5 Simple Photography Tips for Sewing Bloggers

5 Simple Photography Tips For Sewing Bloggers

When it comes to taking great blog photos, I think there are 2 main areas to work on: the “how” and the “what”.  Here’s what I mean:

The “how”

A professional photographer knows how to take amazing photographs: clear, sun-filled images with perfectly balanced color and an interesting backdrop.

For an amateur sewing blogger to accomplish this, you typically need time (availability during daylight hours, traveling to and from a good outdoor photo-taking location), money (equipment), skill/expertise (lighting setup, camera settings, photo editing), and let’s face it, another person to take the pictures of you wearing your finished garments.

I don’t have any of these things!  Therefore, I do the best with what I do have: a decent camera with a self-timer, a few boxes to prop it up on, and sunny weekend mornings in my apartment.

The “what”

How to take great photographs is tough, but what to take photos of is a lot easier to work on.  The photos I share on this blog aren’t great (maybe one day!), but I do make a conscious effort to take specific shots of my finished garments that I think add value to my posts.  If you have limited resources but want to make the most of your blog photos, I hope you can benefit from my very unsophisticated tips.  : )

Tip #1 – Present your garment from all angles

As a sewing blogger, my goal is to share my handmade garments with you.  It’s tricky though: I’m trying to present a 3D object (my garment full of curves and structure) with a 2D medium (your computer screen).  Therefore, I try to take photos of my garments from a variety of angles (front, back, and side) so you can really see the entire piece.  How does it fit in the back?  Is it fitted or loose around the mid-section (side view)?  Where’s the closure and what kind did I choose (zipper, buttons, etc.)?

Consider the 2 sets of photos below.

Set #1

The first set shows 3 images of my blue polka dot blazer, all from the front.  (These photos are all too small, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)  You can see that the blazer has pockets in the front and closes with 2 buttons.  I have a slightly different body pose in each photo, but the view of the blazer is essentially the same.

Blue polka dot blazer - Simplicity 2446 - finished     Blue polka dot blazer - Simplicity 2446 - with my face     Blue polka dot blazer - Simplicity 2446 - attitude pose

Set #2

Now consider the second set below.  Here you can see the pockets and buttons, but you can also see the bust and waist shaping (side view) and the ease I decided to leave in the upper back for arm movement (back view).

Blue polka dot blazer - Simplicity 2446 - finished  Blue polka dot blazer - Simplicity 2446 - left side  Blue polka dot blazer - Simplicity 2446 - back

Which set of photos provides more value to the reader?  I’d vote for Set #2, hands down.  In Set #1, the second and third photos don’t really add any additional detail or value to the first photo.  In Set #2, each photo adds value by presenting a new angle with areas of the garment that can’t be seen in the other two.

I was pretty excited about this blazer and included all of the above photos in my original post, but I made sure to include the side and back views to ensure you could see the whole garment.

Tip #2 – Let your garment be the focus of the photo

Keeping in mind that my goal is to share my finished garments with you, I try to include photos that actually show off the garment.  Consider Photos A and B below.

Photo A

I really like this photo.  Here I am on a gorgeous spring day, walking along the Boston waterfront, wearing a bright new spring dress.  It was a wonderful day!  (Note: This is the one and only post where I was fortunate enough to have someone else taking pictures of me!)  It’s a scenic shot, and you get a full head-to-toe view of my dress.  But… how well can you actually see the dress?  How much detail is visible?  What percentage of the photo is actually occupied by the dress, and not the scenery?

I’d argue that this is a nice supplemental photo, but it needs to be accompanied by some clear, close-up shots that will be the main focus of the post.

Bright happy dress - rejected photo

Photo B

Much better, in my opinion.  Here I’m still telling the same story — walking along the waterfront on a sunny day in my spring dress — but you can actually see the dress much more clearly.  (Too bad I cut off my head, oops!)  The dress occupies a substantial portion of the image, and you can see details like the waist seam and jewel neckline.

