So you’ve spent untold hours crocheting away on a project, and now you’ve reached that glorious moment: Finished! You glow with the satisfaction of having made something with your own two hands, a bit of string and a hook. The final step is to immortalize it by taking a picture of it. But uh oh — the picture looks awful and nothing like your beautiful crocheted piece. I can’t tell you how many of these kinds of duds I’ve taken. To save you from making the same mistakes I’ve made, I’d like to share my Crochet Photography Experience: The Good, The Bad, and the Positively Heinous.
Let’s start with what actually makes a good picture of a Finished Object (FO). Our example is a blue triangular shawl I made that I call Shawlzilla, after spending an entire summer masochistically plying a tiny hook to create a shawl the size of a large family room area rug, all the while sweating and swooning through triple-digit heat waves with a 16-pound mountain of wool on my lap. The picture turned out rather well, however. Notice how the shawl is spread out to show the entire piece, with the lace pattern revealed through a nicely lit, complimentary background. It was taken at dusk, dreamily overlooking a lake, the wings of the shawl looking just poised for flight over the placid blue water. Quite magical and all that.
So you can see that even an amateur like me with a cheap camera can get a good picture. All I had to do was drive approximately 546 miles across three Western states to find a scenic lake, dragging a friend along with me under the subterfuge of, “Hey, lets take a drive to somewhere pretty!” while secretly toting my shawl and camera in my backpack and keeping a watchful eye out for a good photo opportunity. I never knew we’d end up being robbed of all our money, driving and sleeping cramped in a miniscule car with no food or water for several days and nights before discovering Just The Right Scene with Just The Right Light. Scene and Light found, it was then simply a matter of taking approximately 6,500 pictures to get Just The Right Shot. All told, the camera exploded and died in a puff of black smoke, and I lost my best friend who, just as the camera exploded, fired at me with a pistol (luckily missing me due to extreme fatigue and delirium), then sped away in the car never to be heard from again. I got home three weeks later after taking the wrong bus several times over, causing the loss of my job. But hey, I got a great picture, and you can too! Just follow these three simple steps:
1. Carefully Consider Your Background
Just to show you that Shawlzilla wasn’t a one-time stroke of luck, I also got some nice pictures of a shawl of my own design, the Jane Austen. I chose a charming hydrangea bush in bloom for a background. I tell you I get more comments on those hydrangeas. “What beautiful flowers!” people are constantly saying. Clearly, background matters. So let’s move on to the types of backgrounds to avoid.
One popular way of photographing hand-crocheted items is to take advantage of good outdoor lighting and spread them out over the grass. This is fine as long as it is in fact grass. I recently saw a photo of an exquisite, delicately worked white lace shawl laid out over what may once have been grass but was currently deep, dark, shiny mud. I gasped, “Nooooooo!!! You worked so hard on that, dont you know it should be handled with gloves only, preserved in tetrahydromethanopterin, framed behind museum glass and kept in a safe deposit box, never ever to be taken out?”
This is probably a good time to mention that crocheted projects should never be touched, and certainly never worn. Complaints about yarn pilling, stretching or wearing out would be nonexistent if people just remembered that crocheted pieces are works of art and, like a luxury yarn stash, simply exist to be stared at from a distance with admiration. That is why we take pictures of them.
2. Photo Arrangement and Composition
I saw an unforgettable photo once, of an ethereal dark lace shawl actually floating in the evening sky, the bluish light tracing out the intricate lace pattern, like a fleeting glimpse of some rare ephemera. When I wrote to the photographer to inquire, she told me she had tossed the shawl in the air at least a hundred times, each time snapping a picture as fast as she could just to get that one incredible photo. She was unable to move her arm for seven weeks.
I strongly recommend against shawl tossing. This amazing picture inspired thousands to try the new sport for themselves, and unrestrained shawl tossing epidemics broke out worldwide. Traffic accidents were rampant, as drivers would suddenly be distracted by a colorful, perhaps beaded object shooting high up in the sky from someone’s backyard. Many shawls were carried off by birds and used for nesting material. Silks and baby alpaca were particularly in that year with birds. Power outages occurred everywhere, and to this day on any given street, you can still occasionally spot the ghostly skeletal remains of a fried shawl dangling from power lines.
