish.

Your opinions are most welcome. What do you think? I look forward to hearing what you may have to say.



Previous Posts in this series about photographing the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace:

Photography -- Model Challenges & Working Out the Details

Photography -- Mannequin Needed! Rent, Buy, or Borrow? Basic or Stylized?

Photography and The Plain White Background

Photography - More than Documentation?


Photography -- Model Challenges & Working Out the Details

Working with a live model requires a lot more planning than any other option for photographing jewelry or art clothing.  Finding a model is the first challenge. A close friend agreed to model, but I would have loved to have had more model options just to experiment. 

Clothing for the model becomes a critical issue. While planning for the photographic documentation of the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace, I purchased two white dance dresses plus sewed a transparent organza dress. Just sewing up the dress was a stress test in itself.  Twelve hours of stitching double layers of slippery sheer organza without knowing if it would fit, look good, function well, or live up to the vision I had for this photo shoot. 

We started with a dress rehearsal in my living room (shown below) and practiced a full range of movements and poses.

test photo shoot with dress

adjusting the models dress at Phil Cohen PhotographicYou can not imagine my relief! The dress fit perfectly but I had all kinds of contingency plans for a nip and tuck emergency sew.  During the dress rehearsal, Jen Ohara (the model) and I reviewed underwear options and practiced the poses. Every detail counts. Ultimately we decided to have her wear one of the dance costumes and the organza dress at the same time which gave more layers of fabric. 

Before the actual photography even began at Philip Cohen Photographic, I am snipping at raw edges of the fabric edge. It is hard to know in advance what the camera will ignore and what the camera will see as a major flaw.

If I could make any recommendation when using a model in addition to all the advance preparation, it is to have an extra person as an assistant.  I knew this but didn't have anyone to help this time.  Thus you see me in the photos below at Philip Cohen photo studio making all the adjustments to the model and the necklace.  The necklace was long and heavy.  Sometimes we needed two people just to move it.working with a model phil Cohen Photographic
During a photo shoot with a live model, an assistant can step in to make each of the adjustments while you keep your eye on the bigger picture. When I had to go into the camera frame for each adjustment, it was very hard to see everything.

I would move into the frame, change the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace, model, dress, fan, and move out of the camera view for an inspection.  It was all distracting and time-consuming, and I never had time to study the composition. 

photographing with a model at Philip Cohen Photographic

In two hours we tried several poses, standing, sitting, and a few unusual postures for an experimental photographic composition.  (This will be next week's post as the Photoshop iterations still need work.)  Modeling can be tiring as well.  Jen had to balance on two saw horses as just one example. 

Model balancing on two saw horses

Model photo shoot at Philip Cohen Photographic







This was the third photoshoot in five days.  Both Phil Cohen and I were getting progressively more tired.  Creativity takes energy. I am still having decision fatigue

A few of the final contending images (from over 100 possibilities) are shown below. There is some variability in the exposure. Ignore that issue. It will be fixed. (These are the proof shots for review rather than the final photos.)

Let me know what you think of the different poses of the model and layout of the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace. Pick your favorite.

Model photo shoot at Philip Cohen Photographic
Model shot #2
Model photo shoot at Philip Cohen Photographic
Model shot #3
Model at philip Cohen Photographic
Model shot #4
Model photo shoot at Philip Cohen Photographic
Model shot #5




Model Shot #6





Model photo shoot at Philip Cohen Photographic
Model shot #7









I'd appreciate hearing about your opinions about the images.



Posts in this series about photographing the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace: 

Photography -- Model Challenges & Working Out the Details

Photography -- Mannequin Needed! Rent, Buy, or Borrow? Basic or Stylized?

Photography and The Plain White Background

Photography - More than Documentation?


Photography -- Mannequin Needed! Rent, Buy, or Borrow? Basic or Stylized?

Phil Cohen photography using a mannequin
While photographing the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace I wanted to try using a mannequin to provide scale and to see the necklace worn with the neutral context that a mannequin can provide.

Suzanne Ramljak, t
he curator for the upcoming exhibition, Uneasy Beauty,  also told me that she would like a mannequin photo in the exhibition catalog for the Fuller Craft Museum. That declaration raises a huge expectation that the mannequin shot needs to be very good, but I am not sure the images using the mannequin shots deliver.  See for yourself in this post. (The next post will showcase the model photos.)  

Since I was committed to at least trying a mannequin photo session, the next question was whether to rent, borrow, or buy a mannequin? 

Borrowing proved to be impossible.  One artist friend did offer her inventory of many mannequins, but she only had mannequins with black painted bodies. That would not work for a black necklace.  I felt that a white mannequin form would be necessary to provide high contrast for photographing a black necklace.

Ultimately, I decided to rent a mannequin and Mannequin Madness in Oakland , CA was recommended to me.

Mannequin Madness in Oakland, CA

Mannequin Madness (shown above) turned out to be a fabulous resource for renting or buying. They have mannequins of every kind and description. 

shape for photography session at Mannequin Madness

Mannequin Madness also has an area set aside for photography with a plain white background paper ready to go. They also have photography lights. This is all available for $30 an hour with a two-hour minimum and they will let you use 2 mannequins or dress forms in their warehouse included in the price. That is a real bargain!   

Available for an additional fee are tripods and "ghost mannequins".  Check out the Mannequin Madness website. Even if you don't live in the San Francisco Bay Area, they do ship and have other locations.  

I rented a mannequin for $90 for a week. P
erhaps if I had more time, I would have considered buying a used mannequin that needed a new layer of paint to refresh her appearance, but I had no time for cosmetic mannequin repair during the week-long photographic marathon.

The vast diversity of mannequins also raised a number of issues that I had not considered until looking at all the options at Mannequin Madness. Some of the mannequins had no heads or no arms.  Some had stylized hands, hair, and faces that would not work for this necklace photoshoot. There were other factors or potential options that I didn't fully appreciate until later.  On the mannequin that I selected, the arms detach for transport, great, but they only attach to the body in a fixed position. Nuts! I could not pose the arm differently or bend the elbow.  And the legs were ridiculously skinny, so skinny that I didn't like looking at them head on.

One feature that I prioritized was natural looking hands (despite the oblique face) when I selected a mannequin.  I also wanted a seamless neck and head for the image that I visualized in my mind before the photoshoot even began.  Here is how it turned out below. 

Mannequin close-up image

Mannequin Photo #1

I think this is a good image. The photo shows a close-up with lots of detail. The necklace fragments have a high contrast profile against the white background and mannequin. Using the mannequin in this pose also provided a more traditional jewelry necklace shot. The downside is that you can not see how long the necklace actually is -- 26 feet long. 

 Photographer Philip Cohen and I worked together for hours on the mannequin photos (shown below). Moving a 26 feet long necklace is not easy.  The Black Plastic Gyre Necklace is far heavier and more delicate than you might expect. The length was easily tangled or twisted and it does have a bottom side so that it can lay properly without damaging itself. 

Below are the best of the mannequin images from perhaps 75 shots. They present a variety of compromises.
 What do you think? Do you have a favorite? Let me know.

Mannequin 2HB61-9154-Edit     Mannequin Photo #2 
MannequinHB61-9159-FIN-55Mannequin Photo #3
Mannequin3HB61-9188Mannequin #4








MannequinHB61-9211Mannequin #5
MannequinHB61-9242-Edit-EditMannequin #6



























The final mannequin image (#6) uses the mannequin without putting the necklace on the body. While I think it is an interesting image and provides scale for the necklace, I don't think it shows the necklace to best advantage.  

Which photo would you pick as best choice? 

The next post is about using a live model and what I think turned out to be the best photographic shots despite the trade-offs and obstacles.



Previous Posts in this series about photographing the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace:

Photography -- Model Challenges & Working Out the Details

Photography -- Mannequin Needed! Rent, Buy, or Borrow? Basic or Stylized?

Photography and The Plain White Background

Photography - More than Documentation?


Photography and The Plain White Background

Photo image #1

For the first photo shoot of the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace, I used plain white paper background. This is possibly the most conservative approach to documenting the artwork.  It also gave photographer Philip Cohen practice with lighting and exposure for the challenging black-on-black textures.

Out of the 75+ images Cohen took in three hours, the goal now is to select just a few of the best.  I pay for each image that I decide to keep, therefore I need to choose wisely.  Experience has taught me that I end up using the best images over and over, but at this initial selection stage, my brain is often overwhelmed with decision fatigue.

And because I am still vibrating with concerns with the intricate details of fabricating the artwork, it is difficult to view the work objectively at arm's length to see what is the best image.   

So, of the five photos in this post which ones would you buy?
Photo image #2

Which photos capture the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace most effectively? Tell me what you think. 
Photo image #3

Here is how I went through my selection criteria:

A minimum requirement is a full view and a detail close-up -- but which ones?

Also, I'd like to have a vertical and a horizontal.  One never knows which situation may call for a particular format.  Reframing an image in Photoshop is an option, but the result isn't always the best quality photo. Optimal focus and lighting is always in the original image from the photographer.

Social networking sites add to the quandary on vertical or horizontal. The constant use of computers for viewing images has made the horizontal format very popular. Horizontal images work well for Facebook and social network banners. Vertical images work better on Pinterest.  Instagram leans toward square. There is no way to use one image for everything anymore.

The full view below is great, but it presents a major weakness  -- there is no way to know that the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace is 26 feet long.  
Photo image #4

With a plain white background, there is no indication of scale.  This image provides no clue for a viewer to tell how big this necklace is at all, yet for my purposes, a plain white background is essential to emphasize the stark black and white contrast.  Typical alternative backgrounds such as wood texture, sand, rocks, or a room-like context may work for an editorial shot, but would likely distract excessively from this particular artwork and my expectations for using the photo.

How can a photo of a large object reveal detail, materials, scale and the artist's intent all at the same time?


Photo image #5

Lacking any reference for scale, this close-up section could be 2 inches or 2 feet.  This can be a serious issue when a curator or juried situation is looking for something bigger or smaller if they don't fully comprehend the description.

Out of the five photos in this post, which ones would you select?  Each choice adds expense.

Would you change your choices by knowing that I have additional shots on a mannequin and a model?   These will be shown in the upcoming posts.




Background information about hiring a photographer (below.)

Here are a couple of very practical issues when you hire a professional photographer.

Professional photography is an expense that some artists and makers may consider optional, but there is no doubt that professional quality images will elevate your work when seen by exhibition sponsors, curators, and potential buyers. Professional quality images can open doors and provide opportunities.  Lacking professional quality images may incur an opportunity cost that an artist may not even realize. 

Once you've chosen to have professional photographs of your art or craft, ask photographers about their fee structure.  Philip Cohen charges by the hour for the photography session, and then I pay an additional amount for each final image that I choose.  But money is not the only issue. You need quality photographs and a photographer that is familiar with your medium. A working relationship with a photographer that understands your intent is paramount.





Posts in this series about photographing the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace:

Drowning, Strangled, Suffocating in Plastic -- and Experimenting with Images

Photography -- Model Challenges & Working Out the Details

Photography -- Mannequin Needed! Rent, Buy, or Borrow? Basic or Stylized?

Photography and The Plain White Background

Photography - More than Documentation?


Photography - More than Documentation?

When an artwork is finished, a new creative process begins -- how best to photographically capture the essence of the work beyond rote documentation.  For the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace, I definitely wanted to convey a much larger context far beyond the form and materials alone.  During fabrication, I contemplated quite a few problems and uncertainties to accomplish my photography expectations. 

So when the fabrication and assembly were finished, I mentally committed to photographing the necklace in four scenarios:

    1) a swirling gyre on plain white paper without props 

    2) a mannequin to provide scale

    3) a live model shot

    4) a model in a photographic experiment fantasy with water.

A week-long marathon was about to begin.

Advanced planning started with making sure that my photographer Philip Cohen had the studio and time reserved.

large roll of photo paper

A large roll of white paper was the first requirement. White backgrounds are generally the standard these days.

Roll of paper & mannequin

Shall I buy or rent a mannequin? I decided to rent a mannequin....but had to schedule a pickup time when Mannequin Madness would be open.  (More on mannequin resources in a future post.)

A professional photographer with a quality camera, tripod, and proper lighting is a minimum for the quality images I need and expect.  

Due to the size of the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace (26 feet long), the camera had to be as high as possible to shoot down and include the entire large swirl.  Hence, photographer, Philip Cohen, is up on a ladder. 


The lighting and exposure are always critical issues for excellent photographs, but when photographing black objects, these are especially difficult issues. The light meter in the photo below helps determine the proper exposure with the photographer's strobe lights.  


The light meter can take a reading right next to the artwork (shown below) to check the light exposure, rather than trusting the light meter in the camera.   Still, on the first day of the photoshoot, Phil Cohen bracketed every shot like crazy to ensure a proper exposure.    Phil Cohen checking light exposure

The set of color swatches and palette of grays (shown in the photo below) can help determine proper exposure and help adjust the color or light in Photoshop. This is just one more incremental tool toward perfection in professional quality photography that can make the difference between average and amazing. 

There is nothing more difficult than photographing black on black while trying to capture the varied textures in the materials.  I knew it would be a challenge from trying to photograph the Black Plastic Bracelet.  In this close-up (image below) taken with my phone, the black-on-black texture completely disappears due to poor exposure and improper lighting.  Black mud . . . .
black on black texture is difficult to capture

While most of the professional photography is done using a tripod, a few hand-held shots can work well for close-ups.
Hand held shots for close up images

During the first day of the photoshoot, we only photographed the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace on white paper.  Standard documentation, but I am worried that these will not be the best images because a viewer will have difficulty comprehending the scale of the finished necklace.

This is why I planned a second day photographing the necklace with a mannequin, and a third day with a model.  Photographing with a mannequin loses the human touch which can be a plus or minus, but occasionally, juried exhibitions, curators, or books do not allow model shots.  
Mannequin ready for photoshoot with the black plastic gyre necklace

Photographing artwork with a model can be extremely complex with too many variables to list here.

Harriete Estel Berman with model at photoshoot for black plastic gyre necklace

I'll be highlighting more of the issues and techniques of photographing with mannequins and models in the next few posts.

In the meantime, what do you expect works best for photographing the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace?  Plain white paper? Mannequin? Or a live model? In the next three posts, I will show the processes and finished shots of each.  I'd like to hear your comments or questions, either before or after the posts.


Posts in this series about the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace

Drowning, Strangled, Suffocating in Plastic -- and Experimenting with Images 

Photography -- Model Challenges & Working Out the Details  

Photography -- Mannequin Needed! Rent, Buy, or Borrow? Basic or Stylized?

Photography and The Plain White Background  

Photography - More than Documentation?

D.I. Y. Photo Quality Compared to Professional Pics

The accessibility and ubiquity of digital cameras and the Internet have both good and bad sides.
  The ability to pick up a phone and take a picture allows everyone to produce a photo. Work in progress can be easily documented and shared directly from the studio. A  Pinterest board or Instagram can represent your work.  Or does it?  When does easy and instant imaging mislead makers into thinking that they have done all they need to do? 

I've been thinking about this a lot recently.  Every phone brand brags about more and more pixels -- Is that all there is?   


In April, 2017,  opportunities from CNN and KQED required quick access to images of work in progress that could only come from my phone's digital camera.  A few weeks ago, I had a chance to compare photos side-by-side from my phone and from my professional photographer, Philip Cohen.

Above and below are a couple of examples with my phone image on left and Philip's image on the right.

Photo (left) by Harriete of bracelet in progress.                Photo (right) finished bracelet by Philip Cohen
   Alternative Facts Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman  

O.K., passable on the left, but better on the right.  Then a further hurdle of photographing "Fabricating TRUTH" Fruit Crate with the three bracelets -- an impossible shot with a small digital camera or phone.  Lighting, the background, and an extended depth of field with the precise focus all become critical factors that an amateur quality, consumer phone camera can not "auto focus".
I am convinced that professional quality photos are essential, but what is your opinion? 

If the quality and range of digital capabilities are discernable, what are the consequences to your art or craft future when photos are good enough ....  or are they?

Dave Yoas recently invested in professional quality photography for his artwork. He realized that he had been tolerating "good enough" and wanted to improve his images.  In the following photos, Dave agreed to share his D.I.Y. photos (left) compared to the photo magic of professional photographer Philip Cohen (right).  

Photo (left) taken by Dave Yoas.                                                     Photo (right) taken by Philip Cohen
"Bearly Dreaming" by Dave Yoas

Dave Yoas told me that he was using a digital camera with a tripod to take his own photos. Those are good steps.  But you may not be conscious of the D.I.Y. quality without seeing the comparison.  Notice how the colors seem so much more vibrant in the professional photos. And the whites are whiter. 

Photo (left) taken by Dave Yoas.                                                     Photo (right) taken by Philip Cohen
"Dames N Flames" by Dave Yoas

In the side by side examples above, I formatted the image comparison so that the objects were close to the same size, but the comparison between the D.I.Y. of Dave Yoas and a professional photo goes further.  In the next side by side comparison, note how the object is framed within the photograph.  The photo by Dave Yoas fills the frame of the photo close to the edge. In contrast in the photo by Philip Cohen (right) there is more breathing room around the object rather than crowded to the edge.

Photo (left) by Dave Yoas.                                                                 Photo Credit (right) Philip Cohen
"Good ol' Daze" by Dave Yoas

This extra margin of space surrounding the object is very practical for posting on social networks where cropping may be outside of your control. The extra margin of space within the frame is also visually more comfortable. In the photo below you will see what happens in the example photo (left) when the frame of the image feels as if it is cutting off part of the object. Cropping the object too close to the edge of the photo feels crowded and cheap, kind of like a crowded exhibition where the work doesn't have room to feel important. 

Photo (left) taken by Dave Yoas.                             Photo (right) taken by Philip Cohen.
"Mid-Century Mojo" by Dave Yoas
"Mid-Century Mojo" by Dave Yoas                                        Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Again, the colors in the professional quality photography are much more vibrant. 

Close-ups can also be a critical component to sharing your work online or in a juried opportunity.
It gives the viewer more information about the texture, materials or techniques.  Dave Yoas told me that he thought the details by Philip Cohen were images that he was incapable of capturing on his own.

There are many tricks available to the professional photographer.
 Highlights from a shiny or reflective surface can be fixed in Photoshop by the professional. 

In the photo below, Philip Cohen photographed each object with the same lighting, and then assembled the triptych in PhotoShop. This avoids that difficulty of finding one large wall big enough for displaying all three artworks at the same time.  The lighting can be consistent and even over all three artworks avoiding highlights and dark corners when photographing a large wall.  

"What every boy wants" by Dave Yoas                                      Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

I am convinced that professional quality photos are essential for anyone who is truly serious about their art or craft. The ease and convenience of your digital camera or cell phone are amazing, but they are not a substitute for professional quality images.  The consequences of sub-quality photography may be costing you more than a professional photographer.  

I asked Dave Yoas why he decided to spend (no, I mean, invest) in professional quality photography? 

"To tell you the truth, I have spent “many” hours trying to capture the “essence" of my work. All the books and tutorials, all the equipment, light diffusers, and hours lost were not worth it. Philip's work is a good investment." After buying the equipment and spending the better part of a day in photography, the resulting images were still "not representing my work."  

Yoas also mentioned that it has become increasingly rare to walk into galleries these days to show our work. "Everything is electronic." The photographic images represent our work. 

What are your thoughts about professional photography?


Related Posts about photography for art and craft:

Eliminate Glare in Photographic Images with Digital Magic - A Photographic Tutorial by Philip Cohen

“Lighting Shiny Surfaces for Quality Photographic Images” by Philip Cohen

Photographing Your Artwork? Bounce Cards Add Light and Fill in Deep Shadows

Documentation of the TRUTH

Vision of the Artist, Vision of the Photographer


Working with Digital Images Effectively

And a whole lot more posts:


Documentation of the TRUTH

Images have always been the indispensable mode of communication for artists and makers.   With the Internet, the power of the image travels much further.  Photographic images especially share one person's perspective of reality with the world. In recent years, more than ever, images convey an experience and inform an audience through social media such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  The value of documentation with images sometimes supersedes the ephemeral event.  For makers, having images ready to transmit whenever needed, can be a key to success.  

