Better Pictures Project* (And Also Another Marfy 3093)

*Disclaimer: this LONG post is mostly about improving the photos I post to this blog, but it does feature a new sewn garment as well. It’s just that the photos and talky words will have more to do with photography and less to do with sewing than usual. Additionally: I am probably not the target audience for Gillian’s awesome series, since I have a partner to take my photos and we use a cell phone and not a camera, but her September homework inspired me. =)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Since we last met, your intrepid blogger has managed to turn 30–WOO HOO I MADE IT!!!!!!!!! I’m excited for this new chapter of my life; this is the first fresh decade that I have kicked off knowing exactly who I am and feeling good about that person, and it’s a great feeling. Not bad, eh? 🙂

I have also been sewing as much as I can, and I am trying desperately to keep up with my massive blog roll (Bloglovin’ makes it so easy to follow a billion-and-three blogs, and then I end up with the dreaded 99+ unread icon…), which helps explain my belated interest in Gillian’s Better Pictures Project. She has been posting lots of really helpful information for anyone looking to improve their photography skills and make their blogs that much better. Now, per my disclaimer above, I not only do not have an actual camera, I have a personal paparazzi to help me; as such, I read the camera settings posts and thought they were interesting and helpful, but just not something I could incorporate into my life right now. But then the September “homework” came along: find a new TNT photo location close to home. THAT, friends, was something we could handle! I knew there was a public park comprised of a ravine and its surrounding wooded area within walking distance of the house, so we went location scouting (with Mulder in tow, naturally) one Saturday morning in September. You guys, I might never take photos in our backyard ever again!

So we had a new awesome location ready to go, but we were missing one crucial element: a finished thing. (This is still a sewing blog, you know…) So I got Tom all wound up about taking these photos in an idyllic location and then basically gave him photography blue-balls by taking forever to finish my new shirt. But whatever, I don’t need to explain my art to him!!!!!

*Ahem*

Finally, I finished the damn shirt. And then it got cold and rainy here in Ohio, which meant that going down into a ravine was probably only going to result in one or both of us winning a Darwin Award rather than any blog-worthy photos, so we waited. Then this Sunday, the weather gods shined down upon us with sunshine and mild Fall temperatures!

Bird Mural

Bird Mural

Fashion is about climbing on stuff, right?

Fashion is about climbing on stuff, right?

Senior portrait pose

Senior portrait pose

One of our favorites of the day...

One of our favorites of the day…

Side view + some nature

Side view + some nature

Another favorite!

Another favorite!

A back view

A back view

I wish I could fit in this pipe!

I wish I could fit in this pipe!

Using props to our advantage

Using props to our advantage

The shirt really pops!

This amazing slate wall made the best backdrop of all!

This amazing slate wall made the best backdrop of all!

The color of the shirt really pops in these!

Gotta use a bridge when it's there!

Gotta use a bridge when it’s there!

A walk-away shot on the way back to the car

A walk-away shot on the way back to the car

(Really quick note: every photo in this post was taken on a cell phone with no filter or settings adjustments.)

The blouse is another Marfy 3093. I LOVE this pattern, you guys! This time I made it in a hammered silk (I bought it from the same lady who sold me the chambray I used for Marfy 1.0) and while I did a decent job, there are things I wish had gone better. I should have listened to my gut and done a starch or gelatin treatment first, because this stuff got shifty. But overall, I am very happy with the result. I used some precious vintage shell buttons ca. 1930’s and they’re perfect for this shirt. The only thing I did differently to V 1.0 was to leave off the pocket flaps (and accompanying buttons) and remember to french seam the front shoulder seams. I am done with this pattern for the time being–it’s a pretty unique shirt, after all–and will be moving on to other stuff in my FW ’15/16 queue.

My only regret about these photos is the way I styled myself and the blouse. In person, I totally looked like an extra from a 1990’s music video from the waist up!! It was mostly my makeup (lipstick, in particular) combined with the shiny finish of the shirt–both looked great on their own merits, but together they weren’t what I was going for AT ALL! Hopefully that doesn’t come across in the photos to people who aren’t me, but I certainly can’t un-see it, LOL!

