If I’m going to do an SOS series on photography, it’s hard not to talk about the behind-the-scenes gear. We can try to have more fun in the right lighting when we take our blog photos, but we have to take them with something. The camera gear you use is a matter of both budget and preference. I can’t tell you what you should use, only what I choose to use and why.
First off, to take photos you have to have a camera, and the range out there is huge. Thankfully, prices are coming down, and it seems like pretty nice cameras are being integrated into cell phones and other small portable devices these days, so it’s fairly easy to get your hands on something that will work.
I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which is a fairly pricey full-frame DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. Canon now makes a Mark III version, so my camera is already “old”, despite not having lost too much of its price tag.
Why did I choose this camera? First, it’s a Canon. I don’t really have any brand loyalty or preferences, but back in high school when I was really into photography, I was given a Canon Rebel SLR and a couple of lenses. I still have those lenses, and they work perfectly with this camera. Also, my dad gave me a bunch of his old Nikon lenses (the real deal from back before there was auto-focus!), and I can also use them on this camera thanks to this little Nikon-to-Canon adaptor. So, in my case this particular camera came with a bunch of lenses!
Second, it’s full frame. All my photography books are still packed away so I can’t quote specifics, but my take on what full-frame means is that the digital sensor inside the camera takes full advantage of the lens, and, honestly, the lens is what it’s all about. I’ve heard that a 50 mm lens comes closest to capturing a scene exactly as our eyes see it. Any lens with a lower value (such as a 35 mm lens) will zoom out from the scene (which is why they’re often used in landscape photography), and any lens with a higher value (such as a 100 mm lens) will zoom in on the scene (which is why they’re often used for close up, macro photography). A 50 mm lens is a 50 mm lens on a full-frame camera. If a camera is not full frame, then its smaller sensor means a 50 mm lens is effectively a 75 mm lens or so. It’s zoomed in a bit on the scene since the smaller sensor can’t quite capture everything that the lens sees. Not really a big deal, but it was something that pushed us into the higher price range. My husband and I enjoy taking pictures of everything, not just blog things, so we figured having a nice camera would be useful to both of us. We actually bought our camera before I started a sewing blog! We’d just gotten married and knew a trip to the Alps was in our future, and we wanted to be able to take those seriously wide-angle zoomed-out landscape photos that are only really possible with a full-frame camera.
If my husband and I weren’t into taking fancy photos, then I don’t think we could have justified getting the full-frame camera. There are lots of crop-frame cameras out there with much, much, much lower price tags that work just as well. Especially with the right lenses!
Speaking of lenses, my three indispensable add-ons to the camera are a 50 mm f/1.8 lens, a tripod, and a remote (the latter is capturing baby girl’s attention in the above photo). My husband and I debated about whether the fancier 50 mm f/1.4 lens was worth it, but we figured the number of times we’d take advantage of the greater aperture range was pretty small compared to the price jump. Basically, the lower the f number, the wider the aperture – the iris of the lens – can open. So, an f/1.4 lens can open really wide since it can go all the way down to 1.4, while an f/1.8 lens can only go down to 1.8. That said, 1.8 is still a really wide open aperture! And, in turn, the wider the aperture, the more light a lens can let in. If you’re taking photos in really, really low light, then an f/1.4 lens is fantastic.
Also, specifically for bloggy blog photos, the wider the aperture, the smaller the focal depth, meaning the fuzzier everything except exactly what you’re focusing on will be. Taking photos at a lower f number will make you really pop from your background in your blog photos since you’ll be sharply in focus but the background will be blurry and out of focus. But, you can go too far. There have been times when my garment was in focus but my face was out of focus because the focal depth was too small to capture both. I once asked a professional model photographer what his favorite f setting was, and he said that if he had to set his camera at a fixed aperture, he’d use f/2.8. Now, I don’t know for certain whether all photographers think that, but I do know that I can easily reach f/2.8 with my cheaper lens! The f/1.8 lens is pretty much all plastic though, and we’ve already had to replace it once in our four years of owning the camera. But, two of those lenses are still half the price of one of the f/1.4 lenses!
If you already have a crop-frame camera and you want to invest in a fancy lens, you might consider thinking about a 35 mm lens with a low f. The crop frame turns the 35 mm lens into what is essentially a 50 mm lens. Actually, I just looked at the price for the Canon 35 mm f/2 lens, and I might reconsider my advice and actually suggest still sticking with the (albeit plastic) 50 mm f/1.8 instead!
