The Better Pictures Project is back! In September, Heather B taught us about taking photos out and about… in October, Jenny from Cashmerette got us jumping and twirling… and in November, Heather from Closet Case Files improved our photo editing skills! After a little break for December, I’m asking Katie from What Katie Sews to help us taking better indoor pictures during the long, dark winter!
I love reading Katie’s blog – she’s got such a clear aesthetic, does lots of pattern hacking/adapting/drafting, and has an enviable wardrobe of modern, casual and stylish clothes. I’m clearly not the only fangirl – Bloglovin’ awarded her “Best Sewing Blog” for 2015! Her pictures are always lovely, and almost always inside.
1. What’s your set-up for taking pictures inside?
I use an Olympus bridge camera (the E-M5), a fast and bright lens (Panasonic 20mm f1.7), a tripod, and a wireless remote – it’s usually easier to shoot selfies than rope in a helper. I shoot on Auto setting 99% of the time because it produces good results. Sometimes I’ll use aperture priority (A) mode if the light is particularly bad – this lets you control how much light enters the lens while reducing blur and noise. I have autofocus enabled too, and as long as I’m near the centre of the frame my camera will focus on me each time I press the remote trigger. I shoot in JPG mode – my camera also allows RAW which means you can make significant alterations in post processing without reducing image quality, but to be honest I’m just a bit lazy for that.
2. Lots of people don’t have fancy cameras or lenses – any suggestions for using a phone or regular point-and-shoot?
Lots of daylight will be even more important if you can’t rely on a fast lens or large sensor. You can get a tripod and wireless remote for most sorts of cameras, which will help with framing and blurry shots caused by shaky hands. Try playing around with any manual modes your camera has – one quick trick for a brighter photo is to bump up the ISO and exposure and take the shutter speed down, but you’ll need a tripod to avoid blur. Plus you can still do some post-processing (brightening, levels, colour correction, filters etc) to make the best of the photos.
3. Your home has lots of cute knickknacks and bright furnishings, but your pictures never look cluttered or distracting. What’s the secret? (Besides a lovely home! ;)
My walls are white and unpatterned, so that helps create a plain backdrop for me and my stuff. I’m careful when framing or cropping the photos to try to not cut through any objects on the edges of the shot – I think that can cause visual confusion. My stuff tends to have a vague colour scheme so that helps the clutter look cohesive and not messy. I don’t tidy up before taking photos, other than to move my coffee table out of the way!
4. When you are choosing a location to shoot, how do you get the best natural light? Do you use any extra lights to brighten things up?
I always shoot during the day in natural daylight – no indoor lights or flash, ever! Luckily my flat has large windows and high ceilings, so it’s quite bright in daylight already. I find that morning and noon times have the best light. Both of my favourite photo spots are near a window, but not directly perpendicular as that can cast strong shadows and highlights. Instead, I stand further down the wall away from the window so the light is more diffused. If your space isn’t so naturally bright, you could look into getting a popup reflector to help bounce around the light you do have – or make a simple one from tinfoil stuck onto cardboard. Place it at a 45 degree angle to your light source and yourself to bounce the light onto you. And if all fails, you can do a bit of Photoshop adjusting to brighten things up…
5. Any other photograph tips and tricks?
Honestly I think that 75% of making an average shot into a good one happens in post processing. I do a bit of work on all my photos in Adobe Photoshop. Typically I’ll use the Dodge brush to brighten up shadowy areas, the Curves tool to brighten the whole photo, crop and straighten it, and sometimes apply a couple of subtle filters. Occasionally I’ll Clone Stamp out distracting details like cat hairs or something poking into frame (but I promise I don’t ‘shop out zits or dodgy stitching, ha ha). I use Adobe Lightroom to manage my photos in galleries and to export them for web upload. Adobe Creative Suite for photographers includes Photoshop and Lightroom for £8.75 a month, so it’s not too expensive. I’m not sure if any free or cheaper apps offer editing tools like this.
Thanks for the advice, Katie!
Katie also sets the bar for cute cat print clothing! Also, her cat looks just like mine!
Here’s what strikes me as I read Katie’s suggestions:
- Editing to the rescue! I’ve been giving Lightroom a go since Heather extolled it’s virtues, and I have to say it’s worth the hype! I’ll post more about that later this month.
- She likes auto settings too! I have to say, this process of the Better Pictures Project has really made me appreciate what my camera can do on the right auto settings. The more I interfere with limited knowledge, the worse I make things.
- A tripod is a good tool. I tried to take family Christmas photos this year as everyone unwrapped gifts, and in a dimly lit basement room, I couldn’t hold the camera steady enough during long exposures.
- Standing where the light is diffuse is better that being right by a window.
- I notice that Katie’s photos are rarely full-length. More often for tops and dresses, the shot just shows her from the knees up. One of the problems I’ve struggled with in my apartment is that I’ve got ugly lino flooring and baseboard heaters that I feel are really distracting in photos. Instead of worrying about that, I think I’ll just crop more and worry less!
- Clearly I need to make a tin foil reflector! I wonder if I could convince my husband to stand there and aim it?
Do you struggle with taking nice pictures inside? (Me-Made May photos are always a challenge for me!) I’d love to hear what bits of Katie’s advice you might try out this month!
All photos are property of Katie at What Katie Sews. You can see all her wardrobe here.