Yeah yeah, we get it: but what about the Better Pictures Project thing? Here’s what we did:

So, I’m biased, but these are without a doubt the best photos I’ve ever posted to this blog. We chose a time of day (10:30AM) with plenty of natural light–critical in such a heavily wooded and earthy area–and the added benefit of next to no foot or bike traffic, since it was a Sunday. You may have noticed the distinct absence of a Mulder cameo in these photos. 😦 Ultimately, it just wasn’t a good idea to try to have him along while we were climbing around on slippery rocks and earthen banks and focusing so much on the quality of the composition and lighting. He really loves this park (he “helped” scout, after all!) so we will take him back again, just not when it’s “Mommy Daddy Happy Photo Time.” And you guys, we haven’t even been to the entire park yet!!! Endless possibilities for the entire family. 😀

So Phase 1: know when and where to go, and when to leave the dog at home.

Phase 2: Challenges

I think we really did a good job of achieving most of our goals for this conscious attempt at improving our pictures. Obviously the primary objective–finding a TNT photo location close to home–was achieved, and we’re thrilled about that! We knew we wanted to incorporate the features of our site as much as possible, and I think we did that pretty well. There were some areas we would have liked to use more, but either the lighting wasn’t working out or the extra water from the rain the day before made it too annoying or hazardous to attempt what we had in mind. The bird tunnel is a prime example of a lighting issue: in real life, there was lots of light pouring into the tunnel from outside, but that did not translate to the photos. The shot I posted above is the one and only workable shot we got from that site, and it’s pretty dark (and I’m fucking slouching…grrrrr)! Another issue we ran into was my dislike/fear of nature–I do NOT do nature, folks. I am a strictly indoor nerd. So there were some points during the shoot where I was eager to get out of the setup because OMG THE NATURE IS TOUCHING ME AND CHRIST ON SALE IS THAT A BUG?!?!?, which translated to stiff poses and short sittings. And, like any sensible human who wants to live, I was not super keen on the slippery-ness of some of our settings due to the rain; that, unlike my seething hatred of the great outdoors, will not always be the case, thankfully.

Phase 3: It’s not you, it’s me

Tom, bless him, has really found a love for taking photos by helping me with this blog. He even wants to get a proper camera at some point! He probably has more fun than I do on these shoots!! Tom is a great amateur photographer, IMO. In addition to having a great eye and tons of creativity, he is adventurous and very willing to roll with whatever happens while we’re shooting, which makes for a relatively easy and fun experience. It also leads to some unexpectedly awesome photos and settings! What he needs, frankly, is a better model. I really have to work on feeling comfortable in front of a camera: I never know what to do with my body!! I feel like I look uncomfortable and awkward most of the time, and I want to change that. I need to work on poses that feel natural enough to me while still looking interesting; I’m not necessarily going for editorial here, but I do want to take cool, creative photos of me faffing about in my handmade clothes, so whatever. I need to practice my poses and faces before we go out for a shoot, and perhaps invest in some practice time with Tom to see how things photograph before the “real deal” gets underway. Do any of you have suggestions for or advice on posing for photos? Do you ever feel awkward having your photo taken?

Here are a few ton more from our shoot: enjoy! And seriously, please weigh in with how you think we did: input is welcome and appreciated!

Inception: Blog Photography Edition

Inception: Blog Photography Edition

Admiring the nature from a safe distance

Admiring the nature from a safe distance

Much casual. Wow.

Much casual. Wow.

Branchy branch

Branchy branch

Pensive walking

Pensive walking

Probably shouldn't have touched that water, tbh...

Probably shouldn’t have touched that water, tbh…

I got my silk shirt dirty for this one. O_o

I got my silk shirt dirty for this one. O_o

"Mads" in the wild

“Mads” in the wild

Reflection

Reflection

"Fabric Sale Ahoy!"

“Fabric Sale Ahoy!”

There's a smile!

There’s a smile!