As for the remote, I can’t imagine taking blog photos by myself without it. But, I’ve never had to try anything else since I bought the remote early on, mostly because I wanted to make sure there were photos of my husband and me together when we were on vacation. The remote has a permanent home in a tiny little case on my camera strap, so it’s always there when we need it. Mine cost around $20, but there are now knock offs out there for under $10! If you don’t have a Canon, there still might be a remote out there that will work for your camera. There are also apps that turn your smart phone into a camera remote! Crazy, right?!
What would I have chosen if none of those things were considerations? Honestly, probably a Sony NEX-6, which is essentially a point-and-shoot camera with fancy lenses. My brother has the older NEX-5, and it takes great photos without the heft, massive size, or complexity of a DSLR. The NEX-6 won’t break your budget quite as much, coming in at a mere $500, and you can get a remote for it as well! The downside is that you still have to buy another lens if you want 50 mm f/1.8 capabilities.
Okay, so that is well more than my two cents! I’m curious what you use and how well you think it works for you.
Yesterday my most recent MSN make went live on their site. This month some of us are posting both home dec and garment projects. The home dec projects are a fun way to welcome and announce the opening of the new home dec space in Mood’s NYC store. I’d reserved the date back when I thought I’d have my home dec project done by now, but would you believe my fabric hasn’t even arrived yet? (I need to call about that…) So, instead you get the top I finished earlier this month. It was meant to be paired with a pencil skirt and a cardigan, but since neither of those have seen the sewing machine yet (though they have seen the shears!), this top will have to stand alone.
It’s been a summer of silk crepe for me. First there were last month’s Polly tops, and now there’s this loose, fun wrap top made from Mood Fabrics’ pinstriped silk crepe de chine. The pinstripe in this particular fabric reminded me of something you might see on a man’s shirt, but the softness of the silk felt very feminine. And, while I could easily imagine it as a Grainline Archer, a pattern I’ve previously made and wear all of the time, I wanted to play up the softness of this fabric a bit more, so instead I chose the loose wrap Dotty Blouse from Style Arc.
The pattern features a wrap front created from folding the front piece back on itself. A silk crepe de chine is a perfect fabric for this type of top since it’s the same on both the front and the back. The neckline is meant to be tacked where the right side and the left side cross, providing a bit of modesty, but I’ve left it open for now and am instead wearing it with a nursing tank.
The pattern calls for sleeves, but at the encouragement of my husband, I decided to go sleeveless for this version. It has been a warm August after all! I used my favorite sleeveless blouse, the Sewaholic Pendrell, to help me figure out how to cut the armhole. In case you’re curious, I had to remove about an inch at the top of the shoulder, add a quarter of an inch at the bottom of the armhole, and blend everything in between. I ended up binding the armhole with self-bias binding for a nice, clean finish.
The pattern also features a longer back with a rounded hem, and together with the shorter, blousier front, the effect is reminiscent of the trendy I-can’t-be-bothered-to-fully-tuck-my-shirt-in look. I quite like it!
As an aside – while silk crepe de chine is lovely to sew, and even more lovely to wear, one question I have is how to keep the wrinkles out of it?! After an hour in the car and on the ferry to get to Bainbridge Island for a weekend with friends, and I might as well have pulled this top out of the hamper instead of off the ironing board! Is that just the way of it with this fabric? Any tips or tricks for keeping your silk crepe de chine looking its best throughout the day would be greatly appreciated!
I used a matching ivory silk crepe de chine (left over from previous Mood projects, but similar to this one) for the inside yoke to limit distracting lines showing through the semi-sheer fabric. I also used a bit of bias binding around the back neckline, just as I did with the armholes, to neaten the seam.
The neckline facing didn’t get the same treatment since it was just an extension of the front piece. The facing isn’t supposed to be stitched down, but I misread a diagram in the instructions and stitched it down fairly early in the sewing process. Since I was worried the holes left from the needle would show if I ripped out the stitches, I just left it as is. It meant the wrap didn’t have the lovely neckline drape that the pattern intended (see Thewallinna’s version made out of a gorgeous red Mood silk crepe de chine). Instead, the front piece wanted to flop open when sewn into the side seam as directed. So, I unstitched the bottom portion of the lovingly sewn French side seam and tried pinning a bit of this and a bit of that until I got a look close to what was originally intended.
I ended up with a front wrap piece that met the side seam right at the bottom, not a few inches up the side as directed.
To make the front wrap meet the side seam right at the hem, I had to fold up and hand sew the front piece with a bit of extra wrapped around the back. The insides are no longer as pretty as they were when there was only an unadulterated French seam, but it’s worth it for a nicely wrapped front neckline.
I also decided to hem the back of the blouse using more of the self-bias binding. I just couldn’t get the curve the way I wanted using either my machine or my hand to roll the hem. The bias binding worked perfectly!
