Photography for Knitters

I started knitting before I started really getting in to photography. I bought my first digital camera specifically to take pictures of my knitting, and shortly thereafter I started up this blog. In the years since I first started snapping pics, I’ve learned a couple of tricks that I thought I’d share. Hopefully, other knitters who want to take pictures of their work will find this useful and maybe contribute some of their own techniques in the comments.

Although my primary camera now is a digital SLR, this article is going to be focused on techniques that apply to point-and-shoot cameras. Why? Because SLRs are very expensive, and most people running across this article will already have spent all their money on yarn and notions. Point-and-shoot cameras are much more common and often under-appreciated.

So, to use a readily-accessible example, I bought a Samsung S630 from a local camera store. It’s a 6 megapixel point-and-shoot that retails for about $99.

I’m not going to talk about post-processing using software like Photoshop here. The goal is to get a pretty, usable picture straight out of the camera.

First, a little bit of theory. There are three main things you need for a decent picture: focus, exposure, and color. Once you’ve got these down you can start getting fancy (or simple) with things like composition, but if you don’t have them down, the picture’s probably going to suck.

Focus

This is the easiest and most important one to get down. If your picture has too little light or if the color is off, you can fix that with software. If it’s out of focus, you’re screwed.
Luckily, this is the simplest issue to deal with. Point-and-shoot digital cameras are by design autofocus (AF) only. By default, your camera should sharply focus on whatever is in the middle of the field of view. The S630 can be set up through the menus to use two AF modes – single and multi. With single, the camera tries to focus on what ever is in the middle; with multi, it will use five areas arranged in a plus sign and automatically choose one. When a subject is in focus, a green square appears around it. If the camera can’t lock the focus, the square turns red.

Make sure your camera has a focus lock before taking your picture. That’s pretty much all you need to worry about with regard to focus.

Exposure

Exposure is how much light gets in through your lens. Your camera probably has a built-in flash that will compensate for low-light situations, but flash photos of knitted goods often look washed out, especially if there’s a lot of texture in the knitting.
To get exposure right, you want to have a decent amount of natural light and turn off the flash on your camera. A tripod is very handy here, expecially when combined with your camera’s timer. If you use the two together, then you can get a photo using natural light with no chance of hand shake interfering with the sharpness of the picture.

Color (White Balance)

Cameras don’t see like we do. They don’t have the built-in ability to make colors always look correct. If your picture comes out looking too blue or too red, it means that your white balance wasn’t properly calibrated when you took the shot. Like exposure, you can often fix this after the fact using Photoshop, but it’s less time-consuming (and cheaper) if you get the white balance right the first time. Your camera will have settings for dealing with sunlight, florescent light, and incandescent light. If none of these work quite right, you can put your camera into Manual mode and take a white balance control shot. Get a white object like a sheet of paper and use it to set your white balance. Check your camera’s manual for specifics on how to accomplish this.

Please send feedback or questions to uzziel+photography@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!