Monday, April 27, 2015

Electric Blue AOM Mid Century Bamboo Dresser

Before & After- American of Martinsville Bamboo Dresser WD-11

This piece has been a long time coming. If you follow me on social media (if you don't already, you should! Instagram and Facebook) you have been seeing before photos, updates along the way and sneak peaks of the finished piece.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Furniture Reveal: White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstand

White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstaind WD-4

It's been a while since I have been somewhat consistently posting, but I'm excited to share with you a really awesome modular nightstand today!

I wasn't able to go to a furniture sale that I regularly check out because of school and work but my mom and sister stopped by later in the day and found this awesome piece. They sent me a picture and I signed off on the piece. It was a no brainer because of the price point and all those angles. I really love the shape of this mid century piece.

White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstaind before WD-10

I contemplated a few options like a bold color or all white with some color that would accent all of the angles and lines of the nightstand, but I settled on white and walnut. It's classic and pretty hard to go wrong with this combination. Based on condition I knew I was painting the whole piece white. There were many places on the top and a few corners that needed to be filled and sanded smooth. To break up the white and to keep some wood around I chose to stain the legs. In order to balance out the dark wood on the bottom I also chose to stain the handle on the drawer.

First up was striping off the old finish. You can read about my process and see a video tutorial on stripping furniture here. I used Citristrip on all 4 of the legs and the wood drawer pull. I let the stripper sit for about 40 minutes and then went back and used a TSP (substitute) wash and synthetic steel wool to remove the old finish. I was wearing gloves of course! Once all of the Citristrip and old finish was off I wiped everything down with clean water and let them dry overnight. The next day I was able to sand off all of the old stain and get the legs and handle down to raw wood. I just hand sanded with 150 grit and finished off with 220 grit sandpaper.

White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstaind before WD-9

For stain I chose to use General Finishes Gel Stain. I have 2 colors I like to use, Java and Antique Walnut, but neither was exactly what I wanted. Instead, I mixed the two stains together to get the right dark, rich tone I was after. This stain needs to dry for a long time before a sealer is put over top. I waited 2 days just to be sure I didn't ruin the stained finish in any way.

White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstaind before WD-7

Back to the frame of the nightstand. I filled the scratches and chips, sanded, cleaned and then spray primed with Zinsser Cover Stain. I sprayed on 2 good coats and then sanded with a high grit sanding sponge once it was dry. There were a few spots on top where yellow bleed through kept coming through even after the 2 coats of primer so I sprayed those spots with Zinsser Shellac (clear) and then went back over those areas with the primer.

White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstaind before WD-8

A few hours later I brought the piece into my spray booth and sprayed on a few coats of General Finishes Snow White milk paint (it's an acrylic based paint, not a true milk paint). I did have to brush on 2 coats to the little shelf area because the paint container on the top of my spray gun would not fit inside thate area or let me be able to spray well at the right angle. I did end up figuring out I could turn the gun on its side and be able to get some paint in the shelf area (not as as thick of a coat as I wanted), but I did have to brush on a few coats to get the coverage I needed and spray on the last coat. Once the piece was dry (the next day) I sealed it with General Finished high performance topcoat.

I really love the modern look of this piece and the accents of dark wood on the legs and handle. And how great is this vintage rug I found? I scored that for $20 and it was worth every penny!

White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstaind WD-12

White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstaind WD-4

White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstaind WD-2

White and Walnut Modular Mid Century Nightstaind WD-3

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tall and Modern Mid Century Dresser in White, Wood & Grey

White Wood and Grey Modern Dresser WD-6

Hello! I have a fun piece to share with you today. I really love the detail and modern lines on this piece. I purchased it off of craigslist and got it for a pretty great price. Once I arrived to buy the piece and checked it out I saw that the top was laminate, but the drawers had some gorgeous walnut veneer. Here's how it was looking when I first picked it up. The hardware on the bottom 3 drawers is original, but the lion head pulls on the top were added later. The is a Broyhill piece from the Tribute line.

White Wood and Grey Modern Dresser before WD-1

I knew I wanted to paint the piece and had originally planned on going for a solid color all over thie piece like General Finishes Klein Blue. After looking the the wood on the top drawers and that awesome detail I thought it would be fun to strip and stain the top drawers, paint the bottom 3 a light grey and then paint the frame of the piece a true white. So I got to work!

