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October 29, 2009

Picture takin'

Hey Purl! I have been meaning to ask you this forever,and your post
picture today reminded me. Your arranged pictures of your knitting, vegetables, etc. are always so pretty and flattering to the subject. Now, I know you are a graphic designer (I think?), but I am very much NOT an aesthete (as much as I want to be). Long story longer...would you ever consider posting about how you stage photos to best show off your awesome knits? And how do you get that neutral white background? Do you have a special setup in your house just for this purpose? I ask because all my project photos are washed-out mug shots of my knits slung over the back of my couch or laid out on my living room floor. Which, shockingly, isn't that attractive. Thanks lady!
--Stephanie

Hi Stephanie! Thanks for the email. I am not a very good photographer and I have a horrible no good camera that I refuse to get rid of because I am a tightwad in weird ways. So instead of relying upon a rockin' camera or any natural talent to get good looking pictures, I do it with staging and some post-op photoshopping.

My best pictures are always in natural light with NO FLASH. Good room lighting will do in place of natural lighting, though the colors may be off a bit. I'm a little bummed out because my new apartment has fairly crappy natural light in most of the rooms, so my cat pictures need a lot of retouching. I don't miss much about my old place but I doo miss that bedroom with the pouring sunshine.

I usually place my knitting or my mug or my whatever-it-may-be on a neutral surface, namely my desk, but any surface will do if you just consider the composition a bit. For example, if you're taking a picture of your lunch, consider removing the bits and bobs, like crumpled up napkins, stray papers, the torn corner of the ketchup packet. When I use my desk as the surface, I push the mousepad, stapler and pile of papers out of the way.

Having said that, sometimes I like to see the background of a picture, especially if it's inside someone's house. It can add to the flavor of the image!

However you choose to arrange your subject and wherever you choose to display it, it never hurts to use an image editor to help your pictures along a little. I use photoshop because that's what I know, but there are all kinds of freebie programs out there that can help you and might be easier to use. I rarely recommend photoshop to the casual graphics user because it's cumbersome and frustrating to the novice and it's expensive. If you don't plan to invest a lot of time in it, I don't think it's worth your money. But if you do plan to do a lot of design or retouching it is the only tool I would recommend.

I've written here and here about touching up your photos and adding text and framing them with a stroke. But to be honest, I don't think it's really necessary. I like looking at photos that are real and messy like life. I spend a lot of time cruising around on Flickr just checking out living rooms and bookcases and home offices. Yes, I crop and color-correct and frame my pictures on this site, but I do that because that's my job in real life -- cropping, arranging and framing web images -- and it's so much a part of my regular routine I just do it automatically. But for as many people who write lovely emails saying they like my pictures, I get notes from folks saying they think my images are sterile and too posed.

Posted by laurie at October 29, 2009 4:33 PM