Thursday, November 18, 2010

How-To: Basic Outfit Snap in Five Steps

Photography has the capacity to provide images of man and his environment that are both works of art and moments in history.
- Cornell Capa

The idea behind an outfit snap is to create a visual record. Some wear lolita on a daily basis and use outfit snaps to record their evolution in the style. Some lolitas only dress up for special events, and use their outfit snap to remember the day, even if other photos weren't taken. Yet other lolitas use it as a way to show off their newest purchases. The idea behind an outfit snap is to show the overall look of your coordinate, as well as the details that make it unique.

It really is a very simple, straight-forward type of photography.

Something I've noticed, however, is that many lolitas' photos are out of focus, blurry all over, or have messy floors behind them. So how can you take a clear outfit shots? By paying attention to the details!

I'm going to show you in just five simple steps!

Step One: Make sure that the area where you're taking a photo is tidy and well-lit.
You don't need a large area, or even a whole room. A corner of your bedroom, or even a hallway are appropriate so long as you can stand upright. You want a clean space with a background that won't distract from your outfit (and believe me, there's nothing worse than seeing someone's dirty laundry strewn about in a photo where they're trying to look polished and put-together).

There were a lot going on in this room removed.
If there are still distracting items around after you've cleaned up, you can always crop the photo (when taking the shot, or in editing) to remove them. Either way, you don't need a blank wall behind you, or even an empty room. Just make sure that things are clean and organized.

A bit of clutter can be charming, but people looking at your photos shouldn't want to send you on any of the Clean House or Hoarders TV shows. Having interesting photos on the wall behind you is fine, just make sure that whatever is behind you is not the focus of the shots. That's where you should be.

For lighting, you don't really need anything fancy. Open the windows, turn on the light, get a lamp if you feel a need to. You should avoid using a direct flash if at all possible, as it will wash out your outfit, cast harsh shadows on your face, occasionally cause red eye, and just generally make for a very unflattering photo.

One way to get more light into the area without harsh shadows is to bounce a goose neck or directional lamp off of a wall that is to the side of where you will be standing. This works best with light-colored walls, and can also works with a sheet hung up to the side. Or, if you have the equipment at your disposal, you can use reflectors or professional lighting stands. Alternatively, you can use a car's windshield cover. Many of these are reflective, and work almost as well as a the photographer's equivalent.

The other thing to avoid is awkward lighting: lights from straight above your head and back-lighting via windows or lamps will often cause strange nimbus effects and cast harsh shadows.

Set your white balance, color mode and ISO as necessary.
Step Two: Make sure that your camera is set and ready to go.
While a fancy camera isn't required to take good photos, having something a bit more powerful than a phone camera is definitely a good idea. Many brands of camera sell inexpensive alternatives to high-end DSLRs, so there's very likely a camera that will fit your budget. That said, make sure that your camera's battery is charged and that your settings are straight.

One way to avoid having to do extensive editing later is to change the white balance and color mode settings on your camera. Every camera is a bit different, but you can find out how to do this by reading your camera's user manual. Make sure to choose the proper white balance (incandescent for overhead lights, daylight for strong sun, et cetera) and find the color mode you like best. I tend to use "vivid" or "auto" color mode, but some cameras have special settings that are preset for portraits.

To avoid having to use flash, you can also increase your ISO. The ISO determines how sensitive to light your camera will be. The higher the number, the more sensitive it will be. Beware, however! The higher the ISO, the more grain will appear on your images.

Experiment to see which you like the best!

Step Three: Find someone to take the photograph for you.
It's best to avoid mirror shots because they tend to get dirty, spotty and dusty over time; we may not see these things when we're facing the glass, but they tend to show up very clearly in photographs. If you are unable to find another means of taking the photo than by mirror, be sure to wipe down the glass first, and avoid using flash!

Finding someone to take the photo for you is ideal. That "someone" can anyone (or anything!). A parent, sibling, roommate or significant other can all help, but don't underestimate the utility of a table or bookshelf, either.

So long as your assistant has steady hands (or a flat, even surface to balance the camera), the photos will work out nicely. If you're in low light situations, I recommend the use of a table or shelf over a human being. A person trembles very slightly as they breathe. Holding your breath can help reduce camera shakes, but if an exposure is too long, the result will be a blurry photo.

You can also use a tripod. Just like you can find inexpensive cameras, many camera supply stores sell miniature tripods (sometimes referred to as "desk" tripods) specifically for small digital cameras. You can also find them from online retailers, such as Amazon.com (see: DMKFoto Mini Tripod).

