A topic that sometimes comes up on blogs, in magazines, and on podcasts is knitting and crochet photography. There are opinions about how we should photograph our needlework. Here’s a list of some of those that I hear the most frequently:
“You worked hard on your project! Show it off the best way possible!”
“Take pictures of your projects with lots of natural light available.”
“Use a real camera, for God’s sake! Smartphone cameras won’t give you the quality photograph you need.”
“Take a photography class. X person offers an online class at Y web site for $Z.”
“I’m a photographer. You can hire me to take the pics of your projects!”
Social media and digital photography certainly have changed the way knitters and crocheters share their craftiness with each other. Not only can they take a picture of something. They can share the picture with the world as a testament to their hard work, skillfulness, and love for their favorite craft. Of course, sharing pictures with the world invites people to comment on them, criticize them, and fuss over them. I suppose it’s reasonable to assume that, if you worked hard on something, why not make every effort possible to take a really good picture of it? Natural light is indeed a must. It allows for color accuracy and keeps a photo from looking dull or overexposed. Digital cameras sometimes take better pictures than smartphones, although now I think there are plenty of smartphone cameras that are good enough. I think it’s sort of smarmy to advertise your own or someone else’s “knitting photography class” or photography services by criticizing — albeit in a general way — knitters and crocheters who take “bad photos” of their work. I certainly understand that people have to get the word out about things so that there are paying customers for them, but I’d prefer a more direct marketing approach, leaving out the “so many people take bad pictures of their crafting” part. That’s the difference between smarmy and reasonable advertising. Smarm really puts me off. So: no, nope nope nope nope I’m not going to take a class on knitting and crochet photography. If I feel like it, some day maybe I’ll just take a real photography class.
This blog certainly has some seriously bad pictures, especially from two years ago when I started writing about knitting and crochet. Some of the bad pictures were taken with a decent digital camera. Others were done with an iPhone and some others were probably made with an iPad camera. I think I’ve got better at photographing my knitting, but sometimes the conditions under which I’ve taken photos have not cooperated with me. I can definitely say that I’m not an expert photographer but I’ve learned a lot. Basically, I’ve learned this: A) If the sun is shining and you have about an hour to find a nice spot outside to take pictures of your handiwork, you can take a visually appealing photo with accurate colors on maybe the sixth snapshot. B) If it’s winter, it’s cloudy and gray and you take the photo outside it’ll be… meh. C) If you try to photograph something indoors your results will vary from truly gloomy to “oh well, at least it’s a pic.” D) You cannot recover the time you spend on photographing your work. D is key for me.
Having looked at photos of other peoples’ knitting on the Internet, I can definitely say that “bad” photography does not bother me at all and I’ve never felt inspired to criticize or chastise anyone’s photos. This is different for me from, say, a pattern or a book of patterns. Something that’s been published or shows a person how to make a craft item really truly needs to have a professional-looking photo with it. Even better, it could have more than one photo. This is because the viewers need to see what it should look like, how it fits, how the colors go together, etc. Amateur photography isn’t serving the same purpose. Certainly, other crafters could want the amateur photos to serve their needs. In other words, the viewer could want to gain visual knowledge about a particular item if a different yarn or color way is used. Is this the photographer’s intent, though? I do not think that in all cases a knitter or crocheter who snaps a picture of a project is thinking about being illustrative or helpful to other crafters who might be seeking images of finished objects following a particular pattern. I suspect that a lot of people are just using their photo to say “hey! look what I made! This is why I love this pattern! Woot! I’m done!”
I really wish people would get on the middle ground about the photography topic. Of course, people want to sell their courses on “How to take good pictures of your knitting” so I suppose those people won’t give up because they want to make some money with this concept. But really, if you’re not entering your picture in a knitting or crochet contest or publishing a pattern there is no need to get all worked up about our amateur photos. That’s why they’re amateur. They’re not supposed to be perfect. I certainly don’t mean that we shouldn’t try to get a good photo. I really think we all need to at least make some sort of effort to take good photos of our crafting. I just believe that sometimes it’s not possible because of time, the weather, and a million other factors beyond our control. A slightly “off” photo is probably more interesting than none at all, right?
I’m curious to know what others’ thoughts on the subject are.