Friday, 26 May 2017

Phone Camera Photography Hints - and a Clever Little Gadget

Taking photos on a phone camera has moved from a last-option to becoming a first choice for some people. And having a camera to hand all the time, as part of the phone you take everywhere with you anyway, means we often tend to take more photos than before. The camera on my phone isn't a top quality one but it can still take a good snap if the conditions are right - and it has a few simple settings that allow me the opportunity to get a decent image if those conditions are a bit wrong.

I've not taken many jewellery photographs with my phone camera as it's not that well-suited to such shots - yes, it has a surprisingly decent close-up if the lighting conditions are good enough, and it also has enough pixels to provide reasonable detail. However it lacks some colour range and subtlety and the closeness of the close-up is limited, so I can't get those extra-detailed images on smaller pieces of jewellery, like rings and earrings.

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The photo of the ring above was taken for this blog post on my phone camera - I've edited it very slightly for colour and clarity. I also increased the brightness a little, but perhaps not enough as it still looks a little gloomy...

I still find myself using my phone camera more and more for general photography, when I'm out and about and prefer the convenience of something quick and simple. At times like that a phone camera comes into its own and means I've more photos than ever sitting on another memory card. And that's where they tend to stay...

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This photo was taken a few months back when I was fortunate enough to be by the sea on a clear evening as the sun was setting. The quality isn't fantastic but having my phone with me meant I was able to snap this, enjoy the fun of clicking away as the sun sank lower and lower, and have the photographic reminder of the experience afterwards. I found this image hidden in the depths of the memory on my phone...

A few years back digital photo frames were nearly everywhere. I never owned one myself but have sat in other peoples' house, watching the photos images flick past, some good and well-composed, intermingled with many that should have been deleted immediately (and how many of us get around to that as often as we should) and lots that were out of focus or too dark or too light or just plain embarrassing...

So I was intrigued by a new digital photo frame, this one a smart one. The Aura Frame displays photos directly from a mobile phone, so it has no storage limits other than those of the phone itself. It manages to not only pick the best quality images for display but also groups pictures of the same people together. The frame itself has no controls on it; everything is dealt with via an app - although it also allows you to wave an image away by hand if you don't like it, which sounds quite fun.

And the Aura Frame company created this guide to taking a good photo on your phone camera - It was interesting as I believe it's hard to have enough advice and hints for such a topic as taking good photos.

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A few pointers of my own that I've learned through taking my own images are -

* Don't assume auto is best - most camera phones will have several modes for taking photos and while auto is good, others can sometimes be better. I've had good results with using the 'night' mode (for taking photos of low light scenes without a flash) but in the daylight when things are just a little bit gloomy and in need of more brightness. 'sports' mode is also handy for any kind of action shot.

* Touch the image on your phone where you want the focus to be - this is one of the joys of phone cameras and touch screens, being able to quickly and easily move the point of focus in the image you're composing.

* Keep your lens clean - it's easy to overlook this but tiny specs of dust and dirt can easily build up on your camera lens and will make your photo look smudged and blurry. A quick clean before taking a photo can sometimes make a world of difference to your final image.

* Alter the angle you hold your phone to alter the light - if your viewfinder shows your photograph will be pretty dark then tilt the phone up or down very slightly. You can often get very nearly the exact same view but by allowing more light in, via an altered angle, you can add detail that is otherwise lost in gloom. This works in reverse too for images that look to be too bright.

* Explore the settings - we all tend to just point and click but if you take some time to explore the modes your camera has to offer, perhaps by taking pictures of the same view but with different  settings, then you can quickly find how some alterations can create an improvement (or not!) to the quality of your images.


Hope some of these hints are useful and help your own phone camera photography - do leave any tips of your own in the comments, I'd love to read them.

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And if you'd like to see more of my posts on photography, including my photographing jewellery blog series, then do check this link out and explore.

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Please note - The infographic featured in this post was supplied by Aura Frames themselves, but I am otherwise not connected with the company and the links in my post are
 not affiliate links. As always, my views are my own and have been given honestly.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Seaside Inspiration for Jewellery Designs - May 2017


Earlier last month the sun was shining in its hazy early-spring way and I went down to the sea. The water was calm and gentle, the beach mostly empty except for a few fishermen. We sat on some rocks exposed by the low tide, and I took some photos of the colours and shapes we saw.

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The curl of the beach, where the sea was slowly moving the shingle, was a nice reminder of the curves I like to put in silver wire. The rhythm of the water moving along the shoreline was hypnotic and quite beautiful.


