They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but for many sewists, a good photograph is worth much more. Pattern designers and online sewing instructors need lots of images of their projects, both finished and during the construction process. Sewists who sell their wares online know that a few good pictures can make the difference between a listing that sells and a listing that flops. Sewists who make custom works will need to build a whole portfolio for clients to consider. And for the rest of us, there’s always the satisfaction of being able to show off our latest projects when we don’t happen to have them with us.
But we’re sewists, not photographers! How do we get those clean, professional looking results without pricey equipment and years of training and practice? While a professional photographer is worth every penny for some occasions, you don’t need to schedule a photoshoot every time you finish a project. With these tips and tricks, you can easily learn to take great images to share your sewing wherever you go!
1. Use bright but diffused light
Cameras aren’t as good at detecting light as the human eye, so even if you think your shot looks bright enough, your pictures might look murky. Natural light is best, since it gives the truest impression of the colours in your project, so try to get your shots near a window. Strong directional light, however, can cause stark glare and shadows, so if you find your window is getting too much direct sun, try hanging sheer white curtains to diffuse the glare and using a reflective board (aluminum foil over cardboard works well) to bounce light back into the shadows.
2. Style the whole look
When you’re photographing clothing or accessories, or even household items, try to photograph the item being used as it would be in real life. This is especially important for sewists who use their photography to sell their items. If you make garments, show how they can be used to create different looks. Photograph handbags open on a table as if they were being filled before going out, or tucked under the arm of a model. Of course, you also want to include more direct photos that clearly show the size, colour, and features of an item, but these glamour shots help tell customers why they should buy your item, instead of just what it is.
3. Use models
Clothing always looks better on a model than a hanger. Rope a couple friends or family members into showing off your latest creations, and have fun with it! Remember that styling real people with real proportions is a great way to show that your looks can work for anyone, not just skinny runway models, and candid photography doesn’t rely on the same kinds of photography skills as studio portraiture, which makes it great for beginners. As a last resort, photograph your work on a dress form or mannequin. It doesn’t convey quite the same sense of movement and life as working with models, but it will show off your work much better than flat photos.
4. Invest in decent equipment
You don’t need a pricey camera to take great photos. Many mobile phones today have cameras that are more than adequate for general picture taking, but for the highest quality images, you’ll need a bit more than a basic point-and-shoot. Talk to someone at a local camera shop and get some advice on what will work best as far as an introductory camera. Ask your favourite bloggers what they use, or browse through the myriad resources on the internet. Once you’ve chosen a camera, spend time learning how to use it. Many new photographers get frustrated when pictures don’t turn out right away, but it just takes practice.
In addition to your camera, there are a couple other items you’ll probably want in your photography kit. A bright, portable light will let you stage photoshoots whenever and wherever you need to, though you might want to look at some DIY light diffuser options to avoid that harsh look from directional light. A tripod is an absolute must—look for one that’s adjustable. A reflector is also helpful. They’re generally quite inexpensive to buy, but you can also make your own by using a sheet of poster board: leave it white for a soft look, or cover in aluminum foil for more reflectivity.
5. Take more photos than you think you need
Just enough is never enough! Always aim to get extra photos, especially when you’re working with models or if you’re taking photos of a custom item before it leaves with the customer. One of the greatest things about digital photography is that you can always delete photos, but it’s a lot more difficult to go back and get more.
6. Pay attention to backgrounds
Most of us home sewists don’t have a studio for our photography, so when you’re shooting photos around the house, make sure to pay attention to what else is in the shot. Pictures taken in the front garden might seem great, but if you catch your house number in the shot, you might be giving away more personal information than you’d intended. Opt for blank, neutral backgrounds whenever you can.
7. Don’t forget the close ups!
You’re proud of your stitchwork, so show it off! Tight close-ups of your quilting patterns or a beautiful vintage button can really be a feature when you’re explaining your work to someone else, whether they’re a friend or a customer.
8. Practise and experiment
Take photos of everything, and take notes about what works and what doesn’t. If you’re the analytical type, try taking measurements. How close should your lights be to your subjects? How much room do you need to get your entire model in the shot? What time of day is best for your outdoor photos? The greatest thing about modern photography is that since it’s all digital, there’s no wait or cost to get your photos developed. You can immediately see if something isn’t working and try something else, so let your creativity run wild!