I actually personally recommend the Gorillapod. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, but their best feature is the flexibility of their legs. You can mount the camera on a pole, railing or even a doorknob with this nifty little gadget.

Step Four: Make sure that you are ready to be photographed.
This step is the probably the most important to the whole process! This is where you look yourself over to see that the details are all in place. Double check to make sure that your hair is tidy, your make-up isn't smudged, and that your hem is straight and your petticoat isn't showing.

Choose a few poses that show off your outfit at different angles and flatter your figure, and smile!

Step Five: Take the shot!
If someone else is photographing for you, have them take several photos one right after the other before you look at them. If you're not satisfied, you can always ask them to take more. That's the beautiful thing about digital cameras: so long as you want to keep going, you can. Delete the ones you don't like, save the ones you do. Remember, you can post more than one, but you should generally pick your best shot!

Experiment with the height of the camera in relation to your face. The ideal for most people is to have the camera a couple of inches above their line of vision, but this varies from one person to the next in accordance to face shape. To avoid red-eye if a flash is used, keep your eyes a few inches above the lens and away from the flash. If no flash is used, focus your gaze just barely above the top of the lens. Do not move your head, only your eyes. This is especially true if the camera is below the tip of your nose; do look down with your head, this will create a double chin even on the thinnest of people.

Here, you can see the corset, jacket and JSK are all different pieces.
You can also see my rings and other jewelry more clearly.

It can also be nice to photograph details of your outfit, especially if you're wearing a high-contrast outfit, or a mostly-black outfit on a light background (as shown). Details such as particular accessories or your make-up are definitely a good idea, but try to avoid the myspace angles and keep the photos clear and undistorted!

Also remember that since you outfit is the emphasis, vertically oriented photos in which you are standing up generally work best. It's okay you want to get a little more creative though! Having cute touches that show off your personality are always a good idea.


After you've decided which photos to keep, all that's left is to load them onto your computer, and do whatever digital editing you so desire.

For further inspiration, I definitely suggest checking out other lolitas' moments in time by browsing the Daily Lolita community on LiveJournal.

12 comments:

Cherrypop

wow this is so helpful . although i have a expensive camera it always comes out wrong like not get my whole outfit or the lighting being bad ..i will follow your advice thanks alot btw ur coord is so beautiful

focusing the lens

Thanks very much! I'm glad that you found the tips useful, and I hope that this helps you get nice, clear photos in the future! :)

Ramiel

First off I'd like to say this coord is beautiful, and you look amazing in it. You're gorgeous! Also, this is a great tutorial~ I don't wear lolita myself, but this is very useful for cosplayers too! I'm going to be using a lot of this advice~

By the way, I've really enjoyed your blog! I'm going to follow you :)

focusing the lens

Thanks, I'm glad you found it useful, and I'm happy to hear that you're enjoying the blog. I'll be sure to keep the posts coming! :D

Chokelate

This is actually very helpful! Did you post this on EGL already?

focusing the lens

Thank you! I'm glad it's helpful. :)

I wrote a batch of similar posts for the Daily Frill once upon a time, but since the site died, it was never published.

Carousellian

This is SUPER useful because I am absolutely balls at taking pictures.

focusing the lens

hahahaha XD

Thank you! I hope that you're able to put the advice to use, then!

Sparklewolfie

Very useful information! Thanks for sharing :) I have noticed the camera angle problem in my own photos. I tend to look a lot wider in the face in my photos because they are all taken from around waist level :( Haven't got any higher flat surface to put the camera on, though!

focusing the lens

Thanks, and you're welcome!

That's part of why I suggested the gorillapods. Those things can cling to just about anything you can wrap their legs around. It's pretty impressive! They're also pretty inexpensive, so that's a plus.

Miss Lumpy

This is all great advice! I think learning your camera settings is the most important thing you can do as a new photographer. That Gorillapod is pretty awesome, too!

focusing the lens

Glad you think so! :)

I definitely agree. It's something I didn't figure out for a long time when I first started using digital cameras. When I realized that I could modify those settings, it was like lightning bolt to the head!

The Gorillapod is a really neat gadget. I only have a small one for pocket digital cameras, but it can cling to just about everything. Trees, sideview mirrors on cars, stair railings and even doorknobs. It's incredibly useful and crunches down into a portable little ball.

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