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behind the scenes: my new photo studio

Have you entered my contest to win your choice of Vanna’s Choice yarns and a PlanetJune pattern? It’s open until Thursday – don’t forget to get your entry in!

I thought you might like to see my new photo studio and a glimpse behind the magic (ha!) that goes into my crochet pattern photos. Things have changed for the better since I last showed you my light tent setup and tutorial photography setup. My photo setup in Canada included 2 swing lamps and 2 goose-neck lamps (all with daylight bulbs) and my light tent:

craft room
Light tent in the good old days

It worked well, and I was happy with it. The only problem was when I made something too large to photograph in the light tent (e.g. Reepicheep, dinosaur group shots): then I had to fall back on the (thankfully) good natural light in my craft room and wait for a bright, overcast afternoon to give me the right conditions to shoot in daylight.

My new craft room has no natural light to speak of – our house is on one level, the windows are small, and there are trees right outside my window, so it’s dim inside on even the sunniest day. (I’m sure this will be a blessing in the heat of the South African summer!)

craft room window
Pretty view, but dark interior

As I couldn’t bring my old lamps with me (wrong voltage), I had to sell them all before I left and buy everything again at this end. There’s no IKEA or equivalent here, and 4 lamps and 4 bulbs at South African prices was not an appealing prospect. I also couldn’t find those daylight-coloured bulbs anywhere…

All these factors made a perfect excuse to upgrade my setup and invest in some professional lighting. I found an excellent local photographic shop, Studio22, who helped me to find a pro lighting solution that was within my budget. I bought 2 light stands, 2 fluorescent lamp heads (each with 2 sockets), 4x38W daylight bulbs (expensive, but they should last for years), and 2 translucent white umbrellas.

planetjune photo studio for product photography
The new setup

And oh, what a difference!

  • I can light my static scenes with an even light without having to fiddle with 4 lamps to get them all into position.
  • The bulbs are cool, so I can shoot for hours without raising the temperature in my room.
  • Without the confines of my light tent, I can light anything that fits on my desk, at any time of day or night.
  • I can set up to shoot a tutorial or video and light the scene much more easily and evenly (and without roasting under the hot lights!)

Of course, nothing is perfect: my craft room isn’t huge, and those umbrellas take up a lot of room! When I have it all assembled, I have to pick my way around them to reach the computer. And this desk is also my sewing table, so I have to get everything out of the way if I want to set up my sewing machine. It’s really not a big deal, though: to dismantle, I just furl the umbrellas and move the light stands (still set up and plugged in) and camera tripod to the corner of the room. When I next need a photo, it only takes a minute to set it all up again.

planetjune photo studio for product photography
Setting the scene (that’s my camera in the foreground)

On the desk, I create my scene. In this case, I have:

  • My handpainted ‘dappled forest’ backdrop, stuck to the wall with sticky tack. (I painted this backdrop for my AfricAmi set in 2008, and I’m so relieved it survived the move without the paint cracking.)
  • A fabric ‘ground’
  • Fake foliage courtesy of the dollar store (I really miss dollar stores for buying props!)
  • And, of course, the star of the show – my Aardvark in this case 🙂

I complete the setup with my camera on a tripod in front of the desk. I use the remote control (toe-operated!) when I’m making tutorials or videos, sat behind the camera with my hands in view, and otherwise take photos the regular way.

Hopefully my pattern photos will now be so irresistible that the business will repay my equipment investment in no time!

Comments (12)

home at last!

After a very long 10 weeks of being without any of our stuff, the delivery team arrived yesterday with our shipping container! We spent most of the day re-assembling pieces of our IKEA furniture and discovering long-lost treasures in some of the many boxes we now have stacked up all over the house. The day ended when we went back to our flat to collect Maui and bring him to his new home 🙂

Here’s my craft room this morning:

new craft room - boxes galore
Yay – a whole room full of my craft supplies! It’s going to take some effort to turn this into a functional craft room though…

I also just realised that with all this moving craziness, I missed my 5th blogiversary last week. Let’s pretend that didn’t happen, and I’ll write my end of year roundup post later today – I’ll need to take a break from unpacking at some point and this will be a good reason 😉

There’s a lot more work ahead of us to get everything sorted out, but I’m just so happy and relieved that we finally have a home again!

Comments (1)

my craft room: a photo guide

We’ll hopefully be moving into our new house this week, and I’ll have the challenge of figuring out how to set up my new craft room/office/photo studio. To make that task a bit easier, I thought I’d put together a visual guide to my old craft room, and I thought you might enjoy seeing it too – maybe it’ll give you some ideas for your own craft space!

I sadly didn’t have time to take photos before dismantling everything and depersonalizing the room to stage the house for sale, so I’ve compiled this guide from photos I took for previous posts. There are some strange angles, gaps, and different lighting etc as a result of that, but that just makes it more interesting, right? 😉

In case you want to know more about the crafty projects you see in the photos, I’ll link back to my original posts where applicable.

Okay, now let’s take a tour anti-clockwise around the room, starting from the doorway…

craft room
To your right as you enter, my bookcase, made prettier with a little crafty decoration down the side.

craft room
To the left of the bookcase, amigurumi galore! My overcrowded toy shelves. (Beneath the shelves, I kept my business/shipping supplies and digital piano – I had to sell the piano before we moved, so at least I won’t need to fit that into the new room.)

At the left of the photo, you can see the edge of desk 1…

craft room
As you can see, it had good natural light from the window, so I used this desk mostly for polymer clay and papercrafting. I kept a row of cubbies and baskets along the back of the desk to store small supplies: paintbrushes, crochet hooks, glues and varnishes, etc.

