Sitting Down for The Better Pictures Project 

Yesterday was one of those glorious autumn days people write poems about.

Bright blue sky above
Wintering ducks on the lake
Flameless trees burn on

(That’s a Fabric Alchemist original.)

Yesterday was one of those days this sewcialist craves for photos – good warm light, dry surfaces, and colorful backdrops. I had been waiting for a day like this to take more self-portraits for the Better Pictures Project.

The park surrounding the museum has plenty of places to sit. The five large boat-shaped planters all have wide concrete frames for humans to sit on, and for birds to poop on.

South Lake Union Park, Seattle. Photo by Liesl Matthies
Why not experiment with seated photographs?

The Better Pictures Project

I found a poop-free section of concrete, rested my iPhone against my coffee cup, and sat myself down for a set of self-timer photos. This is not far from where I previously photographed myself, but this time my background is MOHAI and the lake, rather than the Space Needle.

I took this first photo to test the framing and exposure. Looking back at it, the first thing I notice is seated poses are great for showing off pants. Pant rise is a big issue for me and not enough pants pattern reviews show the pants when you sit.

As I have two pants on my to-sew list, I will just keep this pose in my back pocket. 😉

But I wanted to document my sweater in the wild. So the jacket and scarf had to go.

Casual and contemplative didn’t work from this angle. I ended up slouching a bit and looking uncomfortable. For the purposes of documenting makes, this doesn’t show much of the sweater’s design beyond the cropped sleeves. But not bad for showing off the new pants (Old Navy, Rockstar Sateen Skinny “Jeans”).

So, let’s be a bit more engaged with the camera:

You can see more of the sweater, but the arm/shoulder placement feels stiff and the sweater’s neckline (which is a key feature that I consider when choosing a pattern) is lost. My head position still feels like I am pulling away – this is something cosplay photographers have pointed out to me. Lifting one’s chin up and out slightly might feel weird and unnatural, but it translates well to pictures and helps keep one’s face and neck from being overshadowed. As a photo, this is “meh” to me.

Ok, engage more! Look at the camera, get closer to its level.

Oh no, wind! This photo burst captured me tucking my hair behind my ears. So, technically this is an example of an action shot as well!

This outtake sequence encourages me to move more during the iPhone self-timer photo bursts. I might end up with a surprise gem. (The upper right is the one I like most.)

I did one standing pose, since these are new pants. Now that I have posted this here, I think I made a mistake in turning my back to the sun.

I am utterly fascinated by how the arm placement changes the pose. What do you think? I think one looks more at ease and friendly, the other seems more apprehensive. It is such a tiny difference!

All in all, this final photo is my favorite from the mini photoshoot. It was taken at the end of the hair-tucking burst. This is the pose I was aiming for.

I am folded over with an arm crossed in front of my torso, which isn’t always the best way to show off a shirt. But you can see the neckline, the sleeve and torso length, and the general fit.

Composition is another thing to keep in mind. This pose, with the angles of my arms, knees, and leaning across the frame is more interesting because it draws the eye to the middle of the image. (If you’ve taken an art class, you’ve probably heard similar descriptions.) How crucial is dynamic composition going to be in my future photo taking for this blog? I am not sure. I suspect it will come down to time. Many of us take photos to simply show the garments. I always enjoy the straight front, back, profile and detail photos from Crab & Bee. They are simple, elegant, and really highlight the precision of her work and the impact of her fitting adjustments. (Composition is still important in her photos. Pay attention to where she is in the frame, where she is looking, and what is cropped.)

There is also a value for seeing clothes in action. How do the waistlines of pants shift while sitting or squatting? Or does a cropped sweater stay in place when reaching your arms up? (The alternative is leaning how much bare stomach you just flashed at your coworker while getting a cup from the break room cabinets.)

I value both types of photos and those that fall in between. Each of us have different personalities and documentation styles. What I really enjoy about Gillian’s Better Pictures Project is its emphasis on experimenting and trying something new. A new skill set to learn and refine, like sewing. But ultimately she is not telling us that there is a best way to take photos. She is encouraging us to determine for ourselves what is a better picture for our personalities, our creations, our resources.

Gillian – Thank you for your encouragement and for being a champion of the sewcialist community!


5 thoughts on “Sitting Down for The Better Pictures Project 

  1. This is such a neat post! Posing for photos is something I struggle with, both in terms of cosplay and for documenting me-made creations. You’re totally right; the tiniest shift can give a photo a whole different feel! When i have time, I like playing with poses using timers on the camera. Definitely helps me figure out what I’m most comfortable with and what works best for me!

    1. When I have a chance to work with cosplay photographers who give directions, I love it. Posing is not my natural skill and I need just a few hints to pivot, drop the shoulder, lift my chin, etc. It only just occurred to me to use those tips in regular life and blog photos. 🙂

  2. Really great photos. I agree about how tiny shifts in position making such a huge difference. I guess this is why most photographers take loads and loads of pictures and hope that they will get the “one”. Much easier these days when you can instantly see on a laptop or in camera what you have just taken and adjust accordingly. I think that the “Better Photos” series is really inspiring. It really makes you think about composition and framing. That park looks incredible from the air. What an unusual design. Xx

    1. The park is inspired by this lake’s maritime history. The grass-covered portion of the park represents former lake (now a man-made peninsula) and the gravel marks the historic shoreline. So all the planters are in “water” and thus are boats. It is also home to a large goose population, which makes the grass unpleasant to sit in. :/

  3. I love reading about your process! Coffee cup tripod = genius.You make a great point about balancing photos that show detail in the clothing with pics of how it moves in “real life”. I can think of at least one dress of mine that looked cute in photos but was a PITA to wear because every time I raised my arms, the whole dress pulled upwards.

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