Greetings bloggerbears!! That’s what we call Lucy the hound – puppy bear. Also, Mr. Bug calls me mamabear and I call him papabear… and we tend to add ‘bear’ to the end of all our friends names. Some deal with it better than others – heidibear and cylebear are fine with it, but Dan’s friend Pat seems to ignore us if we start talking about patbear…
In any case bearcubs, I DID get some sewing done today and snapped some photos along the way, but I didn’t really get to the end of the project so I decided to come up with some more blog fluff in lieu of sewing progress. And what better subject is there than photography for bloglovin’ bears?
Unlike some of my favorite blogs, I don’t really have a very first blog post to pull a sewing picture from – the first posts on the Snug Bug weren’t really about sewing at all. What I DO have, is a photo from my first review on Pattern Review – this picture was taken just over a year ago. Here it is side by side with a photo from yesterday’s post and while I’m certainly no photographer I’ve learned a few things along the way and thought I’d share! I hope that all you of you who are taking the awesome photos out there will chime in with your own advice!
On becoming an amateur model…
Sewing is an awesome hobby, isn’t it? Not only do we get new clothes but we have all these online friends and are generally considered fairly interesting at parties – am I right? And for those of us who like to post pictures of our work online, we get to become nice and comfy seeing our smiling faces gazing out at us from the computer screen. Prior to blogging about my sewing adventures, I could barely stand seeing my profile picture on Facebook. These days I have a whole external hard drive just for filing full length photos of myself. And I’m much more sympathetic to the contestants on America’s Next Top Model – it’s hard arranging my teeth, hair and limbs into a configuration that shows off the details of my new duds, minimizes my least favorite physical attributes and stays as close to real life as possible. Here’s some things that have helped with my blog-model approach…
Find a Pose
I know we all have parts of us that we don’t like, and that for the most part the sewing blog world is a super supportive place. That said, I have found a few poses that feel natural and don’t usually make me look like a penguin! Here are my standbys…
The a-little-from-the-side-a-little-from-the back shot…
I usually catch this one on accident due to the timer on my camera and the tripod, but this is my favorite angle for from-the-side poses. A full-on side shot generally accentuates my tummy AND booty, while somehow making me look like I don’t have a bust! A bit of rotation so my back’s just a teeny bit towards the camera helps out a bit and usually shows off skirts and nipped in waists.
The head to the side – I think this pose just started showing up because I’m tired of seeing my face in all the pictures and an angled bob lends itself to this pose!
The superhero – clearly, my signature pose, I ALWAYS stand with my arms akimbo, fists on my waist. I have been trying to branch out a bit, because it feels contrived, but in the end, this is the best way, ‘fists’ down, to accentuate my waist!
The crossing of the ankles – is a new pose and has gotten heavy rotation due to me-made-March and my snugbug365 project (a daily posts of what I’m wearing) because I HATE the way I look in trousers, and find this the most flattering when I have them on! It’s also great in dresses and seems to show off my calves and ankles in a flattering light!
I grabbed this picture because of the hip action and the foot placement – I’m using the superhero paired with the hip over to the side, one leg straight, one knee bent. This is particularly useful with dresses!
A final variation of the super hero, hip tilt… I’ve been using this one a lot too. One arm on the hip, a lot of hip tilt and the ankle swung out a bit. Especially nice to show off cute shoes!
The pose I’m trying to EXCISE from the pose library. About half of my shots have me with my chin flung up in the air and my head cocked to one side. Observe how ridiculous I look. Egad.
If you’re having a hard time getting poses you like and are using a tripod and the self timer on your camera, set up a full length mirror behind the camera so you can see what you’re doing. Posing takes practice, like anything else. Eventually you get the ‘feel’ of certain positions and expressions. I usually only drag my mirror out if I’m wearing a garment in a new cut that I’m not sure how it will photograph or if I’m in a super hurry – seeing what I’m doing helps me get shots I like with few tries.
Of course, these are the poses that I’ve found work (and don’t work!) for me. I see lots of shots on blogs where you guys are rocking the straight – on forward pose, seated poses, laying on the ground, draped over a sofa – all KINDS of stuff! Keep that in mine when taking your pictures – a pose that you might think is totally wackadoodle or unflattering may actually be working its little socks off. Try to imagine if you saw someone else posing like that – you might like it! I’ll try to take that advice too. Perhaps tomorrow’s reveal will be all shots of me lounging about in the living room…
And we’ve discussed this before, but for the most part significant others do NOT make good photographers. Unless they actually are photographers. If you’re feeling clumsy and weird and like you have an extra arm and dry lips and twice as many teeth as normal, you do not want to be striking a pose in front of your partner. Or maybe that’s just me? My rule is he can’t watch me put on tights or deodorant. Watching a photo shoot isn’t quite as bad, but it’s close. Less so now than six months ago, though!