Another photographic practice I strongly recommend against is standing for untold hours next to a tree or bush, endlessly arranging a scarf or shawl by pinning it to the branches. Always there is the unfailing breeze that was never there for you during the summers most putrid heat waves, but is here now, playfully jiggling the branches, leaves or scarf, separately or all together, creating a blur here, a blur there, until eventually a sudden gust blows the infernal thing completely off the tree, requiring you to bend over, pick it up, climb the ladder and re-hang it all over again. When you’ve finally managed to recapture the perfect lighting, angle and photo composition, you wait for 45 minutes for that possible nanosecond that the breeze just might stop, here comes the gust again and round and round we go. It is maddening beyond belief and has in fact been formally recognized as one of the leading causes of psychotic breakdowns among crocheters. So honestly, just don’t.
3. Dealing with the Modeling Issue
Its always preferable to see a crocheted article on a real person. I know, I know, I despise modeling my own wearables, having long ago reached the point of utter weariness of seeing myself in every single project I’ve ever made. Oh look, there’s me again in my 26th shawl! And surprise, whose head is that again, underneath yet another hat? I admit, the temptation is strong to just prop the thing on a fence railing and be done with it.
WOW! Just look at those hydrangeas, aren’t they gorgeous? You say there’s a shawl in there?
While pictures of aliens on alien planets with alien junk in the background might be interesting, they typically don’t display your FO to best advantage.
Never take a picture below your subject with the camera pointed upward. You will distort and magnify your model’s, um, bottom parts. Plus she will kill you.
Dappled light is dangerous. Notice the sunlight shooting through the dapples focusing a great beaming spotlight where no one wants it
If you want to crop your head out of the picture, just make sure you actually remember to crop it, or you’ll be frozen in a permanent sneeze.
“Who put this hideous black fluffy thing on me?! I wanted a sundress! Die humans die!!”
I have no idea who this person is. You too can trick strangers into modeling your projects.
If you’re hesitant to put your face on the Internet, you can always go headless as I’ve often done, by cropping the picture. Or wear the classic brown paper bag affair, very old-school but still quite effective today.
Don’t have anyone available to take your picture? If you are like me and have no friends or family currently speaking to you, you are not alone and there is a solution. Ever since I lost all my friends by roping them into too many tedious, mind-numbing photo sessions, I now stalk people on the street for potential models. All thats required is a little ingenuity, a simple disguise, and the ability to lie through your teeth without flinching.
I typically dress in all black with dark glasses, mess up my hair, place a cigarette stub in the corner of my mouth, and present myself as a famous fashion photographer. The more deranged I look, the more believable it is. As I hand them a fake business card and some crocheted clothes to put on, I jump up and down and tell them they look just the part for the next New Face in Fashion, the next Supermodel of the Year! Then they always smile and wink and smirk and slink in front of the camera. Well, almost always. Sometimes they call the police. That’s not so bad, though, because some jails let you crochet in there.
There is one deadly serious reason to take pictures using real people only. An all-too-common practice is taking pictures of FOs displayed on doll’s heads and dress forms. Let me inform you that all the doll’s heads and dress forms are uniting one by one in a plot that has been brewing for quite some time now. Every time a doll’s head unites with a dress form, a new soldier joins the great army of rebels who’ve been training maniacally for the Mannequin Revolt. Forget the zombie apocalypse. The mannequins are indestructible, they’re barbarous, and they’re really, really angry.
Unbeknownst to us, they have been extremely busy hatching their devastating plot, all while we sleep. They’re fed up with having to hold perfectly still while being treated as mere paltry hangers for hideous garments, never being allowed to so much as blink, let alone have any say in the yarn choice, garment style, size or colors they are forced to wear.
I mean it people, the Mannequin Revolt is about to explode, and we should be terrified. Your little doll’s head or dress form may look perfectly placid and innocent; but make no mistake, they are all, every one of them, seething with rage and thirsting for the blood of revolution. Oh yes, and they are coming first for their slave owners. So if you are currently harboring any of them ”right there in your own home” grab the objects most important to you in two minutes, light at least eight industrial sized dynamite charges in the center of the house, and get the hell out NOW, while you still can. If you don’t, and you and everyone you care about are massacred, don’t say I didnt warn you.
Wendy Lewis is an award winning writer currently based in the Seattle area. She taught herself to crochet and has recently begun designing, merging her background as an artist with her all-consuming passion for crochet. She especially loves finding the humor in everyday life.