I removed the hardware and began stripping the top drawers and then thought I might as well strip all the drawers and just see how they turn out (you can read my post and watch a video tutorial I made here). Once the drawers had been stripped and clean I let them dry overnight before sanding. I gave the drawers a light sanding with 150 grit sandpaper and then all the drawers were stained with 1 coat of Rustoleum's Ultimate stain in Dark Walnut. They stained up beautifully and I decided to not paint the lower 3 drawers because I knew the wood loves would freak. They always do.

On the frame I sanded everything with 150 grit, but I also cleaned, sanded (with multiple grits) and then cleaned the laminate top again with TSP substitute to prepare it for primer and paint. I used spray cans of Zinsser cover stain primer to prime the piece. Once it dried I lightly sanded with a high grit sanding block to smooth out the finish. 

I recently built a spray booth in the garage (out of PVC pipe and plastic paint sheeting) to start spraying piece with a compressor and HVLP spray gun to achieve better and smoother finishes. It's definitely a game changer and greatly improves the quality of the finishes on these pieces. It took some time to figure out the spray gun and get the controls right but once I got the gun to work right I sprayed on about 3 coats of paint. Some parts of this dresser are oak and had deep wood grain. I did use a brush on those areas to make sure the paint covered all of the wood grain. I also made sure to sand in between coats (or every other coat) with a sanding block just to smooth out the finish. The piece was then sealed with GF high performance topcoat in satin (also sprayed on with my spray gun). So, here's where I was at after I shined up (only the original pulls) and added back on this is where I was (ignore the goodwill frames and photos).

White Wood and Grey Modern Dresser before WD-2

It's not terrible, but it definitely looks better in photos than it did in person. Even my mom (a wood lover) agreed that the hardware didn't look right with the wood. It was too contrasted. Even thought that wood is pretty, I went back to my original plan to paint the bottom 3 drawers in GF Seagull Grey. I tested it out by painting poster board and then cutting it to each size of the drawer and taping it on. That's the point where I was convinced. It just looked better so I primed the drawers, sprayed on 3 coats of GF Seagull grey and then sealed them with GF HPTC in satin just like the rest of the piece.

I really love the way this piece came out. It was quite the process, but worth it! The finish is amazing since it was sprayed on, and while you might not believe me it looks much better in person than it does in photos. 

White Wood and Grey Modern Dresser WD-3

White Wood and Grey Modern Dresser WD-2

White Wood and Grey Modern Dresser WD-4

White Wood and Grey Modern Dresser WD-1

Friday, March 20, 2015

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business and Blog

Persimmon how to edit photos with lightroom WD-1

Hello Friends!

I've been using Adobe Lightroom for over a year now and am so happy I didn't wait to make this purchase. This program will massively improve the lighting and quality of your photos and if you blog or have a furniture painting business like me well-lit, clear photos are essential for selling pieces and growing your blog and business. Purchasing and investing time in learning the best features to use in Lightroom can make a huge and positive influence on unlocking all the potential for your business.

I think it's important to recognize we all start somewhere. There's no doubt I have taken terrible photos and even have blog posts to prove it. But that doesn't mean you can't improve and get away from dark, shadow-y photos with lot so noise (noise= graininess). Since I began using a DSLR camera (you can read about the camera equipment I use here) and editing with Lightroom the pictures of my pieces have improved so much. I recognize it and others do as well. Who doesn't love a well-lit, well-staged, and well-photographed picture of some pretty furniture or room? I know I do!

I've written about all of the adjustments and tools I use within Lightroom and I also took screen shots and added text with arrows to help further explain and serve as a visual tool. If you want to view any image in a larger size just click on the image. Tt will pop up and be easier to view and read. Let me know if you have any problems or questions.


