Pro photography tips from Jane Looker

We’re very excited to have a guest blog post today from professional photographer Jane Looker. You may know Jane’s photos from her work with Tilly and the Buttons. As part of Snip, Sew, Snap, she kindly gave us some brilliant tips and ideas for upping our photography game.

Light, light, and more light

My number one tip is to find your light. In my opinion, natural light is always nicer than artificial light. If you are taking photos indoors, try to stand as close to the natural light source as possible – ideally in front of a window, with the camera (or phone) facing away from the window. This maximises the amount of light that falls on the subject

Try different angles by the window. It can be really effective to have your subject look out of the window, so you have what is called ‘half-light’ on the face. Angle the camera to the side, adjacent to the window. Also, always turn the lights off! Artificial light creates a yellow hue and shadows where they’re not needed.

For taking photos outdoors, overcast days are easier than sunny days. Bright sunlight can create unflattering shadows. When shooting on an overcast day, try to find where the sun is and assess where the best light is. Take practice shots from different angles. I sometimes spin around the model taking quick snaps to see where the right light is before getting going with the shoot.

This was taken on an overcast day. The light is lovely and even.

Sometimes, however, it’s unavoidable to shoot in the bright sun. If you do have to, angle your face up towards the sun to lessen harsh shadows. Bonus tip – pop on some sunglasses so you don’t squint, and everybody looks good in a pair of shades.

If you want to get a bit more technical, take a reflector with you. They’re lightweight and fold up so they’re quite easy to carry. You can prop it on the floor, balance it against something or get someone to hold it. This will balance out shadows and create a more even light. If, however, it’s really too sunny, find a spot of shade. Sometimes it’s just the best option.

Composition is key

One main principle to remember with composition is symmetry. Try to think of the balance of your photo; what’s in shot and where are you standing? You don’t always have to be in the middle of the photo, but there does need to be balance. Make sure you check for clutter and any details that will distract the eye. Lampposts, light switches, exit signs – they can detract from what would otherwise be a fantastic image.

If shooting outfit details, I often do a ¾ photo. If you want to show off a really good collar you made, frame the picture from the chin, down one shoulder and down to just above the waist. Look towards the shoulder so the shot includes a bit of lip and hair to give it some context. This also applies for capturing close ups of cuffs; try holding a bag or putting your hand in your pocket. This tells more of a story than just your hand hanging down by your side.

Location, location, location

Always keep your eyes peeled for good locations. I’m basically on a permanent recce because good spots are everywhere, and it’s really handy to have a few that you know of. Look out for nice coloured walls, a pretty perspective in a park, or street, even sitting on a bench can look great from the right angle.

Strike a pose

It’s a great idea to do a bit of research into poses and recreate ones you like. Unless you’re a model, it can be awkward finding a pose that looks and feels good. Having a Pinterest board, an Instagram album saved, or just screen shots on your phone can provide a bunch of ready-to-go poses for you to emulate.

Try to work out your best angles. When I’m photographing a new client, I often ask them if they have a side they prefer. A few people have one side they feel more comfortable being photographed from.

Pull some cool shapes! You don’t have to take it too seriously; you can be silly and have some fun.

Don’t be afraid to go all-out with a lovely, big, natural smile. Smiling always draws attention and makes you look great.

Bonus tips

If you are taking photo of yourself looking off into the distance, focus on something specific. Rather than just looking blankly into the vast beyond, focussing on a specific point will put a sparkle in your eye.

If you’re struggling to relax having your photo taken, call on nice memories, and anything that makes you laugh.

Try lots of different shots in different places to see what works best. It can sometimes just move the camera a small amount in either direction, and the shot is transformed. This also applies to photographing darker garments when you still want to show off the details; take a lot of photos and experiment in different spots.

Edit your photos, but don’t overdo it! Too much of a filter will make you look like everyone else. Have fun, be yourself and try to enjoy the process. Nobody else can do you better than yourself, so let your character shine through!

You can see more of Jane’s work at her website and on Instagram @janelookerphotography

Photos featured include Rachel Bull of House of Dandelions, Liv Melton,  Zeena Shah, Zoe De Pass of Dress Like A Mum, Sarah Faulds of Wedding A List and Ivy Paulo of Alice Made This.

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