Saturday, July 18, 2015

Winners of "Photo Skillz Part One"

So you shook it up and I am beaming like a mama bear.

I asked you to shut off your flash, move around your soap and step out of your box and you all trusted that it could work and it did!  Every picture was interesting and creative and there's no way I could choose the best.

I will choose three, as I promised, but there were dozens that I wanted in the trio today. 

These are in no particular order....

Amanda Wolf

Amanda Wolf, you stepped right off that box and added an interesting and relevant background image for your soap and it works!  In fact, the movement of the water makes in work.  If it were just on a sink next to the faucet, it wouldn't work because it would look posed, but this with the straight on perspective feels like someone's prepping my bath.  MY bath.  It makes it intimate and not a show.  Well done!

Tanya Rasley of Canard Labs
The pearly light peach splatter of color in this background of varying whites, draws the eyes attention to the detail.  It transforms the soap into a creative blast of wonderment.  Flickering images of shooting stars, Pollack's flick of the paintbrush or bioluminescence.

wonderment:  the rapt attention and deep emotion caused by the sight of something extraordinary 

Bee Iyata
 Bee has taken soap making to a new level with her artistic hand molding and scene creations.  This one is one of my favorites, but it's not just the soapy birds and eggs that made me choose this photo.  No...  It was taken on a different angle than all others.  It's an overhead shot but askew instead of straight down, which adds a depth I ever noticed before.  It works especially with the subjects and the nest of eggs in the natural light.  It's breathtaking and it is focused perfectly.  Bee used the light to make her creation pop.

These are three very different soaps with different angles a vibes.  Each one of them speaks to me in a different way.  Thank you, Amanda, Tanya and Bee for the inspiration.

I do hope that you continue to shoot around your subject, turn off the lights and shut off your flash!  Natural light makes for better photographs of objects.  Flash photography has its place in the world, but with soap, it is much harder to get that intimate feel.

Which leads me to the next Soap Challenge.  But that will have to wait.  I have something secret I'm working on that needs a little time to get ready.  Keep shooting and stick around for the next fun game to play with your soap.




Monday, July 6, 2015

What's in YOUR red colorant?

I know this is my soap blog and I try not to include too much stuff about Mad Oils, my wholesale supply company, but I thought this was just too important not to post here:

Mad Oils carries only vegan ingredients.  We believe in using and selling only cruelty free products.  We are an animal loving team here with a vast array of rescued pets between us.

Carmine is an ingredient very often used in red and pink micas.  You may not be aware of what it is or where it comes from, but it might be in the micas and other colorants you use in your products.  

photo courtesy of

“Carmine” is an ingredient used often in the food and cosmetic industry.  It is often found in micas and other colorants to produce red, pink, purple and brown colors.  What is carmine?  Cochineal bugs that are dried and crushed to produce a red dye, are called cochineal, carmine, or carminic acid.  The dye comes specifically from the female insect called Dactylopius coccus. These bugs are killed, dried and crushed to create the color.

It takes about 70,000 insects to make one pound of cochineal.


photo courtesy of

Carmine is generally safe, but manufacturers of products need to know that in a small number of people, carmine can cause swelling, skin rashes and even respiratory problems.  The red powdered pigment is used as a natural alternative to artificial coloring, but it is not vegan.  It is important to be aware of ingredients we choose when making our products so that customers can choose for themselves what they want to use on their body.  

We share this information with you, not to gross you out, but to ensure that when choosing Mad Oils, you know exactly what you’re getting.  We stand by our claim that Mad Oils will carry only 100% vegan micas.  In fact, all of our products are 100% vegan, even our fragrance oils.  (Yes, fragrances often contain animal products).  We know this is important to many of you, as it is to us.

It’s important to make an educated choice when purchasing reds, pinks, browns and purples. It is up to you whether to use products containing carmine or not. Remember that knowing what is in your products and providing full disclosure about their ingredients is empowering to you, as well as your customer.  Knowledge is power.