Under the window, I had a low table with my toaster oven (for polymer clay, shrinkydinks, etc) and I kept storage boxes underneath the table. No photos of this, and of course I couldn’t bring the toaster oven to South Africa (it’s electric, so the voltage would be wrong).

craft room
I decorated the window with origami – this strand of lucky stars along the top, and 6 dangling vertical strands of silver thread, each strung with a few sparkly beads and origami lotus flowers, cranes, and diamond shapes, spaced across the window. (I did try to photograph the vertical strands but, with them being so small and backlit, I never managed a decent photo.)

craft room
My computer desk, with a magnetic dry-erase board mounted on the wall next to it, and my wall-climbing amigurumi gecko!

craft room
Above the desk, some shelves I made to keep various trinkets – mostly handmade ornaments and a few travel souvenirs.

craft room
I prettied up my stark black leather office chair with a custom-designed crocheted granny throw.

Now moving along to the other side wall…

craft room
Light tent for my pattern photography. I eventually replaced the tiny table you see here with a wider coffee table and then stored all my computer accessories, gadgets etc in decorative patterned cardboard boxes (from IKEA – sorry, I apparently never photographed them) underneath – you’d never guess their geeky contents from the outside!

craft room
Desk 2. I kept my sewing machine here, and borrowed the desk space when needed for the print-quality tutorial photography for my book (shown in-progress here – the letters refer to my blog post about this setup), and for filming tutorial videos.

craft room
I re-covered this boring grey office chair with pretty fabric. I shared the chair between desks 1 and 2, as I could only sit at one at a time anyway!

craft room
And finally, the built-in closet, aka craft supply heaven. The wire shelving on the right contained my fabric stash, and the plastic towers of drawers were filled with yarn, FIMO, and supplies for all my other crafts. For each plastic tower, I cannibalised 2 units and snapped them together so I could create these taller towers that fit my space better. The contents are organised and the drawers are all labelled so there’s a drawer for stamps and punches, one for papercrafts, one for embroidery supplies, one for art supplies, etc etc, and then yarn split by weight, type and brand.

Not the prettiest solution, but I could always close the closet doors to hide the mis-matched units if required. The only problem is that my yarn stash inevitably outgrew the closet, so I’ll need to rethink things a bit this time around.

On top of the units, I had a stock of clear plastic boxes with lids, in two sizes. Each in-progress project gets its own box, so I can easily see what I have on the go, and keep all the pieces of one project together. This idea works really well for keeping organised and keeping the clutter down on my desks.

So that’s what I left behind… My new room will be very different and quite a challenge – it’s currently an empty square apart from a very cool fireplace in one corner:

new craft room

The lighting is terrible (small window, bare bulb hanging from the ceiling near the door) and there’s only one power socket on one wall, but that’s what happens when you buy an old 1920s bungalow instead of a modern cookie-cutter characterless house. Our new place has a lot of personality!

What do you think of my craft storage solutions? Any suggestions for me to improve things this time around? If you have photos of your craft space, or links to photos of other people’s beautiful craft rooms that might inspire me when trying to set up my new room, please share them in the comments!

Comments (41)

toy shelves

Three years ago (almost exactly! it was Jan 19th 2008) I posted about the glass shelves I’d bought from IKEA for displaying my crocheted animals in my craft room. Here’s how it looked back then:

toy shelves
Awww, evidence of a fledgling crochet pattern business!

Things have changed just a bit since then! As I have to depersonalise my craft room and turn it back into a bedroom so we can sell the house, I thought I’d better take some pics for posterity before I have to dismantle everything (sniff). So here’s the current state of my toy shelves:

planetjune toy shelves
It’s a bit tricky to fit everything into one photo, as the shelves take up the full length of one wall!

As you can see, I expanded from 2 shelves to 4. I was actually planning another IKEA trip to get yet another pair of shelves just before we found out we’d be moving – things are more than a little cramped on the shelves at the moment, and I don’t even have everything on display!

Credit for another artist: the beautiful sea turtle print you can see on the wall above my orangutan is by Ron Krajewski (dogartstudio).

After a few failed attempts, I managed to get a panoramic shot of everything (this is actually 4 photos I stitched together!):

planetjune toy shelves
I promise it’s worth the click through to Flickr for the large version – you can’t see anything at this scale!

I must confess I’m feeling a little bit proud of myself, looking at that photo. I just did a quick head count: 52 on the top shelf and 70 (I think! I kept losing count) on the bottom shelf…

Can you spot your PlanetJune favourites up there?

Comments (9)

climbing the walls

Finding space for all my creations is a bit of a challenge! I’ve come up with a novel solution for my amigurumi gecko, so I thought I’d share…

When we were in Hawaii, the geckos we saw could climb straight up vertical walls, thanks to their special toe pads. We always saw them climbing around window frames, or running around the walls inside the front porch, right up by the roof. That image was always in my mind when I made my gecko, so I thought it would be cool to let my gecko do a little wall-climbing too.

amigurumi gecko on the wall of my craft room

Also in this photo: my computer desk, the purple trinket shelves I made last year and my new magnetic white board (it’s actually silver-coloured, which is why it looks glaringly white here – reflected light from the window!)

How does he do it? It’s actually very simple – I knocked a couple of tiny nails into the wall and his stitches just hook onto them! The effect is very good – you only see the nails if you put your head right against the wall:

amigurumi gecko climbing the wall

And here’s my Hawaiian inspiration (awww!):


A pretty close match, I think 🙂

Comments (9)

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    June Gilbank

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