Bright happy dress - vintage Vogue 7298 - Boston waterfront

In my original post on this dress, I led with close-up photos like Photo B, included a cropped version of Photo A, and supplemented the post with inside-out views to show the full lining.

Tip #3 – Keep your photos BIG!

Like Photo A above, if the actual size of the garment on my computer screen is too small, you won’t be able to see all the hard work that I put into it.  I try to strike a fine balance of presenting photos that are large enough to see clearly but not SO LARGE that it takes 5 minutes of scrolling to see the whole thing.  The width of your blog’s content area is a key factor here.  I’d say make your photos as big as you can without going overboard, whatever that means in the context of your blog’s layout.

Consider the two images below:

Sewaholic Renfrew 3 cowl neck - revised front Sewaholic Renfrew 3 cowl neck - revised front

They’re the exact same photo, but can’t you see my top much more clearly in the second one?  This is kind of an obvious point, but worth keeping in mind when preparing your posts.

(BTW, I took these photos using the self-timer on my camera, which was propped up on a cardboard box on a retaining wall near my apartment.  If you don’t have a tripod or photographer, be resourceful with your surroundings!  This photo isn’t stellar, but I think it’s pretty clear and well-lit for having taken it myself with a cheap point-and-shoot camera.)

Tip #4 – Capture the details

As a sewing blogger, I think the construction details and innards of handmade garments are just as interesting as the overall finished look.  (I suspect this is where sewing bloggers and fashion/style bloggers differ, although many of you beautifully straddle the line.)

I try to always include some close-up shots of construction details, as this is usually where most of our sewing hours are spent.  Am I right?  : )  Sometimes I’ll include them in the finished project post, or I’ll include a link to a previous in-progress post.  Either way, I think they’re really important to show.

A few examples from my Oxford and Liberty Archer showing the sleeve cuff and collar:

Oxford and Liberty Grainline Archer - sleeve cuff detail

Oxford and Liberty Grainline Archer - left collar detail

And some shots of the lining (innards) and zipper insertion (construction details) of my turquoise and yellow dress:

Turquoise and yellow dress - Butterick 5353 - on hanger inside

Turquoise and yellow dress - inside of center back neckline

If you talk about including a fun lining, tackling a collar stand, or inserting one hell of a welt pocket, be sure to show off all that hard work!  Trust me, we want to see it.  : )

Tip #5 – Edit a few photos to overcome challenging shots

Now here’s where things get a little tricky.  My own personal opinion is that if you have something that’s difficult to photograph (dark colors are notorious for this), it’s worth it to include some incredibly washed out or otherwise edited photos to try to capture the details of the garment.  I wouldn’t recommend doing this to all the photos in your post, but 1-2 overly-edited photos can add a lot of value to the reader.

Wouldn’t it be sad if I spent my whole post talking about how great my garment came out, but none of you could actually see what I’m talking about?  Awww.  I think it’s ok to break the rules for the sake of full disclosure.

Here’s an example of what I did for my navy Beignet.  The first photo shows the entire skirt, but the color is too dark to really see the details of the seaming, pockets, and belt loops that I worked so hard on.

Colette Beignet navy twill - skirt close up

In the second photo, I really amped up the brightness using a simple photo editor to make the seaming more visible.  It’s all about adding value with each new shot.

Colette Beignet navy twill - hand in pocket

And again, these photos were taken with a cheap point-and-shoot, this time propped up on cardboard boxes on my desk.  Not great, but not all that bad considering the circumstances!

Final Thoughts

I think there’s a lot you can do with blog photography without investing much time and money.  If you don’t have the resources to improve the “how” of your photography, you can still improve the “what” by keeping a few key things in mind during your photo shoots.

The tips I present here are certainly not comprehensive, and I claim no expertise whatsoever.  I’m just sharing a few things I’ve learned over the years.  : )  The photos on this blog have vastly improved since I started, but I still have so much more to learn!  It’s a fascinating journey.

