In my previous post on things I have learned since I started my sewing blog in 2014, I ran out of time (and word count) to cover all the topics I wanted to share. I previously covered my experiences with setting up the blog and WordPress, choosing your look & feel, logos & design and blog planning.
In this post, I want to talk about photography and imagery, how I take the pictures for the blog and a few things I learned along the way.
Good pictures are a massive component of a craft blog, as you want to show the world what you have made, and in the best possible light at that. When I started the blog, that was one of my main concerns and to be honest, my main stress.
I was never an accomplished photographer and never had any camera better than a cheap point and shoot compact. But when I started the blog, my husband and I decided to invest in a better camera, for the blog pictures as well as our holidays and general use. We took advantage of an offer on Fujifilm in Jan 2015 and bought a mirrorless camera, which, as far as I understand it, can do what a DSLR can, but is much lighter and compact. So we got a Fujifilm X-A1, which is the lower end of their X series, but was more than enough for what I needed. Not to mention the fact that probably more function would be wasted on me, as I’m not 100% sure I am using all its potential as it is.
I really love this camera and I found it easy to use, to carry around and over time, I discovered more and more about what it can do. I don’t think I will be upgrading it too soon!
However, it is worth noting that a really amazing camera does not guarantee good pictures. Loads of bloggers take pictures with their phones or regular compacts. Probably it’s more important to learn a few tips on the principles of digital photography to make the best of the equipment you already have.
For me, the penny dropped when I met Paul Sanders, a very experienced professional photographer. The trouble was that the majority of lessons I had previously taken online mostly refer to Nikon or Canon and I really wanted someone who knows Fujifilm to teach me how to get the best out of the camera that I have, as well as demystify the principles of digital photography. Via the Fujifilm community, I found that Paul is offering personalised lessons on your own camera, with tailored advice for what you need to achieve. So I got a 121 lesson with Paul for my birthday and it was really helpful. He gave me so much advice and also showed my husband how to take better pictures for the blog. This made a massive difference to my pictures (I do hope you noticed, wink wink).
I started my blog in winter, so the biggest problem I was facing when taking pictures was how little daylight I had to take pictures. So I wanted to create a mini studio in my living room, to be able to take pictures in the evenings. I did not want to invest too much in the kit, and, in hindsight, that was a good thing, as I hardly ever use even what I got now. My main concern was the background, as I haven’t actually got a white wall suitable to shoot against that is completely clear and has good lighting. The one I normally use has a radiator, which in the beginning felt like a massive issue, and I needed to cover it up.
So I got a white background and a background stand, something like this (from eBay). So for the first few shoots in my house, I used this, plus a white background canvas. However, later on, laziness took over and I could not be bothered to assemble and disassemble the stand every time. Plus, as time went by, I got a bit more relaxed about having the radiator in the pictures and just took the images against my wall as it was. If you have a bit more room to keep this up on a more permanent basis, it’s a great solution. Plus, you can buy all sort of coloured background backdrops, or even printed ones with various designs, like bricks, wood etc. I had ordered one of those at some point, from Ali Baba, but I only used it once in the shoot for my Georgia dress.
More of the times, convenience wins over amazing backgrounds. I just need to take pics, and so closest to home is quickest.
In our living room (notice the dreaded radiator in the background):
On our balcony (using tripod + remote):
Outside our block of flats against a brick wall:
When we have a bit of time and the weather allows, I venture a bit further out, like in this beautiful Japanese garden nearby:
But sometimes, I delight you with exotic locations, like the top of the Shard:
As part of my attempts at a home studio, I also tried to create studio lights by getting some cheap Ikea floor lamps, with daylight lightbulbs, as inspired by this blog post. Daylight bulbs are pretty awesome, they are a good way to get natural-like light in the evenings. The light given off by a bulb is described by colour temperature, measured in Kelvin (K). The yellowy shade of a regular bulb would be in the 2700K (warm white) range, but it goes up to 6500K for a daylight bulb. They are quite a lot more expensive than a regular bulb, but actually much cheaper than a lightbox or an LED studio light.
So, my contraptions worked pretty well, but again, were a pain to take out every time. So they ended up in the cupboard on my landing and we noticed a while ago that someone had nicked my lightbulbs out of the lamps!! But they were never missed, I just got used to the idea of taking pictures in the daylight when I could and work my blog schedules accordingly.
Taking the pictures
Most of the times, my husband is super helpful and takes my pictures for me. But sometimes he is just unavailable, so I have to make do with my own meagre talents. Last year I invested in a wireless remote shutter + a tripod and that really helped loads with taking pictures on my own. I’m using JJC JM-R Wireless Shutter Remote Control for Fujifilm XQ1/X-A1/X-E2/X-M1.
But the other day I realised that if push comes to shove, I can even make do without that. I took the Diana cami pics with the camera off the tripod, just balanced on the opposite window sill from my white wall, in my living room. I did use the remote control, but you could use the timer function on your camera. Apparently, the key to taking your own pics is the focus, so here’s a blog post I found on how to get good results. Also try this one too.
While trying to figure out how to get the best out of my camera, I came across a lot of really useful resources and I’d like to share them with you as well.
A Year with my camera, by Emma Davies – A series of weekly emails to help you go off auto; a book is also available
Basics of Digital Photography with Rick Allred on Craftsy
If you are a Fujifilm user, have a look at the Fujifilm community in the UK, Fujiholics.
Also, Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow did a series on taking better pictures, check it out here, really great resources.
Wow, again over 1000 words and still have not exhausted the subject! Well, guess there will have to be a part 3 covering post-processing.
So what do you guys think? How much does photography matter in a sewing blog? Do you read blogs more about imagery or content or both? I sometimes think I overanalyse this, as after all, it really is about the clothes we make, right?
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