Xoxo - All of us at Mad Oils

Note: Please refer to the FDA website for color additive regulations to find out what label requirements are in effect.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Shake It Up With Photos Skillz, Part One

Some of you want to sell your soap but are having a hard time doing that because getting a good picture of them isn't easy.  Photographs of your product are more important than you think.  Images are what speaks to people more and more these days, because isn't the internet all imagery?

We all have a comfort zone: Things we do that make us feel secure in our abilities.  But in my opinion, that comfort zone needs a little shaking up.  That's what I'm here to do.  We all need to open ourselves to see new perspectives.  Some of us make soap for fun, or for the sake of art, and some make soap for a living, but the one thing you have to do, no matter why you soap, is document your soap journey.  Even if it's just for yourself.  If you are sharing your documentation, you want the viewer to really see your work.  Not just photos lined up with a back drop taken 3 feet away, one - after - another.... It's boring to see "catalog-type" photos one after the other.

If you take pictures of your soap just to get the image on paper (or screen), you need to stop that right this second... just  S T O P !

One of my personality traits that I can't help, is trying to see things from other people's perspective.  I put myself in the shoes of others in order to understand what they see and feel.  And then examine WHY.

This trait carries through into everything in my life.  Relationships, art, political discussions, and crime stories (random, I know, but my whole life I've been fascinated by stories of deranged people doing what they do and then trying to understand why).  Putting myself in other people's shoes helps me with photography.  Whhhhaaaaat??  When I look at a photograph in a magazine or on a website, it evokes a response in me.  This is true for product imagery and that's why advertisers use everything in their power to create emotions in consumers.  Why?  Because consumers purchase things mostly by how they feel when using, wearing or having a product.  If I put myself right into the shoes of a person, for instance, looking for soap, I try to photograph the soap in a way that is intimate or shows a different scene that is out of the ordinary.  Photography creates a silent image, sometimes so powerful that words are not even necessary.  THAT is what I try to do.  What do I want to see?  What do I want?  I use that, too, all the time.  

Evoking an emotion in someone will make them take a second look, which may turn into a soap sale for you.

Natural light and position/perspective are KEY.  I will go into why and where in the next post, but this post is going to focus on practicing the technique of light and position...

Find a new perspective ~~ Basics

So go grab your camera (or phone) during the day and make sure your flash is OFF.  Set your soap on a steady surface near natural light and take TEN photographs of your soap from all different positions.  YOU need to move in different positions, not the soap.  Take a photo from above looking straight down; This will give a dimensional view.  Take a shot from below the soap, looking UP at it;  This will enlarge its presence.  Take a super close shot....get intimate with your bar.

You have to try new perspectives to see what you like.  But you will never know if you like them until you try it.  It's a pretty low risk, taking photos, so just DO IT.

Here are some examples of the same soap photographed from different angles:

My soap:  close up

My soap:  straight on.  Taken at the same level

My soap: photographed from above (and close).

These are photographs of my soap from 4 or 5 years ago, so if you were a customer of mine at Absolute Soap or a reader of my blogs, you've probably seen these already, but they show you one soap, shot 3 ways.  Now, think about what each one makes you think, feel and like.  Which is your favorite position?  Try the all and MORE!

Out of the ten photos, choose one picture (don't forget!  Shoot in natural light and at a different angle than you usually take your photos). That photo will be your entry photo that you need to post in our group on Facebook: the Soap Challenge Gallery.

I want everyone to participate. All entries need to say "#photoskillzpartone" and need to be posted one week from today:  My birthday, JULY 11th and the deadline time is at 3:09 pm (EST), the exact minute I was born.  The top 3 photos will be posted on this blog (and for those of you who don't realize how many people come to this blog, let me shed some light:  between 17,000-25,000 page views per month.  And I only write on this blog, LATELY, once a month.  So participate and fight to get some exposure!

This is not only an assignment to make you better, but it's meant to be fun, so have a good time!

Peace out.
- Jo