In which I attempt to take nice pictures indoors…

… and mostly fail. Katie makes it sound so easy!

This post is two things: a review of a recent make, and a what-not-to-do of indoor photos!

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First, the dress. I wanted to sew my Jungle January dress, but couldn’t decide just what to make, so I grabbed this Cali Fabrics rayon print instead. I was feeling frisky and wanted to pattern hack, so I reprinted the Cashmerette Washington bodice and cut it out in a size larger and a cup size bigger. (You might remember that my first version of this dress was super-snug, which is not what I’m looking for in the post-holiday season!) I’m happy to report that part all went really well – I love PDF patterns for letting me easily mess around with pattern without worrying about wrecking my only copy! I raised the neckline, and extended the sleeves an inch.

front and back Collage

I’m less pleased with the bottom half. I always pin examples of playing with stripe directionality, and I thought it would be fun to cut the skirt in a different direction to the bodice… but in the end, I think it’s just a bit messy. Not quite obvious enough to work, and not as harmonious as it would have been if everything went the same way. I first sewed on a Lady Skater skirt, slashed and spread to add a bit of gathering at centre front and back… but it looked so frumpy that I cut it right off. I trimmed it down to this, which is my trusty Comino Cap skirt… but I’m still not in love.

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Here’s the thing: This is what counts as a boring dress for me. It desperately needs bright accessories to spice it up, and I prefer when a multicolour print does all the heavy lifting for me. (Thinking back to other monochromatic dresses, I thought they were boring too. Live and learn!) This dress closely resembles a Moneta to me, which is a pattern I’ve studiously avoided – blogger after blogger styles it with a belt, which to me means the original waist element isn’t that flattering. A belt removes the secret pyjamas aspect for me, and makes it fussy to wear. In these pics I’m wearing a loop of fold-over elastic, which is at least a comfy belt option!

What’s that? These pictures aren’t so bad? Let show you what not to do while taking pictures inside!

flash is awful Collage

DO NOT USE FLASH. (Flash on the left, daylight on the right.)

overheard vs natural Collage

DO NOT TURN ON AN OVERHEAD LIGHT. Even when it’s really dim in every room, on the only day you are home during daylight hours. (Left, daylight and overhead light in my bedroom, while I perch on my bed because it’s the only place with clear wall space. Right, daylight only.)

scenic apartment Collage

DO NOT SHOW WHAT YOUR HOME REALLY LOOKS LIKE. Find that one photogenic spot with nice light and less clutter, and stay there! (Left, this is actually the tided up version of the room where we dump everything for years because we have no storage. Right, hallway with cat tower, bad light, and golden brown wood from the 70’s. 

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DO NOT POST PICTURES WITHOUT CROPPING. DO NOT TAKE PICTURES WITHOUT MOVING JUNK OUT OF THE WAY FIRST. DO NOT STAND SO NEAR WALL THAT UGLY RADIATOR AND MISMATCHED FLOORING IS IN FOCUS. Do have fairy lights, a vintage sewing machine, and a Lego village with a version of yourself sewing. Do not have everything right behind you so you block it all or it looks like it’s growing out of you.

What’s really frustrating about these photos is that autofocus and autoexposure battled it out in the dim light, and almost every picture ended up being slightly blurry. I *just* prepped a post that other day about how awesome and accurate autofocus is (coming up soon), so it’s annoying that it struggled so much inside!

I will say, I decided not to edit any of these pictures very much (most not at all) because I wanted to show what actually came off the camera. The pictures that worked out don’t need any editing, to my eye, and the ones that are blurry/badly lit can’t be saved.

I’ll keep trying! Indoor pics, you are going to happen! 

Commiserate with me, fellow photographers… and please, convince me the dress is not so bad?!