Camera-shy

Camera-shy

I totally match my living room. #sorrynotsorry

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22 thoughts on “Better Pictures Project* (And Also Another Marfy 3093)

  1. Your pictures are great! Great shirt, too 🙂 But I agree that the quality of the photos helps to improve the quality of your site and makes your blog more engaging overall. You’re lucky that your boyfriend enjoys to be your photographer. My boyfriend takes shitty and unenthusiastic photos of me so several months ago I took matters into my own hands and bought a DSLR, a tripod, and a remote shutter release. All of the photos on my blog are essentially self-portraits. That’s also why most of my photos are from in my yard, though, because I’m a little self-conscious about taking self-portraits with all of my contraptions in public. I may need to decide that I just don’t give a damn so that I can take cool photos in different locations.

    • Thank you! I would definitely go the same route as you if I didn’t have a cooperative partner–nothing wrong with a super-professional selfie, right? 🙂 I can totally sympathize with feeling odd taking photos in public, though. We only had 3 or 4 humans cross our path while we were taking these, and I instantly felt like an idiot! But so many people make it work, and I’m sure it’s a matter of getting used to it and adopting an IDGAF attitude about it. I definitely vote for branching out, though–if nothing else, it’s fun to see pictures of your handmades in the wild!

  2. I totally love your photos and the new location , and I agree with you that Tom is a great photographer! You don’t really need a lot of filters, advanced settings and so on if you have an eye for composition. Did the two of you think about the rule of thirds? Because I see it almost every photo, which is a good thing! It doesn’t hurt that the shirt is awesome too!!! I love that color 🙂 On posing for photos, you know some photographers ( back in the days) didn’t even put film in the camera during the first hour or so? Bring music, dance around and make a complete fool of yourself the first hour. Audience CAN be good too, when you’re so tired you no longer give a shit you’re truly relaxed! But good work, and keep on having a good time!

    • Thank you so much, Tina! Tom actually didn’t start reading up on the technical aspects of photography until we got back from this shoot, but now he is aware of the Rule of Thirds and realized that he just did it naturally most of the time he set up a photo. Your advice about using music and just kind of goofing off for the first little while is awesome, and I will be taking it to heart. Thank you for sharing! (And I know how I will be spending the rest of my night–making a special Photo Shoot Playlist, LOL!)

  3. Great photos! OMG, I’m going to have to up my game to keep up with you :).
    You are so lucky to have such a great park close to home – – the slate wall is perfect as it really provides a great back drop for your gorgeous blouse, which I would love to have in my closet. Gotta try that pattern! So, it was a public place, right? But no one was around? That would be a miracle in my neck of the woods!

    • HAHA! You are too kind and hilarious! I am glad Tom has been on board with this whole project, otherwise the results wouldn’t have been so dramatic. And yes, this is a city park near our house–unbelievable, right?? We saw maybe 3 or 4 people, and 2 of them were little toddlers so it’s not like they were particularly invasive. I think we only spent about 30 minutes at the park, and since it was a Sunday morning during what is traditionally church time, we had the place mostly to ourselves.

  4. I LOVE THIS POST!!!! ❤ Seriously, it was so fun to read through your thoughts on taking pictures, and I agree, you got really great shots!!!! Great job, both of you! (Seriously, if my husband loved the picture taking process, I wouldn't use a tripod all the time! "Photography blue-balls" made me giggle!) I think the great thing about taking lots of pics is that over time, you'll remember which shots/poses you really liked, and you'll be able to band those poses out quickly before experimenting with new stuff. It definitely gets easier! (Pretty much any close up of me on my blog is my crouching in front of the camera, just like the really gorgeous shot of you crouched on a rock in the river.) I'm going to be working on a post or two about taking phone pictures soon (aka. I"m making my dad write them, and I'll be asking him to take pics of my this weekend while I'm over for thanksgiving!) Can you think of anything in particular that phone photographers might want to know?

    • Ahhhhhhhhhh the woman herself!!! Amazing!! Thank you for your kind comment, and for encouraging so many of us to branch out and have fun while learning something new! You’re right about a weird kind of muscle memory for poses–my face has gotten that memo, but the rest of me is a little behind, LOL! Hopefully with more practice and the helpful hints in these comments, I can remedy that soon.