I purchased Lightroom 5 in January of 2014 after trying the 30 day free trial. It's at least worth the 30 day free trial to see how you like it, what features you can use, and how much it can change your photos. Purchasing Lightroom is definitely an investment. I paid $110 for the whole program which was the student price (I guess paying that college tuition came in handy!), but you can also get Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 a month. Since I don't currently use or need photoshop (I at least don't need photoshop often) I chose to pay the full price instead of the monthly fee. Obviously that was the best decision for me, as 15 months later I would have paid $150 so far. I will point out that if you pay the monthly fee, when a new version of Lightroom comes out you don't have to pay for the new program. If you already own an older version of the program (like I do) there is an upgrade fee that is cheaper than full price. But, it's not always necessary to upgrade right away and by the time a new version comes out I know that I will still have saved money by buying the program outright rather than paying the monthly fee.
**If you are also a Student (or a Teacher) you can buy Adobe Lightroom 5 now for about $80, make sure to look for the discounted pricing**

Here's a comparison of a photo of the Reverse Dipped Dresser before editing and after editing. I used some arrows and circled some of the spots that were edited. I cropped the photo to get rid of most of the ceiling and crown molding but some of it still was in the photo. Next I used the Spot Removal tool to get rid of the molding (or disguise it the best I could, the water mark covered that area anyway) and also removed marks on the wall and the top to the lamp. I also did basic editing like raising the exposure, etc. So let's get into details of the adjustments I made and how to make those adjustments in Adobe Lightroom 5.

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow your Blog and Business 2

Here are the key features I use in Lightroom (while in 'Develop' Mode).

The "Basic" features I use

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business WD 1

1. The auto white balance tool. Click on the tool, then click somewhere on your photo that is supposed to be white. I usually use it on the wall (which is grey, not white), but it does a good job at adjusting the white balance to make it appear as it is in real life. Sometimes it changes too much and I go and manually adjust the Temperature and Tint, but for the most part it works or is a good starting point. If your photos are too warm (yellow) or too cool (blue) this tool allows you to adjust and white balance the whole photo.

2. Exposure. I turn the exposure up for most photos. It brightens up the photo and makes it seem like there was more natural light than what came out in the photo. If you shoot in manual mode and control the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO you shouldn't have to change the exposure too much, but I often times find it better to shoot the photos a littler dark than I like and edit the exposure once I add the photos to Lightroom. *Also note I bought a new camera recently and learned more about shooting in manual mode so I now spend less time and use less adjustments when editing photos*

3. Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. I don't change these much, but sometimes I turn the shadows down a bit if there are harsh shadows in the photo. I do adjust Whites and Blacks as well. Here's a trick, hold down the alt/option key + command key (this is for mac's) then move the sliders.  You will see the photo disappear (turn black or white) as you adjust the Whites or Blacks slider and when you start to see the little white or black dots appearing that's when you have adjusted it enough.

4. Changing a photo to Black and White. You just need to make one click to change a color photo to black and white. At the top of the right side bar menu under the "Basic" heading you will see "Black & White". The "Color" should be selected already so just click "Black & White" and your photo is changed. To change it back just select "Color".

The "HSL/Color/B&W" Features

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 2

The next features I use only when they are needed. You can find them under the HSL/Color/B&W heading

1. Hue - Saturation - Luminance: There are times when a certain color appears slightly different in photos than it does in person. I try to represent the paint colors on furniture as accurately as possible, so if the color is off I use the Hue, Saturation, and/or the Luminance tool to try and fix the color a bit. Sometimes there's too much green/yellow undertones showing up on a piece that is painted blue so I can use the Hue tool to adjust that. If I use any of these tools I start with the Saturation tool for the specific color. You use the slider for the color you need to adjust.

If you have a photo where you want to raise or lower the overall saturation you can do that to the whole photo all at once using the Saturation slider adjustment found in under the "Basic" category of the sidebar menu.

I don't scroll down past that section in the sidebar menu of tools. Those are the main features I use for editing and enhance the photos I take of pieces for my furniture business.

Creating Presets

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 3b

Once you have made all of the the adjustments I have mentioned this far you can create a Preset for the set of photos you are working on. If most or all of the photos were taken at the same time with the same settings on your camera you can create a preset and quickly make the same adjustment you did to the first photo you edited. It will save you time when editing multiple photos.

