We are all guilty of taking photos like this after finishing a knitting or crochet project. The bathroom mirror is often the first place we think to go when we need a photo. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst. Instead of the flattering garment you see in the mirror, the picture instead shows a blinding light in the foreground, flecks of spit and toothpaste on the mirror and a pretty underexposed portrait. In today’s 31 Days to Get Organized blog post, our Multimedia Coordinator Lindsey will share tips and tricks to spruce up photos of your work even if you are shooting with a smartphone or a point and shoot camera.
First and foremost, use natural light. Find a place either outside or in your house near a window to use as your photo space. You want to use as much natural light as possible.
If you will be taking photos of your work without a model, prepare an easily accessible surface or backdrop that you can set your work on. Having a prepared space with the right amount of light will allow you to work quickly and efficiently every time you need to take a photo. This is less work than you think – a nice wooden floor, cutting board or kitchen table work well, as do any fabrics that you may already have around the house.
Bottom left is a space I’ve set up right here at WEBS. Natural light is hard to come by in this concrete warehouse, but I’ve managed to find just the right amount for my work. Bottom right shows a crocheted hemp bowl that was photographed in this space. I shot the project from the top down to include as much fabric in the frame as possible.
When the weather cooperates, take your photos outside. Cloudy, slightly overcast days are my favorite days for photos, but if it happens to be a really sunny day, try to avoid harsh shadows in direct sunlight that cast blotches of darkness onto your work.
Find a dependable backdrop or setting that you can go to for a quick photo – a row of bushes in the backyard, the texture on the outer wall of a shed. Your house or a nearby building would work well in a pinch. I use the outer wall of a neighboring business as a discreet backdrop in the parking lot here at WEBS. Bottom right shows Emma Welford modeling the Valley Yarns Star Paths Cardigan here. Having this space close by is great when I have to shoot a quick, fail-safe photo.
Ask a friend or family member to model your work. This is a great opportunity to capture the fit and drape of your garment. If your volunteer is seeming restless in front of the camera, ask them to act out a story. This works great with accessories like hats, socks and gloves, though you could also do this with sweaters. Take photos of your model putting on a hat (see bottom left), pulling up their socks, putting their gloves on, buttoning up a cardigan or adjusting the sleeves of a sweater. If you are shooting gloves or mittens, give your model a prop to hold. Pictured below are the Valley Yarns Wavy Gravy Mittens that I photographed with designer Emma Welford holding an umbrella as a prop.
Props can add a lot of character to a garment so don’t be afraid to get creative with them. In this photoshoot for the Dreamer’s Braided Pullover (bottom left), I had designer Emma Welford act out a picnic. Katie C. modeled this Valley Yarns Braid Cardigan at the local farmers’ market. I gave her 10 dollars and a list of things to buy as I followed her around with my camera. After a while she forgot I was there.
If your model is really nervous, start by taking closer photos of the design elements in your garment. Maybe there is some edging you want to focus on, colorwork, or an interesting stitch pattern that could use a closer photo. You want to remember all of the hard work and special tricks that went into your garment, especially if you are giving it away. Shoot these photos first as your model gets used to you and the camera. When it’s time to include their face in the frame they will be less nervous. Be positive and keep talking to them. They need to be reminded that there is a person behind the camera. Below are photos of the Leftie Shawl knit by Sara Delaney. This garment had a lot going on so I started with closer shots and then took a step back for a straight-on photo.
If your model does not want their face to be in the photo you can get away with cropping their face out or posing them in a way that hides them from the camera. These photos show this technique and still showcase the drape and fit of the garment. Kirsten Hipsky models the Valley Yarns Veranda Tam (bottom left), and Greta S. models Stephen West’s Daybreak Shawl (bottom right).
Don’t forget to move around your model to see the garment from all angles. Stand up on a stool and shoot down – Greta’s Tundra Hat looks great photographed from above. Get down low to see important details from a new angle – from this angle, the lacework in this Pi Shawl really opens up. The power line in the distance adds another sense of height, calling more attention to the garment’s ropy fibers.
These are just a few ideas to get you on your way to better photos. Chances are, you’re not wasting any film so try out all of your ideas and pick the ones that work best. Don’t be afraid to take a bad picture – sometimes it’s the really bad ones that you learn the most from. Lastly, stay informed. The internet is full of inspiring work to keep your eyes fresh so if you see a photo that you really love as you’re looking for patterns on Yarn.com or Ravelry, spend a little extra time looking at it and figuring out what makes it great. Having a folder of inspiration will come in handy when you are stuck in a photo rut.