Photography Tips & Tricks for Sewing and Testing

Honestly, there have probably only been two or three photo shoots that have gone as I had envisioned, hoped, or planned.  I've certainly learned a lot and still have lots of room to learn and improve, but I don't let it take the fun and enjoyment out of sewing anymore.  I used to.

The #honestcraftroomies scope hop on Periscope last night addressed photography tips and tricks for sewing and quilting, which we had planned several weeks in advance.  During the scope hop, each scope-er covered topics ranging from lighting, background, equipment, what and how to photograph, to why to photography even if you don't have a blog and aren't a professional.  For my part, I discussed what to photograph when testing a pattern for a designer, and also what to photograph when sharing a garment or handbag (or other project) to help others understand what features a pattern has. You can watch the replay of my broadcast below, and I've gone in to more detail in this post.  You can also always find links and details from my Periscope broadcasts by visiting the Periscope tab at the top of my site.  Also, I included links at the end of the post to watch the broadcast replays for the others in the scope hop - they really shared a lot of valuable tips and examples!

(It also happens that Art Gallery Fabrics recently shared a post with tips for presenting your handmade products on Instagram with excellent suggestions for great photography, and Pattern Revolution just started a series on photography tips for testers. It must be time for everyone in the online sewing world to talk photography!)

Take Comfort and Have Joy in your Craft!
(even if you aren't an amazing photographer)

  • You do not have to be an awesome photographer to enjoy sharing your craft with others.  For more of my thoughts on this topic, see my post "For the Love Of Sewing: Lessons learned ater one year of serious sewing."
  • You do not need to live in the Pacific Northwest (but hurray if you do!), near a sunny sandy beach, or have a beautiful mountain or desert background - or have a lot of expensive equipment to take nice photos.
  • You can learn to take better photos, just like you have learned new sewing skills (and you can keep sharing even while you learn and practice).
  • Embrace your skill set and celebrate others'.  Do not get discouraged because you don't photograph your projects as well as {fill in the blank}.  Don't let photography (or another area you think you are lacking) rob you of the joy of creating.  Recognize and enjoy what you are good at, and if you want, work to improve the areas that aren't your strength.  But don't think that you have to be the best at it all in order to have something to offer.

Photography Tips and Tricks for Testing

Remember: testing is the time you are helping the designer put out the best pattern possible.  Address challenges or problems now, not later.  If your goal is to impress the designer, don't test - just sew an already published pattern and show them what you made.  Testing is about examining a pattern.  (And on a side note, if a designer is just looking for amazing, highly-styled, professional-looking photos and isn't responding to feedback, that is sample sewing or free photography, not testing.)

Things to Photograph for the pattern itself:
  • did it print and assemble correctly?
  • are there any typos or missing information on pattern pieces?
  • do pattern pieces line up correctly?
Things to Photography on the finished item:
  • always provide photos showing the front and back from a straight-on view

    areas to photograph and send to designer if there are any questions or fit issues:
  • overall length and width
  • armscye - too high or low?
  • sleeve length - too long or short?
  • neck opening - is it too wide or narrow or high or low?
  • waistline or waistband (fit) - is it high or low or wide or tight?
  • zipper, placket, or other closures - are they adequate, properly inserted, the right size, etc?
  • did you have any construction problems?

Photography Tips and Tricks for Sharing

Remember: don't just take a stunning picture.  Provide detail views that will be helpful to others who might be considering the pattern, or that might grab the attention of someone.  When I am considering buying a pattern, I often google the pattern name and "inside" or a feature I am wondering about.  I always take time to comment and thank any bloggers who have posted about the pattern and provide photos that show me what I am wondering about.

Use your photos on social media or your blog to show:
  • Did you learn a new technique?
  • Is there a feature you really liked?
  • Was something new to you?
  • Facings - does the pattern have them - where?
  • Lining - partial or full?
  • Closure method/s
  • Waistband - how is it finished?
  • Seams - how are they finished?
  • What does the inside look like?
  • Is a unique construction method used?
  • Pockets?  What kind?  How many?
  • Showcase a fabric (matching stripe or plaids, placement, etc.)
  • How does the lining sit (especially for handbags)?
  • Provide perspective - How big is it compared to an adult (or the intended user/wearer)? How long is the strap or other feature?  How much fits inside?  

Examples and Explanations

Although not exhaustive or amazing!  You will notice that none of these are stylized photographs.  My goal with each photo was to point out a feature of the pattern, or a way I sewed it.  I then include the close image with other full images of the garment or item when (or if) I blog about the pattern.

Showing the size of the Ethel Tote from Swoon Patterns (see my blog post)

Showing the inside of the Verona Dress from Jennuine Design. (see my blog post)  This shows seam finishing, the inside, and mentions the unique bodice construction technique that provides such a clean finish.

This photos shows construction detail on the Moto Jacket pattern from Jennuine Design - showcasing the zipper, welt pocket, fabrics, and topstitching. (see my blog post)

Here I am highlighting the fabric use and placement (placement of navy heart on yoke and use of the border print fabric for skirts), as well as the pleating and piping details of the pattern.

In this photo collage, I am showing an overall view, an inside view, and highlighting the use of a metallic zipper on the back of the Jenna Tote from SOTAK Handmade. (I have several posts about this pattern)

And one more -

Showing a stitching and construction detail of the men's (and older boy's) Rebel Raglan soon-to-be-released from Wardrobe By Me.

I hope my video and this post provide some helpful thoughts and examples of ways to photograph your sewing projects.  I do hope you will use the links below to watch the replays of the others in the Periscope hop for further ideas and suggestions!

Lorinda at Laurel, Poppy and Pine
Kitty at Night Quilter
Linette at LaQuinta Quilts
Daisy at Ants to Sugar
Sarah at Sarah Goer Quilts


  1. I swear this is exactly what I needed to read right now! I have such a hard time with photography and figuring out which steps I should take a picture of that my brain practically has a meltdown every time I pick up the camera. That one sucky skill of mine nearly made me give up on blogging, testing, reviewing and everything else related. Mind if I share it on my blog?

  2. Hi Marsha - I would be thrilled if you wanted to share this on your blog, and I'm so glad to hear that it was a help and encouragement to you. I know that sense of discouragement and I'm glad you've kept with it!

  3. Photography is that elusive thing for me right now. I'm hoping to sign up for a class in May/June locally so I'm so glad everyone's talking about this now! I can take all the help I can get!

  4. "You don't have to live near the mountains or the beach" - I'm always wishing I had those beautiful backgrounds! But it's true - the backyard is good enough for good photos :)


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