To create a preset click the plus button (+) next to the "Presets" heading in the sidebar menu on the left side of the screen (seen in the photos from the HSL/Color/B&W section above, it's in dark blue). When you click the + button a window pops up as seen in the photo above. Name your preset (I do it based on the project) and then look through and check or un-check any of the boxes of adjustments you want to be included in the preset. If you have already done any cropping, straightening or spot removal (I'll get to those in a minute) these will not be included in the preset as they are specific to each photo. Once you have checked what you wanted click "Create". The preset will show up in the "User Presets" folder in the left menu bar (circled in the photo above). You can change where the present goes by changing the folder in the "New Development Preset" window. Now, select a different photo and then click on the preset you just created. All of the adjustments are applied to that photo. You can still manually adjust anything like exposure, white balance, contrast, etc. and it is only applied to the photo you have selected to edit.

Cropping and Straightening

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 4

I use the Crop Tool (or as Lightroom calls it the Crop Overlay tool) which you can find at the top, far left in the tool sidebar (shown in turquoise in the photo above). You can crop your image using this tool. Un-click the lock button if you want to customize the size and shape of how you crop your photo. You can also straighten your photo when using the crop tool.

Spot Removal

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 5b

One other tool I use quite often is the Spot Removal Tool. I didn't find out about this tool for a few months, but I randomly stubbled upon it while fiddling in Lightroom and now use it on most of my photos. There is usually a large, heavy mirror hanging on the wall where I stage photos and 3 large nails that are usually covered and holding up the mirror. Well, those are rarely ever covered by what I have hanging on the wall above pieces so I remove those dark spots with the Spot Removal Tool. This tool is found next to the crop tool. It looks like a circle with a little arrow coming out of the right side of it. Once you click on the tool you can adjust the size of your brush. I keep it the smallest it can be while still covering the little nail spots on the wall. I keep the opacity to 100 and the feathering to 0. Then, I just click on the little nail spots and they disappear. The tool finds another spot that it copies and puts over the spot you removed. Just so you know, you can click and drag the spot it is cloning to find a better match if the one it automatically chooses does not work perfectly. If you don't want harsh edges you can adjust that by increasing the feathering slider.

Adding a Watermark to photos and Exporting

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 6

Adding watermarks is an easy, time-saving tool in Lightroom. I transitioned from using Aperture (editing program) to Adobe Lightroom and in Aperture I had to manually create a watermark for each photo. Write the text, change the font, color, size, position, etc. I tried to keep them all identical, but that was nearly impossible and insanely time consuming. With Lightroom you can make a preset for you watermark and then add it to the photo when you export it (save the photo). By combining it into one step it saves so much time! You can save even more time if you watermark and export photos is batches.

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 7

To create a custom preset watermark you will want to start like you are exporting a photos. Go to File, then Export. A new Export window appears where you can change the name of the photo file, the Export location/where it is saved to, the image size, and watermark. I recommend giving your file a specific name that relates to the project it is for and then use a unique number for each photo within that project. I also add a "WD" to the end of any photo I export that has a watermark (the WD stands for The Weathered Door if you didn't get that). That way when I am looking through the pictures on my computer I know if the photo has been watermarked or not. Under "File Settings" you can change the quality or size of the photo. If you keep scrolling down the second to last option is "Watermarking". To create a new watermark click the drop down menu and select "edit watermarks".

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 8

Logo or Graphic Watermark

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 13

The Watermark Editor window opens and now you can customize your watermark. In the top right you can select if you want a text or graphic watermark. I use a text watermark, but I do sometimes upload my logo (seen in the header at the top of my blog). If you want to use a logo or graphic select "graphic" and then right below that under "Image Options" click "Choose..." and upload the file. The graphic will appear on the photo preview in the left side of the window. You can then adjust the size, opacity, and position using the adjustment sliders. Once you have the watermark how you want it click "Save" and you will be prompted to title your preset.

Text Watermark

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 10

For my photos that I use on social media and my blog I use a Text Watermark with my business and blog name, The Weathered Door. Just like creating a graphic watermark you do the same first steps but instead of selecting "graphic" you select "text". You can change the text in the box below the preview image on the left side of the window then change the font, style, color and so on in the menu on the right. You can also change the opacity, size, inset and placement. Then click "Save" and title your preset. Once you have created the preset you can select it using the drop down menu in the main Export window. I have 4 'The Weathered Door' watermark presets that I use for watermarking images. I have one for each corner or a photo and I have titled them accordingly so it is easy to select which watermark I want based on placement of items in each photo.