P.S. Brigitte and Helen have both experimented with taking indoor pics using Katie’s advice! And Katie wrote up a more detailed description of how she edits here


71 thoughts on “In which I attempt to take nice pictures indoors…

  1. I quite like the different directionality of the top & the skirt. I think it works just fine! I don’t know that I’d like the skirt as much if it were cut in the same direction as the top.
    Good tips for indoor photos! Something I continue to struggle with, especially here where the days are even shorter than back home (!) and I live in a tiny apartment which I don’t think has a single clear wall or convenient backdrop area. Things to think about as I continue to try & organize it in a way that doesn’t drive me crazy.
    (Also, good point about the pdf pattern pro. Just printed my first one & it’s still stuck at the lying out on the floor waiting to be taped together phase).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good luck with that PDF! They really aren’t so bad once you get started… I prefer them to paper patterns, myself, because I like always having them on file!🙂

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    1. That’s a good suggestion! I like being able to change the belt for different colours, but it would be nice to have a stitch-on one that wouldn’t shift around!

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  2. I opened your post up and thought it was a really cute dress. Very Gillian. And I like the different directionality. The problem I have with waists like that is that I think they need belts – otherwise they look unfinished.

    My indoor pics are always out of focus. So I feel your pain.

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  3. Well the good photos look great even if they were hard work to achieve. I also had a go at some photos indoors after your recent post but haven’t gotten them off the camera yet to see if they were ok… we shall see!

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    1. I’m looking forward to seeing your indoor pics! You take beautiful crisp shots outside… now can you make that happen inside, too?

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  4. I think your feelings towards this dress may just be a matter of personal taste. I love the monochrome fabric – my first thought on seeing the photo was “where does she find all this fantastic fabric?!” I didn’t notice the directional detail on the skirt til you pointed it out. It’s subtle, and I like it. I agree on the belt point. It looks better without. I’d never thought to add a belt to my Moneta! Overall I really really like the dress. The photo tutorial was fun to read too!

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    1. Thank you for liking the dress! I got the fabric at Cali Fabrics online… Maybe part of why I’m not sure about this dress is that I’d pictured the fabric as a wrap dress from the start (I bought it when I was testing the Cashmerette pattern) and now that it’s not a wrap dress, I”m just not quite adjusted to it?

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  5. I learned so much from reading your blog post I don’t know where to begin! I do love your dress by the way…seeing it through your eyes however I do agree that the pattern would suit you better all going in the same direction but that’s not something I would have come to on my own🙂 I love your bright blue leggings and the clever double elastic to match at the waist! Reading how you mixed up patterns, sizes and ideas I was impressed. Thank you for putting so much into your sewing and work to bring it here🙂

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    1. Aw, thanks, Kathleen! I really enjoy projects like this where I don’t let myself overthink things – just do what seems sensible in the moment! I don’t always love the results right away, but I usually come around to them…

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    1. It’s so hard!I get rather envious when people’s pictures reveal they have beautiful tasteful homes… and here I am, 33 and still not with my sh*t together enough to own my own home or rent a nice place? Boo. Oh well. Outdoor pictures make us all equal!😛

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  6. I tried indoor this week- my home is dim and busy- like a Kardashian. Failure.
    I think this dress just needs a nice scarf/shrug something to seperate the print a little. I like it.

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    1. Thank you! I did wear the dress to work this week, and that helped me like it more… once I can see how things fit into my wardrobe I usually like them better!😉

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  7. You’re so funny and honest! Your collage with the garbage bag made me laughed out loud – so, so real!! As for the dress itself, this one is beautiful and I wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up reaching for it more than expected. You look fantastic in it on all pictures, don’t you see that?

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    1. Thanks Helene! I guess I’m just a perfectionist – I feel like I should be better at understanding what my camera will do by now! But 200 pics later (click click click with the remote) I was really surprised how many were blurry or badly lit. I do like some of the pics I ended up with, but in my head, I see all the ones that didn’t work and that clouds my perception!😉

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  8. Ah yes, all that blonde 60’s and 70’s wood. We had that in the last house, I’ve found that particular shade of wood LOVES green (especially a bright grass green), if you decide to do any repainting.