What photography tips to you have for sewing bloggers with limited resources?

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20 thoughts on “5 Simple Photography Tips for Sewing Bloggers

  1. Nice post! I’m not really fond of photography, it’s something I have to do when I write a post because it doesn’t make a lot of sense to post “hey, I made another dress!” when you don’t show what it looks like. I usually ask my boyfriend to take some pictures because it’s faster than trying to take them myself but he gets bored pretty soon so I don’t always have a lot of pictures to choose from.

    • Thanks Emmely! I feel the same way – I’m not really into photography, but decent photos are kind of required for a sewing blog. : ) I could invest more of my free time in learning how to get better, but I’d rather spend that time sewing!

      As for photography helpers, I’m so jealous of the bloggers who have partners who enjoy taking blog photos… and are actually good at it. Sew Busy Lizzy’s husband is a great example – he takes such great shots of her!

  2. Great post with good tips! Additionally there are two other things I try to keep in mind when taking pictures. Firstly, when it comes to light, morning and late afternoon light are best for photography, plus direct sun light is best avoided because of the harsh shadows that’ll obscure much of the garment. Secondly, I try and find an uncluttered background in muted colours/complimentary colours/colours that make the garment stand out. I really admire how good you are at taking pictures with a self-timer btw, everytime I try that I end up with sucky photos …

    • Thanks Konstanze, two great points! I dream about creating a “blog photo wall” in my apartment – an uncluttered background painted in a soft color. One day… : )

      Here’s a trick I use with the self timer: I use a stand-in to avoid blurry photos. I have a tall floor lamp that I put exactly where I want to stand, set up the self-timer by focusing on the lamp, and then move the lamp out of the frame and stand exactly in its original spot. As a bonus, the nearby lamp provides some light for the photo.

      • I made a “body double” using my daughter’s old music stand. I taped a print-out of a smiley face to the part that holds the music and extend it to approximately my height. Works pretty well!

        • Haha, great idea! I love the added touch of the smiley face. 🙂 If your camera doesn’t have auto-focus, it makes a big difference to give it something to focus on!

  3. You’ve got some fantastic tips and some fantastic photos there! Great post! I like the one on details – so important for us sewing geeks!

    • Thanks Kat! I love detail shots – it’s almost as good as getting up close and personal with a friend’s clothing… only not as uncomfortable. : )

  4. You touched on something I’ve been thinking about lately. My dad is a third generation photographer and I do have some training and experience. It is just so much easier to grab the cell phone, which automatically uploads my photos and I just need to choose them while writing. I guess, it is time to pull out the equipment and have it ready to go at all times. Maybe I can teach my kids to take good photos too,

    • Do whatever works best for you! My opinion is that if your blog is purely for personal enjoyment (i.e., not income-generating), there is only so much time and effort that you can reasonably put in. Then again, if you enjoy photography and know what you’re doing, why not experiment a little? : )

      Teaching your kids to take blog photos… now that’s a good idea. Gotta make some kids ASAP. : )

    • You’re welcome, Rachel! Hopefully they’re helpful for you. 🙂 Instead of dwelling on the fact that I don’t have fancy equipment, I try to make the best of what I do have. Think positive!

  5. Excellent tips. This is my 1st visit. You do really nice work.

    I have limited resources and time. My editing software is definitely my best friend. Good lighting is a must and in a pinch, I’ll get one of my older kids to stand up on something to take pics of me. “Make it work” is my motto.

    • Thanks so much, Shannon! Yes, “make it work” is definitely the theme of this post. 🙂 Great idea about convincing your kids to get in on the photography action. It’s all about being resourceful with your surroundings.

    • Thanks Emily! If you have a self timer on your camera and a few good lamps, you can do it. They may not be professional, but decent photos are do-able!

    • Great, so glad this was useful for you! These simple things can make a big difference, even if you don’t have fancy equipment. Just make the best of what you have. 🙂

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