During the months that I worked on TRUTH and the related bracelets, I took documentary photos. The studio shots brought great visibility to this work through CNN and KQED (local PBS station.) Even though those photos weren't professional quality it permitted me to participate in the political commentary of the moment.  Despite the ease and convenience of taking photos with the amazingly versatile smart phone cameras, you want your final documentation photos to be professional quality. It would have been much less expensive to simply accept the in situ, in studio shots, but I know that professional quality photography needs a professional photographer with professional equipment and professional skills. For me, that is Philip Cohen, for more than 28-years and counting.


When I arrived to pick up my artwork at Phil's, I took some photos of his photo set up.  I find the behind-the-scenes set up insightful. What is outside the camera frame is rarely shown and it reveals the tricks that a top notch photographer keeps handy.


Of course, the lights and the camera are on a tripod.  That is step one for a good shot...and we rarely do that with our phones. That reminds me that a stand for my phone might improve my quick shots.  Note that the lights shine up into the umbrella for a bright diffuse light.  Buying those umbrellas doesn't cost that much, and they can be really handy for reflecting light.


Notice the large cardboard covered with aluminum foil. This reflects the light in a bright diffuse way, and by tilting it up or down it can reflect more light exactly where you want it. This works even if you don't have photo lights.  In the photo below, you can see this same cardboard from another angle.


Note also the small cardboard with aluminum foil in the front of the set-up. If you look in the other photos you will see it is propped up on an easel right outside of the frame of the finished photo.


Fabricating TRUTH by Harriete Estel Berman   Photo by Philip Cohen Photography. 

In my next post,  I will compare my quick cell phone photographs to those by a professional for your review & opinion. 

Related  Posts:

Fabricating TRUTH with a Web of Lies

Fabricating TRUTH - Speaking our own mettle

Guide to Professional Quality Images

Working with Digital Images Effectively

A Painful Purge and the Legacy Costs of Information

legacy costs of information
A legacy of information! 
I'm going through all my color slides….and black & white photos.  Thousands of images and thousands more duplicates.  A legacy of my entire career.


And throwing it all away.  Obsolete media.

 All my original images will be digital from here on.

n looking through 40+ years of accumulated physical images, I am reminded of the history and optimism anticipated in each and every image that is going into the trash.  As an artist I adored the quality of the images and took pride in being prepared when needed.  It was a badge of honor at a professional level. I remember the care and investment of time and money that went into the composition, processing, selection, cataloging, storing, organizing, and maintaining these visual manifestations of my craft skill and artistic vision. Now I am taking these beloved slides and photos out of their neat and tidy boxes, taking careful inventory to keep one, just one copy of the best image,  and dumping the rest into the dumpster.


I feel remorse in the wasted materials.
I feel guilt in generating such waste.
  This is a painful purge.

But the physical media has become a burden.  

IMG_20161002_182304915_HDRFortunately, the "information" of these images will live on when converted to digital media.   My daughter helped me realize that companies large and small deal with this legacy cost" all the time. They have archives of information that could be valuable to current or future users.  Information companies like Weather Underground choose to preserve past weather information and make it accessible on their website. They realize that the history of weather information is valuable, but stored data must also be compatible with newer digital interfaces.  Researchers using newer or different platforms need the archived information to be compatible to gain the benefits of analyzing long term trends over decades of accumulated information in ways that were not previously possible.  

purging a legacy of information in slide imagesArtists also may have a legacy of information or objects.  At what point does old work become out dated inventory?

I look at it differently. Old work has potential in future exhibition opportunities. It could even be my retirement income as I have witnessed in the revival of interest in mid-century modern jewelry. Important painters often kept their best work increased in value.

Museums are the consummate examples of legacy information and the costs of maintaining archives.   They store objects and information indefinitely with the expectation that value will be realized well into the future.

Misbehaving EconomicsWhy did I finally decide to throw away all these slides and photos?
  I was reading a book about behavioral economics … “Misbehaving - The Making of Behavioral Economics"  by Richard Thaler.  The book discusses a relatively new field in economics observing how many financial decisions are not made on a purely rational basis.  

Black-white-photos-legacy-informationOne financial concept struck home for me - "sunk costs."  The book made clear that my slides and photos that are no longer in a useful form (and all the time and money I invested in them) are "sunk costs."  Keeping them any longer would just cost more storage expense. Businesses often describe this storage expense as  "carrying cost" or inventory cost.  However, if the images (or any other inventory items) are not or cannot be used any longer, they have no current or future value.  To use up storage space in my cramped studio is just more wasted money.  

Vertical-quantity-of-images-informationEvery artist and maker has legacy information in their older work that represents their career and their credibility. The construction of my new website caused me to re-examine how I needed to make my images (my "information") more accessible for current and future use.   In the past three weeks, I have invested a great deal of time to find one, just one best copy of each image to digitize for the future.

I see my new website as a new and more accessible form of my work -- a new catalog that enables more people to more easily access my images and for me to connect with more opportunities.  I look forward to adding images to my website that were not digital. Images of inspiration and work in progress could be interesting to a wider audience.

I took great professional pride in my inventory of slides and black & white photos  to be ready for opportunities.  Now the ongoing value of my "information" (the intrinsic substance of my images) through this new digital media greatly expands how I can gain the attention of others and be prepared for many more opportunities.  My new website is adaptive to phones, tablets and computers.  Using a template site (which I resisted for years) means that it will be a stable format for further changes in technology.

Website-2016Despite my acute awareness of my past investments, I see this transition as a revitalization of my legacy information.
  Take a moment to look at my new website.  Critique the content.  Find mistakes.  Bookmark it for later updates. Lots more information is coming in future months. This is a work in progress, a new future, a new  year.




Vision of the Artist, Vision of the Photographer

-LOGO_footerIn February, Boris Bally invited me to participate in an exhibition about "changing society's views about the dangers of handguns."  The show title is "IMAGINE (Innovative Merger of Art & Guns to Inspire New Expressions) Peace Now!" Each artist was given a disabled hand gun (randomly chosen and mailed to the participating artists) to use as part of the artwork. 

When my gun arrived, it was the first time I ever touched a gun.


The gun was from a "gun buy back" program. You can't see the damage to the gun in the above photo. Harriete, ever the perfectionist, actually spent a lot of time improving the appearance of the gun.

The problem was that the artwork had to be finished and photographed by June 30. That is not much time by Harriete standards. I had no idea what I was going to make until.... 

...until I saw this check writing machine at a yard sale.


I knew immediately what could be done!
The illustration below was drawn by my daughter, Aryn Shelander as we discussed the piece. As I recall the blood was her brainstorm which was a terrific idea as I wanted to give the final artwork more graphic impact.


The title of the artwork is "Checking the Cost of Gun Violence."  I knew the title from the very beginning.

After countless hours of research I found the statistics that would go with the work. The lettering from recycled tin cans had to be red as if written in blood.

The barrel of the gun was attached to the handle. Much to my surprise this was the easiest part of the assembly. It was as if the gun was made for the artwork.


The pool of "blood" and new red face plates for the gun handle were created from recycled tin cans.

To get to this point required intense weeks of work. Above is an early test shot in the studio.  I try to take a few test shots during fabrication to make sure that my artistic vision of the artwork is going to work in the photo. 

Next I added blood red paint to match the blood red metal. 


Drips were hard to create.  Not sure how long they will last.


Another test shot below. Now I need spent bullet casings (technically referred to as shells.)


Getting the shell casings from bullets required a couple of trips to local shooting ranges. I wanted used shell casings as that seemed more symbollic. 


It was really exciting that the folks at Jackson Arms shooting range gave me a generous amount so I could pick through them.


Another test shot.  Test shots also help to show the photographer my vision for the finished photograph. Above is the "quickie shot" with my phone. 

Below, my photographer, Philip Cohen, provides photos of the finished sculpture with all his professional skill, superior camera, lights, and action.   


Various close-up images are shown below. Philip Cohen always gives me a wide selection of close-ups and I pick from the preview images (shown in this post.)  


I pay for each shot....and can only use three images for this exhibition entry....so I choose carefully.

32, 514 people including children are killed each year.


Statistics on the front are actual gun statistics from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
"EACH DAY"  there are 31 Murders, 55 Suicides, 2 Accidental Deaths, 1 Death by Police Action, 210 Injured, and costs $627 Million in  America.  Each DAY!  


The 89 shell casings represent the average number of deaths each day in America involving guns.


I hope you found this interesting to see the progression from vision of the artist to the professional quality images from Philip Cohen.


Feel welcome to offer your opinion about your favorite images. I can only submit three images to the exhibition.


P.S. More news about the traveling exhibition, future exhibition venues, and the catalog in future posts. I understand that Boris Bally is looking for exhibition venues. There will be a Kickstarter Campaign for the catalog.

Without Photos, Does My Art Even Exist?

Recently I unpacked an old piece of work knowing it had never been photographed.  Beautiful work that I loved -- and had shown in my own living room.  But the work was never photographed ... and usually sat in it's box in a closet.  

To my dismay and a wrenching insight, I realized that without photos, how would a collector, gallery, or exhibition ever know of their existence.  In effect, outside my own memory, the work did not exist.  


If an artwork isn't photographed nor documented, and no one sees it, does it exist in the age of information?  

With no photos the work can't be shown on my website. I can't sell the work or tempt a collector without photos.

Without photos, if damaged, I can't even make an insurance claim.  I am usually so cautious that even if work is being photographed for an exhibition, I have photos taken before it is shipped.


It turns my world upside down to think that for 11 years, these chocolate cups just sat in a box.

Chocolate Godiva Cups from recycled tin cans in blue and gold by Harriete Estel Berman

Then one step further.  Professional quality photographs are necessary, if you want the photos to represent the quality of your work. 

Whitman's Chocolate Cup constructed from recycled tin cans in light powder blue, and gold by Harriete Estel Berman

If you have not documented the work with your Inventory Record,
then it is not part of your oeuvre. Yet, we want to be remembered for our work! 

Documentation is everything in the age of information.

Chocolate Cups—Whitman’s & Godiva © 2003 Harriete Estel Berman
Two chocolate cups constructed using recycled tin cans from chocolate candy products. The cups are filled with luscious "hot chocolate" made from polyester resin. Additional materials include:  10k gold and aluminum rivets, brass and stainless steel screws.

Whitman’s Chocolate Cup: 6” height x 4.5” diameter base x 4.75” width at top
Godiva Chocolate Cup: 6” height x 5 5/8” diameter base x 3.75” width at top

Retail Price for each cup: $985
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen 2015


RESOURCES from the Professional Guidelines

Guide to Quality Photographic Images

Inventory Record: Documentation and Provenance  

Working with Digital Images Effectively

Sweat the Details for Photographic Success

Philip-Cohen-photographing-pencilsPhilip Cohen has photographed my sculpture, jewelry, Judaica and installations for 26 years. Every time I leave my work in his photo studio, our focus discussion is about what Phil calls the "money shot."

The "money shot" is the one shot that captures the art work's best aspects.  Why just one shot? Because so often you only get one image on a postcard, one image in a magazine, or one image on a website to capture the viewer's attention.

It may be surprising, but sometimes the "money shot" is an image that is not the full view of the art work.  Sometimes, a special angle, close-up, or detail shot becomes the "money shot." 

For this post photographer Philip Cohen offers his own words of experience for how he finds the money shot in the detail for a wide range of art work and media. 


Advice from photographer Philip Cohen:

When photographing artwork, I’m always looking for the “money shot” - the one angle that sums up the work most succinctly. However, quite often the only way to show what’s really happening is to shoot details, images from a different angle, or close-ups, even very close shots. Taking the detail is all about "sweating the details." 

I never count on creating my detail image by cropping from the full view shot in Photoshop. This will not produce a quality image. You won’t be showing anything new, the image won't be large enough, and the focus will be off. So learn to shoot the details while you are photographing the overall shots.

When shooting details of 2-D work, select an interesting composition within the composition to reveal something about the artwork that the overall shot can’t show or doesn't reveal. Shoot these details “full frame” to maximize clarity; cropping in Photoshop later won’t work as well. Note: Getting close also reveals dust, cat hair or fuzz, so make sure the artwork is flawlessly clean.

Example One:
Two Cities 6”, oil on canvas by Maya Kabat. Seen as a whole, this painting has an abstract geometric composition. The detail photo reiterates the formal composition and....
Maya Kabat-painting-two-cities
...the detail shot let’s us touch the paint. We can see the hand of the artist with the brush stroke, palette knife, drips, and texture of the canvas.

Maya Kabat-detail


Example Two:
“Life #1”, Clay Print on Wood Panel by Zahava Sherez. In the full view we can only focus on the movement of color.  
The detail points out woven objects on the printed surface, something that was easily missed in the overall picture.
The objects embedded into the surface were also used to print color onto the piece, thus the matrix became part of the print.

Details of 3-D work can show an alternate mood, message, media or personality. The detail becomes the “money shot” and can completely re-define the work.

Example Three:
“They Paved Paradise #1”, a found materials assemblage by Cynthia Jensen. The overall shot is dominated by the antlers and by default the empty space of the background. As a result, much of the photo lacks information. 

Showing a detail of the “face” at a slight angle  (shown below) points out the different bas-relief aspects of the found form, lifting it away from the background. The closer angle also makes the image more engaging. The rusty steel has a granular surface and the antlers have texture not visible in the full view. 



Example Four:
“Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin” a repurposed materials installation by Harriete Berman.
The huge curtain is over 28 feet wide and represents a statistical graph in the shape of a bell curve. 
Some images need scale as an indication of size. This installation fills the room at 28' feet wide, but this is really hard to determine with the full view.
The detail view from one side has a young girl to indicate scale. In addition, the angle shot reveals the thickness and ethereal qualities of a curtain.

But the close-up detail is a revelation: the whole installation is made of pencils!


Example Five:
 “Paper, Dreams…”, shadow box by Sandra Ortiz Taylor. Shadow boxes generally need to be shot from straight on so that nothing is hidden by the sides of the box. Lighting is tricky and objects in the box may obscure each other.


A detail shot (below) from another angle can isolate some of the objects showing them to a better advantage and pointing out some of the drama of the piece.


Shooting for a artist's 
website gives an opportunity to present a number of views of the product, both overall and detail shots, but essentially one image will be used to represent the work.

Example Six:
“Moana Manna” by Nathalie Leseine. Below is one of Nathalie’s Tahitian carved black pearl pendants from her Moana Manna series. The photos were taken for her website. The overall shot is seen on a page with the whole collection. While this shot shows the entire necklace, the pendant occupies a small area in the overall shot. Too much background, not enough information is a common problem when photographing necklaces.


A closer view of the pendant fills the frame. Now we really understand much more about this pearl pendant, the most important element of the necklace.Moana-Manna-2-pendant-detail

A very close detail from behind reveals the structure of the pendant bail (below) and shows how the pendant attaches to the necklace.


The shot below the two-part clasp is a practical view revealing both form and function, important information that might sell this jewelry. 


The basic problem in photographing artwork in any media, whether for reproduction or exhibition, is captuing the best representation in a single image. This is contrary to the visual impression from direct experience where the mind’s eye can assemble a number of viewpoints.

In person, you can walk around the sculpture. When viewing a painting one can see the whole thing from a distance, then walk closer to see the details clearly. The mind’s-eye impression is actually what the photographer is trying to capture in one image. Sweat the detail shots for photographic success.

 ASK Harriete Posts for Improving Photographic Image

Photographic reflector on left creates shine on front.500“Lighting Shiny Surfaces for Quality Photographic Images” by Philip Cohen





Eliminate Glare in Photographic Images with Digital Magic - A Photographic Tutorial by photographer Philip Cohen






Plate_Demo_C-2Brush Out Glare in Photoshop to Improve Photographic Images - by Philip Cohen 







Step by step Photoshop ShadowsHow to Build a Better Drop Shadow in Photoshop - A Step-by-Step Powerpoint and Handout



Animated Images - GIFS for Everyone

Animated GIFS are great! They are a sequence of several still images that appear kind of like short videos and they play on all devices including phones and tablets.  They can give your site a "jazzy" kind of feel and added information.  For example, here is a GIF animation for the diagram and first stages for the assembly of Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.

This animated GIF shows the diagram, working drawing, and first days of assembly for Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.

Some new free APPS create animated GIFs easier than ever -- and you no longer need to purchase PhotoShop Image Ready to create animated GIFs.  This post will provide some helpful tips to prepare for making animated GIFs.  Followed by the "pros" and "cons" of four APPs that I've tried recently.

If you would like some additional background on GIFs, visit some of the previous GIF-related posts listed at the bottom of this post.


1) Create the images you plan to upload for the animation. All images need to be the same size and shape (either vertical or horizontal) before you start. It doesn't work to mix landscape and profile layouts in the same animated GIF.

2) DO NOT put animated images near each other on your site. It drives viewers "wacky" to look at multiple moving images that are not synchronized. Make sure the next animated image is far enough down on the page so the two animations can't be seen at the same time.

3) DO NOT resize your animated GIF
after you make it. It will not animate. Decide in advance the size for the final animated image

I love the ease of this new technology for creating an animated GIF but it has limitations.

Below are four APP sites for comparison with the pros and cons.




Gickr will allow you to upload images from your computer. They say that you can also use your Flickr or Picassa site which would be great except I could NOT figure out how to make it work....This is just infuriating when the instructions aren't clear. Even asking for help from my tech savvy expert daughter didn't solve the problem.

Gickr pro and cons:

  • Allowed upload of large 2-3MB images from your computer
  • Adjustments for the final animated image size up to 450px. (That was bigger than the other sites.)
  • Adjustment for animation speed.
  • Deleting an image was possible. This is a great feature, because a one click mistake on the other sites and you had to start the animation over from the beginning.
  • Image download
  • Embed code for the image URL


  • Adjustment for animation speed was Slow, Normal, Fast
    (without a specific numerical value so it was a guess.)
  • No constrain proportions options, so you can easily distort your image.
  • Maximum of 10 images for an animated GIF.



ImgFlip pro and cons:

  • Uploaded large images but you had to upload all the images after selection


  • Animated image size limit is 300 px width or height.
  • No "constrain proportions" options so you can easily distort your image
  • The default animation GIF size is a square, so make sure if you change the rectangle dimensions, they are in the right proportions.
  • Adjustment for animated speed in NOT slow enough.
  • No download for the animated GIF image
  • Embed code to post the animated GIF to the HTML on your website or blog slowed down the load time for my web page. Slowing down load time is not good. It is one of the 200 criteria Google uses to evaluate your website quality.
  • This site appears to allow a fixed number of free animations per day.

Below is my test example showing people threading pencils for Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin at Maker Faire 2009. Using ImgFlip site was fast and easy. It uploaded individual 2.5 MB images quickly, but the default animated image default was a much smaller image. I was able to recalculate the size, but be careful.

Since  I couldn't slow down the animation more than what you see below  it was not a great choice. This speed is way too fast for a photo combination, and would be better as a flashing arrow, or blinking eye.

Despite the self appointed description of "Best Gif Maker on the Planet", ImgFlip is one of my least favorite APPs because of the size limitation.



GifMaker.Me looks respectable....offering free animated GIFs without registration.

GifMaker.Me pro and cons:

  • Uploaded large images but you had to upload one image at a time.
  • Allows up to 30 images for your animation.
  • Allows combination with music from YouTube. (See the animation of our Thanksgiving dinner at the bottom of this post. Click on the image or the link.)
  • Final animated image size limit is larger than other sites. 
  • Animation adjustment allowed a delayed start this is the only site that had this option.
  • "Constrain proportions" option so you can avoid distorting your image. This was the only APP that I found with this option.
  • Adjustment for animated speed is very wide adjustment.
  • Allows GIF to play backwards!