If you want to view how the watermark will look before exporting the image just pretend like you are making a new watermark and select "Edit Watermarks..." from the drop down menu. The Watermark Editor Window will pop up and you can see in the preview photo what the watermark will look like. If you are exporting multiple photos at once use the arrows at the top middle of the window to click through and preview each photo. Just click cancel to exit when you are done. If you want to delete watermarks you also click "Edit Watermarks..." from the drop down menu and when the Watermark Editor Window appears you use the drop down menu in the top left to delete watermarks. First select the watermark you want to delete then click the delete option. If there is ever a time you are exporting personal photos that aren't for you blog or business but have been edited in Lightroom you can just un-check the "Watermark" box and no watermark will be added to your photos.

Previous and Reset Buttons

How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow Your Business 12

The last thing I want to touch on are 2 little buttons you may find helpful. I don't use them often, but when I need to use them it's nice to have them handy. Similar to the Presets I talked about earlier (the presets that apply all of the adjustments you have made to other photos) you can also use the "Previous" button found on the right hand side below the side bar menu. If you edited a photo and then select another photo that is similar you can click "previous" and the adjustments you made on the previous photo are applied to the new one you selected. This is great if you are only editing a few photos and don't want to create a preset.

The button right next to it labeled "Reset" does exactly what it sounds like. It resets all of the adjustments you have made to that photo. It takes it back to how the photos was originally shot. It's as easy as that!


How to use Adobe Lightroom to Edit Photos and Grow your Blog and Business 1

If you are new to Lightroom or have never used it before this may seem like a lot of information to be thrown at you all at once. It's best to start out small. When I first began using Lightroom I only changed the exposure, contrast, and shadows. Overtime I became more aware and better at using some of the other tools and features Lightroom 5 has to offer. I found it easiest to start with just a few adjustments and get used to those before learning about more. Just start section by section. Bookmark or pin this post to reference later. As always, let me know if you have questions or if you have any features to share with me! I tried to keep the post focused on the most-used or most helpful features I utilize and know about in Lightroom, but I guarantee there is a lot more for me to learn about. :)

Thanks for stopping by!


Monday, March 16, 2015

Vote for my "Seattle Sky" Grey Cabinet in General Finishes Design Contest

Vote GF contest Mary's Grey on Grey Cabinet  WDb -10


The voting General Finishes Annual Design Contest is now open. I submitted this Grey on Grey Cabinet and would love it if you would take the time to go and vote for my entry! I would be SO grateful! :)

This cabinet is painted in a custom grey color I mixed using a 1:1 ration of GF's Seagull Grey and Queenstown Grey. I call the color "Seattle Sky" because it reminds me of the winter skies we see here in Seattle.

Voting is open now through March 25th. You can vote for multiple entries and vote more than once from different devices (laptop, computer, phone, tablet, etc.) I spend so much time doing this piece for my neighbor. It was a lot of work removing and sanding off the old paint, but the piece turned out so great. It's probably one of my all time favorite pieces.

If you vote, leave a comment and let me know! I'd really appreciate it :)


Mary's Grey on Grey Cabinet  WDb -9

Mary's Grey on Grey Cabinet  WDb -10

Mary's Grey on Grey Cabinet  WDb -11

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Photography Tips and the Camera Body, Lenses, and Editing Program I use for Photographing Furniture

Photography Tips and the Camera Body, Lenses, and Editing Program I use. What to buy and how you can save money on DSLR camera equipment

It's only been over a year that I've been getting email, messages and comments about photography, the camera equipment I use and tips on improving photos. I definitely have learned a lot over the past year and a half and am still constantly learning new modes, features and tips to improve my photography. Today I'm sharing the camera equipment I use and how I saved a bit of money by buying used. Plus there are some tips thrown in there on improving the quality of your photos.

The first camera I ever used (and still have, and still use it for non-business related stuff) was a point and shoot camera. It was the Nikon Cooplix S6300. It has a lot of great features and I was able to adjust exposure, bur after a year I was ready to upgrade to a DSLR or digital SLR camera.