I’m pretty excited to have yet another fun summer top to ride out the remainder of summer. That said, I think I only have one or two more summer garments left in me this year. I’m getting excited for fall!
How about you? Are you still stitching for summer (or winter, as the case may be!), or are garments geared for the next season already starting to fill your sewing queue?
This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.
Don’t tell me I’m the only one – you finish making a garment from a favorite fabric with a scrap left over that’s too big to get rid of but too small to really do anything with. What do you do? I typically fold it up and stick it back into my stash, hoping for the day when the stars align and I find the perfect reason to use said favorite fabric.
This blue Irish linen from Fine Fabrics (one of my very favorite places to shop online because everything there is so well curated) is one of those pieces for me. I used it to make a dress for my mom, and after everything was said and done, I was left with maybe a squidge over a quarter of a yard of full width fabric and then a couple of long cross grain pieces from between where the dress front and back panels were cut out.
You can tell from the lovely linen wrinkles just how long it’s been waiting for that perfect pattern.
But, I think I’ve found it!
When I was flipping through the most recent book I was sent to review from Laurence King Publishing, Casual Sweet Clothes, I stopped short at pattern J, the tiered pencil skirt. I really liked how the addition of the tiers added a lot of visual interest to the always classic pencil skirt. I’ve been digging pencil skirts lately (there’s one currently cut out on my sewing table!), and I immediately added this skirt to my ever-growing sewing queue. A quick glance at the pattern pieces told me that I could use this blue linen as long as I cut the top of the skirt from the small full width portion of the fabric and the tiers from the long skinny cross-grain pieces, and then find some similar fabric to use for the under layer. The hunt for that fabric is now on!
As for the rest of the book, I was pleasantly surprised.
Look! Darts! Two-piece sleeves! Side panels! All in one garment!
While there are plenty of the trendy boxy garments you expect from these types of books (see the cover above), there’s a lot more, which means there’s likely something for everyone here. I can’t always say that with these books. And, since the entire book costs about the same as an indie pattern, if there are at least two garments out of the 26 in the book that will tempt you, then it’s a bargain.
Here is some official eye candy to tempt away!
I keep seeing these tiered tanks on sewing blogs, but I wasn’t sure they were a real thing until this past weekend when I was hanging out with friends on Bainbridge Island and one of them was wearing a tiered ready-to-wear tank. I’m still not sure I’m convinced, but I am always the last to jump on trends.
But, tiered skirts? I’m all over it! I’m so excited to use every last inch of that amazing linen!
Curious about the book? Want your very own copy? You can pre-order a copy here before its release date of August 26th, or you can take your chances in the giveaway going on over at Ginger Makes. Always a fan of the giveaways, right?! Let’s get our tier on together!
What a lovely weekend we had here in Seattle! The sun was out, and I had the pleasure of hosting all of these lovely ladies in my house. I can tell you for a fact that our orbicularis oculi were getting a workout!
I mean, look at those gorgeous smiles!
Since many of them don’t have blogs, introductions are due. Let’s start with the back row. From left to right we have…
- Susan, who donated most of the fabric for the swap!
- Melissa, who only recently started sewing!
- gMarie of gMarie Sews, who I found awhile back thanks to Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, and we all know she has great taste in sewing blogs!
- Maris of Sew Maris, who needs no introduction – that woman is all over the internet these days!
- Missy of Missy’s Craft Journal, who I met last summer at a fitting meet up and seems to already know so many Seattle seamstresses thanks to her school days!
- Micki of Urban Recyclist, who stopped by earlier this summer to give me a pattern for a baby sling – so awesome!
- Jennifer of My Sewing Suite, who I met last year at the first fitting meet up and who essentially lives on top of Nancy’s, a popular sewing store in Seattle!
- Helena of Gray All Day, who I met at the Sew Expo and who recently announced her first pattern – go Seattle indies!
In the front, again from left to right, we have…
- Claire, who missed last year’s fitting meet ups because I misjudged what it meant to be “on call”, but thankfully we met a year later!
- Suzanne, who’s been sewing forever and recently got a new machine!
- Baby girl and me, of course!
- Erin of Seamstress Erin, who is just days away from getting married and going on a crazy honeymoon adventure!
It was fun seeing clothes I know from people’s blogs in real life. gMarie was wearing her recently finished Colette Moneta. Well, I guess at one time it may have started as a Moneta, but gMarie definitely made it her own, and the colors were just perfect on her. Erin was wearing her baseball dress, which just may be the perfect American summer dress. Helena was wearing her gorgeous v-neck button up with lace yoke, which is just as beautiful as you might imagine in person.
