September 27, 2010

Fashion Photographer

I decided to write this post not only in honor of Self Stitched September, but also because I get several emails from people asking me for tips on how to take better photos of themselves. Let's just state for the record, that I am by no means a photographer. I do the love the art, but I don't really have the time to invest into it at the moment. Wish I did. I have taken a little bit of time to educate myself on photo taking and such. Just a little bit. With that knowledge, I thought it might be fun to share some secrets with you. Not that they are really secrets. Just tips for taking great photos of you in your creations.

I typically use a tripod. Mr. S does his fair share of shooting some of the photos for me, but for the most part it's a tripod and a clicker. I have a Nikon D40 SLR. For someone like me, this is a really nice camera. And I would also like to add, one that isn't necessary to take great photos, so please don't let this deter you. There's nothing wrong with a good point and click. If you take the point and click route, I recommend a high megapixel count like 10 or above. So, if you want to take photos like me, you'll need:

  • a camera

  • a tripod

  • the remote control that goes with your camera, or knowledge of how to use the self timer

Now for the tricky parts. The equipment is great. A great start. Knowing how to use the equipment is something else altogether. You'll need good light. The best kind of light is natural sunlight. Take the photos outside or take photos near a window. This is not to say that you should take the photos in the direct sunlight. Interestingly enough, photos work best on a sunny day with the sun hidden by a few clouds. In the shade on a sunny day is perfect. At least I think so.

Use the flash sparingly. Flash photography is a hard technique to master correctly. Many of us take flash photos, but maybe you've noticed that the flash creates harsh shadows. That can be a great effect, if that's what you are going for, but many times, it just creates the wrong type of effect for what you want. Turn the flash off when you've got good light.

Now, there are probably other settings that your camera has and I highly, highly recommend reading the manual that came with your camera and fudging around with them. It's fun and you learn a lot of things about your camera that you probably didn't know. You'll most likely learn about ISO sensitivity and certain settings that your camera has that can be great for taking certain types of shots. I also highly recommend that you read this article from Pioneer Woman on aperture. It's awesome.

Next, find a spot that doesn't have a lot of funky junk in the background. This is very good idea if you are trying to take photos of your latest sewing project. Personally I like backgrounds in one color or with very little going on. Having craziness, clutter and funkiness in the background takes away from the point of the photo.

Add interest to your photo by putting your subject off center. This probably goes against everything you believe in. Me too. Apparently the eye is immediately drawn to photos of subjects in these (the gray circles) areas of a photo. Cool huh? This was seriously a revelation when I first read about it. But it makes perfect sense.

Close in on your subject too. Get close. Get personal. Close-ups are more intimate and interesting than shots from faraway because your eyes are brought right to point of the photo from the very first time you look at it. Your eyes aren't battling the bush in the front or the wall hanging or the dresser or the sewing machine all thrown into the same shot.

Add some finesse with some free photo editing programs. Don't get crazy. Crazy is just weird. I'm talking about adding a boost of color or lightening a dark photo. A photo speaks for itself. Giving it an infusion of color only adds to its beauty. There are some great programs out there. Try Picnik or Gimp which can be downloaded for free for PC's or MACs. These programs are great stepping stones if you are ever interested in investing in Photoshop.

Lastly, practice taking photos of yourself. I know this is a little silly, but I try to embody a certain emotion when I take a photo of myself. It's really boring to see people who have the same expression in every photo all the time. It's so much more fun and interesting to see someone step into character in a photo. Every time I think about this concept, I think of Peter's great photography of his cousin Cathy. She's a character, very well played. Follow her cue. Be that person you've always wanted to be in a photo. Sometimes my silliest expressions make the best photos. The one up top from my Red Vixen Dress is one of my favorite and one that I really didn't think would work out. I must say, this is also the reason that I use a tripod and a clicker. It's hard "posing" for Mr. S. It's hard to do in front of anyone. So I do it by myself. And I practice my expressions in the mirror first. Sometimes I feel like a real goon, but I do it. The photos are so much more fun. Flip through magazines and practice some of those "model" looks.

Hope this gives you a few ideas on how to create great photos. What are some of your techniques for photo taking? Do you love dressing up and taking a photo of your latest handstitched creation?

Happy Clicking!


  1. Great post! I agree with the "getting in character" and practicing facial expressions ;)... I used to often look like I was about to axe-murder someone in photos, it look a lot of practice to train myself out of that. I also find I have certain standby poses to, erm, minimize my figure flaws ;). Most of these can be observed on the covers of magazines at the newstand, by the way ;).
    I second and third GIMP, but if you're a beginner Picasa (from google) is pretty fun and has the basic corrections.

  2. I also think (completely unfounded opinion) that great color makes a great photo. Takes yours above. The yellow gloves make it "pop"! Thanks for the advice, btw (Lindsay T also has a great tutorial from way back, if you're interested). What I really need is patience and dedication. Sadly I have neither when photographing myself...

  3. I've been wanting to take better photos for the 'old blog, and this is a great push to get me going. I'm going to do a bit of research and reading up as you suggest. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Great post - thanks for this. You've definitely inspired me to be a bit more daring with my photos. I currently get the boyf to take them but he gets annoyed with my micromanaging style!

  5. Great tips -- and Cathy is very flattered!

  6. Great tips! I find, once I decide I'm 'done' and have enough photos to work with.. then I relax. So I take a few more shots after I think I'm finished, and try a couple of creative poses or faces. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but it does help me get more than just facing front and facing back.
    Another tip, is to pick a location with props. I like this one spot with a railing and wall and ledge:
    if you have trouble being creative with your poses, ledges and railings and steps give you instant ideas!

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