Designer Academy

Published on February 24th, 2017 | by Merion


Pattern Photography by Kate Atherley

Kate’s column this month is all about pattern photography – and why boring is better!

Knitted socks

The best pattern photographs are the fairly boring ones. If you’re a skilled photographer, it’s easy to become distracted with the full image: the background, the lighting, the model, the mood. And if you’re a newer photographer – or someone like me, who would characterise herself as “clumsy with a camera” – you’re probably so focused on getting the whole garment into the frame that you forget about the other stuff.

There are two objectives in pattern photography: show the project in a manner that makes it look attractive and enticing, and clearly communicate the details of the project. The photos are a sales tool, and a support tool.

Being Worn

Now, if it’s a garment (or, heck, a tea-cozy) that is supposed to be worn by someone (or something, like a teapot), then the garment needs to be shown on that person/thing.  (And it should go without saying that it should be shown worn the way the garment will be worn: a fashion magazine pose of a man’s cardigan worn by a woman with a big belt will drive sales of the pattern for women, but not for men.)

In a clothes shop, if the sweater is just lying flat on a table you can try it to see how it looks: you can’t do that with a knitting pattern. How do I know how long it is, without seeing it on? And a dress-maker’s dummy doesn’t really help much, either. If it doesn’t have arms, how do I know how the sleeves will fit?

The model’s pose needs to be neutral: the model should be standing straight, with arms relaxed at the side, or, in time-honoured tradition, one hand perhaps resting lightly on the hip. If the sleeves are rolled or pushed up – or the arms up in the air, or draped artfully around another model, or what-have-you – there’s no way to know how long they are. If the model is sitting, the hem details are obscured and the body length is unclear.  A classic problem with a modelled garment photo is long hair covering up neckline or collar details. Make sure the hair is out of the way!

Kate by Sarah Hatton

Kate by Sarah Hatton

As discussed in my previous column you can add a lot value if you make a note about how the garment is being worn, too – with how much ease. If you’re telling me what size the model is wearing, you need to also tell me what size the model is: ease is an easier way of communicating that.

Show All Sides

If it’s a garment, think about how you would look at it if you were trying it on in a shop. You want to see the back and the front. You need to see the lower edges, the sleeve cuffs, the neckline. Even if it the back of your garment is entirely plain, your prospective knitter needs to see that to make an informed decision about the project.

I once started a lovely cabled cardigan project, only to discover partway through the cables were only on the front and the back was entirely plain. The pattern hadn’t shown me the back, and I was sorely disappointed.

If it’s a shawl or wrap, you need an image that shows the full size and shape, not just a draped-around-the-shoulders pose. I got a complaint email once because my shawl was asymmetrical and that wasn’t entirely clear in the photo I’d published. This might seem like a minor detail for a scarf, but it certainly isn’t if you’re planning on using that scarf as a decorative wall-hanging.

Sick Bay Shawl by Kate Atherley

Sick Bay Shawl by Kate Atherley

Show The Details

And the photos should clearly show all the interesting and important details: if there’s a hem or special picot edging, show it. Does the sock have an unusual heel or gusset shaping? Show that.

If the detail is too small to show up in the main photographs, include close-ups. It’s precisely these sorts of things that make your project stand out. I recently edited a pattern for a sweater that had lovely lined pockets. The lining was barely visible in the main photos, so the designer included a second, lighthearted image of the lining turned out.

Asking for Flowers by Kate Atherley

Take a close up to show pattern features off! Asking for Flowers by Kate Atherley

The colour of the sample is critically important for pattern photography: darker colours are harder to photograph, and details won’t be visible. I love wearing black and other dark shades, but my design samples are always lighter colours so that the photos are clear.

Prep the Project

It may sound obvious, but take time to make the project look its best before you start. Block it. Steam it so the collar lies flat. Fluff up the pom-poms. Brush the lint and pet hair off it.

Let the Project Shine

The project should be the main element of the photograph. It should be central, and large. I’m sure you found a lovely snowman, but I don’t really want to see it – I want to see the hat being worn by the person standing beside it. Yes, your wallpaper is great, but if there’s more of that than the sweater in the photo, that’s a problem. You want the setting and the props and the model to complement but not distract from the project. A really outrageous and fun manicure may draw more attention than your fingerless mitts.