I will start off with the DSLR camera I used to use (from Sept. 2013 -December 2014). My first DSLR camera I bought was a Nikon D60 body. I bought the camera body (with on lenses) from my neighbor. She had upgraded and was not longer using it so after borrowing the camera to try/test I purchased it for $100. She kept the kit lens since she still had a newer Nikon DSLR camera and I purchases a kit lens off of Amazon for right around $100. At that point I did not know enough about lenses or DSLR cameras in general to buy anything other than the kit lens. So, for $200 I was set up with a nice DSLR camera. I definitely recommend buying a used model from someone you know or trust off a local Facebook Buy-Sell-Trade group. I have seen numerous well-prices, quality camera on the group in my area for right around $200-$300 that work but are just a bit older (5 years or so).

I loved the Nikon D60 but after about a year of using it (even learning how to somewhat shoot in manual mode) I just wasn't as happy with the auto adjustments it would do. The camera still auto adjusts white balance in manual mode unless you switch it out of that yourself. It didn't have the best ISO capabilities, and the biggest problem was it was not compatible with a lot of the lenses I had considered purchasing (because of the age of the camera, which was around 7-8 years old). So, I began looking without a very serious intention of buying. I was seeing what was out there and what a new camera would cost me.

The Camera Equipment I use currently:

gig harbor boat-1

I checked the Costco coupon book each month to see what cameras were on sale and in December I found the Nikon D3300 with a coupon for $250 off. It came as a package with the D3300 body, the new collapsable kit lens AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G II (VR), a Nikon zoom lens AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm 1:4-5.6 G ED (VR), 16GB memory card (I also use a 32GB memory card I purchased off of amazon), and Wireless Mobile Adapter (WU-1a) that lets you take photos using your phone so you can see a live view of what the camera sees and use your phone as a remote/download the photos to your phone, and a case to carry everything. Of course it also came with a USB plug, charger and battery. It was a great deal so I bought it the day after Christmas and my mom paid for $200 as part of a Christmas present. Plus it's a tax right off. These are the things always going through my head :) It's also really well priced on Amazon and you can also find refurbished items there as well.
**As a side note, the newer collapsable kit lens (18-55mm) 1:3.5-5.6G II is better quality than the original/regular 18-55mm kit lens I had with my D60.

White Wood and Grey Modern Dresser WD-1

My new D3300 had more features, like the ability to take videos (check out the how to strip furniture video here) and more focus points which may be one of my favorite things. The camera has 11 focus points whereas my Nikon D60 only had 3. The screen is easier to read and the layout is better. There are also buttons on the camera body to change the ISO which my last camera did not have. Plus it works with all Nikon lenses and my D60 was not compatible with all lenses.

I used the camera for a few weeks but with our dreary and often dull Seattle weather light is very limited a good part of the year. So, I wanted to get a lens with higher aperture setting (lower f-stop number) because they are great for low light photos. I heard great things about the Nikon 50mm lens, but that specific lens is better for portrait photos outside where photographers have the room and space to move around. In our house I would not be able to get the whole piece in the shot with a lens that is fixed in a 50mm position. Instead I went with the AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8G lens.


This lens is also a fixed lens, but the 35mm isn't as 'zoomed' in. Someone was selling their Nikon camera body and a few lenses all together on our local buy-sell-trade Facebook group and I inquired about just the 35mm lens he had. I paint $100 just for the 35mm lens and it was SO worth it. The lens is great for all kinds of photos (indoor photos of furniture, or even our dog :) ) It's especially great in low light.

The largest aperture is a f/1.8 which is where you get a shallow depth of field and that pretty background blur. The lower the aperture number (like f/1.8) the wider the opening, which allows more light that comes in. Because of the larger aperture capabilities this lens is great for low light settings. This diagram might help understand aperture.

"Aperture diagram" by Cbuckley via

ISO has to do with light sensitivity (higher = more light sensitive). The lower the ISO, like 100 or 200, the less noise you will have in a photo, the higher you go, like 1000 or 3600 the more noise there will be. But at the same time lower ISO's mean darker photos and raising the ISO helps to brighten and adjust the brightness. I shoot around 100-400 ISO maybe 800 if I really need it, but by keeping a lower ISO and changing other controls like aperture and shutter speed I can still get a well lit photo with little noise.

