Posted By: Liz
Sunday, January 28, 2007 [ 1:01 pm ]
I am by no means a photography expert. I like to dabble, but I’ve only ever taken one photography class in college, and these days, the only things I really take photos of are snapshots of social events for memory’s sake and, of course, my knitting. My photos are by no means spectacular. But I do have a few tricks up my sleeve for making them look better after I’ve taken them. So, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and give a little Photoshop tutorial in addition to sharing my most recent pictures of the Modern Moonlight sock I finished last night.
Step 1: Taking Your Photo
To really make your knitted item pop out, you want to photograph it on a white or very light-colored background. My desk just happens to be white, so it’s perfect. If you don’t have a white desk or other large, flat white surface, you can easily obtain one at your friendly local hardware store (e.g. Lowe’s or Home Depot). Just look for a large piece of white particle board, such as a piece of shelving (that way you don’t even have to have them cut it for you). This 10″ x 36″ shelf from Lowe’s is only $5.97 and would be sufficiently large for most small projects – skeins of yarn, socks, etc. If you want to photograph something larger like a shawl or a sweater, you might get a larger board.
Lay your item out flat on the board and shine a light source directly above it. This minimizes shadows and ensures that you won’t need to use the flash (because let’s face it – the flash is evil – it washes out your colors and gives an ugly glare 9 times out of 10). I use a fairly high-powered halogen desk lamp. Then angle your camera so you’re looking down directly over the item and take the picture.
Step 2: Open Your Photo
Once you’ve taken your picture and transferred it to your computer, open it up in Photoshop.
Step 3: Cropping & Resizing the Image
Depending on how close you were to the item and how much you zoomed in, you may need to crop the image, either a bit or a lot. My image, for example, needs a bit taken off the top and the sides. To crop the image, select the crop tool ( ) and outline the area of the picture you want to include. When you’re done, either hit Enter or click the checkmark that appears up below the menu bar to finalize the step.
My default setting on the camera is a resolution of 180 dpi and a size of 2048 x 1536. This is okay for printing purposes, but not so great for displaying on a website, so the next thing you’re going to want to do is to resize your image. In the menu bar, go to Image –> Image Size. I usually set my photos to a resolution of 72 pixels / inch (what most computer monitors are set to) and a width of 500 pixels. (If it wasn’t already, you may want to up your viewing size of the image to 100% now that you’ve resized it – you can do this in the Navigator window found by going to Window –> Navigator.)
Step 4: Making the Image Look Professional
So now my photo is a decent size for displaying on the web, but it still doesn’t look very good. My “white” background is kind of muddy and brownish, and my colors are a bit muted. So we want to play with the levels a bit. Go to Image –> Adjustments –> Levels. That will bring up a box with a graph of your light-dark values of the image and three little arrows below that. I usually drag the left arrow (the dark one) to the right just a tad, the right arrow (the white one) to the left a bit more, and then I move the center arrow (the gray one) to the left towards the dark end just a bit. How much you adjust these values will depend a great deal on the image you photographed and how much light you had available when you took the picture. Keep in mind that if you lighten a very dark image, it will look grainy, so try to take pictures with an adequate amount of light (i.e. not at night unless you have a fabulous light source). Don’t worry too much about the background – we’ll take care of that in the next step. For now, just tweak the settings so that item itself looks good.
So now the item itself looks good, but that background is still pretty ugly. The easiest way to fix this is to select the Dodge tool in your toolbar ( ). The settings for this will appear below the menu bar after you’ve selected the tool. You want the Range set to “Highlights” and the Exposure set to probably somewhere between 25-40%. Make sure your brush is set to either a normal or a fuzzy circle, and up the size til it’s somewhere around 100 px (or smaller or larger, depending on your photo size and how much white space you’re actually going to have to create – you just want it to be large enough that this task isn’t tedious). Then just start brushing away at all your white space. Because it’s set to only brighten up the highlights, it likely won’t even affect your item at all, so it’s okay if you graze the edges of the item. If your item is particularly light or brightly colored, you may want to reduce your Exposure setting and try to avoid brushing over the item, taking care to just brush up against its edge. Your goal here is to remove all the color from the background so that it’s completely white.
Step 5: Saving Your Image
Now your photo is ready to be saved. Since this is going up online, you don’t want the image file to be huge – otherwise it’s a burden to your viewers when they have to download it. Photoshop has this nifty tool called “Save for Web.” Go to File –> Save for Web, and in the window it brings up, make sure that you select the tab up at the top that says “2-Up” – this will allow you to view the original image in the left-hand screen and what the saved image will look like in the right-hand screen. I generally save knitting pictures as JPEG files at a Quality of 60. You can play around with the quality settings if you like – the status bar at the bottom of the right-hand screen will tell you how large the file size will be and how long it’ll take to download when saved at the current quality. Once you’ve found the perfect setting – a reasonable file size without distorting the photograph too much – click “Save” and save the file wherever you like. Keep in mind that when naming the file, you shouldn’t have any spaces or fancy characters (only letters, numbers, dashes, and underscores) for files that are going to be put online.
And voila: you have a pretty picture of your knitted item!