    About the pics: I take indoor pictures too, but the only wall in my house that isn’t some crazy color (or isn’t directly in front of the front door where all the stairs in my split foyer house are) is the dining room. Thankfully, we have a fantastic “patio” style door, not so good is the fact that it’s a north facing door/window/whatever you want to call it. Are there any particular light bulb types that work better for pictures? We have a lot of the “daylight” hued curlicue light bulbs, so I haven’t noticed as much that my pictures have that kind of golden tint…maybe that helps? Not that my pictures are fantastic…

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    1. Sadly we ca’t repaint… but I”m dearly hoping to move out this summer, so we’ll see? You make a good suggestion about light bulbs – I’ll look into that!🙂

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  9. Tee hee great post! Your photos are funny but a good reminder of what to do or not do. Though you look pretty in all of the either with good or bad lighting. I think the dress is lovely a nice colourful necklace or cardi and it will sing.

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    1. I think you are right – this needs a necklace! A big, big necklace. And a bright cardi – which is no good for blog pics ’cause it covers the dress, but is more likely how I’ll wear it in real life!🙂

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  10. i noticed the different direction of the print right away – and loved it! it’s subtle but catchy🙂
    your photography tips are so true, and i appreciate the honest photos you provided to illustrate the differences. it’s amazing how challenging it is to find the right bit of wall in the right light…two things that just don’t exist for me right now!

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    1. The nice thing about Katie’s advice on taking indoor photos is that she admits to using fairly heavy editing – makes me feel like indoor pics are more possible, even without the perfect combo or wall and light! At least in theory…😉

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  11. I adore this whole photography series, Gillian. As an unabashed photography nerd, it’s been so interesting to follow! I have tried taking indoor photos myself and cannot find a place that works well. Our house is situated right under a grove of gigantic trees, which means the daylight streaming inside never gets quite bright enough for pictures. It’s super cozy, but hell on indoor blogging! I miss being in the same city as my parents, during chillier months, because they have a gorgeous light-filled sunroom that is perfect for indoor shoots. Alas, I shall keep shivering outside, it seems!

    Also, I love this dress! The stripe directionality really elevates it into a modern, super chic piece, especially with that bright blue belt. Gorgeous!

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    1. Thanks, Mary! Your house sounds like a beautiful location, even though it’s no ideal for blog pics! How far from home do you usually go to take pics?

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  12. Oh, it’s funny you discovered a couple of things I actually did automatically this time around. I’ve realized same as you did that flash, overhead lights and standing too close to the background really doesn’t work. I’m excited to read your upcoming post on autofocus – I learn something from each of these Better pictures-installments, so thank you for that!🙂

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    1. I”m enjoying seeing you apply stuff from the Better Pictures posts! And it’s comforting to me that you have some of the same struggles with indoor pics – I’m glad it’s not only me!😉

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  13. When I first saw your dress I LIKED the different directions of the bodice and skirt and thought to myself, :man she is always so creative and pulls it off…” Yes, I really thought that and the started reading and saw you were disappointed! Ah well. I love the fabric- but then I tend to like the monochromatic look for myself. I love the blue tights and boots though- that punched up the look nicely! Thanks for the camera tips. I need to work on my pics so I am not always apologizing!😀 Happy New Year!

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  14. I love this dress – altering the print direction on the bodice and skirt is sort of a ‘signature’ for me, I do it so often. And you know I love a monochrome😉 Also I think you did a great job with the photos!

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    1. I was thinking of you when I arranged the print in two directions! I love how you did that on your recent navy ikat dress.