Shutter Speed
Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter stays open for to let light in (this is different than aperture which is how wide the opening is). Aperture and shutter speed are inversely related. If the aperture is larger (f/2) the shutter speed will be shorter/faster since more light is being let in my the aperture size. If the aperture is smaller like f/22 then the shutter speed will need to be longer, like 3' (3 seconds).

This diagram on Pinterest helps you understand ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.

Editing photos with Lightroom

In January of 2014 I purchased Adobe Lightroom. It has now been over a year and I still love this program. I purchased the program paying the full purchase price (I did get the student discount since I'm in college), but what most people do is pay the $9.99 a month and get access to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I started out using the free 30 day trial (which you can find on that link above if you scroll down). I used it for the full 30 days and then had to buy it since it was easy to use and made a huge difference in my photos. I have a Lightroom post coming later with more details on how I use the program and the adjustments/features I use most.

Takeaway Points:
  • Buying a more expensive camera does not mean your photos will turn out better. Just because one camera is $500 and one is $1000 does not mean one will totally improve your photos. Yes there are some new technologies and features the help, but good photos have a lot to do with the photographer (you). I didn't have to spend $1000 or more to get a good camera. I got a beginner camera body and it works great for me! Plus it helps that I am offsetting some of the cost by selling my old DSLR for $200 and the portion my parents paid for.
  • Learn how to use your camera and manually adjust the settings. First just try to under stand ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed. If you can get a grasp on that your photos should improve. 
  • Invest is good lenses, but save money where you can. Buy a good low-light lens like the 35mm lens I use. You don't have to buy it new, but you can. Try your local Buy-Sell-Trade FB group.
  • Invest in Lightroom or another editing program. I highly recommend Adobe Lightroom. I am constantly learning new adjustments to make and it's been over a year of using it multiple times a week. 

These photos were taken at my last workplace (ceramic studio) with the 35mm lens and a aperture of around f/2.

Nikon 35mm ceramics WD-2

Nikon 35mm ceramics WD-1

Monday, March 2, 2015

How to Strip Painted or Stained Wood Furniture (DIY Video Tutorial) | AOM Bamboo Dresser Makeover Part 1

How to Strip Painted and Stained Wood Furniture  DIY Video Tutorial - AOM Bamboo Dresser Makeover


I decided to try something new and see how it worked out. Personally, I love learning how others paint and finish pieces and watching videos is even better. I think it's fun and it also helps to see and not just read about the process.

I purchased an American of Martinsville (AOM) Bamboo Style Dresser off of our local buy-sell-trade Facebook group last April. The first time I went to see it I decided not to purchase the piece based on condition and the non-negotiable price. Once I was back home I sent the seller a message to let them know I liked the piece but it required much more work than I anticipated and in order to make that work worthwhile I would only spend a certain amount (which was 40% off the asking price). After no interest for a week she told me I could have it for the price I named. Awesome, or so I thought. I brought it home and it's still a great piece, but I put it off all summer because of all the work it needed. Then Fall came and the cold weather meant I wouldn't be stripping or spraying the finish anytime soon (the faux bamboo-ish drawer fronts and little divots on the drawer fronts were not something I wanted to hand paint with a brush). Now that it's February of the next year it seemed like a good time to get around to starting and then finishing this piece.

AoM banboo dresser-2

This dresser has a very unique style that I have not seen before. I love the mod, space-age feel it has. The legs are neat and the way the top, back, and sides extend past the drawers is so funky it's cool. This is one of those pieces that a lot of people look at and just don't get, but the people who do get it, love it. I am one of those people who loves it. Since this piece will require a lot of steps like stripping, cleaning, sanding, filling, priming, painting with a sprayer, and sealing, I thought it would be fun to document the process and make videos of each part of the transformation.

Today, it's all about stripping this piece, but this video and post will also show you how to strip almost any piece of furniture. For anyone who wants to read the steps of how to strip wood furniture, continue scrolling down in this post.
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