  • After a week our fabulous animated GIF of the Thanksgiving table was completely gone. The animated GIF dissappears....poof! We don't know why. Maybe adding the YouTube link for music caused this to happen. I will be checking into this and updating this post.
  • The small animated GIF below still works. 
  • This site put a white border above and below my image. Yuk! Ifyou have a white website it may not matter to you. For me the image is unusable except for this demo. I am very disappointed because this was the best animated GIF site.
  • Perhpas you can figure out out to get rid of this border.Output_L9Wps2


MakeAGif looks kind of cheezy, (bouncing boobs and dancing girls are a real turn off) but I decided to try it anyway.

Make a gif pro and cons:

  • Allowed me to upload 18 images and it looks like I could upload even more.
  • Allowed upload of large 1.75MB to 2 MB images.
  • Click and uploaded images so that they uploaded simultaneously while you selecting your next image.
  • Allows you to rearrange the order of the images after they are uploaded.
  • Allows tags for your animated GIF.
  • Allows download of animated GIF.


  • No uploades of images over 2 MB.
  • You can not delete an image...this is not good. Once you have your set of images for animation... if you have a  duplicate or unsuitable image, NUTS! you have to start over.
  • No "Constrain Proportions" thus you could easily distort your animated image.
  • Adjustment for animated speed in NOT slow enough, even the slowest speed was a little too fast. I experimented with this image and uploaded two doubles for some images so that I could have a image linger for a longer period of time.

I did not like the categories on the site for my GIF. Obviously they are usually dealing with questionable entertainment content and I am concerned about sharing my images on a site with sleazy entertainment.

I recommend using the custom size for your animated GIF.

One fabulous aspect for MakeAGif was that you could download your own image. Bad news was they inserted a MakeAGif logo onto my image. Do you see it? If I had made the animation myself in PhotoShop Image Ready that would never happen.

Concluding comments:

New APPs can create animated GIFs super easy but not all APP sites are created equally.  If you know of a better APP recommendation let me know.....every site had different limitations, pros and cons.

I prefer to animate the GIFs myself to control quality, but if you don't know how to animate GIFs, these APPs are good quick options.

My one concern is that these GIFS made from the free APPS will work not work on all technology, tablets and devices since the APP may be Flash based. Let me know if the animations do or don't work for you. 

Working on the pencil installation with young student 2011.


Superhero images - now animated

Digital Image (extensions) - Or alphabet soup? A quick tutorial.

IMAGE FILE NAMES can be your code for managing photographs.


Rings Photos, Eye Do, and I Don't - Part 2 of Two

 The previous post on ASK Harriete had examples of "Eye Don't ring photos, the most common mistakes when taking photos of rings. I am not trying to make light of the situation. Taking a photo of a ring is perhaps one of the most challening situations there is for getting a quality photographic image.

To get a quality photo of a ring you need (at a minimum):

  • Plenty of light to increase depth of field so the entire ring will be in focus.
  • Close up lense or camera with a Macro setting suitable for getting in close and in focus.
  • Museum Wax or Earthquake Hold
  • Flawless background suitable for a closeup image.

These commercial ring photos show a couple of excellent ring positions.

Ringgood1standStanding the ring upright can show the side and top. Note how the inside of the ring is still in focus and the hallmark is visible. What a great way to get your "name" out there.



Ringgood2leanforwardPhotographing the ring from the top displays the top of the ring effectively. Note how the brand name or hallmark inside the ring is in focus and helps establish the "brand."



Ringgood3loriGottliegStanding up the ring creates a great composition. Use a little Museum Wax or Earthquake Hold  to position the ring for the photo. The entire ring is in focus. Ring by Lori Gottlieg on The Artful Home.






Ringgood5This ring stands ups nicely. The stone is prominent and you can still see the hallmark inside the ring. Ring by April Higashi on Object Fetish.

Hope this post and the previous post help you take better photos. If you have a great photo of a ring, please send it. I will ADD it to this post. Email me at: bermaid [at] harriete-estel-berman.info.


Related topics on ASK Harriete:

Earrings Up, Don't Take 'em Lying Down

Photo Comparisons and Descriptions - Now Optimize Your Submission

Behind the Camera: Inexpensive Secrets for A Great Model Shoot!

Brush Out Glare in Photoshop to Improve Photographic Images - by Philip Cohen

Eliminate Glare in Photographic Images with Digital Magic - A Photographic Tutorial by Philip Cohen

“Lighting Shiny Surfaces for Quality Photographic Images” by Philip Cohen

Rings Photos, Eye Do, and I Don't - Part One of Two

The previous post was about getting quality photographic images of earrings.

This post is about common mistakes with ring photos. Today is the "eye don't" bad ring positions in photos. The next post is "Eye Do" for quality photo images.

Ringbadphoto1"Eye Don't" use an commercial ring display through the ring. This is a guaranteed bad photo option no matter how beautiful the ring.



"Eye Don't" use a stick or mandrel through the ring.





Ring 4 

"Eye Don't" prop up the rings with sticks or any other fixture. It looks awkward and hides the ring.


Ringbad3"Eye Don't" hold the ring in the photo. No matter how interesting the ring, most people have unattractive hands, thus the photos looks awkward.


Badring8"Eye Don't" wear the ring in the photo. We can't see the entire ring and hands are usually unattractive and distracting.



Ring5"Eye Don't" lay down the ring. This creates a lifeless image obscuring part of the ring. The image of the ring is too small not filling the frame.

Badringphoto 6While this ring photo isn't bad, it isn't as good as it could be. Laying down the ring is lifeless, and we should see more of the stone on top. In addition, the hallmark (inside the ring) is upside down. Standing up the ring (as shown in the diamond ring to the right) looking at the shoulder of red stones, and the hallmark inside the ring would be a vast improvement. Ringgood1stand

Stay tuned for better ring photos in the next post on ASK Harriete.

If you have a ring photo as an example...please email me at: bermaid [at] harriete-estel-berman.info.

Earrings Up, Don't Take 'em Lying Down

One of the questions that frequently comes up is:  "What makes a good photo?" There are many possibilities of good photos....too numerous to mention, so I would like to focus on earrings. Below are the most common mistakes in photographing earrings AND earrings solutions for good photos. 

Generally, earrings should NOT be photographed lying down at an angle
. Common problems include getting the entire earring in focus, awkward compositions, and poor to weak display of the earrings.  The photos below show these problems.

Earrings Lying Down 1 

Earrings LAYINGdown 





Don't hang earrings on teacups, or bowls.
These "props" actually distract the viewer's eye more than help to display your work.  This does not produce professional quality photos as shown in the examples below.
Earrings teacup Earrings on teacups




Do not photograph earrings in groups. 
Group photos usually distract the viewer by appearing cluttered, disorganized and individually unimportant.

Earring collection Earringsgrouphanging








BIBA Schutz earringsTo create good photos, make an interesting composition consistent with the style of the earrings. These angular earrings have angled ear wire and the rectangular format fills the photo. It works!  Earrings by Biba Schutz


Earrings standing up by Emiko OyeOr stand the earrings up while focusing on an interesting composition. This photo works well because it shows both the side and the face of the earrings.  Earrings by Emiko Oye




 Andy Cooperman earring hanging from a mannequinhanging.spiracles.holes.earUsing a mannequin to model the earring offers a flawless simple modern solution. It makes a great photo with no hair and make up concerns, but the down side is that you can show only one earring at a time. Earrings by Andy Cooperman. Photo by Doug Yaple.




Strata Earrings" Gold & Silver Earrings Created by Sydney Lynch Poke the post or ear wire into a piece of paper. This is a very simple graceful solution but avoid distracting paper. Gold & Silver "Strata Earrings" by Sydney Lynch on the Artful Home.


AOLBlueLPoke the post through a photo of a model printed on photo paper. The great part of this solution is that you can find a fabulous looking ear without fussy little hairs that are usually distracting. AOL Earrings by Harriete Estel Berman


Flower Game Blue PINk Earrings by Harriete Estel BermanCreate an interesting composition with two earrings and scan using your computer scanner. Earrings by Harriete Estel Berman. This option requires a scanner and PhotoShop skills.




Here is a photography solution from Emiko Oye. She hangs her earrings from a rod for the photo shoot. Then PhotoShops out the wire.

Left  is the "raw" photo. Below is the photo after PhotoShop.
Thank you Emiko for sharing your photo magic.





In the photo (left) for these Iced Window LEGO earrings by emiko oye the wire has been PhotoShop-ed out for a professional quality photo. 


Berman and OyeJEWELRY_Web
The most challenging photo option  involves using a live model. Read previous posts on ASK Harriete for tips and tricks with photo sessions with a model. Earrings by Harriete Estel Berman. Necklace by emiko oye.

Do you have an innovative earring solution for taking great photos? Would you like to share this with the readers of ASK Harriete. Let me know. I will add your images to this post or write  a new post.



Can Photos of Your Work Compete When Surrounded by Visual Pollution?

This photo of is a great metaphor. The wires pull in all directions. It is an example of our "visually polluted climate dense with optical smog" (quoted from Suzanne Ramljak's lecture in Photography in Flux- Editor's Persepctive.) We look at, look through, look around, and/or simultaneously overlook these kinds of scenes every day.

Can the photos of your art or craft work compete with the exceptional images  on consumer packaging, in advertising, magazines, signs, billboards, television and online?

What makes a good photo for our art or craft?
In the past the graduated gray background was the standard. Now some makers prefer complete white or solid black backgrounds for the photos of their work. The influence of the highly charged images in advertising includes colored backgrounds.

Black and White Identity Bead Necklace by Harriete Estel Berman Black and White Identity Bead Necklace by Harriete Estel Berman & W Black and White Identity Bead Necklace by Harriete Estel BermanWhat is a fabulous photo? Is there a new standard? We all want one direction, one recommendation, one correct answer.


REALITY CHECK: There is no ONE answer for everyone. No straight path to exceptional.


A photo of your work needs to fit the art/craft and the situation.

The style of the photo for art and craft needs to fit BOTH the style of the work and the context. One photo is unlikely to fit all situations. If your photo goes beyond the standard graduated background using white, black, colored, a stylized background, or a model, the context for the photographic image becomes even more important.


The key issue:
Does the photo convey the message intended or is the intended message distracted, confusing, or lost?

Other factors to make your photo amazing . . .

Is the composition dynamic?

Is the image of the work memorable?

Does the image describe work accurately?

What other criteria would you add?

Send me one photo of your art or craft.
Describe the audience for your work and the context for using the photo. Let's talk.

P.S. All images above by Philip Cohen, Oakland CA.

PPS. This discussion also assumes that the focus is perfect and exposure is 100% correct.
Philip Cohen photographing my installation Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin. Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

Preservation, Conservation - Essential Documentation When Working With Alternative or Unproven Materials

Andy Goldworthy twigs photoPhotographic documentation (including video and film) can be especially important when working with alternative or unproven materials. While the temporal nature of the materials may be a critical characteristic that makes the work interesting, the documentation may be the only aspect that survives for posterity.  A photo clearly establishes exactly how the artist visualized the work, fresh - before it ages, degrades, or disappears.

For example, Andy Goldsworthy frequently works with seasonal materials like leaves, ice, or twigs.  While the work of Andy Goldsworthy may be an extreme example for temporal materials, it demonstrates the importance of documenting your work. If you haven't seen the movie "Rivers and Tides" (affiliate link) I highly recommend it! It is my favorite artist video of all time.

Andy Goldsworthy  art work using red maple leavesAndy Goldsworthy's work is a superb realization for making art from alternative materials and still creating a market for the work. Goldsworthy actually makes a living selling the photographic images in books, calendars, etc. The marketing of the photographs in print media even produces a lower priced, democratic way for a larger audience to support and appreciate his work.

The use of alternative or ephemeral materials didn't stop Goldworthy from making a living from his art. As an artist using alternative materials, you just might have to reconsider options other than storage in a box, hanging on the wall, or placing objects on a pedestal.

Berman White Plexiglas and post consumer recycled plastic trash transformed into a necklacesNshoulder96
Necklace uses post consumer recycled
plastic trash combined with repurposed
acrylic  by Harriete Estel Berman.
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander
Model: Jen Ohara

Realization of an idea is the ultimate expression of art.  Documenting the work, one way or another, helps the artist earn a living through promotion to exhibitions, collectors, publishers, or other consumers.  Often, the documentation of the experiment is just as important as the object lasting a lifetime or 20 lifetimes.


  BlackPlastic4823 bent armAH
Recycle Black Plastic is from the Recycled Collection.  The series uses post consumer plastic trash as a commentary about the impact of plastic in our environment.

Digital Skills - A Necessity for Success

Digital skills with your camera and a working knowledge of Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements) is a "no excuses" necessity for today's artists and makers.  Quality photographic images are a must for every artist and maker. There is a lot of information  to help you on the Internet. At the same time, the Internet offers tremendous opportunity for visibility. It seems to me there is no room for excuses either way.

Amercan Craft Article about Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin a sculpture of pencils about the impact of standardized testing on education.Even if you have your work professionally photographed, there are always occasions when shooting your own photos is still a necessity.

For example, the recent article in American Craft came about (at least in part) because I photographed my work while fabrication was in progress.  

LYNDA picture120x60-lynda2Every year, I spend a week to 10 days at the end of the year, learning new digital skills and working on my web site. I practice new skills in Photoshop, Dreamweaver and SEO using Lynda.com. You can try Lynda.com video tutorials with a 7 day free trial.  You can also watch video tutorials on Flickr, Google+ and more.

Another web site with lots of free online digital tutorials is CambridgeColor.com. You will find links to information about:

  • How Your Camera Works
  • Qualities of Digital Photos
  • Camera Types & Accessories
  • Digital Camera Sensor Cleaning: Tools & Techniques
  • How to Make Archival Digital Photo Backups
  • How to Protect Online Photos: Copying, Watermarks & Copyrights;
  • Image Resizing
  • Sharpening & Detail
  •   and a ton more......

Stay tuned... as I start my annual digital learning marathon for the next two weeks, I will offer quick tips that readers of ASK Harriete can use to improve their images and web site.

Start the new year with renewed visibility. 


The assembly of the pencil sculpture Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin by Harriete Estel Berman
Prepare for Success: A Crash Course for Developing Your Business Skills can be designed to meet your needs.

Submit your questions in advance.

Bring images of your work. Let's look at your web site.

Is your work consistent with your professional goals?

Brush Out Glare in Photoshop to Improve Photographic Images - by Philip Cohen

Photographing shiny or reflective objects and paintings often results in glare and highlights that may wash out detail or color. This is a frequent problem for metals, ceramics and glass, even paintings with glossy paint.

The previous post on ASK Harriete
used Photoshop's Mask tool and the Brush tool to remove glare. If you didn't know how to use these tools (like me), this post will help you learn a new Photoshop skill.

In today's post, professional photographer Philip Cohen will show us how to use Photoshop to remedy this problem. I have added many details for step by step instructions after practicing the skill for myself. 

ality photo of art and craft

Image 1.
In the photographic image above a square plate by Malcolm Nicoll shows a glare spot regardless of where Philip Cohen places the light.

Look closely at the glare in the lower left corner. While the glass plate looks shiny, this is not a good photo!

ality photo of art and craft

Image 2.
The first step in eliminating the excessive glare problem is shooting two images; first one image with the light in one location, and the second image after moving the light to get the spot of glare in a different location.

Since you want both of these images to match perfectly, do not move the camera or the object/artwork being photographed.  Move only the light.
Plate_Demo_C-1 Plate_Demo_C-2 Side by Side Comparison of Images 1. and 2.

Notice that the spot of glare changes location from lower left to upper right.

Now that you have two identical images with the glare in different locations:
OPEN Photoshop

ality photo of art and craft

CLICK on Window Menu

OPEN the LAYERS Palette

ality photo of art and craft

OPEN both images in Photoshop.

COPY Image 2. (SELECT>All; EDIT> Copy)

ality photo of art and craft

CLICK  on Image 1.
Paste Image 2.
(EDIT> Paste)

This will automatically create a new layer.

Both images are layered in one image in Photoshop.

ality photo of art and craft

Select both layers
by holding the SHIFT button down and clicking on both layers in the Layer Palette.

Align both images in the Edit Menu
EDIT MENU>CLICK on Auto-Align Layers. (If you have an old Photoshop like me, Auto-Align doesn't exist. This is why it is so important to make sure that both of your images are identical except for the glare spot. I understand that Photoshop Elements is a lot less expensive and the updated version has Auto_Align.)  


ality photo of art and craft


Both Images are layered. Click in the Layers Palette on the top layer.






Click the Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. (You can see this in the above image. The Mask icon looks like a square with a circle in the center.)

Before I started this tutorial I had never used a Mask in Photoshop. (That shows you that I am still learning.) Since I was very confused, I found a great free tutorial about using a Mask in Layers. 

Perhaps the most important tip is to "replace the word "mask" in your mind with "transparency", because that's exactly what a layer mask does. It allows you to control a layer's level of transparency. That's it!

Learning how to use a Mask is a super trick.  Before learning about Masks, I used the eraser tool. Now I realize that the Eraser tool is more primitive, less exact and fraught with problems. Using Masks is much better. I recommend you learn about Masks from PhotoshopEssentials.com or  Lynda.com (try the 7-day free trial).

With the top layer highlighted:






ForegroundBACKGROUND Practice with the brush.

The black foreground square (left) allows you to delete the top layer.     



ForegroundwhiteFLIPPING BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK SQUARE, foreground &  background changes the brush.

 The White square allows you to restore the layer.

Once you experiment you will see the differences.      

You can also use the Opacity option with the brush for a subtle control.
Photoshop tutorial for quality photo of art and craftde
Keep brushing until it’s perfect. (You can un-brush by switching the brush color to white.)  

Voila!! No glare!

Thank you Philip Cohen for sharing your professional expertise.

I am glad that I learned how to do this. Learning this new Photoshop skill will help me improve my photos. Learning new skills like this is great brain exercise too!

This new skill with Layers and using a Mask requires practice. I spent more that an hour fooling around with the images in this post. Learning Photoshop or Photoshop Elements is a skill for success for all artists and makers.

Thank you to Philip Cohen and  Malcolm Nicoll for allowing ASK Harriete to use these images. If you would like to submit your images for review, please contact ASK Harriete.

Eliminate Glare in Photographic Images with Digital Magic - A Photographic Tutorial by Philip Cohen

Philip Cohen, my photographer (for the past 23 years), has prepared a tutorial for photographing objects with highly reflective surfaces. Reflective surfaces often have a problem because the lighting source is reflected back as a white highlight which obscures color and details.  Shooting glass objects is particularly problematic for exactly this reason.

Image. 1
In this photograph of a plate by Malcolm Nicoll, a glare spot appears regardless of where the photographer places the source light. 

Plate Demo_A_2
Image 2.
So  a clever photographer shoots two images -- one with the reflected light in one position, then moving the light to get the highlight in a different location in the second photo.

Plate_Demo_A_1 Plate Demo_A_2Image 1 and Image 2
Side by side comparison of the two photos. Notice how the highlight is in a different location.

When using this technique, do not move the camera or the object.

Move ONLY the lights.

Image 3.
This is a close up view of the reflected highlight.

In Photoshop, both shots can be merged as layers. Then mask the top image so that a good area from the bottom layer fills in the glare spot.

Image 4.
Use Photoshop to make digital magic. This technique was simply not available in the film era.

Image 5.

Close-up view as the highlight disappears.

Image 6.
The perfect photographic image. No highlights obscure the details or colors. This technique could work for any highly reflective surface.

Thank you Philip Cohen for providing this step by step example for eliminating glare in photographic images with using Photoshop. This is the 3rd tutorial on ASK Harriete by Philip Cohen.

Previous photographic tutorials by Philip Cohen on ASK Harriete:

Lighting Shiny Surfaces for Quality Photographic Images” by Philip Cohen

Photographing Your Artwork? Bounce Cards Add Light and Fill in Deep Shadows

Contact: Philip Cohen to ask about quality photographic images of your art or craft.