Find a place to shoot
Other modeling advice – well, posing advice, I guess. Find a good spot for your full length and close up shots as well as a good place to take shots of clothes on the hanger and a surface for shots of loot from fabric shopping safaris as well as companion shots for tutorials. Make sure those places have a lot of light. My full length shots are taken in my bedroom against a blank wall. There’s natural light and not a lot of distractions! For closeups I either just march up closer to the tripod, or use my giant full length mirror if I need to get a specific angle. I have a china cabinet for hanger shots and luckily my ironing board is right by a window, so that’s perfect for shots that need a flat surface…
[the full length wall, a close up in the mirror and the hanger on the china cabinet]
The how of good blog pictures – equipment, light and editing
First off, I don’t have a great camera. It’s a Cannon point and shoot and it has 10 or 12 megapixels. It’s not terrible, but it’s not the digital SLR camera I wish I had! I’ve been VERY unhappy with the quality of my photos and yesterday was reading a bit about how to fix my problem, which was too much digital noise – or the grainy stuff. Although neither photo below is the best quality, the one on the left has a lot more noise going on than the one on the right.
Point and shoot tips
Again, I’m by no means a master, but here’s a few things I’ve learned.
- Use a tripod or something else to stabilize the camera. My tripod was $35 and from Target.
- Research and understand the settings on your camera. It’s really best if you use the manual settings rather than the auto. My problem with the super-grainy photos? It was because I’d gotten lazy and left it on auto, which brings us to the next point.
- Shoot with the lowest ISO setting that you can. The ISO setting on my camera ranges from 100 to 1600. This setting has to do with how the camera deals with light as well as picking up details. The lower the ISO setting, the more clear the photo will be. The higher the number, the more noise/grain will show up. So why don’t we use the lowest ISO setting all the time? Because you need a lot more light to get a good shot at a low ISO setting – here’s a side-by side from my photo shoot for the Crescent shoot from yesterday. I’d forgotten I’d set the ISO to 100 while I was shooting in the afternoon and ended up taking a few detail shots at night (under artificial lighting) before upping the ISO a bit. the picture on the left is with the ISO set to 100, on the right it’s set to 500. While the clarity of the photos is similar, the quality and color of the photo on the right is much nicer. Conversely, in the photos above (which were taken in the afternoon with a lot of natural light) the ISO in the grainy photo on the left was around 500 and the one on the right was about 200.
- Master the focus and the self timer. First of all, most digital point and shoot cameras have a focus function that’s generally activated by holding the button down halfway. You’ll hear the lens move around and sometimes a box will show on the screen at the point of the greatest focus. Focusing (obviously) helps get a better photo! When my current camera was new I had a terrible time getting my timed photos at all in focus and I sent out a general plea to the online world – Taran from Tanit-Isis Sews suggested that I might be setting the focus and the timer with my hand in front of the lens, which was causing the camera to go into the macro mode and not focus correctly (OK, she didn’t say it exactly that way, but you get my drift!) She was totally right and I’m careful to set the focus with nothing in front of the lens while setting the timer. My camera lets me take 10 pictures every two seconds – enough to get a few good poses in before having to hit the button again.
- If you’re doing the tripod and self timer with the auto function, make a ‘pretend you’ for the camera to focus on. Just drape a coat or something over a broom and lean it against the wall where you’ll be standing. It’ll help get the auto settings correct.
There’s a reason the saying goes “LIGHTS, camera, action…”
The best light is natural light, hands down. But it should be muted natural light! Heading out to take a photo at noon on a sunny day is nearly as bad as using the flash at night – everything will look all weird and harsh. I learned from attempting to photograph my roses that the best time for outdoor photography is at dawn and dusk – still lots of light, but mellow. Cloudy days are good too.
If you have to do your photos under artificial light, turn on as many lights as you can in as many different locations. The more ambient light (versus single source) the less harsh shadows and loss of detail in the photos.
No flash, my pretties! If you have to shoot in low light conditions, try upping the ISO setting to see if you can get something usable. If you can’t then shelve the camera for the night and move on to something else until the sun comes up again. Flash photography is tricky and is best left to the professionals!
Here are some photos under different light conditions. The photo all the way to the left was taken with the most natural light and the next two were taken as the sun went down – the window opposite me has western exposure. Photo #2 (second from the left) is dark but the darkness is fairly uniform, so it shouldn’t be a problem brightening up when it’s time to edit. Photo #3 is probably unusable – the upper right hand corner so is much darker than the lower left hand corner that it’ll be hard to adjust evenly without blowing out the bright part or losing detail in the dark part. Also, see that shaft of light? If you’ve got a shaft of light going on, try to block it. Digital cameras don’t deal well with super fluctuating light sources! This is ESPECIALLY true if you’re using the auto setting! I usually block those lightbeams by just closing my curtains a bit more – they’re semi-opaque white so they make good filters.
The photo on the right was taken at night under artificial lights. It’s alright, but note the serious shadow action and the general dullness of the image.
Take lots of pictures!