      Re: phone photo tips, my personal paparazzi man says the following: Lumia/Nokia phones (the latest ones, anyway) are apparently built with adjustable camera settings, not unlike a proper camera. He has one of those and next time, we will be trying those out. (His phone got a big update the day after we did these pictures–GAH!) Typically we take all of ours using the native Instagram camera within that app, with no filter or anything applied. Apart from those things, he also recommended getting good at shooting with one hand only (which can be awkward on a phone) because you may need your other hand to balance with in order to get the shot you’re going for, particularly for extreme perspectives! (And that’s one of the great things about the phone: lots of flexibility to move the “camera” around without your subject having to move and being able to see what the image might look like and get a variety of angles from one spot.)

      Apart from that, I would say to just be prepared to go off-script and take candids of your subject–sometimes our candid shots turn out better than the posed ones! (And as we learned this weekend, sometimes you plan to use a certain setting and it just doesn’t pan out!) Try out different apps too, just to see what you like. I also think it’s a good idea to take extra care with composition when using a phone–cell phone pics can look an awful lot like cell phone pics if you aren’t careful, whereas a lot of the time, I feel like you get an image quality advantage with a proper camera and can maybe think less carefully about composition or excellent lighting, especially if you’ve got specific lenses. (Or maybe I’m totally wrong–that’s just my impression based on seeing how our own photos have evolved vs. “real” photos I’ve seen around!) I will see if he comes up with any other helpful tips and get in touch if it turns out I missed anything! ❤

  5. Your photos turned out wonderfully! I told get that you have to know when to leave the dog at home. It seems like a good idea, but if you’re in a public place having to chase the dog around can get in the way. 😉 Hope you had a happy 30th birthday!! Oh and your new shirt is very lovely too – I love the colour!

    • You are so kind, Heather–thank you very much! Yeah, Mulder staying home was for his safety and our sanity, hehe! I felt so bad, since he loves to “help” and seems to understand when it’s photo time and gets all excited. But we got photos that we were beyond happy with AND were finished in about 30 minutes, so everything worked out. I’m sure once winter hits and it’s snowy/icy outside we’ll be relegated to backyard photos once again, and he’ll be right there! 🙂

  6. Those boots are spectacular!!! I love a good, hefty eye-catching boot like that and am sure that if I wasn’t in vintage garb most of the time, I’d have a collection of such footwear myself (not that one can’t have/wear both of course, I’m not implying that).

    You look great and I just love that you’re pleased with these photos. Isn’t that such a fantastic feeling? Sometimes Tony and I will do a shoot and everything comes up roses for it, then we beam like school kids all day long afterwards. 🙂

    Wishing you an awesome weekend!
    ♥ Jessica

  7. I’m very late in posting here, but these photos are awesome, the colour of the shirt looks amazing in nature and the location is just gorgeous. It’s impressive how great pictures you can take under the correct light, you can see the difference in quality if you compare the outdoors with the one you took indoors. I didn’t think you look 90s at all. The shirt is gorgeous too, colour and construction. I always feel awkward when I pose for the blog photos, I really don’t know what to do with myself, I want to look nice but not very stylised, but then I tend to take silly poses constantly haha!! Great job!

    • You’re very sweet–thank you! I also tend to feel so awkward taking photos, but hopefully the more we do that, the more comfortable I will get! And YES to what you said about not wanting to look too stylized! I want to look like myself, wearing something how I would really wear it, no “America’s Next Top Model” posing (unless I am goofing around!), LOL.

  8. Pingback: 2015 Reflections and 2016 Goals | Life in A "Mads" House

  9. The one I like the best is the one where you are crouching down and looking intently into the camera. And I like the slatey, dark background. I have learned this – if you are wearing light clothes get a darker background and vice versa. I have never bothered with locations as I am trying to get pictures of the clothes rather than my lovely local area. But I salute you for these great ones and trying to make your blog more inviting and appealing. There are some terrible pictures out there.

    • Thank you, Kate! We are very fortunate to have many wonderful parks and woodland areas near us, despite living in a large city–they make for wonderful settings! And I have to admit that a large part of our reasoning for the added photography-centric effort is that my husband really came to love taking photos for me, and we wanted to work together to foster that budding hobby of his. What’s good for the goose, etc., etc.! =)

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