Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Batt Photography: A History of Good and Bad Pictures

We collect thousands of images every day and some of those images stay in our permanent collection: our brains. When we lie awake in bed because we aren't sure if that guy likes us or not, we conjure images of him smiling and being near us.Those in retail understand the power of a product display. For example, there is a display showing us a young 20-something mannequin wearing business separates and standing in a powerful, yet seductive pose. We try on (and buy) those separates and matching accessories because we want to look as good as the mannequin. When we're at home, we try on all of the clothes and accessories and arrange ourselves to look like the image of the mannequin at the store.

But then the internet was invented. And we began posting pictures of ourselves and e-commerce came into existence. Then began the struggle for us to not only learn how the internet and e-commerce works, but we also needed to actually learn how to use our cameras. Those who chose photography as a hobby or career already had a leg up on the rest of us. We knew that family-photo-around-the-dinner-table wasn't going to do our products justice, but we used it anyway. Until about 2006, photos on the internet were so-so. The digital camera explosion didn't come until around then. I remember getting my first digital camera around Christmas 2004..and that's the one I used for taking photos of my products in 2010.

The following post is a tongue-in-cheek mockery of my once 'pretty good' pictures. It's fun looking back at old pictures to see how far you've come. The pressure to keep photos interesting, high quality, and remarkable is ever-present for businesses. And doubly so for the small business (we do everything ourselves and we often don't have the right tools for the job). That said, a halfway decent camera, a lightbox, and some tips about composition and you'll have gorgeous images worthy of being curated in our permanent brain collections.

Originally posted on January 30, 2013:

Alright, let's face it. I'm not a photographer. I'm only as good as my camera, and my first camera was terrible. It was a digital camera which was already 5 years too old when compared to modern models. I built a light box to keep my pictures from sucking a big lemon, but as you can see from the picture below, it sucked a lemon anyway:

Okay, so that's not a picture of a batt. I didn't have a drum carder when I first started, so I didn't sell batts when I first launched. However, the dyed tussah silk lying limp and dull in front of the wine is what I had to photograph with my horrible digital camera. Don't worry, that wine has long been consumed. Waste not for the sake of picture taking. And the glass? A present to my husband for our first year anniversary--while we were still dating. Cute, huh? Clunky looking, but sturdy. I drop everything. And I trail off on tangents...

Pity the tussah. Also, pity the lost potential. I could have done a much better job presenting the materials in my pictures to make them mouth-watering, though a little fuzzy. I mean, I researched the photographs of other fiber artists, but I also had to balance what I wanted with what I was capable of doing. Which wasn't much.

I called out to my facebook friends to see if I could scam a better camera, and luckily, I was offered an excellent camera for sale instead. I bought a Canon Rebel for an embarrassingly cheap price (thank you amazon.com for your low-ball pricing schemes!), and thus began my entire photograph revamp. And only 2 months after I initially launched. I had just taken all of my pictures, and here I was doing it all over again. But, the results were much better:

Oh yes, I was an instant pro. My old digital camera had its battery compartment emptied and sealed in its eternal tomb after I had this photo session. What stunning photos I could take now! I was zooming in like crazy to get ultra detailed shots of the individual fibers. I was essentially taking glamour shots of my products, and they certainly played up the star role.

Even my yarn got to take center stage. Now I could be like everyone else I had admired up to this point. However, I still had one problem. Though I could take accurate and clear pictures, I still was unable to capture that Je ne sais quois. Did I get the French right? It's been a while. Here are some more attempts I made to photograph batts:

I went back and looked at what others were doing more recently with their batt photos. I realized that photography for batts had reached a new level of sophistication. And that also meant rolling up the batts in a different way. So, I headed back to the table with batt in hand and snapped some shots from a new perspective:

Ooo, nicely done! What gorgeous colors and textures, and even the rolling of the batt impacts the ultimate outcome of the picture too. I have triumphed--for now. My goals for the near future are to begin taking pictures of the batts in new ways and be a trendsetter rather than a season-late trend follower.

I'm trying to focus on one feature of the batt, as in this example where I zoom in on the pulled sari silk which is off-center. I like how the rest fizzles into a clump of sparkly orange without concrete definition.

Or in this example where the folds are stacked on top of one another.

Or this one which is essentially a tube a fiber and only a small section in the middle of the fiber is in sharp focus. Whenever I sell the fiber, I'll surely post "normal" pictures, but for that eye-catching, wheel-whetting impact, I think I may be on to something. Time shall see.

Update: January 21, 2013

I wanted to show you another idea I had for taking pictures of multiple batts. I sometimes make limited edition batts where there are between 2 and 4 in a collection, but they aren't repeatable. I think it really points out how consistent I am when I make batts! :)