Special thanks to Malcolm Nicoll who allowed his work to be featured in this post on ASK Harriete. 

“Lighting Shiny Surfaces for Quality Photographic Images” by Philip Cohen

Contemporary Seder plate by Harriete EStel Berman for TuBishvat.SedWhen taking photos of objects or jewelry with shiny reflective surfaces, catching the right light may seem like a difficult challenge or just a matter of luck.

Shiny surfaces reflect light like a mirror, possibly creating excessive or unwanted highlights.  What is reflected could be anything in the room that surrounds the work.  What can be done to gain control of the lighting?

Good news:  There is a very simple solution for photographing most shiny surfaces: use bounce cards to light the object with soft white light. 

In today's post on ASK Harriete, Philip Cohen takes us through a 16 step example of lighting an object with a shiny reflective surface. For this tutorial, Philip Cohen used a portion of my recent Seder plate for TuBishvat. By following his step by step process using foam core or cardboard covered in foil you can bounce soft radiant light onto your work.

The light source can either be photographic lights or outside on a bright but overcast day. Practice will help you repeat his success. This step by step tutorial was originally presented at Forging Communities.

TuBishvat Seder plate by Harriete Estel Berman photographed with harsh sunlight creating blue shadows and dark areas.  On the left is a photograph I took to illustrate the worst possible circumstances for photographing art or craft. Taken outside, the  bright sun produces harsh shadows with a blue cast. Even though I used the camera flash for fill light, the top is still dark, muddy and off color. Overall, the photo has a blue cast which you can see in the background (which was actually white foam core).

Even worse, the gold background of the Seder plate does not have a golden metallic color. The variation in color, pattern and texture from the tin cans is lost with too much contrast from the strong light.

In the next 16 photos, professional photographer Philip Cohen will demonstrate easy steps anyone can duplicate for lighting shiny surfaces. 

The background is white paper available from photographic supply stores. 

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 1. In this photo, my Seder plate is sitting on the seamless white photographic paper background. The darkness of the unlit studio is reflected in the sides of the Seder plate. The piece looks dull.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 2. Looking closely it is easy to see that the golden metallic tin cans look dark.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 3. White foam core in the upper right corner "bounces" reflected light onto the top of the Seder plate.The mirror-like surface on the top of the Seder plate reflects the soft white light from the foam core.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step4. In this photo, the top of the Seder plate is properly lit, but the front of the Seder plate is still dark.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 5. In this photo, another foam core bounce card is added to the left corner. This reflects soft white light onto the front of the Seder plate.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 6. As the bounce card in the front adds light, experimentation and patience may be needed to get just the right result. The next few photos vary slightly as the front bounce card is moved around.


TuBishvat Seder plate photographed in tutorial by Philip CohendemoStep 7. In this photo, note how the lighting makes it look like there is a dent in the center front bottom. (There is no dent there, but awkward lighting is making the tin surface look dented and puckered.)


 Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.

Step 8. Fine adjustments are needed until the unintended shadows are eliminated and the lighting shows all the patterns in the gold metallic tin. The lighting is soft to avoid brilliant washed out highlights.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 9. Now the lighting on the front is perfect.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 10. Here (in the left lower corner) you can see the front bounce card clamped to a pole which bounces light onto the front of the Seder plate. The bounce card in the upper right bounces light onto the top of the Seder plate. Now we need to bounce some light onto the dark right side of the Seder plate.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 11. Each of the sides is lit one at a time. The reflecting foam core is moved around, in or out, left or right, and with a slight tilt one way or the other. Twisting and turning the bounce card also controls the amount of light until it is just right.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 12. Slight nuances and changes until the lighting is perfect.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 13. Next step is working on the left side. It still looks a little too dark.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 14. Adding light on the left side.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 15. And with a little refinement, just right.

Photographing shiny reflective surfaces by Philip Cohen photography.
Step 16. There are four bounce cards lighting this Seder plate. Top right, far right, bottom left, and a small metallic foil-covered cardboard in the lower left corner.

HB1-Overhead-light-only-overall-view HB15-Left-side-choice-2-Fina- ShotSide by side comparison of Seder plate in Step 1 and Step 16.

The flat sides of this piece are good for this lighting illustration, but the same ideas work for any shape of object or size to be photographed. Just keep trying new angles.

Keep in mind that you need to be looking at your subject from the exact position of the tripod-mounted camera.

 The "money shot" or final shot:

TuBishvat Seder Plate by Harriete EStel Berman photograhed by Philip Coheneite p
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Assiyah, Yetzirah, Beriyah
©       2011        Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Contact: Philip Cohen to ask about quality photographic images of your art or craft.
View all the photos that Philip Cohen took of my TuBishvat Seder plate.


Since 1988, the use of post-consumer recycled materials has been a core premise of my work. This interpretation of the recycling symbol covered in metallic gold tin cans creates a platform for the three types of fruit used during the Tu Bishvat Seder service.

For Assiyah, a pomegranate branch symbolizes the fruit where only the inside is eaten. 

For Yetzirah, an olive branch represents fruits where only the outside is eaten

For Beriyah, a silhouette of figs and fig leaves includes images of apples, pears and grapes, fruits where all parts are eaten.

The center star is a profound symbol of Judaism subtly presented as a radiating light.  Within the concept of tikkun olam and our observance of TuBishvat, we repair the world through our actions. 

Post consumer recycled tin cans, 10k gold rivets, sterling silver rivets, aluminum rivets, brass screws, Plexiglas.
HB Seder Plate 2011 with PlexThe Plexiglas tops are designed for functional use of this Seder plate so that fruit or nuts will not be in contact with the tins.

Approximate dimensions: 6” H x 24” W


Plan The "Money Shot" Photograph of Your Art or Craft.

As mentioned in the previous post, Use Your Camera As An Impartial Opinion - A Third Eye, that post reviewed ways to get a fresh perspective on your work while the making is in progress. Your digital camera is a quick, easy, and effective tool for impartially looking at your work.

Here is another valuable use of your camera while your work is in progress .... TuBishvat Seder plate in progress by Harriete Estel BermanYiBish

Use your camera to experiment for the final photographic images of your work.

While I am constructing my work, I am also planning the "money shot" or final image after completion.  The "money shot" is what my photographer, Philip Cohen, considers the one superlative image that best captures the essence of the piece; the one image that will be used most often to represent this piece for gallery and exhibition applications and likely be used on postcards, announcements, or in the exhibition catalog.

TuBishvat Seder plate by Harriete Estel Berman in progress from a different angle.jV

While you are most intimately engaged with a piece, right from the very beginning, start thinking about and planning this all important image. Think about the angles of your work along with the theme and content. Think about what you want this photo to say. Don't wait until the last minute behind the camera to make this decision.


It is a bit of an eye opener when we think about this: 
More people will see the photographic images of your work
than those who will ever see the work in person

Once you realize this fact, the photographs of your work take on much more significance.  So, think about your money shot in advance.


Artists usually have a mental vision of such an image.  In reality, when a camera lens can only take one image at a time, it can be difficult to predict exactly which angle or shot will come close to capturing that mental expectation.  But a little planning and experimentation will help.       


Take test shots.
As the work nears completion, take test shops to experiment with the best vantage points and angles that capture the most information.


Where should your camera be to capture the best part of the piece? Where should the viewer's gaze be to emphasize the most interesting aspects? What vantage point captures the theme or concept of the work?


As an exercise, scroll back to the top of this post and look at the photos of my Seder plate in progress.

The last four photos in this post were all test shots that I took quickly on a Sunday morning. The black background isn't the best for this piece, but a small black art table in the kitchen was the perfect size to set up the Seder plate and walk around taking some quick shots....pick your favorite position and your favorite photo.  Then continue from here to see the final "money shot" below.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? Remember, 90% of the time this image will be the one image that will represent the work. Catalogs, magazines, publicity, postcards,....and more will use this one shot over and over.

Below is the money shot from photographer Philip Cohen.

HB SEDER Plate 2011 San Plex
What do you think? Ideas? Comments?


Previous posts related to this topic:

Guidelines and Tips for Working with Photographers - Handout by Doug Yaple from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar

Finding a photographer? Working with your photographer? Getting the shot you want.

Photo Comparisons and Descriptions - Now Optimize Your Submission

The previous post answered a question from Lora Hart about what information jurors really take into consideration.

She  also sent several photos for comparison.Today we will look more closely at the photos and the photo description. There are several issues to look at here.

Compare and contrast these photos. How does the quality of the photo affect your opinion of the work?

What do you think about the inclusion of technique within the photo description?

Lora Hart Communion PhotoLHart Lora Hart Communion MarshaThomas

.999 Metal Clay, Mica, Photograph, Pearl. Kiln fired, riveted.
Left Photo by Lora Hart.
Photo by Marsha Thomas.

The photo left was taken by the artist.
Unfortunately the lighting reveals the "wavy" surface of the frame. This is distracting and the least attractive part of this pendent. From a technical standpoint, a frame like this should be cut from silver sheet or sanded to a smoother appearance (before riveting).

The completely centered pendant and background looks a little rigid and static. The pendant is sinking into the background.

In the professional photograph on the right by Marsha Thomas the spot of light on the lower right gives a strong shadow below the pendant. This clearly delineates the pendant, giving the pendant a presence and lifts the pendant off the background.

The extra lighting also makes the photographic element glow with a richer color. Since the photo is an important part of the composition, this extra emphasis is important.

While a photo description (above) as written by Lora Hart would not get the artist eliminated, it focuses too much attention to the techniques.   This is intended to be constructive criticism to stress how important words can be in representing your work.

The photo description should include ONLY materials. Including "kiln fired", and "riveted" in the photo description is unnecessary.  I do  not recommend including any fabrication or technical information in a photo description (unless it is required).  Even then, a requirement for technical information is usually a separate box on a juried application.

The term photo in the description seemed a little unclear to me. I looked at the image and wondered why the photo had a brown tint. It was only after discussion with Lora, that she realized that she forgot to include Mica in the description (I added this later).

After we cleared up this issue, it brought something to mind. If a juror is confused about an image, it brings the work closer to a rejection. In this example, I didn't understand why the photo had a brown tint. Only after two emails, did Lora and I clear this up. During a real jury situation, communication with the artist is not a option. If anything in the photographic image of your work isn't explained in the description, most likely your work is out. Don't use the term mixed media for just this reason.


Lora Hart Eidyl PleasurePhotoLH

Lora  Hart Eidyl PleasureMarshaThomas

Eidyl Pleasure.
Copper, .999 Fine Silver, Pearls. Hydraulically Pressed, Kiln Fired, Sewn.
Left Photo by Marsha Thomas.
Photo by Lora Hart.



The photo taken by the artist on the left seems a bit out of focus. In a competitive jury situation, an out of focus photo is usually an automatic "decline".

So sorry to be so blunt, but if the photo isn't in focus, it sends a message that the artist/maker is:

  • not professional;
  • they are not focusing on their art  or craft;
  • the maker does not have professional quality photos because they don't care; and if the artist doesn't care, then the juror doesn't care;
  • = Decline.

Another problem with the photo on the left is that the color is lifeless. The completely centered pendant within the photographic frame looks somewhat flat and dull (especially in comparison to the photo on the right).

In the professional photo (on the right) by Marsha Thomas, the spot of light on the pendant and the background gradient helps to highlight the pendant. The focus is clear and sharp. The color of the copper looks luminous and rich. The metal shines. I like how the point of the pendant points diagonally into the corner which creates a more dynamic image. The pearls extend this movement into the corner of the frame filling the entire rectangle format of the image.

The photo description should include only the materials, no technical process. 
Do not list technical process unless it is required information. I am not as familiar with other media, but jewelry/metals people seem overly focused on technical processes and it becomes a boring crutch. Skip it. Nada, never include any processes in your photo description. The only thing people or jurors want to judge is the final work, not how you made it.

Take out terms such as "Hydraulically Pressed, Kiln Fired, Sewn" from the photo description. This goes in a box for process or technique, not in the photo description. Avoid discussion of technique unless it relates directly to the theme.

NEXT PHOTO comment:

sterling silver, .999 Metal Clay, pearls,
silk. Fabricated, kiln fired, sewn.
Artist: Lora Hart
Photo Credit: Marsha Thomas

Lora Hart's ring (to the left) only has one professional quality image, so there is no comparison photo.   But  I do have a comment. The top of the ring and the background are too close to the same value.  I wish that there was more contrast between the ring and background, either the ring had a little more light on it, or the background were a lighter color.


I would add the term "ring" to the title as in Conquistador Ring. Adding a clarifying word makes it very clear when the juror is looking at the work.

Of course, in this case, it is very obvious that this is a ring, but sometimes rings don't look this obvious. Same goes with a bracelet, pendant, necklace, teapot, book, cabinet, etc.

Hope this information is helpful. Do you have any photos like this to compare for ASK Harriete readers? Photos you took yourself and then had the same work re-shot by a photographer.

Thank you Lora Hart for sharing.  This has been a great comparison to review.


Juried Submissions: What information do jurors really take into consideration?

  Sainted Memory
  Sterling silver, fine silver, brass, found
  object. Roller printed, fabrication.
  Artist: Lora Hart
  Photo Credit: Marsha Thomas

Dear Harriete,

The post on your CaFE jury experience was particularly enlightening. I'm wondering if you could write a post regarding what types of information jurors take into consideration other than good imagery/photographs and the actual piece itself?

If everything else was there, would the lack of backup information lessen the chances of acceptance? If the required guidelines were somewhat less than stellar, would a great resume, bio or artist statement raise the possibility of inclusion?
Lora Hart

In most juried situations the artwork is definitely the primary consideration. More specifically, the jurors are not looking at the artwork in person so the photographic images are THE primary method for evaluation. This is why the quality of the photographic images is so important.

Lora Hart sent two pairs of photos for the same work. How does the quality of the photo influence your decision about the work?

Lora Hart Communion PhotoLHart Lora Hart Communion MarshaThomas

.999 Metal Clay, Mica, Photograph, Pearl. Kiln fired, riveted.
Left Photo by Lora Hart
Photo by Marsha Thomas

IF the juror can’t “read” the photographic images well enough, or the photo isn't good enough for any reason, the juror may look to the supporting information including the description, dimensions or statement for further insight. Therefore, the quality of the information and the writing can be important, but usually secondary.


LoraHartEidyl PleasureMarshaThomas

Lora Hart Eidyl PleasurePhotoLH
Eidyl Pleasure. Copper, .999 Fine Silver, Pearls. Hydraulically Pressed, Kiln Fired, Sewn.
Photo by Marsha Thomas.
Photo by Lora Hart.

Also, be sure to follow instructions for the information requested. If required information is missing (for example, dimensions are required, and there were no dimensions, or a statement is required and there is no statement), this would definitely be sufficient grounds for "decline."

If a juror is on the edge about a decision, an artist statement may influence the juror's decision toward "yes" or "no."  So, your statement should avoid fluff, artspeak, and meaningless emotional verbiage. Express concrete ideas and clear descriptions that may not be apparent in the photographic images. (Read a previous post on ASK Harriete about Artist Statements.)

For a themed based situation:
Other the other hand, for a themed juried situation, the statement may be much more important as the art or craft will be evaluated on how well it specifically addresses the theme.  An artist statement that addresses a theme or expresses ideas in the work may have more impact.

sterling silver, .999 Metal Clay, pearls,
silk. Fabricated, kiln fired, sewn.
Artist: Lora Hart
Photo Credit: Marsha Thomas

The statement that accompanies your work should specifically address the theme of the exhibition. Too many artists use a general statement about a body of work that does not directly relate to the specific images submitted. In addition, avoid discussion of technique unless it relates directly to the theme.

I would say that a bio or resume is rarely a factor in a juried decision. Typically, the resume is not part of a juried application. If for some very unusual reason a juror decided to look at a resume, what they would want to see is past influences and how a person has applied themselves with dedication and effort. (Read a previous post on ASK Harriete about resumes.)  Do not inflate your resume, do not double list shows, do not include workshops as education -- just the facts without exaggeration is all that is needed.

In conclusion, there are a couple of issues that are total turn offs. One is excuses (such as, "you don't have much time," who does?)  Another turn off is a one word or one sentence statement or a statement such as "My work speaks for itself."  If the juror is looking at your statement, the work obviously did not speak loud and clear, and you just shot yourself in the foot.   

Next post: a discussion of these photos and the photo description information.

Compare and contrast these photos. How does the quality of the photo affect your opinion of the work?

What do you think about the inclusion of technique in the description with the photo?


Behind the Camera: Inexpensive Secrets for A Great Model Shoot!

Recycle.BR.BW.arm up72
Are there any inexpensive ways to obtain a great model shot?

  • Four people at least.
  • Mirrors, and/or aluminum foil on cardboard.
  • Hair Spray and hair gel (little fuzzy hairs look really bad.)


Make-up is a complex issue.
The model's make-up needs to match the model's style and the style of your jewelry or clothing. If you listen to the Podcast Lunch Discussion from the Professional Develoment Seminar, the photographers discuss how film and digital cameras photograph the skin. Important issues to consider.

My model was very tan with fabulous skin. All we used was a little lip gloss for lips and some mascara. This is what America's Top Model often does for their "beauty shots."

Make up generally has to be heavier or more dramatic  for a photo shoot than would be worn for every day.

BACKGROUND is important and a challenge.  We used a white sheet as the background. 
But no wrinkles can show. Although I ironed and stretched the sheet, it still had wrinkles. Next time I am going to try a sheet of white laminate. It costs a lot less than a sheet. No wrinkles.

Paper may be difficult as a background outside.  I knew the photo shoot had to be outside and it is often windy at my house. If you want to use paper as a background, you can buy large rolls of paper in many colors at a photo supply.


Lots of natural bright light (no direct sunlight) is the final secret for a low cost photo shoot. Direct sunlight is too harsh and creates strong shadows. Professional photoshoots are often done at sun up or sun down for great horizontal golden light. If you can take your photos on an overcast or foggy day, that is another option, but it is difficult to co-ordinate four or five people and the weather. This is why we used bouce cards. See the previous posts for an explanation.


P.S. If you want some background about The Model or the Pedestal? Which is the more effective image? check out this post from ASK Harriete.

ALSO: Tomorrow's post includes a surprise! Don't miss it! Subscribe to ASK Harriete.

Behind the Camera: Secrets Revealed in a PhotoShoot with a Model

A photographic image with a model is the most challenging photo session ever. It takes at least three, preferably four, people at a minimum. Take my word for it.

Below are two sets of recent photos, one the "money shot" followed by the "behind the scenes" reality.

Money Shot #1

Photo shoot of Aqua necklace, photo by Alyssa Endoq

Now a behind the scenes revelation. We had five people working; the model, photographer, stylist/lighting, gaffer and documentary photographer. The day we took the photos was less than ideal as it was very windy, and getting windier, but we wanted to be outside with natural light. We had to make it work! Everyone had already scheduled the four hour time slot. 

photo by Alyssa Endo as we fix the model's hair.ng
Photo by Alyssa Endo      Model Jen Ohara

We were all fussing over the model. Even so much as one hair out of place looks terrible in a photo. I must have put a ton of hairspray on the model's hair. The jewelry photos are filled with warm glowing sunlight, but in fact, we were all freezing including the model.

The photographer is leaning in to check exposure up close so the camera is not tricked by reflected light.

Below, two people (me and Ace Shelander) are both holding panels to bounce the light (indicated by white lines and arrows) on to the model. I am using a flexible hoop that is metallic on one side and white on the other. Ace has white foam core.

Photo by Alyssa Endo , the light bounces off bounce cardsg lilight EndoPHOTOshootaquabehindcameraboucinglight.
Photo by Alyssa Endo.

We also had two mirrors (outside of the camera's view) bouncing light into the eaves above the model. This showered the model from above with beautiful soft white light. On the ground, below the model, are large sheets of white foam core bouncing light up into the eaves of the house.

