The Better Pictures Project started in 2015 as a self-help strategy to improve my own blog pictures. I was tired of sometimes getting good pics, and sometimes ending up with disappointments. (I was also trying to distract myself before a job interview!) I emailed 6 bloggers whose pictures I admire, and put their advice to work over a 6-month series! You can read all the posts here.
At the start of June, I got the chance to present about what I’d learned at the Pattern Review Weekend, with a focus on helping camera-shy people gain confidence! I had so much fun presenting – I’m shy and anxious right until you put me in front of a crowd, and then I have fun being a bit of a ham!
Now that I’ve recovered from all of that socializing, I wanted to share my presentation slides with you here on the blog! Are you ready?
Hi, I’m Gillian. I have *always* felt unphotogenic, mostly because of pictures like these from my pre-blog days. Remember when the only pictures you had of yourself were one-off shots on film cameras, and whatever weird expression was captured was all you know about how you look in photos? Yeah, I’m glad those days are over!
Now, in my presentation I actually made people take a selfie… but I’ll let you readers at home skip the homework! My point with this was that most people know automatically how to take a decent selfie – we are trained in how to pose with friends, how to raise the camera up to a flattering angle, and so on. Taking selfies is *learned skill*, through trial and error and lots of practice… and taking blog pictures is no different!
Which leads me to my 5 suggestions for feeling more comfortable in front of the camera:
Now that I’ve pointed out these classic Gillian poses, you are going to spot them in every one of my posts from now on! I always start my photoshoots with reliable poses like these, so that if nothing else works, I’ll definitely have some usable shots.
Here’s my photoshoot routine: Set the camera on the tripod, figure out what is in frame… then take front, back, and side pictures near the camera, at a medium distance, and far enough away to be full-length in the frame.
To see what I mean, look at any of my Me-Made May collages, like this one:
I can take front, back, and side shots at all three distances in about 2 minutes – with a tripod and remote, it’s easy to just click, click, click!
No surprise here! If you follow my blog then you’ll recognise my front porch and the sidewalk outside my house – both offer nice shady spots where it is easy to take pictures without going far! I also have some favourite spots at local parks that I visit in summer when I have more time.
Once I have the boring shots done, then I start to play around. Silly poses, sitting, jumping or spinning around the make your skirt swish nicely… let’s be honest, most of these shots won’t work out. But when you get a good one, it’s worth it! This is a good time to try moving your camera to a new area or angle to see if it works.
I love taking my own photos with a tripod and remote, because I can take as many pictures as I want without worrying that my photographer is bored. If you are having someone take pictures for you, I’d suggest asking them to shoot constantly for 3-5 minutes – that way they know what to expect, and you can relax knowing that they aren’t itching to be finished!
Use whatever tech you have, and don’t let it get in the way of taking your photos! A cell phone is just fine – and it’s even better if you spend $30 on a selfie stick that doubles as a tripod with remote!
That said, I personally find it worth digging out my nice camera for blog pictures, because the resulting pictures are larger, brighter, and easier to edit. I shoot on a ten-year old DSLR with a fixed 50mm lens, which gives lots of light and a nice blurry background behind me. (I can also see the light shining through the viewfinder and lens when I standing right in front of the camera, which helps me stay in frame!) I tried using a selfie stick for the Cashemerette Challenge, and I actually found it more time consuming!
Like you choice of camera, your editing options really depend on you and how much you enjoy photography as a hobby. I enjoy taking and editing photos a lot more than I used to, so I choose to pay $10/month to use Adobe Lightroom. It’s part of the same suite as Photoshop and Acrobat PDF reader. I take my photos in RAW, which is a format that saves lots of detail about the picture and makes it easy to edit. As you can see up front, a good picture takes very little tweaking, but in Lightroom it’s easy to change the exposure and other settings to “save” a dark or bright picture. It also has an excellent phone app version!
If you just want good photo-editing for free, there are lots of options. Instagram is a great platform for sharing sewing, and makes photo-editing easy within the app. Snapseed is an excellent free app. Maybe you could share other options in the comments below?
Your pictures will get better the more your practice. You’ll be more comfortable, figure out your camera, and find the best location, lighting and poses. But if you don’t start taking pictures, you won’t improve! If you do take pictures often, then keep experimenting. Some of my neighbours caught me trying to catch a photo with lensflare the other day, and I felt silly but kept trying! (Spoiler: It didn’t work, but I’ll keep trying!)
Here’s my big message: You deserve to feel and look great… and other people deserve to see people like you being proud! We are all surrounded by so many images from the media that present beauty and worth in one particular way, and sharing ourselves and our clothes online is a really powerful way to counter that narrative. If you doubt it, just read posts like this or this on the Sewcialists. Representation matters!
Get out there and take some pictures! Practice, figure out what works for you, and enjoy seeing your best self shine!
12 thoughts on “Presenting Better Pictures Project at PR Weekend!”
That is such a lovely blogpost with really helpful information. I own a Canon camera but hardly ever use it, even though it makes so nice pictures. I will try and use your tips, because I really would like to have some more pictures of myself (as selfish as that sounds…). And then I could use them for the blog, too! Thank you 🙂
Do you have a tripod and remote? It really makes using a good camera very easy… and then the pictures look so nice! I was really surprised how it took the same amount of time to get a decent phone selfie during Cashmerette Challange as it does to get a bunch of nice pictures with my DSLR. And with a better quality picture, you can edit them more easily, and the end result is better! Hope you have fun taking selfies!
I’m having to move unexpectedly (the sucky side of renting) and the one shining light is the grounds of this community are BEAUTIFUL!!!! I’m excited for blog pics! LOL!!!
Hmmm. I may have to seek out a used DSLR…
I dread being told I have to move out of our rented house! I’m glad you’ve found somewhere good, though – and yes, a used camera might be a fun next step! I borrow mine from my Dad, and I’m very grateful that he has let me keep it for 5 years an counting! 😉
Haha! I love the 5-year borrowing!
Thanks for all the work you put into that – really helpful!
Thank you! It’s a topic I feel oddly passionate about – I think because taking blog pictures has changes my self-image so much, and I want everyone to have that positive experience!
So useful! Such a good post! Thanks for this.
This is a very good post, AND I enjoyed seeing makes of days gone by.
I”m so glad you liked it! I had a lot of fun putting this presentation together!
I am so pleased you wrote this blog post.I just bought a tripod that will handle my iPhone, and use the shutter on my Apple Watch to take pictures. My iPhone camera is always set to LIVE so I can search out the one photo where my eyes aren’t closed.
When working with my iPhone I use Aviary for editing, and now I’m using Over to add titles and mask out unnecessary backgrounds. There is always something new to learn. All of that said, I’m often disappointed with the quality of my phone photos so it may be time to break out the DSLR and learn how to use it.
Thanks for sharing your expertise!
I know it’s been a while since this thread started, but I wanted to add two suggestions for getting decent photos. 1) If you have the option, get a tripod that is at least as tall as you when it’s fully extended. It’s hard to get a flattering photo when the point of view is angled upward. And 2) Use a grey card. Grey cards are literally grey colored cards that are used to calibrate colors when editing photos. Essentially, all you do is get an in focus, properly exposed photo of just the grey card in the same light as the subject with be in the final photos. Then when editing, you can use it calibrate the colors (how to do that probably varies from app to app) so you and your clothes won’t look of colored. It’s amazing to see how much of difference there is between color corrected images and those that aren’t.