Everyone else seemed to be wearing something handmade as well. Missy hadn’t blogged it yet since she’d only finished it the day before, but she had on a lovely butterfly dress. Melissa had on a Renfrew that I would have sworn was a fancy ready-to-wear tee. Claire was wearing a Sencha that she made in a class at Made Sewing Studio in Greenwood, a neighborhood near me in Seattle.
I’m wearing my BurdaStyle twist maxi dress. I do love that pattern, which served me well during my pregnancy. Since it’s not technically a maternity pattern, I’ve been pulling it out this summer as well. It works pretty well for nursing, unlike my shingle dress, which is actually what I first put on to wear at this event.
I didn’t do much to host other than open up my door and have some snacks set out on the dining room table. Next time I think I’ll try to have name tags and a better way to exchange emails, and I might even think about how to have a more structured show-and-tell. But, to be honest, I quite enjoyed how everything felt fluid and natural and how everyone just chatted the afternoon away.
My poor husband was nearly invisible the few minutes he popped down into the party. Baby girl is the only one who seems to aware he’s snapping photos. She does love her daddy! Claire, Melissa, Erin, and I are too caught up in conversation!
The past few weeks baby girl has been showing her first signs of “stranger danger”. It started right after she figured out she had toes. Maybe she had to finish connecting all of the neurons down to her toes before she started making new connections in her frontal lobe?! Here she is with Claire and Susan putting a bit of a pouty face on since neither of her parents are holding her. If only she knew how excited everyone was to see her!
Micki, Helena, and Missy talking over snacks and drinks.
Helena, Jennifer, and Maris laughing around the dining table. You can see the old kitchen door taped off in the back!
Ladies, it was lovely to meet those of you I hadn’t met before and see the rest of you for a second (or third!) time. Let’s make this happen more often! I tried to mention these a few times during the event, but ideas others have thrown out for future events include…
- Thursday morning sewing meet ups with Denise of The Stitcherie
- MOHAI’s “Fashionable Seattleites and the Water” boat tour on August 23rd
- District Fabric‘s one-year anniversary sale on September 6th
Thanks again for a lovely Saturday!
I’ve been meaning to host a little sewing gathering in my house ever since I moved in this past May. Not that we have a kitchen yet since we tore out the last-remodeled-in-the-1930s-with-only-one-outlet-and-no-space-for-a-refrigerator kitchen before we moved in and have only now finalized the plans for updating the space. But, why should little details like that stop me from enjoying the wonderful sewing community around me?!
Anyway, since I’ve been dragging my feet on organizing something all summer, I’ve finally decided to use Erin of Seamstress Erin as my excuse. We met back when I lived in the Bay Area, and now she’s moved up to Seattle. I’d love to introduce her to other local sewing enthusiasts, so hopefully a few of you are free this coming Saturday afternoon from 2 to 5 pm-ish. This Saturday is also MPB day, so it’s only fitting to spread the sewing celebration from NYC all the way across the country to sunny Seattle.
I’ll even have a few sewing-related goodies to give away. See those fabrics above? They were donated by Susan, a local seamstress extraordinaire, and will be here for the taking. If you have something to share, bring it as well: a fantastic sewing story, a recent finished project, a favorite must-have notion to show off, a muslin that needs fitting, some unwanted stash to swap, or just yourself!
If you’re interested, send me an email!
Last night I was reading a few pages in the baby book What’s Going on in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. I started it ages ago, but these days I only seem to be able to read about three pages a day! The few pages in question were about “social smiling”.
Did you know that true smiling isn’t voluntary? I didn’t!
According to the author, Lise Eliot, while you can consciously command the muscles of your mouth to smile, true smiles “involve a specific muscle that surrounds the eye, the orbicularis oculi, and movement of this muscle is entirely involuntary.” Therefore, to truly smile you need to engage your limbic system, which essentially means you need to be amused!
I guess Tyra Banks was right when she said to smile with your eyes – smize! I got to thinking about it, and I realized that some of my favorite blog photos were taken when I was having fun with my husband or laughing at myself while I was throwing silly poses in front of the tripod.
Maybe I’m flexing my orbicularis oculi here?!
I definitely am here!
So, the take home is that you can either practice “smizing” to get those perfect blog photos or just make sure to have a bit of fun when you’re in front of the camera.
And, to me, having a bit of fun is inherently more … fun, right? The more you know!
Anyway, I couldn’t help but share. Also, I think I’m going to try to bring back the Science of Sewing series for at least this month and throw out a tiny little photography tip each week. Hopefully I can think of enough tips!
What do you think? Do you smile with your orbicularis oculi?