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  15. I like the dress with the print going different ways. It looks really nice. You photos are great, especially the ones in the daylight. It shows off your beautiful skin tones that get a little lost in the other lights. Can you change your white balance on your camera for the different lighting sources? That can make a big difference to the final shot although you really can’t beat natural daylight. Up here it is a little cold though (when the sun actually comes out that it). Thank you for showing us your “clutter” shots. In this era of immaculate Pinterest images it was easy to lose sight of the fact that those people probably have the washing just out of shot too.🙂

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    1. I”ll play around with white balance! I usually adjust it when I’m editing, but maybe doing it in-camera would give a better result. I keep meaning to play around with a grey card for white balance, but haven’t picked one up yet!

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  16. Haha, Gillian! Your all-caps headings cracked me up. I struggle a lot with indoor photos, and am just using my iphone for now, so I feel your pain and more. But! You’ve truly provided some great tips here, so I’ll be keeping them in mind during my next shoot. Thanks!

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    1. Oh! and the dress — I actually think the different ‘stripe’ directions are working for you, but I also know a reader’s opinion doesn’t change a sewing blogger’s mind about not loving something she’s made. Been there!

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  17. So much truth in your “what not to do” photos! There are maybe two spots in my house that get the right daylight, but definitely are not photogenic—one would end up right in front of our TV, so that’s a no-go. Wish I had an indoor spot though, especially in winter! Also: I think this dress is really cute! I LOVE that fabric. I find B&W prints like that really versatile because I *can* pair it with accessories. Maybe cut it apart and add a solid colored midriff?

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    1. I think I’m going to keep playing around with how to accessorize this dress – maybe hot pink or purple next time? You are right, black and white prints are really versatile that way!🙂

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  18. The dress is lovely as it is, I love the print, I prefer it without the belt and maybe you could wear it with a longer cardigan/coatigan? Looks like lots of us are fighting with photography!!!

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  19. Hee hee! Your picture commentary made me laugh. I am so guilty of finding the neatest spot in my house and cropping out the crap!

    I like your new dress but I see why you’re not thrilled with it. Monochrome makes you sad! I do like it with the bright blue belt and leggings – very snazzy🙂

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  20. You are crazy (smile) … the directional differences in this dress are FAB!

    I pretty much don’t give a crap about my indoor photos. I feel lucky to just get any photos sometimes.🙂 Luckily this house has a great front porch for pics and being in Florida, I usually have sunshine. Your photos are great and what I’d strive for, if I strove (real word?) at all. I do love your photo series, though.

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    1. Thanks Debbie! I bet that being in Florida you can manage outdoor/patio pics way more of the year than I can! I can handle taking pics in the snow, but once it’s snowy AND cold enough to get frostbite in 20 min, even I give up! ;P

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  21. I love the honesty in this post. I don’t think the dress is so bad but it doesn’t “spark” the way some of your brighter creations do.

    You’ve also summarized why I don’t take indoor pics for sewing. A lot to consider in less than ideal lighting in my place. There’s one wall I could use, but am too lazy to move furniture lol.

    I’ve made the Moneta 5 times now. The first time I used the gathered waist in the pattern. It’s fine but not flattering. All my other versions have two inverted box pleats in front and two in back – much better and no belt required, although I do sometimes wear one.

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    1. I”ll give box pleats a try! Do you think they work better in certain types of knits? Something stable, vs something drapey?

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  22. I’m paying close attention because I’m inside now due to the chilly weather…and I can already see the difference from the natural light. I’ve hacked my Washington top too but I like the close fit of it! Thanks for the tips!

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    1. I feel like Washington is going to be a nice versatile pattern! I like the snug fit, too, but I also like to option of more ease!🙂

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  23. It tickles me that I tweeted you saying I loved the dress and thought the photo was great only to find out you didn’t like either when I got time to read the post.🙂 I stand by it though, I think the dress is lovely and thank you for the what not to do lessons. It doesn’t seem to ever stop raining here in blighty at the moment so I need to find a photogenic bit of house.

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    1. The great thing about blogging is that often when other people like my projects more than I do, I end up coming around to them!🙂 Good luck finding a good corner of the house for photography!

