I’m regularly asked about my photos of my knitting and sewing, so I thought I’d put together a run-down of how I get good quality pictures to best show off my projects without a photo studio.
It's by no means a professional set up (as you'll see,) but the result of much trial and error. I put so much time and effort into knitting, why not give it that last touch of love and make a stellar photo? Mother Nature was cooperating and gave me a non-rainy day, so here's my go at a "How I Take Good Pictures of my Knitting."
The Set Up
I don't worry about needing a fancy-shmancy digital SLR (my camera is an old Nikon Coolpix and works just fine.) I’ve managed some great shots even with a super cheapo camera; all I need is a stable surface. I’m wobbly at the best of times, so the best money I ever spent was for a teeny tripod . I found mine at Target for around $15 (they have a cheaper one now too.) It's small enough that the camera still fits in my purse even with the tripod attached. That's handy, because it's holding my broken battery door closed.
I found the best spot to set up is in our backroom. The windows are huge, but the sun doesn't shine directly in, resulting in soft, filtered light. I never use the flash, so it's important to have ample light, but not direct sunlight. I find the shadows from the sunlight are too harsh and I can't get accurate depictions of colour.
I lean a big piece of white poster board ($0.42, also at Target,) against a chair and tape it secure for a background. The beauty of using painters tape is that it's removable and doesn't damage the poster board. If I'm careful, one piece of poster board will last for a year as long as I can store it flat to avoid wrinkling. Using the white background means nobody knows how messy the house is or that fabric scraps are ALL OVER the floor. If I can avoid the cleaning, I will. I also keep a lint roller handy. We live in a house with two cats and no matter how careful I am, there's cat hair everywhere.
Bring in the Goods
With the white background set up, I bring in the knitting. I fuss around for a while arranging it, making sure I get all the objects in the shot but preserving the white as background. There's usually some shuffling of positions until I get something that looks right.
Now for the fun part: I take a bazillion pictures from a bazillion different angles, all with the flash off and the macro setting on. It's worth learning how to find these features on your camera. I can't change the depth of field with my point-and-shoot, but I have a macro setting (Nikon's is a flower symbol) and I can turn off the flash (museum settings and custom settings.) When you use a flash with knitting, it can wash out the colours and make everything look like acrylic, which is not ideal. It will pick up every fibre and stray hair and make the yarn look icky, so turn off the flash! Sometimes I'll stuff some tape in to give dimension or to hold down and hide an errant unwoven end. When I think I have enough photos, I take a couple more for good measure. It’s always better to have too many to choose from than not enough.
I leave the photo shoot set up while downloading the pictures to see how the photos turned out. If I missed an important feature, or I cut off the ends of the needles, I can tromp back in to re-shoot without having to set it up again.
Make it Better
The final step is to tweak the results in Photoshop Elements. I crop, adjust the colours and mess with the levels. Depending on what time of day I shoot, the white background can have a blue-ish cast, so I took a little time to learn about the white setting on my camera as well Photoshop fixes. That's a tutorial for another time, but I suggest giving the auto-levels and auto-colour correction features a try. It’s amazing the difference they can make. Besides, if I don't like what comes out, I’m just a ctrl-z away from the original.
The best pictures come when I take time to set up and compose the shot, take more pictures than I think I’ll need and gently nudge things around digitally. I have some photos in my Flickr finished objects set that hopefully speak for themselves.