Hire A Photographer

If you can possibly afford it, hire a photographer. It doesn’t need to be a professional portraitist: you’ll actually do better with another knitter or crafter, as they are likely to be better attuned to the details that need to be shown. If your budget doesn’t permit a cash payment, there may be something else you can arrange as compensation: I’ve worked with a fellow knitter who is willing to barter her work for my technical editing services.

And if you are working with a photographer: be there for the shoot. I was recently delivered some images of one of my cowl designs, taken by the company that would be publishing the pattern, and the cowl was being worn inside out! An entire reshoot was required. If I’d been there, the mistake would have been spotted and corrected in two seconds.

Learn From The Best

If you need inspiration for pattern photography, you’ve got access to the best resource of all, just a click or two away! Browse the pattern library here on the siteto see what works best. Take note of what stands out: which yarn colours, which backgrounds, which types of poses. Browse patterns for similar projects: compare different images of cabled cardigans, for example, to see how they are presented. If there’s a designer whose images you like a lot, examine the photos carefully. There’s lots you can learn this way.

And remember, good pattern photographs are the best sales tool: they’re the first thing a knitter sees when browsing, and they’re the key factor in making a decision about what pattern to buy. Make sure you’re showing off your work to its best advantage!

For more help with taking pictures of your work, hop over and explore Eric’s brilliant photography blog posts part one and two!

About the Author

Merion admits that her stash is wildly out of control, but has many projects in dream-form! She loves knitting, crochet, Shire horses, cake and garden swing-seats.

Last updated: February 21st, 2017.

11 Responses to Pattern Photography by Kate Atherley

  1. Rugsandbeyond says:

    Wow…What a nice photography. Everything is very clear and even a tiny dot is visible perfectly. I am just loving the way you have taken the photographs. Thanks for sharing such photographs.

  2. Trina says:

    Hey! I’m a relatively new knitting blogger, so this post is perfectly timed for me, there’s some excellent suggestions here. I usually get my husband to take photos for me – we had a blast walking around my yard trying to find the best lighting and background for my most recent FO 🙂

  3. Ina Griffin says:

    You are very helpful with these comments! I appreciate the heartache which is saved by having accurate, detailed, and complete information in the photographs. A picture is worth a thousand words. Bravo!!!

  4. Fiona says:

    Your comments are spot on. You mentioned all my gripes about pattern photography! I hope everyone takes your advice 🙂

  5. June Jackson says:

    I need to come back to this again and make a few notes.

    I liked your comment about what colours work. I have dark pink bag I have designed and need to change to another colour for the pattern as I know the photos will not be easy to capture right.

    Off to check the other helpful posts.

  6. GinniB says:

    You’ve covered almost all of my pet peeves about photos with knitting patterns. One I would add is taking into consideration the color selected for the model garment. Very dark colors are very difficult to photograph so the details can be seen unless the lighting is perfect, especially if the published picture is on the small. There are certain lovely magazines that I don’t even look at because the gorgeous pictures are totally useless for anyone actually seeking a new project, and there are books of patterns that do the same.

  7. Rikki Donachie says:

    You need to send this whole article to some of the people on Ravelry. It never ceases to amaze me how bad some of the photos are at actually showing the completed garment and pattern details.

  8. Clare Haynie says:

    Great article, long time coming! I hope all needlework publications (and their photographers) take a serious look at their work and realize just what it is they’re trying to sell and to whom they want to sell it. You have piqued my interest by your sample photos, BUT I would crop the cardigan photo at the door jambs, cut the shawl model off just below the knees (I love that pic), and also offer a complete pic of that variegated lace whateveritis! Socks are my favorite go-to when I’m between projects, and I love the cabled ones you have shown–five dps here I come!

  9. Barb Ratliff says:

    Like your blog, Kate. It’s laid out so nicely and the content and photos are excellent. I’ll be back time and again.

  10. Barb Ratliff says:

    Sorry, Claire. I didn’t give the kudos to the right person. Thanks for a good job here!

  11. Mimi says:

    Thank you for the tips, they will definetely help me

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