Tips for Fabulous Fabric Photos for Sewists

FABULOUSAs a #Sewcialist, it is inevitable that at some time in the future, I’m going to snap a pic of some fabric. It will be a fabric find that I want to share with my fellow sewists through my many social media platforms. Sewists often share photos of fabric. It might be a bargain find from a local fabric store or just the random yardage of the day from our stash.

Being a sewist does not mean we are all professional photographers. Learning to be a professional photographer would deprive me of precious sewing time. So, I searched the internet to find some tips and tricks to help me in my future postings and here is what I found:

  • No training is required. One only has to remember a few tips when taking the photos to achieve a nice photo.
  • No special equipment is needed. Many of the social sewists I envy are amateur photographers while focusing all their time and energy into their sewing. They are not professionals with photography studios and elaborate equipment.
  • No special camera is needed. Let’s face it, we all can not afford the latest digital SLR camera. I had a simple automatic digital camera and I can honestly tell you, it was never with me when I needed it. If I had an expensive camera, I can guarantee I would want to keep it in a safe place and that would not be over my shoulder or in my car. What do we all have in our hands? Our smartphones! Many of us use our camera on our phones to snap pictures of our fabric. These pictures can work. Today’s camera phones take much better pictures than last year’s automatic digital cameras. The smartphone also has photo edit capabilities that are good, along with plenty of free photo editing apps.

So when faced with a fabric that I simply must share, smartphone in hand, here are some things to remember:

  1. Light – Many of us don’t have the space or the money to create a white-box with lights. Natural light can be used for good photos. When at home, look for rooms in the house that have the most windows and allow in the most daylight. A single large window can work. Place your fabric near the large window out of direct sunlight. It doesn’t matter if it is in the kitchen or bathroom. On cloudy days, a large piece of white poster board or foam core board can be set up next to the fabric to reflect even more light. Photos can be made outside on a patio or deck as long as direct sunlight is avoided. Direct sunlight ruins any good fabric photo. The strongest light should be behind the camera. Caution:  with the light behind the camera, the light will be behind you so watch where your shadow falls. (We don’t want to see the outline of you in your jammies ……because that is what we all sew in, right?)
  2. Backgrounds should be considered if the fabric swatch is not filling the entire photo frame. Choose a complimentary background that will not clash or draw away any attention from your focal item.  A solid wall of neutral color works best.  Busy backgrounds make it difficult to distinguish the outline of your item. (The messy pile of fabrics in the background will draw my attention away from the single jersey print you couldn’t live without.)
  3. Interest – Add objects to the photo to provide followers with more information. If the fabric is intended for a specific pattern, place that pattern in the photo with the fabric and capture it as well. Tell the story with the picture, not just the accompanying post or comments. Sparkly fabric could include the bangle bracelet or clutch purse that was the reason you purchased the piece. The perfect apron fabric photo could include a cookie-cutter or cookbook. In one glance, we know everything that we need to know about your plans for that fabric. (It makes it easier for us to click “Like” because it is obvious that you were a genius in your choice.)
  4. Angles – Angles are an important part of both lighting and interest. I feel they are important enough to be mentioned separately. Things are viewed differently from different angles. Take the photo from different angles other than the straight on, direct approach. Light from different angles will highlight any texture in the fabric. These textures would not normally be seen when photographed straight on. ( I know it is hard but try sitting on the floor, standing on a chair or bending to the side at an angle your chiropractor would not approve. See if it makes a difference in your photo.)
  5. Wrinkles – This is the biggest complaint of many fabric artists. I know it will take a few more minutes and yes, it might dampen your glee a little, but we want to see your fabric looking its best. (Think of the credibility it will gain you in the sewing community. Not only do you take good photos and select awesome fabrics seams but you prove that you know how to operate an iron or garment steamer.)
  6. Out-of-Focus – Our smartphone cameras are all auto-focus. Yes, they will focus and provide a clear, crisp photo if we will but wait for auto-focus to do its job and if we will stand still. Point your camera at the fabric, tap the auto-focus and take a deep breath. Then snap the picture. (If you are like me and the pressure and excitement is too much for you, place the camera on a solid surface to avoid any shake of the camera.)
  7. Try some collages – This is my original idea. Use some of the wonderful free photo-editing apps to create a collage. I like PicStitch and Pixlr Express. Frames of the collage could contain a picture of the fabric, a picture of the pattern and a picture of the selected buttons or trims. One frame could include you in the finished garment, if you can wait for posting that long. (Next time you find yourself waiting in line and playing Angry Birds, flip open a photo-editing app and your image library. Create some photos that will represent you and your aesthetic better in social media.)

I am in no way a professional photographer,  I’m not even a good amateur photographer.  I try to find information that helps me and I want to share it with others.

Further reading:
Tips from Spoonflower designers: Berene Campbell on how to photograph your fabrics
Tips from Spoonflower designers, Pt. 2: KristopherK on how to photograph your fabrics

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