The Art of Artful Draping - Lace Projects Photography

Swallowtail Shawl, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

I do not consider myself a photographer. I don't have any flashy, fancy DSLR but rather just a simple handheld point-and-shoot 6 megapixel digital camera that is going in to its fourth year of service.

Ever since I have started knitting and documenting my projects with photos that I then use in my blogs, people have been commenting about my projects and how beautiful they are photographed. I'm absolutely flattered. But if you were to ask me how I do it, I would just shrug and say that I don't know, or that just try this out and try that out and something nice will come out of it. Honestly, I don't really know what I do.

Another compliment about my photography coupled with another recent comment about my photography style ("experimental" - something I have never thought about, but I reckon that it is pretty true to the point) have sparked up something in my mind and make me think about how I actually take photos, which in turns led me to write this entry.

So, I will try to explain the process that goes on in my head when I consider about "the photoshoot" and hopefully, this will eventually help and inspire other knitters out there for their photography. Please, bare in mind that I'm writing this according to my style of photography. It's not a law to take photos in the way that I do. Just consider this entry a mere guideline to how to make your lace project photography looks a bit more interesting. ;-)

Mystic Waters Shawl, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

First, you could all ask yourself about the main thing about lace projects: What is the main feature of lace knitting?

The holes!

In her book, "Knitting for Dummies" (I have the first edition...and it was my very first knitting book), Pam Allen aptly titled her chapter about knitting lace with the phrase: "Let the Sun Shine In", which can not be any truer for lace knitting.

So we know that the holes are a prominent feature in lace knitting. What does it do to the photography then?

More often than not, the complete picture that the lace project will throw out is made up of the play between the holes made by the yarn overs and the lines of the increases and decreases made. All of these will be surrounded by some kind of a more solid knitted part to complete the picture and to emphasise the "picture" made out of the YOs. This is then crucial to the photography. Like Pam said: "Let the sun shine in"! Let the holes be holes and let them work for you!

Take the Mystic Waters shawl in the picture above for example. Even though there are so many YOs that make up the different motifs in the picture, you can still pick out each individual motif from the photo without having to squint.

By setting off the knitted piece from the wall and letting the light shines through it, you are making the YOs along with their borders visible to the photo and in return, making the motif clear. The bonus here is the clear shadow cast on to the wall behind the knitted piece, which created a silhouette that also shows the motifs in their plainness.

Mystic Light Shawl, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

What to do when you have that one gorgeous skein of yarn with such a variegated colourway that you know would be too busy in a lace shawl and that the colour would easily obscure the lace pattern altogether?

Well, if you love it enough, you'll just knit it anyway. ;-) But it won't be an easy task showing off that lace pattern when you try to take photo of the finished object.

Mystic Light Shawl, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

Pam Allen to the rescue again: "Let the sun shine in"!

Literally this time, from the back.

Sure, when you wear the shawl, the lace pattern will be obscured by the busy colourway, but at the least you had made a fabulous photo of it showing off the lace pattern perfectly.

So, I would dare say that the most important thing with photographing your lace project is to let the light and the airiness of the lace work for you.

Icarus Shawl, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

Letting the lace pattern shows up in the photo becomes even more of an important issue when you consider about taking the photo of the project as a whole. In this case, the YOs that make up the pattern need to show, otherwise the photography wouldn't show the project well.

By this time you should also have noticed the trick I use to let the lace airiness show itself: My projects are hung freely most of the time and I also spread out the project over a span.

By hanging the project on something and having space between the hanging project and the background itself, you're letting the airiness of the open lace work be able to show itself; to let the lace motif lift off from the background and show the three-dimensionality of it. Spreading out the project or in this case, letting the wingspan of the shawl stretch out to its full potential will help open up the lace work and thus emphasise the motif.

Le Flambé du Pacifique, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

Occasionally, you might not have the chance to let your project hang freely to show the open work with space in the background. In this case, you can go for a close-up shot and instead, show the details of the lace. This trick is also good when the lace could be obscured by the busy colourway of the yarn you have chosen to work with.

Hemlock Ring Blanket, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

Photographing a lace work laying absolutely flat against a surface usually works fine when the lace motif is not mainly made out of the holes, but rather the lace motif is just complementary to the negative space of the knitted fabric that makes up the piece itself.

As you can see in the Hemlock Ring Blanket in the above photo: The star motif in the very middle as well as the surrounding feather and fan motif are made up of both lace work and negative space of knitted fabric. They're both in balance without one overpowering another. The lace motifs here are much more complementary to the knitted fabric and vice versa and thus the knitted piece can be shown laying flat on the ground.

Lómelindë (Gail), originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

Another very important thing that I consciously consider while taking a photo is the angle I take the photo. I said "consciously" because usually I don't really think about how I take the photo. However, angle is something that will add interests to your photo.