Photo by Alyssa Endo shows a photo shoot of bracelet by Harriete Estel Bermanuabehindcamera800
Photo by Alyssa Endo.

The light bounced from the foam core is very white, soft and subtle. This is why it works so well - no harsh shadows, just warm glowing light. Of course, because the sun keeps moving, you have to frequently move the mirrors and bounce cards to maintain the light.

Photos by Francois Duhamel © 2008
All Rights Reserved.

Bouncing light is not for the lighthearted. The entire movie, Revolutionary Road, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet was filmed in a small Connecticut house. They constructed huge bounce cards to push soft white light from outside into a small house. (left photos)

To maintain the consistent feel of natural light outside the Connecticut house, giant 12' x 12' ultrabounce reflectors and large muslin sheets were arranged to bouce light into the scene.

 Photo by Alyssa Endo of photo shoot with bracelet by Harriete Estel Bermanshirt
Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

Everything counts for a great shot. So much can go wrong when using a model. Above, the shirt is too wrinkled. We are are all looking at the angles of the model, the bracelet, the slightest angle of the hand, her fingers, wrist, arm, body, clothing and jewelry. We tried to fix the shirt in the photo below.

Photo by Alyssa Endo as we fix the shirt during a photo shoot for jewelry by Harriete Estel Bermanrt
Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

The photographer, stylist, and gaffer are all responsible for spotting problems.


Money Shot #2

Jewelry by Harriete Estel Berman in a proposed Billboard formatBerman02
Photo by Alyssa Endo

I am using this amazing shot (above) for an outdoor billboard.  

Below, check out the reality.

Photo by Alyssa Endo

I had two jobs during this shoot, bouncing light on to the model, while trying to "see" what the camera sees. The photographer only gets to look through the camera. The stylist and the assistants need to see what is going on around the model and the camera. What is happening with the light? Everything counts when doing a shoot with the model.


Money Shot #3

Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

In the above image of jewelry by emiko oye, the model glows serenely. The necklace looks fantastic! The reality was a lot less polished, until we got it right.

Below, you can see how we were meticulously and precisely placing the necklace. Every link of the chain had to lay just right....or it looked terrible. We spent a lot of time, while the entire crew waited, trying to fix the necklace chain just right - so many shots were rejected because of the chain not laying right.

The model doesn't look too happy, the light is shining in her eyes.

Photo by Alyssa Endo

Here I am are taping the necklace to the back of the model with masking tape because it needed to lay a little higher on her chest. The light is glowing....but in fact we were freezing (which is why the model is wearing sweat pants). It was getting more windy by the minute. The model had to stand in the shade while we bounced sunlight into the photo and into the model's eyes. The model can't let any of this show.

Money Shot #

Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

Look closely at the photo above, the bracelet looks like it is poking the model.We have to see this during the shoot and fix it.

Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

We used a white sheet as the background. I ironed the sheet which we stretched and thumbtacked to the house, but it still had wrinkles. Next time I am going to try a sheet of white laminate.  

The fabulous shot below.

Photo by Aryn Shelander of bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

Did you wonder why the model is not standing in the sun? If the model stood in the sun, the lighting would be too harsh with strong shadows. Soft, diffuse, and glowing light is one of the secrets to success.

There are a number of things you need for a photo shoot that don't cost much, but help lead to success. Stay tuned for the next post.


HOT TOPICS! Questions From the Audience at the Professional Development Seminar

The AUDIENCE asked the questions that they wanted answered! The energy was immediate and electric! The questions on target for what artists and makers deal with every day. 

Discussion was further sparked by the interlaced perspectives and recommended strategies of the Niche Marketing and Photography in Flux speakers during the 2011 SNAG Professional Development Seminar.


Now you can listen online to the ENTIRE PDS LUNCH DISCUSSION.

Below are TWO SAMPLE QUESTIONS discussed on the podcast.

Camera "What camera should I buy?  There are so many, it is kind of confusing."
"There is a growing number of digital cameras out there. Rather than suggesting specific brands," Roger Schreiber suggests "looking for 'certain features.'  It is absolutely important that you be able to control the focus, that you be able to control the aperture, and you be able to control the  shutter speed. You should be able to tell the camera what color balance you want to use. And all the major manufacturers make those kinds of cameras. You should also be able to shoot in RAW. You don't necessarily have to have interchangeable lenses."

"I would totally ignore Megapixels. More pixels don't necessarily make for a better photograph.  I would think in terms of the size of the sensor. There are some cameras with full size sensors."

Camerasensor_sizes "Look at the features and look at the sensor size.  'Point and shoot' cameras have an absolute tiny sensor in them that is less than 1/2" across. Some are packed with 14 megapixels. You are never going to see the details and shadows without a larger sensor. The handout by Roger Schreiber [Download Schreiber_Photo resources] lists a number of web sites. "A couple of them will lead you to sites with camera reviews."

Do some research first. Learn what the terms RAW and sensor mean [so you understand the features described in the camera reviews].

emiko oye suggests renting a camera and lenses from your local camera store for a day. You don't need to spend $5,000 to get a professional camera. Her favorite lens is a 24 to 104  mm (which is like a portrait lens).  She adds, "jewelers you should definitely buy a macro lens."

Boxes "How do you decide which work should be photographed by a professional photographer?"
Doug Yaple advises, "Look at your work and pick out the  strongest pieces. If you have a really low budget,... pick out the five strongest pieces. And if you want, when you go to the photographer, take more than that, and talk about them ALL with the photographer. See what will translate into [the best] image. It may not be the piece you think. Work it down to fit your budget and then use those images as long as you can."
ApplesONE ROTTEN Christopher Conrad says: "Only use the images that are good. If you put out poor images of your work, it reflects on your work. If you can only afford two good shots, only put up two good shots. Don't put up five bad ones."

Hilary Pfeifer says: "I think it takes a lot of time when you're first starting out from school to get a good body of pictures. I remember it felt like four or five years for me until I could pick from the cream of the crop, but it is an investment. It's a really, really important investment to have professional photographers take the most important pieces."

Many more great questions . . . .
are a few highlights from the lunch discussion. 
Take time to listen to the entire podcast.

Questionsmarksline Is there a new standard emerging for photographic images?

What are the ethics of PhotoShoping your work images? Where do you draw the line between taking out dust specks and filling in a solder gap?

Who owns the rights to the photograph? What about "use fees" for a cover shot?

What kind of "master image" should you receive from your photographer?

Where do you find your market?  Etsy, web sites, or traditional galleries?

Ideas for marketing your work and visibility for your blog.


ASK HarrieteBlueRedYellow.gr
* The podcast refers to the following documents:

Model Consignment Contract in the Professional Guidelines.

Roger Schreiber Photo resources with photography links.

Handout for the Photography in Flux speakers.

DIGITAL IMAGES File Extensions a quick tutorial
PPT and HANDOUT.Digital Images from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar 2011

View another webinar from Harriete Estel Berman

Is There A New Standard in Photographic Documentation of Art and Craft?

This is the critical question Andy Cooperman, Brigitte Martin and I were trying to figure out when we organized the program Photography in Flux for the Professional Development Seminar.

Is there a new photographic standard emerging in the photographic documentation of art and craft?


After an entire morning of excellent PowerPoint presentations Andy Cooperman asked the first question at the Professional Development Seminar lunch discussion,

"Is there a new photographic standard emerging?

BananaRepublicCASUAL "What I have been calling verity," sometimes called authentic,  "grunge meets Etsy, meets D.I.Y.. Companies like Banana Republic are spending a lot of money to look spontaneous."

MVearringsMarthe Le Van, Editor of Lark Books had a articulate response that captured the morning, "I think rather than a [new] standard, it is an expansion of the boundaries." "Rather than changing standards, they are just expanding." It has to be looked at on a "case by case situation, when it works, I think it works really well, but some- times it doesn't work." 

Photographer Christopher Conrad added, "also more people are doing their own shots. So one out of 99 might really work."

RogerSchrieberJimMongrain Roger Schrieber, professional photographer, continued the conversation with a reference to his theater background. "There is the old theater adage, if it works leave it in. I approach photo shoots with the artists not focusing on the latest trends, but I want to shoot the best picture I can of that art."

Hanna Hedman Photo Credit Sana Lindberg Marthelevanmodelwithfish
Jewelry by Hanna Hedman
Photo Credit: Sanna Lindberg
Photo shown during Marthe Le Van PPT

"And the art usually tells me what it wants to look like. I was really impressed with the photographs that Marthe was show- ing us from Sweden. Very, very interesting stuff, but there are a lot of juries that wouldn't want to see that; but you've got to know what the juries want to see. You have to read your mail. You have to know what the juries are looking for. If that works, do it."


The above comments were taken from the recorded audio of the Professional Development Seminar. I have listened to all the lectures and discussion very carefully.  For hours I edited the audio recordings minute by minute. I learned so much from the speakers.


While it is pretty scary to dictate absolute standards,
I think some suggestions might help artists and makers veer away from mistakes toward better photographs of their art and craft.

So here are photo recommendations:



AVOID WRINKLED OR DRAPED FABRIC. It looks over stylized and like a manufactured jewelry ad.

AVOID TEXTURED OR EMBOSSED PAPER. The background becomes distracting.

BACKGROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE A THEME . . . such as water, water washed rocks, sand, moss or leaves. These backgrounds distract attention away from the work and tend to look commercial at best.  Thematic backgrounds rarely translate well in a juried  situation.

COLORED BACKGROUNDS SHOULD BE USED WITH CAUTION. It can be eye catching or inappropriate. Think about three issues before adding color backgrounds: the work, the audience, and the color. It needs to be the perfect combination. While colored backgrounds may be fine for something fun such as a postcard special graphic, or online marketing they can look out of place in other contexts. Another problem with colored backgrounds is that they can look dated. The trend setting color for the decade, screams passé in a few years. Avoid colored backgrounds if this is your only professional quality shot. Your photos need to be an investment with a timeless quality.

BLACK BACKGROUNDS ARE VERY CHALLENGING. Many people think that black backgrounds are automatically a good choice for light, white or silver work. The reality is that most black backgrounds looks like a black hole with no shadows except in the hands of the most skilled photographer. If you want black, lay down a sheet of glass on top of the black background to soften the appearance and create a subtle reflection.  Another option is dark gray instead of black as a safer choice.

A FINAL WORD OF ADVICE. The competition for people’s attention is enormous. The general public has become far more sophisticated in judging quality photography by seeing professional quality photos every day in advertising, books, magazines and online. The quality of the photo is the perceived quality and status of the art or craft.  Your image sends a very powerful message. Make it the best messenger possible for your work.

Two documents in the Professional Guidelines may help you with your images.



Facebook Crafthaus Are you wondering if you images are good enough? Would you like me to look at your images? Contact me through Facebook or Crafthaus. It is an easy way to share your images with me. Maybe we can work together to improve your images? ASK Harriete

Photography in Flux Editors' Perspective - Are You Creating a Captivating Image?

Photography in Flux - Editors Perspective starts with Suzanne Ramljak, Editor of Metalsmith Magazine, writer and curator. It continues with Marthe Le Van, Editor of Lark Books. The recorded program is now available for you to hear on line with the original Powerpoint from the SNAG Conference.

As I edited the audio from the SNAG 2011 Professional Development Seminar I hung onto every word. I learned a lot about the editors perspective on the qualities of the best photos, and mistakes they see every day.

Visual pollutionSR
This newsstand is an example of visual pollution in our "media saturated culture". Suzanne Ramljak, Editor of Metalsmith Magazine, presented this as an establishing image in her lecture for Photography in Flux

How appropriate for a magazine editor to consider how the magazine competes on the newstand with many other publications, candy and packaging, all at the same time.


Did you ever think about how  photos of your art work compete with the "5,000 ads" people look at every day?

Irving Penn stilllife
  Irving Penn still life photo

Suzanne Ramljak offered many fabulous quotes:
"The still life photographer makes the photo as compared to takes the photo."  

Are you making the photos of your art work fantastic, or are you merely taking a photo? Ramljak reinforces that "artists need to create a captivating image."

"There is no neutral background in a photo."

"Artists need a captivating image to compete with the visual noise without sacrificing the integrity of the object."

Botticelli compilation
Click for more examples of The Art of the Reproduction on line.

Suzanne declares: "The web poses new challenges. Anything can happen to your images and does." Just consider this compilation of the painting, Birth of Venus, by Botticelli. Each square is from a different web site. The variances represent the half truths, misrepresentations, and lack of control artists, photographers, and editors have when images leave their computer and travel at the speed of light on the Internet.

Marthe Le Van_72 The Photography in Flux- Editors Perspective continues with Lark Books Editor, Marthe Le Van. Among the many issues addressed were the questions: What is a good cover photo? Is there a national, European, Asian or international style to jewelry photography? 

MartheLeVancrossplatformimages Getting down to the nitty gritty of photos on the Internet, Marthe confronts us with the reality of small postage stamp size images on a gallery website or social networking site. Do the photos of your art or craft have a strong enough graphic quality to get a viewer to click through on the image?

500 SilverJewelryDesigns Le Van answered a question that I have always wanted to know. What makes a good cover shot? What do you think? 

Earrings by Beate Klockmann  from the
book 21st Century Jewelry edited by
Marthe Le Van

 Is it possible to break all the rules and still have a great photo?

What are your questions? Can ASK Harriete offer answers? Open the discussion.

Listen and learn from the opinions and experiences from both of these experienced editors in Photography in Flux.






View another webinar from Harriete Estel Berman


Jewelry on the Model - Skin, Skin, Skin

Marthe Le Van, Editor of Lark Books, says that the best background for jewelry is skin, skin, skin!!!! By this she means that jewelry on the model produces a very effective photo.

21st Century Jewelry book includes jewelry by PeterHodgeboom
Spanish Collar by Peter Hoogeboom; Photo by Henni Van Beek

During Le Van's lecture for the Professional Development Seminar she showed some of her favorite images with models from the new book, 21st Century Jewelry, The Best of the 500 Series. In this post on ASK Harriete, I have borrowed a few images from her PowerPoint and offer a preview to next Tuesday's post.

21st Century Jewelry book includes jewelry by Jesse Mathes
Rebato by Jesse Mathes; Photos by Michael Cavanagh & Kevin Montague

Next Tuesday, ASK Harriete will include the SlideShare PowerPoint with audio from the SNAG 2011Professional Development Seminar. You can see Marthe Le Van's and Suzanne Ramljak's Powerpoint and hear the audio recording from the 2011 SNAG Conference.

Hear what both editors have to say about the best and worst photographic images. What makes a good cover shot? What is the future of print?

 21st Century Jewelry book includes jewelry by  Seainin Passi
Resin Droplet Neckpiece by Seainin Passi; Photo by Richard Boll

Marthe Le Van said that a book of photographs with page after page of standard photographic backgrounds would be really boring. The model shot brings jewelry to life and a more exciting book!

21st Century Jewelry book includes jewelry bykayo Saito
Floating Brooch by Kayo Saito;

When I first saw her lecture in May, I had not seen the book 21st Century JewelryNow sitting on my desk, this is the most beautiful jewelry book to date from Lark Books and a must for EVERYONE interested in contemporary jewelry.

21st Century Jewelry book The range of jewelry goes from traditional gold and diamonds to irreverent plastic, crotchet and found materials. No matter your inclination or interest, you will find examples that will excite your passion about jewelry.

The embossed hard cover of the book focus on the book as a precious object in itself.

Rebecca Hannon
Camino de Santiago by Rebecca Hannon

On occasion a model is the only way to show work effectively as in the body adornment by Rebecca Hannon (above photo).

"How to make a rabbit from a sock" to
"how to make a necklace from a frock"
Fran Allison © 2004-2005
Fabric, silver, steel cable, resin.
Photo Credit: Deborah Smith

However, nothing is more challenging than getting a great photo with the model. So much can go wrong; hair, make-up, clothing, eyes, mouth, posture, hands, jewelry placement, plus all the usual issues of background and lighting. The list goes on...


 21st Century Jewelry book includes jewelry by Lori Talcott
Mardoll II by Lori Talcott; Photo by Doug Yaple

Stay tuned for a future post on ASK Harriete about using the model
with tips for getting a better photograph. In the meantime,  I can hardly wait to share Photography in Flux - Editors Perspective (next Tuesday). While editing the entire audio I heard it many times.  

21st Century Jewelry book includes jewelry by HarrieteEstelBerman
Bead Embellishment Bracelets by Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

In the interest of full disclosure: I was invited to be one of 85 guest jurors to select work for 21st Century Jewelry. Some of my descriptions and quotes were used in the book along with an image for three of my bracelets.


Photography in Flux - 3 Photographers Offer Tips and Tricks for Quality Photos

BlueSpiralGraph.grDoug Yaple, Christopher Conrad and Roger Schreiber all offered solid information with tips and tricks for producing quality photographic images of art and craft. Now EVERYONE can benefit by watching and listening to the same PowerPoint presentation given at the 2011 Professional Development Seminar during the SNAG Conference in Seattle.

Photolights Here are a couple of highlights from the photographers commentary followed immediately by the SlideShare presentation. "Learn how the visual language of photography can represent your work most effectively."

Doug Yaple.goblets
  Photo by Doug Yaple of glass goblets
  with a more "classical" approach to the


"The market and the audience should drive the decisions in how to photograph your work."

Ask yourself, "What is the image to be used for? Online advertising, articles in print, cover shots, jury submission?"

"Make the story come out in your photos."

Doug Yaple was very articulate in describing his photographic images and why they are so effective. Listen to the Photography in Flux presentation and learn.


ConradJewelry Final 6x4
Photos by photographer Christopher Conrad


Be careful about colored walls and mixed lighting sources when photographing your work.

He makes a couple of suggestions for bouncing light into the photographic image.

Conrad tells how.

Did you know that a "lower ISO reduces noise"? I didn't.

TIP 5. A TRICK FOR SHOOTING PAINTINGS, QUILTS OR LARGE FLAT GEOMETRIC OBJECTS. It's so simple! Listen to Photography in Flux and learn. 



Roger Schreiber photo of work by Carol Gouthro
Close up photographic image by Roger
Schreiber of ceramic by Carol Gouthro

Photographer ROGER SCHREIBER says ask yourself:
"Who is your audience?"
"Do you have enough time?"


He continues: "Everything that falls within the frame is part of the photograph. Shadows, highlights and background are all part of the picture." He is so right. When looking at something in person, the human eye has a natural tendency to edit. The photographic image is another thing entirely. Everything has equal importance in the flattened picture frame. This makes even the tiniest flaw look like a major distraction. Here is an interesting article about the Camera vs. The Human Eye.



Finding a photographer? Working with your photographer? Getting the shot you want.


Berman Black White Bracelet from recycled plastic as jewelry from alternative material96
RECYCLE White w/Black © 2011
Post consumer recycle plastic
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

Deadlines for new opportunities are always on the horizon so there is no time like the present to prepare for future opportunities.

Are you ready with amazing, quality photographic images?

Roger Schrieber JimMongrain
Photo by Roger Schreiber
Glass by Jim Mongrain

Photographer Roger Schreiber says
: "Quality sells" and
"Remember more people see the photographic image of your work than ever see it in person."

Would you like to know the tips and tricks of professional photographer?


Next Tuesday's post on ASK Harriete features
Photography in Flux.
 Recorded during the 2011 Professional Development Seminar this SlideShare presentation with audio includes the three Seattle photographers who tell us how to create better photographic images. Stay tuned, put it on your calendar.

Harriete Estel  Berman WilliamsSonoma.72
 Williams Sonoma Bracelet
  from the California Collection

  Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Your images need to be spectacular!

Wondering how to find a photographer?
Study the photos in the 500 Lark Books, top quality publications or look on the SNAG web site for a list of photographers. Another idea is to contact local art schools for graduating photo students.