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  24. I actually really like the dress on you, particularly with that flash of turquoise. And I have to say I love a belt, I have a huge stash of them… Fab advice on taking pics inside, I usually avoid it like the plague!

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    1. I haven’t taken any pics inside since MMM – it was fun to play around and try out a new location, even though the bedroom didn’t turn out to be a winner!🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Oh man, I feel your pain! My apartment is dark and cluttered, with nearly every inch of wall space covered in artwork and tchotchkes. So indoor photos are pretty pointless. But you’ve got some good ones in the bunch here! I really love this dress and hope that you change your mind about it- it’s really cute!

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    1. Thanks hon! I think I will probably like the dress well enough in the end – not a “I feel fantastic” dress, but sometimes I feel like dressing more like an adult…😛

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  26. Thank you for the mention!! I thought my photos looked OK initially, but I think yours are much better. They are brighter, and clearer. I did have the overhead lights on, because I forgot to turn them off, but we have 4 halogen spotlights in our ceiling, which probably gives a more evenly spread light. I didn’t do any editing, but defo think that’s worth exploring. And, yes, I did have to clear away a lot of toys beforehand!!

    On the dress, I think it’s lovely. The stripe directionality does work. Also, I initially thought that the belt was a contrast waistband. Would it be possible to somehow permanently incorporate it as that? That would brighten up the dress with zero accessorising required!🙂

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    1. Your pics were great! Life is not a competition, as my mother-inlaw would say. I’m relieved that you had to clear about toys – sometimes it seems like everyone’s house but mine is neat and tidy at all times!😉

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  27. Gillian, this dress is perfect for pairing with a solid jacket or cardigan. It may be a bit boring for you but I think it’s a great way to highlight some great accessories. I have been playing around with indoor pics too….not the best…it is hard to find a well lit, uncluttered spot is anyone’s house I think:)

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    1. Your house looks lovely from the pics I’ve seen!😉 I think you are right – I need to crank the accessories up to 11 with this dress, and then I’ll like it more!

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  28. I’m with you, Gillian. I think the most important part about what Katie says is that she has big windows and lots of light in her house. I have a small, mid-century, adobe style, duplex so YEAH, basically no light. This is basically why I stopped blogging and why all my instagram photos are mirror selfies! I can’t figure out how to take photos at home and I am too lazy/busy/unmotivated to take them elsewhere. That said, I do think your top photos turned out surprisingly well! I’m pretty impressed. But I really do think that having the right space is the first step towards taking successful indoors photos. That said, I do like the dress! Maybe just keep it as a blank slate kind of dress for those days when you do feel like accessorizing (which is practically never for me, I get it).

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    1. Hmmm… I guess if your home is really not great for photos, then the only thing to do is find wherever is best, edit with a firm hand, and move on with life! Or stick with mirror selfies, which are a solid option!🙂

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  29. I love your Better Pictures project and it’s fun to see it in action. Especially when you make it comical like that with the “not to do” pictures. I think the dress looks nice, but I understand what you mean about the direction on the skirt. But we live and learn.

    I had to try out the indoor photo option myself here the other day. I was lucky and found a spot that was easy to clean up (this time). I got some really bad pictures, but also some ok ones, that turned good with some cropping and light editing.

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    1. I’m so glad you got some pictures that worked! Hurray for an easy to clean spot, and the powers of editing! No one ever needs to know what the pics looked like originally – unless you are like me and enjoy showing the bad with the good!🙂

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  30. I love this dress, despite what you said. I think the pattern directions look great and I love the blue FOE belt with it too! Not boring at all, in my opinion! Thanks for the tips on the indoor photos too!

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  31. Aww, too bad you don’t like the dress, the print is really nice and I like the pop of colour from the “belt” you used. I used to put in contrast midriff bands when sewing dresses like that for a while, to get a bit of definition at the waist.🙂
    Some of those pics turned out really nice, especially the ones with the blurred background. I’ve also found a decent (but boring) setup now for indoor pics, although it only works on a really bright day…

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