Most photography lesson 101 will tell you right away not to place the object of the photo smack right in the middle of everything, which is very true. However, there are ways to compensate this, and one method is the angle of photography. If you must place the object right in the middle of the photo, then at least don't take the photo using the full on, frontal, everything aligned into a grid method. Try going in from a slight angle from the side; kneel down and take the photo from an ant's view; stretch up and take a photo from the bird eye's view; tilt the camera at a slight diagonal angle, etc. All of these little techniques will help add some interests into your photo.

I have already mentioned about spreading out the lace object and letting the lace motifs lift off from the background. However, taking the photo of the Gail shawl above as an example, the shawl wasn't spread out, but rather hangs from another object. This style doesn't really show that much of an open lace work, however the ripples produced by the drapes adds movement to the otherwise static photo.

Eärë (Seascape), originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

The setting or backdrop of where you decide to do a photoshoot is also crucial to how everything will turn out in the end. Sure, if you have a nice setting in your house, it would also work great. However, in my small one room apartment, there isn't many choices of settings I could do with a good photoshoot, this is the main reason why I tend to go outside to take the photos.

There are always public places around where you live that will offer a nice backdrop for a photoshoot. Just keep your eyes open the next time you take a walk around your neighbourhood for a nice looking place for a photoshoot.

A couple of things that you could take in consideration about choosing a setting for the photoshoot are the following:

- Themed according to the project that you have knitted (like the Seascape above, taken at a lake);
- Complementary colours in the background to go with the colour of your knitted project (like the Swallowtail Shawl in the very first picture);
- Contrasting colours in the background to isolate and emphasise the knitted piece itself (most of the project photos I take are done with contrasting backdrop).

Most of the time, I do the photoshoot without the help of a person. However, if you have someone to help you with the photoshoot, take all the advices I have given above into consideration (not right in the middle, let the light shines through, angles, etc.), they can all be applied to a photoshoot with or without a stand-in model.

Travelling Roses Lace Scarf, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

Without help of a model, you can find a spot and drape your object to your heart's desire.

One further factor that can help with your photography is the hardware itself. Apart from the setting and your project, your camera can play a vital role. Get to know your camera, be it just a simple point-and-shoot or a complicated DSLR. Get to know the different light setting and other options on your camera. They can really help you get the best out of the photo.

A simple photo-processing programme can help correct, or even rescue some photos. I always check my photos through the programme and correct the exposure, hightlight and darken some areas, as well as correct the colours as need be. Sometimes you might not even have to do any touch-ups at all to a photo. ;-)

Ishbel-Jezebel, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

Lastly though, sometimes things just wouldn't work out no matter what you do. Like you can see in this last photo, the colourway was too busy to show off the lace motif, the light wasn't ideal for a photoshoot (direct sunlight on an object for the photoshoot can sometimes be a blessing and a curse at the same time), etc. etc.

In a moment like this, the only thing you can do is to take loads of photos and hope that some of them will turn out good. I tend to take multiples of the same shot anyway and then sort them out afterward and pick out the ones that I like best.

Well, that is all I could think of about now. Go try it out on your own and just judge by feeling at what looks aesthetically pleasing to you. Usually, that photo would turn out best. ;-)

I hope that this entry can help give you some new ideas and inspiration to your photography!

Have a great week, everyone!

Current Mood: Good


Darrel's picture

As a very big fan of your photography, I think it's twenty kinds of wonderful that you posted such a thoughtful, detailed article about how you approach it. As always, you're amazing!

Elemmaciltur's picture

Thank you!!!

YugiDean's picture

I would point out that although you don't consider yourself a photographer, the very fact that you approach your photography the way you do and that you produce such strikingly beautiful pictures so readily indicates that you ARE a photographer. A natural one at that. I've known people like this (my dad and my partner come to mind). Other people (like my best friend) couldn't snap a great photo without hours of preparation and 100 other sub-par photos. I'm somewhere in the middle, I think. Not great, but not bad.

In any case, I love your posts because of the work you produce (which is also strikingly beautiful), but also because of the photography. They're not just pictures that show off your works of art; they're works of art in and of themselves.

"Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread." --Richard Wright

Elemmaciltur's picture

Awwww...thank you very much. That is very flattering to me. :-D

Crafty Andy's picture

Visit Crafty Andy's Blog
Thank YOu so much for the great article. I enjoyed and got plenty of ideas.

Elemmaciltur's picture

You're welcome! Looking forward to see your photos in the future then. ;-)

Aaronknits's picture

You don't need top of the line equipment when you have such an eye for composition. That was a brilliant post!!! I'll certainly be using some of your tips and tricks with the next piece I have to take pictures of. Hopefully with success.

Elemmaciltur's picture

Exactly! I'll be keeping an eye out for your photos. ;-)

TomH's picture

Great article. Thanks.

Elemmaciltur's picture

You're welcome! And thank YOU for the compliment!

MMario's picture

he makes it look so d*mn easy!

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation