Pattern testing is a great opportunity to get an inside look into the process of designing and perfecting a pattern, hone your own sewing skills, and work closely with a great group of people (especially where Greenstyle is concerned!)
However, the testing process is more than just sewing and connecting- in order to help a designer sell and promote the pattern that you both have worked hard to test, high quality photos are needed. This is where a lot of testers feel intimidated- how do you get good quality photos? What if you don't have access to expensive equipment?
When I started sewing for Greenstyle a year and a half ago, I had a decent grasp of sewing basics, but virtually no idea how to compose, photograph, and edit good photos. Fortunately, photography is a skill that can be learned, with a few good tools and some persistence!
In this post, I'll walk you through a few examples, showing how you can work with the tools that you have to produce great photos that showcase your awesome sewing skills!
Tip 1: Lighting
The right lighting makes a HUGE difference in your photos. I shoot most of my photos during the golden hour, which is the photographic term for the hour before sunset.
We typically frame the shot with the model's back to the sun, or just off set at 11 or 1 o'clock. This blows out the background, while minimizing shadows, and keeps your model from squinting.
What if I can't use the Golden Hour?
If you can't shoot during the golden hour, cloudy days are your next best friend for outdoor photography. The clouds act as a diffuser, again preventing harsh shadows and keeping the lighting nice and even.
Of course, there are times when you haveˆto shoot in the middle of the day. In that case, find a place that allows the model to be completely in the shade, such as a parking garage, indoor mall, under an overhang, etc. Make sure there is not dappled sunlight on your model- you want a nice even lighting.
Here's an example where we found some shade- but not enough. The dappled lighting is distracting, so we moved to a better area to complete the shoot.
In this next example, it was pouring rain outside, so we decided to use an indoor mall. I scouted out the mall to find the best lighting (there were skylights throughout this section) and worked with the angle to keep the store signs invisible.
Here's a shot where I was facing the other direction, away from the skylights. Not nearly as nice! You can see how the lighter colored background above sets off the dark outfit, and the more consistent background makes for a better photograph.
What about taking photos inside your home? This is notoriously hard- but if you have a good, blank wall, or one with some signature art, you'll want to watch that spot for the best time of day to shoot your photos.
This will depend on your location and the angle of your sun/windows. While natural light is simplest, many photographers use additional lighting to reduce shadows and get a good even light indoors (such as a speedlight). A reflector can also help with indoor photos- this doesn't need to be fancy, even a good piece of white posterboard will do!
In addition, phone cameras often have a slider you can use to adjust brightness. Adjust the brightness so the subject looks good and the background is too bright. The auto setting will compromise between the two, instead of making the subject look great.
This goes for fancier cameras as well- setting custom settings will nearly always do better than an automatic adjustment- so take the time to learn how the lighting and settings interact, to get the best photos.
For example, Joni has taken this photo in the morning, when her east-facing windows have the best light, and in front of an abstract piece of art, on an uncluttered wall. She also lightens the photos up in post-processing, to enhance the colors and contrast.
If you have a camera capable of adjusting things like ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed, you'll also want to adjust these and white balance your images before shooting. A full tutorial on these three elements is beyond the scope of this blog post, but there are plenty of photography classes or online tutorials you can access if you want to learn more.
However, you can also get good listing-quality photos without a DSLR, so don't worry if you're doing all your work with a cell phone, or simpler camera.
Tip 2: Composure
Composure refers to the background and angle of the shot. While shooting on a sunset beach in Hawaii during a perpetual golden hour would be ideal, we have to work with what is around locally.
Location, Location, Location
When I compose my shots, I first consider the "vibe" of the clothing I'm showcasing. Is it tropical? Sporty? Fancy? Try to find a location that echoes the look you're presenting.
For example, I shot this outfit in a parking garage, because we had to do it in the middle of the day, and the concrete "urban" feel went well with the colors and vibe of the leggings. You can see that I have my back toward the sun, and have made sure that the shadows are not going across my body.
I often search Pinterest or do a google image search for inspiration, and then try to re-create the looks I see. Stay away from backgrounds that will distract or compete with your clothing- I usually like a little bit of bokeh (blurry background) to help keep the focus on me, and not the surroundings.
The newer Iphones have a "Portrait" mode that does alot of this work for you, and produce some great photos. If you're working with a DSLR, you can create this look by using a low f-stop (aperture). We usually shoot with the f-stop between 2 and 4.
You can usually get more bokeh when the background is farther away from your subject- the closer it is, the sharper things will be.
Of course, there's a lot that goes into custom settings, and they vary between cameras, depending on lighting conditions, whether or not you have a crop or full sensor etc.