Bracelets by Harriete EStel Berman from recycled tin cans.WEB
   California Collection  © 2009
   Recycled tin cans
   Artist: Harriete Esetl Berman
   Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Look for a photographer that takes great shots in your media, and style. You can also use the Professional Guidelines document titled, Guide to Professional Quality Images, to evaluate the photographer's portfolio before you ask them to photograph your work.

  California Collection © 2009
  Recycled tin cans, wood, paper
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
  Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

WORK WITH your photographer.
By that I mean, discuss in advance the type of image you want, the angle of the piece, and the side or view that you prefer. Photographer Doug Yaple wrote an excellent handout for the Professional Development Seminar during the SNAG 2011 Conference titled, Guidelines and Tips for Working with Photographers. Download DougYaple

  Fulsome Game
  Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

I often make a sketch of the image that I have in mind for my photographer, Philip Cohen.  He is welcome to experiment with his own ideas, too, but I usually have a good idea of what I want to see in the final image and make every effort to make my expectations clear.

Fulsome Game by Harriete Estel Berman emiko oye suggests:
"If you aren't a skilled photographer (yet), best to hire a professional studio photographer and ask if you can observe the shoot. Some won't mind if you quietly look on while they shoot your pieces, but it's best to ask."

"Do your homework before your appointment and look at magazines and books for the type of shots that you are attracted to and bring these to the attention of your photographer so they know how to style your shots."

Fulsome.cu.iron. Get the shot you want!
During the PDS, Doug Yaple said, "Don't overlook getting in tight to accent something critical."  Your detail image should be able to stand alone on its own merits AND be a companion image to your full view. Carefully consider the meaning, content, story, or inspiration behind the work and try to capture this in the detail photo. 

The time and money required to produce professional quality images is relatively small in comparison to all the work you put into a finished piece.  It is an investment. The pay off comes from the free publicity, visibility and long term credibility that you can receive when you are included in a exhibition, book or magazine!


Read GUIDE to PROFESSIONAL QUALITY IMAGES  in the Professional Guidelines

Find the photographer for your work.

Plan the photographic image while you make the work.

WORK WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER to get the best shot.

Photo Shoot using a model, jewelry by Harrite Estel Berman, photo credit: Alyssa Endo

Do you want to learn how to take your own photography?
Next Tuesday's post includes tips and tricks from three professional photographers from the Seattle 2011 Professional Development Seminar. RECYCLE  Braclet by Harriete Estel Berman photographed by Alyssa Endor, le le ELThey generously offer advice on how to improve your photography. Stay tuned, put it on your calendar or subscribe to ASK Harriete.


Shooting with a model:

Images to the above left show a recent photo shoot for my RECYCLE series. The top photo shows the entire team it takes to get a great model shot. Left is photographer Aryn Shelander. I am holding the reflector (right), but also worked as the stylist for the photo shoot. The model was Jen Ohara.  Both photos by documentary photographer Alyssa Endo. More information soon on important tips for shooting with a model.   

Photography in Flux- Guidelines for Photos of Your Craft

DigitalImagesSlideShare The 2011 Professional Development Seminar in Seattle highlighted some of the shifting trends in photography. Artists and makers are looking beyond the photographic standards of the graduated gray background and blurring the line between craft images and product photography.  Yet regional and topical preferences – or biases – still exist.

RogerSchrieberJimMongrain For the PDS, three professional photographers and two editors were invited to bring their insights and discuss their opinions in front of an audience of 500 people.  The PDS committee (Andy Cooperman, Bridgitte Martin, and I) wanted to reveal any new standards and resolve the best choices for professional quality images.

ColorHilaryFpeiferetallbluebirds What we discovered is that there is no universal standard.  What works for one person’s work, may not work for another style of art or craft. What works for an on line marketplace  will not be a good choice for a juried show.  It is possible that the personal style of the work and the style of the photography may produce a signature style image.

Marthelevanmodelwithfish Does this sound confusing? Certainly, and all the emerging capabilities make photography more in flux than ever. Marthe Le Van, editor from Lark Books, even went so far as to show rather unusual images of jewelry on the model (left image), and a few minutes later describe her idealized standard photo for the cover of a book. They are not the same.

Metalsmithcolorblue So even a best case scenario with excellent quality work that is visually and conceptually appropriate for the cover of a book, a maker now has to consider different photos for other media that reflect varying degrees of personal style.

EMIKO It may be prudent to produce a range of professional quality images each of which could be appropriate for a particular situation or an intended audience.

A great publicity shot may be eye catching with an unusual model or brightly colored background.  A great image for a juried show may not be the same as a fantastic image for publicity. 

ColorHilaryPfeiferelephant The photo to the left from Niche Marketing speaker Hilary Pfeifer is fabulous!  The photography matches the style of her work. Would this work for everyone? Definitely not. Does she use this photo for everything?  No. She also has images with a more neutral background.

Fantastic images are an investment in your work.

Roger Schreiber photo of work by Carol Gouthro
Here is what Roger Schreiber said about this photo of Carol Gouthro's work. "The question of a piece looking better in a photo than in "real" life comes up often when talking to artists. It's all about careful lighting and isolation. Isolating the art work from surrounding distractions always makes anything look better. But it is still the same piece. Nothing has changed. Eliminating all the light and putting it back where I want it shows texture and form. And it gets rid of window reflections and ceiling light reflections."

ColorDebStoner If you can’t afford professional photography for ALL your work, then have one professional level photograph of your best piece for the year or the best piece from a series. That will be your “publicity shot” that represents your work for postcards, business cards, and publicity.    

Cameraraw Another option is buying or renting a professional quality camera.  Take a class and learn the variables of manual settings ...  and  use a tripod.(If you listen to the PowerPoints with audio Robert Schreiber makes recommendations for features that a good camera should have.)

Now that several experts have declared that almost any approach can possibly produce a good photo, here are a few tips that I would recommend as gospel to get a photograph that will be appropriate 95% of the time.


Avoid backgrounds that distract from the work.

Backgrounds should not have a theme such as water, water washed rocks, sand, moss or leaves. These backgrounds distract attention away from the work and tend to look commercial at best.  They do not translate well in a juried show or juried book situation.

Hoverlit BLACK BACKGROUNDS ARE VERY CHALLENGING. Many people think that black backgrounds are automatically a good choice for light, white or silver work. The reality is that most black backgrounds end up looking like a black hole with no shadows. Try dark gray instead of black as a safer choice. Another option is to lay down a sheet of glass on black to soften the appearance and create a subtle reflection. 

LIGHTING SHOULD BE FROM ONE SOURCE. Do not mix lighting sources. All daylight, for example, or all tungsten, but not both. Do not use fluorescent, CFL’s or incandescent lightbulbs. Daylight on a foggy day is the easiest full proof white light.

USE THE WHITE BALANCE IN YOUR CAMERA. Take a photo of white paper. Does it look bright white? If your test photo isn’t looking white, something is wrong with your lighting.  This apparent color cast will not produce good photos.

ChocolateTraveler72 WEBSITE PHOTOS SHOULD BE CONSISTENT IN APPEARANCE. It is fun to experiment with unusual backgrounds or models, but be sure to take a few shots with more standard graduated gray to white background.  Ideally, a group of photos should present a coherent theme; not just a bunch of photos.

BlueSpiralGraph.gr FOCUS, Focus, focus. Learn to use the manual settings on your camera to produce the longest depth of field. If this topic is too technical, then take a photography class.

Read ASK Harriete for multiple posts about creating quality photographic images. 

A final word of advice. The competition for people’s attention is enormous. The general public has become far more sophisticated in judging quality photography by seeing professional quality photos every day in advertising, newspapers, bulk mail advertising and online. Any lesser quality images will diminish the perceived quality of the art or craft.  Your image sends a very powerful message. Make it the best messenger possible for your work.

List of Photos starting from the top:
Digital Images from PowerPoint at the PDS. 

Roger Schrieber's photo of glass by Jim Mongrain

Hilary Pfeiffer wedding topper from her PowerPoint presentation at the PDS. (To be published soon.)

Photo of Model from Marthe Le Van's PowerPoint presentation at the PDS. 

Recent Metalsmith Magazine cover from Suzanne Ramljak's PowerPoint presentation at the PDS.

Images from emiko oye's PowerPoint presentation at the PDS.

Hilary Pfeiffer elephant topper from her PowerPoint presentation at the PDS. (To be published soon.)

Roger Schreiber photo from his web site of Carol Gouthro's ceramic

Deb Stoner Glasses from her PowerPoint presentation at the PDS.


Anonymous photo found online with bad background.

Anonymous photo with black background found online.

Traveler Chocolate Flower by Harriete Estel Berman


CODE in Color Backgrounds for Art and Craft Photography

Hotbutton The background color for photography of art and craft is a hot topic with cool imagery.

The professional photographers and the editors at the Professional Development Seminar during the Seattle SNAG Conference gave this trend a very mixed answer, "yes" and "no".

A color background extends the canvas with which to create an expression. The color of the background can set up the context and communicate a broader message in the photograph. Let me repeat that with emphasis, a color background is sending a message whether the subject is food, cars, or artwork.

Talking-rain by Christopher Conrad
Photo by Christopher Conrad

In Christopher Conrad's photo above we read the cool blues and purples as mouth watering and refreshing. The work and the background are both sending a tightly coordinated and integrated message. To the proper audience the photo can be fantastic!

Metalsmithcolorblue In the Metalsmith Magazine cover to the left the icy blue creates a dramatic color background. This color blue is crystalline like the brooch. They echo each other in a different way. The purpose of the cover is to be eye catching on the newsstand. The colored background is editorial, and opinionated, definitely not neutral....but the question remains whether this particular color background is sending the message that the maker wants to send about their work.  

Metalsmith_YellowBkgrd While an editor may prefer an unusual color background for the cover of a magazine, the same answer will not be appropriate for a juried show, an Etsy listing, or gallery advertising.  It can be a total turn off to a judge or jury, and still a great choice for only one particular situation.

Let's look at a few examples with color backgrounds ........

HilaryPfeifferEtsyLOVEhounds People often associate color with emotions. It you want people to think your work is girlie or lighthearted, think pink, or pastel as in the photo to the right from Hilary Pfeiffer's Etsy shop.


Red is emotionally charged and often represents seduction, anger or power. Think Ferrari red, but then... it really isn't thinking at all. Red is emotional. Red is often used in restaurants from McDonald's, to high end exclusive eating establishments because colors in the warm color family mildly excite the metabolism.

Doug Yaple.goblets Blue can be a calm emotionally restorative color as in the baby blue to steel blue range, whereas, darker navy blue is business, conservative, or elegant as in the photo to the right with a classic sensibility by Doug Yaple.

Chocolate-truffles These brown backgrounds from Christopher Conrad food photography work perfectly. The background says chocolate. Notice how the soft lighting even gives a halo around the glass on the left further focusing the eye on the object. 

ChocolateBKpendent copy In contrast, the next photo on the left, shows an ineffective brown background. The texture is distracting and fails to accentuate the object. The chocolate brown color has nothing to do with the jewelry. (I obscured the actual pendant to protect the identity.)  Do you think this background feels attractive, looks professional or enhances the work? The brown texture reminds me of dirt, mud, painted sand paper or sh*t. This is an example of how a poorly chosen color background diminishes the effectiveness of the photo.  A standard graduated grey background would have served better.

DavidHworlBrownBack In David Huang's photo to the left, the graduated background color resonates perfectly with the top lighting and the colors of the sterling silver vessel and the root/fibrous forms.

What happens when the background and the object are not working in concert? The results will be confused....and the viewers are left wondering why, why, why.

Choose careful or experiment with variations.  Know why you have selected a color background whether green, blue, teal, or red.

What is the purpose? What is the artist/maker trying to say?  Ask your friends for critique.  The risk is that photos are rejected from books, magazines, exhibitions or juried opportunities just because of a poor quality photo.

What works for one person’s work, one cover or postcard may not work for another situation, artwork, or artist's style of work.

Are you wondering what your color background says.....?


Hands in the Photograph -The MAGIC Is ALL In The Hands,

Gloves Magic hat.gr The world of art and craft is no "slight of hand" magic show.

Yet, there is a growing trend for including hands in photographs displaying jewelry, accessories and clothing. This increases the need to pay attention to the hands used as props.  

HangnailsWrinkledskinA poorly chosen hand prop can detract from the work in the photo and ruin any chance of being accepted in a book, magazine, show or exhibition. The harsh reality is that a bad photo is summarily dismissed as bad work. Conversely, a good photo is assumed to include good work until proven otherwise.


During the Professional Development Seminar (SNAG Conference 2011) several speakers mentioned the hand in photographic images.

 Marthe Le Van, editor at Lark Books, showed us three example photos (left) with cut-up artist's hands, wrinkled skin and chipped fingernail polish. Needless to say, these photos were not included in a Lark Book.
Even a brief look online delivers an overabundance of BAD photos
that include regrettable choices of hand models or awkward hand positions. I have resisted the impulse to show more bad photos -- they are too easy to find.  I think you get the idea.
Great skin, unblemished hands and a perfect manicure
with light to neutral nail polish is the first requirement for a hand model.

The gesture of the hand is equally important.

Handfist I secretly watch America's Next Top Model (please don't tell anyone) to learn about using models in photography. One of the primary issues when they critique the photos is the gesture of the hand. Avoid the claw shape hand position or a clenched fist. (Perhaps the photo to the upper left is an attempt to be forceful, to hide dirty fingernails, or maybe the ring doesn't fit, but it isn't working.)

Emiko oyehandholdingnecklaces
   Bracelet and Necklaces by  Reware
   Artist: emiko oye
   Photo Credit: emiko oye
   Model: Jen Ohara

Emiko oye photo shows a hand holding a whole group of bracelets.holdingbracelets
   Bracelets by Reware
   Artist: emiko oye
   Photo Credit: emiko oye
   Model: Jen Ohara

Graceful hands are your best choice to help viewers focus on the work.

In the photo to the right, a graceful hand gesture effectively holds an entire handful of necklaces. What a great way to capture the variety in your line or work.

Can't you just see these photos BLOWN UP LARGE in the back of a craft show booth. What a way to attract an audience!

In the photo to the right, a stack of bracelets on the model's wrist with a few in her hand displays a whole group of work. Both of these photos are effective ways to showcase multiple pieces at the same time. They would be a great postcard, advertisement or publicity shot.

Would I send these shots for a juried show?  Hmmmm....that is a risky decision. Some shots, however fabulous, are not appropriate for every situation. It depends on the opportunity.

Jen hands EMIKO OYE
  Bracelets and Necklaces by Reware
  Artist: emiko oye
  Photo Credit: emiko oye
  Model: Jen Ohara

While these shots look simple, there were more than 30 other shots that were rejected from the same photo shoot. Plan on taking 20 to 40 shots of each pose, position, or idea.....then adjust the lighting, the bounce card, the model's hand, and the jewelry/accessories/clothing  until the photo is just right.

How do I know?  I was there as the "photo stylist" and emiko oye was the photographer. It was a lot of seemingly repetitive effort, but in the end, a magical day.


Photography in Flux - BAD Backgrounds Yield BAD Photos - Don't Let This Happen to Your Work

MartheLEvANKNITtexture While our panel of experts from "Photography in Flux" at the recent Professional Development Seminar (SNAG Conference Seattle) did not declare a "standard" for photography backgrounds, they did make it clear that BAD BACKGROUNDS create BAD PHOTOS. 

MartheLEvANBRISTLEtextureTo the right are two examples of bad backgrounds from Marthe Le Van's (editor of Lark Books) Power- Point presentation.

In the following photos, I have concealed the identity of the jewelry item so that you can focus on just the bad backgrounds (and to protect the identity).  A short description of the PROBLEM and suggested SOLUTION follows each photo so that you can avoid such problems in your photos.

PROBLEM: In the photo above the texture of the background is too similar to the texture in the metal. (I would swear this is a dirty paper towel, but I could be wrong.) Additionally the silver metal is very close to the color of the background. There is not enough contrast between the earring and the background.
A plain background without texture would have improved this photo. Perhaps a darker grey background may have provided more contrast between the earring and the background.


PROBLEM: The background in this photo has a distracting crease. When photographing jewelry, any defect in the background is simply too obvious.
SOLUTION: If your cardboard or paper background is damaged, do not use it. It will ruin your photo along with ruining any chance that your photos or work will be accepted.


PROBLEM: There is too much background in this photo. It appears that the necklace might be draped over a round ceramic container. The glaze has a moderately distracting pattern and a shiny reflective surface. The reflected "hot spot" on the container makes the photo not so good.
See the bright white reflection on the upper right? It ruins the overall image because it distracts the viewer from looking at the necklace. Obviously this photo was taken with a single strong light source (not diffuse lighting) because the same hot spot is on the necklace.
SOLUTION: A plain background would be much less distracting. In addition, a diffuse or softened light source can be created by using a translucent paper or by bouncing strong light off a foam core for a softer light.

PROBLEM: This necklace appears to be draped over the bottom of the same ceramic container. In addition to all the problems described above, we are distracted by looking at the random pattern of the unglazed ceramic bottom which is unfinished and unattractive.
Do not drape your jewelry over bowls, cups or plates of any kind, ever. This never looks like a professional quality photo because professionals don't do this. Find another solution.


PROBLEM: The background for this photo is inconsistent and distracting from the pendent. The highly reflective surface creates dark shadows and washed out highlights.
A plain simple background allows your work to shine, without competing with the background.

AHHbackground drape
Do not use draped fabric for your background. It always looks commercial and corny.
Plain paper or a photographic background is a conservative but safe choice that will work for most situations.


AhcupearringsPROBLEM: These earrings are draped over the rim of a cup. While this is a common practice, it is NOT a good photo. What do earrings have to do with a cup or bowl? Nothing! Professional photographers don't drape earrings on a cup or bowl. In addition, the background behind the cups is even more distracting with color, light and reflection.
Andy Cooperman Earrings hanging from a mannequin, photo by Doug Yaple.SOLUTION: Earrings can be laid on a piece of paper, or hanging from a model or mannequin like this earring photo on the left by earring by Andy Cooperman.







PROBLEM: The dark shadow on the left side of pendent and the pendent blend together. It creates a dark left half to the photo lacking interest. In addition, the pendant is dwarfed by too much background and the background has a touch of green in the upper right hand corner. Why? This is not O.K.

SOLUTION: Your background needs to be consistent within the entire frame. Also bounce light into the dark side of the pendent with foam core or aluminum foil over cardboard. See below for an improved photo.

AhODDangleDARK SOLUTION: I fixed this pendent image in Photoshop, lightening the left side of the photo enhancing the pattern and texture. Also by cropping off the green bit of background the pendent becomes the sole focal point of the image.

AhbowlBad photos are not limited to jewelry. The challenge of getting quality photographic images is very difficult for all media. Artists and makers should take it to heart that quality photographic images are interpreted as quality items, and vice versa, bad images are interpreted as poor quality work. AhdrapedonfabricGreat images can lead to professional success.

A BAD background sends an unintended message. This message may be amateurish, commercial, over-stylized, or a dated appearance.

Most of these images were selected off the Internet without permission. In most cases I obscured the actual item to avoid embarrassment by the maker.

Stay tuned to ASK Harriete for the next photographic issue raised during the Professional Development Seminar program Photography in Flux. The PDS was brought to you by the NEA, MJSA, and SNAG. New FLUX Seattle Logo  Small_V112010_   NEA  MJSA logo


Looking forward to the next post.


Photography in Flux - We Have a Twitter Question!

TarabRANNIGANprofilepic2 During the Professional Development Seminar as part of the SNAG Conference we had "live blogging" by Tara Brannigan AND we had a Twitter question!

The question was addressed to Niche marketing speaker emiko oye from Tonya Davidson. Since we ran out of time during the PDS, she has answered it on ASK Harriete.

 “emiko, What tips do you have on finding models and determining costs?”

Emikoheadshot emiko says: When shooting your jewelry on models, it is important to select models that will not be distracting and that will be as complimentary as possible to your pieces.



EmikoOye model with good skin showing off her work. .




