Photo: Cessiah Henderson

In this weeks Spindle feature we discover how to use composition and focus to best showcase your millinery. Take notes with our brilliant blogger
 Cessiah Henderson.

Composition put simply is the way you arrange things in your photograph or the position of different elements in the frame. I have found that the most effective photographs of hats are simple ones. You are trying to sell your hat aren’t you? So you’re hat should be the most important part of the photo. If it’s important to you to have your hat with a dress to show how it will look as an outfit that is fine, but I suggest keeping the background simple. If there is too much happening in a photo it will become too complicated for the person viewing it and they’ll forget what it is that they’re looking at. So it’s important to remove distracting or unwanted elements from the frame. Look at what you’re photographing. Then look at what you’re photographing through your camera’s viewfinder. Do you see anything that could be left out?

Here is an example of a good composition (photograph and stunning hat by Kim Wiebenga). The hat is the main focus and the background is simple and there is nothing in it to distract from the hat and the model. That’s not to say that different backdrops are bad! I just find that when looking at photographs of hats, the plainer the background the more chance the hat has to shine. So find a spot where the light is good and the background is simple and get snapping! As with millinery, practice makes perfect with photography. Sometimes I might take 20 photos and only be happy with one of them. That’s the beauty of digital photography! You have the ability to take as many photos as you like and then go through and find the best one. I recommend taking a few photos, viewing them on your computer, seeing what you can do to make the composition better and then going back and photographing again. You will find that with each time you do this your photographs will improve. 

Also, look at other people’s photographs to gain inspiration. When you see a good photograph of a hat really look at it and see what it is that makes it good and use this technique yourself when photographing your hats. But my best advice when it comes to composition is to keep it simple and clean. Ok, now that you have composition worked out we can move on to focus and angles.

Focus is an integral part of photography and especially of photographing hats – you want to showcase your hat and the detail of it. Focus really comes down to your camera. The better the camera, the better its focusing ability. Your camera focuses on different things just as your eyes do. You are looking at your computer/phone screen now and you are focused on that and everything around it is blurry, yes? If you then look up at something else in the room your screen becomes blurry. Your camera works very similarly to your eyes. If you are photographing with a DSLR you will most likely have different lenses for different subject matter.

For example, a 50mm lens focuses on one thing and (depending on your aperture) blurs out the rest. I could go into great detail about focus and depth of field but I said I would keep it simple. Basic compact cameras and phone cameras can often achieve similar results to more expensive cameras if used correctly. So, let’s focus on your hat and your model. Most cameras (including phone cameras) have the ability to focus on something before the shot is taken. On digital cameras this is a matter of finding what you want to focus on and holding the shutter button half way down to focus. If initially it does not focus on what you wanted it to then try again. It’s really a matter of trial and error. Once you are focused, go ahead and push that button all the way down! It’s important to then view your image to make sure your hat is in focus, as well as your model/mannequin (if you want them in focus too).

 You can concentrate attention by focusing the foreground.

If you are struggling to attain focus then you might have to try moving around – this brings us to angles. I find myself in all sorts of positions when taking photos! I often take a step ladder with me on photo-shoots as sometimes I need to get shots from above. I also often end up lying on the ground. It’s amazing how different subject matter can look from different perspectives. Try taking a photo straight on of your hat, then try from above and then from below. See which angle makes your hat stand out the best. Often hats look different from every angle, so sometimes it is important to include multiple photos of your hat from different angles. Again, don’t be afraid to click away and see what looks best – you can always delete later. And that brings us to the final step in next weeks Spindle blog – post-processing.

NEXT: »The Spindle: Photo Post-Processing

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Tags: #phototips, Cessiah Henderson, millinery photography, the spindle

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