Being mindful of your background is often what separates good from mediocre shots. Look around before you set up your camera- is there a garbage can in the way? A street sign that would end up coming out of your head? It's always easier to compose a shot the right way in the first place than to edit things out later, so take the time to get it right.
What you don't see in the shot above is the cars or signs in the parking garage- they were there, but we were careful to angle the shot so they weren't visible.
Public gardens, lakes, rivers, forests, colleges, coffee shops, all make great backgrounds, if composed properly.
This is another example of a shot where the background is too cluttered:
But by simply moving to another area, the focus is now on the swimsuit being modeled:
No one to "man" the camera? No problem!
What if you don't have another person to "man" the camera? You can purchase a tripod and use an automatic timer or remote to take your photos- this makes focus a bit trickier, but can certainly be done to good effect.
On a phone, you can use a bluetooth remote (available on Amazon, or similar shops) or a timer app.
It's All About the Angles!
Finally, the angle of the camera to your body makes a big difference as well.
It's easy to become hyper critical of our bodices as they appear on camera, but the reality is some angles are more flattering than others. Take some time to experiment- I tend to like shots where I'm standing with my body at a very slight angle to the photographer.
I do not like shots where the photographer is shooting down on me, or up toward me.
Here's an example- the pose and photographic angle just did not work when the model was below the photographer. However, when the photographer moved to be more level with the model, it came out much better!
When I was first starting out, I also paid special attention to the way models angle their bodies toward the camera, held their arms, etc. You want to find a pose that looks natural, but doesn't obscure the clothing you're showing off.
Finally, be careful about cutting off body parts in photos. The general rule is not to cut something off at the joints. It is also important that you leave enough of the body showing that someone looking at the pattern can tell how it will fit them. For example, if you cut off a leggings photo at the knees, a customer won't be able to tell if the pattern has an option for capri length, etc.
Take a bunch of shots and compare them- you'll probably have a favorite side, and a favorite pose. Experiment, and find what works for you.
Get the Details Right
Detail photos are important too- take close ups of the unique features of a garment, such as the pockets, waistband, etc. Whatever elements that set that pattern apart from similar options- those are the things you want to highlight!
Finally, take the time to style your hair, put on makeup if that's something you do, and choose some accessories. Make sure your fabric is free of wrinkles, too!
Sharon's hat in the beach photos above is perfect- an accessory that takes the swimsuit from a garment to a whole outfit.
Kids are H.A.R.D. I have three of them, and it's always a mental and physical marathon to get good shots of them. It's totally worth it for the memories though- one of the reasons we got into photography was because professional family photos were so expensive!
My #1 piece of advice about kids is to make it fun, but provide some parameters. My kids know when we go to shoot photos that they need to have their hair brushed, clothes matched by mom, etc. After that, they are welcome to try posing in some ways that are comfortable to them. They are also usually compensated in ice cream for their efforts, but they don't get it until mom (and dad) are satisfied with the shots.
Here's an example where I let them go play- and they ended up composing this shot themselves!
The toddler is a totally different story- our tactics with her are usually to get her brothers involved, and make it a game. Since it's hard to get her to look in a certain direction/face a certain way, etc. we try to find a spot that has good lighting conditions and background all around, and just try to keep up!
Just know that when you go to take photos of kids, lots of things can go wrong, so leave plenty of time to re-shoot if necessary. Plan your photo shoots for your kids' best time of day- i.e. NOT right before a nap, get all your setting right before you go out, and hope for the best!
Tip #3: Editing
Most photographers will put their photos through some kind of editing process. We use Adobe Lightrooom and Photoshop, but there are plenty of options out there.
You'll want to consider adjusting the colors, editing out small blemishes (like that zit on your chin- bye bye!), and even undesirable objects in your background.
In this shot, we have removed a shadow, a car and a street sign. You can really see how the extra time we took to do that takes the photo to the next level.
Of course, this is a balance- you don't want or need to make things magazine perfect- so do just enough editing that you are keeping the focus on the intended objects. As you get deeper into editing software, you can do all kinds of things, but I generally feel like less is more here.
If you're editing on your phone, A Color Story is a good app for post-processing- expect to spend 15 minutes to 2 hours editing your photos before they're ready.
For example, here are two photos- one that has been edited, and one that has not. You can see the huge difference the editing makes in helping the photo to "pop"!
That's a Wrap!
Well, that's it! 3 simple tips that make a BIG difference!
What are your favorite photography spots? What struggles do you have when taking photos? Share them in the comments below, and don't be shy about applying for the next test!