Good skin and posture is first and foremost.

As we heard Marthe Le Van comment during the Photography panel, as an editor she is very much turned off by body hair, cuts, bad manicures, and other distracting blemishes.

While it is permissible to Photoshop out pimples and blemishes,
you're better off starting with a healthier skinned model, especially if your Photoshop skills are less than expert.

Copy of emiko

  Academy of Art fashion show hires
  professional models for showcasing
  student work. Necklace by Elliot Gaskin

Dancers, yoga practitioners and actresses/actors are the best models. They are most aware of how they hold themselves in their bodies. Dancers and actresses are most comfortable in front of the camera, plus know how to apply their own makeup.




Don't know any yogis, actresses or models? Post signs at dance and yoga studios, find the studios on Facebook and comment until someone replies. Ask your friends who they know, friends of friends are better contacts than cold-calling.

Photo shoot with emiko oye as photographer. It takes a whole
crew to work with a model.

Tips from emiko before shooting your work on a model:
Recycled Bracelets by Harriete Estel Berman 1. A manicure prior to their shoot time is important if you're shooting closeups of hands. Pay for the model's manicure or offer to reimburse them.  

2. Makeup is essential, even if it is just pressed face powder, mascara, and lip gloss, the application of these makes a huge difference, especially in closeup shots.

Recycled  collar by Harriete Estel Berman, photograph by Emiko Oye800
3. Control flyaway hair
with hair product or have the model pull their hair back into a bun or ponytail.


Curtis Arima necklaces in Sterling silver and gold
Necklaces by Curtis Arima
Do you think the nipples are distracting?

4. Try to avoid complete nudity unless absolutely necessary for the piece and unless your model has the most perfect body. Nipples are distracting.

5. Think about the clothing your model will wear and either ask them to bring several pieces to choose from, or provide something that will fit them.


I pay my models by the hour, including dressing/makeup prep time. It doesn't hurt to ask yourself what kind of wage would you want to earn? What is the cost of living in your city (NYC, NY models will cost you more than Des Moines, Iowa models, for example).

How strenuous or difficult will the shoot be? (Is your work cumbersome or uncomfortable and thereby wearing it for over an hour a real chore for the model?)

Friends may prefer to trade for your jewelry, but I always offer to pay as an alternative, because people will work harder for you knowing they're getting money in exchange. Don't take advantage of friends, those favors only go so far--just think how you would want to be treated if the tables were turned!

Photography by emiko oye
Extremely Curly Recycled Bracelet
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

Remember to take many, many photos from all angles, change up the lighting, and have a surgeon's eye for detail during the shoot. You do not want to have to recreate this shoot!
Have fun!

Thank you emiko for answering this question on ASK Harriete.

How to Build a Better Drop Shadow in Photoshop - A Step-by-Step Powerpoint and Handout

The recent Professional Development Seminar during the SNAG Conference offered an informative program titled "Photography in Flux." One of the pressing issues in art and craft photo is the growing popularity of the stark white background, often with a stylized shadow near the work.

ChristopherConrad1 As part of the Professional Development Seminar, Photographer Christopher Conrad prepared a Step-by-Step HANDOUT and PowerPoint for "How to Build a Better Drop Shadow" in Photoshop. Now both of these are available on line for you to download and practice.


Step by step photoshop tutorial by Christopher Conrad for the Professional Development Seminar Both the PowerPoint and the Handout are step-by-step color images of this process in Photoshop. There is no complicated text, but beautiful didactic images so that you can do this yourself to improve the photographic images of your work with a soft and subtle shadow.

Step by step photoshop tutorial by Christopher Conrad for the Professional Development Seminar Find the Handout from the Professional Development Seminar How to Build a Better Drop Shadow - A Photoshop Tutorial by Christopher Conrad from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar on my website. It will also be posted on the SNAG web site soon.

Below is the Step-by-Step Photoshop Tutorial as a PowerPointHow to Build a Better Shadow - A Photoshop Tutorial by Christopher Conrad

The issues surrounding the white background for art and craft photography was discussed extensively on ASK Harriete several months ago. You can find the posts about shadows below. Your comments are welcome either on this post or the previous posts. Your experience and opinions can help other artists.

Previous posts in the series Side by Side Comparisons of Different Photos:
Side by Side Comparisons - the White Background, Can You Cut It?

Side by Side Photos - Website Backgrounds Should be Consistent

Side by Side Photos -Clean or Complex Backgrounds?

Side by Side Comparisons of Different Photos - the white background. Trendy or Technique?

Are You Being Judged by the Style of Your Images?

The photographers are revealed!

A Plethora of Information at Your Finger Tips.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of information at the SNAG Conference.

ASKHarrietePINS72Today's post will share information already available on line. Stay tuned for more information and blog posts about issues raised at the SNAG Conference, along with podcasts and SlideShare PowerPoints of the actual conference content from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar .

Here are the links for today.

There was LIVE BLOGGING by Tara Brannigan of:
A Smaller Conference Experience lunch discussion with Glenn Adamson and Lola Brooks


The Professional Development Seminar. This includes three hours of programmng and the lunch discussion.

If people want to read from the very beginning, including the lunch discussion with Lola Brooks and Glenn Adamson, they should go to pdsnews on Tumbler and read from the bottom up.
If people want to read just the PDS and follow-up Q&A, they should go to the bottom of page four on pdsnews on Tumbler and read up until they reach the top of the first page:

Tarabrannigantype Tara asked me to tell you that she did her best to ensure the content was accurate, but her fingers were flying fast and furious. She was typing the entire time!!!!!!!  She says, "Some sections are paraphrased or perhaps lacking a bit of context, just due to the limitations on how fast I can actually type."

IF you have any questions about what was said, leave a comment on ASK Harriete. I will do my best to contact the speakers directly.

There are THREE HANDOUTS from the SNAG
Professional Development Seminar. At this time they can be found on the Professional Development Seminar page on my web site.  


The Professional Guidelines  offer two documents that are also very helpful and related to this information:

Blogtalkradio A Blog Talk Radio interview with Niche Marketing speaker Emiko Oye and me, Harriete Estel Berman, can be found on Jay Whaley Blog Talk radio. (The very beginning is a little garbled for about a minute....keep listening.)

Copy of DigitalImageGR

Monitor Madness - Going Nuts in a Nut Shell

Recently I spent hours and hours trying to figure out if my computer monitor was giving me an accurate color image.  I am going nuts!!!.

Nutshell copy

This is the problem in a nut shell.  Every single computer and computer monitor show images differently.  I am not kidding!!!!!!!! and it is driving me NUTS! 

Pencil installation about the impact of standardized testing on education by Harriete Estel BermanaI want the mages of my art and craft to be presented accurately with the right colors, brightness, contrast and saturation. Doesn't everybody?

Reality -- Your audience will be looking at your artwork through a different filter than yours.  Their particular combination of computer and monitor will likely show your images somewhat differently.

I've also found that most calibration web sites focus on matching your monitor to the printed image coming from your printer. The tutorials assume you want to print your images.  I rarely print my images. Most of my audience will be viewing my images on their desktop monitors, laptops, tablets, or phone.

More problems .....
If it is so easy for anyone's computer and monitor to be set slightly "off" when color correcting images of art and craft, then the images posted to websites may be off as well.

Books and magazine covers
Books and Magazines
Photo Credit: Emiko Oye

What about when you submit images to a book, exhibition, show or magazine? How do you know that you created the best quality images on your computer? How will your images look on the jurors' monitor? No wonder book publishers insist that artists DO NOT Photoshop their images!!!!!

MonitorsetupAt this point the only absolute answer is to buy high priced equipment beyond most of our budgets.  In the meantime, you should check to see if your monitor is giving you a full range of whites, blacks and appropriately saturated colors.

I found a few web sites that help to evaluate monitors.  You may be able to fine tune some adjustments.  At a minimum, these evaluations will alert you that your monitor may not be showing all there is to see.  In addition, it seems that the computer graphics card and the type of monitor have a lot to do with how your images look.

Test your computer by looking at this sample PDF from monitorsetup.com. It has a very easy to evaluate gray scale from black to white.  Try to adjust your monitor to give you the best appearance.  [Don't use the picture here on ASK Harriete, go to the site.]

MonitorWhiteCalCheckReady for a slightly finer evaluation? Try going to Imaging-Resource.com. They have two charts, one in a white scale image and one in black (below.)

Here is another site with detailed instructions for adjusting your computer and monitor.

This whole issue started because I thought my monitor was getting dim....monitors do age you know. How could I create great images if my monitor isn't correct? If I create images that look great only on my monitor, and don't look the same on other people's computers, what then?!!!!

MonitorBlackCalCheck Well guess what!!!!!?  BAD NEWS, there is no normal. I have discovered that every monitor is different. I mean really different!!!!!!!


Here is the rest of the story.  To replace my old monitor, my husband bought a new LED wide monitor....we were so excited. He purchased the monitor with the most adjustment buttons so I could fine tune the image. The LED's are brighter and save a lot of energy.  The wide monitor would allow me to have lots of windows open, and we could even download a movie to view on the larger screen.

BAD NEWS! The factory settings on the monitor are all artificially intense. The "scenic" mode and "theater" mode both super saturate the colors. The other options were only slightly better. With hours invested in fine tuning the adjustments, it got better but remained unsatisfactory. Something was very wrong with the colors. The white and black scales shown above were not showing the appropriate gradations.

Whole lot of cords After hours of adjusting and experimenting we hook up my old monitor to his laptop. Well his laptop and the old monitor together work quite well, even better than on my computer, but each presented a slightly different image. It became obvious that each combination of computer and monitor produced a different image. 

To end this story, we put the monitor back in the box and I returned it. My next computer I bought the best quality graphics card available.

This should not be the end of the story for you.   Using the evaluation websites above, adjust your monitor as well as you can and create the best images you can.  Then check your images or web site on other computers, mobile phones, and tablet devices.  At least you will be aware of any undesirable shifts and perhaps go back and adjust accordingly.


Computer image came from Flickr portfolio of MR-Hands.

Search Engines Have No Vision! So Help SEO "SEE" Your Images

Blind-man-walking Search Engines can not see your images. SEOnovisionimage
They can not see color, black and white, in focus, out of focus, or pixelated. They are completely blind to images.  They have no vision. 

To the upper right is what Search Engines "see" in an image . . . . . .  Exactly!  It's blank. Nothing there. 

Search engines understand only words, text, and phrases.

This is why it is so important to add words and text such as image file names, titles, tags, and descriptions to all your images on your web site, blog, or social networking sites. Without this text information, search engines simply skip over your images.  For all practical purposes, search engines interpret images as blank spaces.  They are completely blind to images.

Google Image Search is blind to images
Artists and makers are strong visual thinkers and may not believe that an image has zero value to a search engine.   To grasp the impact of this issue, try describing an image to a blind person.  Treat search engines in the same way.  How else can blind search engines "see" images? 

Extra Virgin Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman  Today's post will show a couple of super simple examples for ALT image information for images on web sites and blogs. Search engines use ALT image information for search on images.

Clickable images (as links to other pages) and the ALT text for them is a great way to build visibility for your images and linking to other pages on your web site. (Test the Extra Virgin Flower to the left to see how this works.)

In the next post we will look at titles, tags and descriptions for 2.0 social networking sites like Crafthaus, Flickr, or Facebook.

Kisses72This post will use one of my favorite Flower pins as an example.  The file name on my computer for this image is Kisses72. That is my personal code for the image file, but it really doesn't say much to search engines.


SEOaltkisses72To turn geeky for a moment, this is what my Flower Brooch (left above)  looks like to Search Engines. This is the HTML code.  That really isn't informative is it?

The file name "Kisses72.jpg" doesn't say what it is or who made it.  If someone were looking for a pin by Harriete Estel Berman they would never find the image because the Search Engines just skip over the image. They have no vision. Learn more about image file names in the post 4 TIPS to Improve Search for Your Images.

Note: the default on a blog usually uses the file name as the ALT image information.

Kisses Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel BermanSearch engines read the HTML or XHTML code for the image -- and nothing more.

However, search engines can use ALT image information, but only if it is provided by the author.

Consequently, the ALT image information is the only way for images to be found  by a search engine.

Americans with Disabilities Act Logo Originally, the purpose for the ALT image TAG was indeed to help people with poor vision.  It was mandated by ADA (American with Disabilities Act), so that automated or volunteer screen readers could read text and the ALT image information out loud. 

SEO examples for images Flower Pin by Harriete Estel BermanB On my web site and blog I have to add the ALT image information manually, as you see to the left. "ALT=Kisses Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman in purple and black"  provides searchable text that is associated directly with the image.

On my blog I need to double click on the image and change the ALT image description for the image. (See the image below.) I didn't realize this feature existed for a really long time.

SE0 IMAGE description shown in text editing toolsbehind
My blog actually calls this box "Description", not ALT image information, but in the HTML code (behind the scenes), that is exactly what it is. IF you use a blog or web site template, there may be a similar option for you. Look for it.

In contrast, my web site prompts me to add the ALT image information to the HTML code. You may need to experiment with your blog and web site until you figure out how to add ALT image description for your images.

It isn't clear how long an images description should be. Google only publicly encourages original content and clear, accurate information. My plan is to be sure that the most important words (e.g. Kisses Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman) are there first.  Then I might add more information (such as "black and purple").

Decide what your most important words are so that search engines will find your images. The ALT image information will be different for each artist, maker and image. I used "Flower Brooch" and "Harriete Estel Berman." For your work, it might be the materials, type of work, utilitarian purpose, or other keywords or niche market attributes. 

Anticipate how people will search for your work and help search engines "see" your images with ALT image information.

For an update on image file names for search engine optimization, check out this new post "Image File Names Improve SEO"

Kisses Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman is Kosher for Passover on the back.
Kosher for Passover back view to my Kisses Flower Brooch
© 2011 Harriete Estel Berman

The next post on Tuesday will explain the importance of titles, tags and descriptions for 2.0 social networking like Crafthaus, Flickr, Facebook, or any on line marketplace.

Stay tuned for a new series of posts about CraftFORWARD  a symposium hosted by California College for the Arts. We will start out with background information about this important conference, the Manufractured exhibition and its relevance to the dissolving boundaries between art and craft.

"The Craft Forward Symposium examines the multifaceted practices that both distinguish and blur the historically charged boundaries between craft, art, design, architecture and writing. The symposium brings together a diverse group of makers and thinkers to explore the ethos of craft and its resurgence in the 21st century."

Your Facebook PROFILE Has New Options for Your Cover Photos

Harriete Estel Berman in the studio 2010 Three are several options for your Facebook profile that use the series of photos at the top of your profile page.

You can put one photo at the top of your page in the five images at the top. 

Another option below is:
One photo for both your profile picture and the five photos in a continuous series across the top.

Great idea, but it works much better if you think about the format and what will actually show up.  Some practice is required to make it look good with one large image on the side....and a few small photos to the right.


FacebookPROFILEmaker.faceUsing a large straight forward profile works really well, but there are other options that can be equally effective.  Sharp focus and great depth of field are essential  to make the images more interesting.

Here are examples of the three profile options with the demo images (from the studio) that I used when experimenting on my Facebook page. Once you figure it out, it is easy to try different images until you find a set that fits.

 Facebook picscatter PicScatter was also easy to use and my favorite. With the proper photo it could look really great. There is a little adjustment for the five side images.  I really like that you could flip the photo horizontally and make the image bigger or smaller.


Facebook fbanner Fbanner, the third option, allows you to add text to your images and change the color of the background if your image doesn't use up the entire space. It also offered stock images to use if you didn't have your own. However, I think most artists and makers would want to use their own protrait or images of their work.Fbanner was the least satisfying option of the three if you wanted to use your own images because it didn't include your main profile image.


Facebook-Harriete-estel-bermanDo you want one single photo for Facebook. The dimensions are 850px x 315px.  Read this post with a Guide to Image Sizes for Social Media with banner sizes for many popular social networks.

Give this a try.

Take a picture with this format in mind and experiment.  I used three different images from a recent photo shoot in the studio as my "tests", but after becoming more practiced, I got better at making each photo work in this format.

Give your art work and personality more visibility on your Facebook profile.

Find me on Facebook and be my friend to see my profile!

Nudity, Nipples or TMI in Your Photos

X ratedTRUE CONFESSION: I am NOT trying to sell a new car, TV, or any other consumer product with the allure of sex. But is this tactic from consumer advertising as effective in the art and craft community?

Recently during the photo series on ASK Harriete the subject of nudity, nipples, or TMI ("too much information") in photos of jewelry, clothing and small objects was raised by a number of readers.

Andy Cooperman commented about the juror's dilemna when judging photography submissions. "While jurying exhibitions, I have invariably come across images in which the work (usually a neckpiece) is featured frontally on a nude (usually female) model. "

Curtis ARIMA plant sculpture with breastsPLANT
  Sterling Silver, Copper, 18k
   © Curtis Arima

He continues, "While this offers certain benefits, it is most often a turnoff to me as a juror because I feel that there is a manipulative aspect to the image. Am I responding to the work or to the body? Am I responding as a man or as a juror? The work had better be VERY good for me to get past this feeling and accept it. No one wants to feel that they are being manipulated."


Curtis ARIMA man NECKLACEsbellybutton
"Spiculum Necklaces"
and "ball and chain necklace"
Sterling silver, and 18k gold
© Curtis Ariman

Nude SEX selling JEWELRY.NAKED Brigitte Martin from Crafthaus added: "Andy's point regarding the choice of model and how much skin is revealed to manipulate a buyer or jury is spot on. I would not put certain 'tactics' above some artists. In a world loaded with information, why not add a little something to be noticed.... I am sure it is done on purpose. "


She adds: "Can I as an artist use this to my advantage?
Should I be employing this technique at all?  Is it ethical and under which circumstances does this work?  Most importantly, when and where does it not work? Oh boy, what a can of worms."

I agree with both Brigitte and Andy. From my perspective, the nude in a photograph of jewelry, clothing or three dimensional objects is problematic for lots of reasons.


"Spiculum Necklace"
Sterling silver, 18k
© Curtis Arima

Considering the difficulty of getting a great shot with the model that does NOT distract from your art or craft, is it better to focus on the work with less of the body, nudity, or nipples?  At what point is the model distracting or enhancing?

What do you think?

Is this TMI?

Thank you to Curtis Arima who has allowed images of his work to be used in this post on ASK Harriete.
Find more of Curtis Arima's work at his web site or visit his studio at: the SawTooth Building, 2547 8th Street Studio 30B, Berkeley,CA 94710.

Side by Side Comparison - Levels for Photoshop Magic in Your Photos

In two  previous posts a series of side-by-side images included a photo of Bruce Metcalf's necklace.

Did you notice the difference in the model's skin color?

Original Photo                       Adjusted with Levels
"Lucia's Poppy Necklace" 2010   © Bruce Metcalf.
Mixed mediums, wood, paint. Model: Natala Covert.

The original (left) photo had a kind of dull cast to the photo giving the skin a greenish cast. I adjusted the photo using LEVELS in PhotoShop making the model's skin tone and necklace a speck more radiant. LEVELS for PhotoShop "magic" can really make a noticeable improvement.  Levels is a way in Photoshop (and other photo editing software) to improve the brightness in a photography.  A 30 second  "fix" with Levels improves the images significantly.

Here is my simple PhotoShop Tutorial for using Levels:

Open PhotoShop
(find your image)
    OPEN your image: Levelsstep1





LevelsADJUSTMENTClick: IMAGE in the top menu bar. Look at the drop down menu.

CLICK: Adjustments 
in the drop down menu.

LEVELSbruce metcalfAnother drop down menu.

Click: Levels

You will see a graph with black fill.

There should be a little white trianglular slider on the right side of the graph. A larger image below with a red square highlights the area that I am talking about.

LEVELSbruce metcalfred

Levelsbrucemetcalfimage On Bruce Metcalf's original photo the graph has an empty space on the right (i.e. the black fill in the graph does not extend all the way to the right edge). Do you see how the black fill on the right and the little white trianglular slider on the right edge don't line up?


