Taking Better Indoor Photos with Katie from What Katie Sews!

The (3)

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!

intro Collage

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.

fireplace Collage

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. 
PicMonkey Collage
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. 
sewing room Collage
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!
sewing space Collage
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…
detail Collage
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!
cats Collage
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.

33 thoughts on “Taking Better Indoor Photos with Katie from What Katie Sews!

  1. I definitely can use these tips! I think my biggest challenge is juggling when the light is decent in the rooms more suited to pictures vs my teaching schedule. But it also sounds like actually taking the time to use and understand my Photoshop Elements program wouldn’t hurt.

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    1. Winter lighting is so tough. I leave in the dark and get home in the dark… but I can usually squeeze in some pics on weekends. If you have Photoshop, then definitely use it!🙂

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    1. A remote is SO WORTH IT! Seriously. It makes it much easier to be relaxed than when you are setting the timer, running into place, and tugging clothes into position as the camera goes off. I really like my timer! I never bother to hide it in photos, either… there are ways, but I’m too lazy! Take lots of pics quick, and then move on, that’s my motto!

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    1. When I grow up, I want to be Katie (aka get younger and more fashionable – aka. not going to happen)! Her apartment is so nicely decorated. But I have to believe there is hope for the rest of us!😉 Hello cropping and editing!

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  2. It’s great Katie shared some indoor shooting tips! She does take excellent photos, though it’s enheartening to hear she uses photo editing liberally. My takeaway from her advice is to learn Photoshop and use it.

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    1. It is heartening, isn’t it? I’ve been using Lightroom lately, as Heather Lou suggested, and it really does do a better job of making heavy handed edits look natural! (It’s part of the same suite as Photoshop, but I admit I don’t really know the difference!😉

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    1. Every time I read Katie’s advice I have to stop myself form just thinking “Yeah, but my apt is ugly so my pictures will always be ugly.” I”m really hoping I can figure out a way to catch the light without having an exercise machine in the background, or revealing the student-apartment atmosphere of my decor!😛

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  3. Nice indoor shooting tips! Does anyone know why my pictures get a bit blurry once I upload them to my blog? My Nikon DSLR produces better quality than shown in Blogger. Should I resize them before uploading for a better result?

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    1. Ooh, that’s an interesting one… I just googled it and found some articles saying the Blogger automatically compresses photos – but there are ways to fix it! Here: http://www.mybloggerlab.com/2014/04/how-to-solve-bad-picture-quality-issue-in-blogger.html and http://www.peekandponder.com/2013/09/how-to-fix-photo-quality-on-blogger.html
      I upload all my pics in Flickr, instead of uploading them to WordPress… no real reason, just habit! I do like that I can see all my pics from the last 8 years of being a Flickr member, and they are easy to search through… but of course, that means I have to pay for a Pro account, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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      1. Thanks! Sadly both articles refer to the auto adjustment button in Google plus, which doesn’t exist anymore. The search will continue! I use Flickr, but only to upload blogpics to groups. I have no clue how else I could use it. Maybe another item for the better pictures series?

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        1. Oh! Interesting! I upload my pics, then copy the code for HTML, and paste that into my blog post. Gives me a bit more control that way…

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  4. This was a great post! I always love to hear about how people create and edit their photos. Especially when photos are such a large part of blogging makes. Good to see Lightroom appear again as I use that too. There are some wonderful tips in here. I used to have a DSLR but sadly, it broke a few years ago. After a few repairs and a quote for another repair recently, I’ve given up on that! I’ve been using my iPhone with an inexpensive tripod and remote, and it works fairly well but the biggest issue is the memory: it very quickly say it’s full! So I’m biting the bullet and buying a compact system camera. Excited!

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    1. No need to improve pics – but if it’s fun, then do it! I really enjoy experimenting with photography – it’s a fun little project!

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  5. This is a great post. Taking pics indoors is tricky if you don’t have great light. I love Katie’s photos. They are lovely and beautifully lit. Nice to hear someone admit that they use software to fix their shots too. I just installed Lightroom/Photoshop on my laptop before Christmas and am loving having the flexibility they give in editing. Think that it will take a while to get the hang of Lightroom but Adobe have some great video tutorials. Now to unpack my camera and tripod! Xx

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    1. The challenge I find with lightroom is there are so many ways to get similar effects – I can’t quite figure out which way is the “right” way! Hope your camera and tripod emerge from the boxes soon!

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  6. Thanks for this series but his post in particular. I love Katie’s blog and am heartened and relieved to discover it’s down to automatic settings and editing and also to realise that Photoshop is that inexpensive. I suspect that trial and error in different locations around your home are a good idea. Katie pretty much uses the same backdrops, so if you can figure out a location that works, it’ll continue working.

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    1. So true! I think almost all her pics happen in one of two locations. I did some experimenting around my apartment today, hoping I could find a gem of a spot… spoiler: turns out the place I’ve been using for years is the best it gets! ;P

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  7. 🙂 I hope my tips are proving useful! I was thinking of writing up a bit more about the typical Photoshop editing process I do to my photos (and showing a ‘straight out of camera’ vs ‘finished image’ comparison) if it’s interesting…

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    1. Did you See Brigitte from Indigo Orchid already did an indoor shoot using yoursuggestions? http://www.indigorchid.com/2016/01/04/cozy-raglan-sweater-sort-of-finally/ I took indoor pics today, but had the same problem as her that autofocus, which I usually find really reliable outside, couldn’t seem to cope. Any suggestions why that might be?

      Oh, and a “This is how I edit” post sounds great! I’d love to read that! Sometimes I look at Lightroom and can’t figure out just where to start.

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  8. I saved this post the moment that I read the title! I needed these tips now that the weather has turned. I took some inside pics of my Christmas jumpsuit..that were ok but these tips are great. Thanks so much again for doing this series Gillian and you too Katie!

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  9. This is really great info! I always struggle with taking indoor shots so my blogging kind of falls off in the winter. It’s just too cold to go out there! I love this series Gillian – thanks for all your work on it and for putting it together!

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