Friday, April 17, 2009

Photo Styling... Which Do You Prefer?

This pic of Zandra was featured on the tchotchkes blog today, in a great post called "Storytelling Photography." Soulyluna, the writer of this blog, has a wonderful biz called Treebottom Wool. They make the cutest little kids' clothes, using "luxuriously soft cashmere or other itch and scratch-free wool made from re-purposed sweaters." They also "fancy unusual applique designs, vintage buttons and collecting pockets." Their stuff is really cute & unique, and so full of imagination.

When a fellow whimsical-stuff-maker like Soulyluna writes nice things about my photos, it's very flattering of course. But it's also been a little unsettling... Self-doubt is creepin' in & it's got me wondering about the new direction I've taken with my photos. Patrick's been re-shooting all of the toy pics so we can phase out these old ones with the painted background scenery. Personally, I like the new photos' look so much better than the old ones. I do like the old photos, especially how the backdrop is not the natural setting for these animals (giraffes & elephants in a grassy field among trees whose trunks looks suspiciously like oaks). In my mind, the imaginative setting of the pics sets the tone that these are toys meant to inspire creative thinking. And I guess that's why Soulyluna likes them, too.

But there was always something that annoyed me about those photos: the setting looked too unnatural, as in not organic or healthy. The watercolors I used to paint the grass in the backdrop ended up looking too blue (which made it really difficult to achieve the right color balance in the pics) & the shiny Astroturf used as a stand-in for grass is as unnatural as you can get.

Those old photos didn't seem to hit the right note for The Snuggle Herd, which prides itself on being earth-friendly. I wanted photos that played that aspect up, with a warm, inviting look to them that amplified the animals' soft & cuddly-ness (as opposed to the strange, fake look the painted background & Astroturf have that seems to say "you better keep your distance").

So we decided to use softer, natural materials like wood (drawers from my night stand) and fabric with warmer tones. As an added bonus, this modular drawer setup makes it much easier for us to accommodate products of different sizes and different display situations. We can hang the onesies, lean things up against the drawers, etc., while still keeping a consistent look to the photos, which I think is really important for branding our shop.

But now I'm totally curious, which do you prefer?


  1. I see where your dilemma stands, and with creative work, there almost always seems to be that nagging doubt that actually pushes you to keep trying new things. I like both of your photography directions, and since the true focus is on the product, you need to go with your gut, right? I myself believe in balance. I try not t get too wrapped up in maintaining an image if it stifles fun or creativity, as long I feel like I'm still working with integrity.

  2. I love the old photos, they're much more eye-catching. They bring out the color and creativity of the animals. Can you post a "gallery" with alternate photos? What about a photo of a kid holding an animal? Christy

  3. I think the onesies on the wood background work just fine, they take up most of the space.

  4. I seriously LOVE the backgrounds in the older photos. You were being way to critical on yourself. (I know how that is-believe me!)
    I believe the older photos put your items in a "fantasy world"- just like a child would do! How perfect! I also like the idea of a picture with a child holding your dollies. You are welcome to use my 4 year old!

  5. I personally like the scenery in the back. Maybe if it was muted more, the animals may pop out but still, I really like the life it gives. The anilmals suddenly gets life and when there are scenery in the back, there is something humorous or feel like I somehow relate to them. It also shows the artist's vision for the animals and I think that is really important. --Go Buggy

  6. I love the forest backgrounds, I even noticed the change recent and was sad about it.

  7. I like the tree and grass in the background. Friendlier.

  8. I like the onesies in front of the wood, but the animals in front of the backgrounds. However, I like your point about the artificiality of the grass. Therefore, I think you should do new pictures with the backdrops and real grass! Sorry if that's an annoying answer.


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