GRAB that little  white trianglular slider with your mouse. Move it to the left so the trianglular slider lines up with the right edge of the black fill.

The red square highlights the white triangular slider. 
NOTICE how the photo lightens up.

There you go. Levels magic!!!!!!!

TRY IT YOURSELF. I have an older version of PhotoShop. Your version may be slightly different. Experiment. Learn to use Levels for PhotoShop magic!

LEVELSmovedWORD OF CAUTION: Just as every photo looks different, every photo will have a different graph in Levels.

If you look at Levels for a photo, and the black trianglular slider on  the left, and the white trianglular slider on the right are lined up with the beginning and end of the graphic black fill,  DON'T MOVE THE TRIANGLES.

If the little trianglular sliders move INTO the graphic black fill area (moving past the edge) you will loose information. This is why book publishers do not want you to adjust levels for print images. Book and magazine publishers don't want amateur PhotoShop skills ruining the photo.

If you have an image that looks a little dreary or dark, open Levels and look at the image.

BruceMetcalfnecklace BruceMetcalfnecklace.fulllighter
Original Photo                       Adjusted with Levels

What do you think?

BruceMetcalfnecklace BruceMetcalfnecklaceonly
Original Photo                       Adjusted with Levels &
"Lucia's Poppy Necklace" 2010   © Bruce Metcalf.

Mixed mediums, wood, paint. Model: Natala Covert.

Thank you to Bruce Metcalf for allowing ASK Harriete to experiment with his images and use them as an example for the last two weeks of posts.

If you missed the posts about the images they were titled: 

Side by Side Comparison - Do You Want to See the Whites of Their Eyes When Photographing the Model?   and

Side by Side Comparison - The Whites of The Model's Eyes? Issues and Answers


P.S. I kept  my tutorial super simple...but there are many tutorials available on line.

Get more from your software.

  I love Lynda.com and use it all the time to learn new digital skills. If you go to a digital conference or Apple conference they often have a display booth that gives out a short term free trial. Youtube has a number of Lynda,con tutorials to look at for no charge.

Here is a more technical tutorial online.

Here is an Adobe instructions for Levels.

Photo Styling - "Reality" or Getting Real - an Authentic Opinion

Hotbutton We've been discussing photos for almost two months, there is so much to consider. Your photos are the MOST IMPORTANT tool in the artist's or makers tool box.



Your photos are like Superheros traveling at the speed of light, working 24 hours a day, shrinking and expanding at the touch of a button. The folks at Search Engine People sum up this discussion about images perfectly:

The old adage is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But you do it anyway, so it’s useless to pretend that others don’t, as well. Content may be King, but Appearance is the horse it rides in on, be it a magnificent steed or a gimpy nag.

One of the hot button topics is photo styling which was be discussed at the 2011 Professional Development Seminar in Seattle.  Photo styling as in the stylistic appearance of the photos for your work.

Authenticity The question we are all asking is, "What attributes make an effective photo in documenting art or craft?"  My observation is that there is a shift in the marketplace toward the concept of somehow "capturing authenticity."

Advertising and marketing increasingly strives toward "real" and "just like me".  Even when models are used, the models are presented with a less formal appearance, almost moving to ordinariness. Advertising is suggesting a more "authentic" context or "back story", instead of glamor or seduction.

Teacup Sculpture by Harriete Estel Berman as a commentary about our consumer society. But let's not be fooled. The models, however "real" in their appearance are still models. They have just spent hours in hair and make-up, their photos are taken by professional photographers with 10 assistants to make sure that the "authentic" look doesn't look fake. But this "real and authentic" look is still fabricated, and the photos are still airbrushed.

Authenticity Hoax, How We Get Lost Finding OurselvesI am still amazed that television has successfully coined the phrase "reality show" to describe completely synthetic scenarios populated by selectively skewed "ordinary" people who are thrown into bogus competitions. Or what about commercials that LOOK like they are REAL testimonials? Is a "behind the scenes" Victoria Secret Fashion Show really real?

Buyology Art and craft photography is trending right along side this current style in marketing. To quote Martin Lindstrom from the book, Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. "What we're beginning to witness in the advertising world today is a fascinating marriage between the world of the airbrushed supermodel and the world of the ordinary consumer -- a blurry union between perfect and not so perfect."

Counter Culture As the selling of "authenticity" grows, the marketing of art and craft will continue to evolve.  However, I am concerned by an overemphasis on enhancing reality with artificial authenticity.  

The handmade object remains as authentic as it gets. Art and craft doesn't need to dumb down our work or reduce the quality of our images to enhance reality. We are still selling the one thing that can't be mass produced, the touch of the hand, the quality and craftsmanship from personal care and attention by artists and makers that really do care along with fabulous ideas.

What do you think? Do makers need to enhance authenticity or style reality in the photography of their very real work?  How do you photograph and sell the authenticity of your work? 

Links for these books are affiliate links abd provided for your convenience. Clicking on the book title, or image may provide revenue to support this blog. Your local library may also have these books.  

Side by Side Comparison - The Whites of The Model's Eyes? Issues and Answers

The previous post titled, Side by Side Comparison - Do You Want to See the Whites of Their Eyes When Photographing the Model?  attracted some excellent comments. A super gigantic "THANK YOU" to everyone who left their opinions.

Let's start with three related questions:
Do you like seeing the models eyes -- or are the model's eyes a distraction?
Do you prefer seeing the models entire face?
Does looking at the model's face and eyes distract you from looking at the necklace?

Original Photo                Version 2 Cropped w/Photoshop
"Lucia's Poppy Necklace" 2010   © Bruce Metcalf.
Mixed mediums, wood, paint. Model: Natala Covert.

RecycledmILKNECKLACE Recycledcollar800
Option A                                  Option B
Recycle Necklace
© 2010   Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit:(left) Liz Hickok         (right)Emiko Oye 

Recycled collar by Harriete EStel BermanFirst, let's diagnose the images and issues involved. To begin, the human brain is genetically programmed to look at eyes. Advertizers know this and this is why model's in advertising usually stare into the camera, and "smize with their eyes" to quote super model Tyra Banks. The model catches the viewer's eye and STOPS the viewer. High impact and high risk. Brigitte Martin from Crafthaus said in her comments, "For marketing/PR, I would most likely go with the shots where the full face can be seen."

Bruce Metcalf necklaceonlyIn contrast, most of the comments from readers  preferred the images that were cropped above the lips so that the focus was entirely on the necklace. These shots were considered more appropriate to highlight the work, especially for jury slides.  The model's eyes are percieved to be a powerful distraction from the jewelry. Andy Cooperman also pointed out that when "including the model's portrait, the amount of the frame occupied by the actual piece becomes much smaller." GOOD POINT!

Marj-schick-collarAs an alternative, a common practice when using the model in art and craft photography is to divert the gaze. The model either casts their eyes down (as in photo above of Bruce Metcalf's necklace) or diverts their gaze to the side as in Marjorie Schicks Spiraling Over the Line  (left photo). 

GUILLOTINEFallbeil_muenchen_1854 AVOID THE GUILLOTINE: If you don't want to include the entire profile, then crop the photo just above the lips.  This eliminates the guillotine/amputation problem discussed in a previous ASK Harriete post where cropping a photo cut off at the hand (or the head) which looks weird.  Cropping above the lips also eliminates any distraction of the eyes, hair, forehead, or ears. Much less to worry about, Phew! Even a stray hair in a photo can be really distracting.

Rubbergloves Brigitte Martin from Crafthaus addressed the most important issue when considering a model. "Ad agencies everywhere use specific model types for specific reasons, you will not find a sexy model advertising cleaning supplies.  And "granny" won't be able to convince you to buy perfume.  The choice in model, no matter how generic the shot, will ALWAYS influence the viewer, even if you try very hard to stay neutral.

  A stylized model shot victimized by the
  amputated head approach to jewelry
  Don't let this happen to your photos!

It's human nature to react to images of people and to form a subconscious opinion on the spot (DNA remaining from our Neanderthal past). That's why Kate Moss makes the big bucks."

WORDS OF ADVICE: If you decide to use a model, try to align the style of your model to the style of the work. Focus on the objective of the photo. The intended purpose, whether postcard, print, online, jury, or advertising may influence your decision on the best photo.

Side by Side Comparison - Do You Want to See the Whites of Their Eyes When Using a Model?

When using a live model instead of a mannequin there are so many issues to consider. Today we will look at side by side comparisons of photos from Bruce Metcalf and my own work.

Metcalf had a discussion brewing about this image on his Facebook page. He has graciously allowed me to show the original photo and a modified version for this discussion on ASK Harriete.

Now, pretend that you are a juror and you have 5 to 10 seconds to make a decision to accept or reject.  Go with your gut reaction and make an immediate decision.

Here are the photos. Below are the questions:

Bruce Metcalf necklace Bruce Metcalf necklaceonly
Original Photo     V.1      Version 2 Cropped w/Photoshop
"Lucia's Poppy Necklace" 2010   © Bruce Metcalf.
Mixed mediums, wood, paint. Model: Natala Covert.

A second set of photos illustrates a similar issue. This time the model is looking straight at you. Same necklace, different models, different poses.

Recycledcollar800 RecycledmILKNECKLACE
Option A                                  Option B
Recycle Necklace © 2010   Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit:(left) Liz Hickok         (right)emiko oye 

Which photo do you like best?

Which photo better presents the necklace?

Do you like seeing the model's face or eyes? Or is too much of the model distracting?

Do the model's face and hair add important information about the necklace or is it a distraction?

Do you think the skin color is better in the Metcalf Original Photo or in Version 2?

Are there other questions that you would like to ask?

Please give your comments and opinions. 

No answers  from ASK Harriete, today.  I don't want to bias your opinion. I will aggregate a consensus in the next post.  Please leave your opinion in the comments below or on Facebook, or email me directly.

Levels Plus, I am going to include a short Photoshop lesson soon about using Levels for photo "magic."

Discussion of the model issues will continue on Thursday when a range of opinions will be expressed.

DISCLAIMER: Obviously, the photographic images illustrating Bruce Metcalf's "Lucia's Poppy Necklace" are not the same size because I cropped a vertical shot, cutting off the model's face right above the lips. The original rectangular image is now a more square format.

I compensated a little by making the Version 2 image a little wider. If I had the original image, I could have played with the proportions a little better, but it does bring up an important point. Square images often appear more pleasing on the Internet whereas just a few years ago, a square image would have been very unusual.

A Hand in the Photo Holds Lots of Problems - I hope these aren't your photos?

In this post, a dedicated reader of ASK Harriete submitted a group of photos where the "hand in the photo holds lots of problems."  These were selected from the Internet as "worst case" examples.  Below are 5 common mistakes and solutions to improve your photos. 

Hands holding jewelry.

Don't use your fingers or hand to hold a piece of jewelry or sculpture.  The fingers or a hand are always a distraction. In this example, I am betting the person held the brooch over a scanner bed, hence the black background and light on the finger tips.

A similar problem exists in the next photo where the jewelry is cradled in the hand. While the hand may have been an attempt to provide scale, this hand is distracting at best. The fingers are wrinkled and dry, the skin color distracts from the clarity of the glass, and the partial background of white aquarium stones is problematic. Notice that this is a left hand, the right hand is probably trying to hold the camera and shoot at the same time. It's not working. This is not a good photo of the jewelry.Handmade-Lampwork-Beads-Necklace

SOLUTION: Avoid holding jewelry if a plain background will work much better. Options include pinning a brooch into a plain piece of paper or cardboard. Earring posts or ear wires can also go through the background paper.

Another solution is to use Museum Wax or Earthquake Hold to temporarily hold or "stand up" the beads, rings or jewelry on the background.

Avoid being your own hand model. Lay the necklace, beads or jewelry on a neutral background and do your best photography with two hands!
To establish scale: Write the dimensions of the jewelry/object in the description.

HANDgold-webbed-glove-1 MISTAKE #2
Fingernails that look like talons.

Obviously, carefully manicured fingernails are important, but  these long fingernails painted in a dark, high contrast color are a distraction. Describing these fingernails as talons may be overly harsh, but you get what I mean.

SOLUTION: A lighter, less dramatic nail color may have fixed the problem. This example also demonstrates how important it is to focus on the art or craft work in the photo and avoid distractions.

The Stiff Hand or Arm

The arm (above left) looks stiff, flat, and awkward.
SOLUTION: Have the hand in a more natural position (near the body), clothing behind the arm should not have any pattern to work as a "neutral background."

Model not appropriate to jewelry.
In the next photo (right), the arm is too large for the size of the small, delicate bracelet.  For some reason the bracelet seems like it is in the wrong place on the arm.

SOLUTION: Jewelry should always be displayed on a model appropriate to the work. Delicate work should be displayed on a small, delicate model. Sophisticated work on a sophisticated model, etc.

Amputation of the hand.

Cutting off the hand at the wrist is always a bad composition. (The hand may not be relevant to the work, but cutting it off never works.)

SOLUTION: Either include all of the hand or don't put the jewelry on a model's arm.

The previous post (about photographing 3-dimensional objects, clothing or jewelry) described a few of the issues when including the hand in photos. This is part of an extensive series about photography as a foundation for the upcoming Professional Development Seminar.I hope to see you there. Ask your questions in advance by sending them to me.

Also ask your questions at a workshop with me in Pennsylvania sponsored by the PA Guild of Craftsmen. April 9th and 10, 2011.


Previous posts in the series Side by Side Comparisons of Different Photos:
Photo Magic or "POOF" Photo Disaster - The Hand as a Prop in the Photographic Image

The model or the pedestal? Which is the more effective image?

Breaking the "Rules" with Style AND Perfection - Photos that work!

Side by Side Comparisons - the White Background, Can You Cut It?

Side by Side Photos - Website Backgrounds Should be Consistent

Side by Side Photos -Clean or Complex Backgrounds?

Side by Side Photo Comparisons - Backgrounds with Texture or Pattern?

Side by Side Photo Comparisons: Colorful or Discordant?

Side by Side Comparisons of Different Photos: Black Hole or Super Sophisticated?

Side by side comparisons of different photos - the graduated background. Stunning or stupefying?

Side by Side Comparisons of Different Photos - the white background. Trendy or Technique?

Are You Being Judged by the Style of Your Images?

The photographers are revealed!

Photo Magic or "POOF" Photo Disaster - The Hand as a Prop in the Photographic Image

Hands are particularly challenging in a photo. This is because our brains are engineered to stare at hands. Thus we can't help looking at the hands in the photo before anything else. Another problem is that most people's hands tend to look a little awkward. Bad combination! For these reasons, hands are particularly challenging in a photo.

HANDS of Harriete Estel Berman with Jeweler'sTattoos.
My very calloused and scarred hands with
"Jeweler's tattoos" (those little trophies
from drilling into your own fingers).

The hands of artists and makers can be very unattractive. Calloused, cut, worn, scared, muscular, and down right unsightly makers' hands literally ruin the whole photo. "Poof" photo disaster.  My first suggestion for "photo magic" is that artist's should avoid using their own hands in a photo shoot.

Recycled Glass Bead Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman When photographing jewelry or clothing to be worn on the hand or arm,  decide whether the benefits of a model's hand outweigh the distractions.  In this case, the hand is a prop.  Its purpose is to highlight key elements of the work.

To achieve "photo magic" make sure the hands look attractive. This requires long graceful fingers and clean, perfectly manicured fingernails.

 Recycled straight  Bracelet by Harriete Estel BermanDuring the photo shoot, pay close attention to the model's hand positions. If the model's hands aren't working naturally, either position the hands exactly as you want them, or try a position such that the hands don't show.

Professional Guidelines Brochure Model Release Contract.If you can avoid including hands in the photo it is much easier to get  successful photo magic. For an example, two photos in the new Professional Guidelines brochure (left) have taken this approach.

In the far left image of Jesse Mathes' necklace, the hands are hidden behind the model's back. This gives the body a sculptural form with no distraction.

Marj-schick-collar In the  photo of Marjorie Schick body sculpture (left) the model's hands are also hidden. Just imagine what this photo would look like with the model's hands showing.  Hopefully you realize how distracting hands can be.



Photo shoot by Harriete EStel Berman  and Emiko Oye Even with beautiful hands, it might be one out of 50 shots with varying light and positions to get just the right photographic image.

Ask for some honest critique to see if the hand is drawing attention away from the work or contributing to the focus of the photo and comprehension of artist's intent.

The next post will describe a few MISTAKES and SOLUTIONS with photographs of hands. Either you will have Photo Magic or "POOF" photo disaster! It's all in the hands.


If you would like a copy of the new Professional Guidelines Brochure. Contact me through my blog, web site or Facebook.

Recycle plastic jewelry work by Harrite Estel Beman. Photo Credit: emiko oye.

Photo of my hands: Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

The model or the pedestal? Which is the more effective image?

Photographing jewelry, sculpture or clothing intended to be worn on the body presents specific challenges. The biggest question is what is the most effective  photographic image-- a model or a more "neutral" background without the figure? This is one of the topics to be discussed at the Professional Development Seminar.

Spring Green Necklace
Painted papeier mache
© 1993 Marjorie Schick
Photo Credit: Gary Pollmiller

Using a mannequin can be a striking solution, midway between a live model and an isolated object. This photo (left) of work by Marjorie Schick uses a mannequin that is stylistically consistent with the work. It works perfectly!

Don't confuse this dramatic solution with a headless muslin sewing mannequin that was "found" at a flea market. It is NOT the same thing.

On the other hand, a live model is sometimes the only solution to bring out the best for your work, but a model in the photo adds multiple levels of complexity.


If using a live model, begin with the Model Release Contract from the Professional Guidelines. At least this contract lets you be comfortable knowing that your model is allowing you to use their image in your photos.

Boris Bally necklace on model
  Scrap Leaves: B Wear Necklace
© 2005 Boris Bally
  Constructed  from street signs.
  Artist: Boris Bally
  Photo Credit: Aaron UsherIII


Next decision, use a model consistent with the type of work. The appearance of your model has a HUGE IMPACT on the artwork being photographed.  Boris Bally's work on the right made from street signs finds context with a model right out of the urban environment.  If a professional model is outside your budget, use a dancer, athlete or yoga participant. Their body positions are often more graceful.

  Photo shoot
  emiko oye photographer

Lighting is KEY to great photos. Bounce cards with natural lighting is the easiest way for amateur photographers to get better "fill light" with or without a model.



Bounce cards can be plain white foam core, a mirror or aluminum foil over cardboard. You can also buy professional level photography umbrellas, etc. but the "homemade suggestions" work just fine.

At the shoot with a live model, be prepared. You need at least one or two extra people to hold bounce cards when you try to capture the right moment of sunshine.

Recycledstraight72 For example, the photos in this post were from a recent "home grown" photo shoot.

I must confess that I've learned a lot about shooting models from watching America's Top Model. Laugh at me all you want, but if you need to use models to photograph your work, then watch this show for helpful insights. (Cycle 16 premieres Wednesday, Feb. 23!) Listen to the experts critique the photos, learn from their voices of experience. While fashion photography is not the same as photographing art and craft, there are many tips you can carry back to your own photography.

Recycled2or When using models, be prepared for a long photo shoot. Working with models always seems to take at least twice as long as you plan. Hair, make-up, clothing, lighting are all a significant factor. Adding the problems involved in the way the jewelry, clothing or art actually fits (or doesn't fit) on the model, is a very complex puzzle.


What do you think? The model or the pedestal?

The next post will be about the problem with hands in a photo shoot. Don't shoot yourself in the foot, or should I say hand. Do you know how to get great hand model photos?


Recycle Plastic Bracelets shown above by Harriete Estel Berman constructed from post consumer recycled plastic. Photos by emiko oye

51yuPuUf-bL._SL160_ Looking for a beautiful book with amazing images of the manequin and the model. Marjorie Schick's book about her art to wear offers 100's of images that might inspire your next photo shoot.