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!