Monday, August 27, 2012

Photo Shoot Outtakes and Lessons Learned

I figured it was high time I added some people to my knitting photography.  I like my mannequin, but after looking at a lot of pictures I noticed the ones with people are invariably better.  So I signed up for a craftsy photography course and set to work.  Unfortunately, the season came before I finished the class, but I was determined to implement what I had learned thus far.  I’m sharing the lessons I learned with all you other photography newbies… professional photographers enjoy the laugh!  

Seeing as Eco Chic Knits is still in its first business year and the budget is tight, I ended up being the model.  I roped my dad into being the photographer.  Hey, he took a class back in the 70s, so he already knew more than I did.  And think about it, who would you rather see in women’s knitwear?

Lesson 1 – I read a lot of blogs and one suggestion was to use props.  I thought this was a fantastic idea, since I was shooting some winter cowls as well as fall cowls.  However, beware of just what the prop is adding!
Hi dad!
Hi Dad!  Don’t see him? Look into my eyes, look deep into my eyes… or I guess I should say sunglasses.  So instead I kept the sunglasses, but put them up, which for me is S.O.P.

Lesson 2 – if, and that is a big IF, you choose to work with animals, have patience.  It took several minutes to teach Puddles to stand on the rock.

Success, right?  Well…
Puddles, I love you, but you're blocking my cowl!
In the time it took my dad to snap the picture, something distracted Puddles.  His head is now blurry and completely covering the cowl I was trying to feature.  My dad said enough was enough, no more dog shots.  I don’t think it is totally impossible to shoot with animals, but make sure you have the time (and the treats) before you start.  

Lesson 3 – the knitting is the center of attention.  Take the time to make sure it is lying correctly.
Fall Twist Cowl
(now available!)

Lesson 4 – watch your eyes (smile, posture, expression)…
and pesky bra straps!
Is there anything right about this picture? I really don't think so.
Unfortunately all the shots for my diagonal tank will have to be redone.  The sun was washing out the color and we couldn’t find any more shady areas.  

Boy, isn’t that rock wall the most interesting thing you ever saw?

Southern Christmas Cowl
(working title)

Apparently I thought so at the time the picture was taken.  Also notice in this picture that the knitting is not completely lying correctly.

First I can’t keep my eyes off that interesting wall, then I can’t seem to keep them open!

All is not lost!
Off the Cuff Cowl
Now this one you’d think would be worthless, but with the aid of Photoshop I was able to make it work.  And since it was the best representation of the cowl, I cropped and kept it.

Lesson 5 – Photoshop is your friend.  Even meticulous I missed several fuzzy unwanted additions.  This is when a quick clean up in Photoshop will save your sanity. 

cropped and ready to go, or is it?
Can you see all the unwanted lint?  What about that logo – who am I promoting anyway?
Here are just a few that I found

Now you see them...
now you don't.  What’s the Photoshop trick?  Did you think I’d leave you screaming at the computer as I often do when people give advice but don’t tell you how to accomplish it?  Never fear, I’d not do that to you.  Open the picture in Photoshop.  Select the quick selection tool (the one with the paint brush and dotted lines making a circle).  Click around the unwanted aspects – keep the section as small as possible so as not to distort other aspects of the picture.  Hit delete on your keyboard.  In the popup menu, select Use: “Content-aware” to match the surrounding area.  If that doesn’t look right, undo and try a different option from the Use drop down box.  If you still have problems, I guess I’m the wrong person to ask and remember you get what you pay for and this tidbit is free advice from a novice.

Lesson 6 – not everything can be fixed with Photoshop.  Sadly, my camera man was standing a little too close.  No amount of editing will bring back what was lost on the lower corner of this picture.
Tendrilled Fibonacci Cowl
(working title)
Lesson 7 – time of day.  This one really shocked me and continues to shock me.  It seems to go against everything that seems sensible to me.  Full sunlight washes out color.  So picking the right time to take your pictures will save you a lot of editing work.

early morning fog and a sunrise
I woke up early just for the photo shoot today.  But by the time I was presentable, and Puddles was fed, played with, and pottied, it was just after 8 AM.  Fortunately (and yes, I’m bragging here) the setting is my backyard (give it up mountain life) so my commute didn’t eat up any more perfect sun time. 

The photo shoot lasted about 90 minutes – time to shoot 8 cowls, 1 sweater, and 1 tank.  However, the usable light lasted only about 45 minutes.  By the time the tank rolled around at the end, the sun was so bright; it will have to be reshot.  After the good light was used up, my dad and I were scurrying around the yard (picture mice with equipment) looking for the areas that were still usable as the sun encroached upon my setting and washed me out with each passing minute.

I actually have a tan, but you'd never know it from this picture
No, I didn’t just see a ghost of my Great Dane, Cheeky, romping through the woods.  That effect is all the sun’s fault (and the position of the camera man and model in relation to the rays).  

Lesson 8 – this relates to the setting lesson.  If setting is the macrocosm, then shadows are the microcosm.  You can have a wonderful background, but if the light is hitting you wrong, you lose all your details to the dark side.  Don’t let this happen to you!
Skier's Cowl
(working title)

Lesson 9 – I’m just gonna put this out there, please no harsh comments… models wear spanx!  It doesn’t work to suck it in.  I know because I tried in my diagonal tank and am too embarrassed to post the outcome.  Less offensive, but still in need of some tummy tuck assistance is the cowl shot.  If it isn’t bad enough the unflattering “area” is accented with some fresh Dane slobber. 
Puddles attempts to stay in the picture by leaving behind his slobber
When you choose to shoot with animals, you get the good with the bad (yes, I’m trying to subtly change the subject).

Lesson 10 – know your camera!  Take the time to get to know your camera before roping someone in to help you with your photo shoot.  If that person is the one taking the pictures, lend him your camera so he can tinker with it before the shoot. 
White washed by the sun
Imagine if I were paying my dad for his time and these were the shots we were getting.  In the end, we ended up changing to a camera he was more familiar with and things went much faster.

By the way, this example also illustrates the need for taking lots of pictures!  My dad thought lots was anything more than 5.  But after reviewing the shots on the computer, I saw many more errors than I did looking through the cameras photo viewer.  I wonder how much less Photoshop work I’d have if I had more pictures to select from.

I hope you enjoyed my lessons learned!  I had a wonderful time with my dad and Puddles during this shoot.  For my final lesson, which is of utmost importance, have fun.  If you are enjoying yourself, your pictures will convey that joy.  So have fun, laugh at yourself, and relax.  In the end the bad shots become the great stories and the great ones become the shots that entice people into buying that pattern (or finished object) you spent weeks creating.

P.S. this concludes my brief preview of my fall/winter cowl line.  Check back throughout the season for the pattern releases.  The “Fall Twist Cowl” pattern is already available on my website, ravelry, etsy, and craftsy.  The cowl itself will be posted for sale later this month.  Next out will be “Off the Cuff” pattern and cowl.


  1. Love it! And really love the cowls! If I ever move back where it actually gets cold, I want one :-)

  2. Great tips :) I realized with my last shoot that I need Spanx. Sigh. Guessing it was Caro's class on Craftsy. I found it helpful and need my husband to watch it, too, since he's my photographer.