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The rocks we sat on to bask in the sunshine were, on closer examination, half covered with tiny limpets, waiting for the sea to return. The texture, and strength, of these tiny creatures was easily felt under my careful fingers. I'm pretty sure I didn't squash any although I only discovered them after we sat down...


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Simple shapes in jewellery often work the best, as in nature. The cone-shape of the limpets is both strong and elegant. The colours of the shells blended in with the rocks and seemed almost a part of them until we looked closer.

Simplicity equals strength seemed to be the design message from the seaside. Gentle curves and natural movements. Jewellery, like nature, doesn't need to shout to be noticed.

Do you find inspiration in simple shapes or do more complex ones challenge you? Do leave a comment if you like, I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Garnet Gems and Hammered Silver Circles Earrings


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I do enjoy making jewellery gifts for people I know. Matching colours and styles and preferences to the individual are some of the best joys of hand-crafting and when the choices you make as a designer work out well then that's a fantastic feeling.

These earrings were made for someone who only wears drop styles and whilst I looked at a few different colours of gemstone, I came back again and again to garnet. These small faceted ones are a deep but bright red and very rich in tone. When I saw them being worn I knew I'd made the right decision. The garnets were set with Wraptite settings, like I used on this necklace recently also.

The hammered circles were from a patch of time a while back when I made a lot of shapes and played around with textures and finishes on them. They looked just right in these earrings and the tiny silver beads, set on wire, finished things off nicely. The recipient seemed genuinely pleased with these - she's worn them nearly constantly since receiving them - so I feel content in feeling content...


Friday, 5 May 2017

Book Review - Stringing and Linking Jewelry Workshop by Sian Hamilton

Stringing and Linking Jewelry Workshop
by Sian Hamilton
Published by GMC Publications 2015
144 pages

book-review-jewellery-stringing-linking-jewelry-workshop-sian-hamilton-silvermossA lot of my older jewellery books are the work of one jeweller in particular, with the vast majority (if not all) the projects included designed by the author, and perhaps a few other jewellers being referenced in a 'Gallery' for extra inspiration. However I've notice a trend in some more recently published books to opt for a wider base of jewellers and their designs, as if the book were a kind of modern jewellery or craft magazine.

It's perhaps no surprise, then, to find that the Stringing and Linking Jewelry Workshop has been put together by the editor of Making Jewellery magazine, and that she has included several different jewellers, including herself, across the 30 projects that the book features. (A little disappointingly the book doesn't included a mini-biography of each of the jewellers, as I always find sections like that informative and fascinating.)

First Impressions

The book I'm reviewing is a large paperback edition, not dissimilar in look from a magazine. The front cover has a white background with different items of jewellery featured on it. The jewellery is all beaded and quite colourful and gives a good indication of the type of pieces you'll find in the projects themselves.

At The Start

The contents pages have a very handy visual guide to the projects, with each one pictured and numbered so anything that catches your eye can be found quickly by referencing the number against the written list and the corresponding page numbers. It's very handy to re-find a project using this, rather than flick through pages until you find what you're after on the last one you look at...

Next comes an introduction with a recommendation or two on how to adapt
designs and on how best to approach the book, which is perhaps more suited to beginners than more advanced beaders.

Two pages on tools and equipment follow, mainly devoted to different types of pliers and cutters and beading tools and sundries. This is followed by four pages about materials, ranging from different types of beads, stringing materials, and findings. All these pages are illustrated with good, clear photographs as are the next six pages covering techniques.


In the Middle

The projects cover the main part of the book and each has four pages devoted to it. The first page has a photo of the finished item and the second has a list of components needed and photos of ideas for adapting the project to make other pieces using similar materials. Instructions for all the pieces of jewellery shown are over the next two pages.

Most of the projects include three matching pieces, normally necklace, earrings and bracelet, and it's a nice touch that allows flexibility in how the reader can use the book. It's also useful in showing the beginner how easy it can be to adapt a design and make something different on a similar theme.


At the End

After the last of the projects the book concludes with a mainly UK-based page of suppliers and an index.


In Summary

As a silversmith primarily I found the book a little limiting in terms of projects.  But I always find some inspiration in every book on making jewellery, whether it's a way of combining materials that I've not thought of before, or a nudge in the direction of using more beads and more colour in my work.

If you're looking to begin beading then this book could be a good place to start. And if you've read the magazine Making Jewellery then that will give you an idea of the kinds of projects included and how they are laid out, and how well the instructions and photographs are done. If you're a more advanced beader then this book will probably work more as a source of inspiration and new ideas.


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If you fancy another jewellery book about beads then check my review out of Learn to Make Bead Jewellery.

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