Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Merry Soapy Christmas Cupcakes

Christmas Tree Cupcake Soap
Several weeks back I went a little bit crazy on the Christmas soap projects.  Finding the right tools to create the cutouts in the size I needed turned into another one of those "aha!" moments when I strolled down the clay aisle at the local craft store one day.  And those little cutout tools came in very handy for the Christmas soap projects.  Stockings, Christmas Trees, Snowmen, and Gingerbread men were quickly cutout of soap scraps begging to be put to good use.

Peppermint Cupcake Soap
I made cupcake soaps in a combination of chocolate and orangepeppermint and pumpkin spice, and then finally the Christmas Tree and cinnabun.

In the end I gained the awe and amazement of family and friends, with thoughts that they look good enough to eat.  I do not suggest that, however, as I am pretty sure they won't taste anything like they smell.  ;)

Chocolate Orange Cupcake Soap

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lightbox Challenged but Persistance Pays Off!

Before - First attempt with the Light box
Several months ago I bought a light box so I could take better photos of my soapy creations for my online store.  I proudly made my modestly priced purchase online and anxiously awaited it's arrival.  When it arrived, I was devastated to find that the unit came WITHOUT instructions, and I quickly discovered many other reviews complaining about no instructions included with the unit.  How hard can it be to figure out something as basic as that simple light box?  Ha!  Well, no instructions was the first clue that it wasn't going to be as easy as first thought and I should have returned it before I even got started.

My second clue should have been when one of my daughter's cats came flying through the room, slipped under the table and promptly pulled the cord for one of the lights and sent it airborne right in the middle of a photo shoot.  Needless to say, the force from hitting the floor was the end for the bulb in that light.  I was steaming mad, and my daughter promptly headed off to the store and bought not just one, but a three pack of replacement bulbs...after my husband spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the light bulb out so we could determine what size was needed because, remember...no instructions came with the unit!  I put the unit away for "a rainy day".

We had a lot of rainy days this past summer, in fact, most of the summer we were overloaded with it.  But I just didn't have the patience to even think about attempting the light box just yet.  A few weeks ago I saw a You Tube video of a "light box" where the person made a simple unit out of lights, a piece of poster board, and some clothes pins.  Really?  Why I didn't Google this sooner, I will never know!  I might have saved myself some green by playing with a more basic model.  Which leads me to today.

I hauled the unit out, replaced the bulb from the cat fiasco several months ago, and set it all up...on the floor and in a room where NO cats, dogs, people could mistakenly trip, fly, dance, or sit on any of the lights.  My third clue...Houston, we have a problem!  The new light bulb gave off better light than the original so it was producing too much shadow on one side.  No problem, I have two more bulbs!  Three of us struggled to release the bulb, each one of us cutting our fingers on the sharp edges of the bulb.  Finally, the bulb was out, and in went the new.  Success, the light was even on both sides.  Ha, ha...moving on to my fourth clue...

Photos taken with my cellphone, photos taken with my digital camera.  Why oh why is the light just not making the inside of the box bright enough?  Why is everything looking so dark, no matter where I move the lights?  So, I went straight to Google and typed in a search for my dilemma.  Should I be offended that at the top of the search engine was "Light box for Dummies"?  Yup, you guessed it...my fifth clue!

After reading several articles I finally found one that addressed my problem.  Um...clue number six...the lights needed to be shining from above the light box.  OK...the box stands approximately 15 inches tall, and the lights...um yeah, you could say they are vertically challenged and more suited for a unit that stand 3 inches tall, not 15 inches!  And darn it all, the legs were not telescoping legs so I was pretty much subjected to figure out another solution so it was time to elevate the lights.

Getting closer, but no cigar.  Everything was still coming out dark no matter what I did.  In looking at the piece that attaches to the back and drapes "nicely" to give a seamless background, I might have been better off with a piece of tissue paper.  Clue number seven.  Those clothespins and a piece of poster board was sounding pretty enticing by this point.

After a much needed break and some brainstorming I came up with an idea.  I have, in my possession, several white tablecloths...they are polyester, there are no wrinkles, and I could layer it just so through the back of the light box to achieve a thicker and cleaner background to play with.  Finally, we were starting to get somewhere!  Ha ha ha...moving right along to clue number eight!

In my haste to set the lights back into position after placing the tablecloth, I bumped one of the lights and tipped it over...a whole 6 inches to the carpeted floor, but now had another light to change.  Light bulb #3 was promptly installed, lights positioned and turned on, and camera in hand.  We were getting so much closer.  Camera, settings, remember you have to change the settings to adjust for the light on the camera?

And wah lah!  A beautiful photo with a pristine white background (by my standards). After a quick run through pic monkey for resizing and some other special photo editing touches, I can finally say that I have conquered the beast!

The challenge was frustrating, but I learned a lot about lighting, what works and what does not work.  I learned a lot about my digital camera and features I never even knew existed (after almost 7 years).  I made sure to take careful notes along the way so I would have a reference point for future photos.  I know today the sun was shining when I finally figured everything out.  Next time I go into a photo shoot it might be cloudy, raining, snowing, or it could be after the sun sets and then I will need to do more fine tuning and adjustments.  I feel accomplished for what I was able to achieve today and now have a starting reference point to work with, not to mention I am super delighted with the final result.

I have a long weekend coming up later this week so I plan to use that time to prepare for Holiday Craft Fairs and updating some more photos for my online shop.