Test Photo Tips

One of the most important parts of testing, and one of the most overlooked, is at the very end when testers get to showcase their creations.  Test photos are different than the photos we take of our littles to capture life memories.  In test photos, the focus isn’t so much your child, or you, as it is the clothes on the model.  For this post, we’ll look at Jen’s latest two patterns: JenLee’s Fairy Tale Dress and Jade’s Crop Top.

For these photo shoots, I literally took over 300 photos and ended up with about 70 that I was willing to submit as final photos.  I use the rule that I’ll probably use between 20 and 25 percent of the photos that I take.  I’ve learned that, for me, it helps to get my kids out in a different environment than they are used to so that their focus is on the new stuff and not on the camera in their faces as they try to play and “act natural”.  Often, I have to bribe them or compromise on something.  (I’m not proud, bribery is perfectly acceptable for good photos!)  This time, my daughter insisted on her leopard print bracelet.  It was going to be on her person or there were no photos happening.  I gave her that because she was trooping it out with me doing all sorts of weird poses and such.  Small win for her, huge win for me.  My son, however, hates to pose so I usually promise him Braum’s ice cream afterward.  N always comes on his photo shoots because she gets ice cream just for being with us.  :)!  I will also sometimes give him something to do or to play with so that his attention is focused elsewhere.

Every designer is different on what they want to see.  I’ve been through a few tests with Jen, and she’s pretty open to letting us do wild and crazy things with the pattern…as long as there are no major mods to the fundamental design and construction of the item.  I’m prone to overembellishing, and so far, I’ve not been told that it’s too much.  Be creative with your outfits, and be creative with your photo shoots.  When it comes to photos, she wants to see clear, concise photos of the front, sides, and back of the outfit.  This is most important for gauging fit and overall design so she can see where changes might be needed for the final draft of the pattern and pieces.  I usually knock those out first, and they are my “boring” pictures as my daughter puts it.  I have her stand in front of me, and I will get down to her level and take the photos straight on.  No fancy angles, no artistic poses.

Then, I let my kiddos do whatever they want and have some fun.  They’re both so used to having to take test photos that I hate making them do specific poses.  I still focus on the clothing item when I do these photos, but I try to catch them doing what they want so the photos are natural.  I also spend a lot of time kneeling, squatting, sitting…whatever it takes to get photos of the outfit at my child’s level.  This gives a better overall image of what the item looks like on them, and it showcases the outfit as they are playing.

For me, the best type of weather to do photos is the overcast, calm, windless day.  I usually shoot for earlier in the morning or in the evening about an hour before dusk.  That doesn’t always work out because, well, life happens, and some days I have to take what I can get.  However, I do try for that magic hour right before sunset.  I also try to do photos in locations where trees, bushes, shrubs, etc. aren’t going to cast funky shadows because I can’t edit out funky shadows the way I can a random thread or a stray leaf or whatever.

For the background, I try to choose something that goes with the theme of my outfit, and I make sure to cut out the clutter so the eye isn’t drawn to the background.  If I happen to catch something I don’t like in the photo, I use a photo editing program to crop those out later.  Leigh and I use Lightroom, and Jenn uses Photoshop.  I’ve also used online photo editing software when I can’t get to my personal laptop.  One of my starting points is BeFunky.  It has quite a few editing features for a free program.  This isn’t the only one out there, so I suggest that you search around and find something that works for you.

Let’s take a look at a few of my photos from the last couple of rounds and walk through why I didn’t use them in my final photos:


In this first photo, the focus is off making it blurry, and you can’t really see anything on the dress.  With everything crumpled around my daughter, you can’t see the length of the dress, the features of the bodice, or anything significant to show you what this outfit actually is.  And what exactly are those wires that are sticking out around her dress?!?


While the focus here is definitely on the outfit, the disarray of the skirt doesn’t flatter at all.  It looks like a mass of tangled tulle, and it doesn’t appeal to me as something I want on my daughter.  Presentation is definitely critical for test photos (sometimes I run through 3 or 4 presses to get creases and wrinkles to a minimum…for this one, I steamed the skirt several times to get some kinks out of it).


Really cute picture of my loves, but you can’t see the dress at all.  Every detail is covered by my son’s hands and legs while my daughter holds him up.


I was trying to capture the lights as the sun was going down, and I missed the light.  This turned out blurry, and I forgot the tripod so there was just too much movement for me to capture a good picture of the dress.  I did catch the lights, but it wasn’t the effect I was going for…I also took these photos out front, and Naomi just wasn’t feeling the photos since we were “just standing in the street” (She’s spoiled…)


My daughter climbed up on a bench in this picture and from this vantage point, you don’t see that this is a crop top at all.  You can’t really get a good gauge for how far the back drops down either.  Great pic of my girl, but doesn’t show much about the pattern’s details.


That’s a really neat train.  However, the dress gets lost in this photo, and you don’t really see much detail at all about anything that she’s wearing (there’s the leopard bracelet I told you about).


Here, I see a lot of tulle, and that’s about it.  I don’t get any sense of why this dress is so epic.


Aside from being blurry, this one has some mulch bags and the remnants of my failed gardening endeavor poking out to the right of the photo.  I COULD try to edit that out and crop it tight, but there will be a point where the editing will be noticeable in the photo, and I don’t want that to happen if these are going to be the promo pics.

Just remember, your photos are what’s going to sell this pattern to other sewists.  You want your photos to scream, “You Need This Pattern!”  You want to showcase the item as well as you can so that when I’m scrolling through the very large volume of patterns that seem to release each week, you photo makes someone stop and say, “This!”

Hope this helped out some to give you an idea of what I do/look for when taking photos!  Again, be creative, have fun with it, but remember, your pictures are what will sell this to everyone else!  If you love it, show others why they should love it, too!!

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