Friday, July 9, 2010

Your Amateur Photographer

Whoops! no post yesterday. Frankly, i didn't have anything to say, so i didn't say it. Today i'm back to my regular, blabby self, so here we go. These weeks of blogging have got me thinking about the subjective nature of photography. Basically, while photography is seen as an objective or documentary medium, the photographer is always making choices. Where to place the camera, what time to take the pic, lighter vs. darker exposure, cropping, - then there's all the goodies in photoshop or other photo-editing programs. And i've never seen an exhibit, real or online, where a photographer shows every photo they took. You select the ones which further your intended effect. Vogue will choose different photos to publish as opposed to the ones National Enquirer would select of the same celeb on the same day. As members of a media-savvy culture, we all 'know' this, but making those choices myself every day has made me much more conscious of the choices behind what i see out there on TV, in magazines and on the web.

These two photos point up some of the issues. The basic purpose of an outfit diary is to show how particular clothes and accessories look on a person's body. But vanity comes into it, and the difference between how things look in real life vs. how the camera sees them. A slight change of angle in a pose can add 5-10 pounds, making a big difference in how the outfit looks. Some bloggers take on the task of creating a magazine editorial feel, shooting in dramatic settings at exotic angles, using props and photographic effects to create an artistic mood. It's all about choices, your own desires and what you see as the purpose of your blog.

I want to document my outfits to become more organized and creative with my wardrobe. The camera doesn't love me*, and i don't want to look so gawky or awkward that i give an unrealistic view of how the outfit comes across in real life (which is, after all, where i live). And i'm very visual, and i get ideas for pictures, so it's fun to try something new instead of shooting in the same spot and pose every day. (Though with my experience here, i've seen the wisdom of that popular approach. I am keeping track of 'successful' set-ups for less creative or busier days.) Plus, i have a smaller wardrobe (which is how i like it) so varying poses and backgrounds can add to the visual interest when the clothes don't change. I'm also considering selling clothes on etsy at some time, and appealing, accurate pictures are vital to that purpose.

So. The second photo shows the clothes and details much more clearly than the first. But the first (taken just 5 minutes before the second) is a much more appealing picture. The light is golden and dappled and it highlights the figure while tying it into the environment through the similar highlighting of the small trees. But it also washes out all the clothing details. The pose is relaxed and happy, but it hides the shoes.

You can clearly see all the clothing and accessories details in the second photo - because that gorgeous light is gone. And the pose is kind of awkward, though it does show the shoes, and our relationship to the brachiating primates. You can see the clothes better, but which picture would you rather be a part of?

So i show them both to you. I prefer the first but include the second to honor the ostensible purpose of this blog.

* Video's a different story. I look great on surveillance screens.

Top: own design, inspired by some girls wander
Skirt: own design, inspired by The Hidden Seed
Belt: vintage Coach
Shoes: Dansko Marcelle
All else: gifts


  1. In situations like this, I usually post both pictures! Very often there is a shot that is good of the outfit but I'm making a dumb face or whatever. I usually decide to use that one because my blog is a personal style blog so it would be silly not to include good pics of my outfits. But like you I sometimes have a picture that I just like in general even though it doesn't show the outfit very well. Maybe the light is cool or my dog walked into the shot and looks cute or I just think my smile looks "right." Whatever. I'll put that in too. And I'm glad you included both pictures in this post. Even though I follow style blogs mainly for the outfits, and big part of why I like certain blogs and not others is that some blogs have *personality* to them, which your first pic definitely has. I feel like I know someone better when I see the "fun" pictures they chose and not just the safe/standard outfit shots.

  2. Hi Kelly! thank you for your thoughtful comments - it's really nice to have some feedback. the great thing about the web is that you have the opportunity to put up a LOT of info and visuals, but at the same time you don't want to swamp people with a bunch of extraneous stuff. so it's good to think about this and see what other people think, too.

    hmmm, i seem to have missed the cute dog pix on your blog so far....i must spend more time there! ty, steph

  3. Yeah, I'm one of the boring background people! I love on the top floor of a condo that gets erratic light, and we're also knick-knack junkies, so it's one of the only "clean" spots where I can take a picture - and use the timer. My husband is not into being my photographer (no patience, not around when I do photos), so I have to factor in where I can set the camera.

    I do like the goofy shots and the shots where my cat walks into it. I always post those. :)

    I like the second picture better, because I can see your face. I don't think that the camera doesn't love you - I think you are just not used to looking at yourself daily in photos. I know it took me a long time to get used to seeing myself in pictures every freakin' day! However, now I am used to it...and I feel fortunate that I know exactly what I look like (and what poses flatter me the most - ha!). :)

  4. Ha, that should say I "live" on the top floor...although I love there too. Freudian slip?

    Oh, and I laughed at the "brachiating primates" - awesome.

  5. My dog only shows up rarely...she usually doesn't much care about what I'm doing but every once in a while she is so NEEDY and doesn't want to leave me alone even for pictures!

  6. vewwy interestink....Sheila, your backgrounds may be boring, but you have a vivacious personality that really comes across in your pics! plus, you have a lot of variety in your outfits. then you have your 'walk' pictures, and the posts on books, so i think it makes a nice mix. plus you are very conscientious about including pics of 'the stuff', which really helps to visualize the total effect.

    i do agree that part of it is getting used to seeing pics of myself every day, but thruout my life the general consensus is i don't look that great on film (compared to in person). it's just how you interact with the medium. like some tv stars try to make it in films and flop. they just don't come across on the big screen the way they do on the little one. my sis looks really great in just random snaps. so i'm learning how to compensate. (or how to 'work it' - ha!)

    i'm glad you liked that joke! some of the ones i make are kinda out there, but i figure you may as well amuse's nice when someone else joins in the fun! and Kelly, that is so typical of the small hairy ones....