I will happily admit that I’m obsessive compulsive and a perfectionist, dear bloggerbears. I’m here to tell you I take a LOT of pictures for the six or so that I include on each post. My memory card is 1 gig and about a third of that is taken up by photos that I never remove from the card (wedding photos – it’s my little portable photo album!) but I routinely have to stop and download before finishing up taking the pictures for one post. A lot of it is actual garbage – frames with only my back or an arm – because of using the self timer. And a lot is of me cocking my head at impossibly weird angles. Or having three chins. Or the posture of sloth from the Goonies. Or standing in what is apparently my natural pose – elbows bent, hands hanging lifelessly from my wrists (see first row, third picture in…)
Let’s move on to photo editing, shall we? Before we entirely leave the mechanics of taking photos one more piece of advice to ease us along our way. If you are taking pictures and plan to do any sort of digital editing, take the BIGGEST picture your camera will take – the one with the highest pixel ratio. No matter what, starting out with more pixels is better. You can always adjust the resolution down, but you can’t nicely adjust it back up! Now, editing our photos…
The magic of editing: removing the weirdness
We are now edging into territory where I am a bit more knowledgeable than the previous topics… modeling and photography are new to me, but graphic design is something that I’ve done in the past and made a reasonable wage at! I’m pretty much self taught on the design side, but I know my way around the Adobe Creative Suite (including Photoshop) well enough.
My photoediting process is three steps: getting rid of the weird stuff, cropping and making it pretty. The first step isn’t always necessary, but occasionally there’s weird stuff in the photo; Lucy’s tail, or perhaps I’m standing too close to the china cabinet and its in the shot. I’ll just edit those out. I try to keep my photos as real-life as possible, but I occasionally edit out other stuff as well to avoid having to take any more photos and/or to make things look the way they do in real life. Three most common edits are replacing my eyeballs from one picture to the other: if everything in the pose is fine but I’m shifty eyed or squinting, I’ll grab eyeballs from a better photo and put those in the shot. I also get rid of weird blemishes – like I just had a giant bruise on my arm from losing a battle with the basset hound. Finally, if the shot’s fine except for one weird thing – like my hair hanging over my face or the line of the garment poking out where it doesn’t in the rest of the photos I might use the picture and get rid of the weirdness. I don’t make the garments look ‘better’ than real life (aka, glossing over my poor technique or construction), I just make it look ‘like’ it does in real life. For those of you who want to do this and have Photoshop, I most frequently use the clone stamp (to erase blemishes) and the rectangular marquee tool (to remove stuff from the background.)
Here’s an example of removing the weird stuff – on the left is the before photo with the stuff to be removed circled in pink – furniture in the shot, my bra strap (although, one could argue the bra strap is a sign on bad construction of the shirt! I just don’t like my undies showing online!) and another bruise on my leg!
Once I’ve cleaned up the photo, I crop it. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the cropping, but I do like to have the subject of the photo off center a bit. I also will crop in tight to accentuate different details. I’ve been experimenting more with cropping whole swaths of the outfit (or my head!) out of the photo and I love the results, but since I primarily blog to show what I’ve been sewing I don’t do a whole lot of that type of cropping! Here’s some before and afters of some of my recent crops that I liked –
A note on not showing your face. A lot of bloggers don’t want to show their face – either to preserve anonymity or due to a particularly snaggle-toothed photo session. There are TONS of ways to crop out your face without looking like you just missed when you were taking the photo! The easiest? If you’re leaving off the head, leave off the feet as well and include just the teeniest bit of chin. I love the photography on the blog Crochetie and she often leaves out her face in the photos… also, reflect a bit on how often you focus on the faces of your fellow bloggers when you’re scrutinizing their newest creations!
Digital editing. It’s not hard, really!
After the cropping is done, it’s time to do the color editing! In my cropped photos above, this has already been done since these pictures are from previous blog posts. Most digital photography can benefit from a bit of brightening, adjusting the contrast or running a sharpen filter.
Before we go on – I’m a Photoshop user and haven’t experimented with the free options out there, although I’ve heard good things about Gimp as a Photoshop substitute and just today heard about Snag-it from a fellow blogger for annotating images in tutorials.
I generally use Photoshop actions to edit my photos. Actions are teeny little programs that run inside of Photoshop and apply a series of edits to the image to achieve a certain look. You just load the actions into Photoshop (you only need to load them once), then press ‘play’ to run the action on the image. I like using actions because they are already programmed and I can just see if I like an action rather than going through the edit process myself. My favorite actions are from Florabella and are available for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (the less expensive consumer version.) They’re a bit pricey – an action set runs between $50 and $100. If you’re interested in buying, be sure to buy for the version of Photoshop that you have. I have both Florabella Luxe I and II – either one would be plenty to play around with, although if money’s not an object, I’d go for the Luxe II set – it’s larger and works a bit better.
If you would like to try some actions and not spend any money, Ree Drummond, author of the blog/website The Pioneer Woman has a great set of free actions as well.
Here’s what actions can do, first the original photo that’s been cropped, but not edited any further.
Now, here’s the same image with an action run on it – the first three are Florabella actions and the last two are Pioneer Woman actions.
Before heading off to the bear den, I thought I’d close with some of my favorite blogs in terms of the photography - these will be familiar to most of you!
Tanit-Isis Sews (great posing!)
and of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without Casey’s Elegant Musings!
There are many, many more great blogs out there, but I’m too impatient to comb through my reader!
Got any hot tips to share? What are some of your favorite photos from the sewing blogs??